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Veterans, Proudly and Humbly, Burn Unserviceable United States Flags

submitted by Len Lathrop

Members of the Hudson Veterans of Foreign Wars gathered Saturday morning to properly dispose of the American flags that citizens had left in the disposal containers that the VFW have positioned in the town.

Members of the VFW and the Auxiliary followed protocols under the United States Flag Code and burned the flags after inspection by various Post Commanders.  Post Commander Michael Huston gave the following instructions to those assembled, which speak about our flag:

“Comrades, we have presented here these flags of our country which have been inspected and condemned as unserviceable.  They have reached their present state in a proper service of tribute, memory, and love.

“A flag may be a flimsy bit of printed gauze, or a beautiful banner of finest silk.  Its intrinsic value may be trifling or great; but its real value is beyond price, for it is a precious symbol of all that our dear country stands for; a free nation of free men and women, true to the faith of the past and devoted to the ideals and practice of Justice, Freedom and Democracy.  It represents all that our fathers, the Grand Army of the Republic and our nation’s defenders in all conflicts lived for, sacrificed for, and died for.

“Let these faded flags of our country be retired and destroyed with respectful and honorable rites and their places taken by bright new flags of the same size and kind, and let no grave of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen be unhonored or unmarked.

VFW member John Kotheiner adds the flag flown at the Post to the flames.

“Color Bearer, you will destroy these flags with solemn dignity by burning.

“Officer of the Guard, assemble the color guard, escort this detail bearing flags to the vessel of disposal.

“The Chaplain will invoke the divine blessing.


‘Almighty God, High and Mighty Ruler of the Universe, be with us at this hour.  Bless and consecrate these proceedings as may seem fitting in your sight.  We now stand before You, giving thanks for our country and its flag.  We thank You for liberty for which our country stands and which our flag represents.  To clean and purging flame we commit these flags worn in worthy service.  As they yield their substance to the fire, may your Holy Light spread over us and bring our hearts renewed devotion to God and Country.  Amen.’

“Thank you for your assistance in conducting this most solemn ritual.  As the old soldier, sailor, and airman one day go beyond our world to a better place, so too must the dear old flag under which they so nobly served be retired.  And like the old sailor or airman, the flag too shall be followed by that which is new, bright of stripe, and shining of star amid a field of Union Blue.  May the flag ever fly aloft o’er this great land to comfort the dispossessed, defend the weak, and serve as a warning to the tyrant.  May it ever flutter in peace, shouting the message of liberty and freedom.”

Flag honor guard Bob Fournier, Barry Sullivan and Jack Canata present Flags for Inspection to Post Comamannder R. Michael Dustin. American Flag bearer Dennis Levesque stands at attention.

George H. and Ella M. Rodgers Memorial Library:  ‘Build it and They Will Come‘

by Doug Robinson

While the front doors of the George H. and Ella M. Rodgers Memorial Library open the old fashion way, by pulling the handle, that has not stopped area children from attending seminars, adults checking out books, magazines and periodicals, young adults have date nights at the library, and students researching projects on the library’s computers in record numbers.

Circulation statistics reflect a 36.74 percent increase in the circulation of nonfiction, fictions, CD’s, digital portables, DVDs, kits, equipment, periodicals and reference materials.  Since July 2009, over 70,028 have used the new library for their personal pleasure.  During the same period of 2008, the library had 51,210 visits.  During 2008, the library issued 404 new library cards, while during the same period of 2009, the new library issued 938 cards, or an increase of 51.55 percent

However, while the Rodgers Memorial Library celebrates the recent successes of its mission to offer expanded programs, increase circulation as well as community involvement, the Town of Hudson has been stuck in the mud with an undercurrent of adverse and misinformation about the library. 

During the past several months, much local discussion has centered on the library doors not being constructed so that those in a wheel chair receive an easier access into the library.  Many Hudson residents, as indicated by the communication with the Hudson~Litchfield News (HLN) have been under the impression that the new library was required to equip itself with electric or doors which operated electrically for ease of accessibility, especially to those in a wheelchair.

In speaking with both the contractor for the construction project, North Branch Construction, Concord, as well as in speaking with the architect who designed the building, Peter Smith, it has been learned that New Hampshire State Law and the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not require the new library to be equipped with electrically assisted doors.  However, the building, contents, and operational area are required to be ADA compliant.  The Library Trustees, in cooperation with both the Construction Management Company, North Branch Construction, and the Architect, Richard Smith worked closely together to make sure that all laws were followed to the letter so that the public and conditions of their Certificate of Occupancy reflect that the library does comply with all local, state, and National Laws. 

“The doors comply per 88 codes,” commented James Schwartz, Project Manager and Vice President of North Branch Construction.  “The doors have the 3-foot opening, have the maximum weight pull of 5-8 pounds and meet all codes.  While electric doors would be a nice thing, they are not required by law.”

It appears that the waters became muddy for this project when the Town of Hudson Fire Chief, Shawn Murray, requested of the library to install a generator.  It was later learned that the purpose of the $35,000 generator was to maintain water flow during an emergency, as well as maintain the operational capabilities of the children’s section should a town emergency require that the library be used as an emergency shelter.  Library sources who worked closely with the construction of the building state that the water pressure was low and that the fire prevention system at the library needs the use of a generator in order to maintain water flow should an emergency at the library exist.  Hudson’s Fire Chief, Shawn Murray refused to answer the question as to why he had insisted on the installation of the generator, up to and including the refusal of issuing a Certificate of Occupancy if the library did not install a generator.

Due to budget constraints, electrically powering the doors was never blueprinted by the architect or planned by the contractor. 

“We want to have the front doors powered for easier access, but we had to wait for more funds to become available,” commented Toni Weller.  “The front doors have been a top priority of the Library Trustees.  Now that we have sold a home on Ferry Street, we will hopefully be in a position to make the front doors electric.”

When asked why he, the Fire Chief, required the library to install a generator instead of allowing the library to install electric doors, Chief Murray stated, “I have nothing to do with the stupid thing (referring to the electric doors) and I have nothing to say over this crap.”  I then stated to Chief Murray, “I am quoting you.”  “Go ahead and print, I don’t give a (bleep).  I am the fire chief and I don’t have to answer to you.  I don’t give a (bleep) about the doors.  Do your homework.  Look at the NFPA.”  I stated, Shawn, “I have four fingers pointing at you (Contractor, Architect, Trustees, and Library Director) as the reason for the electric doors not being installed are due to budget cuts as a result of you insisting on the generator being installed.”  I asked, “Why did you require the library to spend $60,000 (at that time that was the information)?  We later learned that the generator cost $35,000.”  Instead of answering the question as to why the generator was installed, Chief Murray became more arrogant and involved only with “Who told you that,” and with intense anger he stated, “I will be calling them.”  Then he said, “I am too busy to talk to you about the (bleep) thing.”  “Can you tell me where to go for the information,” I asked.  “Look it up for yourself.  You people (referring to the HLN) choose stupid (bleep) to write about.”  He then hung up.

During the process of covering and writing this story, the HLN has learned that the Rodgers Memorial Library has received a proposal to install electric doors for both the interior and exteriors doors of the library.  At the time of construction, the installation of the doors was estimated to cost the library $4,800.  The recent bid, was estimated to cost the library $7,000 for materials, and labor costs are to be additional.

For more information to learn about programs and learning opportunities at the George H. and Ella M. Rodgers Memorial Library, visit

HPD and HFD:  Training for Us to Keep Us Safe

by Doug Robinson

Dear Reader,

Sometimes, reporters get to do some pretty cool stuff.  When I say “cool,” I mean we get to do things that little kids dream about.  For example, we get to meet famous and important people, we get to ride in police cars and fire engines, we get into concerts free, we get to go back stage during events; we get to learn new things all the time. 

But the neatest thing about being a reporter is that we gain people’s trust.  People talk to us and tell us their concerns.

I first started writing for the Area News Group (Hudson~Litchfield News, Pelham~Windham News, Salem Community Patriot) nearly six years ago, as an avenue to “keep me busy” and “something to do” as I knew that my wife’s life was soon to pass due to the complications she was having with Breast Cancer.  What I did not know, was that in time, after many years of association and many years of creating relationships that I would be asked to participate in an exercise which would just blow me away. 

Stories from reporters are to be objective, down the middle, and unbiased.  With the publisher’s permission, as well as with the permission of Hudson Police Chief, Jason Lavoie, I have been authorized to tell you about my day when I participated in a training exercise to help our Police Officers as well as our Firefighters become better civil servants. 

They spend hours after hours training, working out, studying, and improving their skills, just to make sure we are safe.  They make sure our community is safe, our families are safe, and that we can prosper.  Here is just one way, on one day, how they trained to do what they do.

The story:

Captain Bill Avery (pointing) sets the stage and provides instructions to the officers of HPD as well as the HPD firefighters to the table top exercise.

I was recently invited to participate in a “behind the scenes” training exercise which involved both the Hudson Police Department and Hudson Fire Department.  The “table-top” exercise (as it was called)  was a simulation in “real time” of an emergency scenario created whereby the Hudson Police Department (HPD) and Hudson Fire Department (HFD) analyzed their professional response to the following:  a bank robbery, a shooting, hostages, a car fire and accidents, various domestic calls into HPD, escaping criminals in high speed vehicles, all at the same time.  The police officers and the firefighters participating were unaware of the chain of events which were being laid out in front of them.  And as an added twist, there was me.  I was the obnoxious reporter which we all see on TV.  Yes, I was asked to “get in their face” and see if I could make them tell the press information which they should not.  Before I started the interview, I asked Chief Lavoie if I could be thrown in jail for being a jerk.  He told me “not to worry about it.”  Yeah, right!   He laughed and said, “Don’t worry.”   Yeah, right!

The police officers and the firefighters who were assigned to participate in the exercise knew that they would be participating in an exercise which would evaluate their skill specific levels, challenge their knowledge of protocol standards, as well as challenge them to analyze the scenario to their fullest.  While they knew they would be involved in the simulation, they had no idea they were going to be interviewed and videotaped for the evening news.  (It was great!)

The scenario participants included a police dispatcher, police officers, police supervisors, firefighters, firefighter supervisors, and me. 

Those who know me in both the police department and the fire department know me as a pretty laid back reporter.  I, usually, do not give anyone a hard time for information.  When asked to do the assignment by the Chief of Police, he asked, “Can you be hardcore” (actually he used different words).  “Heck yeah” I said.  Who wouldn’t like the opportunity, just once, to stand toe to toe with a cop and not be worried while you gave them a hard time?  (In truth, my knees were shaking a lot.)

The table top itself is a replication of a city and it measures approximately 12-feet by 12-feet.  The layout of the tabletop resembled a city.   Buildings were labeled to replicate Hudson buildings and the names of the roads had written on roads which simulated Central Street, Derry Road, etc.  Buildings involved in the exercise were also labeled:  Citizens Bank, Hannafords, Park, School, etc.  Matchbox cars were given to the police and matchbox fire trucks were given to the firefighters.  As the scenario was played out, the officers and firefighters placed their cars and trucks where they thought they should be placed on the make believe town of Hudson.

As the exercise began, officers and fire firefighters were kept in the dark as to the actual events of the scenario.  All they knew was that their years of training and their performance were about to be evaluated.  And here I was, having been invited to participate, with them, and to report on this excellent training exercise.  What the firefighters and the HPD officers did not know, I was a “mole.”  I had been given the entire scenario ahead of time to see if I could break them out of their protocol. 

Back to the exercise.  The simulation was a timed event, beginning at the make believe time of 10 a.m.

Here is the “basic scenario” as described in the email I got:  The basic scenario is going to be a bank robbery.  “It will be at St. Mary’s bank, not Citizen’s.  During the robbery, all occupants of the bank are going to be duct taped and locked in the back room.  One occupant will be pistol-whipped and unconscious.  (Remember readers … this is all making believe).  As the suspects are leaving, they shoot a civilian in the pelvis as he exits his vehicle in the parking lot.  The civilian will be unable to move.  He may or may not be unconscious.  As the Bank robbers drive away, they swap cars somewhere on Executive Drive and set fire to the original getaway car. 

“Just before this scenario occurs, there were a couple of non-emergency calls to respond to just to keep them thinking.  We will have no emergency calls coming in to see how they are handled stated the notes from the exercise.

As the officers and firefighters entered the room, one at a time, the simulation was enacted as it would play out in the field.  The police officer was given his/her matchbox patrol car and told that the Citizens Bank had been robbed, and that shots had been heard.  The police officer was told that he/she would be coming in from a specific direction (known as sectors).  It was up to the officer to tell the supervisors how they were going to get to the bank, what roads they would travel, how they would communicate by radio, how they would operate their emergency lights, and where they would park their vehicles.  One by one, HPD officers would march into the room, and repeat the exercise, until the supervisor got on scene.

It was now 10:04 a.m. … all the events described took place in just four minutes.

(At this point, the police department has many procedures in place which, I would believe for their safety, they would not want public when addressing a shooting or bank robbery.  Thus, for confidentiality and respect for the HPD, I will not include those parts of the exercise.)

“I would travel down Central with my lights and sirens on.  I would then approach the bank and park here because … I would then … I would call … I would … ” 

And so went the exercise, officer by officer, firefighter by firefighter.”

“I would grab my shield and order officer … to come to me and we would extricate the bleeding person” commented an officer.  “Are you sure,” asked the supervisor.  “What about … and have you included? … who else have you called? … and what about …” asked the supervisor?  “Have you considered … have you thought … what do you mean by saying … ?”

Like real life, a bank robbery, shooting, hostages, fleeing bandits, a local school in trouble, burning cars, while being involved in a life and death situation would cause considerable stress on an individual.  At this time, the exercise had become real to the officers and firefighters.  Every one present was fully focused to the event at hand.  It wasn’t a drill anymore.  It had become real.  They talked to each other from patrol car to dispatch, from dispatch to supervisors, from police department to fire department.  The training room had become a single unit of trained professionals working together, in complete unison, to block roads, help the injured, connect the burning cars to the bank robbery, evacuate the local school, and bring the crime scene under control.

It was not 10:08 a.m., and the professionals were fully focused to the job at hand.

And then, they met me.  The obnoxious, get in your face reporter.  At the height of their anxiety, they were mine. 

I was located in another room at the police department.  Individually, officers and firefighters were escorted away from the exercise, and led into the room in which I was waiting.  Every officer and every firefighter with whom I spoke knows that I am a reporter and that I write for the papers.  As they entered the room and saw me, they had no idea I was part of the exercise.  I could see the stress on their faces and bodies from their participation in the exercise, and I could read them saying to themselves, “what’s this all about?”  Remember, they had no idea I was in on the exercise. 

As they approached me, I took a couple of pictures of them with my flash camera to “set the stage” and to put them at more unease.  I instructed them to “stand on the x” and that I was recording the news interview for the evening news (actually the Chief had me video tape the interviews for training purposes)

“Hi, Doug” stated Captain Bill Avery.  (My knees were knocking very hard now.)  “Hi Captain” I stated.  “We just heard over the scanner of the bank robbery.  What’s going on?” I asked.  I waited for a second, then I took a step closer to him, and asked “we hear there is a person shot” how bad is it.  As he began to speak, “is he hurt bad,” hoping he would tell me if their was a person shot, if the person was man or woman, the person’s age, etc.

The Chief had already prepped me by telling me that the answers should be, “We have a crime scene and it is under investigation.”  That was the answer I was supposed to get from all.  Score plus one for Captain Lavoie.  “Are there hostages?” I asked, knowing that the employees had been tied up and duct taped.  “We have a crime scene and it is under investigation” Lavoie stated.  Hmmm … plus two for the Captain., minus two for the obnoxious reporter.  He was sticking with the script.  While some did extremely well, others will be happy (maybe) to see the video. 

As various officers and firefighters came to be interviewed, I played them against each other.  Yup, I lied to them all.  It was great.  When a police officer came in I told them that the firefighter told me this and I would lie to the firefighter and tell them that the police had told me that.  My job was to get information about the crime scene any way I could.  As the pluses and minuses added up with me getting information, let’s just say, I had fun.  Winning is fun.

When the tabletop exercise was completed, a debrief was conducted with all participants, including me.  The police officers evaluated their own performance, the performance of their peers, the performance of the firefighters, and the performance of dispatch.  One of the police officers told me that as I did not tell him I was video taping, he should throw me in jail.  Everyone laughed, except me.  Not funny.  Actually, it really was funny.

So, what did I learn from my day at the police department:

I have personally witnessed the true level of highly professional and competence of our police officers and firefighters.  In reporting the news, we get to the scene after stuff has happened or has occurred.  This time, I was included in the preparation, set up, execution, and evaluation of the training exercise.  I got to see, with reality, how our police department and our fire department personnel work extremely close together to protect us, the public.  They constantly and consistently communicate with each other in effort to improve how they do what they do for us, the citizens and families of Hudson.  

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