Windham’s First Harvest Festival Is Community Affair
by Lynn McNamara
Windham Recreation Coordinator Cheryl Haas was pleased with the turnout for the Harvest Festival and Pumpkin Contest on Sunday. Given that this was her first event as recreation coordinator, that the original date was rained out, and that Sunday afternoon was cold and windy, she was encouraged by the festive crowd at Griffin Park’s Multi Purpose Building.
Recreation Committee Chairman Dennis Senibaldi treated children and their parents to hayrides around the park, while Judy Pancoast entertained the crowd with songs and invited children to dance to keep warm. The event was a true community affair, with the Girls Scouts, Boy Scouts, Garden Club, Newcomer’s Club, Lions Club, Windham Women’s Club, and the Baseball/Softball league participating. Children had their faces painted, decorated trick-or-treat bags and enjoyed snacks from the bake sale.
Many pumpkins were entered into the carving and decorating contests. Winning entries as announced by Lynn and Barry Goldman of the Recreation Committee were:
Art of Japanese Flower Arranging Demonstrated
by Lynne Ober
What better way to beat the doldrums brought on by nine straight days of rain than to learn the beautiful art of Japanese flower arranging, known as Ikebana? Saturday a demonstration of Ikebana was held at Windham’s Nesmith Library
Masako Yatsuhashi, born in Nagasaki, Japan, holds degrees from Kwasui Women’s College and Kobe College. Masako is a practitioner of the Ikebono school of Ikebana. She’s the past president of the Ikenobo Ikebana Society of Boston and is also a past president of the International organization.
Ikebana is considered to be a disciplined art form in which the arrangement is a living thing with nature and humanity brought together. Practiced by both men and women, its philosophy is steeped in the development of closeness with nature. Flowers are arranged to present a peaceful beauty that reflects the passing of time and the feelings of the flowers’ hearts.
Masako, who has given demonstrations at the New England Spring Flower Show and has taught numerous adult education classes, wove the history of Ikebana into her talk. She showed the audience many different styles of containers and told the audience how the Japanese would view each container and why.
While any plant material can be used, the goal that distinguishes Ikebana from other approaches such as "flower arrangement" is its asymmetrical form and the use of empty space as an essential feature of the composition. Masako talked about the sense of harmony among the materials, the container, and the setting that is essential to an Ikebana arrangement.
She brought many different materials. One by one she brought them out and explained how they would be used. She stressed the importance of achieving a harmony among the materials. Masako, who holds a professorship for Ikebana, used humor and knowledge to intrigue her students. Acknowledging that she could barely touch the “tip of the iceberg” in an hour, she shared her knowledge of combining leaves, mosses, plants, and flowers into beautiful asymmetrical arrangements that entranced the audience. No one wanted to leave when the time was up.
Stormy Deliberative Session Surrounds Parking Lot Donation
by Lynn McNamara
Although only 25 of the town’s 8,289 registered voters braved Friday night’s torrential downpours to attend the Deliberative Session at Golden Brook School, the meeting made up in drama what it lacked in participation.
At one point, Anthony Mesiti of Mesiti Development of North Andover, took to the microphone and withdrew his donation. His offer to donate land across from Griffin Park to use as a parking lot was causing a lot of controversy. He stated at the session that he didn’t like the way the meeting was going and that the apparent power struggle was not something he wanted to see. The meeting continued, however, with quick votes against amending the article and for ending the debate. As participants left the school, it was unclear whether or not there was still a donation on which to vote during a Special Election in November.
According to Michael Hatem, Mesiti’s attorney, the donation is back on the table this week. On Monday, Hatem stated that his client did not want this donation to be as divisive as it appeared to be at the deliberative session, and, therefore, he intended to withdraw the offer. However, at the request of other residents present at the meeting he agreed to continue with the project.
The proposed parking plan for Griffin Park has been discussed several times during public and non-public portions of recent selectmen meetings. The plan centers around the donation of 1.68 acres of land and the existing buildings at 112 Range Road, directly across the street from Griffin Park. The project was initiated by Charlie McMahon and Selectman Bruce Breton in answer to the persistent parking problems at the park. McMahon has stated that from the day the park opened, parking has been a problem that they have been trying to resolve.
Plans for a lot with approximately 100 spaces are being developed by Peter Zohdi of Herbert and Associates. Although plans for the building have not been determined, the intent of donation is that they be used for recreational purposes, such as meeting space for the Windham Baseball/Softball League, and possible office space for the recreation coordinator, as well as other groups using Griffin Park. The town would be responsible for any and all alterations necessary to the buildings and the long-term maintenance of the buildings and the parking lot.
The board has raised questions regarding the high rate of speed on Range Road and the possibility of installing a traffic light and/or a crosswalk. These concerns were reiterated many times Friday night. Resident Betty Dunn stated that any parking on that side of the street is an invitation to horrific accidents and asked if there were plans to install an overhead walkway. Planning Board Secretary Ruth-Ellen Post echoed this, stating that the plan guarantees heavy foot traffic where visibility is not good. She added that as hazardous as the situation is now, she couldn’t think of anything worse (then what is being proposed).
Proponents of the plan have stressed that crossing at a crosswalk would be a vast improvement over parking on and walking along Range Road, as residents do now during major events and weekend games. Yet, getting one installed is not guaranteed. Because Range Road is a state road, these decisions are not made at the local level, but by the State Traffic Bureau.
At the beginning of the Deliberative Session, McMahon stated that he had contacted the Traffic Bureau and they are not in support of installing a pedestrian-activated safety light and would be reticent? of putting in a crosswalk at all. McMahon made an analogy to the amount of trash that builds up when trash cans are put in a public place to the increased safety concerns of putting in a crosswalk and people then being less diligent when driving in the area.
He went further to give details of a case in Gilford, New Hampshire, where the community pushed for the installation of a crosswalk and, shortly thereafter, a woman was struck by a car while in the crosswalk and remains in critical condition. He stated that he has been advised that the town should be very wary of putting in such a crosswalk across Range Road.
McMahon further clarified that the town can request that the state install the crosswalk only after the parking lot is constructed. Additionally, the town would have to request a lowering of the speed limit on Range Road, from its current 40 miles per hour to less than 35 as is required where there is a crosswalk.
During the nearly two-hour meeting, residents asked for estimates on future maintenance and operating costs of the parking lot and buildings, current conditions of those buildings, the costs to bring the building into compliance, adequacy of the existing leach field to accommodate a public building, among many other issues.
The board was unable to provide these details, but Chairman Roger Hohenberger stressed to the group that the purpose of the Special Election was not to approve a site plan, but for the voters to decide whether they would like to accept the donation. He conceded that there were many open issues and that if the donation were accepted they would be addressed at a later point.
Mesiti’s temporary withdrawal of the offer Friday night came on the heels of a 10-minute recess called by Town Moderator Peter Griffin to allow Planning Board Vice-Chairman Ross McLeod an opportunity to discuss the wording of a proposed amendment to the article with Town Counsel Bernie Campbell. At this point, McMahon approached and stated that prior to McLeod going to a private meeting? with the town attorney, he wished to state that he was firmly against the amendment. He asked that the article be approved as written, and further believed that McLeod’s motivation (behind the amendment) had a more nefarious intent.
The meeting recessed, after which McLeod said that his intent in amending the article was to take the verbal promise that had been given by Mesiti and put it in writing. His amendments included four points, (1) that the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board would have review and approval of the plan and appropriate safety measures, (2) that the Board of Selectmen would have approval of the design specifications, (3) that there would be preservation of the historical character of the property and (4) that the parking area and other improvements would be completed. If any of these were not met, the town would not accept the donation. The amendment was seconded.
This was the point in which Mesiti approached and withdrew the offer. Hatem then spoke on his behalf, stating that obviously there are a lot of questions. “Tony (Mr. Mesiti) is concerned about the questions being raised,” he added. Hatem further noted that the donation appeared to be getting hijacked from its original intent and it made sense to pull the donation for the time being. He further stated that “If someone gives you a Porsche, you shouldn’t respond by saying you really wanted a black one.”
Several residents and board members urged Mesiti to reconsider. Selectmen Alan Carpenter asked that Mesiti not confuse the discussion and questioning with any power struggle between factions in town. He stated that in New Hampshire this is what we do. This is the Democratic process. Mr. Carpenter further noted that much of the discussion was born from the rush that is behind this plan. He defended the voters’ concerns, noting that there are many residents who have fair and valid questions. Due to the push to have a Special Election, which he initially voted for and then later opposed, there has not been adequate time to prepare a plan that addresses all the issues.
Mesiti did not further address the board. The amendment was defeated and the article was approved as written. The meeting continued for a short time with a discussion of the second warrant article, a revolving fund for police details.
According to Breton and McMahon, after the construction of the parking lot, the donation will be worth between $700,000 and $750,000 to the town. The property is currently assessed at $269,200. An examination of the deed shows it was purchased by T& K Range Road, LLC from William Driscoll, Jr. on July 21.
Mesiti’s firm, Mesiti Development of North Andover, has built upscale homes in North Andover, Andover, Methuen, Haverhill, Pelham, Salem and Windham. He has recently been profiled in local newspapers for building Windham’s largest and most valuable home, a 19,000-square-foot house on Ironwood Gate Road which he will occupy. Mesiti Development’s projects also include commercial property development. Mr. Mesiti has appeared before the Windham Planning Board to discuss plans for the Village Center District.
The vote on this donation will be held Tuesday, November 15. According to Town Clerk Joan Tuck, the cost of the Special Election will be between $2,000 and $2,500. Because the town has the necessary Yes or No ballots available, there is no additional cost for printing. No postage expenses will be incurred as no mailings will be sent out.
St. Joseph Students Recognize Grandparents
Students at St. Joseph Regional Catholic School and their grandparents celebrated Grandparents’ Day with a special mass at Mary, Queen of Peace Church in Salem followed by a luncheon held at the school. Recognizing the special contributions made by grandparents, eighth graders wrote “Tribute to Grandparents” essays honoring their grandparents and remembering the difference that relationship had made in their lives.
After the service, individual family photographs were taken and the grandparents were invited back to the school for a special luncheon with their grandchildren. They were treated to soup, salad, sandwiches, and dessert served by junior high students and prepared in the school cafeteria with assistance from many parent volunteers.
St. Joseph Regional Catholic School is a diocesan school serving grades one through eight. St. Joseph Parish in Salem hosts the school. It is also sponsored by the following churches: Holy Angels Parish in Plaistow, Mary, Queen of Peace Parish in Salem; St. Anne Parish in Hampstead; and St. Matthew Parish in Windham. The co-educational student body is made up of students from several southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts towns.
Yoga Meets Dance at Windham Town Hall
by Karen Plumley
YMCA and Workout Club Yoga Instructor Zsuzsa Kovach of Windham taught a one-hour yoga class at the Windham Town Hall on October 16 and accepted donations for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Certified in August to teach a form of yoga known as “Yoga Meets Dance™,” Kovach hopes to teach many more such classes. “This form of yoga is great for any age; I’ve taught four year olds and 84 year olds, and they have all been satisfied,” said Kovach.
Based loosely on “Danskinetics”, the Yoga Meets Dance™ form was developed by Beth Rigby, former program director for Danskinetics at Kripalu Center located in western Massachusetts. Combining yoga stretching, dance moves and relaxation, the hour-long class seemed to benefit all who attended, including one woman who recently suffered a stroke. For more information on future classes, contact Zsuzsa at 548-5511 or check out www.MoonDanceYoga.com.
Pelham May Buy Used Ladder Fire Truck from Pelham
by Lynne Ober
Pelham Fire Chief Dave Fisher asked selectmen to commit to buying a used ladder truck from Pelham, New York.
There’s a special relationship between the fire departments of Pelham, New Hampshire, and Pelham, New York, the sister town to Pelham, New Hampshire.
Pelham, New York, is a small but extremely metropolitan city. It has many multiple-story buildings and a ladder truck is essential at almost any fire. The Fire Department in Pelham, New York, is purchasing a new ladder truck and has offered their old truck to Fisher for a significantly reduced rate of $3,000.
According to Fisher, ladder trucks have to be recertified every five years. There’s still two and a half years before this truck would have to be recertified. Selectman Tom Domenico asked Fisher to find out how much recertification would cost.
Fisher also said that the ladder truck could safely sit outside because there’s no water tank on it. The truck wouldn’t have to be heated during the winter.
“There are a number of homes in Pelham where a ladder truck would be useful,” Fisher told selectmen before describing what his men have to do now to reach the upper stories of some of the homes.
Selectman Hal Lynde moved to authorize that Fisher send a letter expressing the town’s interest in the ladder truck based upon the discussed price of $3,000. This would be “pending further action of the selectmen to make the final decision.” The motion passed unanimously.