Support Continues for Firefighter Home from Iraq
by Karen High
"We don‘t stop [helping] just because he’s home," says Professional Firefighters Union president Stephen Benton, speaking about the members of the Hudson Fire Department and their support of fellow-firefighter Specialist Gerald (Gerry) Carrier, who returned home last week from 13 months in Iraq. Carrier is a member of the 1st Battalion, 172nd Field Artillery, a New Hampshire Army National Guard unit headquartered in Manchester.
The unit returned safely home to New Hampshire last Wednesday, February 2.
The Professional Firefighters of Hudson, the Firefighters’ Relief Association, and the Department of Administration all supported the Carrier family while Gerry served his country in Iraq. "Everyone in the department" took part in helping out, according to Lieutenant James Paquette of the Central Fire Station.
"We took the kids out to baseball games and movies," Lieutenant Paquette said. Members did everything from sitting down for a game on a PlayStation - the Carriers have two teenaged sons - to involving themselves with "domestic duties." Fellow firefighters were in touch with the family weekly, or every other week, offering their help with "whatever needed to be done around the house." A planned "house-fixing-up" project, started too late to be completed by the time Gerry Carrier got home, continues. "We’ve got a few more things around the house to do," says Benton, a quiet pride in his voice as he explains the brotherhood that exists among firefighters. "We’re still not finished."
Globally, support for military families is, as one might expect, comprehensive. The New Hampshire National Guard’s website is packed solid with photographs from home and abroad, and a complete support network, including a Unit Family program "established between the unit and family members improving awareness of the organization of the military unit, its mission, and activities." An official Welcome Home letter, announcing the return home of the 172nd Field Artillery, can be found at http://nhmilitaryfamily.com/press.htm. The National Guard website also includes links to innovative family programs such as OMK [Operation Military Kids].
Family Program Team members are listed under "Support Services." Nicholas Guyot is FAC [Family Assistance Centers] Coordinator, Manchester Armory, for the 1st Battalion 172nd’s Family Support Group.
Through Guyot’s voice-mail, access can be made to a variety of contacts, including a program director, an assistant program manager, and at least one other FAC colleague, available in case Guyot is not. Both telephone and online services offer a National Guard Emergency Hotline. Other online services include links to Military Mail, Unit Information, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), and one item entitled Rumor Control, where facts---expertly separated from fiction---are quickly disseminated.
While military assistance for families of deployed soldiers is vast and global, the immediate support from the Hudson Fire Department is grassroots. It proudly caters to the needs of the Carrier family. Steve Benton reflects how fire department members continuously "stayed in touch," maintaining constant contact with Gerry Carrier’s wife and children. Mrs. Carrier would just "call the fire station," he said if she needed some help with mowing the lawn, for instance.
Dispatcher Gayle Kummerer agrees. "Everyone did [help] - everyone has - helped out."
Lieutenant Dave Morin, in charge of, among other things, boxing up food for the family, describes a team effort. "Numerous guys helped out, many took turns taking the kids out to ballgames," he says. If there was a "mechanical problem at the house," for example, someone would go over and repair it. Others helped out packaging items sent overseas to Gerry, and at the H. O. Smith School, Lieutenant Morin says, the kids made Christmas cards. Ten department members greeted Gerry at the Manchester Airport last September, when he came back to the States for a short visit. When he came home "for good" last week, a dozen members again gathered at the Armory en route to the airport. According to Lieutenant Morin, 22 members were there "when he first shipped out." Heartening support, reminiscent of a close-knit family.
In the truest sense of firefighter-family tradition, the assistance is on-going; even now that Firefighter Carrier is home. "It continues 24/7," states Benton. The support "started before he left," and it’s "still not finished."
A homecoming party, planned by Gerry’s wife along with department members, is scheduled for the 19th of this month at the American Legion. Plans for the celebration, along with the house-fixing-up project, have been "in the works" for awhile, according to Lieutenant Paquette. Adjustments were made when it was found out that Gerry would be arriving home sooner than expected. Work on both efforts continues.
Speaking with regard to - and perhaps, on behalf of - his colleagues, Steve Benton says, "We stay together forever." The Hudson firefighters continue to pitch in and help, willing to do so now that Gerry is home, "so that he can have some much-needed time off," to spend time "just relaxing" with his family, Benton adds.
The firefighters are determined to provide whatever Specialist Carrier needs, remarks Benton. "His family is our family."
Penguin Plunge for Special Olympics
The Sixth Annual Special Olympics Penguin Plunge was a chilling success on Sunday, February 6. WMUR TV-9's Chief Meteorologist Mike Haddad was the Emperor Penguin. Channel 9 meteorologist Chris Thomas and WOKQ Radio’s "Morning Waking Crew," Mark Ericson and Danielle Carrier hosted the successful event.
Among the bravest Penguins who experienced this chilling event at noon were five Litchfield Police Officers who went dressed as Patriots Cheerleaders. Before they took a cold plunge into the Atlantic Ocean, they performed a pyramid on the beach to the enthusiastic cheers of the crowd. They were awarded the "Most Distinguished Flock" award.
The Litchfield Five raised over $1,500 for New Hampshire Special Olympics.
Voters Say No to Options
by Lynne Ober
With nearly two-thirds of the seats at Campbell High School’s Auditorium filled with voters at the beginning of Litchfield’s School Deliberative Session, you knew that people came to express and listen to opinions. Approximately 2.8 percent of Litchfield’s registered voters attended the session, but few stayed for the whole session.
When the Moderator opened discussion on Warrant Article 1 which proposes to appropriate $19,836,269 for a new Pre-K – 5 elementary school with core space for 1,000 and classroom space for the nearly 800 elementary students currently attending Litchfield’s schools, School Board Chairman Cindy Couture spoke to the article. The School Board had a well-prepared presentation that included audience handouts of the building layout, drawings of the site plan and location of the school, roads, sidewalks, and playgrounds on the proposed site, complete financial information and a written statement about no longer using GMS as a school once the new school is built.
Architect Dan Cecil from Harriman Associates explained the design concept and how they had reached the current design. He noted that this design had been vetted by New Hampshire Department of Education and would qualify for thirty percent state aid to offset the cost of construction.
Members of the audience had a significant number of questions and discussion on this warrant continued for more than an hour. Everyone agreed that a new school was needed. However, there was some discussion about the length of the bond.
Budget Committee member Bill Spencer, speaking as a resident, asked if they had looked at a fifteen year bond and asked if they knew how much in interest would be saved if the bond term was lowered from fifteen to twenty years. "I know," he stated. "We’d save $2.9 million dollars." He and several other residents urged the School Board to consider limiting the term of the bond.
If a twenty year bond is used, the highest tax impact would occur in the second year of the bond and would add $3.57 per thousand to the tax rate. By the third year that amount would be $3.38 and would continue to go down after year thereafter. Spencer said that using a 15 year bond would only add 30 cents per thousand while significantly lowering the total cost of the interest and therefore, in the long run, lower residents’ tax bills.
The next warrant article was a petitioned warrant article that proposed appropriating $15,000,000 for a Pre-K through 3 new school. Spencer, speaking for the petitioners said that this would provide voters an option and agreed that a new school was needed. "The petitioners don’t have any fancy pictures to show you but their hope is that if article 2 passes that the School Board will accept it and move forward with the design phase."
Although Spencer made a detailed presentation on how they arrived at the costs and why they felt that Griffin Memorial School could still be a viable option, there was concern expressed from the audience that any school would pass if two schools were on the ballot. A bond issue needs a sixty percent majority and not a simple majority to pass.
"Barring a miracle, nothing is going to pass," said Litchfield resident Phil Reed.
Former Budget Committee member John Devereaux disagreed. "When I was on the Budget Committee," he said, "I voted for both article number 1 and article number 2." Indicating that he would do that at the polls, he said that gave voters a choice and made it possible for them to pass the option that they wanted.
There was a successful floor amendment made by Brian McCue that zeroed out all of the dollars in Warrant Article 2, effectively killing that option. Once a motion to restrict reconsideration of these two warrant articles was passed, the audience began to trickle out.
The next warrant article was the operating budget, which after Budget Committee cuts, was up 6.5 percent. The School Board had presented a budget to the Budget Committee that was up 9.1 percent.
The School Board’s original budget contained several new positions: two paraprofessionals, two Griffin Memorial School tutors that had been previously funded by federal grants, a district-wide assistant technology coordinator, a part-time music teacher at Campbell, a stipend to create a night lead custodian at Campbell and increased hours for nurses, monitors at GMS and the HR Manager’s position.
The Budget Committee agreed to leave the two paraprofessionals and two tutors in the budget. They also agreed with the salary increases for the increased hours.
The School Board moved the part-time music teacher to the ballot as a separate warrant article, Warrant Article number 9.
According to Business Manager Steve Martin, the operating budget now fully funds football, added money for game officials and increased hours for the athletic trainer.
Couture told the audience that on the morning of the Deliberative Session that Campbell had to forfeit a basketball game because a player was injured and no trainer was available.
Also included is a new reading program at a cost of $90,000.
When Couture moved to add $41,652 to the operating budget to cover the salary costs of increasing the part time Human Resources person to a full time Human Resources Manager, both she and Martin spoke to the motion stating that this was omitted in error and that the Budget Committee agreed. Martin further told the audience that the School District had compliance issues in several areas due to lack of man-power.
In response to an audience question, Budget Committee Chairman Brent Lemire concurred that the Budget Committee was in agreement with this addition.
Litchfield resident and former School Board Member Laurie Ferrari then moved to add $50,000 to the maintenance line of the operating budget and stated that the buildings must be kept in good repair.
Lemire then cautioned the audience about adding back to the operating budget and noted that there were several expensive warrant articles. He explained that the Budget Committee had feared that the operating budget might be defeated and then a default budget would be in place.
When this motion passed, the operating budget was set at $16,012,037. There were no other motions to change it.
In addition to these three warrant articles, voters will also vote on ten other warrant articles.