Driving in Windham was difficult during the nor’easter.
Heavy winds, pounding rains coupled with soggy soil are turning New Hampshire into a massive flood zone with toppled trees and ruined roads. The rains are still coming as this article is written. First responders are faced with a number of challenges as they struggle to assist residents and respond to emergencies.
Monday the nor’easter turned brooks into rivers while the ground became saturated with water. In Pelham three homes were damaged when trees fell on them.
Fred Brackett was lucky to escape injury when the tree that hit his home burst through the ceiling over his bed. “If my electricity hadn’t gone out, I would still have been in my bed,” Brackett explained. He noted that he has Life Fone and it made a noise when the electricity went out. He got up and went into the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
The tree came down and made two large holes just over his bed. He went to his front door and opened it. One of his neighbors drove by and pointed at the house and then turned around and went back home.
“Before I knew it both the police and fire departments had responded. They stayed with me. I was very shaken up.”
Another neighbor, Steve from D B C General Contracting and Excavation drove by and stopped. “Steve came in and just started taking care of things. He was absolutely wonderful,” said Brackett.
Before long yet another neighbor, Chris, who works for a tree removal company came over. According to Brackett, Chris and his wife had heard the call on their police scanner.
Between Chris and Steve soon the tree was removed from the house, but left behind for the insurance agent to view, a blue tarp had been secured over the two large holes, and Mr. Brackett’s house was at least livable.
“My neighbors are just wonderful, wonderful.”
On the old Castle Hill one-lane bridge water again raged across the road and into yards.
That’s not the only damage that has been suffered in Windham and Pelham. Roads that were passable on Monday became impassible on Tuesday. Getting around Pelham meant long detours around travelers’ normal routes as bridges could no long hold the capacity and overflowed the roads.
In other places both towns were flooded and driving was hazardous at best. Electricity came on and then went off and then came back on. Basements needed pumping and driveways needed boats to access them.
The high school had early dismissal on Monday because of a transformer fire on Marsh Road. The elementary school used its backup generator.
In Windham serious flooding impacted several residential areas with residents making alternative plans and hoping that the rain would stop.
The brook close to Beaver Brook widened because the bridge couldn’t move the water down stream fast enough.
Unlike many years when electing a chairman is easy, this year Windham School Board had a difficult and contentious election. The issues that beset the school board after they agreed to support $7 million more funding for the new high school, carried over into this year’s board election.
Normally the vice chairman of the board moves into the chairman’s position, but this year that was not so.
A motion to nominate former Vice Chairman Barbara Coish for Chairman was made by Beverly Donovan with a second by Barbara Coish, but Beth Valentine quickly nominated Al Letizio with Al seconding his nomination.
When a vote was taken, no one was elected because last year’s chairman, Bruce Anderson abstained and the vote was a 2 – 2 tie.
There is no doubt that the March election season stressed the Windham School Board. When a private e-mail from Bev Donovan to a friend was posted on a Website and was found to contain erroneous information, the board held lengthy discussions on how to deal with the issue. There were questions about why the material was erroneous and questions about why it was posted on a public Website.
School board member Beth Valentine suggested that members should review the New Hampshire School Board Association’s code of conduct for school board members. This code is typically considered a guide to best practices for members.
This code strongly recommends that minority members on the losing side of a vote should adopt the majority position and should only address that position when dealing with the public on the issue at question.
Valentine wanted members to commit to following this guideline and told members that by following such a policy, the public had confidence in the board.
However, Donovan had a strong opinion that an elected official does not give up his or her First Amendment rights of free speech, and had formerly asked the board to ask their legal counsel to give a position on this. Donovan reminded members that legal counsel concurred that First Amendment rights are not given up when a person is elected to a board.
At that time the Board was split into two separate camps and that division seemed to carry over into the board re-organization activity.
Anderson, who had abstained on the first vote, voiced the opinion that minority members would respect the majority decisions of the vote and “move on.”
The board held a discussion on the nominations with both pros and cons being raised. Finally a second vote was taken and Al Letizio was appointed chairman by a 3 – 2 vote. Anderson cast his vote for Letizio on the second vote.
When the vote was taken on Vice Chairman, Anderson again voted with Letizio and Valentine to elect Beth Valentine as Vice Chairman.
During board discussions, the concept of working with a mediator was again raised. Superintendent, Dr. Elaine Cutler, had suggested that the board hire a mediator to help them work through their problems in October, 2006, but no action was taken at that time on hiring a mediator.
Months later, the disharmony is felt even more, and the board seems to have divided into two separate camps. If they cannot find a way to work together in the near future, resolving the many issues surrounding the building of a new high school will be that much more difficult.
Cutler said that she hoped the use of a mediator would accomplish two goals. “To assist the board in determining protocols that are acceptable to all board members, and to assist the board in working through the decision making process in an effective and positive manner.”
Cutler said that several sources were consulted when choosing a mediator. “We got recommendations from a number of experts,” she concluded.
|Vice Chair||Beth Valentine|
|TGIF Advisory Committee (Teacher Grant Incentive Fund)||Barbara Coish|
|Salem School Board||Barbara Coish|
|SERESC Representative||Beth Valentine|
|NHSBA (Board of Directors)||Bev Donovan|
|NHSBA (Representative)||Bruce Anderson|
|CIP Alternate||Beth Valentine|
|Windham Endowment - Liaison||Bev Donovan|
|NH Café||Beth Valentine|
|Windham High School Committees||Arts, Music, Co-curricular||Beth Valentine|
|Strategic Planning Committee||Dr. Bass|
|Revision of School Board Policy||Al Letizio|
|Negotiation Team||Al Letizio|
|Golden Brook||Barbara Coish|
|Windham Center||Barbara Coish|
|Windham Middle||Beth Valentine|
|Board Buddy Coordinator||Barbara Coish|
Friends brought friends to the Windham Fire Department last Saturday. Owners and pets wandered in and out of the station throughout the annual rabies vaccination clinic.
Dr. T. J. Butterfield easily and quickly administered the vaccinations. He has a nice, calm manner that his furry patients responded to.
As soon as the clinic opened, there was a line of people waiting to fill out their paperwork and get their pets vaccinated. The low cost of $10 makes this a very appealing event for families – especially families with multiple pets.
The money will be used to support a variety of community events throughout the year.
Ripley thought that she’d get down and explore the fire station, but Andrew was more interested in how the doctor gave his cat the shot.
For a number of years Pelham has had an active, viable Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT). This was originally the brain child of Pelham Firefighter Rich Hanegan, who learned about this national effort and how such a team could assist first responders during emergencies. After presenting this idea to then Fire Chief Dave Fischer, Hanegan began the program and became CERT Director.
Over the years, CERT has become a community asset. Last year, for example, during the floods, members of CERT went door to door checking on residents, offering blankets and other assistance.
Members have also been deployed to hard hit areas after damaging hurricanes have passed.
In 2002 President Bush added another response group, the Medical Reserve Corps [MRC], which are community-based and are established to contribute their skills and expertise throughout the year as well as during times of community need. They provide a way to locally organize and utilize volunteers who want to donate their time and expertise to prepare for, and respond to emergencies, and promote healthy living throughout the year. MRC volunteers supplement existing emergency and public health resources.
MRC volunteers include medical and public health professionals such as physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, veterinarians, and epidemiologists. Many community members—interpreters, chaplains, office workers, legal advisors, and others—can fill key support positions.
Pelham also has an active MRC which is a complimentary organization to CERT.
In 2004 selectmen established the Pelham Citizens Council to be the reporting authority for both volunteer groups. Then Selectman Jean-Guy Bergeron was the selectmen’s rep to the council.
“CERT has had some internal changes; I believe resulting from the challenges of managing such an organization on a voluntary basis,” said Fire Chief Mike Walker. “There were some miscommunications, difficulty in developing training and objectives, and budgeting difficulties. All these were no fault of anyone. We have a group of dynamic, respected and willing citizens all putting their heart into this organization, and as it grew, so too did the complexity of running it.”
Town Administrator Tom Gaydos asked Selectmen for permission to explore models that would allow this organization to become a town department, staffed by volunteers. He explained that other towns had done this in order to ensure that volunteers and their equipment were covered by town insurance.
Gaydos later reported on a number of models from surrounding towns. In order to take the next steps Gaydos said that a charter for the council had to be drafted, reviewed, and accepted by selectmen.
The purpose of the council is to “exist to organize and manage the Citizens Emergency Response Team, Medical Reserve Corps and any other Citizen Corps function approved by the State of New Hampshire Citizen Corps. These entities shall assist Town public safety professionals in times of natural or man made disasters, search and rescue and other emergencies.
Gaydos told Selectmen that members from both groups work under emergency conditions side by side with fire and police. “Adopting this charter begins the first step of providing appropriate protection for these volunteers.”
The council will consist of nine voting members, who are:
The council will report to Selectmen, and must prepare a written report with findings and recommendations to Selectmen no later than April 1 of each year, in addition to providing periodic reports to selectmen and media.
According to Walker it was decided as part of this reorganization to put Hanegan back into his original role as Director. “He can organize training, working with the groups and report back.”
This model was explored with all concerned parties. “The Council as well as the CERT team Leader decided it was in the best interest to put the organization back to its original form for efficiency,” noted Walker, who elaborated that “Rich is back in charge and has developed a training schedule and is working on objectives, standard operating guidelines, as well as additional funding.”
According to Walker a CERT request for insurance coverage began this recent action. “Everyone realized one day that these volunteers were not part of the town and not insured. Further, the equipment, such as trailers, other equipment, and the team members themselves was not insured despite the State requirement to be insured. We had to do something,” said Walker, who believes that the organization, as developed, has improved cooperation, training opportunities, and the viability of the organization. “We look forward to everyone’s continued participation, as we have one of the finest groups in the State, and in the nation.”
Walker told selectmen that CERT and MRC members were “a great group of people. They are nationally recognized and it is right that they are now insured by the town when they are volunteering for us.”
The charter, granting more fiscal responsibility, setting reporting requirements and allowing the council to be the overall responsible organizations for both CERT and MRC has been accepted by selectmen, who then quickly and unanimously voted to make the council a Town Department.
“The Town and the Fire Department is proud of CERT and its members. We fully support these fine citizens and look forward to strengthening our relationship and adding more members,” concluded Walker.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Ed Gleason echoed the compliments given to the council, CERT and MRC. “They are dedicated to the community and very hard-working.