Rain, Rods, Reels, and Rib Eye:  Hudson Fish and Game is a Sure Shot

by Lynette Cornell

Even if you have never picked up a gun in your life, the Hudson Fish and Game Club will welcome you with open arms.  At their annual Family Outing, the club invited the public to a $10-a-ticket barbeque complete with a show of skills in the second annual Ultimate Sportsman’s Challenge (USC) and kids’ activities.

Alyssa Sarantis, 2, gets an ATV ride with her daddy, Marc Sarantis.

People turned out in droves despite the on-again, off-again rain.  The thunder rolled but the lightning never flashed, allowing the dedicated competitors in the USC to continue facing off in categories including archery, fly fishing, and driving golf balls.  Sixteen men participated in the competition, which began at 9 a.m. on Saturday, June 28. 

In the archery competition, the players were given five arrows to shoot for any of the six assorted animal targets, ranging from deer to a turkey.  Players were only allowed to hit each target once and were not allowed any practice or warm-up time prior to the competition.  The ground around the targets proved treacherous for retrieving arrows, resulting in a few slips and a sneaker that was nearly lost in the mud. 

The fly-fishing and standard fishing competition required that players cast off from the pond dam and land their hook into a hula hoop floating a distance away in the water.  For the golf division, players drove a golf ball from one side of the water toward a white flag on the other side.  Shots were judged based on their proximity to the flag.

Sean Corriveau, the youngest competitor at age 16, had just returned from competing at Camp Perry in Ohio.  Even though he has only been shooting for about eight months, he has already progressed quickly in his skills as a marksman.  Away from the competition, some people were fishing just for fun.  Brothers Christian Wells and Corey Sawyer fished from the pond’s bridge.  Although they did not have much luck in catching fish, they looked content enough to cast and reel.

Kids sifted through a hay pile peppered with candy, collecting the sweet treats in bags.  The youngest ones appeared happy enough just to play with the hay and throw it into the air.  Others became full-fledged candy hunters, which was only fitting considering the venue and the event.  The rain left the inflatable bounce house mostly unused, although little tykes were seen making a mad dash for the inflatable water slide. Two-year-old Alyssa Sarantis went whizzing by the tables, riding with her father, Marc Sarantis, on a friend’s all-terrain vehicle.

All that activity resulted in some famished folks.  To satisfy the hungry hunters, the cooks were busy steaming chickens and rib-eye steaks.  Using a huge fire-heated steamer, they steamed the meat until cooked before throwing the meat on the fire pit to grill until crispy.  Summoned to the building to eat, people lined up with their meal tickets in hand.  The sturdy paper plates supplied proved necessary for the huge amounts of succulent meat placed on each one.  The meal ticket also covered potato salad, tossed salad, corn on the cob, a roll, and pudding for dessert.  Hardly anyone had room for dessert, though, since the portions were so big.

After dinner, Marc Sarantis announced the winners and presented the award for the Ultimate Sportsman’s Challenge.  In third place was Gary Howe, and Jay Celani grabbed second place.  Topping them all as best of the best, John Comer won first place and the prize item, a Smith & Wesson .22 caliber target pistol.  Jay Little won the raffle prize, a Smith & Wesson 1911 stainless steel .45 caliber handgun with Crimson trace laser grips.

Christian Wells helps his brother Corey Sawyer with his fishing line. 

Balloon Twisting Lessons

by Nick Martin

Mr. Phil shows the audience the first step to making a dog during a balloon-twisting lesson on the Aaron Cutler Memorial library on Thursday, July 26. 

Nearly 50 children and their parents gathered on the lawn of the Aaron Cutler Memorial Library in Litchfield on Thursday, July 26, for a balloon-twisting lesson presented by Mr. Phil.  Library director Vicki Varick said the lesson was a reward for children who participated in the library’s summer reading program, but was open to anyone.  “The event was funded by donations from the community,” she said. 

“Most people came inside and some checked books out.  Events like this help get the library’s name out,” Varick said.

Phil Spitz, a Sanbornton native, better known as Mr. Phil, is a full-time children’s entertainer.  He has been twisting balloons for more than 30 years and also does magic shows.  Mr. Phil performs across New Hampshire at schools, daycares, restaurants, and parks.  He taught the audience basic balloon twisting techniques.  The first lesson included how to make a balloon dog. 

The audience seemed to enjoy the lesson despite losing many balloons to popping.  Mr. Phil said the long grass of the library lawn was partly to blame.

“Believe it or not, a blade of grass is enough to pop a balloon,” he said. 

Mr. Phil blew up one balloon after another as he struggled to keep up with the demand created by popping balloons.  He estimated that he personally inflated 350 to 400 balloons for the 45-minute show. 

Between breaths when Mr. Phil was blowing up balloons, he told Varick not to worry about the popping balloons.  “I’m having a good time,” he said, “And the kids are having fun.”

At one point in the lesson, a child told Mr. Phil he could not make one of the figures.  After helping the boy, Mr. Phil said, “the words ‘I can’t do it’ are almost never true.”  Mr. Phil’s advice for beginning balloon tiers was to stick with it and have fun.  “It can be really frustrating at first, but it gets easier,” he said.

Building Committee Struggling with Decision

by Nick Martin

The Litchfield Building Committee has had its hands full recently, struggling to decide what to do with an old, overcrowded and partially unusable Griffin Memorial School (GMS).  The committee held an open meeting on Tuesday, July 31, to hear public input. 

“Maybe someone out there has an idea that we’ve missed,” Building Committee member Tracy Caprioglio, said.  “I’d like to get some more community feedback before it goes to the voters, because once it goes to the voters, if it’s voted down it will take us another year for us to get anything else to the voters.”

Currently, the committee is focusing on three options.  The first option is to build a new school for pre-kindergarten through grade five.  Option two is to renovate GMS for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten and build an additional school for grades one - five.  The third option would be to renovate GMS for grades four and five and build an additional school for pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades one through three.  The board has not decided what would happen to GMS in the first option, but suggested the building could be used to house SAU offices.

Community members at the open meeting asked questions about the committee’s options and made suggestions.  One suggestion was an addition to Litchfield Middle School.

“I don’t want to just make a decision, I want to help the town find the right solution,” Building Committee member Tracy Caprioglio said.

The building committee has been working hard, Caprioglio said, to help the town find the most complete solution to the problem.  Caprioglio said there just is not enough room in Griffin.

School Board member Cynthia Couture said the problem with Griffin goes beyond the overcrowding issue.  Last February, a team including architects, school board members, building committee members and school employees went on a tour through Griffin to determine the extent of the school’s problems

“Every time you go through an old building you find new surprises,” she said.  “And they’re never good surprises.  We discovered the electrical system was so bad that we had some serious safety concerns that we had to immediately bring some people in to mitigate.  The system is so old that we’re going to keep finding these problems as time goes on,” Couture said.

In addition to the electrical problems, Couture said, the team found fire-safety issues, water problems, and ventilation problems.

The fifth grade has been housed in Litchfield Middle School (LMS), a building designed for grades six - eight, for the last 10 years.  Portable classrooms have been needed at LMS since 2004 to handle the overflow.  The cost of leasing the portable classrooms has now exceeded the amount that an addition to LMS would have cost, Caprioglio said.  The town voted not to build the addition in 2004.  The decision was close, losing by only two votes after a recount.

“The longer we wait to solve the problem the more money we waste,” Caprioglio said.

Currently, Griffin Memorial School houses grades one - four.  However, the building committee believes a renovated Griffin would only be able to hold two grades.  Therefore, a second school would need to be built to house the remaining grades.  The cost of renovating GMS to bring the building up to code is about $10.6 million, according to estimates from Harriman Associates.  The cost of building an additional school, that would be needed to house the remaining grades if Griffin was renovated, has not been estimated yet.  The cost of building a larger school to hold all grades was estimated at $27.8 million.

In all plans, the part of the building originally built in the 1930s will no longer be used because the cost of renovating that section of the building is so high it would be impractical, Caprioglio said.

The Building Committee has ruled out adding an addition to GMS.

“We were looking to build up because we don’t have a lot of usable space around Griffin to build out,” Caprioglio said.  “We were also trying not to put something on ground level because we didn’t want to add on to an area with water problems.  But because of the structure of the school and the bracing that would need to be done, we’re just not sure it’s doable with the high water table.”

The extent of the water problem was seen last summer when the school replaced an old septic tank.  “When they dug the hole,” Couture said, “they had 600 gallons a minute pouring in and just couldn’t keep the sides of the hole from collapsing as the water was rushing in.”

“There are areas that show signs of heaving, (inside GMS) where the water table rises and lowers,” Couture said. 

It is not clear whether an addition to GMS would even be possible with the high water table.  The ceiling on GMS is not strong enough to handle a second floor, so the only option for an addition would be to build an independent second floor that would be perched on supports three feet above the existing building, Caprioglio said.  So, building an addition would not be cost effective or practical, she said.

Another example of the water problem was discovered when a carpet in GMS was replaced.  When the carpet was pulled up, it was found that the glue to hold the carpet down had not dried since it was installed one year prior, Caprioglio said.

“In the summer, everything in that school is bleached to ward off mold,” she said.

Every room in GMS has a dehumidifier in it that needs to be emptied twice a day, Caprioglio said.  A renovation of GMS would aim to solve the water problem by installing a central dehumidification system. 

The state will reimburse the town 30 percent of the total cost to build a new school or to renovate GMS.  However, if a renovation of GMS does not solve the water problem, the state would not reimburse the town for the cost of renovating. 

“That is the risk that we take if the recommendation of this committee to the school board is to renovate GMS,” Caprioglio said.  “We gamble losing the 30 percent that the state would give us.”

Hudson to Appeal Nashua Planning Board’s Decision on Nashua Landing

by Tom Tollefson

The Board of Selectmen have recommended Marty Kennedy to review the traffic studies of Nashua Landing and appeal the Nashua Planning Board’s decision to decline naming the project a regional impact to Hudson.

Chairman Shawn Jasper considers the Nashua planning board’s decision baffling and unfortunate.

“This is not neighborly.  Communities need to work together,” said Jasper about the decision.

Kennedy will have 30 days from July 11 to file an appeal for this decision.

“It’s imperative we do something quickly to protect our legal rights,” Selectman Rick Maddox said.  Maddox served on Hudson’s Planning Board for a number of years before becoming a selectman.  He is still the Selectmen’s Liaison to the planning board and is well acquainted with needed processes and time schedules. 

According to Maddox, it’s important for the board to declare Nashua Landing a regional impact of Hudson because “those surrounding towns would have a voice in the impact of traffic.”

“This is a big deal to Hudson,” Selectman Doug Robinson said.  According to Robinson, over 25,000 cars go over the Sagamore Bridge each day.

Attorney Stephen Buckley represented the town of Hudson at the Nashua Planning Board’s meeting on Wednesday, July 11.  Buckley argued that there was a good chance that Nashua Landing would bring increased traffic to Hudson roads stretching over the Sagamore Bridge, and that impacts from storms would run off into the Merrimack River.

Because Buckley will have 30 days from July 11 to appeal this decision, this gives Kennedy a deadline of August 9 to review the traffic studies.

Traffic Engineer Bob Vanasse disagreed with Hudson’s position and reported that the traffic impact to Hudson would be minimal, at only a one to two percent increase. 

One of the options to make traffic impact easier on the town would be constructing additional intersections.  W/S was working on developing 30 intersections in town to ease the traffic for the Green Meadow project before its cancellation.

According to Selectman Maddox, the project will also bring traffic from Windham and other communities along Routes 111 and 93. 

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