Windham Resident’s Company, MSI, Receives Business of the Year Award
by Andrea Ganley-Dannewitz
From left: Tom Hooper Sr., president and founder; Brian Hooper, Vice president; and Tom Hooper Jr., office manager
Salem has not seen a local business win the Business NH Magazine Business of the Year Award since 1991. Now, we wait no longer. MSI, Mechanical Systems Inc. won the 2008 award in the Construction/Engineering/Real Estate category. There are eight business categories. A screening committee of members of the New Hampshire Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (NHACCE) takes a closer look at applicants and three semi-finalists from each category are chosen. Next, the “panel of excellence,” of executives from the previous years’ winners chooses one winner from each category.
Why did MSI stand out amongst other businesses in the construction and engineering industry? Besides surviving a shady economy, being successful tradesmen, and providing quality work, they reach out to teens to introduce them to the trade before they become adults who may or may not know what career path is right for them. There are not many HVAC, plumbing or other contractors who go out of their way to find motivated high school students, employ them and retain them, giving these students real hands-on chances at on-the-job training with a career on which they can build a future. That is what makes MSI different.
Matt Mowry, editor of Business NH Magazine said the judges were impressed with several factors. MSI is a very successful family owned business. It is an active member of Associated Builders and Contractors – Concord chapter. Vice President Brian Hooper is an active member of the local Rotary Club, and is on the board of directors of Associated Builders and Contractors. Mowry said its work with area high schools such as Blackstone Valley Tech in Massachusetts, Londonderry Middle School, and Pinkerton Academy is valuable to our community and the state. It was a weighing factor as to why it was chosen.
Hooper, MSI vice president, spends time attending career day events at local schools. He has done video demonstrations showing students the company’s work and what goes into training someone to do it. He feels that students who may not be excelling academically, or do not wish to attend college, may feel they do not have much choice for successful careers. Hooper makes sure that students who may not be “scholarly” realize that the country was built and developed by tradesmen. He educates them so they realize there is plenty of money to be made in the trades.
Tom Hooper Sr., is founder and president of MSI. In 1968 he made a living as a mechanic. He attended college to learn the HVAC, plumping and refrigeration trades, but he feels he is not the greatest student, as far as textbook studies are concerned. He feels it is not always fair that students do not get the opportunity to try out a trade hands-on first, learn if it something they want to do for a living, then study the books later. He thinks it makes all the difference for students who make better sense of hands-on training first; it helps them understand the textbook portion after they are familiar with the work.
The interested high school students considered for employment are interviewed by MSI management, which makes sure the students and their families understand the mutual commitment needed to make it from hands-on training to a successful career. If these students are planning on merely going into the work force after high school and not attending college immediately or at all, they are great candidates for MSI co-op employment. Once the commitment has been made, MSI brings them into the company and spends the money and time to train them into becoming successful tradesmen. Then these students avoid what is all too common with college graduates, struggling with student loan debt and unable to find jobs. Rather, they are established at MSI and starting to build a future for themselves.
All of the work with youth makes a difference in New Hampshire’s economy. By reaching out to youths in New Hampshire and employing them keeps young people living and working in New Hampshire. According to recent news reports, most New Hampshire college graduates do not stay and work in the state because once they leave college and look for employment, companies do not hire them because they do not have any work experience. If more businesses reached out to middle and high school students, introduced them to skills and later tought them those skills, our graduates would not have to leave. That would be great for our local economy. The Hooper family and MSI have set the example of what successful and innovative businesses can do for our community by giving back to it.
From left: Scouts and leaders of Windham Pack 263 team – Nathan Houde, Karin Nader, John Nader, Anthony Bedard, Brian Wong, Christopher Houde and Michael Houde
On Saturday, May 3, a team of Cub Scouts from Windham’s Pack 263 participated in a regional Chuckwagon Derby at the Camp Carpenter camp in Manchester. Nineteen teams were entered from area scouting organizations and this team finished second. This was an all-day event sponsored by the Boy Scouts as part of an encampment weekend. The scouts hosted the Webelos scouts, which allowed the Boy Scouts to help mentor and teach the younger scouts the basics of outdoor camping while running fun activities.
For the Chuckwagon Derby, each team was required to set up, decorate and work together to push/pull a covered wagon to various sites along hiking trails.
At each site, the team would meet with the Boy Scouts in charge and would demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and scouting spirit as well as learn more about these areas. Activities included knot tying, bike safety, first aid, craftsman and space exploration. The Boy Scouts then rated each team at each site.
This was the first time that Pack 263 entered this event. They came in second based on overall points in 11 areas. After the derby, the boys fired off homemade rockets.
If you want to learn more about scouting, contact Cub Master Fred Nader: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: http://windhamnhcubscouts.org/pack263/.
Talkin’ Cheaper Pelham Trash
by Lynne Ober
Trash has become a large problem in America. The mountains of trash thrown away has filled landfills and raised havoc with stressed town budgets. New Hampshire feels the same pinch and recently Pelham’s Board of Selectmen enjoyed a presentation by New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
David Degler, NHDES solid waste coordinator, made a presentation on the Pelham transfer station. Beginning with a comparison of Pelham to four similar towns, Degler pointed out Pelham’s trash status.
Degler had interesting statistics, including “What’s in Your Garbage?” – 11.9 percent food scraps, 13.1 percent yard waste, 34.2 percent paper, 11.8 percent plastics, 7.6 percent metal and 5.2 percent glass.
Of those items, the yard waste and majority of food scraps can be composted in backyard composter with no effort other than throwing the items into the composter. Mother Nature, even if you don’t turn your compost, will take care of the wastes and produce rich soil for yard and garden.
The paper, plastics, metal and glass can all be recycled. If people composted and recycled, 81.9 percent of the garbage stream could be removed and reused. And yet, Pelham residents recycle only 29.81 percent of their trash stream, according to Degler.
Degler said 117 New Hampshire communities have mandatory recycling and 47 of them are using a pay-as-you-throw fees. New Hampshire has nearly 230 transfer/recycling centers and 41 communities have curbside pickup.
Pay-as-you-throw programs save money and re-distribute costs to those who do not recycle and continue to combine all their trash into one bundle. Recyclers see a savings that grows as they recycle more and more.
According to Degler, communities that have implemented pay-as-you-throw programs see the volume of recycling go up because the fee applies to the volume of non-recyclable trash. As a result, people become much more conscious of what they can recycle and voluntarily participate to reduce their own fees. People who do not wish to participate are not forced to do so, but continue to pay for the disposal of all their trash.
As Degler explained, this is not a radical idea. Electricity, for example, is billed on this concept. The more you use, the more you pay. He gave several examples that people readily pay today. “This is not a radical or new concept,” he said.
Degler said that while only 47 communities have pay-as-you-throw for all trash, more communities have moved in that direction and charge for a variety of trash disposal from electronic waste to bulky waste or white goods.
Nationwide, Degler said, communities are recycling more than 50 percent of their paper, but New Hampshire lags far behind and only recycles 38 percent. Degler noted that across the state, the recycling rate is a dismal 20 percent, including all sources including composting.
Using Canterbury as an example, Degler explained how it lowered the town’s trash budget to $4,107 after the pay-as-you-throw fees and recycling profits were deducted from expenses. Anyone concerned about their tax bills should compare that cost to Pelham’s trash budget of more than $500,000. Want to reduce your tax bills? Recycling coupled with pay-as-you-throw programs can do that, according to Degler.
Although Degler did not discuss neighboring Hudson’s new trash program, its nearly mandatory recycling program brought huge savings this fiscal year, which is the first year of operation. As a result, Hudson selectmen were able to put the extra money into repairing streets without charging a betterment fee or increasing the street repair budget.
Discussion of this concept covered a variety of important topics, including:
A pay-as-you-throw program should be designed to offer lower fees for low income families. Degler presented documentation of how to establish and use discounted rates, including establishment of a basic service level for all residents that would provide a volume of free trash disposal to all families. He described the program used in Seekonk, Massachusetts, which reduces rates for those who prove a hardship, which was extended to retired families on fixed incomes.
There’s also a concern about illegal dumping and Degler discussed studies that recommend hybrid programs rather than flat fees so that commercial construction and demolition debris can be handled appropriately.
Degler also discussed ways to handle the administrative end of such programs so that jobs are not lost nor additional people are needed. Grants can help cover or greatly reduce startup costs of such programs.
One of the important issues that must be dealt with surrounds customer resistance to change. Several topics were discussed surrounding that issue. People assume that trash programs are “free” because they don’t see the trash budget, he said. The recommendation is to ensure that such programs are revenue neutral so that residents see a tax reduction that equals the amount of user fees collected.
People also resist because of lack of knowledge and understanding about the overall trash problem.
To work on resident issues and perceptions, several were recommended:
- Establish an in-house unit-based pricing advisory committee that will include officials and community members. This committee will complete the initial research and program analysis required to develop the program and gain support.
- Sell the program to key decision makers. To do this effectively, several options must be developed so that the program is flexible enough to cover contingencies such as hardship programming.
- Gather public participation. This process started immediately after the meeting when Selectman Victor Danevich invited comments via the town message board or e-mail to selectmen. It will be important to continue an outreach effort as this program is discussed and examined for use in Pelham. Selectmen are eagerly seeking community participation.
State Considering Air Permit for Rock Crushing at Blasting Site
by Barbara O’Brien
The Air Resources Division of the State Department of Environmental Services is considering an air permit application for a Windham site that has been the source of much contention for the past 1 1/2 years.
On Monday, May 5, DES representatives held a public hearing to discuss an air permit application submitted by the developers of a future light industrial park to be located off Ledge Road. Area residents have been complaining about work being done at that site. Those complaints, which include well-water contamination, structural damage to homes and allegations of air pollution, relate to blasting done at the site for a good part of 2007. Blasting was halted in October, pending study results, then, it s was discontinued for an unspecified time when DES officials entered the investigation.
The air permit application does not involve blasting but is directed at crushing granite. The rock crushing operation continued for several months after the blasting was halted. Residents have complained about the rock crushing, ranging from noise, truck traffic and possibility of air and water contamination.
Windam Planning Director Al Turner said rock crushing is allowed in the light industrial zone as an “accessory use” of the main project.
According to the air permit application, the developers, Meadowcroft, seek to use three crushers and a generator. Craig Wright, assistant director of the Air Resources Division, said the crushers, which use diesel fuel, can process more than 150 tons of rock per hour.
Wright said reviews of air permit applications include emissions evaluations using federal Environmental Protection Agency levels for internal combustion engines, level of pollutants, dust control requirements and the opacity of emissions (what can be seen),
Muriel Lejoie, air quality engineer for DES, said an annual fuel limit for the crushing operation would be set at 119,600 gallons, or 988 gallons per day. Lejoie said this translates into a possible 19 hours’ daily operation of the rock crushing equipment. DES representatives also cited other requirements including control of fugitive dust, restriction on emissions, emissions testing, and record-keeping and reporting to DES. Wright said DES representatives would be on site during any required testing, but would not be on location daily due to staff and financial constraints.
During the public hearing, numerous residents opposed the air permit. Not one resident spoke in favor of the proposal. No one representing the developer spoke at the hearing.
One resident of Haverhill Road asked why people in Windham should have faith that the developers will follow any regulations set by DES. “No one’s been monitoring the site since the project began,” he said. “Why should we believe they’ll follow restrictions now?” Wright said site would be monitored by DES “periodically.” “Periodic doesn’t cut it,” another Haverhill Road resident said. “This needs to be shut down once and for all.” This same resident told DES officials that it was only when residents called in town and state officials to investigate that the developers bothered about any compliance. “It’s beyond me how they get away with this,” she said. Citing not only the noise issue, but air pollution, this resident said she couldn’t even open her windows last summer. Wright said that, generally, noise is regulated at the local level, rather than by the state.
Another resident said she is afraid to let her toddlers play outside. “There were all kinds of debris in the snow this year that we never saw before,” she said. “We’ve become prisoners in our own homes. These are lives we’re dealing with here. It’s not right to allow this (blasting and rock crushing), so that some company can make a lot of money.” This same resident also said that the project initially was presented to the Windham Planning Board in such a manner that there “might be some crushing.” “Instead,” she said, “it’s become a massive undertaking.” This resident implored the state to provide more monitoring of the site. “The town can’t handle this size project,” she said.
Another resident said, simply, “They’ve taken everything from our quality of life.”
Still another resident told DES officials that “to say the applicant has violated regulations from the beginning is an understatement.” Listing a decline in the value of neighboring homes, potential health problems and the prospect of continuing noise pollution for the next five to seven years, he said, “There is absolutely no reason not to shut down this project completely. This project should never have been approved by town officials in the first place.” Several residents suggested the project be investigated by the state attorney general’s office regareding possible criminal actions.
Selectman Roger Hohenberger said it appears that the project is much larger than anyone realized beforehand. “An entire section of town has been negatively impacted,” Hohenberger said. He also suggested that someone not working for the company be on site at all times of operation to monitor the situation, at the expense of the developer.
Selectman Charles McMahon suggested that the rock crushing operation be fully enclosed to assure the health and safety of residents. As an experienced real estate agent, McMahon also said it would be impossible for these residents to sell their properties and move now. “Nobody’s going to buy these homes,” he said. “It’s a mining pit,” a resident of Meetinghouse Road said. “For two years now they’ve ruined people’s lives and they don’t care.”
In response to a question from selectmen’s chairman Dennis Senibaldi, DES representatives said state officials have 30 days following the close of the public hearing to respond to the air permit application to cruch rock. It is anticipated a response to the application will be generated by early June.
Windham Selectmen Proceed with Policy for Part-Time Police Officers
by Barbara O’Brien
Based on a proposal by Selectman Bruce Breton, a policy is being developed that could reinstate using part-time police officers in Windham.
According to Town Administrator David Sullivan, the employment of part-time or “special” police officers was discontinued in the late 1980s because they weren’t being used effectively or efficiently. Based on the union contract, full-time officers were given the option of working special details before they were offered to part-timers.
Breton’s plan would use retired, previously full-time Windham officers who left the department in good standing, to work traffic details. Breton said officers retire regularly from the force at a relatively young age and he wants to take advantage of their experience to benefit the town.
Also, Breton said he wants to use local police officers to work special traffic details, before resorting to hiring officers from other area communities. “We should be keeping the revenue in town,” Breton said.
During 2007, Windham officers worked 7,852 hours on special details, such as directing traffic at construction sites; while 1,459 hours were worked by officers from other police departments. In addition, Windham police worked 582 hours doing special details communities outside Windham.
Police Chief Gerald Lewis said he has met with Sullivan and Breton to discuss the proposal. “As I understand it,” Lewis said, “the intended purpose and benefit of this proposal is the potential for additional revenue generated from the administrative fees, which are charged to vendors or contractors.” Lewis said these fees are collected for all details worked by Windham officers. When out-of-town officers work Windham, it is their home departments that collect the administrative fees
“In general, I am opposed to the use of retired personnel as part-time police officers for any purpose, particularly patrol duties in the Town of Windham,” Lewis said. Lewis’ reasoning is that part-time officers present additional liabilities to the town and especially to their full-time counterparts. “They would tend to have outdated intelligence, officer safety and other police-related or procedural information; their skill level would tend to be marginal, especially over time; and finally, the level of service and commitment that they would provide the community would border on adequate.”
However, the chief said that based on the general duties required of officers working traffic-related details, he would agree that retired Windham officers could perform this function, which thereby would generate additional revenue for Windham. In addition, Lewis added, he would agree that such part-time officers could also be used during emergencies.
Lewis said he calculated how much revenue Windham might generate if all special details are worked by local officers. At an hourly detail rate of $42.50; $16.94 per hour would go to the town.
Lewis said the vast majority of special detail hours worked by out-of-town officers last year were related to the Route 111 bypass, which will continue for part of 2008. Lewis said, however, the detail hours should drop significantly as the project wraps up in mid to late summer. “Once completed, I anticipate that detail opportunities for out-of-town officers (or Windham special police officers) will drop significantly with full-time Windham officers working a majority of the jobs.”
When looking into Breton’s proposal, Lewis said he consulted the police chief in Salem, a department that has about 20 retired officers holding positions of special police officer. Only six to 10 of these part-time officers work details and none performs patrol duties, Lewis said. Special officers do not perform any administrative tasks, as this would violate the union contract, Lewis said. Chief Paul Donovan of Salem, also told Lewis he plans to eliminate the special police officer position because he views it as “liability to the town and an unnecessary administrative cost and task (for scheduling, tracing of hours, training, etc.).”
“If we were to retain retired officers as certified special police officers, we would be required to ensure that they meet annual department and Police Standards and Training Council standards,” Lewis said, which would cost the town an estimated $766 per officer annually. In addition, an estimated $1,360 would be required to pay the instructors who would be training the part-time officers, for a total of $3,660 in annual training costs for three part-time “special” officers. Lewis suggested the number of part-time officers be capped at three, should the idea be approved.
Selectman Galen Stearns suggested that certified flaggers be used for traffic details, rather than assigning the jobs to officers. Breton disagreed, saying having a police officer at a work site “has more of a bite than a flagger.”
Following the lengthy discussion, selectmen voted 3 to 1 to 1 to proceed with the development of a policy to hire special police officers for traffic details. Voting in favor were Breton, Dennis Senibaldi and Charles McMahon. Voting against was Selectman Stearns. Selectman Roger Hohenberger abstained. The proposal is expected to be brought up during the Monday, May 19, selectmen’s meeting.