Basketball 'Jester Style'

WOW We really are dancing!

From dancing on the sidelines to slam-dunking, the Court Jesters entertained the packed house at the gymnasium (the Snake Pit) at Pelham High School.

Brought in as a fundraiser for the high school booster club, the Jesters left memory for many in attendance and a lot of stories for the classroom on Monday.  The Pelham All-Stars Team were short a couple of what were claimed to be ringers from the fire department due to the snowstorm.  The team that risked embarrassment included Police Chief Joseph Roark; Father Bob Guillemette; Tony Bolduc and Peter Tselios, Pelham Elementary School gym teachers.  The All-Stars had their own cheering section with signs. Athletic director and PHS Girls varsity coach Tim Powers; Matt Regan, Python Boys JV coach; Kristopher Fournier, an outstanding PHS player from last year; and Police Lieutenant Gary Fisher rounded out the rest of the All-Stars.

While basketball was their game, which could be seen in the Jesters passing and shooting, entertainment was what it was about on the snowy Friday night.  The kids cheered and the parents laughed.  Spectators flooded the court several times to dance with the players or to see who could catch the ball without dropping it.

The money raised will be used by the booster club to provide scholarships to student/athletes and to support Pelham High School athletic programs.

Father Bob appears to win the opening tap.

Preparing for a reverse slam dunk.

Do the hokey-pokey and shake it all about.

Collin Roark returns the ball.

Coach Powers got basketball and football confused as he used his shoulder to get around.

Dancing with the PHS Cheerleaders is more fun than basketball.

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Pelham Library Job Restored at Deliberative Session

by Diane Chubb

When the Budget Committee cut the money for the fulltime adult services librarian during its review of the library budget, it may not have realized how unpopular a decision that would turn out to be with Pelham voters.

At the February 5 town deliberative session, Friends of the Library President Debbie Kruzel made a motion, asking voters to restore $16,000 to the library’s salary funding.  A large crowd had come to support the library, several people spoke in favor of the motion and the voters present voted overwhelmingly to restore the money.

Pelham Public Library Director Sue Hoadley gave a short presentation.  “This $16,000 will increase the town operating budget by eight-tenths of one percent.  It will cost taxpayers less than $4 per year – or about a penny a day per household.  Check out one book and the increase will pay for itself,” Hoadley said.

“The Budget Committee didn’t simply deny the increase the library requested in salaries.  Our salaries were cut below 2007’s level to the equivalent of our 2004-2005 appropriation.  This action makes no sense and it does not serve the people of Pelham.  The library has clearly demonstrated with hard numbers that use of the library and its services has doubled and tripled over the past four years.”

Joy Flanders of the Friends of the Library talked about how much she loves the library and relies on it to further her children’s education.  Shellie Peters spoke about how much time the town spent on a matter that involved a sum as low as $16,000.  “We need to look at the bigger picture,” she said.

Darlene Greenwood asked John Lavallee, chair of the Budget Committee, why the money was cut.  She noted that the library had proved that demand for services was increasing, so why would a position be removed?  “It was a war,” she said, between the Budget Committee and the library.

One resident noted that she read the Budget Committee meeting minutes and never a reason was given for the cuts and accused the committee of making an arbitrary decision.

Lavallee took offense at this remark, and angrily replied, “It was not an arbitrary cut.  I take issue with that comment.”

However, Lavallee struggled throughout the night to answer the question.  Hal Lynde, a member of the Board of Selectmen, asked the same question.  Why was a fulltime position cut?

Lavallee tried several reasons for the decision, and appealed to other Budget Committee members to support him.  Ultimately, Lavallee admitted it was because in 2006, the library had created a fulltime children’s librarian position, without benefits, by combining two existing part-time positions.  This was done after warrant articles for a fulltime children’s librarian had failed twice.

The library had many supporters at the meeting.  People who would not normally attend the deliberative session made a special effort to attend.

“I really was not planning to attend,” said Anne Bodenrader.  “But I felt that I had to this time.  If the operating budget does not include the funds I think it should, then I have no right blaming others if I don’t vote.”

Almost all of the Library trustees were in attendance, as well as many members of the library staff and Friends of the Library.  During the past few months, the Friends have been vocal about their opposition to the proposed budgets and gathered supporters to be present at the deliberative session.

Hoadley was very pleased with the outcome.  “I just can’t thank everyone enough for supporting the library.  Our staff, our trustees, and our Friends of the Library all worked hard to spread the word and get out the vote.  It was overwhelming to turn around and see that sea of purple voter cards waving high in the air during the vote on the amendment.  I’ll never forget it!”

Fran Garboski, chair of the Library Trustees, also was pleased, but took issue with the fact the Budget Committee made the cuts without any real explanation.

“I want to first thank Sue Hoadley, who stood before the town and spoke of the library’s need. I also want to thank the Friends of the Library, the patrons and citizens who spoke of their feelings and concerns and voted to amend the library’s budget,” said Garboski.

“Mr. Lavallee’s recommendation to cut funding for the library did appear to be out of spite, especially since neither he, nor Mr. Hall, were ever able to explain their rationale for the recommendation.  Further, Mr. Lavallee ignored my December letter asking to meet to discuss the proposed cuts,” he said.

Nevertheless, Garboski challenged the Budget Committee to put differences aside to create a better working relationship.  “It is my hope that the library and the Budget Committee will be able to work together in the coming year to identify and understand each other’s budgetary needs and offset the adversarial atmosphere that has been allowed to permeate.”

New Hampshire recognizes the value of libraries in its laws.

RSA 202-A:1 states: “the public library is a valuable supplement to the formal system of free public education and as such deserves adequate financial support from government at all levels.”  Further, RSA 202-A:4  requires that “any city or town having a public library shall annually raise and appropriate a sum of money sufficient to provide and maintain adequate public library service.”  It is up to the Library Trustees to define adequate.’

Ever since the library moved into its new location on the Village Green in 2004, attendance and circulation have increase dramatically and many new programs have been introduced.  Yet the number of fulltime hours has remained the same and salaries lag far behind libraries in similar-sized New Hampshire towns.

The following chart shows how the number of employees has remained the same at the Pelham Public Library, despite increases in circulation and programs.

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School Projects Lumped Back Into One Package

by Barbara O'Brien

Windham School Board members spent weeks debating how best to present the three athletic components proposed as additions to Windham High School, a facility currently under construction.  Eventually, the board agreed, although not unanimously, to put them forth to voters as a trio of separate warrant articles, with none being contingent upon the other.  School Board members felt this method gave voters the opportunity to support one aspect of the project, even if they didn't feel they could support the others.

It took little more than an hour of discussion among those who attended the school district's deliberative session on Friday, February 8, however, to combine all three of those proposed warrant articles into just one.

Originally, Article 2 asked for $900,000 to build a second gymnasium at Windham High School.  Article 3 proposed adding three additional athletic fields at the new high school at a cost of not more than $778,500.  Article 4 requested that voters raise $3,819,980 to build a multi-purpose sports complex for the new Windham High School.

It was Chris O'Neal, chairman of the high school athletic committee, who made the motion to combine warrant articles 2, 3 and 4 for a total of $5,498,480.  "To fulfill the promise made to the town (when the high school was funded), we need to finish with all components," O'Neal said.

Not everybody agreed with O'Neal's proposal to combine all three warrant articles, however.  Mark Brockmeier, a candidate for School Board, said he felt it was an extremely bad idea to consolidate the three warrant articles, because Articles 3 and 4 are both contingent on the passage of Article 6, which proposes a land swap with the town in order to provide sufficient space to build the athletic fields and the stadium complex.  Article 2, which asks for the second gymnasium, is not contingent on the proposed land swap.  It would be built on land currently owned by the school district.

Dick Forde, who said he's considering running for school board as a write-in candidate, also said he wasn't recommending the combined warrant articles.  "Everyone is intelligent enough to decide on each separate article," Forde said.

Mike Hadem, a member of the recreation committee, disagreed with Forde and Brockmeier.  "I think consolidation is a brilliant idea," Hadem said.  "It should all be one bond."  Hadem said it is cheaper to do all components at the same time, particularly the field construction.

Resident Peg Landry said she also feels it's better to build everything now, rather than to delay one or more of the proposed athletic facilities.  Landry said she is concerned about the future availability of the 30% state aid and that Windham should take advantage of the funding while it is still available.

"It's the same money, whether it's in three pots or one pot," Tom Case said, adding that he trusts school board members to make the right choice.  There must be a good reason why board members placed them separately on the warrant, Case said.  "I feel voters should have choices," he said.

School Board Vice-Chairman Beth Valentine, who initially favored three separate warrant articles, said she has changed her opinion and now favors consolidation.

School Board member Barbara Coish said, "I'm the one who voted not to support any of these articles, so it makes no difference to me if they are consolidated or not."

School Board Chairman Al Letizio said, "It's the best process to present these as one article.  The benefit is large, while the cost is low," he said.  "This is a first class high school being built, not a cardboard box," Letizio said.

Margaret Case said she feels the separate components of the proposed project are being "put in jeopardy" by presenting them as "one lump package."  "People will feel that it's being shoved down their throats," Case added.  "You'll wind up getting nothing."

Kimberly Smith said she was speaking strictly as a local taxpayer and not as the parent of a high school student.  "If you build a high school without a track, you're getting off to a bad start," Smith said.  "I agree with consolidation, even if I won't have any children at Windham High School."  A track is included in the proposal for the multi-purpose sports complex (stadium).

Despite the divided opinion on consolidating the three separate warrant articles, the motion to combine them passed on a hand vote.  Approximately 75 people were in the Goldenbrook Gym at the time the vote was taken.  A precise count was not taken.

According to Windham Business Administrator Toby Eaton, if the consolidated warrant article passes voter scrutiny on Tuesday, March 11, the project will be bonded over a 20-year period for a total of $5,498,480.  The current bond rate is approximately 5%.  In the first year of the bond, the interest payment would be $124,000.  In the subsequent 19 years, that bond payment would be an average of $381,375 on an annual basis.

Based on statistics provided by Windham Tax Assessor Rex Norman, the impact of the bond would be about 6 cents per thousand dollars assessed property valuation in the first year of the bond and approximately 17 cents per thousand dollars assessed property valuation in subsequent years. Windham's net valuation for the entire town is currently $2,206,042,525. The median assessed property in Windham is valued at about $400,000. On a $400,000 home, the tax increase to fund the entire athletic project as proposed would be approximately $24 the first year and $68 for the second and each ensuing year, until the bond is paid in its entirety. According to Chairman Letizio, the bond for the entire athletic project will only cost residents $1.42 per week (based on a median assessed home of $400,000) for 19 years.

If the individual components had continued as separate warrant articles, the impact on taxes would have been (on a $400,000 property): $47.40 per year for the multi-purpose sports complex; $11.12 for the gymnasium; and $9,58 for the three additional athletic fields (baseball, softball and field hockey).

In order for the proposed bond issue to pass on March 11, it will need to garner a 3/5 majority of votes cast that day. Polls will be open on Election Day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Goldenbrook School.

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Selectman Wants to Change Legal Firm

by Barbara O'Brien

Selectman Bruce Breton has concerns about Windham's current legal representation and wants to look for a new town attorney.  Other board members disagree with him, however, and want to continue with the present firm.

The subject came up for discussion during the Monday, February 4 selectmen's meeting.  Breton had mentioned his feelings at previous meetings, but, this time, it was on the agenda.

The Town of Windham has been represented by Attorney Bernard H. Campbell, of Beaumont and Campbell Professional Association in Salem, for many years, with the most recent three-year contract becoming effective in December of 2006.  That contract includes a termination clause, which would allow town officials to discontinue Campbell's service with 60 days notice, without cause.

Breton, who took on the job of selectman last March, after the contract with Campbell had been signed, said he wants to see the town attorney slot put out to bid again.  Breton said he has several problems with the way Campbell has been doing his job.  Issues that were noted by Breton included: a lack of clarity in the manner in which opinions are written; the method in which Campbell's time is billed, including his allegedly speaking with unauthorized members of the community; and Campbell's demeanor at a recent meeting in regard to the proposed Windham Blasting Ordinance.

After listing his grievances with Campbell, Breton said he wanted the board members to terminate the current agreement, with 60 days notice, effective May 1, 2008, and look for someone else to represent the town.

Selectmen's Chairman Alan Carpenter said the issue of Campbell billing for conversations with unauthorized people could be easily addressed by informing town counsel to only accept calls from authorized individuals.  According to Town Administrator David Sullivan, only Sullivan and Planning Director Al Turner are authorized to directly contact Campbell on legal issues pertaining to the town.

Carpenter said that any previous concerns selectmen had had with Campbell, prior to the most recent contract being enacted, have been resolved.  There has been great improvement in both "the clarity and timeliness" of legal opinions from Campbell, Carpenter said.  Selectman Dennis Senibaldi also agreed that opinions rendered by Campbell in the last year are more to the point, as had been requested by selectmen prior to the latest contract being signed.

Selectman Margaret Crisler said she feels that Campbell has been "very lucid" in writing his legal opinions for the town and has been extremely successful in representing Windham in court cases.  Campbell also works very well with the Windham Planning Department, Crisler said.  "Bernie has been our town counsel for decades," Crisler said.  "He is very well respected and has represented Windham well in court."

Crisler said Campbell's legal fees are "very inexpensive" compared to his competitors.  According to the most recent contract, Campbell bills the Town of Windham $122 per hour.  The next closest bids came in at $150 and $170 per hour, Crisler noted.

"At no time have I questioned the integrity of Attorney Campbell," Carpenter said.  "Any minor flaws are easily correctible."  Carpenter said it is important to take the opportunity to discuss issues and then have them corrected.  "Failure is not fatal," Carpenter said.

Crisler then made a motion to discontinue the discussion of terminating the agreement with Attorney Campbell and to continue with that contract, as previously agreed.  Selectmen voted 4 to 1 in favor of continuing with the current contract.  Only Breton voted in opposition of the continuance.  Carpenter, Senibaldi, Crisler and Roger Hohenberger all voted in favor of staying with Campbell's services.

Following the vote, Breton noted that the discussion regarding the town attorney can be brought up again at any time; by any board.

During a phone conversation with Campbell, following the selectmen's meeting, he said he was not aware prior to the meeting that Breton was displeased with his services.  Campbell said Breton had never indicated to him, personally, that he was unhappy about the situation.  While Campbell said he was pleased with the support from the other four board members, he hopes to resolve any outstanding issues with Breton.  "I would like the board's support to be unanimous," Campbell said.

One of the comments that Breton had made during the February 4 board meeting is that Campbell was billing the Town of Windham for time spent talking with news reporters.  When Campbell was questioned about this policy, he said it would depend on the nature of the inquiry.  "If a reporter calls and says the Town of Windham was sued in court today," and that information requires research and additional phone calls, then the town would be billed for that investigation and notification to town officials.  If the call from a reporter is just for a comment, however, there would be no charge to the town.  "I won't be charging the Town of Windham for this phone call, today," Campbell said of his conversation with the Pelham-Windham News.

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