Forestry Students Going "Into the Woods" with New "Skidder"
by Karen High
Outside Alvirne High School, across the street from the Alvirne Tree Farm sign, is a newly posted sign which reads, "Thanks, UNH T-School, For Big Support."
The "big support" is the Timberjack 230E skidder, a tractor-type piece of heavy equipment designed for the forest industry. The skidder is on loan to Alvirne from the University of New Hampshire’s Thompson School, and - unprecedented in any other forestry program in the state - is currently being utilized in a "pilot program" which is providing on-the-job training to instructor Rick Martineau’s students.
Skidders have been in use for about 40 years, and according to Martineau’s Usage Agreement, the 27-year-old Timberjack is "capable of winching and dragging several large trees, which have been felled through conventional or mechanical methods, to an area where they can be processed."
Martineau has been Alvirne’s energetic forestry instructor for the past four years. What this "trial run" means for the school, and for Martineau’s students working in the woods, is the cost-free usage, from now until the middle of April, of a machine which is "the backbone of forest management operations."
In a state where 84% of the land is forested - New Hampshire is "second only to Maine in most-forested acres," Martineau explains - growing trees as a renewable resource "is viable."
Martineau declares that even though today "we are using more forest products than ever," during the past fifteen to twenty years "only 4% of the forest has been lost.’"
It is his contention that forest management is "doing things right."
The same might well be said of Martineau. Vocational director Jane E. Parkin describes him as "hardworking, enthusiastic" and "definitely passionate" about his profession. She attributes the high enrollment in Alvirne’s forestry classes to him.
Martineau smiles when asked about his own educational experience. He went through a "similar forestry program" while attending high school, he says, where [he laughs heartily saying this] "I once entertained the idea of becoming a veterinarian." At Dover High, a teacher by the name of Bill Johns changed his mind. For Martineau, once he signed onto the forest management program, he was "hooked." He then went on to the Thompson School of Applied Science at the University of New Hampshire.
Martineau has been a state-certified arborist, for the "tree care people," he explains, and has a "utility" background as well. A member of the National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization since 1981, he came "from running forestry contests in the state" to the position of Advisor.
Money generated from forestry-department projects is used to finance the students, their classroom, or the FFA-type online-competitions. A half-million students take part in these competitions each year.
With the boon of the skidder loan, made possible through "strong ties" with the university, Martineau is now able to continue the "area-cutting" work needed for Alvirne’s Annual Tree Planting project. Currently in its fourth year, this planned event is the joint effort between the high school’s forestry students and Hudson’s elementary schools’ first graders. The tree seedlings are provided by the New Hampshire State Forest Nursery located in Boscawen. "They need twelve years of planting," according to Martineau, and the work "provides a huge project for these kids." The project will be developed into a Fund Raiser by the time they are in the eighth grade. Eventually, the youngsters will see their work come to fruition. They will be seniors in high school then. Director Parkin cites the National Association of Agricultural Educators Award - one of many such accolades presented to Martineau - given for this project. Two words on the plaque stand out: "Ideas Unlimited."
At Alvirne, "Renewable Natural Resources" projects fit the bill of ideas, unlimited. Among other projects, the program includes the transplanting and excavating of overgrown trees from a nursery.
There is a "continuous rotation" on trees, to cut and plant them. Harvesting. Timber cutting. Clearing. The managing of 100 acres of forest area for the Town of Hudson is another program responsibility of Martineau’s.
Parkin tells of an interesting project: the estimated 2000 pounds of "rotten tree" cut down by forestry students because it was leaning over a nearby building.
In the past, Martineau has cleared a soccer field for the Hudson Soccer Association.
Last September and October, forestry students cut the wood later used for fences constructed for Alvirne’s new miniature donkeys.
Stressing the "enormous amount of benefit" currently given his students by way of the UNH-Alvirne trial project, Martineau describes the opportunity which exists for those going into the workforce. The students are working on, being trained on, "similar pieces of equipment," he says, where "the same rules apply." Benefits are "industry-related."
Before this project, students would go to work for the Public Works Department, for example, right out of high school and with "no [prior] heavy-equipment training." Issues would be raised with insurance carriers, Workman’s Compensation, and the possibility of lawsuits. Before this program, the forestry instructor says, "we could never test, or prove, training-in-the-workforce."
Now, however, Alvirne’s forestry class is going into the woods in a "model program in equipment safety for the future."
Litchfield Town Warrants Sent to Ballot
by Lynne Ober
With no more than 35 people in the audience, Litchfield Town Warrant Articles were sent to the ballot with little discussion. Unlike last year less than one percent of Litchfield’s 5,200 registered voters attended this year’s Deliberative Session.
Planning Board Co-Chairman John Blackadar once again spoke to the zoning warrant articles.
Warrant Article 2 increases the period of temporary occupancy of manufactured housing from four month to 12 months when the primary residence is uninhabitable due to a disaster. "This brings our ordinance in line with state statutes," Blackadar said.
Warrant Article 3, concerning impact fees, also brings Litchfield Zoning ordinances in line with state statutes.
Warrant Article 4 would extend the expiration of the Growth Management ordinance from 2005 to 2006. Blackadar said the Board is working with Nashua Regional Planning Commission on a Litchfield build-out report and wanted to keep that ordinance in effect until that report was completed.
The last zoning warrant, Warrant Article 5, brings zoning ordinances in alignment with Litchfield’s Master Plan.
Warrant Article 6 proposed to raise and appropriate the sum of $850,000 for the construction and fit-up of a fire station to be located at the intersection of Wood Hawk Way and Albuquerque Avenue. Fire Chief Tom Schofield presented the plans for the station, the reasons that the location was chosen and explained how he had worked to make the station smaller after the feedback he had received on the 1,200 surveys filled in by Litchfield residents after last year’s warrant article failed.
Noting that Litchfield’s population had increased by 97.7 percent since 1983, the first year that this fire station was proposed, he talked about the difficulty of responding to fires in the southern end of Litchfield. Placing a station at this location would lower fire insurance rates for residents and businesses because "we will be able to service our customers better and faster," he told the audience.
Explaining that few people had attended the open house at the fire station last year, Schofield told the audience that he had a slide show that showed how crowded they were. Showing a number of digital pictures, he pointed out the issues and problems with the current space. One budget committee member remarked that the fire station might have been approved last year if those pictures had been shown.
When Litchfield resident Thomas Levesque moved to increase this warrant to last year’s amount of $1.2 million and to move the location to property near Town Hall, Schofield said that he had to respectfully disagree. He talked about the need to provide better service to southern Litchfield customers and said that the fire station would be expandable when the Town grew enough that bigger quarters were needed. He showed the plans and talked about how that expansion could occur. Voters did not support the amendment and the warrant will appear on the ballot as proposed.
When Warrant Article 7, the Town operating budget in the amount of $3,442,087 was presented, Budget Committee Chairman Brent Lemire rose to express appreciation to Selectmen and Town department heads for working in the best interests of the town and working to keep costs under control. This warrant was recommended by both Selectmen and Budget Committee.
Selectmen Cecil Williams presented Warrant Article 8, which would raise and appropriate the sum of $502,392 to construct 2,500 feet of Albuquerque Avenue. Williams told the audience that this would have zero impact on your tax rate. Citing concerns about the heavy traffic going down Meadowbrook, he urged voters to support this warrant article. "We need to do this and it will have no impact on your tax rate."
Selectman Ray Peeples spoke to Warrant Article 9 which proposes to raise $245,000 to engineer and construct a road draining system on Corning Road. "It’s the prudent time to do this," Peeples said. Derry will tear up this road and while Derry is working on the road, Litchfield can fix its draining problems without having to pay to reconstruct the road.
Warrant Article 10 proposed to hire a full-time police officer. Police Chief Joseph O’Brion spoke to the need to have backup for officers working in Litchfield. With only one officer on patrol at a time, not only is that officer lacking backup, but response times to a second call will be slowed because the on-duty officer must complete the first call before going to the second.
Warrant Article 11 proposes to raise $62,532 for the construction of a new egress underdrain and a new gravity drainage system to correct the overall drainage pattern of the Aaron Cutler Memorial Library. "This is one article we deemed to be necessary," said Board of Selectmen Chairman Jack Pinciaro. Library Trustees agreed and noted that they needed this before the Children’s Room could re-open.
Warrant Article 12 has been on the ballot for three years and has failed for three years. This is the fourth and last chance for Litchfield to control the costs of property revaluation. If this warrant article for $147,000 fails, the state will mandate that the revaluation be done and will contract for the work and then assign all costs of that work to the property tax rate in the following year.
Selectmen Pat Jewett said it was very important for this to pass. David Heinz from the State Board of Assessment spoke to the audience. "If you don’t approve this year, I can tell you that the DRA will step in and it will definitely cost you more for them to do it. This is a state requirement and must be done," he cautioned the audience.
Even with that admonition, the Budget Committee failed to recommend this warrant article. It’s now up to Litchfield voters to decide if Selectmen or Department of Revenue Administration will oversee the revaluation.
Warrant Article 13 covers the cost of raises and benefits for members of Council 93 of the American Association State, County and Municipal Employees. Both Selectmen and Budget Committee recommend passage of this article.
A petitioned warrant article proposes to increase the veterans’ tax credit from $100 to $300. Litchfield resident Ralph Boehm said, "This is one way of rewarding veterans."
Much Ado About Everything
The Deliberative Session for the Town of Hudson was held on Saturday. Lasting seven hours the session covered a gamut of topics and, at times tempers flared and words were heated. At other times warrant articles were passed to the ballot with a bare minimum of discussion.
Selectman Ken Massey began the warrant article discussion by describing why there was a pressing need for Water Utility Capital Improvements in the south end of Hudson. This bond will be entirely paid for by users of Hudson’s water and not by the overall tax payer population. Massey reviewed the situation, the proposed improvements and the studies that back up the need. He urged voters to visit Town Hall and review the studies before the March 8 vote. "All evidence to date says that we need to do this," he concluded. Water users would see an increase in their water bills of 5.8 percent in the second year.
Conservation Commission member Michelle Champion presented warrant article number 2. This article proposes that the Town will raise and appropriate the sum of $2,000,000 to purchase land and easements for conservation purposes and to authorize the Board of Selectmen to issue bonds or notes in compliance with the provisions of the Municipal Finance Act. Champion led the audience through the history of open space conservation in America and out-lined the cost savings to tax payers of preserving open space. "Although open space generates little tax revenue, it consumes no tax dollar expenditures in the form of services. It doesn’t send any children to school. It doesn’t require Town services. It’s a win-win solution for taxpayers," Champion stated. "For every dollar spent on development cost, the Town needs $1.15 in services. But not if we conserve our land. There’s a positive net in revenue input and output with open space and we conserve a piece of New Hampshire for future generations to enjoy."
Champion told the audience that Hudson’s population had grown 290 percent between 1960 and 2000. The Town’s budget grew 1,231 percent over that same time – demonstrating the cost of services needed by the Town.
The Budget Committee recommends this article and spoke about it after Champion was done. Vice Chairman Howard Dilworth reviewed the bond financing and Budget Committee member Shawn Jasper spoke to the quality of life in the southern tier, the increased traffic congestion caused by the population explosion and the need to support this warrant article.
Hudson resident Suellen Seabury Quinlin spoke in favor of the article. "There’s a common sense, practical aspect to open space. It is the answer to taxes continuing to go up. It strikes a balance. Right now Hudson is not striking a balance," she concluded as she urged support for the article.
After the warrant article for the Police Replacement Radio Communication System was introduced by Selectmen and the audience heard about the large grant that Hudson will receive to offset more than half of these costs, Senator Bob Clegg spoke, "This is our last chance to get this grant money." Clegg urged voters to make a positive vote for this project citing numerous reasons why our Police Department needs to have a radio system that is compatible with other departments and agencies.
Both the Budget Committee and Selectmen recommend passage of the Radio Replacement Warrant Article, which is number 7.
That is not true of Warrant Article number 8 which proposes to raise and appropriate the sum of $350,000 for a replacement fire pumper truck. The Budget Committee failed to recommend this warrant article.
When Board of Selectmen Chairman Bill Cole spoke to the article, he deviated from the standard introduction, extolling the virtues of passing the article. Instead he said he would speak about the "usual suspects", which caused Jasper to jump to his feet with a point of order and point out that political diplomacy forbade the use of names. Cole, replying that he didn’t intend to use names, began his list of "usual suspects."
Although Massey, who was the Selectmen’s Representative to the Budget Committee, stood up and said that he had decided to withhold some data from the budget committee and now regretted that, saying that the data should have been passed along, the air remained tense.
Hudson resident Fred Giuffrida took the floor and added two more categories of usual suspects. His categories were the Yes person, who no matter the request looks at it superficially and brings it to the voters and the King, who is represented by a type of person whose opinion transcends every other person and who is always right.
When Jasper took the floor again, he began speaking about whether Hudson needed 3 or 4 pumper stations before wandering into the area of staffing and the fact that Robinson Road Station wasn’t staffed. After a point of order was received from the floor that requested the speaker’s words be aimed at the actual warrant article, Jasper sat down.
Although there was a floor amendment to reduce the amount of this warrant article from $350,000 to $300,000, that amendment was defeated.
When a motion was accepted to end discussion, Dilworth took the floor, stating, "I rise on personal privilege." Dilworth and the Moderator had an exchange of words before Dilworth stated that it was "customary here when all people are through speaking, we cut off discussion. I ask that two people in line be allowed to speak."
The Moderator allowed discussion to continue. Chairman of the Budget Committee Charlotte Schweiss rose, urged civility and said that she didn’t like name calling. "It just gets more people riled up."
Although discussion continued, the Budget Committee did not vote to recommend this article after the Deliberative Session closed.
Two other articles generated discussion both pro and con. These are Warrant Article number 9, the contract for the Highway Department, and Warrant Article number 12, the Firefighters Fact Finder Report.
Highway Agent Kevin Burns, among others, spoke in favor of Warrant Article 9 explaining the work done by his staff and the fact that they had gone a year without a raise. This contract failed by 12 votes the previous year and has come back in its entirety. What has caused an issue is the retroactive raise for last year’s raises. Some characterized this inclusion as not respecting the voters vote from the previous year and some argued that this had been done before. Burns, himself, cited two other contracts where the retroactive raise had been passed the following year by voters.
Budget Committee members were concerned about setting a precedent of recommending a contract with a retroactive raise included. "We need to be fair and we need to think about the town," said one Budget Committee member.
Neither Selectmen nor Budget Committee recommended Warrant Article 12 the Fact Finders Report. Selectmen had previously pointed out that this report ignored a linkage between the use of Earned Time and raises that other Town unions had agreed to incorporate. Feeling that Earned Time is a growing unfunded Town liability, they wanted to put come curbs on it. Fire Fighters disagreed and declared impasse and then requested a Fact Finders Report, which, by law, must go on the warrant if the union accepts it.
Union President Steve Benton explained the union’s position and why they felt the contract was good for the Town and the members of the union.
Discussion both for and against was heard and several residents asked questions about the difference between a fact finders report and a contract. Cole explained that if this warrant article passed, the fact finders report became a de facto contract for the period covered. "In either case we have to go back to the negotiating table."
Hudson resident and Library Trustee John Knowles made a motion to add $10,000 to the operating budget [warrant article 14]. Explaining that the Budget Committee had cut these funds that would be used to purchase new books, new audio books, keep museum passes and improve the collection at the library, he urged voters to add the money back into the budget.
When Town Moderator Mike Keenan asked for a show of cards, the motion passed. The operating budget was successfully amended to be $24,020,741.
Warrant Article 23 is back on the budget for a second year. Selectman Terry Stewart told the audience that this passed last year, but because it didn’t have a specific dollar figure in the budget, the Department of Revenue Administration disallowed the Town vote. She urged voters to vote positively again.
Hudson resident and Co-Chairman of the Library Building Committee Elaine Brody gave a presentation on the petitioned warrant article [number 25] that would raise and appropriate the sum of $220,000 to continue the library expansion project. The money would be used for architectural fees, site preparation and other preliminary work.
There was also a petitioned warrant article to convert the part time Adult Services Librarian position into a full time position. Library Trustees spoke in favor of this warrant article citing the difficulty of keeping good people when no benefits are offered to them.
Chairman of the Conservation Commission Tim Quinn spoke to Warrant Article 27 that would place fifty percent of future payments from the Land Use Change Tax into the Conservation Fund. Hudson’s Master Plan calls for 100 percent of these funds to go to Conservation. "We though that fifty percent was a nice compromise and a way to start," Quinn concluded.
And seven hours after it began, the Deliberative Session ended with all warrant articles being sent to the ballot with little change.