Special Friends at Hills

First graders sing to special friends.

The Hills Garrison PTO, first grade students and staff did another great job this year in producing the dazzling Hills Garrison School’s seventh annual Special Friends Day .  The first graders gave two adult friends of their choice a little taste of Italy when under the direction of music teacher Sarah Seckla they performed three Italian-themed songs, Pizza Love, Santa Lucia and That’s Amore

The students wowed the crowd when they danced the tarantella to much laughter when the children taught the adults a step or two of this dance.

The special friends were treated to a virtual gondola ride before being treated to an Italian lunch in the gymnasium that was transformed into an Italian bistro.

A special thanks should be said to the teachers, staff and PTO, Adri and Dan Lisowsky, Lee Ann Letender, Angie Gursky and Lee Lavoie.

Rebbeca Labrie and special friend adult friend Krystal Goguen

John Ruggerio and Katelyn

From left: Katie Allard, Louis Allard, Joshua Allard and Robbie Barker

From left: Alan, Lauren and Michelle Vecchiarello

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Barricaded Man Sets Hudson House on Fire

At 7:46 a.m. on May 16 Hudson police received a 911 call reporting a person who wanted to discuss a domestic issue.  Upon arrival to the home on Iris Path, they found a man barricaded inside threatening to harm himself or anyone who entered.  Officers evacuated nearby homes and began negotiating with the man, identified as Michael Abbott, 49, of Hudson. 

Abbott claimed to have explosives and threatened to use them.  The Southern New Hampshire Regional Special Operations Unit was called and negotiations continued.  At about 12:23 p.m. Abbott started a fire inside and was rescued by members of operations unit.  He was taken by helicopter to a Boston area hospital for injuries received as a result of the fire.

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Fire Chief Submits Building Committee Objectives

by Gina M. Votour

Per the request of the Board of Selectmen, Fire Chief Shawn Murray presented pertinent details on the creation of a Fire Department Building Committee at the May 13th meeting.  

Among the information given by the Chief was that the proposed Building Committee would consist of six members, holding the following titles:

  • Board of Selectman representative
  • Budget Committee representative
  • Fire Chief
  • Deputy Fire Chief of Support Services
  • 2 Citizen representatives

One goal of the committee would be to provide an estimate of the square footage necessary for a new station.  Another committee goal would be to locate a land parcel large enough for the new building itself that also offers extra space for expansion in forthcoming years.  

The committee would be responsible for submitting a request for proposal (RFP) concerning a building schematic design.  This would contain preliminary information such as a proposed site plan, a floor plan including room layout, a roof plan design, a plan showing four separate building elevations, and a list of detailed construction costs and specific soft costs. 

Ideally, the above information would be presented by the proposed Building Committee to the board by August 30, 2008.  

At Monday night’s meeting, discussion of these issues began with a focus on the specific plans and costs for this venture.  It was pointed out that once the committee submits the RFP, the next step for the board would be to create a warrant article regarding the hiring of an architectural firm.  This firm would then fully develop the points highlighted in the RFP, including more specific cost estimates based on the proposed square footage suggested by the committee.  

Should the chosen site be in an area that is not owned by the town, another possible warrant article may be necessary.

In the past, the Selectmen have been somewhat divided on the overall issue of the construction of a new central fire station.  Selectman Richard Maddox has emerged as the most strongly opposed primarily due to the potential cost that a brand new station would bring to taxpayers.  As of Monday night’s meeting, Maddox held onto this opinion, suggesting instead that the current station be refurbished.

However, other options had already been considered before the idea of building an entirely new central facility came into play.  Among these alternative options were the renovation and repair of the existing station and the feasibility of adding onto the current building space.  

Furthermore, a previous study determined that the new facility should be over double the square footage of the current building, which may be difficult given the central station’s present location.   

Regarding the makeup of the proposed building committee, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Ben Nadeau suggested the appointment of three citizen reps instead of two, thereby creating an odd number committee makeup to allow for more definitive voting.

However, the motion to establish a six member building committee subsequently passed with a vote of 3-2.  Selectmen Nadeau and Maddox were opposed.    

The discussion of the Selectmen also centered heavily on exactly who the two citizen representatives would be and how they would be chosen.  In a unanimously passed motion, it was declared that citizen applicants will be interviewed and appointed during the first regular meeting in June.  The Selectmen also spoke of giving preference to applicants who have “building trades” experience. 

Toward the end of the discussion, Ken Massey moved to appoint Selectman Shawn Jasper as the Selectman liaison for this committee, as Jasper had expressed an earlier interest in this position.  This motion passed with a vote of 3-2, with Selectmen Maddox and Coutu opposed.  

Fire Chief Murray has stated previously that he does not expect funds to be granted toward construction of a new fire station in 2008.  Selectman Jasper mentioned that with regard to this issue, the town is leaning more toward a three year plan for which the project to be carried out.  

“We’re not committing the taxpayers to anything, we are just looking to see what can be done” said Selectman Roger Coutu at one point.  Overall, the creation of the committee and the reports of their findings will be a great starting point in providing a much better idea of what the construction of a new station would entail.

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The Benson Property Issue: What’s Next for Hudson?

by Gina M. Votour

The proposed park outline back in 2002

Whether you have lived in the Hudson area for more than 50 or less than one year, you would be hard pressed to have not heard about the 165-plus acres once known as Benson’s Wild Animal Farm.

The landmark was founded in 1924 by John Benson, the first curator of Boston’s Franklin Park Zoo.  One of Benson’s jobs was to receive and deliver wild animals to circuses and zoos.  He used the Hudson land as an animal training center until 1926 when he opened it to the public.  Park themes included animal exhibits, a wild animal circus, games and a miniature train.

Benson died in 1943 and the property was bought the following year by the Boston Garden Corporation.  More than 30 years later in 1979, the property was sold to Arthur Provencher, who felt strongly that the attraction should stay focused on animals despite pressure to convert it to an amusement park.  

By 1985, Provencher found himself on the brink of bankruptcy and two years later he gave in and changed its focus to an amusement park, renaming it New England Play World Amusement Park and Zoo.  

Despite Provencher’s efforts, the park closed in November of 1987, leaving several generations of employees and visitors with more than 60 years of memories.  

In 1989, the state acquired the property for $4 million and planned to use it for wetland mitigation as part of a planned bypass, the Circumferential Highway.

That plan was shelved however.  According to Jeff Brillhart, assistant transportation commissioner, there were too many funding and permitting problems.  

In early 2001, the Hudson Board of Selectmen established the Benson’s Committee, which planned to use the land to create a town park.  

By 2002, the state entered into an agreement, approved by the Executive Council, to sell the land to Hudson.  Former Transportation Commissioner Carol Murray established a purchase price of $188,000 with then- Chairman of the Board of Selectmen William Cole.  

The purchase stipulation was that Hudson should pay to restore the buildings considered historically significant by the state.  For the building restoration, the state’s Division of Historical Resources required the use of preservation guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Interior.  

However, the buildings are deteriorated due to age and neglect and restoration could be very costly.  Among the buildings is the Haselton Barn.  At more than 200 years old, the structure recently was estimated to need more than $500,000 in repairs.

Should Hudson pay for the building restoration?  Would a possible alternative be to rehabilitate these structures, a process which may not be as costly as historical preservation?  

Nancy Mayville, the state’s municipal highway engineer, said that “if the town wants to have a park and re-use the buildings, then the cost should go to them.”  She added that historical preservation is “not as onerous as it sounds.  There is lots of room for flexibility within preservation standards.” 

More recently, according to Hudson Selectman Shawn Jasper, a House of Representatives member, the state began talking about a possible agreement to keep the barn in its present state, making no improvements.  However, Jasper countered that in its current state the barn is “an eyesore.”

Further stalling negotiations to transfer the property is the fact that asbestos had been dumped on the site.  According to Mayville, a construction firm was providing loam for the state’s wetland mitigation on the site but the state did not know the loam contained asbestos.  A subsequent lawsuit was settled out of court for $400,000 when the company agreed to fund the site cleanup within the next year. 

Two unregistered landfills also exist on the property.  Since they are not contaminated, a decision was made to cap rather than remove them.  Jasper said the state would need to agree to do this before the land could be transferred.  Jasper also said the state would “need to fully identify wetland areas” before selling the property to the town.   

The latest issue of controversy however, came up when the state began talks of re-assessing the land before selling it to Hudson, voiding the 2002 price of $188,000 null.  According to Brillhart, “A number of years have gone by and the situation is a little different than what is was back then.  It needs to be sold at a fair market value.” 

Brillhart also said the the land was assessed in 2002 as having a conservation easement over the entire property.  With a re-assessment, only parts of the property would contain this easement, he said.  Brillhart said the re-appraisal is planned for completion by September, which could a significantly higher price for the land.  

When asked if the original price of $188,000 is fair,  Jasper said, “I absolutely think it is.  We had a deal.  It’s their (the state’s) fault.”  Jasper also said the “assistant commissioner’s position was unethical” and that town representatives will meet with legal counsel on May 27.

So what would the state do with the property if it ends up holding it?  According to Mayville, “We would declare surplus and sell it” and Brillhart agreed. 

Since most of the property is classified as zone general, this suggests the possibility of residential developments being built on the site if the state were to sell the land.  

Jasper stated he is “hoping for a meeting in the not-too-distant future with the new DOT commissioner.”  Jasper added that Governor John Lynch favors the property transfer.  

Benson’s Committee Chairman Esther McGraw is truly passionate about converting the site into a town park.  “I want it so bad I can taste it,” she said.

Through hard work with other volunteers over the years, McGraw has taken steps to clean up numerous areas on the site.  Not surprisingly, McGraw described herself as “not a happy camper” concerning the current situation. 

Tom Benson, 84, is the great-nephew of founder John Benson.  “If Hudson is going to take possession of the property, I hope they have plans of really making it a public park.  Whoever gets this off the ground, state or town, I hope and pray they will honor him by naming the park after John T. Benson.  He deserves to be honored in this way.  He worked hard for the farm and his community,” he said. 

As a Hudson resident, how do you feel about the Benson’s issue?  What does it mean to you?  What do you think should happen next? 

If you would like your ideas to be heard in future articles on this subject, please send e-mails to gina@areanewsgroup.com or leave a message at (603) 880-1516.  I look forward to further exploring this subject by helping your voice to be heard.

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Campbell Seniors Have Saturday School Day

by Lynne Ober

As the New Hampshire population watched snow totals rise to historic heights this past winter, superintendents began to worry about completing school on schedule.  The Litchfield school district had five snow days.  For all classes, except seniors, this did not present a problem.  The seniors, however, are set to graduate on Friday, June 13.

“Although we discussed moving graduation until the middle of the following week, the board wanted to keep graduation on a Friday,” said Superintendent Elaine Cutler.  “They also didn’t want to ask for a waiver for two school days.”

According to Cutler one of the problems of delaying graduation a week is students might have to choose between attending graduation or freshman orientation at their colleges.  “Many colleges are holding orientation in June and we had students already going to those.”

So, a compromise was worked out.  The district was granted a waiver for one day and a day was scheduled for a Saturday. 

When seniors gathered at Campbell High School last Saturday, they began the day with a breakfast meeting with their project advisors.  “The senior project is a graduation requirement and each student must fulfill specific criteria,” said Cutler.  “Saturday morning advisors and students met in preparation for senior project night.”

“We had 99 percent attendance,” said Assistant Principal Laurie Rothhaus.  “Only one student was not in attendance.”

Rothhaus said work on transitioning from high school to college or jobs followed the advisor meeting.  “Time after time we hear tales of former students struggling with this transition.  We wanted to provide some tools and some material for them as they work through the transition.”

Three former high school students, one a former track star at Pinkerton, one from Alvirne High School and one from Nashua, spoke to the students.  All three had made bad decisions and drifted into drugs before landing in Phoenix House in Dublin.  Phoenix House is one of the nation’s leading nonprofit substance abuse prevention and treatment service organizations. 

“The young people who came to speak were terrific,” said Rothhaus.  “You could hear a pin drop it was so quiet when they spoke.  It was obvious that their words hit close to home for our students.”

Steve Garrity, a motivational speaker recognized nationally, also spoke to the students.  His message was a bit different.  Garrity spoke about overcoming obstacles, about perseverance and finding a path to meet goals.

“The question is about moving on and succeeding,” said Rothhaus.  “There will always be challenges, but they change when you move onto a job or college.  Students have to learn to resolve problems in a completely different environment once they graduate.” 

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