ATV and Snowmobile Use at Town Beach
by Barbara Jester
Selectmen have begun discussing the use of all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) in the area of Windham's town-owned beach. The issue was raised by Police Chief Gerald Lewis as the result of complaints received by nearby residents, especially at night.
Residents who use Cobbett’s Pond have also been complaining about the unsafe conditions that result when snowmobiles and ATVs, whiz past skaters and walkers who also want to use the pond. Complaints about the speed traveled by the vehicles, as well as the age of some of the drivers, have been posted on message boards and in letters to the editors of local newspapers.
Selectman Margaret Crisler said she has also been receiving noise complaints concerning ATV’s, and recent snowmobile usage.
An existing ordinance already prohibits such vehicles from traveling on the beach itself. The problem, Lewis said, is that drivers need to cross the beach in order to get out onto the ice. It is not illegal to take ATVs or snowmobiles out on the ice, Lewis said, but it is illegal to cross the beach, or the public parking lot adjacent to the beach, to get out on the ice at Cobbett's Pond; there rests the dilemma.
Selectmen said they need to get more information on the situation before making any decisions. Further discussion on the issue is scheduled to be held on Monday, February 26 during the selectmen's meeting.
Police Chief Lewis also said that is perfectly legal to walk across the beach during the winter, in order to access Cobbett's Pond for ice fishing or ice skating.
During the summer residents must show proof to use the beach, but that is not true during the winter. This past Sunday a large snowmobile trailer with Massachusetts plates was unloading snowmobiles. Once unloaded, the riders moved to the beach to wait for their friends.
Beach erosion, as well as danger on the ice, are issues that need to be addressed.
‘Snowball’ Dinner Dance Raises Awareness and Money for Darfur
by Karen Plumley
Two local teenagers were looking for something to do to accomplish their high school community service requirements, but settling for some commonplace chore just didn’t appeal to them. So, they decided on a project that could make a real difference in the world. Alanna Ferguson, 16, of Windham and Jane Aranofski, 17, of Salem, formed a committee with five other teens from Salem High School and organized a “Snowball” Dinner Dance, which was held at Searles School and Chapel in Windham, on Saturday, February 17. Their benevolent purpose was to raise awareness and funds for the victims of atrocities in the Darfur region of western Sudan, in Africa.
According to Kathy Ferguson, Alanna’s mother, her daughter was flipping through an issue of Good Housekeeping, when an article about a charitable organization caught her eye. The story was about the works of a group called Darfur Peace and Development Organization. Jane and Alanna quickly researched the group, contacted the appropriate board members, and began their notable mission. They started planning in December, and the seven young students including Jane and Alanna, along with Mia Berni, Alex Miller, Gina Daniels, Lisa Dalicandro, and Alyssa Wheeler, put together a stunning and successful evening, filled with delicious food, wonderful music, and attractive raffles.
A very special raffle was received at the last minute - it was an autographed copy of Adam Sandler’s movie Click. “We knew that Sandler was from New Hampshire and thought if we could contact him that he would donate something. We received the DVD on Saturday morning - it was postmarked from Beverly Hills,” enthused Alanna.
After a full course dinner that was put together by the students and their families, with many generous donations from Market Basket, Shaws, Bread Box, and others, a short film about the region of Darfur was shown with an appropriate song choice: The Saint’s Are Coming by U2 and Green Day. The film demonstrated the horrors that Darfur is currently facing, such as mass starvation and slaughter, rape, and chaos. After the three and a half minute presentation, the floor was opened up to dancing. Alyssa Wheeler provided the musical entertainment that she arranged with the help of her father’s DJ equipment and input from friends.
Charging $30 per ticket for adults and $20 each for teenagers, the dance, which was a semi-formal affair, attracted approximately 75 guests; and the preliminary figures show that this innovative and talented group of teenagers was able to raise at least $2,600 for the battered area. “For kids of this age to be able to put together something like this, I was so proud of them. They were organized and professional, and really showed how they can work as a team,” stated Kathy Ferguson.
Town of Windham Sued Over Error
by Lynne Ober
Planning Board member Walter Kolodziej and Windham resident Louis Hersch have filed a suit against Joan Tuck, Clerk, Town of Windham, and the Town of Windham, because of an error made during candidate filing time. Hersch, who disagreed with several planning decisions made by Ruth Ellen Post, and Kolodziej, cited preferential treatment of Post, by Town Clerk, Tuck.
Judge John Lewis ruled against Post, who admitted she hadn’t read the form that she signed when she filed her candidacy.
Many of the documents filed with the court carried the name of Eric Nickerson, a Windham developer who has tangled with the Planning Board in the past.
Ruth Ellen Post lives on Stonehedge Road and has been an elected member of the Planning Board of the Town of Windham since March, 2005, but her term expires in March of 2007. On the first day of the filing period, she went to Town Hall to sign up to run for re-election.
According to her affidavit, “I went to Windham Town Hall the morning of January 24, 2007, the first day of the filing period, to declare my candidacy. The Clerk’s office was busy with multiple customers and frequent telephone calls; I waited in line at the front counter for several minutes before speaking to anyone. When my turn came at the counter, I asked to speak to Joan Tuck, the Town Clerk, and was told she was not in the office that day. The person I did speak to was a young woman I know only as ‘Nicky,’ evidently [Deputy Town Clerk] Ms. Nicole Merrill. I did not speak with any other member of the Clerk’s office. I identified myself by name and stated very clearly that I was there to file as a candidate for the Planning Board. I then observed ‘Nicky’ appearing to check the voter registration records, as I would have expected her to do. ‘Nicky’ then came back to the front counter and handed me a form to fill out and sign, which I did, as instructed.”
By this time, Post was late for work and in a rush. Her affidavit goes on to state, “Being late for work, and having had perfectly successful paperwork matters handled by the Clerk’s office on countless occasions in the past, I will admit I did not closely examine nature of the form I was handed, attempting only to complete it fully and accurately.”
This is where the problem began. For some unknown reason Post was handed the wrong form. Her affidavit continues, “As I was completing the form handed to me, I mentioned to ‘Nicky’ that I was hoping to be re-elected to the board, and she responded ‘Good for you.’ When I completed the form and returned it to ‘Nicky,’ I asked if any other candidates had filed at that point, and was told they only had two names so far and those were for Board of Selectman. In short, essentially the entire conversation was about filing as a candidate.”
When asked about the incident, Post complimented the staff at Town Hall and said that they had always done exemplary work. “Joan Tuck is very conscientious as is all the staff. I should have looked more carefully at the form, but I was rushed, and I had always had such excellent service, that I didn’t.”
Her affidavit stated, “To avoid possible error, and based on countless favorable experiences with the Clerk’s office in the past, I trusted the judgment of that office to indicate what form should be used to file as a candidate for town office.”
At this point Post believed that she was registered to run for re-election. It was not until past the filing deadline on Friday, February 2 that she discovered that she wasn’t registered. She then called Town Clerk Joan Tuck at home, and Tuck agreed to contact the Secretary of State’s office to see if the issue could be resolved.
Tuck testified in court that she, in turn, contacted the Secretary of State’s office and described the issue. Tuck was told to back date the filing form.
When Post returned to Town Hall on Monday, February 5, she completed the correct form and dated it January 24, which was consistent with the timing of her first visit. This action took place after Tuck consulted with the Secretary of State’s office.
When Hersch took the stand, he testified that he had been watching the candidates listing and that he felt comfortable with Kolodziej and Planning Board Alternate Rick Okerman as candidates. Not seeing Post’s name on the ballot, he decided not to run, but testified that he would have run against her because he disagreed with her decisions.
Attorney John Ratigan, representing Hersch and Kolodziej, said that the suit was filed because Kolodziej believed “the law was the law” and that Hersch wanted an even footing for a write-in campaign against Post.
At this time, Post plans to run a write-in campaign for her seat.
Three Options for High School Going to Voters
by Barbara Jester
Those voters attending the annual School District Deliberative Session on Friday, February 9, at Golden Brook School, overwhelming decided to send all three proposed warrant articles pertaining to the future Windham High School, to the ballot for Election Day 2007, which will be held on Tuesday, March 13.
Warrant articles 2, 3, and 4 are the proposals referring to the future construction of the new Windham High School. Articles 2 and 3 require the issuance of a bond and, as such, require a three-fifths vote for approval. Article 4 asks that $4 million in interest accrued on the high school construction bond, be used for additional projects at the new school. Article 4 requires a simple majority vote for passage.
The three warrant articles referring to the high school construction, also pertain to three related options that were developed by Lavalle/Brensinger of Manchester, the architectural firm designing the new high school. Option A, which involves warrant article 4, to use the $3 million accrued bond interest, must be passed by voters on March 13 in order for Options B and C to be do-able. Option A, (article 4), does not require the raising of any additional tax money. Option A would be used toward a high school designed to sustain up to 800 students.
Option B, (Warrant Article 2), which asks voters to raise an additional $4 million, proposes that additional construction be approved to increase the size of the high school to sustain up to 1,000 students. In addition, the extra $4 million would be used to build additional classroom space, two more athletic fields, and a district-wide kitchen, which would service all Windham schools. Warrant articles 2 and 4 would need to pass in order for this proposal to work financially. If Option B is adopted by voters, it would mean an approximate $60 per year increase in taxes on a home assessed at $400,000 (15 cents per $1,000 valuation)
Option C, (Warrant Article 3), which asks voters for another $3 million, proposes that a lecture hall and small multi-purpose gymnasium also be built, as well as the installation of outdoor lighting and outdoor bleachers. Also included in this proposal, is the construction of a greenhouse for the science program, as well as the conversion of one of the athletic fields to an artificial turf, playing field. In order for Option C to take effect, warrant articles 2, 3 and 4 must all pass on March 13. Option C would impact taxes by about $104 per year on property assessed at $400,000 (26 cents per $1,000 valuation).
One amendment was proposed to articles 2 and 3, but failed to garner sufficient support. Selectman Roger Hohenberger proposed that, rather than giving definite details of what projects would be added to the high school construction, the wording be changed to “other amenities.” Hohenberger said he felt that this would give the construction team more leeway as the project progresses. “I don't want to tie the hands of the school board,” he said.
Resident Ralph Valentine said he wants to see more amenities built up front, including a football stadium and more athletic fields on the other side of London Bridge Road. “It doesn't make sense to build less,” Valentine said. To delay construction would cost more money in the long-run, he said. Construction costs are being estimated to increase about seven percent per year. Valentine said that Bedford is building a bigger high school than Windham for less money. “Bedford went out to bid the same day as Windham,” Valentine said.
Windham's bid process was done last summer, prior to Lavallee/Brensinger being hired as the new architectural firm. Previously, Team Design was contracted with Windham. That contract was severed this past December after the bids failed to come in within the allocated budget of $42 million.
Resident Carolyn Weber asked what the increase in taxes will be to pay for teachers and maintenance once Windham High School opens, if all the proposed warrant articles pertaining to the school pass. School district business administrator Brian Gallagher said “an estimate would be speculative.” Currently, Gallagher said, the cost of sending high schoolers to Salem is about $6 million per year. That amount would be absorbed into paying for expenses at Windham High School once it opens to students, he said. As an estimate, based on Windham's 2006 valuation of $2.1 billion, there would be a $1 rise in taxes for every $2.1 million spent.
School board member Al Letizio said Windham's operating expenses are likely to be higher than Salem's. “We've been getting good value for our money” by sending students to Salem High School, he said.
Resident Tom Case also asked about the tax impact on residents. Gallagher said the second year of the bond issue would have the highest impact, since that is when the amount of interest to be paid will be at its highest. According to Gallagher, the principal payment on any bonds issued to Windham would be fixed for the 20-year duration of the bond, but the interest paid would be lower each year as the principal amount decreases.
The State of New Hampshire will be paying 30 percent of the principal cost of constructing Windham High School, but does not pay any of the interest. The state makes those payments on an annual basis. The entire 30 percent is not provided up front.
Anne Dodd, project manager for Harvey Construction, said minor changes might be made in the project as construction progresses, in order to stay within the allotted budget. There is a guaranteed maximum price that will be spent for each option, Dodd said, and three bids will be solicited on each project.
Lance Whitehead, project manager for Lavallee/Brensinger, said, “Whether you go with Option A, B, or C, you will be getting a very functional, very attractive high school.”