Home from Iraq

by Lynne Ober

Lisa, Derik and Don LeBel

Army Private First Class Derik LeBel has returned to Pelham for a well deserved two week break from Iraq. “It’s great to be home. I miss my friends and family.”

LeBel graduated from Pelham High School in 2004. In October, 2005 he joined the Army.

His parents, Lisa and Don LeBel, are glad he’s home and wish that the visit could be longer.

“Derik was always an adrenalin junky,” said his mom, Lisa. “He rode BMX bikes, did all the jumps, and was always into action. He was on the wrestling team when he was in high school. It wasn’t a surprise when he volunteered to go to Iraq.” Lisa recalled how Derik used to jump off cliffs. “He was always looking for action and the next thing to do. Today Pastor Matt announced that the streets of Pelham wouldn’t be safe for a couple of weeks because Derik’s back,” Lisa laughed.

Arriving back home Saturday night, Derik was looking forward to shopping. He’s stationed in Hawaii and when his unit deployed to Iraq they only took their gear. Civilian clothes may not be worn by Americans stationed in Iraq. After an 18-hour flight home, Derik has his uniform, a snappy looking vest, and matching pair of pants, a white shirt, and a pink tie. “I’m definitely going shopping this afternoon,” he grinned.

Stationed in northern Iraq Derik says that he doesn’t see much action. He said the best thing about the Army and Iraq was “bonding with his buddies.”

“We were happily surprised to be able to hear from him so often,” said Lisa. “He calls or e-mails once a week. Having that communication is really great. I haven’t been worried about him. My faith helps me cope with the situation.”

“He’s such a character,” said his father, Don. “He always makes me laugh. He gives a lot of himself to others.” According to his dad, Derik, now 21, was recently counseling a 17-year-old. “He told me that his advice was to take your time to make choices because there’s lots of time.”

On Sunday family and friends joined the LeBels at Crossroads Baptist Church for a pizza lunch and welcome home party. Derik enjoyed catching up with his friends.

“He hasn’t been home for the last two Christmases,” said Lisa. “Two years ago he was in Boot Camp, and last Christmas he was in Iraq. We hoped he’d be home for Christmas this year, but it doesn’t look like it.”

Derik trained at Fort Knox before he went to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

Derik’s unit is on a 15-month deployment to Iraq. “Twelve months used to be normal, but then the Army tacked on a three-month extension and pretty much everyone is serving a fifteen month deployment now,” he commented.

Derik is hoping that when he does get back to Pelham next January that he’ll be able to have a month long leave.

“We are just very, very proud of him,” said Don with Lisa nodding agreement. “He set out to do this, made a commitment, and is sticking to that commitment.”

Birds of Feather Flock at Pelham Story Time

by Diane Chubb

Caitlin is hard at work decorating her bird.

How do the birds fly? This was the question posed by Pelham Library’s Children’s Librarian Miss Debbie. The several children present for story time responded by spreading their wings and flying about the room.

Story time is now held in the new and larger programming area on the second floor of the library. The Board of Trustees had voted to remove some shelving to create a larger space for Story Time and many other programs, including some upcoming adult programming.

But on Wednesday, May 2, it was all about the kids. Miss Debbie read P. D. Eastman’s Are You My Mother, where a baby bird encounters all kinds of animals and objects on his journey to find his mother.

The children later decorated paper birds, using feathers to paint their creations. Then they glued bright colored feathers to produce their finished products.

Story time is over for now, but the summer reading program will be beginning soon. Watch for more updates from the Pelham Public Library.

Miss Debbie reads to the children who attend Story Time.

Children created brightly colored and feathered birds.

Depot Committee Switches Gears on Caboose

by Barbara Jester

It will cost more money in the short-term, but over the long-haul, the purchase of a different caboose than the one originally proposed will most likely result in a savings to Windham taxpayers.

Depot advisory committee member Mark Samsel met with selectmen on Monday, April 30 to discuss what he termed “a problem and an opportunity” regarding the town’s purchase of a caboose to grace Windham’s historic depot; an area currently under renovation.

The “problem” to which Samsel referred is that the caboose initially approved for purchase would be more difficult to relocate than originally thought. The “opportunity,” Samsel said, is that a similar caboose, in much better condition, has since become available.

The difference in the costs of acquiring, transporting, and setting up the second caboose is an additional $12,850. That difference narrows significantly, however, when the cost of renovating the first caboose is taken into consideration.

The first caboose, which was offered to Windham through a donation by a resident of Pelham, was known to have significant rust problems, but the problem is considerably worse than anticipated.

Woody’s Towing and Auto Repair, Inc., located on Nashua Road in Pelham, the company which had agreed to move the caboose from Pelham to Windham, now has serious concerns about the conducting the relocation. “The flooring and sub-flooring are in terrible shape,” Samsel said. “We’re not sure what will happen when it’s lifted,” he said. It would cost about $1,800 just to replace the flooring, according to Samsel.

Selectmen had previously 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 had abstained from voting, saying that he didn’t like the decision being made prior to town elections in March.

Voters subsequently approved that portion of the proposal on Election Day, this past March 13, thereby giving the go-ahead to proceed with acquiring the caboose, as well as setting up the depot area for its arrival.

Since that time, depot advisory members became aware of the true reality of the deteriorating condition of the donated caboose. About the same time, however, they were also informed of the possibility of purchasing a circa 1932 Boston and Maine C-16 caboose; one reported to be in “excellent shape.” As was the first caboose, the second one was built in Concord about 75 years ago.

According to Samsel, the second caboose has already been fully restored by a Salem resident who has owned the vehicle for the past 25 years, maintaining it as an office in Lawrence, Massachusetts, during those years. The owner is now offering it for sale at a price tag of $15,000, Samsel said.

There will be no need for renovating the second caboose, however, Samsel said, a fact that would save both labor, time and money.

The flooring in the second caboose is in excellent shape, Samsel said, the original kerosene stove is still in place and in working order, the car has already been fully reupholstered, and there will be no need for asbestos testing; a problem which might have lurked below the surface with the caboose stored in Pelham.

After describing the situation to selectmen, Samsel told them that purchasing the second caboose would cost more than is currently available for the project. “We are about $3,000 short,” Samsel said. “We’re asking for the town to help.”

Currently, $12,000 is still available from the warrant article which voters passed this past March. Although $13,000 was included in that warrant article, $1,000 of the total amount was forwarded to the state for the ongoing project.

Selectman Bruce Breton suggested that $3,000 from the recreation improvement fund be used to supplement the purchase of the second caboose. As of April 30, there was a total of $18,814 in that fund, Breton said.

Referring to the depot area and the recreational rail trail, Breton said he felt it would be a good investment of taxpayer dollars. “That part of town is used by a lot of people everyday,” he said. The second caboose “is definitely an upgrade from Caboose A,” Breton said.

“I’m not going to lie,” Selectman Dennis Senibaldi said. “I had no interest in the other caboose. It’s nothing but a money pit.”

Selectman Margaret Crisler said she’s in total agreement with buying the second caboose as opposed to accepting the donation of “a fixer-upper.”

Following additional discussion, selectmen voted unanimously (4 - 0) to purchase the second caboose at a cost of $15,000; with $12,000 coming from the related warrant article and the additional $3,000 to be taken from the recreational improvement fund. Selectman’s chairman Alan Carpenter did not attend the April 30 board meeting.

At least one issue remains to be settled, however, and that is how to pay for the costs related to moving the purchased caboose to Windham. Samsel said committee members currently have about $1,800 set aside from donations and fundraisers, money that could be used toward moving costs.

The expense involved in moving the first caboose would have been about $4,000, Samsel said, while relocating the second caboose will be about $9,000. “This (second) caboose requires a very precise move,” Samsel said, comparing it to preparing “fine china” for a move. The relocation process would be a two-day effort, according to the owner of Woody’s Towing, involving 12 to15 movers to get the job done. It is anticipated that the actual move will take place on June 9 and 10.

Samsel said the mover is not requiring payment up-front, but is willing to be paid over a period of time. “We wouldn’t have to pay all at once,” he told selectmen. Samsel’s suggestion was to raise the money needed to move the caboose through additional fund-raisers and by seeking more donations. There are also grants for which the town might apply, he said. The goal would be to have all the money needed to pay for the move by the end of this year, according to Samsel. The owner of Woody’s Towing said that plan was agreeable to him.

Selectmen will be checking with town counsel Bernie Campbell, regarding a legal opinion on how best to raise the money to cover the expense of moving the caboose.

The site where the caboose will be located, between Frost and Depot Roads, has already been delineated. Samsel reported that the State Department of Transportation (DOT) has already delivered the rails and ties on which the car will be situated. The required gravel has also been delivered, he said. “We plan to set up 35 feet of rail and ties this coming weekend,” Samsel said, referring to the first weekend in May.

Despite the decision to not accept the donation of the Pelham caboose, Samsel said he wanted to thank Beverly Philbrick for her generosity in making the offer.

The depot advisory committee began meeting about two and a half years ago, in October of 2004, to discuss regional depot restoration and maintenance. Since that time, a lease for the former Boston and Maine Railroad property was negotiated with the State Department of Resource and Economic Development (DRED), and funding from the state through a transportation enhancement grant, was approved last summer.

Project Manager Provides Update on High School

by Barbara Jester

Although London Bridge Road won’t be paved by the date originally planned, progress is pretty much on schedule for the construction of Windham High School, a facility slated for opening in September of 2009.

Owners’ Representative Glenn Davis filled school board members in on the details during their Tuesday, May 1 meeting. Davis represents both the town and the school district in regard to the construction of Windham High School

“We won’t make the June date of completion for the road paving,” Davis reported. “August is much more realistic,” he said. The delay in road paving won’t affect the overall high school construction date, though, he added.

According to Davis, the traffic light design for the intersection of London Bridge Road has been completed and engineers are currently waiting for feedback from the State Department of Transportation (DOT). Davis said he anticipates “a fair share” from area developers to help offset the $550,000 cost of the traffic light design, equipment, and installation.

The demand for potable water and fire suppression systems at the future high school have also recently been calculated, Davis said. Kitchen plans are presently being formulated and it has been determined that plans are to proceed with installing a 40,000 square foot sod physical education field, rather than an artificial turf playing surface. Price comparisons of the two alternatives are being looked into, though, Davis said.

As for the architectural designs being drawn up by Lavalle/Brensinger of Manchester, Davis said they are expected to have been about 50 percent complete by Friday, May 11. “They are being diligently worked on,” he said.

The mechanical, electrical, and plumbing designs are expected to be ready for presentation by the end of June, according to Davis.

High school building committee chairman Rick Horrigan said the final contract with Lavalle/Brensinger is still being negotiated and is expected to go to the school district attorney, Greg Michael, in the not too distant future.

As for the building construction, Horrigan said “the footprint is pretty much finalized,” and currently committee members and designers are working on the aesthetic details regarding what the exterior of the building will look like.

An official ground-breaking for the building is set for Sunday, June 10 from 1 to 2 p.m. The purpose of the occasion is to acknowledge the community’s support in helping to bring the high school to reality. Members of the middle school band and chorus have been invited to perform. New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has been invited to attend the ground-breaking, as well as other state and local officials. Members of the public are also being encouraged to attend the event.

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