Big Trucks Put on a Show in Pelham

by Diane Chubb

Cole, 2 1/2, enjoys a ride on the golf cart from Neal’s Collision Center.

Big Trucks.  The concept of seeing a number of large vehicles up close and personal sells millions of tickets to shows every year.  This past Monday, Pelham had its own Big Truck show right at the Pelham Library. 

Children’s Librarian Debbie Laffond put together the display of large trucks, including a bulldozer and fire truck, as part of the Summer Reading program. 

“The concept of ‘Big Truck Night’ came about due to my own personal knowledge and experience with what can be exciting to young children,” said Miss Debbie.  She has seen such programs be successful at other libraries.  “They are free, easy to set up, and are always well attended.”

Participating in the event were the following:

  • Len Lathrop from Area News Group with a red, 1952 Dodge truck.
  • Eric Fanning from Neal’s Collision Center with a front-end loader and a golf cart.
  • Firefighter Troy Babb with a tanker truck from the Pelham Fire Department.
  • David Flanders from After Hours Construction Company, Weare, sent his dump truck.
  • Officer Michael Marshall from the Community Services Department of the Pelham Police Department with a Harley Davidson motorcycle and an SUV.

Miss Debbie says that big trucks, heavy equipment, trains, and, really, all vehicles big and small, have a universal appeal to children.  “How exciting is it to have an opportunity to see these things up close, be able to ask questions, maybe even touch, or sit in one of these vehicles!  It was a dream come true for many children.” 

Excitement and anticipation for this event started in June when the calendar for the Summer Reading Program was first released.  Throughout the day on Monday, Miss Debbie fielded many calls that asked if the event was still going to be held in spite of the mid-day torrential rainfall.

“I can’t imagine not having it!  So let’s hope that Mother Nature co-operates with us!” was her response. 

And she did, indeed!  The trucks began arriving around noon and the children and their families came in a steady stream beginning at 6 p.m.  At least 50 children got to sit in the trucks, honk the horns, test out the speakers, and try on the fireman’s hat. 

Miss Debbie sends her gratitude to all who participated. 

“I would like to extend a sincere thank you to all of the people who donated their time and ‘trucks’ for this event.  I know that many of the people who were here came on their own time after putting in a long day, and I really appreciate their faith in my idea and their willingness to make it come true.”

One of Area News Group’s newest employees?  Jasper, 9, sounds the horn on the 1952 Dodge truck.

The Wild West Makes Its Way to Pelham in Regional Shootout

by Lynette Cornell

Female world champion Holy Terror is a sure shooter with her shotgun.

Bullets were flying fast this weekend at “The Great Nor’easter” during the annual Single Action Shooting Society’s (SASS) regional competition.  Folks with names like B. P. Gunns, Three Barrel Chris, and Montana Anna came from near and far to compete to be named the best shooter in the Northeast.  The Pelham Fish and Game Club hosted the event with help from the Merrimack Marauders.

The competition officially commenced on Wednesday the 24th, although some people came early for classes with the Evil Ray Shooting School conducted by Evil Ray’s granddaughter and world champion shooter Holy Terror.  Anyone wishing to enter the contest had to be a SASS member and pay a registration fee.  They were also required to attend a safety meeting before shooting. 

None of the members go by their given names; they have all adopted an alias consistent with cowboy culture.  To match their names, they also dress in clothing reminiscent of days when the West was still wild and horses were the primary choice of transportation.  The costumes ranged from simple outfits such as jeans, a collared button-down shirt, and cowboy boots to more elaborate outfits with lace-up corsets, intricately decorated belts and holsters, kerchiefs, and full skirts.  Just about everyone wore a Western hat to keep the sun out of their eyes, which was especially necessary for anyone shooting.

Along with many side competitions, the event allowed plenty of socializing.  Cowboys and cowgirls gathered for an evening barbeque on Friday evening followed by a campfire.  The main match began on Saturday with five stages.  At night was an evening extravaganza including food, entertainment, a costume contest, and presentation of side match awards.  Along with recreation vehicles in the dirt lot, booths vending cowboy goods dotted the area.  They sold hunting related items such as animal pelts, specialty earplugs, cowboy hats, and Old West clothing.

The competition culminated on Sunday with “The Showdown” that paired off the 16 fastest shooters in a speed shooting competition.  Facing off two at a time, each player had to hit 26 targets ranging in size and shape.  First one finished went on to the next round.  The first one to finish was deemed the winner. 

Holy Terror went against Appaloosa Amy in the finals for the women’s division.  Although Amy gave her stiff competition, Terror was too quick to be beat.  Dressed in her trademark purple, Holy Terror was a blur racing from position to position. 

In the men’s division, Splinter Jack beat Barley Pop Bill by a measure of seconds.  In a best of the best competition, Splinter Jack and Holy Terror took to the range to see who really was the fastest shooter.  Splinter Jack gave it his all, but he was no match for World and National Champion Holy Terror and her speed shooting skills.

Following the match, Holy Terror took time to autograph hats and shot gun shells.  Splinter Jack shook Holy Terror’s hand and said jokingly, “Hey, now I know what it feels like to go against a world champion, even if it’s a girl.”  Holy Terror ribbed him right back.

Holy Terror, who has been shooting since age 11, is only 20 years old and has already caught the attention of the SASS world.  She got her first taste of the sport when her grandparents, the infamous Evil Roy and Wicked Felina, took her out to practice shooting.  From there, Holy Terror put in countless hours of practice to hone her skills.  Although she dominates the sport now, she has not always been this good.

“The very first match I went to, I came in dead last,” Terror said.  “It’s been a lot of practice and hard work.”

That hard work has certainly paid off as she now works at her grandfather’s shooting school giving lessons to other shooters who admire her style and skill.  She also works shooting for Glock, a firearms manufacturer.  When not working or teaching, Terror is out at the range or participating in a match.  She usually competes in anywhere from five to 15 matches every year.  She will not be able to make all the matches this fall since she will be studying business at the University of Northern Colorado.  This year, she flew all the way from her hometown of Durango, Colorado, to teach shooting classes on Tuesday and Wednesday and to participate in the match.

When asked if she has considered making a career of single action shooting, Terror said, “It’s more of a pleasure sport and less of a business sport.”  Even though shooting can be expensive with the cost of equipment, Terror suggests everyone give it a chance.  “Everybody should come out and join us,” Terror said with a big smile.

Holy Terror makes a mad dash for the first shooting post. 

Residents Say Blasting is Causing Damage to Homes

by Barbara O'Brien

Numerous Windham residents living in the area of Ledge Road are worried that blasting being done in preparation for an industrial park could be causing serious damage to their homes and property.  They have recently become very vocal about those concerns.

A number of these residents met with selectmen on Monday, July 30 to voice their opinions and express their fears that the problem will only get worse as the project progresses.

After listening to their complaints, Selectman Bruce Breton proposed that the blasting be halted for a period of 14 days, allowing time for town officials and representatives of the developer to discuss the issue.  "We need to take a step back and go from there," Breton said.

After hearing Breton's proposal, legal representative for the developer, Attorney Bruce Marshall of Bedford, said the company would voluntarily stop the blasting for the next two weeks, in order to allow the discussions to proceed.

According to selectmen's chairman Alan Carpenter, a year ago the Windham Planning Board approved a light industrial park at the westerly intersection of Ledge Road and Route 111.  “At the time of the approval, planning board members were told that significant blasting was required to develop the site,” Carpenter said.

Windham Planning Director Al Turner said the developer, Meadowcroft, was given two years in which to complete the road to the site, although additional time could be requested for just cause.  It was expected that approximately 700,000 cubic yards of stone would be removed from the site.  Turner said he was unsure how much stone had been blasted and removed thus far.

"The only way to develop the site is to blast," Turner said, adding that, to date, the blasting has not exceeded the requirements spelled out in the town's blasting ordinance.  Precision Drilling and Blasting of Massachusetts is the company doing the work at the site.  Blasting began approximately nine months ago.

Meetinghouse Road resident Steven Allen spoke to selectmen, saying he was representing some of the neighbors who live adjacent to the blasting area on Ledge Road.  "There's been an incredible impact on our homes," Allen said.  Listed among the concerns of residents who say they have been affected by the blasting are changes in water quality, damages to foundations, windows, and structures, and safety issues.  Allen said he feels that Turner has been aware of the problems and has chosen "not to do anything."

Turner said the only complaints he had received from residents were concerning noise levels and changes in water quality.

Allen said he and many of his neighbors feel the developers just doesn't care about the people who live in the area, despite having said they wanted to be "a good neighbor" when they went through the planning board process.  When he contacted Meadowcroft about the alleged damages, Allen said he was told to find a lawyer and sue the company.

Allen said he also called Governor John Lynch, as well as every other government bureau in the state of New Hampshire, and was told repeatedly that their "hands are tied" and there's nothing they can do.

Allen said Meadowcroft and Precision Drilling and Blasting have done nothing to make the area safe.  "They're just blowing large holes that little kids can fall into," he said, claiming the site is no more than a gravel pit or a quarry.

"It's a big business that wants the little people to go away," a resident of Blossom Road said.

"That's a big chunk they're taking out up there," said another resident of Meetinghouse Road.  “The noise is unbelievable from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.,” he stated.  Turner said the blasting company is also processing the rock on site and posted a sign that reads "Granite for Sale.”

Last November, one resident said the water in his house went from perfectly clear to "swamp water.”  “Family members couldn't drink it; it was full of bacteria and literally stunk up the house,” he said, requiring them to install an expensive filtration system.  A short time later he said it happened again.  "In two days, every fixture in the house was bright orange," he said.  "The water was unusable for anything at all," he added.  When he contacted the developer, he, too, was told to sue for damages," he said.

This same resident also said he contacted his insurance company about the damages and has been denied coverage.  Turner said town counsel Bernie Campbell advised him that the town shouldn't become involved in any insurance issues.

A resident of Haverhill Road said he's recently had his water quality retested and learned that the arsenic level has spiked and is now way above the accepted level.  He stated that manganese, nitrates, and iron have also climbed sharply, and there is now silt in the water which wasn't there previously.  "The blasting is hastening the process of deterioration," (to his home) he told selectmen.

According to Attorney Marshall, seismographs used to monitor activity are showing that the blasting is about half what the town ordinance allows.

A resident of Blossom Road asked Turner what would need to happen to have a cease and desist order issued.  Turner said the blaster would need to violate the town's blasting ordinance to be shut down.

Another resident of Haverhill Road said,  "I thought a truck had hit the house when the blasting started.”  He said he now has a sink hole in his backyard and leaking pipes in his house.  He also stated that the arsenic level in his drinking water has risen causing him some physical ailments.

Another neighbor on Haverhill Road said his garage floor is sinking and his driveway has become depressed.  He also claimed that the sprinkler system for his garden has been ruined and several doors in his house are suddenly out of alignment.  Rocks blasted from the site also litter his driveway, he said.

Several residents suggested that the blasting company should be doing "smaller blasts" to mitigate the damages being done to the surrounding area.  "Can we force them to cut back on the intensity of the blasts?”  Selectman Roger Hohenberger asked.  "Yes," answered Turner, "but it would probably take longer to complete the job."

"It would be nice to determine why this is happening before everyone has swamp water to drink," said Selectman Dennis Senibaldi.

"We need to find out how we can make this better," Selectman Roger Hohenberger said.  According to Marshall, the developer is interested in working with the town to resolve any issues.  "We don't want unhappy abutters," he said.

Chairman Carpenter said the Board of Selectmen is limited in what they can and cannot do to remedy the situation, adding that the problem is a civil issue.  Carpenter said the questions which need to be answered in regard to what town officials can do include whether processing on site can be limited, whether the hours of operation can be further restricted, and whether the size of the blasts can be reduced.

Attorney Marshall, who said he is also a civil engineer with years of experience working with the state Department of Transportation (DOT), in addition to currently representing the site developer, said he would be glad to have a geologist speak with board members regarding relevant issues.  He also said the developer would be willing to have an independent company monitor residents' wells, at the developer's expense.

Selectman Margaret Crisler said she feels town officials need to monitor this situation very carefully.  "We'll be getting more and more of this as time goes on," she said, referring to future development in Windham.  Crisler questioned whether any of the reported damages could be due to the recent blasting at the site of the new high school off London Bridge Road.  Some of the residents who voiced complaints live near the high school site, she said.  Turner said most of the blasting for the high school site is already finished.

Selectmen will be discussing the blasting on Ledge Road further during their board meeting on Monday, August 13.  In the meantime, town counsel will be asked to provide information detailing the parameters of what town officials are or are not permitted to do in such a case.

Community Focus:  Police and Fire Departments

by Lynette Cornell

Situated about halfway between Hudson and Salem, the towns of Pelham and Windham may seem like little, relaxed New Hampshire nooks.  However, it is the dedication and hard work of their police and fire department staff that has kept these two areas safe.

In most small New Hampshire towns, a few people wear many hats in serving the community.  Pelham Fire Chief Michael Walker is one of those people.  When not at the fire station, he can be found serving with the State Medical Control Board, Southeastern New Hampshire Hazardous Materials Mutual Aid District, and the New Hampshire Fire Chiefs Association.  He directs public health and is the Town Emergency Manager and Fire Warden.  He is responsible for two volunteer organizations, the Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT) and the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC).  He also chairs the Pelham Citizens Corps Council.  To top off his list of involvement, he is responsible for the delivery of emergency medical services in the community and emergency operations planning.

With all those responsibilities, citizens might mistakenly think Walker is too busy to talk to them.  Chief Walker still makes time to connect with the citizens on a personal level.  In his role as Fire Chief, he looks out for the safety of his firefighters as well as the safety of the community.

“As Fire Chief, I feel my most important job is to keep my personnel safe.  This weighs on my mind a lot,” Walker explains.  “My next most important goal is to keep the public safe.”

Walker has been a firefighter for 34 years, beginning with his service in the military where he supervised and trained Navy shipboard firefighters.  He worked as an Emergency Services Coordinator for the Lake Zurich, Illinois, Fire Department before becoming the Fire Chief in Fort Madison, Iowa.  Counting both his time in Iowa and in Pelham, he has been chief for five years total.

As the fire chief in Pelham, he is accountable for managing the department’s $1.6 million budget, 25 firefighters, and one fire inspector.  Walker is also proud of Darcy, Meagan, and Diane from Life Share of Hampstead, who volunteer every Tuesday to perform essential clerical work.  The department responds to an average of 26 calls per week, which can result in the need for specialized medical and rescue training.  The members of Pelham’s fire department bring their own sets of talents and training in ensuring public safety.  For special open water and under ice rescues, some members are divers trained in water rescue.  Two paramedics are members of the SWAT team, working as tactical medics.

“Several of our members have technical rescue training and have the ability to rescue persons trapped in confined spaces, in the woods, or in a vehicle,” Walker explained.  “In September, five of our members will become hazardous materials technicians.”

Walker had only good words to say about the Pelham Police Department and their cooperative work with the fire department.  He said he meets with the police chief almost every month to discuss ongoing issues.

“The Police Department (members) are our partners in Public Safety.  Their work in drug enforcement has a direct impact on reduction in fires, and we work together on scenes of automobile accidents, fires, hazardous materials incidents and town emergencies,” Walker said.  “We are truly a team and proud to support their efforts.”

Police Chief Joseph Roark has only been chief since May, but already he is working hard to protect Pelham’s citizens.  Prior to being promoted to chief, he was a captain and second in command to his predecessor, Chief Evan Haglund.  He has also worked as lieutenant, sergeant, detective, and patrol officer.  In total, he has been a police officer for nearly 11 years.

The Pelham Police Department responds to approximately 400 service calls per week.  This number includes traffic stops.  They operate under a budget of $2.1 million.

“Our main function is keeping our town and citizens safe through effective law enforcement service,” Roark said.  “We accomplish this service by having a multifaceted approach including apprehension, prevention, and education.”

They work with other police departments in the area to provide mutual aid in emergency situations.  Windham, Salem, and Hudson are their primary mutual aid towns, but the department is also part of a regional tactical unit, which includes the above towns as well as Londonderry, Derry, Litchfield, Raymond, and Atkinson.

Windham may be the wealthiest town in the state, but that does not translate into crime-free.  In charge of protecting the citizens and promoting justice are the brave men and women of Windham’s police and fire departments.  Together they are able to keep secure the welfare of Windham’s residents.  Located on Fellows Road by the Nesmith Library, the two stations are only yards apart.

Gerald Lewis has been Chief of Police in Windham since May 2005.  Prior to that, he served as chief in Windsor, Connecticut, for 25 years.  He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Management and Administration.  All of that preparation and training has equipped Lewis for managing a department with a budget of $2.5 million and 18 officers.  Lewis said roughly 80 percent of their police work is service related, such as responding to alarms, car accidents, and referrals to other agencies.  Still, the understaffed station has its hands full.

“When it comes to the police, it’s one-stop shopping,” Lewis explained.  Whereas other agencies are very specialized, the police are the people that the public goes to the most for help, regardless of the problem.  Once the police determine the problem, they refer the people needing assistance to the correct specialized department or agency.  With so much pressure placed upon them, the police must work hard to make the best impression possible.

“We have to provide the best service and we only get one shot at it,” Lewis said.

One of the most prominent ways the police interact with the public is through traffic stops or in response to traffic accidents.  The situation is typically unpleasant from the beginning, whether the citizen violated a traffic law or was in an automobile accident.  Besides staying calm and respectful, the officer also has to secure the scene, call in the correct backup if necessary, and protect himself.  The public demands that the police personnel be at their best all the time, not swayed by emotions but yet empathetic, strong, yet caring.  The public is often at their worst when they first interact with police.  When dealing with distraught individuals, the officers have to be knowledgeable of human needs, balancing mercy with wise judgment, compassion with integrity.

“We’re there to help, but we’re also there to enforce,” Lewis said.

Lewis oversees all the elements of the police force and is responsible for everything that takes place.  He described his job as being an ambassador.  His duties include maintaining the records of the sex offender list, ensuring the vehicles and facilities are in good working order and properly equipped, overseeing prosecution, mapping out the budget, structuring the policies and procedures, and coordinating special events.  Even with all his skills, Lewis relies on other people to help him get everything done.

“I can’t do it alone and I don’t know how to do everything,” he said.  He emphasized the importance of the whole department’s support and mentoring others to assist with responsibilities.

Aside from working with his own department, Lewis collaborates with state police, the FBI, and other police stations in the area.  He referenced the example of the spring storms that flooded many parts of New Hampshire.  Windham worked with other departments to make sure the community was safe.

One of those assisting departments is the Windham Fire Department across the street.  At the station, Fire Chief Tom McPherson manages a crew of 18 firefighters.  With just over a year of experience as chief, McPherson has adapted quickly to the responsibilities placed on him.  His duties are typical of a town fire chief, including drafting the departmental budgets, implementing the department’s standard operating procedures, setting goals, and ensuring a safe workplace.  The department has a budget of $2.1 million, which requires careful planning to best serve the community at large.

For three years before he became chief, McPherson was the Deputy Fire Chief, and before that, he was a fire inspector.  He has been serving the town of Windham as a firefighter since 1979.

Annual Pay Rate for Chiefs: 


Town Name Yrs. as Chief Yearly Pay
Hudson Shawn Murray 4 $80,496
Litchfield Tom Schofield 3 $1,866*
Pelham Mike Walker 5 $75,350
Windham Tom McPherson 1 $80,357
Salem Kevin Breen 1 $87,901
*Part-time Position


Town Name Yrs. as Chief Yearly Pay
Hudson Richard Gendron 14 $85,259
Litchfield Joseph O’Brion 3 $71,920
Pelham Joseph Roark
Windham Gerald Lewis 5 $84,000
Salem Paul Donovan 6 $87,901

Annual Budget (in millions):

Town Fire Police
Hudson $4.40 $5.40
Litchfield $0.60 $1.00
Pelham $1.60 $2.10
Windham $2.10 $2.50
Salem $7.50 $8.00
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