Ice Storm Causes Power Failures
by Doug Robinson
Thousands of New Hampshire residents lost power to their homes as the icy rains covered tree limbs, weighing them down until they fell into the power lines.
Over 80 emergency calls were placed to the Hudson Fire Department between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday, January 16, by residents looking for assistance, as the temperatures dropped and the roadways became treacherous. The Town of Litchfield had an additional 30 calls to the Hudson Fire Department seeking assistance.
Hudson Firefighters responded to numerous transformer fires and tree branch fires as a result of falling limbs on the electrical wires; additionally, they responded to several motor vehicle accidents. One Hudson resident had an electrical fire in their smoke alarm while another Hudson resident received help for a fire within her dryer. The fire department also responded to a roll over accident on Route 111.
The Hudson Fire Department need to dispatch the ambulances to respond to various calls as the town’s supply of rescue vehicles had been exhausted.
While the reported storm was responsible for 36 deaths across the nation, the town of Hudson did not have any serious injuries or deaths as a result of the storm.
During the storm, up to 30 percent of the town of Hudson was without power. The north end water storage tank, located at the top of Marsh Road, lost its pumping power for a short time during the storm.
In efforts to assist the residents of Hudson, town official have decided to open the West Road Landfill, Saturday, January 20, in order to help residents dispose of the debris and brush as a result of the ice storm.
Money Added to Town Budget By Budget Committee
by Lynne Ober
Litchfield Selectmen are asking for a smaller budget than they did in 2006. The Litchfield Budget Committee felt the budget was too small and added money to it.
Usually budget committees cut money, but at Tuesday night’s public hearing, the Litchfield Budget Committee added $200,000 for road maintenance. While it is not illegal for money to be added, budget committees are better known for cutting dollars. A budget committee is charged, under state law, with ensuring that expenditures are a wise use of public funds. They may not set policy, but they may cut or add dollars to the budget.
Litchfield’s town budget was very unusual this year because the default budget amount was greater than the requested operating budget amount. That anomaly occurred because Litchfield Road Agent Gerard DeCosta did not present a road maintenance plan to the selectmen.
In previous years DeCosta had discussed the lack of dollars allocated to road maintenance and cited a road maintenance plan prepared for Litchfield. That plan had never been followed because money had not been allocated to it. This year selectmen asked him to return to them with a plan for road maintenance projects that included the project and estimated costs, but he never did. As a result, his budget was much less than last year.
Tuesday night’s required public budget hearing was poorly attended and no one spoke from the audience. After the budget hearing, the budget committee convened and during that meeting voted to add the $200,000 for road maintenance.
Selectman Al Raccio was the only dissenting vote. Raccio characterized the action as “out of order” and “totally inappropriate.” He stated that it was “totally improper for the committee to put money into this budget.”
Throughout selectmen budget deliberations, Litchfield department heads were asked to present budgetary requests coupled with appropriate backup. When the road agent met with selectmen, two items were questioned because they lacked backup. One was a request for a truck and DeCosta met a second time with selectmen on that item and the other was the plan for road maintenance in 2007. Selectmen wanted a plan that could be submitted to both the Budget Committee and voters at the Deliberative Session, but they never got it. As a result, no money was added to that budget line until the budget committee voted to add the $200,000.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Cecil Williams told the budget committee that only $25,000 had been requested for road maintenance because the road agent had not submitted a maintenance plan. Williams explained that all department heads are responsible for submitting plans, discussing them with Selectmen before the town budget is forwarded to the budget committee for review.
DeCosta did not attend the public hearing.
After the dollars were added into the budget, Williams commented that he would demand a road maintenance plan when he could reach DeCosta by phone.
With the $200,000 amount added to the budget, the town’s operating budget is $4.08 million which is an increase of 6.5 percent over the default budget. Contractual union salary increases, utility costs, and fuel costs account for much of the budgetary increases over the default budget.
Hudson’s Environmental Evangelist:
Presentation of Mary’s Sister Cecile Attends United Nations Climate Change Conference in Nairobi
by Maureen Gillum
At first glance, some mistakenly underestimate Presentation of Mary Academy’s Sister Cecile LeClerc. A soft-spoken woman in her early 60s with a gentle smile, she is typically dressed in a demure nun’s habit adorned simply with her PMA cross. She’s earned two Masters Degrees – one in Physiology from Rivier College; another in Environmental Education from Antioch New England – along with a B.A. in Education from Rivier College. With such credentials, Sister Cecile initially piloted a K - 8 Environmental Science program at Presentation of Mary Academy (www.pmaschool.org) in Hudson. Since 1998, and a previous eight-year stint in the 1980s, she has taught general science to PMA’s grade six - eight with an emphasis on her passion -- the environment.
“Sister Cecile really connects with the kids – especially the junior high boys,” shared PMA Admissions Director, June Nolet, “She brings science to life in her classes with her amazing knowledge and enthusiasm.” She described the Sister as a “good woman” and a “compassionate, quiet soul.” “She always goes the extra mile to help her students,” Nolet laughs, “but she also runs a tight ship.”
Beyond her roles as PMA’s passionate teacher, annual Science Fair director, and chief recycling advocate, it is Sister Cecile’s lively eyes that identify her as a dynamic global environmental evangelist. She lights up when discussing global warming or the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2006 (www.unfcc.int) she attended in Nairobi, Kenya in November, 2006. “Attending the conference as an NGO (non-government organization) and spending two weeks in Nairobi was a profound life-changing experience,” Sister Cecile admitted earnestly.
Astoundingly, Sister Cecile was one of just 15 ‘religious’ chosen from around the world to represent the Catholic Church as an NGO; one of approximately 6,000 attendees representing more than 180 countries and nation states, including United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan and 92 other Heads of State. “I was astonished,” LeClerc shared humbly, “I never dreamed I’d have such an opportunity -- to be nominated from Tokyo, Japan and selected by Rome and then attend such an event.”
A personal highlight, the PMA Sister met Botany Professor Wangari Mathai, the Kenyan Environmentalist who won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for “her contribution to sustainable development, democracy, and peace.” The first African woman to receive the award, Mathai’s primary and simple global message, considered by some as “highly controversial,” was to plant more trees.
As an appointed NGO representative, LeClerc “feels obligated” to share the UNCCC 2006’s primary messages of urgency and hope. “The UN conference emphatically declared we are in worldwide crisis with global warming,” emphasized Sister Cecile, “We all must act immediately to abate further climate change.” As part of “the global community of our planet, we now face our most critical time to shepherd Earth” she warned “We have only about ten years left to curb climate change before it is too late.” The Sister also called climate change “the deep moral and ethical challenge of our time” as “every human being on the planet has the right to clean water, food, and air.”
While attending the UNCCC 2006, the PMA Sister soon understood she “stood out” both as a white American and a visible NGO in her Catholic habit. “Dozens of people from many nations came up to me throughout the two-week conference and perplexedly inquired: ‘how come the richest and most powerful nation in the world, the United States -- the leading consumer of global energies and resources and chief producer of green house emissions and pollutants – isn’t doing more to fight climate change or support the Kyoto treaty that more than 160 other nations ratified?’” While she felt “some shame” as “an American representative,” she was also compelled “to defend many concerned U. S. citizens, organizations, and young students pro-actively addressing global warming.”
Amidst the somber climate statistics, there is also much good news, as detailed in next week’s Hudson~Litchfield News’ follow on two sidebars: Global Climate Change: Urgency and Hope, and Local Climate Change: Community Steps Add Up. “Through greater public awareness and education, there are more options today and many small things each of us can do to help improve the big picture,” shared LeClerc, “I’m most hopeful about America’s youth and universities who most actively support efforts to abate climate change and protect our world.”
Discussing local environmental efforts, Sister Cecile cited strong local school recycling programs, including her own at PMA; Hills Garrison; Griffin Memorial; Nottingham West; and the new program which began at Hudson Memorial this year.
The EPA’s Change a Light, Change the World campaign encourages “energy star light bulbs, which are now more attractive, as a quick and easy way to make a real positive environmental impact and save money.” Visit the U. S. EPA energy star web site (www.energystar.gov), or PSNH (www.psnh.com) for more environmental energy tips.
As part of her trip to Kenya in Eastern Africa, Sister Cecile also visited a local Nairobi orphanage and a few of the endless city slums to see how some Kenyans really lived – both of which touched her deeply. She visited Nairobi’s St. Nicolas Home for Children for a day “to donate the $500 our caring PMA students raised in one bake sale to help buy a second cow to support the orphanage’s sustainable development project.” Tragically, she also learned, “80 percent of all Nairobi children today are orphaned as a result of AIDs.”
Sister Cecile also reported the “sickening” poverty and deplorable squalor of the Nairobi slums. “We wouldn’t permit dogs to live in the conditions I saw in the Nairobi slums,” she detailed emotionally, “there was raw sewerage, no drainage, heaps of trash, amidst hundreds of tiny, crowded, mud-and-hay huts people lived in.” She was also shown barren and isolated deserts in Kenya in late 2006 that were healthy and productive grasslands as recently as 2003 that drove people off the land. “In Kenya and much of Africa, global warming is already an urgent matter of life and death,” Sister Cecile declared.
“One of our key goals is to incorporate some of the key climate change information that Sister Cecile brought back from the UNCCC into our PMA curriculum in 2007,” stated Sister Maria Rosa, PMA’s new Principal who started last fall. It is exciting, scary, and pertinent.
As such, the PMA teacher will be bringing this UNCCC information and a wider global perspective on these crucial environmental issues throughout PMA’s program of studies. “Like the gospel of the Word, these environmental issues belong in every area as they touch every area and every person, animal and resource living on the earth,” shared Sister Cecile. In addition to most directly integrating into the sciences, it will be linked to all subjects. LeClerc will also help spread the word through staff development meetings, local workshops, and at PMA’s upcoming Catholic Schools Week (January 29 - February 2).
While she also pursued her initial Doctorate studies in Physiology in the early 1990s, Sister Cecile thoughtfully opted not to finish. “I wasn’t comfortable with some of the undefined ethical issues related to Physiology, like genetic engineering,” quietly remarked Sister Cecile, “Just because we have the scientific capabilities to do something, doesn’t mean we necessarily should.” Smiling, she added, “Human understanding often lags in the moral and ethical implications for many areas of science.” She’s also authored an Environmental Education book series that she “hasn’t quite had time to finish given my primary obligations to my PMA students.”
A woman of strong convictions, Sister Cecile remains passionately focused on teaching at PMA. She hopes “to influence and inspire each of my 100 students” she sees daily in her specialized Environmental Education pilot program and lab, which she knows, “the kids love!” After all, she knows that education is the first step to any change.