Chief Roark Welcomes Tots on Station Tour

by Gloria Sullivan

Chief Roark greets the group in the reception area of the Pelham Police Department

The participants of Pelham’s Tot Camp and members of the MOMS Club and their children were treated to their own private tours of the Pelham Police Department given by Chief Roark this past Tuesday.

Chief Roark greeted the crowd with a big smile and a brief explanation of what the children were about to see.  The group of over 25 children and their Moms filed into Dispatcher DeMaris’ office and witnessed her taking an actual call.  The room fell silent and the children watched the goings on throughout the department on the many flat screen monitors.  The Chief pointed out the jail cells on screen and explained how it is the dispatcher’s responsibility to watch the prisoners at all times.

Chief Roark asked, “What number do you call when you need help?”  The children replied, “911!” and the Chief explained what happens when a 911 call is made.  A concerned Mom asked what would happen if a child were to do so by accident or just for a joke. 

Chief Roark informed the crowd, “If you accidentally called 911 or you play a joke, a police officer is still going to come to your house.  Even if you say oops, I meant to call 411; an officer is going to come.  So don’t goof around, it’s no joke.”  He then smiled and demonstrated how tough he is on the dispatchers by pointing to phones in the dispatcher’s break room and bathroom.

The tour continued down a hallway to the Chief’s office.  On the way, a Mom handed out home baked cookies to the officers and staff on duty.  In the Chief’s office were personal photos including one of his 3-year-old son innocently posing in a jail cell and a signed photo of Senator McCain.  There was also one of Chief Roark and his twin brother, who is also a police officer.

The children were shown the men’s locker room and they learned how the officers are required to place their guns into a special holder for safety while they are getting dressed. 

“What do you do when you see a gun?  Never, never touch a gun.  If you see one at your friend’s house or at home, don’t touch it.  Guns are very dangerous.  You guys have to promise me, okay?  You go tell somebody.  Tell your parents or your friend’s parents,” the Chief cautioned the crowd.

The Chief led the crowd to the state of the art work out room and gym and informed the group that every item in the building; the fitness equipment, the furniture in his office and the kitchen, was all purchased with criminal asset forfeiture money and not taxpayer’s dollars.  On the wall was a giant check, the kind you would see at the lottery commission.  The check for $172,000 was from a gambling operation in town. 

The next stop on the tour allowed the children to see where the officers receive their assignments and write their reports.  They were also given the chance to step into an actual jail cell.  The children were happy to fill the cell to maximum capacity and pose for pictures as the onlookers laughed in amusement.

The crowd then proceeded outside to get a close up view of some police vehicles and took turns sitting on the police motorcycle.  The tour concluded after a brief video and a reminder of the important things that were explained during the 45-minute tour.  The Chief also emphasized the importance of stranger safety and urged the kids to talk to their parents.  He then presented the youths with a bag of coloring books, stickers, pencils, whistles, safety information, and Pelham Police t-shirts.  The children thanked the Chief in unison and eagerly waited for their Moms to open the safety lollipops that were also included in the souvenir bag.

When asked if anyone could set up a tour of the station the Chief replied, “Anyone that wants a tour of the station just needs to call and make an appointment and we’d be happy to arrange it.”

Elise S., 2,  ready to give chase on the motorcycle

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Frustration Rages at Deliberative Session

by Lynne Ober

Feelings of frustration and mistrust of Windham’s Board of Selectmen permeated the Deliberative Session.  Less than 10 minutes after the Deliberative Session opened, Windham resident Tom Case announced, “I don’t trust you,” and that set the tone for the evening.

After the meeting opened, the Moderator read the warrant article for the second access road and asked Board of Selectmen Chairman Dennis Senibaldi to speak on the warrant.  Senibaldi declined and then said perhaps Selectman Charlie McMahon, who has been the driving force behind this would speak, but McMahon also declined.  So the floor was turned over to the audience for questions.

Case expressed the feelings of frustration and mistrust that were floating in the air.  His first question was about the wording.  Reminding selectmen that they voted on July 21 to build a connector road, he questioned why the warrant article was written to end at the intersection with Castle Hill Road. 

Although Senibaldi and Attorney Bernie Campbell originally said that was “in case money was left over so that selectmen could make improvements on the existing road,” residents continued to question this issue.  Later, after continued questioning about the wording of the warrant article, Senibaldi changed his answer to say that because joining one road with another required some work on the existing road, the article had to be worded that way. 

Betty Dunn followed Case to the mic and immediately echoed his statement that she didn’t trust selectmen.  She expressed her extreme frustration at the selectmen’s lack of willingness to talk about the project or to provide details about the project.  When she reminded them that she had been to town meeting after town meeting, watched detailed presentations and now she couldn’t even get simple answers, the audience erupted into spontaneous applause.

Senibaldi then asked Engineer Peter Zohdi to talk about the road, which will be approximately 3,800 feet long.  Zohdi said that the abutters were donating the land for the road.  Later, it was stated that they would only donate if the road was paved and not if the road was gravel.

According to Planning Director Al Turner, the plans for the road are not complete.  It has not been possible to do a comprehensive bidding process, but Zohdi gave them an estimate, and subsequent bids on the work that had been done agreed with Zohdi’s original estimate.  Turner said he felt the received bids were at least 90 percent accurate.

A number of residents expressed frustration and outrage that the need for this second access came to light so late in the process.  Although the fire chief and police chief were in the audience, neither directly addressed the lateness of the requirement.  However, Fire Chief Tom McPherson emphatically stated that without the second access, he would not approve the high school opening.

McMahon directed the audience to an August 6, 2008 letter from New Hampshire Department of Education Administrator Edward R. Murdough.

As the discussion continued, it became clear that the town and fire chief expect that the long driveway built by the school district to the high school will now become a major town thoroughfare.  When a resident questioned that, Selectmen Roger Hohenberger replied that this had been in the town’s master plan.

However, Case took the mic and pointed out that the town’s master plan called for a committee to investigate such a road and did not specifically call for the road.

Residents questioned that the “driveway” built to the school would be safe as a major thoroughfare and questioned the steep grade, the curves and concern about teenage drivers, and school buses navigating such a road with other traffic.  Dunne talked about an incident where her car, on a slippery road, refused to turn and she skidded into the path of a school bus.

Finally, one resident asked if the road could be paved and gated.

Selectmen asked McPherson to reply and he initially said that the gate would slow down response times because they would have to stop and open and close it.  However, Hohenberger asked if the gate couldn’t be automated and controlled from within the vehicle.  At that point, McPherson said yes but indicated that he wanted the road to be a thoroughfare and not be gated.

When a resident asked McMahon to read Murdough’s letter into the record so that people at home could hear, McMahon refused and noted it was a page and a half.  McMahon characterized the letter as “too long to read.”

Contained within that letter is a probable reason as to why this second access road is coming to the forefront so late.  Murdough stated that he only realized in February, 2008 that McPherson was “exercising his authority to require a second access.”  He went on to write, “It was very obvious to us that a town road has been planned for many years in the area of the new school and that at least some were expecting to receive School Building Aid for construction to help pay for this town road.  We do not pay School Building Aid for construction or upgrades of town infrastructure that passes by a school.” 

Is the above telling statement the reason that the second access road came up long after the high school’s long driveway was built?  School Construction Aid was used to build the long driveway that will now become a town thoroughfare.  If the second access road had originally been on the plans, would the town have had to pay for the road up the hill as well as the second access road?  These questions were not addressed even when residents asked why this road came up so late in the process.

One resident sharply questioning selectmen about the lateness and noted that Murdough wrote, “Unfortunately, it appears that this issue has been fumbled at several points along the way.”  When the resident continued that she supported the road, more applause was heard.

Another resident asked about adding sidewalks along the road.  There is a sidewalk up the hill to the middle school.  It cuts through the woods rather than following the driveway.

Although there was obvious support among attendees for the road and people spoke to the benefits of paving the road versus gravel, there was also obvious, continued frustration at the lateness of the request and the lack of response to explain.

Carol Pynn earned more applause when she directly asked either chief to respond to the second access for emergency vehicles by pointing out that the one and only access to both fire and police was a single road across a bridge. 

“Why is this acceptable?  But you won’t open the high school without a second road,” she said.  Neither chief responded.

No one offered an amendment.  When discussion ended, the warrant for one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars moved to the ballot.

Although many people departed, those who stayed engaged selectmen in a lively discussion over the conservation easement warrant article. 

Dunn and Selectmen Galen Stearns had a running back and forth dialogue when she took the mic to speak to this article.  Each had a side and neither could convince the other.  Finally, the moderator stepped in and stopped the dialogue.

The issue revolves around whether the town should give up its rights to the property.  Those who want open space favor this easement and the money it will bring to the town.  Those who think the town may need to build on the land in the future do not favor the easement and want to keep the town’s options open.

This warrant article also moved to the ballot unchanged.  Voters will have an opportunity to vote on both of these warrants at the September 9 election. 

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‘Is it Science or Magic?’

by Karen Plumley

Carl, 7, of Windham holds up the recipe for “Shake and Make Ice Cream.”

During the week of July 28, Pelham Elementary School second grade teacher Pamela Mansfield led a small but enthusiastic group of children on a quest to discover the magic of science at Golden Brook School in Windham.  The class, entitled “Is it Science or Magic?” was part of the Windham Summer Camp program. 

“I just love science and I think that the subject is so much fun for the kids,” said Mansfield, who has taught the course several times throughout the summer. 

During Thursday’s lesson, the children worked cooperatively to make Shake and Make Ice Cream from a few simple ingredients:  half and half, sugar, vanilla, rock salt, and ice.  After placing the ice and rock salt in a large Ziploc bag, the ice cream ingredients were added to a smaller bag.  The duties were split up nicely between all of the students.  Once the smaller bag was inserted into the larger one, the students took turns shaking vigorously for about 10 minutes.  The ice cream formed quickly and the children got to taste the fruits of their labor. 

“This tastes better than the ice cream at home!” enthused Haley, 8, of Pelham.  After the snack, Mansfield sat down with her students and discussed why the liquid changed into a solid so swiftly during this experiment.  Students engaged in the conversation, offering their many ideas and observations.

In addition to the ice cream project, the group also made invisible ink, rock candy, slimy putty, magic bubbles, and bathtub finger paint.  They also studied the human body with units on heart rate and genetics.

“With the many projects being hands-on, it is such a great way for kids to learn,” Mansfield said.  It is clear that throughout this weeklong summer session, Mansfield succeeded in getting her students really excited about science.  Now that’s magic!

Carl, 7, Hunter, 8, and Anthony, 8, help to combine the ingredients for “Shake and Make Ice Cream” during the Windham Summer Camp session entitled, “Is it Science or Magic?” at Golden Brook School.

Pelham Elementary School teacher Pamela Mansfield scoops out the homemade ice cream during her summer camp program entitled, “Is it Science or Magic,” on Thursday, July 31.

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State Wants Local Communities to Help with Road Salt Reduction

by Barbara O’Brien

It took many years to build up the salt level that currently exists in some area water bodies and it will take many years to remedy the problem.  That was the message that Eric Williams of the Department of Environmental Services (DES) had for town officials attending the Windham Selectmen’s meeting on Monday, July 28.  “It may take 20 years to fix the salt contamination,” Williams said.

The majority of the salt contamination of which Williams spoke comes from the sodium chloride used to treat area roadways and parking lots during icy weather.  Of the area water bodies checked, the maximum allowable limit of sodium chloride was generally exceeded by about 25 percent, according to Williams.  “A 25 percent cutback is needed to protect these water bodies,” he said.

It was during a recent environmental study done in conjunction with the Interstate 93 expansion project that the seriousness of the problem was discovered.  As a result, the following four water bodies were listed as “impaired”:  Policy Brook; an unnamed tributary to the Western Embayment of Canobie Lake; Dinsmore Brook; and Beaver Brook.  Although Dinsmore Brook is the only one physically within Windham, water from the other three tributaries flows into Windham.  The contamination is the result of road salt leaching down through the soil and eventually dissolving into the ground water.

Williams explained that a dozen meters were used in the impaired water bodies during a year’s time, resulting in more than one million points of contact being used as data to study the water quality.  “This is not just a seasonal issue,” Williams said, “but all year long.”  Although the road salt run-off occurs in the wintertime and early spring, the level of salt concentration actually becomes much higher in the drier, summer months.

The resulting report, issued by the DES, concluded that the only way to meet mandated water quality standards would be a significant reduction from the current chloride level being used on area roads and parking lots.  “Once salt’s in the water, it’s happy to stay in the water,” Mark Hemmerlein of the DOT, said.  “The only way to reduce the contamination is to reduce the amount of salt used.”  Hemmerlein said there is really no affordable and/or effective way to remove salt from water once it has become dissolved.  “All towns involved need to work collectively to solve the issue,” he added.

The five towns involved in this particular watershed protection issue include: Windham, Londonderry, Derry, Chester, and Salem.  Selectman Roger Hohenberger noted that Salem, being a much larger, more commercially-based community, is certainly generating a larger proportion of the salt run-off than the four much smaller towns.  Williams acknowledged that Salem does have more miles of road and a greater number of parking lots than the Town of Windham.  The requested reduction of road salt is based on per-lane mile, he said, which will serve to equalize the overall reduction needed to solve the water contamination.  It’s not just municipalities that are creating the salt contamination, Hemmerlein explained.  “The private sector (i.e. parking lots) is huge in this problem.”

Windham Transfer Station Manager Dave Poulson suggested that all five towns form a coalition and pool whatever federal funds they are allocated.  “We’re all in the mix together, anyway,” Poulson said.  “Regionalization is the most efficient way to go.  We have to connect somewhere,” he said.  Hemmerlein agreed that communities working together would be beneficial to all, but there might be political issues in creating that cooperation.  “Each town is unique, but there are similarities that could be coordinated,” Hemmerlein said.

“What can we do?” Windham Selectman Roger Hohenberger asked.  “We’ve already cut back to 75 percent sand and 25 percent salt use,” he said.  “To cut back more becomes a safety issue,” Hohenberger said, adding that he would be opposed to further reducing the level of salt used on area roads.  Hemmerlein said the task will be to make the salt that is used more efficient, to make sure that it melts the ice on the road itself, not the ice and snow accumulating on the sides of the roadway.  “It’s clearly a challenge,” Selectman Charles McMahon commented.

In order to assist in achieving the salt reduction, the federal government has earmarked $2.5 million to help affected watershed communities resolve the dilemma.  The goal of the funding, which requires local matching money, is to help these communities implement a more effective and reduced rate of road salt usage.  Once a community has applied for the federal grant and been awarded the funding, the program will take place in two phases: planning and implementation.  The intended outcome of the planning phase is to develop a salt reduction plan that includes specific actions designed to achieve salt reduction on municipal and private roads and facilities, such as parking lots.  It is intended to be a collaborative process among members of the affected communities, in conjunction with assistance from the Salt Reduction Workgroup, comprised of members of the State DES, as well as the State DOT (Department of Transportation).  Approximately 8 percent of the grant money will be allocated to communities for planning purposes; the other 92 percent for implementation, once the planning is completed and has been approved by state agencies.

Preliminary plans are for the DOT and DES to work in cooperation with the University of New Hampshire to develop training seminars and “green certification” certificates for communities involved in the road salt mitigation process.  Planned activities include developing a local accounting system that will provide the means for tracking road salt use in each community; providing training on treatment practices for maintenance professionals (public and private) to ensure appropriate storage and application of road salt;  to provide equipment and infrastructure upgrades, including new decision-making tools for winter maintenance personnel; plus developing local design standards that limit impervious surfaces and require the use of porous pavement and other infrastructure that enables the reduction of road salt use.

“This is a long-term project, “Williams said.  “We will keep monitoring the water to see how we’re all doing over a period of time.”  In the meantime, Poulson said he plans to contact administrators from other affected communities to find out how much interest there is in working cooperatively.  “After all, it is the environment that is the issue here,” Poulson  said.

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