Teddy Bear Picnic Thrills Youngsters

by Lynne Ober

Kayla, 5, and her Teddy Bear, Josey.

It’s become an annual event to invite next year’s incoming first grade class and their parents to a Teddy Bear picnic at Windham’s Golden Brook School.  “I’m having fun,” bubbled one tot carrying a teddy bear under her arm.

Parents agreed that it was a wonderful way to introduce children to their school.  Beginning at 6:30 p.m., children and parents registered and got a name tag and moved into the gym.  Pelham High School students, who are in the Teaching Pathway, traveled to Windham, met the children and helped them find a seat on the floor with their parents.

Everyone was introduced to a very, very large bear whose fur had shrunk when it was sent to the dry cleaners.  Using PowerPoint animation, and character actors, a story about My Friend Bear was read.  It turned out that the great big bear really just needed a great big cuddle.

After story hour, four groups were formed.  Throughout the rest of the evening the groups moved between four different activities with their parents in tow.

“Children, you have to make sure mom and dad look as silly as you when you play with the octopus,” was the final instruction to the group moving into the Movement Activity. 

The movement activity was to make the octopus fly though the air with the greatest of ease.  Physical Ed teacher, Ryan Bartlett, with the help of Pelham High School students, quickly taught everyone how to make the octopus fly.  Kids giggled when the octopus flew, and then it required great teamwork to shake the octopus back onto the launching pad.

In the art activity, students created a teddy bear face out of felt pieces and glued them onto a tote bag that they could take home. 

The snack activity provided juice and a chance to decorate your own snack from bits and pieces of yummy things to eat.  Frosting was the glue that was used in this activity to make everything stick together

Last but not least in the music activity, kids got to learn a song and some simple movements that they could do with their song.

By the time the evening was over, children were happy, and sleepy, but well acquainted with the school that they will attend next academic year.

A very large bear needs a cuddle.

Portables Opened at Pelham High School

by Lynne Ober

Fire Chief Walker and School Committe Chair Kyzer cut the ribbon across the sidewalk leading to the modular building.

They’re in and they are already in use.  The six classroom modular building was opened Monday morning with an official ribbon cutting at 8 a.m.

“Fire Inspector John Hodge is the unsung hero of this whole process,” stated Fire Chief Michael Walker, who credited Hodge’s depth of knowledge, and detailed work at identifying all the code violation issues at Pelham High School.  “He cares very much about his job, and very much about all of the citizens in Pelham.  He is really the hero of this process, and I hope people recognize the excellent work that he contributed to this, and other issues in town.”

Vice Chairman Cindy Kyzer said, “On behalf of the Pelham School Board, I am pleased to be here to celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony for the portable classrooms and to welcome you this morning.”  Kyzer warmly thanked everyone involved in the process, from the identification of the severe life safety issues, to the work done by Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler, and Business Administrator Brian Gallagher, to all the staff members who had worked diligently to ensure that the portables were quickly installed and ready for use.

Over the past weekend Pelham High School Principal Dr. Dorothy Mohr led fifteen volunteers through a long 10 hour day.  “We moved everything that needed to be moved into the classrooms, and we got everything ready.  It was just absolutely wonderful to see the dedication and cheerfulness of the people who worked this weekend.”

Adam Steel, Technology Coordinator, ran fiber optic cable into the building and wired each of the classrooms with four networked jacks.  “The functionality is absolutely the same as if people were in a classroom within the building,” he grinned.

“Once again, I would like to say thank you to everyone involved in making today a reality.  This is an important milestone, and while we still have many issues to address, I am pleased with this piece being complete.  We will continue to address the issues before us with diligence.”

After Walker and Kyzer cut the ribbon, Mohr led the procession up the sidewalk and into the “Back 40” as the modulars are affectionately being called.

“We have already closed six classrooms within the building,” said Mohr.

Teachers and students poured into the building, and many excited and happy comments were heard.  “This is absolutely just great,” said Mr. Kosta.  “Windows, a nice facility, and warmth.  What more can you ask for on a cold day?”

Donation of Caboose Accepted

by Barbara Jester

The Town of Windham is on its way to having a genuine railroad caboose to grace its historical depot area; a section of town poised for renovation.

Selectmen accepted the donation of the 1932 Boston and Maine Railroad caboose, following a public hearing on Monday, January 29.  The vote was 4 - 0 in favor of accepting the donation.  Selectman Roger Hohenberger abstained from voting, saying that he didn't like the decision being made prior to town elections in March.

Article 21 of the 2007 Town Warrant pertains to proposed construction and renovations, to the buildings and grounds at the Windham Depot.  This article is a portion of the town's capital improvement program, and asks voters to approve setting aside $13,000 per year, for each of four consecutive years, for a total of $52,000.  The money raised by the town, would supplement a state grant in the amount of $168,000.  The state would be funding 80 percent of the project, while the town would be responsible for the remaining 20 percent.  Voters will express their opinions on the proposal at the deliberative session, on Saturday, February 10, and again on Tuesday, March 13; Election Day.

Mark Samsel, member of both the Windham Rail Trail Committee and the Depot Advisory Committee, spoke to selectmen about the proposed caboose donation, and gave an overview of progress that has been made in the past few years.  According to Samsel, the depot advisory committee, began meeting in October of 2004, to discuss regional depot restoration and maintenance.  Since that time, a lease for the former Boston and Maine Railroad property, has been negotiated with the State Department of Resource and Economic Development (DRED), and funding from the state through a Transportation Enhancement Grant was approved this past summer.

In regard to the caboose, Samsel said the 75-year-old car is one of the very first, all-steel units, ever to have been constructed.  It was built in Concord, in 1932, and after many years of service with the B&M Railroad, is currently being stored on private property in Pelham.  The donation has been offered to Windham by property owner, Beverly Philbook.

Although the aging caboose is rusted, and the paint is faded, Samsel said experts who have viewed the railcar are, “very excited about its condition.”  The caboose has been stored off the ground on timbers, which has lessened the amount of rusting it has suffered since being taken out of service.

The interior of the caboose is in, “relatively good condition,” according to Samsel.  The paint is flaking, and the wood floor needs to be replaced, but, “the good news is that it is restorable,” Samsel said.

Samsel said one of the suggestions being considered for the caboose, would be to use it as an information center.  Once the caboose is restored, it would be placed on wheels, then, put on railroad ties, and the vicinity around the caboose landscaped.  Samsel says the committee has already been offered the donation of a woodstove; one similar to the original one that heated the caboose.

The labor required to renovate the caboose, would be a combination of volunteers, and those who would be paid for their work.  Samsel said Woody's Towing of Pelham, has volunteered its services to move the caboose to the Windham Depot, where it would be set up temporarily, on Jersey barriers.  “We want to minimize the moves,” Samsel said of the 25-ton, 10 1/2 foot wide caboose.

Three locations are being considered to set up the caboose, at least temporarily: the depot parking lot; the area where road sand and salt are currently stored; or the triangle between Depot and Frost Roads, adjacent to the recreational rail trail.  Selectmen who spoke on the issue, seemed to favor the triangle area as their first choice.

As for expenses, Samsel said, it is estimated that the cost of moving the caboose will be between $1,500 and $2,000; interior and exterior restoration will total about $5,500; and landscaping could cost between $2,000 and $3,000 to complete.

No residents in attendance at the hearing expressed any negative comments about the donation of the caboose.  Those who did speak, said they feel the caboose will be a visual benefit to the vicinity, once it has been restored.

Town Administrator David Sullivan said, his only concern was the cost of any potential asbestos removal from the caboose.  Carolyn Weber, a member of the depot advisory committee, said that other grants might be available that would help offset such an expense, if encountered.

It is anticipated that the caboose will be transported to Windham in the near future.  Samsel said the owner of the property where it is currently stored, would like to see it moved as soon as possible.

Other projects expected to be undertaken by the Rail Trail Committee during 2007 include:  an information kiosk; a fundraising effort intended to install granite benches along the trail; a final coat of asphalt along the trail; work being done on the access gates making them easier to use; and continued brush cutting.  Samsel said he hopes to interest Eagle Scout candidates to take on some of these projects.

Demolition Delay Petition Warrant Article

by Lynne Ober

Preserving Windham’s history is the thrust of a petitioned warrant article.  Windham residents would like to amend Windham’s zoning ordinance to adopt a Demolition Delay Ordinance that would delay demolition for 30 days, of any building or structure built prior to 1940.  

The purpose of passing such an ordinance would be to allow time to survey the property for historic significance.  Windham’s Historic District/Heritage Commission would have a 30-day period to review the building to be demolished for historic significance, and if the building cannot be saved, then to take measurements and pictures for posterity.

Carol Pynn is an advocate for preserving Windham’s history.  At the public hearing she reviewed Attorney Bernie Campbell’s concerns, and reported that the Historic District Commission compiles the historic list for Windham properties.  A property owner doesn’t have to meet with the Commission.  Pynn said the document has been in the working since last April.  Pynn requested the board’s approval, and stated she would like to work with Attorney Campbell and Mr. Turner between now and the deliberative session in order to refine the petitioned warrant article.

After a brief board discussion, it was confirmed that the petition cannot be changed from the legal posting.

Pynn then said she’d like to go forward with the board’s approval.

However, Planning Director, Al Turner, urged the board to remember that Attorney Campbell recommends to not recommend the petition at this time.

“The Planning Board is not supporting this because Bernie Campbell found fault with the wording.  Once a petition is signed the wording can't be changed to suit legalities in any manner.  It is a very simple document,” noted Pynn.  We have worked with the planning office since last spring and used the wording suggested only to find it was not suitable.  We have been advised to do a workshop with the planning board (note the difference - planning office versus planning board).  This will be next August.”

Pynn questioned whether it should be a zoning ordinance or a Historic District Ordinance.  “We will meet with the Board of Selectmen on this – hopefully during the spring,” Pynn said.  She also stated she answered all of Attorney Campbell’s concerns.

The Planning Board discussed her question and decided the ordinance is lacking a purpose and that the “Commission” is not identified as the Historic District Commission.  Members of the Planning Board also felt the dates in the document were arbitrary and capricious, but agreed that the ordinance is well intended.

With the public hearing open, Windham resident Jack Gattinella felt that the way the petitioned warrant article was written that it couldn’t be a part of the zoning ordinance.  He pointed out that there’s no paragraph number, and that the Historic District Ordinance section says “see other document.”  “The ordinance has no standing, and the historic resource list is self serving,” he concluded.

Pynn said, “This process has made everyone aware that it’s something we want to do but may have to wait till next year.”  She explained that she is trying to preserve Windham’s history, and that one of the charges by RSA (Revised Statutes Annotated) is to inventory old homes and stone structures.  Creating a historic resource list is not self serving, but is in compliance with state law.

Windham resident Tom Case agreed with Pynn and said that to document the historic buildings is important.  He volunteered to take pictures of the buildings, with the owner’s permission.

Pynn thanked him for his offer, and said that right now one of the Commission members is taking pictures.

The Planning Board again discussed how best to handle this article and finally suggested that Carol Pynn  should come back to the Board in August and also work with Mr. Turner.  There was concern that citizen’s petitions can’t be changed at this time.

That concern led Windham resident, Steve Christensen to speak.  He was concerned that if this petitioned warrant article is rejected for this year there will be no way to convey why to the voters.  He worried that the following year when the voters are asked to accept it again there would be concern and misunderstanding among the voters.  He asked if there was a way to signal the voters that the Board is not against the intent.

Mr. Kolodziej motioned to move Citizen Petition #2 to Town Warrant as not recommended by the Board.  Mr. McLeod seconded and it passed 7 - 0.

“The Heritage Commission will have this on the warrant next year one way or the other,” smiled Pynn.  “It is not meant to infringe on anyone's rights but rather is a tool to hopefully preserve, if not the property itself, possibly architectural elements, and at the very least, to document by photographs.  Why is it important?  Accelerating rates of growth have already undermined many elements of the town's historic character.  Many historic homes and landscapes have been lost to development.  The Historic Chapter of the Master Plan encourages protection of historic assets and the Charter of the Heritage Commission is documentation of these assets.  I would think it would be an honor to be listed on the Historic Resource List,” concluded Pynn.

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