A Wet and Chilly Horribles Parade Still Pleasing
by Karen Plumley
The sky began spitting promptly at 5:30 p.m. as excited children and chilly parents gathered for the 7th annual Horribles Parade in Pelham on Saturday evening. Anyone who wasn’t covered with a mask and hood seemed to come prepared with raingear and umbrellas and withstood the less than agreeable weather for this highly anticipated local event.
Children were not fazed in the least, their eyes sparkling eagerly as they marched down Marsh Road following the honking fire trucks. Knowingly, they were ringing in another season of enjoyable holiday festivities. At the end of the parade, kids crowded around the front-end loader full of candy treats to receive their share of the loot. Afterward, mostly everyone remained for the haunted hayride through the woods at the nearby middle school, where the parade quickly dispersed. The Pelham Firefighters Association sponsors this event annually, and it is always well received by the community.
Revaluation in Pelham Moves Forward
by Lynne Ober
Marching to the beat of a very fast drum, Pelham selectmen are in a race to complete the town-wide mandated revaluation by 2006.
Residents will be pleased with the cost savings. Department of Revenue Administration had estimated a cost more than double the rate that selectmen have negotiated for the 5,000 parcels that need to be revaluated.
Once the positive September vote came in, Town Administrator Tom Gaydos and Selectman Ed Gleason quickly set up interviews with the three companies that had submitted complete bids on the project: Ryan Associates, CLT and Vision. Scheduling was one important issue that needed to be resolved because the town has a state-mandated deadline to complete this project by November 6, 2006.
Other issues were to ensure that a good digital photograph of each property was included in the price and to keep the current assessing software running before transitioning to the newer software.
The town also wanted to do a utility revaluation and not use the state figures, which Gaydos said were too low. He also said they needed someone who could revaluate properties registered in current use. At the same time, they needed to be fiscally conservative and find a company with a good track record in public relations and communication.
Vision was the lowest bidder, but they do not perform utility or current use revaluation. Gaydos told selectmen that those two pieces could be done by one of the other companies.
Because the town uses Vision software and wanted to stay with this software in order to avoid software implementation fees and training fees, all companies bid using that software.
Gaydos told selectmen that while all three were reputable companies and could perform the revaluation, Vision impressed not only with their lower cost, but also with their approach to community relations. “We need the company that does this to be responsive to our residents,” Gaydos noted. “We looked at each company’s track record and success rate because with the shortness of our schedule, we have to evaluate carefully.”
Selectmen discussed known issues – especially those issues that have occurred in other towns and have negatively impacted the revaluation.
Gaydos also told selectmen that they were planning to coordinate everything very carefully with the state and to use Department of Revenue staff as the process unrolled.
Corcoran Associates bid on the oversight piece of the project. Gaydos recommended using Corcoran because they are already working with the town, know a lot about current properties, and could immediately be effective because there wouldn’t be a learning curve.
The mandated schedule requires that this process by complete by November 6, 2006, in order for the information to be included on the tax bills.
Selectman Tom Domenico suggested using the website set up for the special meeting as a communication device for the revaluation. Selectmen agreed and Domenico will work on making this change.
Selectman Ed Gleason said that he was looking for selectmen to authorize the town administrator to proceed with letter contracts to both Vision and Corcoran.
Domenico moved “to authorize Mr. Gleason and Mr. Gaydos, acting on behalf of the selectmen, to prepare and negotiate a final agreement with Vision for the town-wide revaluation that would then be reviewed and approved by selectmen.”
Selectman Hal Lynde asked if there should be a penalty clause in case the revaluation was not completed in time.
Gleason then moved to amend the motion to read “To authorize the issuance of a letter of intent (which authorized proceeding with Vision for a town-wide revaluation and Corcoran Associates for oversight) pending negotiations of a contract with a limit of liability.
When the motion passed 5 – 0, the revaluation was underway.
Residents Hope to Halt Hopkins Road Reclassification
by Karen Plumley
At a public hearing on October 17, Windham selectmen heard arguments from residents and representatives of H and B Homes on the issue of reclassifying Hopkins Road. Currently, the road is a dirt path that is popular with hikers and bikers, and has been beautifully preserved, except for the illegal clear cutting approved by the planning department that took place in 2004.
According to Joe Maynard of Benchmark Engineering, the firm representing the developers, upgrading Hopkins Road will be a benefit for the town. It will provide another option for access to recently built developments by residents, and, in particular, emergency vehicles, and, therefore, may alleviate traffic. In order to quell concerns about the reclassification diminishing open space, Maynard said that “the road is actually on the edge of the open space, so it would not divide the space.” Maynard went on to cite examples of several other roads that were recently reclassified, including Jackman Ridge Road and Lancaster Road.
Windham Fire Chief Don Messier presented arguments in favor of the reclassification. “Right now I cannot get to those new homes. We need to be responsible to our own community,” he said. Others in favor of the upgrade pointed out that having connectivity between the new developments would also make sense for bussing students to school and for friends to get to each other’s houses more conveniently.
Windham residents opposing the upgrade raised their countless concerns. One of the worst of these was that if Hopkins Road were opened, it would send more residential traffic down the treacherous Morrison Road, with its infamous “Whoa Corner.” Nancy Costa resides on “Whoa Corner” and stated that traffic already has increased and particularly alarming to her has been the number of construction vehicles traveling down the road.
Traffic Investigator Laurie Rosio verified Costa’s statements claiming that because of the Castle Reach development, traffic on Morrison Road has doubled in two years. Al Lemay, a Hopkins Road abutter, said there are dangerous blind corners at the intersection of Hopkins Road and Fox Crossing.
Another concerned resident cited five recent accidents in the area, two in the past year. In an emotional plea, she stated, “My mailbox has been taken out twice already. I have small children and I’m concerned.”
The unknown variable that still remains is the possibility of connecting to Depot Road. This option, however, becomes an issue for Derry as well. According to many, this connection would be safer, and would not involve sending traffic down narrow, winding roads that are not suitable for heavy travel. Derry is currently opposed to allowing this connection to Depot Road because according to Joe Maynard, “Windham shouldn’t route all of their traffic through Derry, but instead try to contain their own traffic problems within their own town.”
Selectman Bruce Breton, clearly skeptical, responded to this claim by pointing to minutes of a Derry Planning Board meeting in which the consensus was not enough information from developers on the Depot connection had been provided to proceed to a formal hearing. Breton believes that if Derry saw the fully engineered plans on the connection to Depot Road they would have a legal obligation to pass it.
When selectmen questioned Fire Chief Messier about which road option he would choose, he did not answer directly, but stated, “If we approve the Hopkins Road upgrade, Derry might approve connectivity to Depot Road.” Selectman Galen Stearns was convinced that Windham will need to show Derry that they are willing to accept part of their own traffic burden, and felt that Derry would come around once this happened. He then made a motion to pass the Hopkins Road reclassification subject to approval by Derry to connect to Depot Road. The motion failed 3 - 2.
Other selectmen, including Chairman Roger Hohenberger, believe that a meeting between the Derry and Windham planning boards will definitely shed some light on the subject. He then put forth the motion to hold another public hearing after the meeting with Derry. The motion passed 4 - 1. A public meeting between the two towns is planned for November 30. The follow-up hearing in Windham will take place on December 5.
Masquerade Ball is a Haunting Good Time
by Karen Plumley
The Pelham Community Theater and Arts sponsored their first-ever Halloween Masquerade Ball at the Pelham Fish and Game facility on Saturday, October 22. The hall was in a shroud of eerie fog, some manufactured by the fog machine at the front door, the rest conveniently provided by Mother Nature.
Upon entering the hall, a vision of frightful décor and spooky and delightfully dressed partygoers welcomed newcomers. Lee Lapore, lights and sound engineer for the theater group skillfully selected the music for the evening and the crowd was already on the dance floor shortly after 7:00 p.m., eager to boogie to the beat of the Monster Mash and other festive tunes.
Local businesses generously donated raffle items. Money earned from ticket sales and the raffle will directly benefit future theater productions. “We had several board meetings to discuss this fundraiser event. We felt we needed to do something like this to keep up with rental charges and costuming required for our productions,” explained Sally Casto, treasurer of the theater group. According to Janet Daigle, the group’s president, it took nearly four months to plan the event.
The next two theater productions will be held during the Christmas season and include a children’s production called “It’s Christmas, Carol,” and an encore presentation of last year’s very successful “It’s a Wonderful Life.” For more information, contact a board member or check out the group’s website at www.pelhamweb.org/pct.
Best Children’s costume: Gala Cares, 4, of Pelham; a delightful fairy
Best Adult costume: Claudia Combs of Pelham; a pirate
Funniest costume: Gavin LeBel, 17, of Pelham; 1970’s hippie
Nature Conservancy Easement Possible on Windham Swamp
by Karen Plumley
A plan is in the works to place a conservation easement on the large parcel of southeast wetland area in Windham, affectionately known by the state as “Windham Swamp.”
The area is currently owned by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, but there is a proposal that the property be transferred to the town of Windham.
“The state closed on the sale in January 2005 following more than a year of discussions,” explained Lisa Linowes, member of the Windham Conservation Commission. The commission is working with the New Hampshire Chapter of the Nature Conservancy to come up with a plan for the easement which, if in place, would protect the wetland, and possibly even provide a buffer around the area preventing ATV use, dredge and fill, construction, logging, and other destructive activities within a certain distance from the delicate wetland system.
Duane Hyde, director of Land Protection for the New Hampshire chapter of the Nature Conservancy, will be working in conjunction with the commission on the easement proposal. “The Windham Swamp is one of the best examples of a wetland system in New Hampshire. For that matter, it is one of the best examples in New England,” said Hyde. According to Hyde, the area is not necessarily rare, but large and in virtually pristine condition.
“The conservancy was approached by the town about this land. We looked at it and agreed that a second layer of protection for the wetland would be a good idea,” Hyde said. According to Hyde, if a town owns a piece of land with the intention of protecting it, no one can really ensure that the town won’t change its mind about how to use the property. The conservancy would provide stewardship of the land forever.
If the conservancy becomes a steward for the wetland area, it would initially provide a baseline report, and subsequently monitor the wetland on a periodic basis for changes. Additionally, it would provide the needed protection from external stressors. Annual meetings would be held with the town to make available the status reports on the property.
According to Linowes, efforts are also underway to place the remaining conservation lands in Windham under the same type of easement. There are approximately 275 acres in the southeast wetland area, and an additional 175 acres of conservation lands in Windham. “It’s really a coup for us to have land interesting enough for TNC (The Nature Conservancy) to take action,” said Linowes.