Coutu Appointed Hudson Selectman
by Tom Tollefson
Roger Coutu is congratulated by Ken Massey.
After interviews with six other candidates, the Hudson Board of Selectmen chose Roger Coutu to fill the vacant seat on their board. The nomination, made by Selectman Rick Maddox, came with a 4 - 1 vote, with Chairman Shawn Jasper in opposition.
After the board came to a 2 - 2 tie between Mary Ellen Davis and Ted Luszey, Selectman Ken Massey nominated Coutu, who thanked the board for the appointment and said he was humbled by their vote.
“I’m looking forward to working cooperatively with the board,” Coutu said. “I make one promise to the citizens of Hudson, and that is at no time will I ever set foot in this chamber with a predetermined agenda or with a vote in mind that I’m going to take without first giving anyone who wants to an opportunity to come before this board to talk to us and to explain their reason for their position so that I can make an intelligent and sensible vote on any matter that comes before this board,” Coutu said. “I’m very sensitive to the needs of the people of the town of Hudson and I want them to feel very comfortable knowing that they can always come before this board.”
As a gesture of respect in his last meeting as chairman, Jasper shook Coutu’s hand before officially appointing him to the board. This marked a change from the previous meeting when Jasper refused to shake his hand before interviewing him for the seat on the board.
“I think that puts out any bad animosity that has been felt,” Coutu said.
“I welcome him to the board,” Jasper said about Coutu’s appointment.
Coutu has owned Roger’s State Line Store on River Road for the last three years. He also ran George’s on Dracut Road and owned Coutu’s Family Market in Dracut, Massachusetts, years ago. Before his days in the grocery industry, Coutu worked for the government-funded programs CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) and EEA (Emergency Employment Act). These programs helped people in Lowell, Massachusetts, with employment through government municipalities.
“We employed people who are unemployed as a result of the economy or were Vietnam Era veterans who met a certain criteria defined by the government,” Coutu said.
Coutu also was chairman of the Housing Review Board in Lowell and was one of the 10 founders of the Friends of Lowell High School.
Before the board took the vote, the selectmen interviewed Ron Peters, the final candidate to be interviewed for the seat. Peters is a local real estate agent who has runs Hudson Grassroots Central, a Website where he had publicized his stand against the Green Meadow development.
“I represent over 600 registered voters for the town of Hudson who feel the same way.” He said. “It’s only going to ruin this town.”
Peters said he would turn over his position as head of Hudson Grassroots Central along to another individual if he became selectman and the board deemed it necessary.
Peters said his main reason for wanting to become selectman was to improve the way the board runs Hudson. An example he gave was the fact that the board voted on his petitioned warrant article before he had a chance to finish gathering the signatures needed for it. Peters also expressed his displeasure at the board’s decision not to allow Bill Cole on the Planning Board due to his refusal to promise not to vote on any future issue involving Green Meadow.
“I just don’t think that’s right. He deserved that job on the planning board,” he said.
Peters was an air traffic controller with the Federal Aviation Administration in Nashua for 33 years, served in the military during the Korean War, and is in the New Hampshire Hockey Hall of Fame.
In his ending statement, Peters said he loves Hudson, and would do his best to learn on the job and fulfill his duties as selectman if he were shosen.
“I know nothing about being a selectman, but I’m a quick study, and I can learn fast,” he said.
A Marine’s Joyful Return
by Lynne Ober
Wulf taught the students some “Marine fun.”
The genesis for this week’s assembly started last fall when Hills Garrison fifth-grader Jana El-Sayed, her fellow fifth-grade students and the first-grade students joined to make Christmas cards and write letters to the troops in Iraq. Jana’s older brother, Jayson Wulf, was stationed in Iraq at the time with his Marine Corps unit.
The first-graders drew the pictures on the outside of the cards and the fifth-graders wrote notes and finished the insides of the cards. They were mailed to Wulf. He told the students he gave cards to everyone in his troop. “Some of them don’t have any family and the cards meant a lot because they don’t get any mail. All of them smiled when they saw the cards.”
Now, after his tour of duty in Iraq has ended, Jayson is home and he wanted to thank the students and share his experiences with them.
Principal Marilyn Martellini said, “We are so excited to have Jayson and his guests. It’s a real treat for the students.”
One of Wulf’s guests was Russell T. Ober III, his favorite teacher when he attended Alvirne High School. “I remember him from class. It’s great to see what a self-confident young man he has become,” said Ober.
“Jayson so often talked about Mr. Ober,” said his mother, Brenda Wulf-El-Sayed. “He was a positive influence on Jayson.”
Hills Garrison students had written questions they wanted Wulf to answer about Iraq. Assistant Principal Lois Connor read the questions and Wulf responded.
“There are some things that I can’t talk about,” he said. “There are some things that I can tell you.” In response to a question about a typical day, Wulf said that all days were the same. “You worked seven days a week and sometimes all night. There were no days off. If you got to go to bed, you were up again at 5 a.m. ready to work some more.”
Students asked what Iraq looked like and Wulf told them and said that he’d brought a slide show with him that would show the students. Today’s Marines travel with laptops as well as tools and Wulf had his laptop tucked under his arm.
He talked about the food and how it is different and about how life in Iraq is so very different. In response to a question, he told the audience that children in Iraq are not treated as well as children in America. “They don’t go to school. They eat only once a day. They have to work and give their parents the money they earn. Parents hit their children. There’s nothing we could do about that. It’s their culture.” Wulf also talked about organizing games with Iraqi children and giving them soccer balls.
When asked what he wore, Wulf talked about the uniforms worn overseas and about the 70- to 90-pound flak jackets they all wore. “This was not bullet proof, but it had plates that would deflect shrapnel and bullets that hit at an angle. It just wouldn’t stop a bullet that was directly shot at you.”
His mother said that one of the changes she saw was physical. “He was always skinny, but with the physical conditioning that the Marines endure over there, he’s come back bigger and none of the uniforms that he wore before his tour fit him now. His dress blues won’t close at the neck. He tried to put his uniform on to wear to the assembly, but it is just too small now. He really beefed up.”
Wulf is stationed in North Carolina and will be promoted to corporal on April 1.
After he answered all questions, he kicked off his slide show, which was set to music, and showed many Marines as well as the landscape of Iraq. He explained that he had taken many of the photos, but some had also been taken by fellow Marines. From the opening slide showing two camels until the end, the students were engrossed in views of Iraq.
After the slide show students from the fifth- and first-grade classes joined Wulf for some “Marine fun.” He showed them how to do pushups “the Marine way” and also how to do “Marine crunches.” He got onto the floor and did the exercises with the students. T-shirts and caps were given to the top athletes in the group.
The students presented a large flag poster that they had made. On the white stripes of the flag, the fifth-graders had written their names. Wulf said he would put that up in his room on his post.
Jayson Wulf with his favorite teacher from School, Russ Ober and his fifth grade sister Jana.
Audit Report Notes Several Areas for Improvement
by Drew Carson
The newly elected Board of Selectmen sat through some encouraging but sobering news about the way in which the Town of Litchfield accounts for its expenses.
Presented by Robert Vachon of Vachon and Clukay, and Co. CPA firm in Manchester, the audit revealed that the Town’s chief problem lies in the reconciliation of cash and encouraged a stronger review of disbursements. Vachon noted that there were a number of times in the 2006 fiscal year that a bill was paid twice including one for $5,000. Although the town was reimbursed for the purchase, it was not until seven months later which according to Vachon gives the Town a false sense of what is actually owed.
Vachon also found a problem in the thirteen credit cards issued to town employees and cited an incident in Derry where a similar set up allowed for a town employee to use a Home Depot credit card to construct a garage for his home without the knowledge of Derry officials. Other problems the audit pointed towards included the large amount of escrow accounts that must be overseen by the Board of Selectmen without the help of a dedicated Town Accountant, a number of dormant accounts, and year end encumbrances.
According to Vachon however, many of the problems could be rectified with fairly simple measures.
In addition to suggesting the employ of a Town Accountant, Vachon also suggested to continually make inquiries into purchases and to develop a series of checks and balances. Since all financial anomalies ultimately have to be answered by the Board, Vachon said that simply asking questions about purchases that exceed what is left in a department’s account could solve many of the problems that would crop up later in the year.
Vachon also suggested the creation of pre-numbered cash receipts for the Town’s Transfer Station and to have those receipts issued numerically. Vachon said including the added benefit for accounting purposes, citizens using the Transfer Station should get a numbered receipt anyway.
Selectman Al Raccio stated that although he agreed with much of what the audit report indicated that it was still not going to be easy to fix an already complicated system.
Selectmen Chair Frank Byron asked if Vachon would be available for hire to look into the fixes the Town makes to its books. Vachon stated that he could be but only as it is not perceived that the firm is actually keeping the books for the town. Such an arrangement would have to be concluded in less than forty hours.
Hudson Chili Cook-Off Won by Landry
by Lynne Ober
Tiffany helped serve chili samples.
Hudson Fish and Game sponsored its sixth annual Chili Cook-Off Contest. As in previous years, it was a hard-fought contest with chili chefs closely guarding their secret ingredients.
Before judging started, the pots of chili were lined up and numbered. Chefs watched as their wares were sampled by the public. Judging was done by everyone who wanted to sample the chili and have a vote.
Small cups were available for samples. There was conversation about the merits of the various chili.
“I didn’t think that I would win,” said Bev Landry after the judging was complete. “The kids would ask me about my chili and when I said it was made with tomatoes, they would turn up their noses and move on.” This was Landry’s first year as a competitor at this event, but she vowed to come back next year and defend her title. Landry said her secret ingredient was one jalapeno pepper. She called her version Hot Tomato Chili.
Marc Sarantis, who has competed four out of the six years, said that this year he changed his recipe and tried a new version. “I’m not naming my secret ingredient,” he said.
“That’s because he probably can’t remember what it is,” quipped his wife.
Doris also changed her recipe this year. “Last year my beans were too dry so this year I used fresh beans and venison as the meat.”
“This was a lot of fun,” said Landry. “I had a really good time today.”
Besides sampling the various chili versions, members of the Fish and Game Club served barbecue pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw and all the fixings.
After everyone had voted, Landry took first place and Sarantis and Ron Lerned tied for second place. All three vowed to come back with even better versions of their chili for next year’s competition.