Small Hero Saves Brother

by Lynne Ober

Sammie Yost saved her brother from drowning by quickly analyzing the problem and solving it.

Heroes come in all sizes and shapes.  They frequently don’t even realize that what they did was heroic.  That’s the case with 8-year-old Sammie, who attends Pelham Elementary School.

Sammie was by the pool with her mother, Katherine, and her brother, RJ, who has developmental disabilities.  RJ was born with Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome.  RJ was in the pool wearing “a bathing suit that has floaties built into it and a tube that goes around the waist when he slipped on the stairs and ended up upside down.  I don’t know if he slipped or jumped, but his feet were waving in the air and his head was under the water.  The tube and floaties were keeping him in perfect position, but it was the wrong position,” said Katherine.  “I tuned away for just a moment and so I didn’t see what caused him to end up the wrong side up.”

Sammie just went into the water and flipped him over.  “I jumped in with my clothes, shoes, and socks on.  My daughter thought I was a bit nuts because she had already taken care of it.  I was really proud of her for acting to quickly.”

Katherine laughed, “My daughter made fun of me for getting wet.  She doesn’t know what a great thing that she did.  She just saw her brother with his legs flapping in the air and flipped him over so that his head was out of the water.  It was instinctive for her.”

RJ and his father.

Grand Opening of Bike Path

by Lynne Ober

Governor Lynch leads the Windham Trail Alliance on an inaugural ride up and down the path after the ribbon cutting.

Saturday was the grand opening of the Windham section of the Salem – Concord bike path.  Before cutting the ribbon, Governor John Lynch said that he wanted to see the path reach all the way to Concord.

There’s been a big change over the last four years.  First residents worked with their state representatives to get a state law passed that banned four-wheel ATV vehicles from the trail except when it is covered with snow. 

This year 4.1 miles of the trail were paved with asphalt and a wide softer edge of stone dust was laid along the trail.  Joggers or horseback riders prefer the softer edge.

Behind the bike path is the Windham Rail Trail Alliance, a group of dedicated volunteers who formed a non-profit organization and began making this trail a reality.

At the grand opening, the Middle School Band played until it was time for Governor Lynch to say a few words.  Lynch praised the efforts of everyone involved in the trail before cutting the ribbon.

Then he and members of the Windham Rail Trail Alliance took a ride down the path.

“The alliance has been wonderful,” said Selectman Margaret Crisler, who is Selectmen’s Liaison to the alliance.  “Everyone just worked together.  The state reps helped with the ATV problem.  The town has been working with NH DOT and DRED.  It’s wonderful to see the progress that’s been made.”

The group has won a grant in the amount of $1,200 from Windham’s Garden Club.  This grant will be used to plant flowers along the trail.

They have also won a matching $160,000 federal transportation grant.  The town’s match portion is $40,000.  This grant will be used to restore the old Windham Train Depot that now sits along the trail.  There’s enough money in the grant to restore the depot to its former glory.

According to Crisler, the town will move the sand away from the depot before work begins.  “The selectmen have been behind the whole project since it began, and we continue to support them as they try to reach into Salem.”

Dave Topham said, “The next goal is to complete the last seven tenths of a mile that will take the path into Salem.  There are some obstacles as some businesses have encroached onto the state land.”  According to Topham, when that seven tenths of a mile is complete, the trail will end behind Salem’s Home Depot.

“I’d really like to see it go to Rockingham Park Boulevard so that we could set up easy-to-find parking,” he smiled.

Topham recalled some of the issues that the alliance has already met and overcome.  “At one point, according to Wayne Morris, “part of the trail by Mitchell Pond was under quite a bit of water because of the beaver dams.  They wanted this to remain a sanctuary for wildlife so they found a ‘beaver expert’ who helped design a series of pipes that are located far away from the beaver dams.  These pipes drain the water, but still allow the beavers to have two dens and their dam undisturbed.”

Once the trail is complete to Salem, it will be time to start connecting it to Manchester.  Topham said that a detour might have to be made around the expanded Manchester airport because they built the expansion on part of the trail.

While all of this is going on, the Conservation Law Foundation has filed a lawsuit to stop the expansion of I-93 and to resume rail service.  If they are successful, the bike path might disappear although it currently runs through an environmentally sensitive area.  NH DOT wants to run a rail line down the middle of I-93 so that this wonderful bike path can be extended from Salem to Concord at some point in the future.

The Windham Middle School Band entertains the audience before the ceremonies began.

Governor John Lynch says a few words before cutting the ribbon to officially open the bike path.

Building a Road Across Town Property Raises Concerns

by Barbara Jester

A preliminary proposal to build a road across Windham town property has generated considerable debate between town officials and some residents.  That property is located in Windham's historic Village Center District.

A "courtesy public hearing," so labeled by Town Administrator David Sullivan, was held on Monday, September 11, prior to a meeting with planning board members on Wednesday, September 13.  No decisions were made during the September 11 session.

The initial proposal would allow a Class V roadway to be built across town-owned land adjacent to offices located off North Lowell Road.  The road would provide access to a private residential development to be built behind Town Hall and the old fire station.

Sullivan said there are legal concerns over the "connectivity of public and private property through a common driveway.”  He said the town's attorney is looking into this issue.

Carol Penn, of Windham’s Historic District Commission, said that commission members have not yet seen any plans regarding the proposal, nor have they given any approvals.  Penn noted that the only reason commission members would consider the proposal would be to preserve the historic Fellows House and adjacent barn.  Selectman Margaret Crisler said she is "really dedicated to preserving the Fellows House and would like to pursue this option."

The proposal being put forth by the developer would involve improvements to town property in exchange for being granted access across town land.  At an earlier meeting, the majority of selectmen said they felt the proposal would benefit the town.  As a portion of the proposal, the area in front of the Town Hall would be landscaped.

Some residents attending the September 11 meeting said they felt that the proposal was being moved ahead too quickly.  “This is not going full-speed ahead," Selectman Alan Carpenter said.  “Actually, it is just the opposite.  Tonight's conversation is only to see more detailed plans,” he said.  “Nothing is going to happen tonight.”

Crisler said that there are three entities that must concur on the proposal; those being the Board of Selectmen, the Historic District Commission, and the Planning Board.  Sullivan said that each of these entity’s decisions is totally separate of any other board or commission's decision.

Peter Zohdi represented the developer during the meeting.  “I'm only reporting to the selectmen tonight,” Zohdi said.  “I'm not asking for any decision at this point.  I'm just going from board to board to board, so everyone is in tune.”

“The basic equation is:  Do we want to exchange upgrades to the center of the community for allowing access to land behind town property?” Carpenter said.

Crisler said that the developer does have alternative access to his property farther down Route 111.

Attorney Bill Mason, who represented Zohdi during the meeting, said the developers are “looking for a safe way in and a safe way out.  That's what we're asking the town to consider tonight,” he said.

Some residents expressed concerns over current homeowners in the area being negatively impacted by the proposed roadway.  Another said she’s worried about safety concerns regarding the proposed “roundabout” in regard to the location of the Presbyterian Church.

Zohdi assured residents that he will be presenting projections from a traffic study during a future selectmen’s meeting.

What's in the Future for Transfer Station?

by Barbara Jester

The next five years will be extremely critical for the town of Windham’s transfer station/recycling center, especially on the environmental front, at least that is the opinion of Department Head David Poulson.  Poulson met with selectmen during a workshop on Monday, September 18.

“We can take either a proactive or a reactive approach,” Poulson said.  “I hope it's the first of those two options.”

Poulson has been managing Windham's transfer station and recycling center for the past five years.  Prior to moving to New Hampshire, Poulson worked in solid waste management in Ohio.

The years since he came to Windham have “been an interesting journey,” Poulson said.

Currently, Poulson is in the midst of planning the department's budget for 2007.  “I'm in the middle of strategic planning,” he said, adding that he currently projects an approximate 10 percent budget increase over 2006.  If his present projections hold, next year's transfer station budget could total approximately $1.1 million.

Looking back over the past five years, Poulson said the annual budget increase has been around 11 percent for each of those years.  Approximately 48 percent of that annual increase is due to staffing costs (overtime, benefits, salaries etc.), Poulson said.  The majority of the rest of those increases have been due to disposal costs.

Poulson is asking selectmen to determine the priorities that most need to be addressed at the transfer station.  “We have to figure out how to balance the costs, the services and the operation of the facility,” he added.

Projected cost increases for 2007 include vehicle maintenance, aging equipment, and overtime for employees.  On the positive side, however, Poulson said revenue from recycling is up about 26 percent over 2005.

Selectmen's Chairman Galen Stearns said he agrees with Poulson's contention that the facility is currently operating at capacity.  “It's functioning now,” Stearns said, “but it's not going to in the future.”

“We need to take certain steps to put us in better shape as we go into ‘07 and ‘08, than we would be otherwise,” Selectman Alan Carpenter said.

Carpenter's suggestions for holding some problems “at bay” for the time being include totally limiting the facility to residents only, as well as charging fees for the disposal of specific items, such as air conditioners or refrigerators.

As for who is actually using the transfer facility, Poulson said, “My guys are policing more and more.  They are taking an aggressive attitude.  Mass (Massachusetts) tags are a flag, for sure.”  Transfer station attendants have handed out more than 700 resident stickers recently, he said of activity at the facility.

“I'm held hostage to trust,” Poulson said, adding that the bottom line is that he and other employees often have to take someone's word that the trash being disposed of was actually generated in Windham.

Poulson also discussed the feasibility of cutting back on manpower at the transfer station.  “I'm not trying to get rid of anyone,” he said, “but what is the board's viewpoint on cheap labor?”

“If you can get the job done for less, go for it,” Selectman Roger Hohenberger answered.

Poulson said two current employees are approaching retirement age and one possibility would be to replace them with part-time help, thereby saving money on wages and benefits.

Selectman Margaret Crisler said she would want to be sure that anyone who is hired by the town would have a responsible attitude toward the job.

After the two-hour workshop, Poulson was directed to check further into financial possibilities and then return to meet with board members again.

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