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Dual Roundabouts with the fire station moved.
Pelham has a traffic problem in town center and with the help of state representatives, then New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NH DOT) Commissioner and federal elected officials, funding became available to make a change.
That’s when the Context Sensitive Solution process started. Many community members gave hours of their time to work with officials in order to craft the best possible solution for Pelham.
Last week residents had a chance to review the options and to chime in with their opinions. “People have asked if they will see this on the ballot,” said Selectman Victor Danevich. “The short answer is no. The longer answer talks about funding. Since this is funded by state and federal dollars, resident won’t be voting.”
A context sensitive solution has been described as “a collaborative interdisciplinary approach that involved all stakeholders to develop a transportation facility that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic, and environmental resources while maintaining safety and mobility.”
Thursday afternoon NH DOT personnel were available at Sherburne Hall to discuss the alternatives that had been crafted. They brought beautiful full color displays, lots of handouts and a great deal of willingness to answer any and all questions. The session began at 2:30 p.m. and it wasn’t long until the room was filled with people looking, chatting and wishing that the traffic would just go away.
“I think I’ll just move,” said one resident. Others peered at the concepts, asked questions, and tried to decide what would work the best for the town now and into the future.
Opinions were as widely diverse as the people who expressed them. One resident wanted to know why 4-way stop signs weren’t just installed at each of the intersections.
Thursday evening a formal presentation was given on the process, the alternatives, and the technology. NH DOT staff explained exactly how to drive a roundabout and discussed what a modern roundabout looked like and the components of such a design. Here’s a hint – a roundabout is not a traffic circle or a rotary. They provided a list of eight roundabouts in New Hampshire and showed photos of some of those creations. Advantages of roundabouts are that traffic moves at a slower speed, they reduce pollution and emissions, improve traffic flow, save money, allow for safe U turns and can keep the nature of an area.
They also discussed traffic signals and how to determine if one is warranted. The audience got to see a simulation of what traffic signals would do if the roads were not widened. NHDOT explained why this was not a viable situation.
At the end of the session residents were asked for their opinions and their preferences. It seemed that people preferred one of the two dual roundabout options.
In all, four different solutions were shown. The dual signal option required widening the road as well as installing signals. It has several distinct disadvantages. To begin with, the fire station had to be moved. While everyone agrees that a new fire station is needed, what residents don’t agree on is just when to make that change. Last year a warrant for a new station failed. The traffic signal option mandates that the fire station be gone.
Another significant drawback to the signal option is the loss of private land. NHDOT said that there must be wider pavement on Marsh, Main, Gibson and Nashua Roads. That would mean taking land via eminent domain. At the same time there would be significant increase in traffic on Gibson Drive.
On the plus side, a wide boulevard through the middle of town would be built. Bicyclists and pedestrians would have a separate signal phase and traffic could be accommodated through 2030 if current projections for growth are accurate. However, that accommodation does mean expected traffic queues of several hundred feet.
Of the three roundabout options, the single roundabout did not get much approval. The two dual options received more audience approval. The single roundabout offering also required that the fire station be moved. While it kept traffic patterns much like what is enjoyed today, it also would be more complicated to navigate because all of the roads would enter the same roundabout.
The two dual roundabouts were less complex, no land had to be taken by eminent domain and direct access to the Village Green area was created.
Of the two dual options, one allowed the fire station to remain where it is, but with significant less operational capacity. NHDOT said that the usage of the station would have to be reconfigured. The front bay doors would no longer be available for use and there was some concern about whether the land covenants for the land behind the fire station would allow the needed usage. Because the fire station remained where it is, a jog in the road had to be built. This proposal might decrease visibility.
The second dual option was almost identical except the fire station had been moved. This option provided a more open area with greater visibility. The town common would gain extra green space and the current location of the fire station was also shown as green space. NHDOT staff talked about the extra green space as making the town center more pleasing. It would also provide a larger space for activities such as Old Home Day.
With two roundabouts, less traffic would go through some of the neighborhoods. The southern most roundabout would provide direct access to Village Green, which would eliminate some of the traffic passing through the center of town.
Almost as soon as the meeting was over, the Message Board begin to have a dialogue with some believing that the best first step was to pass the warrant for the new fire station, move it, and get the best possible solution for the town.
Chief Roark reads to children at the Pelham Library.
Safety is not a very exciting subject, especially to young children. However, a visit from Pelham Police Chief Joe Roark to the Pelham Library Storytime on Tuesday, September 13 made this safety lesson a bit more memorable.
Children’s Librarian Debbie Laffond set up the special story time as part of the September “Heroes and Helpers” month that salutes the men and women in uniform who serve their communities.
Chief Roark read Officer Buckle and Gloria, by Peggy Rathmann, which is the story of a dull officer whose safety lectures put the children of Napville to sleep, until Gloria the police dog arrived to liven things up.
“What a great opportunity these children had to hear a story read by a true Pelham V.I.P. and to see a police motorcycle and cruiser!” said Miss Debbie.
“Chief Roark, in his role as the chief of police, shared some important safety tips with the children but he also shared the ‘daddy’ side of his personality. He read the story Officer Buckle and Gloria and made this silly, tongue-in-cheek story come alive for the children and their families.”
After the story, children had a chance to check out the inside of a police car, as Chief Roark showed them all the tools that help the police to keep the town safe.
Miss Debbie hosts Storytime at the Pelham Library on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. Please see the website at http://www.pelhamweb.com/library/ for the schedule or call 635-7581.
It was not a unanimous decision, but the majority of Windham School Board members did vote to reconsider the colors which will represent the future Windham High School.
Although the selection of blue and gold as the future high school's colors seemed to be a done deal, the question was raised again during the Tuesday, September 5 board meeting. During the public address session of the meeting, Windham resident and mother Cindy Hastings asked board members if they would consider a compromise.
The color issue has been a hot topic at school board meetings for most of the summer; some wanting the already chosen blue and gold combination, others pushing to continue green and gold or green and black or even green and white — colors which are used to represent other Windham public schools.
Two years ago, voting took place among students at all levels of public education in Windham, the results of which were a majority ballot for blue and gold. That seemed to settle the issue, at least for school officials. As the reality of a high school in Windham has drawn closer, however, the subject of school colors has undergone a regeneration of interest among students and their parents.
Hastings began her most recent plea to school board members by posting a map on the wall, designating which school colors represent each area town. There were many blues and reds indicated among the designated schools, but very few shades of green. “Although there are no kids here tonight (at the meeting),” Hastings said, “the (color) issue is still very much on their minds.”
Hastings said she and many other parents and students were asking board members to make a compromise for the sake of the students. “Our children need to believe that democracy works,” she said.
School board member Bruce Anderson was the first to respond to Hastings’ request, noting that the school color dilemma has been in the news for quite sometime already. “There are definitely areas of disagreement,” Anderson said. “There’s a blue camp and a green camp.” Anderson noted that he places himself in the blue camp, but also feels that the time for compromise might be at hand.
Anderson explained how he’d seen a Brazilian flag flying outside a residence, while he was driving, and he took note of the three colors: blue, yellow and green. “It made me think about the school color choices some more,” he said. “Not that I wanted to think about it any more,” he added. The results of this thought process, Anderson said, is that he now believes a three-color combination might be the answer to the stalemate. “We would have green from the past (Windham Middle School), Anderson said, “and blue for the new (Windham High School).” “It would be a compromise,” Anderson said, “one in which I would want students to participate in the decision. I think we should look into it, then move on,” he said. Anderson said he would want input from students currently attending Windham Middle School, as well as Windham students attending Salem High School at the present time.
Despite the objections of school board member Beverly Donovan, who said she doesn't believe reconsidering the color choice would be a good thing at this juncture, board members voted 3 – 2 to proceed with the reconsideration. Voting in favor of reconsideration were Anderson, school board chairman Al Letizio, and vice chairman Beth Valentine. Voting against reconsideration were Donovan and Barbara Coish.
Windham High School Integration Committee Chairperson Stephanie Wimmer said that committee members have already spent more than a year working on color and mascot issues for Windham High School, a period during which a tremendous amount of research was conducted. Wimmer said committee members would be glad to look into a three-color scenario, but emphasized that the task would take more than just a couple of weeks to complete.
Glenn Davis, owners’ representative overseeing the construction of the new high school, said he doesn't feel that color changes at this point would have any impact on costs. He did note, however, that a final choice would need to be made by the upcoming Thanksgiving holidays in November.
As the result of Davis’ and Wimmer’s input, school board members voted 3 – 2 to direct the high school integration committee to look into a three-color palette (blue, green, and gold) for Windham High School's official colors. Voting in favor of the motion were Anderson, Valentine and Letizio. Voting in opposition were Donovan and Coish.
There will be no change in plans to have the jaguar as Windham High School's mascot. Earlier this summer, a group of students and parents had asked that Windham Middle School's wildcat mascot be also used for the new high school. School board members denied that request several weeks ago.
Windham High School is expected to open to students in September of 2009.
Although the decision was not unanimous, selectmen are going ahead with awarding a contract to the firm which submitted the lowest bid on a reconstruction project along East Nashua Road.
After a delay in reaching a decision two weeks earlier, because of insufficient information, selectmen voted four to one on Monday, September 10, to approve a bid submitted by Jennings Excavation of Hollis, New Hampshire in the amount of $162,545. A total of $205,000 was included in the town budget for this project.
Only Selectman Bruce Breton voted against going with Jennings Excavation at this time, saying that he felt uncomfortable awarding the bid to any of the three contractors, until the specifications were presented and prices quoted by each of these companies were equalized. Breton said the manner in which the bids were presented was like comparing apples to oranges.
The unknown issue is how much ledge exists in the reconstruction area — a quantity which might raise the overall cost of the road reconstruction project. The bids which were received did not account for this possibility in the same terms.
Two other bids were received by town officials in regards to the East Nashua Road project; one from Pike Industries in the amount of $272,525, the other from Tate Brothers in the amount of $257,205.
Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he felt comfortable awarding the bid to Jennings Excavation and believes there is “enough cushion” in the alloted $205,000 budget to cover any unforeseen expenses with the removal of ledge.
Windham Highway Agent Jack McCartney said the East Nashua Road project will take about six to eight weeks to complete. McCartney said he anticipates the job will be done before the first snowfall this year.
According to the selectmen's vote, any additional work above the $162,545 included in the Jennings' bid, will need to be approved by McCartney before proceeding.
East Nashua Road will be reconstructed from North Lowell Road to Beacon Hill Road, then up approximately 100 feet of Beacon Hill Road. McCartney said they will be reusing reclaimed asphalt from the existing roadway. Four culverts will also be replaced during the reconstruction.
One area resident expressed concern about any blasting to be done during the road reconstruction, citing water quality and structural problems which have recently been aired regarding blasting in the area of Ledge Road where an industrial park is in the early stages of construction. Those issues are currently being studied by an independent firm and will be reported on to selectmen when the study is finished.