Megan Cook Earns Girl Scouting Highest Award
by Lynne Ober
Hudson resident and Alvirne High School Graduate Megan Cook was awarded the Girl Scouts Gold Award in a ceremony held at the V.F.W Monday night. This event was special both for Megan and all Hudson Girl Scouts because it is the first time that Girl Scout Swift Council Leadership remembers a Hudson resident earning that award.
“I want to be an inspiration to other girls who will follow me in Scouting,” Megan smiled.
Megan is a well-rounded young adult. When she graduated from Alvirne last year, she left behind a shining high school career. “She earned Academic Excellence and had Perfect Attendance for all four years. Megan was editor of the school newspaper, Bronco Talk, a Member of Band, and leader of the flute choir, member of the National Honor Society and Envirothon Competition team member,” said her mother, Katrina.
A Girl Scout who earns the Gold Award completes five different, complex requirements, all of which promote community service, personal and spiritual growth, positive values, and leadership skills. The last requirement is to develop, lead, and complete a community project, including writing a project summary report.
The requirements are to:
“She did a wonderful job,” said Benson’s Committee Chairman Esther McGraw. “She identified all the trees and shrubs in the Old Shoe area. It really benefited our entire project.”
Megan, who is currently a college freshman studying environment science, realizes the value of what she learned doing this. “I’m with some forestry students and they are just now learning how to identify trees and shrubs that I already know from my work at Benson’s. It was a valuable project for me.”
Megan chose the location around storybook hill where the old woman in the shoe is located. Once she identified 18 trees and shrubs, she ordered botanical markers to label them. But she wasn’t done then. She, also, created a brochure with information about each tree.
Megan made a wooden welcome sign for her trail. While at Bensons she noticed some old wood benches and decided to also try to get some benches for her trail area. She was able to get four donated by town organizations and she put dedication plaques on them. All items in storage until Benson's is ready to open to the public.
After the Color Guard presented the colors, Mistress of the Ceremony, Irene Kreider, Senior Girl Scout Leader, welcomed the audience and introduced Megan and guests before she told the audience about all the work involved in earning the Gold Award.
Katrina Waterhouse, Megan’s mother, proudly told of Megan’s years as a Girl Scout. With smiles and love she told the audience how Megan grew in Scouting. “She has been in Girl Scouts for 14 years, it has played a large part in her life; she earned her silver award as a Cadette, led her Senior troop as President, she was a member of Swift Water Girl Scout Council's canoe racing team, she completed the CIT training at Camp Farnsworth and worked as a resident camp counselor last summer. She obviously has a love of the outdoors and has enjoyed many years fostering it as a Girl Scout going hiking, winter camping, snowboarding, and on canoe trips.”
Michelle Champion, Girl Scout Leader of Senior Troop 1002, Megan’s Troop and Megan’s Gold Award Advisor, told the audience about Megan’s qualifications. A picture of Megan’s dedication and leadership as a Girl Scout emerged from Champion’s words.
Gold Award Committee Member, Debbie Drake, presented the Gold Award to a smiling Megan.
Messages of Congratulations and Presentations to Megan were made by Debbie Drake, Benson Committee members Esther McGraw and Duane King, Brenda Gora, V. F. W. Ladies Auxiliary President and John Cesana, V.F.W. Post 4791 Commander and Megan’s Girl Scout Troop.
Then it was time for Megan to speak. “Set a goal to strive for,” was her motto. Megan thanked everyone who helped her along the way. “I’m very excited,” and she couldn’t stop smiling.
Angela Christ sang “Wind Beneath Your Wings” before Irene Kreider made closing remarks. After the closing Flag Ceremony, refreshments were served.
Megan joins a small group of awarded as only approximately 3,000 Girl Scouts earn the Girl Scout Gold Award annually.
Megan is attending Paul Smiths College in the Adirondacks of New York studying wildlife management. “I knew what I wanted to study and I looked for a school where I could crew and study in my field. I was so excited when I found Paul Smiths because they have a canoe team and that’s what I really wanted to do,” Megan beamed.
Although Megan will soon return to school, she will always carry warm memories of her time as a Girl Scout.
Students Compete in Junior Olympic National Championships
Shannon Savard of Litchfield recently competed in the USATF Junior Olympic National Cross Country Championships. Shannon is a 6th grader at the Litchfield Middle School and a member of the Nashua PAL Midget Girls (age 11 and 12) Team where she was the solid number six runner on the eight runner team. Her team placed first in the two qualifying races in New Hampshire and Maine, qualifying them to run in the Championship Meet in Schaumburg, Illinois. There were over 300 runners in the Championship race, including the top 28 Midget Girls teams in the country. They ran on a cold and windy day over a very muddy three thousand meter course. Despite having their top runner come down with the flu the day before the race, Shannon's team placed a very respectable 5th in the overall team standings. The team was paced by the first two members earning All American status by placing in the top 25 finishers. In addition to Shannon, Lindsay Troike and Emily LaPlant of Hudson ran a second Nashua PAL Midget girls team that placed 4th in the first qualification meet, just missing advancing to the next meet in Maine. Both Midget girls’ teams are coached by Bill Spencer of Litchfield. Also running in the Nationals was Ashley Neville of Hudson. Ashley, a former Midget girl runner completed in the Youth division (age 13 - 14) and ran an outstanding race over the four thousand meter course to finish 26th out of 316 runners, just missing All American honors by one place.
Straw Votes Taken on Union Contracts
Hudson Budget Committee has completed an in-depth review of the four union contracts presented by the Town. At the conclusion of each contract discussion, the Budget Committee took straw votes, which gives the governing body an advance look at what the actual vote, taken on Thursday, January 6, will be.
At the conclusion of the evening, it appeared that two contracts would carry a positive recommendation by the Budget Committee and two contracts would carry a Not Recommended notation.
Budget Committee Vice Chairman Howard Dilworth opened the meeting by explaining that although the Budget Committee only actually voted on money issues, they did an in-depth review of the entire contract. He covered some of the recent court cases that had an impact on how the governing bodies and Budget Committees interacted on this topic and told the audience that RSA 273A established the appropriate methodology.
The first contract reviewed was not a contract, but rather the Fact Finders report on the differences between the firefighters union and the Town. Selectmen submitted the Fact Finders Report to the Warrant because they had not been able to reach agreement on a contract.
Selectmen’s Representative to the Budget Committee Ken Massey told the committee that the Board of Selectmen “wanted to address the open endedness of earned time.” Currently there is no cap on the amount of earned time that can be accrued. When an employee retires or terminates, accrued earned time is paid out at the current salary level. “That’s a huge unfunded obligation for the Town,” stated Massey. “We tied a maximum 4 percent wage increase to getting a cap on the amount of earned time that could be accrued.”
This cap was a goal that Selectmen had for each of the contracts negotiated and in the other three contracts, a cap was established. Because the firefighters union refused to negotiate a cap, negotiations had stalled.
Massey characterized the fact finders report as ignoring this important coupling between the amount of the raise and the earned time cap. In addition the fact finders report recommended a 4.5 percent wage increase, which is higher than in the other contracts presented. “As a result, Selectmen felt they had no choice except to not recommend the warrant article for this union.”
There was little discussion on the report during the Budget Committee review. Dilworth pointed out that members had had copies of the contracts for more than two weeks and had been able to well prepare for the evening’s final review.
“I don’t know about the rest of you, but a 4 and a half percent wage increase is a little rich for me,” Dilworth said before asking for the straw vote.
The committee voted 0 – 10 to not recommend the warrant article leading Dilworth to comment that this would probably not be favorably recommended when the final vote was taken Thursday night.
The next contract was for the Highway Department. Last year this same contract was narrowly defeated and Selectmen opted to send the same contract back to the Budget Committee.
Massey fielded questions about the cap on earned time. The contract contains a provision to buyout earned time at 100 percent instead of the current 75 percent, but it also contains a cap on earned time, which is new. Massey said Selectmen felt that increasing the buyout percentage when coupled with a cap was a reasonable trade-off.
Typically when voters vote in March, that contract if passed, will take effect July 1 of the same year. That is not the case with this contract. It contains an effective date of July 1, 2004, which would have been the effective date if the contract had passed in March, 2004.
When Budget Committee Member John Beike asked if this was a retroactive raise, Massey said yes, which led to a discussion about how the retroactive raise would be paid. Budget Committee Member Shawn Jasper finally noted that if there was no contract language about it, the amount would be paid as a lump sum.
Massey defended the retroactive raise by saying, “it’s an appropriate and fair way to treat staff,” before pointing out that the firefighters fact finding report also contained a provision for a retroactive raise.
Jasper contended that the Budget Committee had never approved a retroactive raise. “It sets a bad precedent. It takes away the impetus to settle.” It appeared that most of the Budget Committee agreed with Jasper because the straw vote was 2 in favor and 7 against.
The next two contracts had with more favorable straw voting results.
The contract for Local #3657 Hudson Police Department included both a cap on earned time and a maximum 4 percent raise. The raises, in all contracts, are tied to the CPI.
Jasper did point out that staff members could now accrue more earned time than before and that meant that even with a cap, more earned time was available to be used. “This is a very expensive contract, but the standard is pretty reasonable here.”
The straw vote was 8 in favor and 2 not in favor. Dilworth said, “This most likely will be recommended.
The last contract to be reviewed for the evening was the contract with the Hudson Police, Fire and Town Supervisors Association.
This contract contained the same earned time cap and the same maximum raise for 4 percent tied to the CPI. It distributed raises using a percentage scale.
“Percentages are not the best way to give raises,” stated Jasper. He went on to point out that by using percentages the gap between the people at the top and the people at the bottom widened with every passing year.
Dilworth noted that some of the mid-level management people earn in the fifty thousand dollar range, but others are in the seventy thousand or eighty thousand dollar range and characterized that as a wide gap between staff.
“That’s an unreasonable difference between top and bottom staff,” said Jasper. “I don’t find that acceptable.” Jasper noted that Town staff has very competitive health benefits and job security. He thought that now they have all that as well as salaries that are very competitive across the market.
The straw vote on this contract was five in favor, four against and one abstention with John Beike wanting more information before he cast his vote.
Dilworth told the committee that the School Board was negotiating three contracts but that none had been ready for review. “The governing body has until the second Tuesday in January to ratify a contract.”
Selectmen Revise Warrant Articles
by Lynne Ober
During deliberations with the Budget Committee, it is the practice of the Budget Committee to take “straw votes” on whether or not to recommend warrant articles. Then each governing body, i.e., Selectmen and School Board, can use that information in crafting their final warrant article presentations to the Budget Committee.
At a recent Budget Committee meeting Selectmen’s Representative to the Budget Committee Ken Massey solicited additional information on two warrant articles. Using that information, recommended changes were presented to the Board of Selectmen.
During the same period Hudson Police Department have been rewarded a large grant [see related story below] and met with Selectmen to amend a third warrant article.
Selectmen were unsuccessful last year in their attempt to get a bond passed for water utility improvements and were proceeding with the request for a second year. In a memo from Town Administrator Steve Malizia to Selectmen, Malizia recommended revising the warrant article and noted that the Budget Committee expressed unanimous support for the proposed revisions, but not for the original proposal, which they felt was too expensive.
The original warrant article was for three improvement projects. As proposed by Malizia, only the South Hudson water storage and transmission improvements and the Compass Point Water Booster Station would remain in the warrant article. The original warrant article asked for $4,900,000, but the revision amount would be $2,350,000.
The warrant article for water improvements is only paid for by water users and not by taxpayers as a whole. The revised warrant article would carry a 5.88 percent increase to water users in the first full year of the bond repayment. The original warrant article would have boosted water rates by 9 percent. Budget Committee members felt that a nine percent increase was too much to absorb at one time.
After discussion about whether to revise the warrant article or to go forward for the full amount again, Selectmen voted 4 – 1 with Selectman Richard Maddox voting no to support the proposed change.
The second proposed warrant article change was more emotionally charged. Selectmen Ken Massey, citing new information, suggested changing the warrant article for the replacement fire pumper truck. He told fellow Selectmen that Budget Committee members were in favor of an outright purchase rather than a lease/purchase. Additionally he moved to cut the total cost from $385,000 to $350,000.
Hudson Fire Chief Shawn Murray had presented a chart showing “Area Fire Department Apparatus Budget Requests” for thirteen towns, including Hudson. By lowering the price to $350,000, Hudson would be exactly in the middle with six towns requesting more money and 6 towns requesting less money.
Both Selectmen Terry Stewart and Richard Maddox had questions for the Chief. When Maddox ventured an opinion that residents might be reluctant to vote for such a large amount of money when the truck’s requirements hadn’t been fully defined and when Litchfield paid $272,000 for their new fire truck, Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Cole took exception to his remarks.
“I live in Hudson, ok? Everyone is enamored with Litchfield, ok? Check out the Litchfield call volume. It’s not as high as Hudson’s. I’m personally tired of hearing about Litchfield, ok? I don’t know anything about Litchfield, ok? Trust me I’m not a rookie here,” Cole expounded. “I care about Hudson and about the needs of Hudson. If you look at Litchfield’s call volume, I don’t think they got such a good deal, ok?”
Finally Selectman Kathleen MacLean said, “To change the tone of the conversation a bit, can I ask a question?” She then proceeded to ask Murray for clarification of needs for the truck.
Murray admitted that while he hadn’t designed the final specifications he had been doing extensive research into costs and looking at what design would best meet the needs of the calls that are being handled in Hudson. “I will get this town the best fire truck for the money,” he concluded.
Selectmen voted 4 – 1 with Maddox voting no to lower the cost of the warrant article to $350,000 and to change the wording to an outright purchase.
Hudson Police Chief Dick Gendron asked Selectmen to lower the cost of the Radio Replacement Warrant Article to $199,000 because he had received a $200,000 grant. Selectmen unanimously agreed to the new price.
Replacement Radio Systems Gets Boost from Grant
by Lynne Ober
For the past two years Hudson Police Chief Dick Gendron has worked to get his old, analog UHF police radio system replaced. “Hudson is an island,” Gendron has frequently told Selectmen. “We can’t communicate directly with anyone – including other Hudson departments.” Lack of communication can lead to lack of rapid response.
Communications are even hampered within Hudson Gendron explained. There are areas of Hudson where the current analog radio system cannot be used to communicate even with the Police Dispatcher. This creates an even more hazardous situation than not being able to communicate with other towns.
Gendron has also been concerned about the number of dollars required to keep the old system running. He’s explained that spending repair dollars on an inadequate system is not good fiscal management, but he has also acknowledged that the cost to replace the older system is very high.
In a effort to offset some of the costs, Gendron approached Selectmen about applying for a Homeland Security Grant. At that time he pointed out that Hudson is an integral part of a multi-community rapid response team and the only community on the team who cannot communicate directly with other team members. Gendron and Hudson Fire Chief Shawn Murray have both commented how the lack of direct communication between Hudson’s Fire, Police and Highway Department can lead to safety and response issues.
In December Gendron received official confirmation from Richard M. Flynn, Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Safety that Hudson had been awarded a $200,000 Homeland Security Grant specifically for “the following project: VHF Digital Radio System under the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program portion of the grant program.”
This grant is a reimbursement-based grant. While Hudson is not required to supply any matching funds, they must first purchase approved equipment and then apply for reimbursement, submitting invoices and cancelled checks. “Reimbursement is made very quickly,” Gendron told Selectmen.
The total cost of the replacement program is $399,000 so this grant pays for slightly more than half. “It’s the largest grant ever made at one time in our state,” Gendron stated. “The Police Department is recommending the replacement of its UHF Analog Radio System Network with a VHF Digital Radio System, which is compatible not only with the Fire Department, but also with the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Network.”
Although funding for this project did not get approval during last year’s budget cycle, Gendron told Selectmen that he could still buy the equipment in Jaunary and get Motorola’s 2004 pricing. “That will save us some money too because you know costs will only go up.”
Gendron had reviewed his budget and proposed using dollars from his Radio Repairs budget line to purchase the equipment noting that the quick reimbursement from the state would allow that budget line to be replenished in an appropriate amount of time.
Selectman Ken Massey suggested that the Board of Selectmen send a letter of appreciation to out-going Governor Benson, the Executive Council, Commissioner Carol Murray and State Senator Bob Clegg for their efforts on behalf of Hudson’s grant application.
The grant was accepted and Gendron was authorized to proceed with the purchase.
Hudson Schools to Receive Less Aid
Assistant Superintendent Bob Berry told Hudson School Board members that he was expecting the school district to receive $250,000 in Catastrophic Aid, which is a conservative 86 percent of the amount the state was telling the school district that it would receive. “This was an $80,000 increase in my revenue projection from August,” Berry wrote to the Board.
But that isn’t going to happen. Berry recently communicated cuts in Catastrophic Aid to the Board. “Today, I received word that Hudson will only receive $205,000 or 69 percent of the amount they [the State] had informed us we were entitled to receive. This now results in a decrease in my revenue projection of some $45,000.”
Berry acknowledged that this is the kind of news that no one wants to face, “but it is the reality of State Funding today.”
“This is a serious problem with State funding,” said School Board member and School Board Representative to the Budget Committee Lynne Ober. “Because Hudson follows SB2 for fiscal budgeting, we are required to budget revenue as well as expenses. Right now we don’t know what amount to budget for revenue from the State. Do we budget what the state says we will get and then get less or do we budget less? Budget Committee Vice Chairman Howard Dilworth has already told us that we must determine what the revenue is. I guess we need a crystal ball and lots of help from budgeting angels.”