Luebbers Wins Hudson School Geography Bee

Moves Step Closer to $25,000 College Scholarship

Alex Luebbers

Alex Luebbers, an eighth grade student at Hudson Memorial School, won the school-level competition of the National Geographic Bee on January 11, and a chance at a $25,000 college scholarship.  The school-level bee, at which students answered questions on geography, was the first round in the 19th annual National Geographic Bee, sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

The kickoff for this year’s Bee was the week of November 12, with thousands of schools around the United States and in the five U.S. territories participating.  The school winners, including Luebbers, next will take a written test; up to 100 of the top scorers in each state will be eligible to compete in their state bee April 4.

The National Geographic Society will provide an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for state champions and teacher-escorts to participate in the national championship on May 21 and 22.  The first-place national winner will receive a $25,000 college scholarship and lifetime membership in the society.  Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek will moderate the televised national finals on May 23.

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Talent Hall Re-Opens

by Lynne Ober

Firefighter Cady looks on as Chief Schofield points to the emergency lighting that now is functional.

On Thursday, January 24 Litchfield Fire Chief Tom Schofield gave permission to re-open Talent Hall.  At Schofield’s urging Selectmen met with him and members of the Recreation Commission, Selectmen’s Assistant, Howard Dilworth, members of the Basketball Board of Directors and the fire department to conduct a walkthrough at Talent Hall.

“I wanted to get everyone at the hall,” said Schofield.  “I knew that Selectman George Lambert had never been to the facility and I thought it was important for all of us to review the hall, the expected repairs and discuss the safety of the children.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Raymond Peeples, who is also the liaison to the Fire Department, agreed to hold the meeting.

“Sometimes we spend hours discussing how to protect the environment for a dragonfly and forget to spend the same time trying to protect our children,” smiled Schofield.  “Every parent has a right to believe that if they drop their kids off at a town building, that the children are safe.”

With the snow blower filled with gasoline no longer being stored inside of the building and electrical repairs complete, Schofield told the group that he wanted to walk through the situation.  “Let me ease your fears right up front, I intend to re-open the hall tonight.  I have already looked at what has been done since the second inspection and am pleased with the work,” he told the group.  “More repairs are needed and we all need to be in agreement on that list.  However, those repairs can be done after the hall is reopened.”

After members of the basketball board complained that Talent Hall, a town building, was never snow plowed by the town, the paper asked Selectman Pat Jewett why that happened.  Jewett responded that she didn’t know what was in the plowing budget and couldn’t comment.

Schofield said that the fire station is plowed by the town as well as town hall.  “I know at Town Hall, they also clean the sidewalks as well as plowing and I know that the cable committee has complained about being blocked out of their building after the plowing is done, but I don’t believe that the town has ever plowed more than the parking lot at that park.”

One of the major issues was the lack of fire proofed paint on the plywood walls.  The Recreation Commission purchased the paint before the end of the fiscal year.  They have recently been given a donation of labor to paint the facility.  “We expect that the painting will be complete this week,” said Schofield.  “It was a great donation.”

Although there are still some issues with exit doors, Peeples suggested installing the fasteners that had to be put on the doors at town hall to ensure that town hall met fire code.  “They work well.  We know they will solve the problem.”

A walkway and repairs to exterior stairs will wait until the spring.  In the meantime, a walkway will be kept clear from the door to the front of the building.  The second floor will remain closed because the fire escape has structural problems.

The acoustical tiling on the walls can be made fire proof according to the manufacturer by adding channels so that the raw edges are not open.  The Recreation Commission agreed to complete this.  In the meantime, the trash barrel that sits next to this area will be moved.  “It we had a trash barrel fire right now, it would spring onto those edges and burn under the tile surface,” said Schofield.  “Moving the trash can to the kitchen is an easy fix.”

Basketball teams were practicing in the hall by the next day.

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Litchfield School Board Briefed on Adequate Education Funding

The Litchfield School, as are other schools is very interested in the proposed funding of an adequate education.  State Representative Lynne Ober briefed them on the current status.

“The situation is still not settled, but legislation is being proposed and public hearings continue to be held,” Ober said.

Adequate Education Funding legislation is expected to be passed this session.  Ober told the board that the committee is leaning toward funding the current New Hampshire Department of Education guidelines.  “What that means for communities such as Litchfield is that if you have class room sizes smaller than the guidelines, then only the guidelines will be funded.  Each community would pick up the ‘extras’ that they have implemented.”

Ober also said that kindergarten is now being proposed for implementation in 2009.  “Included in that funding will be the cost of portable classrooms and installation,” she said.  “However, in the case of Litchfield, that still leaves a problem.  You don’t have septic system capacity at either GMS or LMS to install portables so I did ask if they would also fund a septic system for those portable classrooms and was told if it was needed.”

Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler quipped, “Bathrooms for kindergarten students are definitely needed.”

Ober pointed out that transportation for high school students or after school activities is not required now and would still not be considered part of an adequate education.

“They are looking at requirements such as one administrator for every 500 students.  Having more administrators than that would not be funded.”

Kindergarten will be only half day kindergarten and funding would be based on holding two kindergarten classes in each classroom.  One class in the morning and the second class in the afternoon.  Ober did tell the board that construction aid has never been paid on that basis so if Litchfield actually builds four kindergarten classrooms, they would receive the construction aid based on cost rather than quantify of classrooms needed to hold half day kindergarten.

“This legislation still has a long way to go and it is much too soon to determine what will actually be based.  The committee is beginning to hold presentations, but they are still not giving out actual numbers,” she concluded.

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Selectmen Back Fire Department Support Job 

by Tom Tollefson

Selectman Chairman Shawn Jasper applauded Fire Chief Shawn Murray’s “out of the box” thinking in finding new ways to trim the overtime budget for the Hudson Fire Department.

The Hudson Board of Selectmen (BOS) voted to approve looking to hire a part-time person in a support role to assist the department in a number of divisional areas.  The tasks for this position would be as follows: delivery and pickup of fire apparatus when repairs are needed, processing criminal and motor vehicle records, retrieving building maintenance supplies, automotive parts, office supplies, conducting minor building repair and offering administration support. 

“It’s not expanding what the department is doing.  It’s not expanding the budget.  It’s moving resources around and is going to save money in the overtime account,” Jasper said.  “I think it’s important to realize that every time we take a firefighter and put him into one of those roles, you’re taking away from the primary job of fighting fires and dealing with emergencies when it’s not necessary to have somebody who is fully geared up and fully ready.” 

This job would be part-time, 10 - 15 hours a week for $10 an hour.  The criteria for this position would be a Hudson resident with a commercial driver’s license.  The fire department will use one of its 30 call firefighter positions for the job.  Twenty-one of the 30 call firefighter slots are filled.  In March 1997, the BOS authorized hiring up to 30 call firefighters.

Murray believes the addition of this position will allow him to cut down on overtime and keep his firefighters ready for emergencies instead of tasks such as getting supplies and taking vehicles to be repaired. 

“The overall goal of this initiative is to improve our work efficiencies by relocating job tasks that currently takes away from our personnel’s primary job responsibilities.  In addition, we anticipate a reduction in the use of overtime funding due to this position,” Murray wrote in a memo addressed to the BOS. 

The overtime budget for the fire department already has seen a reduction, as the selectmen have asked Murray to find more efficient ways of balancing that area of his budget.  In November 2007, the selectmen voted to reduce the department’s overtime by $12,000, $408,849 to $396,849.

Selectman Ken Massey said this position should be voted on at the town ballot before being approved.  He also said it should be an administration position rather that firefighting job.

“I’m going to not support this motion because a call firefighter is just that, somebody who is trained to respond to fires.  We have an operating premise in this town that when you add a new position it requires a warrant article to go before the voters.  This is a slippery slope to take an admin function and fill it with a call firefighter,” Massey said. 

“I’m not trying to create a position, I’m just trying to reallocate one,” Murray responded.

“We’ve never gone to the voters for call firefighters, to my recollection,” Jasper said, stating that it’s only necessary to go to the voters for a part-time position involving 20 or 30 hours a week.  

The BOS voted 3 - 2 in favor of hiring a part-time person for the support role.  Selectmen Rick Maddox and Ken Massey voted in opposition.  

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