Strawberry Fest a Berry Good Time
by Lynne Ober
Dan Daigle made balloon animals.
Pelham Seniors held their annual Strawberry Festival on the Senior Center lawn, and, as in previous years, it was good old-fashioned fun for everyone. There was food and fun and music and more fun and, of course, fresh, juicy strawberries. Hot dogs were grilled outside. Senior Center Director Sue Hoveling took her turn dishing up the delicious strawberry shortcakes.
Dot Carter made many jars of her famous strawberry jam, and if you didn’t get there before lunch, you didn’t have an opportunity to buy a jar. Dot’s jams are known to be delicious and business was very brisk at the jam table.
The seniors provided a variety of family games with stuffed animals given as prizes. Dan Daigle came on his tall stilts and showed off his new skill – he can make balloon animals. He was constantly surrounded by youngsters who marveled at how tall he was and were entertained as he made balloon animals. The bounce house was busy with bouncing youngsters and the clowns kept busy entertaining all the guests.
The Council of Aging offered a variety of raffle baskets. They have been raising money to help support a new addition to the senior center. Although they hope that they won’t have to raise all of the money and that a warrant article will eventually be passed, they continue working diligently to offset the cost of the addition. Each basket had a theme; there was a garden basket, a Fourth of July basket, a lottery basket, a breakfast basket, a Spa basket and a Red Sox basket. Kids could sign up for free to win a Chunky’s Cinema prize and the Canobie Lake Ramblers provided music for the festival.
“It’s a fun day,” said Charlotte Moore. “We thought we’d come down and see what was going on and say hi to people we know.”
Although it was overcast, it was a warm day and the rain held off until after all the strawberries were eaten and the last guest had gone home.
Rain Delay Does not Stop fun
by Lynne Ober
Joey, 3, said shooting the fire hose was “cool and very hard work.”
With rain in the forecast on July 3 Pelham Spirit Committee decided to postpone the spirit celebration until Sunday July 6. When the rains started late Thursday afternoon, everyone was happy that the event had been postponed and marked their calendars for Sunday.
Sunday was bright and sunny and spirits were high. Families and friends gathered at Pelham Elementary School early in the afternoon in anticipation of a good time, some good food and good music before the fireworks display.
Pelham Fire Department had an ambulance on display and youngsters enjoyed seeing what was inside, but perhaps a chance to shoot water from a fire hose was the favorite pastime. There was a constant line of kids wanting to hold the fire hose and talk to the firefighter.
Again the small, but mighty spirit committee put on a spectacular event. If you live in Pelham and want to get involved in a fun event, contact Joyce or Bill McDevitt about joining the committee. They are looking for new members.
Dan Daigle was, as always, an instant hit with kids of all ages in his bright pants. Walking on stilts, and towering about the crowd, Dan can still bend over to talk to the smallest munchkin.
Crossroads Baptist Church provided music. Chairs were set up for the audience long before the first note was sung, but as soon as the music started, the chairs filled.
And, as always, the evening ended with a magnificent fireworks display. “It just gets better and better every year,” said Joyce McDevitt. “This is what community is all about.”
Musical entertainment was provided by Crossroads Baptist Church.
Route 111 By-Pass Nears Completion; Landscaping Up for Debate
by Barbara O’Brien
Officials from the State Department of Transportation (DOT) are hoping that the construction of the Route 111 By-Pass in Windham will be finished by the end of this construction season sometime this coming fall.
Peter Stamnus, project manager for the Route 111 By-Pass project, met with Windham Selectmen during their Monday, June 23 meeting, to provide an update on the construction. The utility relocation portion of the project is expected to be done by early July, Stamnus said. As for the area west of Range Road (near Searles School), the construction will be completed “in pieces,” he said. While DOT officials are “hopeful” that the project will be fully completed by the end of this construction season, “the reality is that some cleanup work might need to be finished in 2009,” Stamnus cautioned.
Motorists will see “significant improvements in relieving traffic backups” on Route 111 near the northbound access lanes to Route 93, once the by-pass construction is done, Stamnus told selectmen.
The one portion of the discussion between state and local officials which generated controversy during the selectmen’s meeting was the existing landscaping plan for the median strip and along the edges of the new Route 111 By-Pass (From Route 28 through the off-ramp for Route 93).
“The purpose of the project is to improve the aesthetics,” Stamnus said. The total cost to the state for landscaping is estimated to be about $225,000.
Plans are currently to begin landscaping in the spring of 2009. “What we are proposing is a significant project” on the part of the state, Stamnus explained. Based on the current plan, the DOT will be responsible for purchasing and planting the trees and shrubs, but the maintenance of those plantings will then become the responsibility of the Town of Windham. Stamnus said the plantings would be guaranteed and, therefore, replaced through two growing seasons, should any of them die during that time period.
Selectman Roger Hohenberger said his main concern is how much work and expense will be involved in maintaining the plantings once the DOT has completed the project. He said he felt that the overall scope of the project was too extensive. When Selectman Charles McMahon asked who initially asked for the landscaping, Stamnus replied, “The Town (of Windham) did.” In this economy, town officials need to rethink the project, McMahon said.
“It would be criminal to plant and then not maintain,” McMahon said. The cost of maintenance really needs to be determined, prior to the go-ahead being given to state officials to begin landscaping, McMahon added.
“The selectmen have already had these plans for almost three months,” Stamnus said. “We would need to have any revisions within the next month. Stamnus did say, however, that he would look into someone coming down from the DOT to address the maintenance concerns of town officials.
Selectman Bruce Breton said he’s in favor of the plan.
“This is the gateway to the community,” he said, “We asked for this for a reason.” Breton said he feels the proposed landscaping is “visionary” and that the state should be commended for its development. Selectmen Chairman Dennis Senibaldi said he agreed with Breton’s assessment of the project. The proposed plantings “pale in comparison” to what was removed from the area as the result of road construction, Senibaldi said.
Selectman Galen Stearns also said he thinks town officials need to know the cost of maintaining anything that is planted.
“If it’s too high, I’m not willing to maintain the landscaping along a state highway,” Stearns said.
Stamnus did tell selectmen that the species proposed for planting are all drought-resistant, slow-growing, hardy varieties, including trees, shrubs and perennial bed plantings, such as lilies; many of which are native to New England. More than 175 trees are currently included in the proposed landscaping. Referring to the quarter-million dollar proposal, Stamnus said, “We’d be happy to cut the project in half or do away with it (completely).” The landscaping proposal will be discussed again at a future selectmen’s meeting.
There’s a Benefit to Waiving Health Insurance Coverage
by Barbara O’Brien
There’s a substantial monetary benefit for Windham town employees who choose to waive their health insurance coverage. This waiver is only available to non-union employees at the current time.
For those who choose to opt out of the single health insurance coverage offered by the town, eligible employees will be compensated in the amount of $2,500 per year. For those who decide not to take either the two-person or the family plan, the compensation to those employees rises to $5,000 per year. Applicable stipends are to be pro-rated and paid monthly as long as the employee maintains the waiver.
Town Administrator David Sullivan told selectmen during the board’s Monday, June 23 meeting, that “the town will realize significant benefit as the result of those who opt out” of signing up for the town’s health insurance program. Those who choose not to take the town-offered coverage generally have health insurance elsewhere, such as through their spouses. For non-union town employees who choose not to sign up for the family plan, there will be an annual savings of about $13,000, Sullivan said.
Sullivan said there is currently only one non-union town employee who is interested in waiving his/her health insurance benefit. When a survey was done about two years ago, there were 13 non-union town employees who had double health insurance coverage (through the town, plus coverage through a spouse).
Following a substantial discussion of the issue, selectmen voted unanimously to approve the increased financial compensation for eligible non-union employees who choose to waive their health insurance benefits. A lower compensation was in place previously. For the past 10 years, those who opted out of town coverage were compensated $75 per month ($900 per year).
In order to offer this waiver compensation to the town’s union employees it would need to be considered as part of the unions’ contract negotiation process.
Castle Hill Road Bridge Project Continues
by Barbara O’Brien
Although the estimated cost of reconstructing Castle Hill Road Bridge has nearly doubled since the project was considered in 2002, it proceeds. The span over Beaver Brook is owned by Pelham and Windham.
Selectmen met with the project engineer, Michael Croteau of SEA Consultants of Concord, during their meeting on Monday, June 30, to discuss the project.
Even though initial plans to reconstruct the bridge began six years ago, the situation became even more dire when spring flood waters inundated the area in 2006. And though the bridge survived the deluge, the roadway leading to it was undermined, determined to be “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete” and closed since then. Engineers said the bridge has insufficient weight capacity and is too narrow to accommodate modern traffic.
According to the engineering firm, 80 percent of the cost will be borne by the state, while the rest would be paid by Windham. Windham’s share, however, is being picked up by an area developer instead. Crotaau said Pelham is not willing to participate in the cost of reconstruction because it has another bridge over Beaver Brook. While the original estimated cost was approximately $273,000, according to Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan that expense has risen to about $520,000. Sullivan said that due to the long delay in getting the bridge reconstructed, the cost to Windham will be in the neighborhood of $11,000.
Croteau said plans for reconstruction are about 90 percent complete. The project will be put out to bid when remaining issues are resolved. Sullivan said he doesn’t anticipate construction being done before spring.
The single-lane bridge consists of a 27-foot single span. The old timber deck is carried by timber stringers supported on mortar and rubble stone abutments. The bridge was built circa 1920 and since has had improvements consisting of a steel guardrail, new deck in 1971, another deck replacement in 1990 and addition of new timber beams.
At the request of the New Hampshire Division of Cultural Resources, an individual inventory report was prepared by an architectural consultant to evaluate the bridge for its eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places. The results of this report concluded that the bridge is eligible for the National Registry as an increasingly rare example of a timber stringer bridge with a timber deck. Because the bridge is to be reconstructed, however, it is permissible to re-use the historic parts of the bridge in other historical projects. Pelham and Windham have suggested local uses for the timber beams and stringers that will be removed from the bridge. Carol Pynn, of the Windham Historic District Committee and the Windham Heritage Commission, said suggested uses for the timber include building stairs into the town’s historic cellar hole, and using some of them as a walkway at the Windham Depot, now under renovation. The beams would be labeled, she said, so that people would know their origin.
When the new bridge is built, Croteau said, there will virtually be nothing left of historic significance at the site of the new bridge. The huge granite boulders used in the original bridge abutment most likely will be ground and used as rip-rap along the slopes of the bridge to prevent erosion.
The new bridge will be a two-lane structure, about 41 feet wide, be more than sufficient to carry the weight of fire apparatus and other heavy equipment, Croteau said. Selectmen voted unanimously (5 to 0) to proceed with the new bridge construction.