1952 picture with current over-lays.
On Wednesday, April 25, the Hudson Planning Board held a public session where the main topic of discussion was the RiverPlace development and, specifically, the design review of the subdivision roadways. The planning session was split into two equal components. The first component of the meeting was a presentation by the team that was representing W/S Development Associates, the developers of the RiverPlace project. The W/S Development presentation team consisted of ten people to handle the presenting of the various components of the roadways project.
“This was our first chance, Mr. Chairman, to explain to both the board and the public the work that has been done on this project,” stated Brad Westgate an attorney with Winer and Bennett in Nashua who represent WS Development Associates, as he kicked off the presentation of the W/S Development.
The W/S Development presentation was split into three parts: overview of the existing parcels of land, the planned roadways, and an effected wetlands presentation.
The existing parcels of land component of the presentation were handled by Jim Patropolus of Hayner/Swanson, Inc., an engineering firm located in Nashua. Mr. Patropolus detailed the seven parcels of property which encompasses about 450 acres of land with the largest parcel of land being the Green Meadows Golf Course.
“My job was to present to you a little bit about the properties tonight,” stated Mr. Patropolus as he concluded his overview of the properties, “that way you can have a better understanding as we go through these planning board presentations.”
The planned roadways component of the presentation was Art Scarneo, a branch manager for Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. which specializes in traffic engineering.
“Our firm has quite a few of our engineers and employees who live in Hudson,” stated Mr. Scarneo. “So we have a very good understanding of the traffic issues that happen near this property.”
Ron Mueller, also an employee of Greenman-Pedersen, presented a detailed plan of the roadways that were being proposed. The plan’s main component was a bypass road that would act as a bypass of traffic that is currently on Lowell Road. This bypass would also add access to the RiverPlace development.
Mr. Scarneo, as he was discussing the bypass road stated that it was “not arbitrarily put in a place to maximize the development of this project. It was put in place to provide for safe and efficient design.”
The last aspect of the presentation was completed by Jeff Cantara, a wetlands biologist with the firm of Gove Environmental Services, Inc. from Exeter. His presentation focused on the environmental impacts that the roadways and the project site would have as it is now proposed. The presentation was filled with many maps and guides that described the proposal and the topography of the land. One map that was of particular interest was an aerial view of the properties from 1952. This map showed the properties in their “original” form, before the Green Meadows Golf Course was even on the property. The statistics of the environmental impact were as follows:
After the presentation by the W/S Development team, the Planning Board members took their turn asking questions and making comments about the plan. Most of the comments about the traffic flow were trying to question the overall impact to the entire town of Hudson.
These feelings were best summed up by Selectmen Maddox, who serves on the Planning Board, “You are building an attractive nuisance … We need to not only look at the minuscule acreage here but also look at the entire wetlands impact on the whole area.”
The W/S Development team delivered their first major public update on the proposed project and once the board completed their questions and comments there was a 10 minute recess. This recess allowed time to prepare for the comments from the citizens in attendance and to gauge the thoughts of the entire town.
Brickyard after the storm.
For the second year in a row, spring floods have overwhelmed a Litchfield culvert and caused the loss of a road. Last year a culvert on Albuquerque Avenue collapsed and took a huge section of the road downstream. This year the Albuquerque Avenue culvert is fixed, but it allowed better water flow and the Brickyard culvert, which was downstream eroded.
Road Agent Gerard Costa met with selectmen to discuss how to proceed. He talked about the scope of work and steps that needed to be done. The first step is to hire an engineering firm, who will complete the engineering, coordinate with New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and propose a solution to the washed out culvert.
DeCosta thinks that this will be very costly so when Selectman George Lambert moved to allow him to proceed as long as the total engineering cost was no more than $7,499, DeCosta said that the work could not be completed for that amount.
DeCosta asked to pick an engineering firm rather than go to bid. After discussion, Selectmen told him that he needed to work within the parameters of town policy and bid the engineering work. DeCosta agreed and will begin working on a bid packet.
Selectmen also discussed when work could start, but DeCosta pointed out that rains needed to stop and the water table needed to go down before the actual repair work could start.
In February of 2005 the Hudson Board of Selectmen created a monster of a problem that is now having a domino effect that is plaguing the current Board, what to do with 300 kids and 100 seniors for nine weeks this summer. When Dave Yates the Recreation Director aided by then Selectman Terry Stewart proposed to switch the Summer Rec Program with the Senior Program for the summer of 2005 it created the current problem.
At the May 1 Selectmen’s workshop this very topic was the evening’s discussion. Although no action was taken, the Board will have to make the tough decision that will probably not make either group happy.
For the past two years, the Hudson Seniors have been dislocated from the Community Center to the VFW Hall on Bockes Road, while the Rec Department takes over the Community Center for the very popular summer program. While the VFW is still in Hudson, many seniors find it too far to travel for the activities and choose not to attend.
Andy Renzullo was the spokesperson for the Hudson Senior Council on the Aging at Tuesday’s meeting. He and several other members of the Council on the Aging attended as advocates for the seniors, who want to stay where they are, and feel they have that right. The Rec Department wants to continue using the Lions Avenue location for the 9-week summer program. The same ugly problem of pitting the youth of the town against the seniors still exists and no easy solutions seems to be available.
Recreation Committee Chairman Mick Regan spoke for the Rec Department in Yates’ absence. “We need to coexist, it’s us against them and it shouldn’t be that way,” commented Regan. “We (the Rec) outgrew the Oakwood Avenue location; we tried to expand it with a Warrant Article a few years back, but it failed. Our job is to make it (the Summer Program) safe and fun, and to expand the programs we offer.”
Selectman Ken Massey who was on the Board two years ago when the original deal was made, is still against the decision that was made. “In 1994 the Town used $80,000 of money from the Trustees that was set aside for a Senior Center to purchase Lions Hall. The Selectmen at that time, clearly indicated that the seniors would use the Hall two days a week. This vested group is now being asked to vacate the building that was purchased with intent to be used as a Senior Center,” said Massey Tuesday night. He not in favor of the motion in 2005 and has not changed his view.
Chairman Shawn Jasper, unhappy with the situation, commented that there was never an agreement on which two days the Seniors had the use of the Hall and that the previous Board created a problem that the current board has to live with. There is no easy solution here and we are at a “Mexican Standoff and with no long term solution, we need to assist the seniors,” said Jasper.
The conversation rallied around where to put the Seniors for the summer. Renzullo was dismayed and said, “The jux of the conversation has revolved around what can the seniors do to change and no comments have been made as to what the Rec can change.” Chairman Jasper commented that it is easier to find suitable space for 100, but if someone had a solution for what to do with over 250 kids, he would entertain the suggestion.
The seniors currently use the Hall on Wednesdays and Thursdays for activities including bingo, line dancing, aerobics, lunch and as a meeting place for their field trips. Lucille Boucher, the President of the Senior Group answered questions about relocating and changing schedules. She had not looked into using the VFW again this year, nor had she inquired if the luncheon caterer could change locations saying that it probably would not be possible as the driver had more than one job on that day. She also said that the aerobics instructor could not change schedules and they all liked the teacher and did not want to change. There can be upwards of 100 seniors at any given activity or as few as 15 playing cards in the afternoon; an average of 60 cars would need parking.
Over 650 children signed up for last year’s summer program with an average of 250 attending at any given time. The children take part in a variety of activities including pool, ping pong, basketball, floor hockey, field trips, cookouts, contests, and Fridays spent at Robinson Pond.
As a compromise, the Rec is willing to forego Fridays at the Community Center to allow the seniors ample room for programs requiring more space. “The Oakwood facility can be set up in whatever way the seniors choose, and the Rec Department is more than willing to set up or break down the Oakwood facility, any day, and in any way that they would like,” stated Rec Committee Vice Chair, Sue LaRoche. On Wednesday a small group of seniors including youth activist Rhona Charbonneau visited the Oakwood facility and was very pleased with the location and size of the building. “Everyone is trying to work together as a team on this; I don’t like the perceptions that is us against them. Anything can be accomplished when you work as team,” said Charbonneau after her tour of Rec building. She thought perhaps with upgrades it could become the permanent home for the Hudson Seniors. “More information will be coming soon,” said Charbonneau.
The Selectmen advised the Rec Committee to meet with the Seniors and try to make compromises that would accommodate all. They will revisit the issue when they can meet with Director Yates and come to an agreement for a solution, providing a long term answer to this now perennial problem.
Many police departments use tasers as a “non-lethal” way of subduing someone. There are critics who state that tasers are indeed lethal, and proponents who think that tasers are another tool in a policeman’s arsenal of tools.
In Litchfield, Chief Joe O’Brion wanted to buy tasers and presented his initial budget last fall with the purchase of tasers plus money to train the officers in the usage. The money was cut. Then it was added, but not really, and now O’Brion wants to know how he’s going to fund the training.
After an initial vote, selectmen removed the money and told O’Brion to put the purchase as well as the needed $5,000 for training in a warrant article. O’Brion decided not to proceed with the program.
“At the October 12 meeting of the Budget Committee, Mr. Raccio (the selectmen’s representative to the Budget Committee) stated that he had spoken at length with the California Highway Patrol on the merits of the tasers and he had suggested that Chief O'Brion do the same. Then we were told that Chief O'Brion had withdrawn his request for the tasers,” said Budget Committee Chairman Brent Lemire.
Between the October 12 meeting and the January 9 meeting of the Budget Committee, selectmen agreed to allow O’Brion to purchase the tasers and train his men.
Unfortunately, after selectmen agreed to put tasers into the 2007 budget, no one re-worked the figures and ensured that the money was added to the budget.
O’Brion met with selectmen and wanted to know where he was going to get the money for the training and said, “The Budget Committee didn’t give me any money for taser training.”
Lemire has a different take. According to Lemire, O’Brion never came back to the Budget Committee with a revised budget that contained both the purchase and the training dollars. In fact, Lemire stated that no one ever mentioned training dollars at all. “We did not discuss, nor were we given any information about training,” Lemire emphatically stated.
Lemire went on to clarify the situation. “At the January 9 meeting of the Budget Committee, it was stated that the selectmen had received their health insurance numbers for the year and they were lower than anticipated. We were also informed that they had finally approved the tasers for the police department. When the Budget Committee looked at the numbers, we found that the decrease in the health insurance numbers could very easily cover the cost of the tasers and suggested to Mr. Raccio that the Board of Selectmen make the appropriate changes in their budget, as our bottom line would be the same and the tasers could be bought. So, in essence, we approved the tasers by voting the bottom line of the police department budget.”
According to what O’Brion said at selectmen’s meeting, the changes were not made. When the Hudson~Litchfield News asked both O’Brion and Board of Selectmen Chairman, Ray Peeples, who was responsible for making the changes to the police department budget, O’Brion declined to respond, but Peeples clarified the situation.
“Department heads are responsible for the backup, follow up, and presenting of their departments budgets, to both the Board of Selectmen and the Budget Committee,” said Selectmen’s Chairman Raymond Peeples. “The selectman’s role is one of a gate keeper; we make sure what we approve to send along with the department head, to present to the Budget Committee, is in keeping with the overall town goals for budget increases or decreases. We have a large number of items in any budget and the Board of Selectmen surely can miss an item or a line, and that’s where the department head has the largest responsibility in keeping up-to-date with their departments items; if they feel its an important project or purchase I would expect a great deal of dialog between all staff involved and the Board of Selectmen.”
As Lemire pointed out, the Budget Committee only expects O’Brion to manage to the bottom line of his budget. If that is the case, one wonders why he can’t use personnel dollars to fund the training. Lieutenant Gaudet recently retired, and both the money from his benefits and his salary are now not being spent. If the position remains empty for a month, there will be enough surplus to move into the training line from the salary and benefit lines.
Although other department heads to speak to selectmen about how they are managing to the bottom line, selectmen have rarely denied a department head who asks to re-allocate departmental dollars, as long as the department head remains within the bottom line of the approved budget.
“I was out of town on business when Joey appeared to ask for an additional $5,000,” said Peeples, “but I would have urged him to manage to his bottom line, look within his other lines to identify funds and report back to the board, as a whole, when he had those funds identified.”
A view of the drained pond looking towards River Road.
For the first time in the approximate 60 year history of the dam located at Ayers Pond, Hudson, the gate which holds the water in the pond, failed. As a result, the homeowners having gone to bed with a beautiful pond in their backyard awoke to a mud filled area, empty of fish, turtles, and wildlife. The pond was gone.
According to Chief Shawn Murray, Hudson Fire Department, the bolt which held the gate in place appeared to malfunction. “We attempted to use an underwater camera to investigate the leakage, however the water was too muddy for us to see the details of the gate.”
While the overall dam is in “good shape” commented Murray, the issues were due to “a malfunctioning or damaged drainage system.” Murray went on to state that “in no time were the residents of Hudson in any danger.”
Homeowners tell the Hudson~Litchfield News that the dam was built many years ago in efforts to operate a grist mill and lumbering mill which was on the property. History of the dam and the property seems sketchy as the Ayers property once belonged to Dunstable, and the records have not been recorded in the Hudson History books at the Hills Memorial Library. According to the Patty Murphy, their beautiful home was built around 1767. A beautiful large silver maple tree, estimated to be over 300 years old, lines the driveway.
“Today, all I see is a beautiful heron standing in the middle of the pond, hopping from puddle to puddle looking for food,” commented Patty Murphy, Ayers Pond homeowner.
The broken water gate responsible for the draining.