Fire and Police Honored by VFW

by Lynne Ober


Lieutenant Bob Chatel receives the EMT of the Year award.

State awards have been given and Pelham Fire And Police Departments managed to snag three of them.

Pelham Police Officers Glen Chase and Matthew Koonlislide were awarded the 2007 Gold Medal Law Enforcement Officers of the Year in recognition of their bravery and professionalism in handling an incident in September 2005.

“On September 27, 2005 at approximately 4:59 a.m., the state of new Hampshire 911 call center received numerous 911 telephone calls and ‘hang ups’ from an individual, later identified as Joshua Caprarella, age 24, Pelham, New Hampshire, reporting that people were shooting at him with ‘lasers’ and guns at his residence,” wrote then Captain Joseph Roark. “The 911 center traced the cell phone via GPS to the area of Route 38 and Hobbs Road in Pelham and immediately notified the Pelham Police Department. Upon arriving in the area patrol officer observed a female standing outside the residence a 276 Gage Hill Road (Route 38) Pelham. The officers met with the woman who identified herself as Caprarella’s roommate. The woman explained that her roommate, Caprarella, was “freaking out” inside the apartment that they share at the residence.

“Two patrol officers then entered the common entrance of the multi-family building and approached Caprarella’s apartment door. While knocking on the door and announcing their presence, the officers heard a gun shot go off within the residence. The officers immediately retreated from the stairwell and took cover behind their police cruisers. While outside the residence the officers observed Caprarella through the windows of the apartment carrying a handgun. They also heard the gun go off multiple times.

“Officers maintained their position and observed Caprarella push an air conditioner out window and stuck the pistol out the window a second time, officers directed him to drop the weapon, and he threw the gun, a semi-automatic 9mm Glock pistol, out the second floor window. Caprarella went back inside the house, and a moment later jumped head first out of the second floor window. Caprarella was stunned from the leap and officers immediately approached and took him into custody. At that point the rest of the apartment complex was searched and the other residents were evacuated until it was confirmed that there were no other suspects in the complex. During the search of the apartment they observed multiple bullet holes inside the apartment as well as numerous bullet exit holes on the outside of the building. There was also a bullet hole through the doorway the officers had approached. Additionally another tenant’s vehicle was struck by a bullet while parked in the parking lot where the cruisers were parked.”

“The Salem and Windham Police Departments assisted with the incident and evacuation of other tenants. While in custody, the suspect admitted he was a crystal methamphetamine user. A search warrant was executed on the residence and a second firearm and additional ammunition were discovered in the residence and the suspect’s vehicle. A search warrant to take blood samples from the suspect for toxicology testing was also granted and executed. Caprarella was charged with Attempted Second Degree assault with a Firearm, Felony Reckless Conduct, Resisting Arrest, and Carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.”

Chase accepted his award, but Koonlislide was away for helicopter training. His parents accepted on his behalf. His father spoke and thanked the VFW for the honor and for recognizing the work of his son and Officer Chase.

For Pelham’s Fire Department Lieutenant Robert Chatel garnered the prestigious EMT of the Year for the state of New Hampshire. Chatel has a broad list of accomplishments and is always in the middle of any and all activities.

During the flooding in May 2006, Chatel was part of a team of rescuers dispatched to a report of two women trapped in rapid moving water caused by flooding. When the team arrived on the scene, they found the two women in danger of being swept away by raging flood waters. One victim was moved to safety, but the other victim was clinging to a tree in powerful, swift moving water.

Chatel, with little regard for his own safety, quickly entered into the water Working as part of the team, Chatel was able to ensure the rescue of the victim.

“His professional actions in the face of a dire situation caused the rescue of a person in immanent danger,” commented Fire Chief Michael Walker. “Chatel performed with notable courage and his actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the fire service.”

Others agreed with Walker’s assessment of both the danger and the actions taken by Chatel. He was present to accept his award and when he spoke, thanked the assembled crowd as well as all of Pelham Fire Department.

“Those were gracious speeches from the excellent men who serve Pelham,” said Walker in response to the speeches made by both police and fire personnel. “It’s a pleasure to work in Pelham with such professional staff.”


Officer Koonlislide’s father offers his thanks on behalf of his son for the award while Officer Chase and Mrs. Koonlislide’s mother look on.


Changing of the Guard at Windham Middle School

by Doug Robinson

For 39 years, Steven Plocharczyk, has been called many names: Mr. P, teacher, administrator, Principal, and his personal favorite, “Mentor.” As Windham’s first and only Middle School Principal since the school was built in 1987, Plocharczyk leaves behind a legacy of lessons, legacy of learning, legacy of life-long friends, and a legacy of mentoring students, teachers, and Assistant Principals who have gone on to become principals themselves.


Steve Plocharczyk and Kori Becht

“He hired me” commented Kori Becht, Assistant Principal at Windham Middle School, and soon to be the new principal of Windham Middle School (WMS). Becht stated that her greatest challenge will be to “Follow such a great example, a great person, and most of all, someone who mentored me. I went to this school as a middle school student and he was my principal. When I came knocking on Windham’s door a few years ago looking for a job as a teacher, he along with the administration, hired me.”

According to Plocharczyk, Becht has a “tremendous work ethic and has the best combination of qualities that will make her a good leader. She has real good gut instincts about things and she does not knee jerk.”

Employees working for Plocharczyk are unified in their comments regarding his humility and his commitment to mentoring. While Plocharczyk’s three decades of teaching reflect a myriad of awards, accomplishments, and certificates, he has remained humble, reflective, and always pensive to the “needs of the teachers.” His office is barren of any award, certificate, or accomplishment. In fact, the windows of his office host only window shades. “No matter what we do, we always have to think of the impact on the teachers. Do our decisions assist or hurt the teaching of Windham’s children,” commented Plocharczyk.

Durnig his tenure as Principal at WMS, two Assistant Principals have moved on to become Principals and one has moved on to become an Assistant Principal of another school system. “My dad worked in the shoe business, cutting leather for shoes, and my mother worked at a local dry cleaner. I think I was the first one to graduate from college,” stated Plocharczyk. “I have a love for history and coaching, and the combination of the two led me to an occupation in education. Mentoring is just a continuation of the process of teaching and coaching. I have been fortunate to have very talented people work for me.”

Becht developed her love of education while teaching children how to swim, as an instructor at Cobbett’s Pond in her youth. “My dad was a Superintendent and my mom was a teacher as well. I grew up in a house full of educators. I am thankful for that summer job at Cobbett’s Pond. Steve (Plocharczyk) and I have always focused on what is best for the kids and have made our decisions based on that focus. We never forget what it’s like to be a teacher.”

While Plocharczyk looks into the sunset years, he sees his days filled with “relaxation, filling it with things I like to do. I am a woodworker. I enjoy making shaker style furniture which includes tables and dressers. I value time and as I look forward, that time is very special to me. I will never forget that day when I walked into the secretary’s office applying for the job as Social Studies teacher for Windham Middle School. That was 39 years ago. A friend called me and told me that there was a job opening and I applied. I took the job because I liked Jim Flynn. He and I had a lot of things in common and I thought that I could work for him. I really enjoyed teaching history as well as coaching baseball.”

As Becht looks into the coming dawn, signifying her future, she admits “My biggest challenge will be that this school has only had Steve. My challenge will be to pave a new future for WMS while holding onto the traditions and the agenda which have already been established. Nothing will radically change as a shift in the educational philosophy is not needed. We have a student centered school whereby both advanced and challenged students find opportunities at WMS. Our school is one of the best schools in the State of New Hampshire and we intend to continue with the agenda set by Steve. It is all about relationships. And it is because of those relationships with parents, those relationships with school children, and those relationships with staff, as well as those relationships with the administration, that we have set ourselves apart. Our school offers many opportunities to our students and we will continue to provide and offer the best education for all those who attend our school,” concluded Becht.


Sky View Estates to Improve Pelham Road

by Lynne Ober

Building a new sub-division is not a straight line proposal where one task neatly leads to the next task. Instead, it is usually an iterative process that involves more boards and regulations than expected. This is very true of Sky View Estates, a 24 lot sub-division off Pelham’s Spaulding Hill Road.

The Planning Board has told Edward Herbert and Associates, Inc. that they must improve an existing Pelham Road in order to get Planning Board approval of their sub-division plan.

Planning Director Jeff Gowan in an e-mail to Town Administrator Tom Gaydos explained that road improvements were not part of the work of the Planning Board, but actually fell to selectmen because the road in question was an accepted town road.

Peter Zohdi, Vice President, met with selectmen to discuss the proposed improvements. Zohdi presented detailed plans and explained that he had been meeting regularly with Gaydos, Gowan and Road Agent Don Foss on needed improvements. These meetings included several site walks to review the property and existing road conditions as needed improvements were drafted.

The maps that Zohdi provided showed existing roads, proposed roads and existing right of ways. The Highway Committee told Zohdi that even though the development had right of way access to Marie Avenue, they did not want him to use that access point.

Zohdi explained that one of the options would be to connect the new sub-division with Marie Avenue and then with Spaulding Hill Road, but that Foss disapproved that because of lack of drainage and a poor line of sight. What everyone has agreed to do is to re-design approximately 700-feet of Spaulding Hill Road, and install catch basins to improve drainage.

“The client will pay for all improvements to Spaulding Hill Road,” stated Zohdi, who explained that for over 20 years as developments have crept up Spaulding Hill Road, the developers have improved and expanded Spaulding Hill Road.

The agreed configuration would straighten out a sharp curve, meet town specifications, and improve drainage. In addition, Foss wants the 20-foot wide road to have 2-foot paved Cape Cod curbing and shoulders. Zohdi said they agreed with that request too.

Foss also asked that drainage on Marie Avenue be improved and corrected. Zohdi said there was a foundation drain at the second house on Marie Avenue that was damaging Marie Avenue. He said that his client agreed to control the drainage from the foundation drain and bring it to the existing catch basis. In addition, the first 90 feet of pavement on Marie Avenue would be pulverized and re-done by the client as part of Sky View Estates.

Planning Director Jeff Gowan explained that because these were improvements to existing, accepted roads that Selectmen had to approve this, and that the Planning Board could not approve improvements to existing and accepted roads.

Selectman Victor Danevich expressed concern about the width of the road and recalled one road that was only 18-feet wide. He said that emergency vehicles could not maneuver within such a tight space if vehicles were parked on the street. He wondered if the street should be wider.

Zohdi explained that Spaulding Hill Road currently measured from 17 to 19-feet wide and that everyone had agreed on the 20-foot width.

When Board of Selectmen Chairman Ed Gleason asked if the abutters had been notified, Gowan said yes. Gleason also asked if any trees would have to be removed to widen Spaulding Hill Road to 20 feet. Gowan said that there was one tree, and it existed in the town right of way, but in front of an owner’s home. Gleason questioned if the tree was on town-owned land and was told no, it was just in the town right of way on the property.

After discussion, it was determined that selectmen did not have to hold a public hearing to improve the road. Gaydos told them a public hearing was not necessary.

Selectmen voted unanimously to allow the project to continue through the Planning Board cycle.


No Decision Yet on Griffin Park Fountain

by Barbara O’Brien

Windham selectmen have not yet decided what to do about installing a fountain in the pond at Griffin Park. Although all five board members think a fountain is a good idea, both aesthetically and as a deterrent to flocks of Canada geese prone to inhabit the area.

In recent years, Canada geese have been flocking to ponds across Southern New Hampshire, causing potential health problems, because of feces. According to Selectman Dennis Senibaldi, each adult goose leaves about a pound of excrement behind on a daily basis.

On Monday, May 14, recreation coordinator Cheryl Haas presented selectmen with the one quote she had received on the proposal, that being from a firm in Manchester. The cost of the fountain described by Haas is $2,568, plus whatever charges would be necessary for the electrical hookup. Various water patterns and light effects are also available at slightly higher costs.

The fountain discussed during the recent board meeting is a floating model, which would be anchored to the bottom of the pond. It would need to be removed and put into storage for the winter, Haas said.

When in operation, the fountain would repel not only migrating geese, but mosquitoes as well, and would also serve to aerate the water in the pond, causing it to be less stagnant. Selectmen expressed concern that the nearby playground in Griffin Park might get wet from any overspray on windy days.

The main sticking point among board members was where the money should come from to purchase the fountain. The possibility of taking the money from the town’s revolving recreation fund was discussed. Currently, about $15,000 remains in that fund. Recently, another $3,000 was spent out of the fund to help pay for a caboose for Windham’s historic depot.

Selectmen decided they would put off making any decision on the proposed purchase until further investigation is done into the cost and availability of other types and suppliers of fountains.

In other park related business, Senibaldi said that construction work undertaken at Tokanel Field last year is now completed, including sodding, seeding and the installation of fencing and a backstop for baseball and softball. The new facilities will be ready for use when soccer season begins this coming fall, Senibaldi said. The project’s completion has been the goal for many years, Senibaldi said, and he is thrilled to see it finally come to fruition.

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