Hudson-Litchfield News

Benson’s Property is Recontaminated

by Area News Staff

The Benson’s property in Hudson still contains contaminated asbestos.  The state has entered into a lawsuit against the company that dumped the asbestos.

“That area is serious,” said New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray.  “I would hate to turn the property over to Hudson until the lawsuit is settled.”

Murray said that testing had been done that showed that no contamination existed on the site until a company from Londonderry dumped asbestos-laden debris. 

According to Murray, the asbestos came from the demolition debris at the vendor’s headquarters site.  “They were building a new headquarters,” Murray stated, and the dumped debris had asbestos which Murray believes came from the construction site.

“We didn’t want to give the town a problem,” said Murray, “so we wanted to wait until the lawsuit was settled.”

For seemingly years, Hudson has been trying to acquire the old Benson’s property, but that hasn’t happened, and details from selectmen are sketchy at best.  This year selectmen have put another warrant article on the ballot for voters to decide if they should pursue the acquisition of Benson’s or not. 

In past elections, town voters have appropriated money to be used, and, according to Benson’s Committee Chairman Esther McGraw, $400 goes into the Benson’s fund for every unit sold at Shepherd’s Hill.  “We have a lot of money available to work on this project; I just wish selectmen would let us get going.”

At the Budget Committee meeting where warrant articles are first introduced, Board of Selectmen Ken Massey, who is also the selectmen’s Budget Committee representative, characterized the negotiations with the state as stalled.

Former Selectman and current Budget Committee Member Shawn Jasper questioned that statement.  “I talked about the on-going lawsuit rather than stalled negotiations,” said Jasper after the meeting.

Part of the issue revolves around contamination on the property.  One site is serious and the other site, according to Murray, is not serious.  One site is involved in a lawsuit, and the other site has been checked, cleared and a remediation process proposed.

Murray met with seven of the 13 District 27 [Hudson, Litchfield, Pelham] State Representatives, Lynne Ober, Lars Christensen Shawn Jasper, Andy Renszullo, and Jordan Ulery from Hudson plus Leon Calawa from Litchfield and Jean Guy Bergeron from Pelham.  Murray quite openly discussed the problems – problems that Hudson Selectmen will only discuss behind closed doors in non-public meetings.

“On two separate occasions when I was on the Board of Selectmen, I walked out when the chairman insisted that the Benson’s issue be discussed in non-public,” said Jasper “because I knew that this [non-public meeting] was a violation of the law.”

There were two landfills on the property where Benson’s dumped their trash.  According to Murray in the more than 20 years since these have been used no hazardous or serious contamination has been found.  “We dug test pits and found trash plus dead carcasses from animals that died on the property.”

“The carcasses will decompose naturally with no environmental impact,” stated Ulery.

Murray agreed and noted that neither the test pits nor the monitoring wells that were dug showed any hazardous contamination.  “We worked closely with New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services in checking this area.”

Even though these two landfills show no hazardous contamination and NHDES recommends capping them, Hudson Selectmen insist that these be removed. 

“We did get a cost when selectmen wanted these removed, but the cost is $8 million dollars,” said Murray, who believes that the recommendations of NHDES should be followed given that no hazardous contamination has shown up in the more than two decades that have past since the two landfills were active.

“The landfills are located where we would put parking lots,” said McGraw, which adds additional support to the NHDES recommendation of capping the two areas.

McGraw pointed out that the area with the asbestos is an area that the state would permanently retain and would not pass to Hudson. 

In the interim, McGraw has asked selectmen to make a presentation during one of their meetings on the progress that has been made at Benson’s, but is waiting for selectmen to give her a date for this presentation.”

“I’ve cancelled my Benson’s committee meetings,” said McGraw who sited lack of participation from the two selectmen’s representatives, Bill Cole and Kathleen MacLean.  “Even they didn’t come.” 

However, McGraw has not lost her enthusiasm for turning Benson’s into a park and spoke of the continual stream of donations that keeps coming in for the property.

Litchfield School Budget Increases by about 7 Percent

by Lynne Ober

Throughout the southern tier of the state, voters are going to have to make hard decisions between level of services and ability to pay for those services.  It’s becoming a tricky balance of being able to pay property taxes while providing services. 

“The school board's proposed 2007 operating budget totals $16,722,619, an increase of 7.17 percent over the 2006 operating budget,” said Business Manager Steve Martin.  “Excluding the new self-funded program function of $58,915, which is offset by revenues, the net increase of the proposed operating budget that would have a tax rate impact is 6.79 percent.”

That increase does not include any salary increases for teaching staff, who are negotiating a new contract.  If negotiations are completed in time, salary increases will be included in a warrant article for the new contract.

This year the Litchfield School Board completed a line-by-line review of requested budget items.  Cuts were made, but according to Litchfield School Board Chairman Cindy Couture, the board did not vote on a bottom line because that was not available to them, and they were under the gun to get the budget to their Budget Committee on time.

“I know the first pass through we cut almost $200,000, and I think the last cuts were also about another $200,000,” stated Couture.  “While Steve [Martin] was keeping track of cuts, he wasn't giving us a bottom line figure as we went.  And I expect he wouldn't have been able to since we were also finalizing salary schedules which would change salary and benefit numbers for dozens of employees and would take time to calculate.”

At least two large warrant articles may be on the ballot this year.  The larger of the two warrant articles would be the bond article for the new school and the next largest would be the one for the new teachers’ contract.

“I asked the board to make deep cuts even though it hurts, making those tough decisions because we desperately need the new elementary school,” said Couture.  “Several successful programs such as music, foreign language, and art are seeing increased student numbers and student interest but we can't meet those program needs.  Every year that the elementary school doesn't pass we get further and further behind in elementary needs and middle school and high school programs.”

The operational budget includes a number of new and expanded positions.  The Budget Committee has in the past required that some new positions be placed on the ballot as separate warrant articles.  This year, according to Superintendent Cathy Hamblett, discussions have occurred around keeping essential new hires in the operational budget.  If the Budget Committee accepts the budget as presented to them, the positions would be:

  • Expand athletic director from part time to full time with a salary of $62,000.  If this passes, Campbell High School will be the only high school of its size in New Hampshire with a full time athletic director.  “Bow and Gilford in our size range have indicated to us that they have full-time athletic directors.  Our request is based on the job here in Litchfield not on comparable districts,” stated Hamblett.  Expanding this position meant adding at least a part-time position to help cover some of the classes currently being taught by the athletic director.  According to school board member Pat Jewett, she was the only member not in favor of expanding this position this year.  “We have to look at costs,” said the ever-frugal Jewett.  However, discussion on this continues.  “We reduced his [the athletic director’s] class load to help with the time needed for all the AD requirements.  We have some position descriptions to approve at our December 7 policy meeting, one of which is the athletic director’s position.  When we look at those - we'll have to determine if full time is correct or not.  I believe it's not,” stated Couture.
  • A part-time health teacher at a proposed cost of $20,595.  “We added the part time health/physical education at about $21,000 to help with a few of the athletic director’s classes,” stated Couture.
  • A new preschool teacher and three part-time paraprofessionals required to support special education students are proposed at a cost of $62,712.67, including benefits.  Since these positions are driven by Individualized Education Programs for special education students, there is no legal way to cut them.  They are mandated by federal legislation.  “We’ve seen a growth in our special education preschool population,” said Hamblett.
  • Campbell High School science teacher with salary and benefits of $55,115.30.
  • Campbell High School math teacher with salary and benefits of $55,115.30.  Both the math and science teacher are in response to an additional 50 students at Campbell this year and a projected increase of 50 students next year.
  • Part-time social worker for Litchfield Middle School at a cost of $20,007.82.
  • Expand the Campbell High School guidance leader to a full year guidance director position at an increased cost of $15,079.98.  Benefits for this position were already included in the budget.
  • Expand the school board / SAU receptionist to full time at a cost of $27,209.45. 
  • Expand the Campbell High School receptionist position by five hours per week at an additional cost of $2,672.13.  School board member Ralph Boehm made a case for using students to fulfill this need.  He pointed out that they could earn their needed community service and it would save taxpayer dollars.

According to Martin that would be an increase of $260,663.89 before the cost of benefits are calculated.  Board and administrative staff together cut a number of additional requested staff additions.

“Budget season is always very difficult,” concluded Couture.  “Much of the budget is items that can't be controlled - such as health care costs, utilities, personnel and maintenance and repairs.  So we cut supplies, paper, uniforms, and don't hire needed staff leaving classes overcrowded or not offered.”

The requirements of SB2 are especially difficult on school districts who must deal with beginning a new school year at the same time that budgets have to be produced in order to meet mandated timelines.  The Litchfield School District met the deadlines, but plans to continue work on the budget.  Couture questioned the inclusion of the social worker position and said that she thought that the board had cut it and not reduced it to part time.  Budget Committees are never displeased when the governing bodies come forward with additional cuts.

Is There a New Bridge in Our Future?

by Area News Staff

How many years has a bridge over the Merrimack River between Litchfield and Merrimack been on the drawing boards with little to no progress being made?  More than most area residents can count.

Now some positive progress is being made.

Three District 27 [Hudson, Litchfield, Pelham] State Representatives filed legislation in September 2005 supporting this project.  Litchfield State Representative Leon Calawa is the prime sponsor of LSR 2375 and State Representatives Lynne Ober and Shawn Jasper are co-sponsors of this legislation.

“When Hudson Selectmen asked Nashua Regional Planning Commission to develop a better traffic model for Route 102 through Hudson center and the response was, ‘every possible model leads to failed intersections because of the amount of traffic,’ it was a no-brainer to support this critical legislation,” said Ober, who noted the legislation would be heard during the January - May 2006 session.

Litchfield Selectman Ray Peeples noted that after decades of trying to improve intersections and roadways the traffic was worse than ever.  “The state has never looked at any east – west corridors.  They have only concentrated on north and south corridors.”  Peeples is a strong supporter of a bridge from Litchfield to Merrimack.

Because of the lack of east – west corridors, people who need to cross from the Hudson side of the river into Nashua must cross one of the two existing bridges.  That results in a huge amount of traffic down Route 102 or down Route 3A until it intersects with Route 102.  The rush-hour traffic jams overwhelm the size of the roads.

New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray met about the bridge project with seven of the 13 District 27 State Representative delegation, Jean Guy Bergeron, Leon Calawa, Lars Christensen, Shawn Jasper, Lynne Ober, Andy Renzullo and Jordan Ulery.

“It’s the first time I’ve seen a lot of legislative support for the bridge,” smiled Murray.

Murray talked about ways of funding the bridge.  With recently passed legislation, she has the authority to sell excess land and noted that she has quite of bit of land in Hudson because of the long proposed circumferential highway.  “We acquired a great deal of land.”

Renzullo asked that she prepare a list of properties and potential sales price for the delegation to review.

Jasper, however, urged caution with selling the land.  “I believe that long after we are gone, there will be a need for that circumferential highway, and we shouldn’t sell that land for a bridge.”

But Murray said that there is other property in Hudson that could be sold if the desire was to hold onto the circumferential right-of-way land for potential future development.  “I actually bought two sets of property because there was so much environmental impact with the first right-of-way that I bought so we have quite a bit of land.”

The need for such a highway may be closer than previously thought.

“With the introduction of the Green Meadows proposal, there’s even more concern about the traffic,” said Ober, who noted that the developer had proposed a method to handle traffic from the southwest and northwest.  “But with this type of vibrant development, traffic will come from all over.  How will we handle the increased traffic through Hudson on Route 111, Route 102 and the huge potential impact on Lowell Road from people coming from the east?” 

Ober, like Peeples, believes that something must be done to facilitate east and west traffic.  “It’s ridiculous to think that the only people who would be drawn to the proposed upscale shopping at Green Meadows would come from the southwest or northwest.  Folks in Windham, Merrimack, Nashua, Derry and Londonderry will be drawn as well.  We need to think about the bigger picture and traffic is a piece.  The bridge is one element of that picture.  Thinking carefully about which pieces of land to sell in order to provide funding [for the bridge] is another element.”

Renzullo thinks that the bridge is more important than future traffic considerations and would be willing to sell any and all of the property.

Even though developers said that it would be 15 to 20 years before the entire proposed Green Meadows development would be complete, traffic will begin to increase as soon as construction starts because workers will have to reach the site.

Couple that development in the south with the large Interstate 93 widening project already underway, and Hudson may be impacted by increased traffic sooner than expected.

“The traffic light at Route 102 and Robinson Road is only five miles from I-93,” said Jasper.  “It’s another mile from that intersection to the river.  A bridge is definitely needed to facilitate traffic now and in the future.”

Litchfield and Hudson Selectmen have, in the recent past, indicated support of another bridge. 

Among the funding options discussed were tolls as well as the sale of land.  Murray committed to developing a potential revenue stream model for the District 27 state representative.

She also promised that the land list with potential sale prices would be available for review prior to January 15, when the group agreed to meet again.

Hudson Firefighters Ignite Sparks with Budget Committee

by Doug Robinson

During the November 28 budget meeting, tempers flared.  Discussions about the proposed Hudson Fire Department staffing request seemed to go up in smoke even before the budget hearing began. 

The Hudson Fire Department has received approval from the selectmen regarding a warrant article they proposed.  A snapshot description of the proposal states, “This is a request to increase Hudson Fire Department staffing by hiring four firefighters/paramedics in the fiscal year and budget cycle and additional personnel in subsequent years to obtain a total of 12 firefighters to staff the Robinson Road Fire station 24 hours a day for 7 days a week” as the north end of town needs better coverage.  The proposed total gross cost to the town is $224,819.

The Hudson Fire Department has applied for the 2005 SAFER Grant in efforts to offset the cost of hiring the additional firefighters.  This could add up to $400,000 in financial assistance to Hudson.  According to Chief Shawn Murray, the first-year impact to the town would be $80,819.  However, when considering the savings to the overtime account, Hudson would realize a savings of $109,503, and, when factoring in the grant monies, the town of Hudson would realize a positive revenue stream of $34,497.  Chief Murray also suggests that “There are potentially more savings that should be observed with regard to employer benefits.  Medicare and retirement benefits should be reduced due to the reduction in overtime expenses.” 

The staffing needs of the Hudson Fire Department have been an ongoing discussion for the past nine years.  In August 1996, Municipal Recourses, Inc. reported that “Long-range plans should be developed that allow the staffing of the other stations with full-time personnel.  Calls for service should be expected to continue, especially with the projected growth of the town.” 

Recent data collected from the Nashua Regional Planning Commission show that Hudson has grown in population from 19,530 residents in 1990, to a current day 24,000 residents, according to Budget Committee Chairman Howard Dilworth.  The NRPC suggests that the projected number of residents in 2010 will be 26,200 and in 2020 will be 29,330.  Hudson has the second highest population density in the region, and has a higher density than the regional average, stated the U.S. Census report compiled by the NRPC.

Upon review of the budget book, much of the information necessary for the Budget Committee was absent.  In speaking with Chief Murray, he made the decision to “present the complete details during the Saturday, December 3 budget meeting.  I wanted to be able to answer all of their questions properly with the data,” commented Murray. 

Vice Chairman Ted Luszey asked of Selectman Bill Cole, “What is driving your thinking on manning that station?  Is it the number of calls due to medical or calls ... due to fire issue ... is it more on the fire side and have we looked to outsourcing ambulance services?” 

Cole responded that while he did not have the details with him because he did not expect to be “on stage,” he told the Budget Committee members that the “driving force was the amount of development in the north and central parts of town.  These are requiring calls whether they are for medical or for fire.  I would defer to Saturday when Chief Murray will be here with all the statistics.”

Selectman Ken Massey added to Cole’s statement by stating that additional housing units are going in on Webster Street.  He further commented about the 55 and up housing developments:  “There are serious safety concerns on the north end that we need to be aware of.” 

Budget member Bob Haefner questioned the possibility of increasing the number of ambulances in town.  Massey responded that the current number of ambulances was appropriate.  

Budget member Shawn Jasper was “dumbfounded by the explanations given … all that development on Webster Street is probably two miles from Central Station and probably no more than six miles from Robinson Road station.  That is just … unbelievable to use that as a rationale … Let’s face it … this is a million dollar plan to staff that station after driving the call force out.  There was a systematic plan … put in place because I believe it was a plan and every one was driven out of there … Because we have a fire station it does not mean we have to man it … to staff that station, for what? … Houses burn down right next to fire stations … You cannot prevent all the fires … People die in hospitals every day … When your time is up, your time is up.  I don’t think our response time is any worse than average.” 

After hearing Jasper’s concerns, Massey again asked the board to defer and wait for Saturday “so that we can have the fire chief here.”  Chairman Dilworth stated that “I’m sure there would be questions on Saturday, but we are going to take a straw pole vote tonight.”  Massey requested and made a motion to defer to have the straw poll vote on Saturday and the motion was seconded by Budget Committee member Leo Bernard.  Budget member Schweiss commented that the budget books were due “on a certain date.”  The information put in for this warrant article is “totally useless.”  She continued by stating that is does not give “reasoning, costs, or complete information.  What they have done here is nothing … I do not think we should defer this.”

Upon further inspection, it was learned that pages were missing from the books as a result of copying errors. 

Budget member Beike, upon reading that Fire Chief Murray was going to make a presentation to the Budget Committee stated that “I would like to see some … all of the material prior to the meeting.”  Chairman Dilworth, quoting RSA: 32:16, stated that he “was not a fan or have I ever been a fan of dog and pony shows.  Anything that is up for discussion should be in this proposal here … presentations are of verbal nature and not written … I take exception to this … I think this is totally out of line and if that was his (Chief Murray’s) plan he should have let us know ahead of time.” 

Jasper continues to say that his (Dilworth’s) comments were “appropriate.”  Massey asked Jasper to keep his comments to the defer as that was the motion on the table.  On the motion to defer, the motion failed 7/4.  The warrant article to add four firefighters did not pass the straw vote of the Budget Committee.

Selectman Cole stated, “We have to start somewhere planning for the future.  We look at the future through today’s eyes … this is what we are looking at now … We need more firefighters … more heart attacks or fire alarms doesn’t matter, we have to respond.”

Jasper commented Selectman Massey “we would get some of the questions that Beike had asked for.  I don’t see any of that or am I missing something or if you had misspoken when you said the missing pages ... would provide…”  “The other question I have … does not include uniforms … I do not think that is accurate … that I think is not accurate … I understand this is a proposal … I am very disappointed that there is no calculation as to what the actual calculation is … and then to, I don’t want to see a dog and pony show not to see a sales pitch … if Chief Murray has a presentation ... he could put it down on paper ... deliver it to us, we could look it over and ask questions over it.” 

Chairman Dilworth then asked questions of the selectmen’s goal-setting workshop back in April.  In looking on the Internet, Dilworth commented that during the workshop the hiring of firefighters “wasn’t on the list.”  Basically, “this has sorta zoomed in out of nowhere.”

Massey took exception with word “nowhere” as it “came forward in an August and September time frame.  It was at that time we decided to move it to a warrant; the vote was 3/2.”  With that explanation from Massey, Dilworth stated, “I’ll grant you that.”

Cole continued to give the following statement:  “We do have a presentation on Saturday.  It can be made available to the board.  It was not held back for any reason.  We need firefighters  We are certainly going to need additional personnel … I hope your vote will be on your understanding of the facts … please don’t let it (the vote) be the result of some disingenuous statement that there has been a conspiracy to destroy the call fire force at the Robinson Fire Station … I find it (conspiracy statement) an affront to the fire department.

The fire chief’s presentation on Saturday, December 3 involves many years of research and many months of preparation by him and his staff.  Many hours have been dedicated to validating the need for the increase in firefighters.

Murray will begin his presentation with the MRI recommendation from 1996 that “a conservative plan would include staffing the Burns Hill Road Fire Station within the next five to seven years and staffing the Robinson Road Station within the next 10 to 15 years.  Regardless of the station that is staffed, additional personnel will be needed to cover the increase in calls for service … and should be planned now.”

Reports run by the Hudson Fire Department show a steady increase of calls since 1998:  2,626 calls were registered in 1998 and 3,090 calls were registered in 2004.  The details of this 18 percent increase in calls show that the town had a 25 percent increase in fire calls, a 111percent increase in service calls, and a 9 percent increase in “good intent” calls.

The NFPA 1710 (Nations Fire Prevention Agency) has established a set of standards for the “Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the public by career Fire Departments.  In their 2004 report, NFPA stated that “the purpose of this standard is to specify the minimum criteria addressing the effectiveness and efficiency of the public fire suppression operations, emergency medical service and special operations delivery in protecting the citizens of the jurisdiction and the occupational safety and health of fire department employees.” 

According to Murray, “I have to be able to walk into a court of law and prove to the judge that the town of Hudson is compliant with the standards of the NFPA.  If we are not, we could be held liable for any action brought upon the town by any citizen.”

Fish and Game Club Delivers Nearly 800 Thanksgiving Dinners

by Lynne Ober

Snow couldn’t stop the volunteers who cook and deliver Thanksgiving dinners to residents in the greater Hudson area.

As usual, members of Hudson’s Fish and Game Club began cooking on Wednesday, November 23 and retuned at 4:30 a.m. Thanksgiving morning to put the finishing touches on the nearly 800 Thanksgiving meals that would be served.

“I was a little worried when I saw all the snow,” said Tom Gilbert.  “I was afraid that we wouldn’t have enough drivers to deliver the meals, but everyone turned out.  It’s just great.”

Russ Anderson mixes large batches of squash.

Hudson Fish and Game Club President Dave Irving was also chairman of this year’s event.  “This is our biggest year ever and I’m committed to making next year even better,” he grinned.  “I can’t thank the community enough for all of their contributions to this effort.  New England Pie Company donated 100 pies.  The Daily Grind donated turkeys.  I had people call and ask what they could give.  The response was overwhelming and I’m going to write a letter to the Hudson~Litchfield News and thank everybody.  It was a tremendous effort on many people’s part to make this dinner happen.”

The cooks outdid themselves.  Seventy turkeys, gravy, 600 pounds of squash, 400 pounds of potatoes, 300 pounds of yams, rolls and desserts were prepared by the time that dinners were dished up for delivery.

“We are delivering over 600 dinners this year and that’s a record,” said Irving.  “We expect to feed at least 200 people here throughout the day.”

The first step in the delivery process is to package the food.  Josh Metivier grins as he gets mashed potatoes.  Once the hot food is packaged, the dinner is placed in a bag with rolls and dessert and given to a driver with a delivery address.

Joanie Messenheimer from Hudson was one of the people delivering meals.  “It’s my third year and I like doing it.  It gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling,” she smiled.

Hudson Junior Girl Scout Troop 2389 helped pack meals for deliveries.  “It’s our first year,” said Amie Gibson.  “We wanted to help.”  Gibson, who has two girls in the Girl Scout troop, is also five months’ pregnant with twin boys.

With the clubhouse filled with friendly chatter and happy faces, it was easy to feel the spirit of Thanksgiving in the air.

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