Something to Squeal About at Hills Garrison
submitted by Val Small
Ms. Martellini waves her “picker.”
Hills Garrison School recently formed a playground committee to raise funds to expand the playground. The committee ran its first fundraiser, “Pigskin for Pennies.” All five grades competed against each other to see which could raise the most inches of pennies or coins. The grade that won would get to vote for a staff member to kiss a pig, not a stuffed or toy pig but a real, live, wet-nose pig.
The winning grade would witness the kiss at the assembly on February 1. During the last few days the third and fifth grades were vying for the voting rights and on the last day the fifth grade became the victors. The ballots were passed out and votes cast — and fifth-grade teacher Ms. Laliberte was chosen to pucker up for Belle the pig. No one was told who had won the honor until the morning of the assembly.
Ms. Sherry Lavoie, a finalist, prepares.
On Friday, February 1, Belle from Whisper Brook Farms came sporting her Patriots scarf and ready for the kiss. The fifth grade and the runners-up, the third grade, were invited to the big event. Eight fifth grade students formed a choir and sang pig songs in Belle’s honor as well as introducing the moment for the kiss. The principal, Ms. Martellini, added to the suspense by calling up the three top vote-getters. Then one by one they were told to sit down and Ms. Laliberte was the last one standing.
Belle’s owner showed her how to get Belle’s attention and the moment was on. Ms. Laliberte giggled, smiled and hesitated and then the there was the smooch. After several attempts Ms. Laliberte had paid her dues. She was wonderful.
“Pigskin for Pennies” is still counting the coins but so far the kids, their families, friends and the staff have raised $2,700 in change in about two 2 weeks. Once completed, the total is expected to reach more than $4,000.
Mr. Matt Tanuma, a finalist, puckers up.
I would like to thank everyone for their support, Whispering Brook Farms for Belle, Continental Paving, Hudson True Value, Five Star Espresso for their cash donations, St. Mary’s Bank for counting our coins and all the kids and their families and friends as well as the Hills Garrison Staff for making this fundraiser such a success. And two pork chops up to Ms. Laliberte for supporting her school.
Our next fundraiser is already under way. The Hills Garrison Playground Committee is proud to sponsor the 2008 Wacky Olympics. This will be a townwide event featuring teams from Dr. H.O Smith, Library Street, Hills Garrison, Nottingham West, Memorial, Alvirne High School, School Administrative Building, Hudson Police, Hudson Fire and Hudson Recreation.
You won't want to miss out on this night full of wackiness on Saturday, March 1 at Alvirne High School. Doors will open at 6 p.m. and the wacky events start at 7 p.m. Tickets will be sold the night of the event at the door for $5 per person. You may buy family passes in advance for $10 per family. Advance ticket sales: Monday - Friday school hours, at Hills Garrison or Nottingham West. Family passes will also be sold on February 15, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Hills Garrison front lobby. Hope to see you there!
The Hills Garrison playground committee was organized to assess the developmental needs of our students, compare our current playground capacity to the number of students using the equipment, and raise the appropriate funds to improve these needs. This small committee consists of five members who will continue to work diligently with students, parents and the community until the project is complete. The playground is all about making a place for all children to develop to their full potential. If anyone would like to support the expansion of the playground you can call the school at 881-3930 or for cash donations mail to Hills Garrison Playground Fund, c/o Hills Garrison, 190 Derry Rd, Hudson, NH 03051. Thank you everyone.
Ms. Mandy Liliberte gets the honor of “kissing the pig.”
MRI Report: “Way to Better Future”
by Lynne Ober
“No one is happy when we release a report. Everyone is upset,” said MRI’s Rick Bates. Bates, a former town manager, and Bruce MacDougall, a former police chief, spoke to the public at the request of Litchfield Board of Selectmen about the completed MRI review of Litchfield’s Police Department. Bates said it was a lengthy process and that they took their time to get the report complete. MacDougall said it took twice as long as expected and that they were well over budget because of the extra time.
Bates said their purpose was not to point fingers, but to find out what was wrong and make some recommendations toward a better future and he did just that as he gave the executive overview to the public. Board of Selectmen Chairman, Raymond Peeples, said, “It wasn’t easy to read. Selectmen have a lot of work to do, but MRI has painted us a way to a better future.” He thanked them for the work and praised the chief for agreeing to participate in the report.
The report is 142 pages long and has nearly 200 recommendations for improvement – some need money and some can be implemented without spending tax dollars.
Bates drew the audience back to 2004 when he said the root of all the problems came about as a result of the hiring of the chief. “The Board of Selectmen knew that he had no management experience. They thought he was a nice guy and so they tried to craft a solution.” Bates said from that beginning there were communication problems and noted that selectmen offered a one-year probationary contract with an agreement that the chief would not have to leave the department in case the probationary period did not work out.
However, the chief did not hear that entire message and when his contract wasn’t renewed he was angry and, according to Bates, considered himself fired. While Bates realized that neither the chief nor selectmen can go back and change what happened, Bates said it would have been better if the chief had declined the position because he wasn’t ready or thanked selectmen for their confidence and asked for mentoring and training to bring his skill level up. Instead Bates told the audience that the hiring became the “root of the problems between the chief and selectmen.” Bates said that trust was broken on both sides. Bates also said that this is not a unique situation and that there is no clear right or wrong answer, “but it [lack of understanding over the initial contract] is the root of the whole problem between selectmen and chief.
This type of scenario was pervasive throughout the presentation with both sides being given praise and suggestions for better performance as well as suggestions for improved performance. Bates pointed out that both sides had exacerbated the situation with their behavior, reactions and decisions, but that both sides were trying to work for the town and find a resolution to what he deemed a “quagmire.”
As a result of this contract dispute, there was broken trust on both sides, and Bates said a downward spiral was begun. Mediation is recommended to get the chief and the board respectfully working together and beginning to rebuild that trust. Without this Bates feared that problems and lawsuits would continue.
“There is a failed management system at all levels,” said Bates. “I know that is hard to hear.” Bates said the chief and selectmen were like ships at sea with no direction. “There are too many hands trying to steer the ship.” Bates mandated that selectmen had to set the direction, set the course, give instructions and then trust the chief to do the job.
Bates said that he talked to all the selectmen who had been on the board when the chief was hired and to current selectmen and that they didn’t understand that they needed to set goals for the chief. Bates said selectmen felt the chief should be setting goals for his department. “What selectmen need to set are service level goals and then when the chief comes in with a request, the chief needs to be prepared to explain how his request fits into those goals.”
“The chief and the selectmen have the best interests of the town at heart, but the lack of trust has left them unable to communicate,” said Bates, who urged better communication on both sides.
During the investigation, MRI staff observed, dug through hard copy data such a budgets and meeting minutes and interviewed staff and residents.
According to Bates, the fire department incident polarized the town. While characterizing the incident as a juvenile stunt and stupid, but not criminal, Bates repeated his contention that the incident polarized the town and now there is “no middle ground – no gray area. But there is a lot of gray and we have to bring people to see that. Compromising is the key to reach middle ground.”
Rather than pointing a finger at selectmen or chief, Bates spoke about his years as a town manager when noting how compromise must be reached. He said that sometimes he was not in agreement with a decision that his board of selectmen had made, but he knew that it was his job as to carry that out. “You just have to find that middle ground. You have to compromise. You cannot present an all-or-nothing proposal and tell selectmen that if they don’t do it your way, you’re going to be mad. Compromise was the key. You can’t put forth a ‘this choice or no choice’ proposal. Selectmen need alternatives and I had to be ready to communicate how the proposal fit with the town goals. Sometimes I got the decision I wanted and sometimes I had to compromise with a decision that wasn’t exactly what I wanted. If I didn’t want to compromise, then my choice was to leave my job and move on.”
“The chief is unable to manage his department because everything that he does is second-guessed,” said Bates, who expounded on the difficulties of managing in such a situation. “Good people trying to do good things can get off track.”
According to Bates, the MRI report strongly recommends that Litchfield hire a town manager. “This person deals with the day to day. It is a good system because one person is responsible to selectmen.” Although he didn’t speak directly to the current practice of selectmen liaisons with departments, he stressed at a number of points throughout the review that Litchfield had grown to the point where it needed a town manager.
MacDougall presented a section on staffing and training. According to MacDougall you need 1.55 patrol offices to cover one eight-hour shift 365 days a year. He explained about holidays, vacations, sick time, training time and said that no force could have a one-to-one ratio and expect to have all shifts covered.
MRI is recommending that Litchfield add one police officer a year for the next four years. MacDougall said that they knew that it took time to implement a plan. MacDougall and Bates said you had to eat an elephant one bite at a time and have a plan to do that.
MacDougall also said that you had to offer police officers training to “keep them interested in the job or else they go someplace else.” As a result MRI is recommending more training for the department.
MacDougall also said that supervision was needed in the police department and told the audience that neither the master patrol officer nor the corporal had any supervisory duties. “In Litchfield that denotes time in the department and not that you have taken on any supervisory duties.”
To provide adequate supervision, MRI recommends that the chief handle and supervise the administration side, that the lieutenant handle the operations side and that two sergeants handle night and weekend supervision. “Young officers need to be mentored. They need to be bridled back and to learn how to handle citizens during an arrest.”
Another recommendation is to turn one of the lieutenant positions into a prosecutor position and to hire a lawyer to handle court appearances.
Bates and MacDougall thought that a reasonable goal for the chief was to get his department New Hampshire Voluntary Accreditation. “This has to be a mutually agreed to goal with a date certain that the chief must accomplish this,” said MacDougall. “Mutually agreed to date.”
Bates said Litchfield residents want to have a more community-aware police department that practices community policing. “They want to see their officers around town.”
MacDougall said community policing was not new and that there were many resources that the chief could draw upon to meet this goal.
Peeples said that copies of the report will be put in the library for residents. He also asked the chief to put an electronic version of the report on the police department’s Web site.
Town Meeting Gains Support for Seniors’ Petition
by Tom Tollefson
Out of the several hundred Hudson residents who showed up for the Annual Town Meeting on Saturday, February 2, the majority was in favor of the petition warrant article that would allow the design and construction of a Senior Center addition to the west side of the Hudson Community Center. However, the Board of Selectmen served as the opposition in the debate over Warrant Article 6 for this year’s ballot.
Maurice Sullivan was one of the many supporters of the article. “The seniors think this area is a good location. This center would be ideal for the location and I urge that this be taken into consideration.”
Lee Lavoie also spoke in favor. “I think this would be a good time to build a senior center as we don’t have any other outstanding bonds.”
State Senator Bob Clegg echoed the beliefs of many others who came forward to speak to the petitioned bond article. “It’s our grandmothers, our grandfathers, our aunts our uncles, our neighbors, our friends. It’s all those people who gave. They’ve given us so much and have asked so little. Let’s at least give them the opportunity to go before the voters.”
John Drabinowicz referred to the senior community as being “members of the greatest generation who made society what it is.”
He also believed that the Hudson owed its seniors a home after failing to keep Lion’s Hall (currently the Hudson Community Center) a home for them after its construction. “I care for these seniors; I care for the fact that we’ve been promising them a home for 20 years. If you didn’t want this to happen, then you shouldn’t have made the darn promise. The sheer arrogance of our town fathers against the seniors is ridiculous”
Jasper’s memory of Lions Hall’s origins for its construction was not the same. “Money was not put aside from seniors. When that money was used, it was used by the taxpayers. That was not stealing and not breaking a promise.”
Jim Stafford Rogers, chairman of the Council of Aging, said, “Let’s provide that 99-year-old lady a chance to see a senior center in Hudson,” commenting about a current senior, who said she has yet to see a home for Hudson seniors.
The article reads as follows: “Shall the Town of Hudson raise and appropriate the sum of $964,902, for the design and construction of a Senior Center addition to the west side and adjacent to the Hudson Community Center, and authorize the issuance of not more than $964,902 of bonds or notes in accordance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act (RSA Chapter 33) and authorize the Board of Selectmen to issue and sell such bonds or notes and to determine the rate of interest thereon and, further raise and appropriate the sum of $27,404.44 for the purpose of paying the 2008-2009 bond issuance cost and interest on said general obligation bonds or notes, and furthermore, to raise and appropriate the sum of $9,700 for the operating cost of the addition for 2008-2009? (this appropriation is in addition to Article 10, the Operating Budget.) (3/5 ballot is required.) The projected operating cost for the first year after construction would be an estimated $53,000. (Not recommended by the Board of Selectmen.) (Not recommended by the Budget Committee.)”
The article is the result of continued development and discussions over the course of 2007. During the summer, the Board of Selectmen decided to award the contract to determine the feasibility and estimated cost to build a senior center addition to Berard Martel Associates for around $15,000.
Bernard Martel appeared before the board in November to share the results of the study. The final board vote was 2 - 2, with one abstention. Chairman Jasper and Selectman Maddox voted against the plan, with Selectman Ben Nadeau in abstention.
The proposed building addition is to be 4,100 square feet with ability to serve 100 people in the assembly hall and a maximum of 50 in the remainder. There also would be a game room, lounge, two offices, kitchen and two bathrooms. The seniors originally called for the assembly hall to house 200 people, but later revised it to 100.
The fire department recommended the building be 4,100 square feet to safely accommodate 150 people.
Bernard Martel and the Building Committee decided on this plan for the following reasons:
- it’s a free-standing senior center versus an attachment to the senior center
- the bathrooms would need to be torn down and rebuilt to be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant
- life span is 50-100 years
- renovations would cost $1.4 million as opposed to the free-standing senior center
“The way we have that new building attached, doesn’t require it to be ADA compliant that way we could save all that money,” Stafford Rogers said.
Andrew Renzullo, former Chairman of the Council of Aging and current state representative, said the $964,902 maximum projection would see “significant setoffs.” According to Renzullo, the Hudson Seniors will pay $200,000 for the construction. He also said $75,000 of the projection would only be paid if construction was to take place during the winter and all furnishings and landscaping will be covered by the seniors as well.
The tax impact of this project would be 4 to 5 more cents per $1,000 in property taxes for the next five years. This averages out to about $15 more a year for a $300,000 home.
According to Jasper, one of the problems he saw with the plan was loss of parking spaces with the addition. He believed it is hard enough for residents to find spaces on Election Day, and would create a large problem if any spaces were taken away.
Stafford Rogers believed the parking spaces could be replaced by adding spaces to the sandlots. He also said there are at least 30 parking spaces being taken up by people holding up signs in the parking lot to promote candidates, and believed restricting the lot to parking would add more spaces.
Jasper said it was wrong of the town to take Lion’s Hall away from the seniors, but that the new plans still need to be further revised, reviewed and discussed before going forward. The new building plans would need to be reviewed by the Planning Board and the ZBA. He believes the issue of what to do with the children in the Hudson Recreation summer program also needs to be more clearly thought through.
“We need to figure these things out, and make sure it’s a complete package that serves the needs of all Hudson,” he said.
Selectman Rick Maddox also spoke on his reasoning for voting against the plan. “I believe we need a place for our seniors, I just don’t believe this particular plan should go forward,” Maddox said. “Simply putting a $1 million addition onto this one, makes no sense.”
The Budget Committee also voted against recommending the article. According to Budget Committee Chairman Howard Dilworth, he had asked three times for someone to speak to the proposal when it was discussed at a meeting, and none of the petitioners had come forward to answer the committee’s questions. He said the Budget Committee would need to know more information such as the operation cost before recommending the proposal.
Despite the Board of Selectmen and Budget Committee’ recommendations against the warrant article, the Hudson Seniors got the 25 necessary signatures to get it on the ballot.
“I think both sides have made points. This is a town issue. This is something citizens are going to have to decide,” State Representative Sharon Carson said.
Tax Warrant Article Sparks Controversy in Hudson over State Government
by Tom Tollefson
Thanks to Conservation Commission member James Battis a new and controversial warrant article — to limit the property tax by rejecting the political pledge against broad-based taxes — will appear on Hudson’s town ballot in March. This new article is also being put on the ballot of dozens of other New Hampshire towns.
Article 18 says: “Shall the Town of Hudson vote to approve the following resolutions to be forwarded to our State Representatives, our State Senators, and our Governor? Resolved: We the citizens of Hudson, NH believe in a New Hampshire that is just and fair. The property tax has become unjust and unfair. State leaders who take a pledge for no new taxes perpetuate higher and higher property taxes. We call on our State Representatives, our State Senator, and our Governor to reject the “Pledge,” and have an open discussion covering all options, including income tax, and adopt a revenue system that lowers property taxes.” (Not recommended by the Board of Selectmen).
“The tax structure in New Hampshire is often called the New Hampshire advantage, but when I ask politicians to say what the advantages are, they answer another question,” Battis said. “This article does not cause for a new tax, but simply a review of the tax structure. Too often we get the feeling that politicians tell us what’s best for us. This article gives us the opportunity to ask the question.”
Budget Committee Chairman Howard Dilworth spoke up against the article. “If you think your taxes are too high, get a seat on the Budget Committee,” he said.
Dilworth was not alone in his stand against the warrant article.
Chairman Shawn Jasper and the Board of Selectmen were also in opposition. “It’s not something the town of Hudson has jurisdiction over,” he said. He also said New Hampshire has the lowest per capita tax base out of every single state except Alaska.
The motion to not recommend the article passed 5 - 0 at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting.
The addition of the words “including income tax” was approved at town meeting.
Bettis made a motion for a second amendment to the article, which would add the words “timber tax, dividend tax, sales tax, vehicle property tax, and business tax.” However, that amendment failed to pass the two-thirds majority vote with the residents.
This amendment was originally started by the Granite State Fair Tax Coalition, which has also made efforts to get the article passed in dozens of other communities across New Hampshire. For more information: nhfairtax.org.