Editor’s note: The research, writing and publication of this story have been in the works for four months. Hudson resident Lee Arter has been serving in the United States military in Iraq for 14 months and is scheduled to come home during the first part of December. During those 14 months, Arter has been been serving on the front lines of the war zone, going from province to province, town to town, house to house and room to room, looking for insurgents. When he returns home he will undergo 30 days of de-briefing. Then, he will decide whether to return to Iraq, or to accept another military assignment. He will not be coming to Hudson, other than on leave, for a long time. Arter’s mom, Jacqueline, has been driving son’s Ford Explorer and having it modified for when he returns from Iraq. Readers who wish to send Arter e-mails may do so at: Crashing1984@hotmail.com and his mother will forward them to him.
‘Pimp His Ride’
by Doug Robinson
2003 Ford Explorer fully ‘Pimped’.
The only words printed in blue pen on the work order that hung on a nail were, “Pimp his Ride.” Soon, the 2003 red Ford Explorer, looking like any other red Ford Explorer was about to undergo a transformation of character and soul, much like the transformation of its owner, Lee Arter. Lee enlisted in the infantry when he graduated from Alvirne High School in 2005. Today, his assignment is to fight the war in Iraq.
While the Ford Explorer remained atop car jacks waiting for the skilful hands of Jason Scarvalas, manager of Gold Seal Audiowurks in Hudson, to begin the transformation, Lee Arter, owner of the Explorer was using his army skills and follow orders of his commanding officers on the front line with the 250 to 300 men and women of the 89th Cavalry Reconnaissance Unit.
Since July of 2006, Arter has been fighting the war in the streets of Baghdad. Like most others in the military, “he has been extended and will not be returning till at least November (2007),“ said Jacqueline Arter, his mother. She said her son bought some parts for his car as he anticipated returning from Iraq during the summer of 2007. When informed of his extended assignment, Arter asked his mother if she could find someone who could put the parts on his car so it would be completed by the time he returned.
In an effort to help, Arter’s mother called several businesses and received quotes up to $5,000 to put the car parts onto the Ford Explorer.
“As a last resort I contacted Gold Seal Audiowurks, located in Hudson, New Hampshire. I had dealt with them on several occasions for car starters and my sister had a stereo put in my son’s car as a birthday present last year. I brought down all the parts and gave them to Chris Matteson, owner of Gold Seal. He asked for a few days to calculate what the total price would be…. When I called back, Chris ran down the estimate. He contacted several body shops and the lowest price was $2,000 for the front and rear bumpers only, that was not counting the rest of the work that had to be done,” she said.
“After hearing the price there was no way I could afford to do all the work at once. So I began to tell Chris that I would just have to do a piece at a time when he came back with his solution. Chris talked to the other guys at Gold Seal and they all agreed that they would do the work themselves and not outsource it to any body shop for the bumpers. They would also do the entire job for $950. I expected the total job to well exceed $3,000, and they are willing to do it for a third of that price. The reason behind that Chris told me are they all appreciating what my son is doing and it is their way of saying thanks to him.”
While Audiowurks main business specializes in the installation of remote car starters, audio systems and alarm systems, Scarvalas also saw the opportunity to “give something back. I know he is over there risking his life; it is the least we can do.”
Unknown to Jacqueline Arter, Scarvalas has been competing in car shows for years. His modification of a 2003 Nissan 350Z was featured recently in Mobile Electronics’ Magazine. His “Trick or Treat Car,” complete with spider webs and spider wheel covers was featured on the cover.
“I just want to do something nice” for Arter, Scarvalas said. The service order for Arter’s car was written by Scarvalas in three words: “Pimp his Ride.”
Scarvalas was unaware that Arter had joined the Army in 2005, having graduated from Alvirne High School. He only knew that Arter was on the front lines of the war. Scarvalas did not know that in high school, Arter was “like any other kid,” according to his mother. “He liked sports, cars, riding his BMX bike, listening to music, play pool, as well as work out. After joining the Army he went to Fort Benning, Georgia, for basic training.”
As Scarvalas was transforming the Ford Explorer, Arter says he continues to “check for trouble. We are very cautious of the nationals as they seem to be good people, (they) still have to be very cautious ‘cause only one of them could be the one holding a trigger switch waiting to blow us up.”
While Scarvalas was replacing taillights and changing the speaker system, Arter has been dealing with the 115-degree days, and eat what’s supposed to be normal food but, he says, “the burgers are not really burgers.” Arter continues to avoid danger in the combat zone and is thankful for his infantry training. “I fear not being able to see my family again,” he says.
“I’m not just one, I am among many. We do this because we want to … ‘cause we love our country … because we love our families. War is never good but it’s necessary to preserve our way of life. I am and it is not just me. All of us are honored to fight for and protect our country.”
And while Arter goes from house to house, building to building searching for the enemy, unknown to him is that some very kind and generous samaritans are taking care of business back home for him.
Simply put, “I know he’s over there risking his life, it’s the least we can do to help him,” Scarvalas said.
Arter’ ride has been pimped.
Griffin School Tour Reveals Trouble Spots
by Lauren Danzi
The eighth-grade science lab sinks remain in a kindergarten class.
Many community members, parents, town officials and consultants have toured Litchfield’s Griffin Memorial School to see first-hand its safety and related problems.
A tour was held on October 29. Budget Committee and Building Committee members were invited along with Hudson~Litchfield News reporter. None of the members showed up.
Karl Franck, who organized the tour, said scheduling might have kept the members from showing up.
“We have always accommodated anyone who wants a tour,” said Principal Bo Schlichter.
Before the tour, Schlichter said the main types of problems are educational, environmental and code issues, adding that there is “not necessarily an enrollment issue” as the number of students appears to be dropping.
He felt the age of the building and its previous function hindered the school’s ability to meet the educational needs of the students. The building used to be for grades 1-8 and new sections were added as the town grew.
“We still have the eighth-grade science lab in the kindergarten classrooms,” said Schlichter. In that same classroom is a wall of shelves dividing the classroom in two. A curtain separates the kindergarten from the
physical and occupational therapy areas, a distraction to students.
“We have no central storage,” said Schlichter, adding that makes the classrooms cluttered. Shelves stretch from wall to wall with books, papers and binders. In the office, file cabinets overflow with student files in the open because there is no room elsewhere. The main office also is the receiving station for supplies, which can be disruptive to staff and students.
Schlichter explained that the nurse’s office, across the hall from the main office, sometimes gets so loud from wind whining through the ceiling and ventilation system that the nurse must take hearing testing equipment and students into a quieter wing of the school. And she must time it so students are not coming out of classrooms to lunch, art or gym class because that also is distracting.
Environmental issues include the ground water problem that causes moisture in the building. Rugs are bleached twice annually to prevent mold. Walls also are bleached. Most of the rugs have been removed for this reason but one remains in a hallway because sealed asbestos tiles lie beneath it. When the last rug was replaced, the adhesive had not dried to the floor because of moisture.
Except during the heating season, 27 dehumidifiers are used. When operating, they make a distracting humming noise.
In the winter the heat usually dries out the building enough so moisture and dehumidifiers are not a problem. But new problems present themselves in the winter such as uneven heating of rooms.
Code issues include lack of a sprinkler system and firewalls with holes and gaps because when a home economics room was added, the holes were needed for electricity and plumping. Much of the section added in 1955 and 1958 is wood-framed, which poses a fire hazard.
Schlichter explained that after some of the new problems were discovered, such as gaps in the firewalls and wires at ground level, the Fire Department has been paying closer attention to the building and working with faculty, staff and students to developed a new emergency plan to get the children out quickly in case of fire.
“The evacuation plan works well. I’m pleased with it and the supervision by the fire department,” Schlicter said. The fire department will not allow artwork on the walls because of a lack of a sprinkler system. Schlichter felt that hanging student art was important in an elementary school.
Another code issue and safety concern is that the electric closet also houses the water main where a sink sits next to circuit board.
Also of concern is that several rooms have only one exit. Typically, these rooms are attached to other rooms. For example the guidance office is located behind a guidance meeting room. In addition to being a safety concern it also is a distraction for students walking in to the meeting room to get to the office.
The trouble with renovations is that once you make one adjustment the code requires other adjustments and the school no longer would be grandfathered and thus exempted from some code requirements. For this reason everything that is not an immediate safety concern has been left alone.
The Building Committee has had several studies done on the school. One study suggests a 0minimum renovation price of $10.5 million. A new school that would allow for inexpensive expansion should the town grow is estimated to cost about $14.7 million.
Cub Scouts Enjoy Great Time at Jamboree
submitted by Marjorie Smith
Pack 11 Cub Scouts Jack Curtin, Lar Smith, Phillip Gatchell, and Adam Champagne are all smiles in an Army Hummer at the New Hampshire Jamboree.
Jack Curtin, Lar Smith, Phillip Gatchell, Adam Champagne, and Matthew Baddeley of Flaming Arrow Patrol of Litchfield’s Pack 11 camped at the New Hampshire Jamboree at Gunstock with Troop 11. During the day, the scouts enjoyed paddle boats, monkey bridge, stilts, bottle rockets, BMX biking, rock wall climbing, investigating military equipment, chairlift rides to the top of Gunstock Mountain, and many other activities. Each earned a haversack by doing 25 push ups for the Army. At night, they had a great time at the Air Force Rock Band Concert and also enjoyed a spectacular fireworks show. These Weblos II Cub Scouts are in the fifth grade at Litchfield Middle School.
Water and Sewer Rates Giving Hudson Residents Relief from Increases
by Tom Tollefson
Despite the national and local rates, tolls, and fees skyrocketing faster than the speed of the approaching holiday season, Hudson residents will see some relief when two of their bills arrive. The Water Utility department has not seen an increase in the last decade, and the Sewer Utility department has even decreased its rates in the last few years.
“We manage that utility very carefully. We re-financed the bond to buy it for $27 million,” Town Administrator Steve Malizia said. “We’re not making a profit. We’re not looking for customers. We look to run the town as efficiently as we can. That takes the effort of a lot of people.”
He credits the teamwork of the Water Utility Committee, Highway, Engineering, and Finance departments, and Board of Selectmen working together, along with contracting Pennichuck Water Works to run routine maintenance and water checks. “We’re able to negotiate contracts that are fair to both parties and help us control our costs,” Malizia said about working with Pennichuck Water Works.
In addition, Malizia believes the Water Utility department’s success is due to the fact that the town re-financed $27 million that was paid for the ownership of the water facility in 1998. “The selectmen have been
very supportive of the process by approving all of the work,” he said.
While the water utility rates have stayed consistent, the sewer utility rates have decreased. The rate for a 5/8 or 3/4 meter size (this is the standard measurement used for the majority of private homes in Hudson) has decreased its yearly rate (billed quarterly) from $39.80 in 1993-1994 to the current rate of $21.
The first decrease came in 1993-1994, when the rate decreased from $39.80 to $32.59. It decreased every year after that until 2004-2005, when it went to $21, which is the current rate.
Donna Staffier-Sommers credits this decrease to the fact that the Sewer Utility doesn’t have any debt or bonds to pay off, and that it is funded separately from the town. “We don’t have any large bonds or debt,” she said. Town Engineer Tom Sommers agrees. “We’ve built up a substantial trust account and we own the utility. We don’t have any debt.”
In 1987, this department was legally defined as a “Sewer Utility” according to New Hampshire State RSA 149-I. Before that time, the sewer was funded by the town.
The town also owns 12.58 percent of the Nashua Waste Water Treatment Plant, which many town officials contribute to the decrease in sewer utility rates.
Animal Control Officer Wants Tazer
by Lauren Danzi
Gerald Pilon, the Litchfield animal control officer, has asked the budget committee for a tazer to do his work.
He explained that after discussions with selectmen, it was voted to add $900 to the budget for the electronic stunning device that has been proved effective against animals.
“Right now if I’m being attacked by a dog my only option is to shoot the dog” said Pilon who explained that there is also very little he can do to break up two fighting dogs but a tazer would put stop tt without harming the dog.
Before this budget addition, Pilon was the only Litchfield trained officer without a tazer. Because he is now fully trained to use a tazer, he felt it would be an asset to him.
He also requested an extra $400 for mileage for using his personal vehicle for work. During discussions with selectmen, it was discovered that Pilon does not get his gasoline in Hudson as do the other police vehicles. Selectmen felt that this would be appropriate, but at the time, Pilon was not agreeable to do that. He explained that he just wanted enough money added to his budget to cover his gasoline costs.
Pilon also requested funds for a laptop stand for his car. He explained that on his computer he has a list of all the dogs registered in town and he has trouble getting to it quickly to look up information when it sits on the passenger seat.
The budget committee will be voting on this budget next week.
Selectmen Trim Firefighters’ Overtime Budget
by Tom Tollefson
The Hudson Board of Selectmen has cut the Fire Department’s suppression division overtime budget by $12,000 — from $408,849 to $396,849.
Doug Robinson moved for the cut after he calculated a 15.79 percent increase in the overtime budget. Public Works, he said, had a 1.2 percent increase in its overtime salary budget.
“For some reason in the fire department there is a disparity in the overtime increase going back to 2005. I’m trying to rectify how that happened. My only thinking is that because of that storm in 2007, we carried those numbers over. Do we really need to carry that much money forward?” Robinson said.
According to Fire Chief Shawn Murray, the overtime for the division increased from $364,131 in fiscal 2006 to $422,731 in fiscal 2007.
“Overtime is a necessary burden. We’re an emergency services organization,” Murray said. “You can’t look at the overtime that we use as a business. We’re not using overtime to make money. We’re using it to protect the community.”
Murray credited the overtime increase to having firefighters out of duty due to health, a demand for more work after near-record storms, and vacancies.
Murray pointed out there had been a decrease in the amount budgeted: the $408,849 requested for overtime for fiscal 2009 was decreased from the $413,728 budgeted in fiscal 2008. The overtime of the division is down 2,000 hours from 10,000 hours to 8,000 hours, Murray said.
The selectmen also were concerned about the hourly overtime pay rate increase from $25.33 to $30.12.
According to Murray, the hourly rate went up due to raises and cost-of-living increases. “The last few budget years, we were directed to keep the overtime lines level-funded; therefore we did not increase the pay rates used to calculate overtime hours,” Murray said.
Murray said overtime is used when firefighters are sick; on vacation; being taken away from regular posts for training; public education or civic details; serving at on-scene responses to sporting events; or the annual Old Home Days fireworks display.
Murray suggested charging the school district for firefighter service at football games, and the Hudson Historical Society for service at Old Home Days to help control
Murray said 106 overtime hours were used at Old Home Days. At $30.12 on hourly, it cost the department abput $2,600, which the department could charge the Historical Society.
“If they’re going to cut overtime, then we may have to start charging,” Murray said. “I may be forced to ask the board to allow me to charge for everything.”
Another alternative to provide sufficient money for overtime, Murray said, would be shift money among other areas of the department. While it is legal to shift money as long as the bottom line remains unchanged, Murray said, it means certain projects or repairs do not get done.
Litchfield Chief Concerned About Firefighters’ Morale
by Lauren Danzi
Litchfield Fire Chief Tom Schofield says he is concerned about the morale of his call firefighters and suggests the reason might be negative comments in the Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down columns of the Hudson~Litchfield News.
He made the comment while outlining his department’s budget to the Budget Committee for next year, saying the anticipated spending less than in the previous year. He expects to complete his budget presentation next week.
Committee Chairman Brent Lemire said those who criticized the fire department were hiding behind anonymous submissions and he suspects it was only a few individuals who felt negatively toward the department and did not reflect the whole community. Some of the criticism comes from fire logs and what appears to be a lack of activity.
The policy at the Hudson~Litchfield News is to print the logs based on available space. Schofield said he sends them to the paper each week but felt that only low call volume weeks are printed and as a result he has stopped sending them. He placed an ad in the paper explaining that the fire logs will run no longer. The Hudson~Litchfield News does not always have room for police and fire logs and it is coincidence that only the low call volume weeks have been printed. Those interested in the fire department logs can go online to http://www.litchfield.mv.com/department/fire_all.html or the Town of Litchfield’s Website and click on the fire department link.