Hudson-Litchfield News

We Don’t Live in 1955 Anymore

by R. Rodgers

In 1955, fifty years ago Hudson’s population was approximately 5,500 and the approved Operating Budget was $160,878.11. Now in 2005 a recommended Operating Budget of $24,020,731 will go to the Deliberative Session. Public input was able to sway the budget committee to add $4,050 to their recommendation of $24,016,681 operating budget at Thursday night’s Public Hearing. That figure which had previously been cut by the committee represents an increase in the Police Department’s budget to purchase 5 tazers. School Board Representative Rich Nolan made a motion to reinstate $10,000 cut for materials at the Library and Selectman Ken Massey motioned to increase the budget by $30,000 to represent the improvements to the Central Fire Station kitchen also a budget committee cut. Both failed in tie votes 4 in favor and 4 against. Three members of the committee Ted Luzsey, Chairman "Charlie" Schweiss and Joyce Goodwin were absent from the vote, tie votes do not get recommended. In 1955 the total amount expended for the library was $2,360 and the fire department was $11,224.95, the biggest purchase that year was a dump truck with plow for the highway department at a cost of $7,700. The highway department at that time had the largest budget at $47,542.50.

Also up for discussion in public input was the topic of contracts for the employee unions. The Board of Selectmen sent favorable recommendations for the Highway Union workers, the Police and the Supervisors contracts. The Supervisors contract represents upper management of all the town departments not including department heads. The firefighters did not reach a contract agreement with the town and in its’ place a fact finder report for that union was sent to the budget committee for review and recommendation, it did not have the selectmen’s approval attached. Initially the Budget Committee voted not to recommend the Supervisors contract, however; after public input they reversed their decision and sent the contract to deliberative session with approval attached. Police Captain Bill Pease offered input to the committee as a member of the negotiation team for this contract and was also on the team for the previous Supervisors contract. He pointed out that the current contract had been negotiated to bring the supervisors up to parity with area departments and this contract was just to maintain that and allow for a cost of living increase. The committee did not recommend the Highway union’s contract mostly because it called for a retro-active payment for the last year. No change was made in the highway contract from last years failed vote. In ’55 the highway workers received an increase of .10 per hour for full time employees.

The Budget Committee unanimously agreed with Selectmen and recommended a petitioned warrant article from the Conservation Commission to have 50% of the Land Use Tax Revenues set aside for possible land purchase. The Conservation Commission would not have the authority to purchase property with this money without approval from the Board of Selectmen.

The folks at the Hills Memorial Library did not fair well with the budget members. After many speakers urged for expansion expenses, materials, and a part time employee to be increased to a full time position the committee still sent the warrants to deliberative with a "does not approve," attached. The Library Trustees petitioned for a $220,000 bond article to pay for architectural expenses, again the vote was tied and did not receive the approval language for the ballot. The 63rd annual library report submitted in 1955 from the trustees reported the addition of two large tables and fifty folding chairs for the basement room at Hills to allow town organizations to meet there. The only librarian was Laura Joy and her salary was $720 for the year.

Firefighter Steve Benton spoke to the committee to ask for support of the fact finders report. When the Selectmen and the firefighters union could not come to agreement on the contract it was sent to the fact finders. Still selectmen did not recommend the contract that called for up to a 4% increase and a cap for earned time. Chief Oscar Campbell in 1955 reported that his 26 firefighters responded to 86 fire alarms, wrote 206 fire permits and 111 oil burner permits. The Chief’s pay was $200 and the average pay for a firefighter was $100 with additional earnings for forest fire work.

The population of Hudson today is over 24,000. The current budget is around $1,000 per person, in 1955 the per person price was approximately $29.25 or about $195 after inflation. The Deliberative Session for the Town will be held at the Lions Hall on Saturday, February 12 beginning at 9:00 a.m. and will be broadcasted live on Channel 22.

Litchfield Selectmen Hold Bond Hearing for New Fire Station

by Lynne Ober

Litchfield Fire Department has submitted another warrant article to fund the construction of a new fire station at the intersection of Woodhawk Way and Albuquerque Avenue in the amount of $850,000, which is down from last year’s proposed cost of $1.2 million.

"We had to cut lots," said Fire Chief Tom Schofield. "We got a lot of feedback at public meetings last year and then we participated in the survey with the School District and got more comments. We tried to incorporate all of that feedback into this year’s warrant article."

Schofield presented Selectmen with financial information for a five year, a seven year and a ten year bond to fund the station. The net interest rate for a five year bond was .042470 percent.

Vice Chairman Cecil Williams read both the estimated tax rates and the estimated payments as preliminary information before the hearing was opened.

The tax impact the first year was 47 cents per thousand, 45 cents the second year, 43 cents the third year, 42 cents the fourth year and 40 cents per thousand the fifth and last year of the bond.

The estimated payments ranged from a high of $208,522 to a low of $177,225 over the length of the five year bond.

Last year’s proposed station was three bay doors wide and three deep with a footprint of 8,300 square feet. This year’s station has been down-sized to be two bay doors wide and two deep with a footprint of 5,000 square feet. "We chopped off the controversial area," commented Schofield. That area had a nice public entrance with a good-sized meeting room that could have been used by community groups. "I thought that would make us a better community neighbor and that we could be a bigger part of the community, but the feedback was to cut that area and that’s what we did."

The proposed fire station will have a smaller training room, moved to the interior of the station. "We won’t be able to allow community groups to use this room. If we had an emergency while a public meeting was in that room, they could be in the way of our response team," said Schofield.

Last year the Fire Department paid $90,000 for architectural plans. This year they will be able to use those same plans in a scaled back version. "We don’t anticipate any additional architectural fees," Schofield happily commented. "This station could be expanded, using those same plans, in the future if the need arose. We could also use those plans to build a second station later on. The plans are very easy to adapt."

Selectmen had no questions for Schofield and there were no questions from the small handful of people in the audience at the bond hearing.

Selectman Ray Peeples moved to approve the warrant article as presented; Williams seconded and the motion passed unanimously.

"I am optimistic that the people will see that we listened to their feedback and adjusted our plans," concluded Schofield, "and that we will get the necessary 60 percent vote at this year’s ballot."

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