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Moms enjoy the food and camaraderie at the annual PES Boo Hoo Breakfast, hosted by members of the Pelham Elementary PTA on Wednesday morning, August 29.
It was an exciting first day of school on Wednesday, August 29, for children returning to Pelham Elementary. For many parents, the first day back to school brings with it mixed feelings of elation and apprehension. Emotions were riding high, especially for parents of first graders, many of whom followed their children’s buses to school and hovered around with cameras waiting for a photo opportunity of their little ones descending the stairs.
But the fun didn’t stop there. For the third year in a row, the Pelham Elementary PTA put together a breakfast for parents of first graders, affectionately known as the “Boohoo Breakfast,” and there were nearly 30 in attendance. Organized by PTA member Kristen Rodrigue, the breakfast this year included a great selection of fruit, yogurt, coffee, and danish. Boohoo towels were also provided, containing a picture of a panther (the school mascot) as well as the year these new students can expect to graduate from high school — 2019.
The breakfast also provided a great hour of socialization for parents. Principal Alicia LaFrance and Superintendent Frank Bass were in attendance, hobnobbing with parents and putting fears at ease. Just when tears seemed to be at bay, the “Boohoo Poem” was presented, and parents yet again pulled out their handy towels and began dabbing their eyes.
How often do you see a construction project come in 20 percent under budget? Pretty much never, unless you were part of this summer’s renovations at Pelham High School.
The renovations over the summer were part of the work that needed to be completed to address the egress issues cited by the Pelham fire chief and the state fire marshall last year. To meet fire safety requirements, several classrooms at the high school had to be renovated. These classrooms had been “land-locked,” and each required an exit through another classroom to reach a corridor to the outside exit. Classroom walls had to be removed to create new exits.
At the most recent school board meeting, Superintendent Frank Bass passed along the good news about the cost savings. The work came in approximately $100,000 under budget.
Extra funds had been included in the project’s original request because it was unclear what kind of problems the architects and contractors might uncover. The rationale was to make sure there was enough money to finish the project.
In fact, in July, asbestos was found underneath tiles in the art area. Work had to be stopped while the proper equipment was brought in. The asbestos was quickly removed, and work was able to continue. Luckily, the cost to remove the asbestos was minimal.
Bass credited the cost savings to the fact that the architects and contractors were able to work together efficiently.
The extra funds will be used to address “second tier” life/safety issues at the high school — items that needed to be done, but were less urgent.
“Good Fences Make for Good Neighbors,” as the adage goes. However, in the absence of a good fence, one would think that when property is separated by many acres of beautiful land, streams, and walkways, having an issue with a neighbor would be impossible. Not so for two landowners in Windham.
For the Landry family, troubles began brewing back as 2001 and have continued up to present day concerning donated property that bears their name — The Landry Family Conservation Easement — on Lowell Road in Windham.
The file map (as shown) illustrates the easement; it encompasses approximately 10,200 square feet of land that houses a ski lodge, top house, rope tow, 16-foot diameter giant pine tree, foot paths, a pond, as well as a brook and beautiful stone wall — all of which is near the middle school amphitheater.
According to information received from Town of Windham Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Finn, the land was donated to the town because the Landrys could not afford to pay the taxes on it. “Under the instructions of the easement,” commented Finn, “the Landrys have full use as well as a responsibility to maintain the land.” Requests by the Pelham~Windham News to obtain the actual easement, in an effort to confirm his statements, as well as confirm the Landry responsibilities to the land, have gone unanswered by Chairman Finn.
Trouble for Victor Landry and his family began in June 2001, when the first of three police reports stated that “criminal mischief” (vandalism) had occurred on the property. Reporting officer, Sergeant Charles Occhipinti, stated that “cut trees on (the) property, along with roadway, was destroyed, damaged, or vandalized.”
“Mr. Landry wanted me to go out to the site to show me the damage done. Prior to my leaving the station, I placed a call to Al Turner, code enforcement officer. Mr. Turner (sic) advised me that Bobby Devlin was contracted out by the town to put a wide path into the woods at that location for approximately 100 yards (sic) into the woods. I advised Mr. Turner that they had gone onto Mr. Landry’s property. Mr. Turner stated that he would go out there tomorrow to check out what Devlin had done on the site,” stated Sergeant Occhipinti.
The Windham Police Department report goes on to state that Landry had “never received any notification by the town as an abutter to the property. It appears that Devlin had gone onto Mr. Landry’s property for about 25 yards from town-owned land.”
On July 12, 2001, in a letter from Cherie Howell, a representative of Conservation Commission, written to the Windham Middle School Principal Plocharczyk, stated that during the annual monitoring walk by the commission “trail building, tree cutting, and stonewall breaking on private land was documented.” The walk was conducted by the Conservation Commission and the property owner, Suzy Noyles (executor). “On the walk, it was discovered that a new trail had been made, a stonewall broken, and white spray-painted markings were also observed farther along on an existing trail, leading to suspected involvement of middle school groups. We request that you investigate to determine if there was involvement.”
According to Windham Police Department’s call number 01-4801 report, Principal Plocharczyk related that he had received a letter and checked with his staff. None of them knew who broken the wall, and he further advised the trail was not used for cross-country runs. In short, to his knowledge, the school knows nothing about the new trail system.
Around the same time, Windham Police Officer Palermo responded to a complaint by Mr. and Mrs. Noyles. Palermo found numerous large stones removed from the trails and large holes left. Some small trees have also been pulled out and left by the side of the road. Tire tracks were observed that appeared to be from a bobcat. Following the tracks, they came out at 16 Washington Road: the home of Arra Yeghiayan. The police report continues, stating that “Mr. Yeghiayan adv (advised) he thought he was improving the trail and was adv (advised) to do no more work on the trail.” Four hours later, the Windham Police Department received a complaint from Arra Yeghiayan, stating that he had a trespasser on his property that he wanted removed.
In statements prepared by the Landry family for the Town of Windham Conservation Commission, Landry states that, in the summer 2001, Officer Palermo viewed the site with Fred and Suzie Noyles. “We followed tracks leading up to Arra Yeghiayan’s house. Officer Palermo left us to go speak with Arra. They both came back, at which point Arra said we were all trespassing on his property. Officer Palermo explained (the) conservation easement on property, as well as property being private land. No permission was given for (a) bobcat/tractor on land and (that) no permission was given to dig up the trail. Officer Palermo told him to stop and get his stuff off the property.”
As the days progressed, Yeghiayan “did not do this,” and “he returned with his equipment and again moved large boulders and took boundaries, wall rocks in an attempt to fill the holes he had made,” continues the complaint. A second Windham Police Officer was called in “and he in turn went to Arra’s,” states Landry. “Officer Rogers told him to stay off the property.”
In response to the instructions given by the Windham Police Department, he posted on the Landry’s land “no hunting,” etc., by stringing a 1/2-inch cable from two trees across a motorcycle trail … a good 400-feet on the Landry’s side of the boundary wall.
As the years went by, the Windham Police Department, the Planning Board, or the Windham Conservation Commission did not resolve the Landry’s complaints.
“On April 22, 2006, Arra drove down the sled run from the upper end of our property and conservation easement land. He had a red Toyota pickup truck loaded with wood (not boards). When stopped by Victor and Jeff (Landry), he claimed it was conservation land … no permission was given by party, conservation, or land owner. When questioned about the wood, he said it was blow downs he cut off of school property.”
A week later, on April 28, 2006, the Landrys went back to the Windham Police Department, again asking for their help with the ongoing trespassing concerns with their neighbor. “I saw Captain Yatsevich at the police department and gave him a history of what has been going on up to and including the incident of April 22, 2006,” continues Landry. “(I) gave him two maps showing the land locations and showed him the ‘no hunting’ sign. I also gave him the names of Jeff, Victor, Officer Palermo, Scott Rogers, and Chief Bruce Moekle.”
During the next week, while Landry’s son Jeff and his friends were riding the motorcycle trails, a “person of Arra’s description, on several occasions, had positioned himself in the middle of the trails and would not step off for the on coming riders,” continues the statement. When Jeff Landry spoke with Officer Scott Rogers on May 2, 2006, he was informed that Officer Knight was assigned to the investigation by the captain.
On May 8, 2006, having not heard back from the Windham Police Department, a call was placed to the captain. According to the statement, “He returned my call stating he had spoken with Al Turner (Town of Windham planning director) and Rex Norman (town assessor), and that they would be reading the easement document and conferring with the Conservation Commission. He will be seeing Arra and telling him to stay off the property.”
In a response to the phone call, the Landry statement refers to “I sent to the Conservation Commission a full report ... in c/o Jim Finn on Saturday.”
On May 13, 2006, Yeghiayan, approached the Landry residence and stated that the “big log blocking the boundary opening to his property had been removed.” He wanted to know if Victor was going to pay for the cut saplings as he was going to take action.
Upon examination of the removed log area by Victor, he determined that the “log had been moved by using some kind of vehicle because of its size. Victor followed the tire tracks which went from the log on our property down to a lower wall opening, through it, and down a path that led to Arra’s house.”
On May 26, 2006, Captain Yatsevich called the Landry family and informed them that he had spoken with their neighbor, Yeghiayan. According to notes taken by Landry, the captain stated, “He didn’t think he would be going on the property again.” Statement notes also reflected that Arra had also shown the police trees that were cut from his property by the Landry family, and that the Landry’s son Victor “infringed” on his property.
Since this last incident, the Landry family has received certified letters, sent by Yeghiayan, regarding the boundary lines and the issues involved with the conservation easement. In turn, the Landry’s have sent a certified letter to the Conservation Commission, c/o Jim Finn, “officially requesting legal representation on the Arra legal letter.”
On June 5, 2007, Finn called the Landry’s and told them that according to Attorney Masland (author of the easement document), he would “draw up a document with bounds of infringements and consequences for infringements.”
According to a phone call from Finn on June 11, 2007: “He assures me that they are going to act on my request for legal representation, and it would be done in ample time to resolve the Arra legal issue.” On June 14, 2007, the Landry’s received another call from Finn in an attempt to organize a site walk with the attorney.
On September 4, 2007, the Pelham-Windham News attempted to contact all parties to determine the outcome of the site walk.
In speaking to Al Turner by phone, he stated that he had no knowledge of the Landry’s concerns and that he was “not familiar” and “was not aware” of the concerns with The Landry Family Conservation Easement. After being reminded of the letters and contact by the Windham Police Department, as well as the 28-page document supplied by the Landry family, Turner denied any knowledge of the issues before the Conservation Commission.
The Pelham-Windham News also met with Turner in his office during July to discuss the concerns of the Landry as outlined by their 28-page document, which included photos. At that time, Turner stated that it would be best to contact Pat Coveland, secretary to the Conservation Commission. In speaking with Coveland, she informed the Pelham-Windham News to contact Jim Finn, chairman of the Conservation Commission.
Since July, several attempts have been made to speak with the Commission regarding the concerns of the Landry family, and to date, the commission has not supplied any information, including the easement.
Phone calls were not answered when made to both the Landry’s and Yeghiayan’s residences.
At one point, Pelham School Board Chair Bruce Couture was wondering if there were gremlins entering Pelham Elementary School at night and flushing all the toilets. The water bills from PES were extraordinarily high, and answers needed to be found.
Alan Miller, the head of the school district's maintenance department, was asked to find a company to install equipment to monitor the water usage in the building. When he was unable to find such a company, he went to the state. The state contacted Pennichuck Water.
Pennichuck Water, which supplies the water for the district, went back to its records. It seems that when PES was built, a new type of meter was installed. On the older meters that are in place at Pelham Memorial and Pelham High, a zero must be added to calculate the water usage. However, it seems that an error had been made, and two zeros were added. Further, the zeros were added to the reading at the meter at PES, which was not required.
The result? Pelham School District has been overcharged for water usage at PES for the past five years.
Although Pennichuck was only required to go back two years in its records, because of the large amount of money involved, it is refunding the entire overcharge, covering the past five years.
The funds will be credited to the school district's account and used against future water charges.
The Board was very pleased with Mr. Miller's work and persistence, and taxpayers are too. Thumbs Up!