Candidates Explore Hot Topics of Town Growth, Trimming the School Budget

March 6, 2015
 
Staff photo by Tom Tollefson  BOS candidates are seated at the Hudson Meet the Candidates’ night:  Randy Brownrigg, Richard Kahn, Ted Luszey, Normand Martin, and Marilyn McGrath.  Missing from photo:  candidate Jared Stevens.

Staff photo by Tom Tollefson BOS candidates are seated at the Hudson Meet the Candidates’ night: Randy Brownrigg, Richard Kahn, Ted Luszey, Normand Martin, and Marilyn McGrath. Missing from photo: candidate Jared Stevens.

by Tom Tollefson

Once again it’s time for Hudson to “rock the vote.”  Many dedicated citizens will make their way to the polls at the Hudson Community Center to be a voice for the town and cast their ballots toward decisions that will shape their community.  Here are the candidates that will give residents their voice.

Selectman (six candidates running for two three-year terms as selectmen):

Randy Brownrigg is a 20-year Hudson resident who has raised three children in this community.  Brownrigg has served on the budget committee and conservation commission and was a state representative from 2010-2012.  He also served in the U.S. Navy for 20 years.  During his time in the navy, he took on many challenges on different ships and posts that would call for his attention to detail and leadership.  His focus for improvement in Hudson is “better listening to what people have to say and what their concerns are in town.”

Richard Kahn is running in his fourth campaign for selectman and states that the only difference this time around is his age.  He still has five campaign goals and objectives as follows: accountability, transparency, fiscal restraint, civil liberties, and creation of a business-friendly climate.  Kahn has served on the Friends of Benson Park and Old Home Days committees and owns Kahn Landscaping.

Ted Luszey has been a resident for 30 years.  Luszey has been on the Hudson Board of Selectmen, as well as the budget, recycling, conservation, facilities, and solid waste committees.  He wants to improve the infrastructure in Hudson when the opportunities arise in a cost-effective manner.

Normand Martin, who has lived in Hudson for the past 13 years has served on the Zoning Board of Adjustment for the past 10 years and on the budget committee.  He believes in change that will improve the way the town runs.

Lifelong resident Marilyn McGrath, currently an alternate on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, served on the former town council (participated in contract negotiations with the unions), and has been on the planning board (served as chairman in the 1980s).  She also worked as a financial analyst for BAE Systems for over 20 years and is recently retired.  She describes herself as being “fiscally conservative” and not afraid to make big decisions that will help benefit the town.  One of her biggest concerns is the congested traffic on Lowell and Derry roads.  She stated that a solution will take a “concerted effort on the town and state level depending upon funding because any corrections to those roadways will be costly.”

Jared Stevens is a member of the Alvirne High School class of 1999 and has lived in town for most of his life.  He is the owner of Capri Pizza and has a background in construction management and has experience in contract negotiations.

Budget Committee (three-year term):

Ted Trost is a manager of a pharmaceutical company and a 13-year resident.  He has served on the budget committee and was an on-call firefighter in town for 10 years.  “I think if the people making decisions in town and the voters made decisions the way they make decisions on spending their family’s money, the town would be fine,” he said.

Library Trustee (one position for a three-year term):

Arlene Creeden has lived in town for over 30 years and raised four children while being active volunteering in various organizations throughout the community.  She is seeking re-election for this position.

Trustee of the Trust Funds (three-year term): 

Ed Duchesne has been a trustee in this position for the past 10 years, winning three previous elections.  “I like to contribute my services to the town and enjoy it very much,” he said.

School Board (one position for three-year term):

Cheryl Cummings is a mother of two students in town.  She hopes to help bring different ways of learning into the Hudson School District and help the town offer more afterschool programs.

Ben Nadeau, a former selectman and longtime resident, is an Alvirne High School graduate with a degree in horticulture from UNH.  His primary concerns for the district are the cost per pupil, building maintenance, and capital reserve.  He believes the district should look to the future and take the course of five years to start saving for new buildings.  “We did this in the town side and we should do this on the school side,” Nadeau said.

Margaret Huard is a licensed public accountant and mother.  Her focus is creating a strong budget and helping to make the district more cost effective.  “I’m really excited to have an opportunity to work with the school district and budget heads,” she said.

The Candidates Debate the Issues

School Side

A total of 10 candidates attended the annual Meet the Candidates’ night on the evening of Monday, March 2, sponsored by the GFWC Hudson Junior Women’s Club and the Hudson Community Club.  Paul Inderbitzen moderated the evening as the candidates each shared their reasons for running and answered tough questions.  For the school board candidates, cutting budget costs while balancing the goal of increased educational opportunities became the focus.

“Building maintenance is number one.  We have to start protecting our assets,” Ben Nadeau said

Both candidates encouraged a closer look in determining how necessary certain line items are to the district’s efficiency.  They also both agreed to take a closer look at special education costs in general in deciding where to make cuts while continuing to providing the same services required legally for the needs of the students.

Huard was focused on what the district would need to cut to help fiscal stability.  One of the biggest line items she would take a closer look at is the Aramark Contract.  The district has been outsourcing two managers and a secretary in the SAU building since 2002 through this contract.  The cost has totaled $400,000 a year.

“When I look at other school districts, they seem to be getting the same management under one salary position for about $150,000,” Huard said about her early stage of research in this matter, which she would take a closer look at in relevance to the budget if she were to be elected to the board.  Huard also stated that she would want to first discuss these decisions with others in the district as she sought to work together.

Huard is not alone on her policy of efficient cost cutting without hindering the quality of education.  Nadeau cited that in 1993 the budget was $19 million and now today it has increased to over $50 million, and that the district needs more efficiency within a thinner budget.

Nadeau stated that a closer look needs to be placed on the size of the SAU staff.  He pointed out that the staff is larger today than it was when Hudson and Litchfield were one school district.

Huard is also open to using creative approaches to assist students’ learning experiences.  She stated that she is open to looking into peer mentoring in the schools.  This would call for a classmate to assist with a student who has mild academic or social challenges in a way that would make the students feel more accepted and comfortable.

Town Side

One of the many hot button issues for the candidates for Hudson Board of Selectmen was growth.

Kahn believes the best decision is to let the free market decide without micromanaging it and allow business to be unharmed by government.  Luszey believes in looking to the zoning board and planning board for advice on where to look for decisions on the placement of residential and industrial use of natural resources in town.  He also sees transportation as being a key issue connected to the growth of Hudson.

Manpower was another key issue.  Stevens, Luszey, and McGrath believed that eventually Benson Park would have to be maintained by paid staff instead of “overwhelming” the volunteers.  “Volunteers are great, but it doesn’t always continue that way, and I think the town is going to have to look for money allotting to that towards the future.  I would hate to see them having to give a parking fee for using Benson’s Park,” Stevens said.  Martin, Brownrigg, and Kahn were more optimistic about keeping the park under the sole care of volunteers.  Kahn believed the town should get creative and ask businesses to volunteer.

One of the biggest cost items debated by the candidates was the proposal of the new fire station.  This new project is up for vote on March 10 and will incur a cost of $2.1 million (reportedly covered in bonds).  While all the candidates realized the need for a solution to the aging Leonard Smith Fire Station, they had slightly different views on the solution.  Martin, Stevens, and Brownrigg were supportive of the new fire station proposed on the ballot, but the other candidates had concerns centering around the location.

“As we all know there is significant traffic delays on Lowell Road today, especially at peak hours in the morning and in the evening, and my concern is that if there is some sort of emergency that requires the fire department to empty out and run their trucks out and it’s at peak hour, we’re going to have a horrendous mess on our hands and a lot of unhappy people, so I haven’t decided yet how I’m going to vote,” McGrath said.

Brownrigg believes the traffic lights at either end of Lowell Road will help alleviate the traffic around the station.  He believes the project will have a cost savings since the town owns the land it would be built upon and no further work would be done to modify the plans since it will be an exact replica of the station in Londonderry.  However, Kahn believes upgrading fire stations in town would be a better solution.

“If you take a look at the number of calls that happen on Lowell Road, a majority of them go to the nursing home.  The staff at the nursing home is there to handle the situation for them.  We own land on Musquash, not too far from the current fire station and I would ask the Board of Selectmen if that piece of land is sellable and developable why wasn’t it looked at to replace the Burns Hill (fire station)?  We are going to add response time to the residents on the south end of Hudson,” said Luszey.

Martin responded with a rebuttal stating that Market Basket will be moving their parking lot 300 feet north and working with Haffner’s and Fairview Nursing Home to pay for the installation of another light.

One of the issues the candidates agreed upon was transparency on the board of selectmen.  They all want the board to be open with the public about key decisions that are made for the town and its residents.

“Why should we force our citizens to file RSA 91 A requests; that’s the state’s right to know law.  We shouldn’t have to do that,” Kahn said.  “Transparency in our government should be paramount.

“Deliberations and decisions of the board of selectmen should be done in an open forum where the public can witness the issues being deliberated and the decisions reached.  Lobbying for support for one’s ideas and votes should not take place outside of the selectmen’s meeting room but in an open meeting.  Lack of transparency can foster a climate of unethical behavior that is detrimental to us all.”

The candidates also believe that change is needed.  “I think there needs to be change,” Martin said in regard to the professionalism and respect among town employees.  “Change in the way people are spoken to, change in the way business is conducted by some of the members of the board of selectmen outside the chamber, and change in the way your hired hands are treated when they are presenting to you.”