Pelham Police to Host Annual Open Houses
by Lynne Ober
It was the first Police Department Open House and Police Chief Evan Haglund says that he hopes to do it every year about this same time.
McGruff the Crime Dog came and thrilled the kids. There were demos on how to use a taser. “We shot at practice sheets and they spark when the taser hits them. The kids loved it,” smiled Haglund.
People could sign up for Internet safety information or sign the parental notification forms.
The motorcycle and police cruisers with the Car 54 Project equipment installed were available for viewing.
Officer Zahn kept a watchful eye over the happenings and made sure that no criminal cats showed up to steal hot dogs from the kids.
“We really had a good time and it was great for us to be able to interact with the community,” Haglund concluded. “We are already looking forward to next year.”
Pelham High School Addition
– Is It the Best Solution?
by Diane Chubb
Pelham voters have been dealing with the question of what to do about increasing enrollment and lack of space at Pelham High School for a few years. Most agree PHS is overcrowded.
PHS capacity, based on current minimum state guidelines, is 563 students. Opening day enrollment in 2005 - 2006 was 653 students, 93 students over capacity. Projected capacity of PHS at Pelham’s full-build out is estimated at 1,200 students.
Kevin Steele and Darren Martin believe the Pelham School Board has been slow to act to meet the needs of students. Moreover, they don’t believe Pelham voters will approve the cost to construct a new high school. Last year, voters rejected the School Board's request for $75,000 for an architectural study for a potential addition at PHS.
Therefore, by petition, they put forth what is now School District Warrant Article 19, which requests a bond for $16 million for “construction, planning and engineering, furnishing and equipping of not less than a 50,000-square-foot classroom addition on the current site for Pelham High School (grades 9 - 12), renovations and site work, as determined necessary by the School Board, applications for permits to ensure state reimbursement.”
The plan calls for $7 million for PHS renovations to address life safety and ADA issues mentioned in Team Design’s facilities report of September 2002. The plan also allocates $9 million for an addition on the site, new fields, more tennis courts, and more parking, a larger cafe, weight room, art area and music area.
Petitioners admit there have been no architectural studies to back up their plan.
Steele has not personally toured the high school nor did he meet with Dr. Mohr, PHS Principal, to discuss existing space and curriculum issues at PHS. Instead, petitioners relied on the report from the TEACH Committee which sets forth a recommended curriculum for PHS.
Using estimates from various sources, including one from the state of New Hampshire, they arrived at the sum of $16 million, which they believe covers expenses of all architectural planning and engineering, all construction of the addition, full renovation of PHS, all permits, and furniture and equipment necessary to complete the project.
Petitioners state the final addition may not resemble the one in their drawings. Final decisions as to how the plan will actually be accomplished are left to the School Board to figure out with the advice of an architect.
On its surface, the plan appears to meet the current needs of PHS and for half of the cost of a new high school on a new site. So what is the problem?
According to opponents, plenty is wrong.
The majority of the board believes it is not possible to build the addition on the existing site. Even if it were possible, they believe that $16 million would not cover the costs necessary for the addition and renovation of PHS as detailed in the warrant article.
According to three-year-old Team Design estimates, renovation costs alone are more than $19 million. Further, to build an addition on the current site, the curriculum would need to be reduced. An addition could only accommodate 900 students, according to Team Design.
School Board Chair Mike Conrad said, “A group of citizens with no experience building schools or designing curriculums are telling the school board they can build an addition for 1,100 students and meet the state minimum standards for $16 million. If the School Board asked the voters for $16 million without the backing of engineers or designers, this town would hang every one of us.”
One of the main issues with Article 19 is it includes both a set dollar amount and a set square footage. So, if the article passes, and the amount of money is insufficient, the board cannot build anything less than 50,000 square feet.
After initial plan presentation by petitioners in January, the board immediately began investigating the plan’s viability. Conrad contacted several architectural and construction companies specializing in building schools, asked them to review the plans detailed on the petitioners' website and give an initial opinion regarding the feasibility of building a 50,000 square foot addition for $16 million.
Most of the companies responded that such an addition would cost more than budgeted. A contractor with experience building public schools in New Hampshire sent a memo stating “A design build cost for the new work is estimated at $166/square foot. It is our experience that in today's market this figure should be $186/square foot.”
Two companies did say it could be done, but only if there were no other environmental issues, such as poor soil, wetlands or other problems required permitting, and if construction were to begin this summer.
Critics state the plan does not take into account possible asbestos removal, ventilation issues, updating sprinkler and fire alarm systems, mechanical, electrical and code issues, a new separate septic system to accommodate the addition, moving costs, legal costs, etc. The plan calls for general classrooms, but specialized lab and science classrooms are far more expensive.
Other questions by opponents on Pelham’s Message Board include where the construction staging area is going? What type of classrooms are going to be in the addition and how does it relate to our current and potential curriculum? Where is the wetland mitigation going to be? Who is paying for the required study? Can we put playing fields on a non-wetlands site but within a 25-year flood plain?
The septic system issue raises significant questions. The original septic system was installed in 1974 in front of PHS. Due to the high water table, it is an elevated system, sitting on the ground, not in the ground.
According to New Hampshire Department of Educational Services' records, the original system failed in the spring of 1996 and new plans for a replacement system were submitted on July 30, 1996. The new plans were approved on an emergency basis, with waivers, on August 2, less than 30 days before the first day of a new school year. Waivers were granted for a system to serve a maximum of 800 building occupants.
According to William Hayes, who contacted the original designer of the 1996 septic system, it’s very unlikely the state would grant further waivers. On February 22, he posted to the PMB, “The designer told me that in the summer of 1996, there was a concern that the area originally allocated for the leach field was too small to accommodate the future population of the building. However, they could not find an acceptable alternative location. All of the sewage is pumped from the school under the concrete floors to the front of the building and then pumped from under the parking lot up to the leach field site. Relocating the system would have required tearing up interior concrete floors and running sewer mains to the sides or to the rear of the building.”
Alternative locations were studied for sewer mains, but every location posed its own problems, either to the well supplying water to the school or the wells of nearby private residences.
“Even if there had been time and money, there really was no good alternative location to the mini site in front of the school. Waivers were granted to meet the emergency and a new undersized system was located at the same location as the old failed system. This undersized system, which required waivers, would never have been approved, if the building hadn’t already been in place and if school wasn’t scheduled to open in less than 30 days,” Hayes wrote.
“Most importantly,” Hayes adds, “the system was designed and built for a maximum building population of 800 people.” He estimates the current population, including all staff, is 766. “As soon as the building population is increased by 35 persons, which may occur within a year, we will be in violation of the septic system permit maximum of 800.”
Kevin Steele responded to Hayes' post. “While I respect your work you should recheck your figures. The current building after the addition would have considerably less than 800 students and staff, that’s why we're building the addition. The building would have about 500 students, and adding about 120 staff would bring the total to less than 650.” However, Steele did not address the issue of where to place the additional septic system that will be required for the addition.
Is the site big enough?
New Hampshire state law requires at least 15 acres of land, plus one acre of land for each 100 students. Therefore, at least 27 acres of usable land must be available for a high school of 1,200 students.
Petitioners claim there’s sufficient usable land at the existing site. Additional land required for fields would come from surrounding properties along Willow Street. A footbridge would be built to access more remote fields. Steele also believes there is no wetlands issue, and therefore, no need to worry about permitting or abatement.
However, the original Team Design report, which petitioners relied upon in creating their feasibility plan, does not deal with the actual site. It only addresses the possible renovation of the existing facilities at PHS.
Bill Scanzani, Chair of the CIP, has stated that voting “yes” on Article 19 goes against all of the studies previously done, studies the voters had already asked to have done. He believes no one is properly using facts already collected. “Don't be surprised if they [architects] come back and say it can't be done,” he warned.
Wetlands are a big concern for opponents. Reports, including the petitioners' own plan, show at least one small wetlands area needing to be abated.
In 2005, Jim Gove, from Environmental Services, made a presentation to the Board regarding the present PHS site. He stated that regulatory agencies will require proof there is no other alternative except to impact jurisdictional wetlands in order to add to PHS. However, if an alternative site for the high school exists that does not impact any wetlands, then filling in the wetlands is not permitted.
Gove stated one option to mitigate wetlands impact would be to create new wetlands. For every acre impacted you must build 1.5 acres. In 2005, it cost $70,000 to build an acre of wetlands.
Current residents along Willow Street have concerns about the addition. On February 8, one resident posted to the PMB, “If we build in the parcel of land just off of Willow Street, what is going to happen to the water tables. At the 'boat landing,' there is over five inches of water. During the spring there are days that the water is at the edge or even over the two bridges. What happens when we add parking and tennis courts? Without any engineering studies to support the $16 million that is too much of a leap of faith that it can be done!”
Hayes also commented on properties being considered by the petitioners' plan. “My father bought the 30 acres on Willow Street in 1940 to grow cranberries. Cranberries, like rice, are grown under water. I find it incredible that the petitioners are actually asking the taxpayers to spend money to build school facilities on this property,” he stated. “The petitioners are asking you to ignore Willow Street property owners, past and present, Team Design, a licensed professional soils scientist, NRPC, a representatives of the New Hampshire Wetland’s Board, and a hydrologist from the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers.”
Even if there’s no wetlands impact, Dr. Mohr and PHS students are concerned about Eastern Equine Encephalitis or EEE. According the Center for Disease Control, the EEE virus is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. The transmission cycle is most common to coastal areas and freshwater swamps.
Last year, with the outbreak of EEE in several New Hampshire communities, student athletes in Pelham were required to wear protective clothing and apply mosquito repellent. There was even discussion about moving times of sporting events to minimize students' exposure during evening hours, when mosquitoes are most likely to bite. Mohr is disturbed by the idea that new proposed fields would be surrounded by wetlands, the prime breeding ground for mosquitoes carrying EEE.
Can the addition be done or not? And at what cost? Voters are encouraged to educate themselves. The petitioners' plan is available at www.phsaddition.com. The School Board has information, including copies of construction company letters at http://www.pelhamweb.com/2006warrant/.
PTV is re-running broadcasts of board meetings discussing a possible addition to PHS. One is with Jim Gove discussing wetlands issues, and the other is with Dan Bisson from Team Design.
New High School and New Pedestrian Lights Top the Selectmen’s Meeting
Cooperation and teamwork are they keys to successfully completing large tasks. Windham’s town officials kept this in mind, when the Windham School Board attended the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on February 27 to further discuss the development of the new high school, which is scheduled to open in 2008. However, the stages are still early for the construction of the high school, and very little was finalized.
Dr. Bruce Anderson opened the discussion by stating the progress of the School Board’s efforts in the construction of the new high school. According to Dr. Anderson, the School Board had already met with the road agent and police chief, and needed direction and approval from the Board of Selectmen.
“We’re doing everything we can,” Dr. Anderson said about the School Board’s overseeing of the construction of the new high school.
“This is the first time in 18 years I’ve ever seen the selectmen get this involved in designing a road,” said Town Administrator David Sullivan.
According to Business Administrator Brian Gallagher, the costs for the Windham High School are the following, as of January 9:
Closed Drainage $250,000
5' Sidewalks with Granite Curb$130,000
Underground Utilities $250,000
Roadway under Drain $130,000
Pave Roadway extension $10,000
"The Windham High School is the largest and most important building initiative for the town of Windham in a century,” said Gallagher. “With this in mind the School Board, SAU office and professional contractors are working closely with many town officials including the police chief, fire chief, Board of Selectmen, zoning code officer, Planning Department, road agent, etc. to ensure the highest quality road layout within budgetary limitations without sacrificing the safety needs of students. The town response has been excellent in helping. Chairman Hohenberger has reached out and is providing an open forum for discussion which is very much appreciated. We look forward to a successful positive resolution on all issues to continue the progress on moving this initiative forward in the near term."
Selectman Alan Carpenter believes that more steps need to be taken in the construction of the road to the high school before the board can be of any help. “Bring us a layout of the road,” Carpenter said.
In addition to the road layout, which remains to be finalized, they discussed sidewalks, which size still remains to be decided.
Police Chief Gerald Lewis pointed out that sidewalks are needed for the safety of children walking back from school events.
Margaret Crisler disagreed, “How many kids are going to walk that far down the road from the school?”
Another issue brought before the board also had to do with roads. The selectmen approved the addition of three pedestrian-activated warning devices to be added to the intersection between Searles Road and Route 111.
William Cass, Assistant Director from the Department of Transportation and Traffic Engineer Bill Lambert gave the presentation about the new pedestrian aiding traffic lights.
These new lights will warn oncoming traffic when pedestrians are coming across the intersection.
“It’s meant to be a signal to drivers not pedestrians,” William Cass, Assistant Director from the Department of Transportation, said about the precautions drivers need to take.
These new solar-powered devices with a yellow flashing light will have streetlights to make it visible at night.
The addition of these warning lights will make it easier for pedestrians coming from or going to Searles School and St. Matthew Church to cross the congested intersection.
“It appears to have plenty of sight line,” said Police Chief Gerald Lewis, referring to the visibility the lights have to all angles of traffic.
A crosswalk will also be added to this intersection as well. The crosswalk lines will extend 12 feet across two car lanes, and each painted white stripe will be six inches in width.
According to Cass and Lambert, these pedestrian red lights will be updated with red flashing lights if necessary.
Fly Fish New Hampshire Show Evokes Dreams of Warm Fishing Weather Days Ahead
by Lynne Ober
Once again it was time to dream of spring, warm sun and pleasant mornings spent fishing. The fourth annual Fly Fish New Hampshire show was held last weekend at Pelham Fish and Game Club. This is New Hampshire’s only fly fishing show.
The show, presented by Pelham Fish and Game Club and Merrimack River Valley Chapter Trout Unlimited (www.merrimackty.org), was filled with demonstrations, seminars, and lots of exhibits.
New fishermen had an opportunity to learn the basics with Gerry Crow in his Fly Fish 101 seminar. Crow, a longtime fly fisherman, shared his love of the sport and taught everything that anyone needed to know to get started.
Steve Murphy talked about his love of fishing the Androscoggin River Valley, and Ken Hastings shared his knowledge of fishing the Connecticut River.
Captain Reilly McCur talked about fly fishing for strippers.
There were casting demonstrations and participants could learn how to cast.
On Saturday there was a rod building class.
Wandering through the exhibitions visitors could feel the desire to be outside – preferably fishing. A number of guide services were discussing their programs with interested patrons, groups of watchers were intrigued by the intricacies of making fishing flys or for those who were so inclined, they could browse at any number of displays to find feathers (yes, Virginia fly fishing lures are often made out of feathers), eyes, eggs, tying materials and hooks and make their own.
New Hampshire Wildlife Federation had a display as did Mountain Road Fly Shop, who had canoes and kayaks on display as well as other fishing gear. New Hampshire Guides Association (http://www.nhguidesassociation.com/) had a booth with information about their programs and guides.
When onlookers’ feet get tired or if they just wanted to sit and chat with a fellow fisherman, they could grab a cup of coffee and a muffin and sit and dream about warm fishing weather that is just over the horizon.