More than 100 Firefighters Battle 60-acre Brush Fire

by Lynne Ober

       For two days firefighters fought a 60-acre blaze on the Pelham – Windham town lines.  The call came into the Pelham Fire Department around 3:00 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, April 2, and within a few minutes, Pelham firefighters had responded to the fire, located under the power lines behind Castle Hill and Field roads.

       Pelham Fire Lieutenant Jim Midgley said that crews found a massive brush fire that was spreading quickly in the windy, dry conditions and called for mutual aid.  All in all, 16 fire departments fought through the afternoon and evening to contain the blaze that spread out nearly a mile.


Pelham fire trucks pumping water into the fire Sunday night.

       Hudson Firefighters were one of the first mutual aid companies to arrive and assist in battling this blaze, one of the largest in New Hampshire this season.  “I sent a crew with an officer to assist Pelham and Windham on Monday morning,” said Hudson Chief Shawn Murray. 

       Deputy Gary Rodgers, along with seven firefighters, spent the better part of Monday checking hot spots throughout the brush fire.  Rodgers walked the perimeter, approximately 1.5 miles with GPS mapping system, to calculate the acreage.  “Sunday was a red flag fire danger day,” said Rodgers.  “Monday evening through Wednesday morning rains have lessened the fire danger by soaking the ground.”

       Because there were no access roads in the area, firefighters worked with hand lines.  They pumped water from streams and used portable pumps to draw water from a nearby pond.

       “It was a very dangerous situation, but no injuries occurred,” said Pelham Fire Chief Dave Fisher.


Smoke could be seen fo miles on Sunday.

Altogether 120 firefighters and five fire chiefs worked side by side.  “The fact that they worked as a cohesive unit is a great compliment to the training that every firefighter has,” smiled Fisher, who noted that Pelham had control of the fire and ran the command center.

       At times flames shot as much as 30 feet into the air.  Pelham lost 1,000 feet of hose and used flame retardant foam material on the fire.  Both of these items will need to be replaced.

       Pelham firefighters deemed the fire contained by 6:45 p.m.  “The goal was to contain the perimeter before dark because it would have been too dangerous to be fighting a rapidly spreading fire in the woods after dark,” stated Midgley.

       Most of the crews withdrew by 7:30 p.m., but a fire watch was established because hot spots still existed in the area.  With cooler evening temperatures and the perimeter contained, it was deemed safer to wait until morning to look for hot spots.

       By 7:00 a.m. on Monday, Pelham firefighters were back on the scene looking for those hot spots and ensuring that these were stamped out.  They worked until the middle of the afternoon.

       Altogether approximately 60 acres burned, but no homes had to be evacuated.  “The fire came within 20 feet of one home.  “The firefighters worked very hard to save that home and were successful,” said Fisher.


This scene shows some of the acreage affected by the massive brush fire this weekend.

The Salvation Army worked on the scene helping hydrate and feed weary firefighters.

       In addition to the Pelham and Windham fire departments, Hudson, Litchfield, Hollis, Merrimack, Londonderry, Derry, Atkinson, Hampstead, and Lowell and Dracut, Massachusetts, were included in the departments responding to the scene.

       Midgley praised everyone who worked the fire.  “It was done very professionally under difficult conditions.”


Making History Come Alive

by Lynne Ober


Justin Shepley dances with Hannah McCorkle.

       Students at Windham Middle School have been immersed in the history of World War II.  Their studies, which cross their curriculum, began early in March and culminated with a Swing Dance on March 27.  

In science classes, students completed a flight unit while learning about the importance of aviation during that time period; English and reading classes examined the Holocaust and read the play “The Diary of Anne Frank.”  

Storyteller Judith Black presented her moving interpretation of a Holocaust survivor during English classes on March 10.

       As part of the World War II unit, the eighth grade class invited parents and other relatives to participate in a night of “Swing” on Monday, March 27.  Before they could participate in the dance, they had to learn how to swing and jitterbug.  Students have been meeting at 7:00 a.m. in the school gym to learn the steps to the dances popular during World War II.  Mrs. Shirley taught them how to swing and how to enjoy the music of the period.

       The gym was decorated by the students like a typical World War II U.S.O.  Music was provided by the Windham Community Jazz Band.

       It was definitely a toe-tapping kind of evening.


Pelham Parks and Recreation Sets Forth Seven-year Plan

by Lynne Ober

       Selectmen held a public hearing to review the first draft of Pelham’s seven-year plan for the Parks and Recreation Department.  This plan was done with assistance from Nashua Regional Planning Commission.  The need for this plan emerged from the development of the 2004 Capital Improvement Plan and the drafting of this plan was one of the first tasks assigned to Pelham Parks and Recreation Director Darren McCarthy when he was hired.

       McCarthy and NRPC Regional Planner Danielle Fillis met with Pelham Selectmen to discuss the draft, answer questions, and gather input for changes.

       The plan provided an in-depth look at Pelham, available recreational facilities, recreation program inventory, budget, a needs assessment and concluded with a proposed action plan.

       According to the plan, “The development of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan involved a multiple step process,” that included:

  • The formation of a Master Plan Task Force made up of members of various town boards, departments, and organizations. 
  • Information was gathered to update an Inventory of Current Holdings which was originally completed in 1980. 
  • An Inventory of Current Programs was completed.  The inventory was compared to the guidelines set forth in “Park, Recreation, Open Space and Greenway Guidelines” by the National Recreation and Park Association.
  • Geographic Information Systems technology was used to analyze demographic data and to identify populations not adequately served by current facilities.
  • Population trends were also analyzed to predict future recreational needs for the town’s rapidly growing population as it moves toward build-out status.
  • Public participation process to perform a needs assessment which is explained in detail in the Needs Assessment section of this plan. 
  • A task force organized and planned a public input session which was held on August 29, 2005, and broadcast on the town’s public access television station.  The purpose of the input session was to explain the process to the public and to obtain feedback from the community.  The session gave town residents the opportunity to express their opinions of the current state of the recreational facilities and programs and what they believed to be the needs of the community.
  • Two different surveys were utilized to obtain residents’ feedback.
  • Using the information obtained from public input and other planning processes, the task force was able to identify goals and priorities for the Master Plan.
  • Then implementation strategies were developed.

       Part of the identification process was to identify not only town-owned recreation facilities, but to also look at what was available at schools, local clubs such as Pelham Fish and Game Club and private facilities such as the ICenter.  The report does note limitations of using such facilities.  School facilities are used first to support school activities, and private clubs and facilities may charge fees that make using them cost prohibitive for some people.

       The report also noted that several of the town-owned facilities are in need of repair.  It highlighted the same repair issues at Pelham Veterans’ Memorial Park that McCarthy had brought forth to selectmen, who had, in turn, included the cost of the repairs in the failed Warrant Article 8.

“Table 7:  Town Wide Public Survey Results of Satisfaction with Existing Facilities/ Program”

Facility/Program

Not Satisfied

Satisfied

Very Satisfied

Total Satisfaction

(Satisfied + Very Satisfied)

Don’t Use/ NA

Parks

17%

50%

33%

83%

0%

Youth Programs

0%

33%

44%

77%

22%

Playgrounds

13%

50%

25%

75%

13%

Multi-use fields

13%

63%

0%

63%

25%

Skate/Bike Park

10%

30%

30%

60%

30%

Multi-use Trails

38%

13%

38%

50%

13%

Sports Leagues

17%

40%

10%

50%

50%

Town Beach

11%

33%

11%

44%

44%

Summer Day Camp

0%

30%

10%

40%

60%

Baseball/Softball

Diamonds

10%

40%

0%

40%

50%

Fishing Areas

25%

38%

0%

38%

38%

Adult Programs

44%

22%

0%

22%

33%

Picnic Areas

50%

13%

0%

13%

38%

Ice Skating Pond

67%

11%

0%

11%

22%

Recreation facility

restrooms

60%

10%

0%

10%

30%

Tennis Courts

60%

0%

0%

0%

40%

       The above table, Table 7, used the results of the Town Wide public survey.  “Table 7 is sorted from highest to lowest level of total satisfaction reported in the survey.  The facility/program receiving the highest satisfaction rating is Parks with an 83 percent overall satisfaction rating with half the respondents reporting they were satisfied and a third of respondents reporting they were very satisfied.  Youth Programs ranks second in total satisfaction of the respondents with a 77 percent satisfaction rating.  Of this 77 percent 44 percent reported they were very satisfied and 33 percent of respondents reporting that they were satisfied.  Scoring the lowest in satisfaction ratings are the tennis courts and the recreation facility restrooms with 60 percent reporting they were not satisfied with either facilities,” stated the report. 

       Residents, who still wish to participate in this data gathering, can fill out the survey found on the Parks and Rec web site.

       The report concluded with an action plan based on “goals and objectives for the 2006 - 2015 planning period.  These priorities were derived after considering the needs of the community as well as the observed deficiencies of the recreational resources.”

  • Develop a Community Recreation Center.  “Many of the recreation goals and needs of the community could be met with the development of a Community Recreation Center at Pelham Veteran’s Memorial Park.  Many of the most common complaints are the lack of indoor facilities which limits program offerings.”
  • Sports Teams are running “at capacity with many programs, especially the Youth Basketball program.  There are simply not enough indoor courts for all the different sports teams to use for practices and games.  Recreational teams are limited by time availabilities and the cost to rent the space.”  This could be improved with a Community Recreation Center.
  • Eliminate Substandard Conditions found at several facilities.  “The additional indoor facility space is needed to remove the threat to the health and safety of those involved with the popular Summer Camp.  The current facilities at Pelham Veteran’s Memorial Park will not hold the entire summer program (children and staff) safely.  In the summer of 2003, 20 people involved with the Summer Camp were struck by lightening causing eight to need hospital treatment.  The lodge replacement building is designed to hold between 500 - 600 people and allows room for future growth.  The existing buildings are in substandard conditions with deteriorating foundations, roof damage, and antiquated rest room facilities.”
  • Improve Park Safety, Accessibility, and Hazard Mitigation Strategies.  “For example, to mitigate the effects of a lightening strike, all buildings should be properly grounded in addition to the adequate provision of indoor shelter space.  The Town should consider the installation of lightning detection monitors or provide better training of employees and citizens of potential natural hazards and safety measures.  The current American Disability Act (ADA) standards should be incorporated for renovated and new park facilities.  In addition, to reduce the incidents of vandalism and crime, more attention should be focused on security measures of park facilities in the form of improved lighting, fencing, and increased patrolling.”
  • Development of Neighborhood & Mini-Parks “to better serve the areas of the community which are not adequately served by the current facilities.  The mini park is characterized by having five acres or less of land developed for recreation.  It is designed primarily to attract residents living within a quarter of a mile of the park.  Mini-parks are particularly ideal for areas of large concentrations of senior citizens and for additional multi-purpose fields.  These parks could also be required to be developed as part of new subdivisions, which would decrease the cost to taxpayers.
  • More Adult Programs.  This recommendation was based on the demographics of Pelham.  Activities could include arts and crafts, courses, and bus trips.
  • More Winter Activities would help cut down on off-season vandalism as well as provide better recreational opportunities.  There are “good opportunities for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating, etc.  The addition of indoor winter activities would be contingent on the addition of indoor Community Recreation Center.”
  • Improve and Add Additional Amenities in Existing Parks

       The following existing parks and facilities could be improved by implementing the following:

    • Improvement of playing surfaces at all parks (fields and hard courts)
    • Additional picnic tables
    • Clean-up and prevent future illegal dumping
    • Better utilize the forest properties by:
    • Installing signage to let residents know this is public land and to warn about hunting safety.
    • Improve access by upgrading the dirt road in the northern section and create a small parking area at the logging staging area for Peabody Forest.
    • Improve opportunities for mountain biking and nature

       The Recreation Committee had reviewed and approved the report before it was sent to Selectmen for review.  Selectmen also approved the draft and have requested that the Planning Board next review the report.


Curriculum Fair Showcases the Talents of Middle School Students

by Karen Plumley

       The 9th Annual Curriculum Fair at Windham Middle School took place on Wednesday evening and was a creative and enjoyable way to showcase student projects.  Nearly every classroom was filled with student artwork, projects, and presentations.  In the cafeteria, the Music Department presented performances by the jazz band, the drum line, chorus, trumpets, and even some student rock bands.  Visitors were able to enjoy the music while eating at Café Rosa.  


One of the many groups that played at Café Rosa during the Curriculum Fair at Windham Middle School Wednesday evening.

       The wonderful eatery with a Spanish flair was put together by students and coordinated by Windham Middle School Spanish teacher Carl Boisvert.  “It was definitely a highlight,” noted Assistant Principal Kori Alice Becht.  “Students volunteer to be the wait staff and a menu of items is offered strictly for free.”  Everything from nachos, burritos, quesadillas, Spanish rice, and dessert was on the menu.  For those not sporting an appetite for Mexican food, pizza was also available from Kendall Pond Pizza.

       In the gym, guests could stay for a while and watch an ongoing ping-pong tournament.  Many were also interested in visiting the multipurpose room for detailed information describing the new Windham High School.  Blueprints of the school were also available for review.  On hand were members of the Integration Committee as well as the School Board to answer any questions.


Seventh graders Brandon Loureiro and David Pierson greet guests in medieval style at the Curriculum Fair on Wednesday evening.

       In Andrew Bairstow’s 7th grade Language Arts classroom, students Matt Cannone and Anthony Berni demonstrated their online writing portfolios.  In their collections, the students had compiled several examples of their own writing styles.  At the end of the course, they will add more writings to their portfolios and be able to compare their work to see how they have improved.

       In the social studies area there were countless projects to check out.  Eighth grader Nick Aldwin put together an impressive hands-on cryptography project that really peaked people’s interest.  “I’ve always liked codes even as a little kid,” enthused Nick.  “So I was browsing the Internet when I found this cryptography program.  I got permission to use it, borrowed a laptop, and put my project together.”  Users were instructed to choose a three-letter code, and then a word or sentence.  Once they typed in their code, they could then encrypt their chosen message.  Subsequent users could then decrypt the previous messages if they desired, before encrypting their own.


Eighth grader Nick Aldwin poses with his impressive cryptography project in the social studies department at Windham Middle School.

       A couple of doors down the hall was the medieval display, and greeters Brandon Loureiro and David Pierson looked very striking all dressed up in their medieval garb.  They just completed a course in medieval culture and described the experience as “a whole lot of fun.”

       Other special projects in computers, math, and technology were also offered.  Even presentations on “handhelds” and “handhelds as word processors” were shown at various times throughout the evening.  Overall there was so much to see that it was virtually impossible for visitors to cover everything.  Nevertheless, it was a sure bet that everyone enjoyed what they saw and maybe even learned a little something along the way.


Seventh graders Matt Cannone and Anthony Berni pose after completing their writing portfolio presentations during the Curriculum Fair at Windham Middle School Wednesday evening.


Take a Trip to the Pelham Library

by Diane Chubb

       When was the last time you went to the library?  What do you really know about it?

       If you think the library is just a place where they keep the books, think again.  Your public library has become a gathering place for many group activities and offers more services than you might realize.

       With widespread use of the Internet, the demand on libraries is to keep up with the times and provide more than just a place to house old books.  Librarians are doing more than ever to provide service to patrons.  Pelham Library is no different. 

       Library Director Sue Hoadley, who came to Pelham Library in May 2004, is expected to do more with less funding.  Pelham spends less than $20 per resident for library services.  This is far behind other towns of similar size. 

       The old library building, which is currently home to the Pelham Historical Society, was built in 1896.  It is one-story, 3,170 square feet, with four parking places and no meeting space.  In 1975, the old building was enlarged by digging out the basement for construction of a children's room, technical service room, and storage.  However, it was not ADA compliant.  Changes in floor levels made it impossible to access the space by wheelchair or with a stroller. 

       Over the years, expansion of the library had been considered from time to time.  In 1994, plans for a new Municipal Complex were being formulated.  At that time, Library Director Donna Beales conducted a building study and the Library Trustees met with the project architect to discuss inclusion of the library in the plans.  The 1994 building study predicted that 12,000 square feet would be needed within 10 years (2004) to house the 39,000 items expected to be in the collection. 

       The building program formulated in 2001 determined that the library needed 10,122 square feet in 2001 and would need 14,301 square feet in 20 years.  “Value engineering” reduced the size of the project for budget reasons, and the library’s square footage dropped to 9,976 square feet – or 70 percent of the projected need.  Because the library was deliberately built undersized, it will be necessary to build an addition to the existing structure to meet future need.

       The funds for the new library were bundled into the funding for the new Town Hall and Police Station, a total of $ 6,307,383.  The funding passed at a 2002 town meeting, 1,942 votes for and 1,102 against. 

       Despite the lack of space in the old building, in 1996 there were more than 34,000 items in the library collection.  Today, with twice the space, there are 28,886 items – and there is not a lot of empty shelf space.  (Books that were in poor condition or out of date were recently removed from the collection.)

       The new building, which opened in September 2003, has more than tripled the library space to about 9,976 square feet, fully ADA compliant, and with 35 parking spaces, including two van-accessible handicapped parking spaces.  Plans are in place to automate the front doors of the library to make it even easier to get in and out.

       Despite the intentional reduction in size, Hoadley believes that the new building is a tremendous improvement over the 1896 structure.  “I believe that the abundant parking is a huge factor in our increased attendance and circulation.  People are finally coming to the library because it’s easy to get in and out,” she said. 

       Currently, four full-time staff members are able to serve patrons six days a week.  In 2005, more than 33,000 children and adults entered the library, an average of 112 per day. 

       The current library features a meeting room which can be reserved for private use.  Last year, the library and various community groups used the meeting room over 200 times, double the number from 2004. 

       The biggest demand at the library is for children's services.  For the past three years, circulation of children's materials, such as books, videos, and audiobooks, has consistently made up more than 60 percent of the library's total circulation. 

       Susan Molloy was the previous “Children’s Programming Coordinator,” working 10 hours a week exclusively on children's programs.  However, due to changes in staffing which would have required her to perform more traditional duties in addition to programming, Malloy chose to retire in 2005.  “She did a terrific job and we were sorry to lose her,” said Hoadley, “but it gave us the opportunity to make a clear staffing change from program coordinator to children’s librarian.”  

       Another staff member also left in 2005, Reference and Young Adult Librarian Katie Webster.  She did the programming for Young Adults and Adults.  The new children’s librarian, Barbara Sobol, has taken on the YA programs. 

       With respect to children's services, Hoadley says, “I think we are meeting the current demand.”  On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the library features a story time.  When a reading program is in full swing, the library will have up to five children's programs a week.  Twice a month there is a program for Young Adults (grades 6, 7 and 8).

       Story Time at the library is offered on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings for children ages 2 and 3.  During school vacation week, the library will have special programs for kids, including a film and crafts. 

       Annual attendance at children's programs more than doubled between 2003 and 2004, from 1,465 to 2,972.         These numbers continue to grow. 

       This past January, there were 18 children’s program with an average attendance of 12.9.  In February, the library presented 14 children’s programs with average attendance of 15.3.  “If we had more program money we could occasionally hire a storyteller or have a wildlife demonstration,” explained Hoadley.

       Hoadley is also proud of the job that Assistant Director Audrey LaRose has done with the Adult Programs.  “She has been doing wonderfully, especially considering that she has about a dozen other 'hats' she wears at the library.”  The Knitting Workshop, which began in October 2005, “has taken on a life of its own – and attracted people from Windham and Salem!”  The library sponsored Adult Writing Workshops last spring which were also very popular. 

       The library also offers computers with Internet access, audio books, videos, and DVDs, large print books, daily newspapers and magazines and online databases accessible from library computers as well as remotely from home.  The library purchases Learning Express:  Learn-A-Test, an interactive database of academic and licensing practice tests, at a discount through the Merri-Hill-Rock Library Cooperative.  Through the New Hampshire State Library, the library also offers Biography Resource Center, a comprehensive online biographical reference database; Ancestry Library Edition and HeritageQuest Online, for genealogy research; EBSCOHost, which offers abstracts and full-text articles from more than 4,000 periodicals in all disciplines; and NewsBank, offering full-text news articles from the Concord Monitor and Manchester Union Leader archived from 1989. 

       “These databases serve a variety of needs including reader advisory, student research and homework help, business research, and health information,” said Hoadley.  Patrons need to contact the library for the passwords to access these databases from their home computers.

       Thanks to recent technological innovations, the library's automated catalog (www.pelhamweb.com/library click on ‘catalog’) was launched on the Internet in February 2005.  Patrons can search among the 28,000+ items in the library's collection from home.  And coming soon – online reserves and renewals. 

       The Museum Pass Program at the library offers patrons access to area attractions and museums for discounted admission.  The memberships currently offered by the program include the New England Aquarium, Children's Museum in Boston, and the Museum of Science in Boston, donated by the Pelham Elementary School PTA.  Recently, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston was added to the museum pass program. 

       “We would like to do more, but our staffing and space is limited,” says Hoadley.  “We’re hoping our patrons appreciate quality over quantity of programs.”

2005 Pelham Library Windham – Nesmith Library
Hours per week open 50 63
Registered patrons 5,868 8,029
Total items in collection 28,517 75,129
Circulation 69,924 161,677
Total library visits 33,697 93,110
Program attendance 2,606 4,549
Meeting room use 202 424
Full-time children's librarian No Yes
$ spent per resident less than $20 more than $60
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