Pelham-Windham News

VFW Flag Flies Proudly at Old Town Hall

by Karen Plumley

An organization with historical roots has moved in to an historical building in Pelham. In March of 2004, Pelham residents voted to donate the Old Town Hall building, located at 6 Main Street to the John H. Hargreaves Memorial Post Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) #10722. Formerly, the VFW met at the American Legion. In December, members of the Post met with the Pelham Zoning Board to obtain permission to change the type of use of the building from a municipal office to a VFW (fraternal organization and membership club). Also, the VFW sought a parking variance. In a unanimous vote, the Board granted both the exception and the variance. "We do not officially own the building yet", said Charlie Mooskian, Commander of the VFW Post. "We still need to set up a meeting with the Planning Board". This meeting is on hold pending a site plan, which is being worked on and graciously donated by Edward N. Herbert Surveyors, an engineering and surveying company in Windham.

One of the largest issues that will be addressed at the planning meeting will be the Town Hall septic system, which is currently located on land directly west of the Town Hall property, owned by Mr. Phil Currier of M&P Trust. "We want to resolve the matter as soon as possible by relocating the septic system onto Town Hall property", Mr. Mooskian said. Vice Commander Ken Stubert said they would like to have a plan in place for the septic system within five years. According to the planning director, Will D’Andrea, other issues for the planning board to discuss will be building and grounds maintenance, preserving the historical integrity of the building, and the VFW’s plans for future use. "We are extremely community oriented, and would like to open up the building for use by such organizations as the boy and girl scout troops, as well as have it be a training site for the CERT program", Mr. Stubert said. "CERT" stands for Community Emergency Response Team. It is a program to train civilians in neighborhoods, the workplace, and schools in basic disaster response skills, and encourage people to take a more active role in emergency preparedness. All of the issues, and especially the septic system, will require the VFW to promptly raise some significant funds. Several fund-raising ideas are in the works and include monthly Mohegan Sun Trips, an Old Home Day family portrait booth, and a 500 club that will award monthly cash prizes.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States was founded in 1899 to honor and secure rights and benefits for veterans of the Spanish/American war. Over the next several decades, posts were established all over the country. The John H. Hargreaves Memorial Post VFW #10722 was formed in 1983 and currently enjoys a membership of over 80. Commander Charlie Mooskian has been the commander of the post for the last two years. "For a relatively small post, we have many accomplishments under our belt", Mooskian said. "Our teacher of the year has also won at the state and national level, and we have won membership and hospital awards for our service to local hospitals". Recently they visited the Outpatient Clinic at the New Hampshire Veteran’s Home in Tilton and donated much-needed items such as books and nylon stockings. In addition to these activities, the VFW Post continues its devotion to the community by supporting the National Recognition Award, which covers awards for Police, Fire, and Emergency Medial Teams, as well as the Voice of Democracy program, one which offers an annual scholarship to a high school student via an audio essay contest. "We want to stress that we are overwhelmingly grateful to the Pelham voters for the donation of the Old Town Hall", expressed Mooskian.

About the same time that the VFW organization was being founded, Frank Woodbury and the Pilgrim Fathers of Pelham purchased the land on which the old town hall now sits. "It was around this time (about 1900) that the building was constructed", said William T. Hayes, local historian and President of the Pelham Historical Society. Known as Pilgrim Hall, the building was finally purchased by the town in 1917, when it became the official Town Hall of Pelham. It has been used as a municipal office up until recently, when the new town hall and police department complex was completed. "There has been concern expressed in the town that the exterior look and condition of the old building be maintained, and that stipulation has been placed on the VFW and has been recorded" said Mr. Hayes. It is well known that the local VFW is community-minded, and Mr. Hayes feels that "they are going to be great neighbors".

Windham New School Forum

by Lynne Ober

"Building a Future for Our Community" was the theme of the recently held new school forum. Windham School Board decided to use the creative format of a travel show at this forum held at Searles Chapel. Babysitting and refreshments were offered as well as a variety of information on the proposed new high school.

Resident turnout was high. Both parking lots were crowded and people ebbed and flowed around the room getting answers to a multiplicity of questions. Superintendent Elaine Cutler as well as School Board members were also available to answer questions.

Windham voters will be asked to vote on two warrant articles for bonds this year. One warrant article will be to purchase needed land and the other will be for architects fees, engineering and construction of a new Windham High School. Both warrant articles require a sixty percent majority in order to pass.

At one booth residents had a chance to review the proposed land purchase. The land, approximately 146 acres, is located off London Bridge Road and has generated interest and some concern. Connecting to other town and school property, it would allow for future school building needs. Land maps were available as well as handouts about the land and why it was chosen. Residents could ask questions. A brochure about the land stated the "site has been offered to our town for $3.3 million although the fair market value has been determined to be closer to $5.9 million. Why such a great price? Because the sellers have a desire to leave a legacy for their children; one that can benefit all of the children of Windham."

At another booth the conceptual design of the new high school as well as a conceptual site plan were displayed. Both were done by Team Design, Inc. an architectural firm specializing in schools and school issues.

The design as shown proposed a 228,000 square foot high school that was expandable to accommodate 1,400 students. When it opened it would have core capacity for 1,200 students and classroom space for 1,000 students. It was designed around the curriculum, which would make the building very efficient for the effective delivery of educational programming.

The proposed two-story school has both an academic wing and a community wing that could be accessible after school hours for use by public groups or for functions. It has an auditorium that would hold 700 people with a kitchen that "accommodates the entire district," according to Team Design.

The warrant article for the school is for $34,220,013 and covers the estimates costs of building the school as well as furnishing the school. If approved the project would be competitively bid.

The booth that explained the curriculum that had been developed generated a lot of interest. Residents who stopped at that booth first found themselves drawn back to it after they’d reviewed the conceptual design in order to understand how the building and curriculum worked together.

An interesting historical display detailed the history of education throughout Windham’s history building to the 2002 date when the Salem School Board, citing overcrowding, recommended that the Area Agreement with Windham be ended and Salem voters voted 2:1 to end the agreement.

The CIP [Capital Improvement Plan] Committee also had information available to residents. Their multiple page handout discussed the findings that the high school capital projects be removed from the CIP budget because "the enormity of the projected costs attributable to the new high school land and facilities would use all of the available CIP funding." Available CIP funding was set at $2,246,708 but some obligations lowered that to a net available amount of $1,406,369 or much too little to support building a high school. Recognizing that the CIP Committee urged that the high school be considered separately from other CIP projects.

Windham residents have an opportunity to discuss both school and town budgets and warrant articles at the School Deliberative Sessions to be held Friday, February 11 at Golden Brook School and the Town Deliberative Session to be held Saturday, February 12.

Pelham School Board Concerned about Proposed New Standards

by Lynne Ober

Across the state school districts are facing increasing costs and uncertain funding as well as a plethora of proposed new educational standards.

New Hampshire Department of Education (NHDOE) sent the proposed new standards to all superintendents and has been holding public forums to solicit input on them. While many school districts feel that the standards have a reasonable educational foundation, they are also frightened by a potential large and apparently unfunded mandate to meet those standards. Pelham is no different.

"Some of the standards would impose a significant financial cost on the Pelham School District," said Superintendent Elaine Cutler, who explained the Pelham School Board, after thorough discussions, decided to submit written testimony on the standards to the NHDOE. "I hope they listen."

The written testimony begins by praising NHDOE for addressing the overhaul of educational standards, but cautions against immediate implementation, citing six important extenuating factors for Pelham. These factors are:

  • Pelham has completed several major building projects within the past five years, including a new Pelham Elementary School for 876 students, a new Town library, a new Town Hall and a new police station. Together "the construction of these new facilities has placed a significant tax burden increase on our citizens in a relatively short period of time."
  • Pelham High School has significant facilities issues and the joint Cooperative High School initiative with Windham was voted down by Pelham voters.
  • Expansion of Pelham High School must be investigated, but "suitable land has not be located for an additional school in Pelham, although a Warrant Article in 2004 gave the School Board the authority to make an offer on such land."
  • Pelham Memorial School will require an addition within the next five years as a result of student growth.
  • Warrant articles for modular classrooms at Pelham High School and Pelham Memorial School are included on the ballot for March 2005
  • In March 2003 a warrant article for public kindergarten failed.
  • Although the written testimony notes that the Pelham School Board "strongly supports" public kindergarten, it also states, "we are faced with other pressing issues with our school facilities that supersede the need for public kindergarten."

In their written testimony the School Board presented a fiscal impact for full day public kindergarten in Pelham. With a projected kindergarten population of 200 in 2008, approximately $600,000 in teacher costs would be needed for the twelve teachers. Twelve new classrooms would need to be built with an estimated cost of $125 per square foot for 1,000 square foot classrooms or $1,500,000. Added transportation would cost an estimated $35,000 per bus with an anticipated eight additional busses needed for a total of $280,000, administrative, utility and supporting service costs would be in excess of $300,000 plus the cost of land that "is currently not available." The "estimated capital cost: $3,500,000 at today’s cost and estimated operating cost: $1,380,000 at today’s cost," would be a significant financial burden on the Town. By 2008 those costs are expected to rise.

The School Board urged NHDOE to "establish a flexible time-line to implement the Kindergarten Initiative in circumstances where the school board has other major issues that are more pressing than providing public kindergarten services."

They also urged the NHDOE to think about a voucher program that would allow parents to use vouchers and send their children to a private kindergarten. "Since more than 90 percent of the students who are eligible for kindergarten attend private kindergarten facilities in the area," a voucher system would be an attractive and viable alternative "if the state would also waive the Highly Qualified statues that is now required of all public school teachers but not private school teachers."

The School Board also identified the new class size standards as being another significant financial burden because "currently we do not have any empty classrooms in any of our schools. The implementation of class size in grades K – 2 would necessitate additional classrooms at the elementary level."

When Pelham Elementary School was built, it was built for a capacity of 1,000 students at the current 1:25 ratio with approximately 200 students in grades 1 – 5. "We anticipated the school would be adequate for our elementary needs for many years to come. However, if the ratio is lowered to 1:20 in grades K – 2, we would need to add four classrooms for grades one and two plus a minimum of six classrooms for half-day kindergarten or twelve classrooms for full day kindergarten. This class size reduction in the primary grades will have a staggering fiscal impact on our town," the testimony said.

Pelham School Board urged NHDOE establish a flexible time-line for this standard. They wanted the time-line to consider extenuating circumstances "due to high growth factor and other school facility needs."

They urged that NHDOE look at the exponential growth being experienced in the southern tier of the state and think about how all town services are affected by this growth. "As dedicated as our town is to quality education for our children, decreasing class sizes, and building additional classrooms are monumental tasks."

The complete list of proposed new standards is available at the Superintendent’s office.

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