Pelham X Games Wraps Up with Bike Event

by Karen Plumley

Winners in the 15 and under category. Gold: Mark Thibeault of Pelham; Silver: Matt Brown of Woburn, Massachusetts; Bronze: Gregory Hartwell of Dracut, Massachusetts. With them are Eastern Boarder representatives.

Children of all ages and from all over the area came out to participate in the first ever Pelham X Games bike competition, held on Saturday, September 20.  Hosted by Pelham Parks and Recreation and sponsored by Eastern Boarder of Nashua, the final event of the games saw 22 competitors and many enthusiastic spectators.  The youngest participant, Ryan Hubert, 4, of Pelham, took home an award for “Best Bike Accessories,” and the fun didn’t stop there.

“Best High Fives” winner Michael Dommel, 9, also of Pelham, was another youthful entrant at the competition on Saturday.  “He definitely got a little air, and rode smart, too.  The announcers pointed out that Michael kept safety in mind by wearing a full face helmet,” commented Parks and Recreation employee Kelly Ciampa.  Helmets were required on Saturday for anyone who wanted to participate in the event.

A slight adjustment in the judging took place to make the competition fairer to competitors.  According to Ciampa, the younger age category was modified from its original plan of ‘14 and under’ to ‘15 and under.’  “It definitely worked out better with the change,” noted Ciampa.

Despite a slight learning curve, the competition that lasted until well past five o’clock was very successful.  Winners were decorated with medals and prize bags.  Bike accessories such as tires, tubes, pedals, handlebars, and grips were also awarded.  Pelham Parks and Recreation Director Brian Johnson commented, “I was very happy with the turnout and the results of our first skate park event.”  According to Johnson, the department plans to make the X Games an annual occasion.  “My hope is to turn it into a festival-type atmosphere with vendors and banners, to wrap up the summer,” described Johnson.

This year’s X Games brought in over $500 in funding for the maintenance of the skate park.  “What is so important about this event is that it opened up the Parks and Recreation revolving account so we can use some of those funds to keep this popular destination safe and in good condition,” Johnson enthused.

Ian Breznahan of Keene flies high at the Pelham X Games competition.

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Do Goats Have Lips?

by Doug Robinson

Principal Debra Armfield kisses her new best friend “Norah.”

“Do goats have lips?” asked Windham’s Golden Brook School Principal Debra Armfield as she addressed the packed gym of first and second graders.  “I have flossed, brushed my teeth, and even used mouthwash.  I even brought lipstick.”

In celebration of the students’ reading achievements Armfield had agreed to “kiss a goat.”  Thanks to Johnson Farm, “Nora” had been bathed, nails polished, and white coat groomed as she was readied her for her big date with the principal. 

Joel Burdette, school librarian, said, “Over the summer we challenged the children to participate in our ‘Go for the Gold’ reading program.  We tied it in with the Olympics so that the kids could have some fun reading.  The goal for the school was for the children to collectively read 2008 books between the time the school year closed and today.  Our kids read 3,107 books.” 

How the Ostrich Got It’s Long Neck, My Dog and the Birthday Mystery, Diary of a Spider, Comet’s Nine Lives, and The First Dog are among only a few of the 3,100 books read.  Golden Brook student Brendan said, “I read over five books during the summer.  Reading helps me learn fast.  My favorite book was Little Witches Halloween Night.”

Dressed as a farmer, and decked out with a corn hat, farmer’s blue jean overalls, plaid shirt, and bandana, Armfield addressed the students and expressed her pleasure with the accomplishments they had achieved.

And to the roar of the children screaming “Kiss the Goat, Kiss the Goat,” administrators, visitors and teachers also looked on as Armfield knelt and kissed Nora the goat on the lips.

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Second Access Road a Local Windham Issue

by Barbara O’Brien

The New Hampshire state fire marshal has declared that building a second access road to Windham High School is “a local issue” and, therefore, declined an invitation to attend a selectmen’s meeting to discuss the issue.  Representatives of the New Hampshire Department of Education also chose not to attend the September 29 selecten’s meeting.

The question of constructing a second access road to the school has been controversial among town and school district officials, as well as residents.  The first warrant article asking voters for the $1.25 million to stretch a paved road, built to town standards, failed to garner sufficient support in March.  That warrant article was presented by the school board.  A second attempt, put forth by selectmen, also fell short of the 60 percent majority, during a special town meeting on September 9.

Throughout the process, there has been a division of opinion on whether a second access road is required at the facility, scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 school year.  According to Selectman Charles McMahon, it is this divisiveness that caused the articles to fail.  That is the reason selectmen chose to plan the joint meeting on September 29.  That meeting, however, did not result in the mixed attendance for which selectmen had hoped.  The only school board member who attended was Mike Hatem, who said he was attending as a private citizen and not representing the school district.  Superintendent Frank Bass did attend and spoke briefly when requested, but he also had sent a letter to selectmen, on behalf of the school board, asking for additional time to consider possible options regarding a second access.  In that letter, Bass asked for an additional 30 days to investigate those options, requesting that the joint meeting be held the end of October, rather than September 29.

McMahon said the fact that school officials chose not to participate in the joint meeting on September 29, saddened him.  “There has been a true drop in communication and understanding” between the two boards, McMahon said.  “The purpose of  this meeting is to provide clarification,” he said.  “There is an obligation to build a second access road.  The high school will not open without a second access road. We cannot let that happen,” McMahon said.  “We will resolve this issue.”  McMahon also said that he doesn’t want to wait until March to resolve the dilemma, explaining that there might not be time to build a road between March and when the high school opens in late August or early September.  “It borders on bizarre to wait,” he added.

“We need to get the facts out once and for all,” Selectman Bruce Breton said, referring to the information being provided during the September 29 meeting.  This is the same information McMahon said he provided months earlier to state, town and school officials.

The majority of that information reiterated during the meeting was from Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson.  “I’m saying it again, tonight,” McPherson said.  “I want to see the high school open on time.  I’ve said all along that I’m willing to work with all those involved to make sure this happens.”  Despite his desire for the high school opening not to be delayed, however, McPherson continually emphasized he is not willing to risk the safety of students and staff members.  And not to have a second access road to the new high school would be taking a chance on the safety of those individuals, he said.

McPherson said he has worked with the Windham Fire Department for the past 29 years and feels the town having its own high school is 10 to 15 years overdue.  Now that the school is nearly a reality, residents should be able to look forward to its opening with pride, he said, adding that he doesn’t want to see this milestone “clouded by controversy” over the construction of a second access road.

During his presentation, McPherson provided information stating that the state fire marshal has determined that the local fire chief (McPherson) is the “authority having jurisdiction” in this matter.  That information also confirms that the local fire chief is the authority charged with enforcing all National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) and state codes pertaining to fire prevention issues.  In response to a question he had received before the meeting, McPherson said selectmen do not have jurisdiction to override the fire chief on such issues.

According to codes requiring multiple access roads, McPherson said that more than one fire department access road shall be provided when determined by the authority having jurisdiction (local fire chief) that a single road could become impaired by vehicle congestion, conditions of terrain, climatic conditions or other factors that could limit access.  “Yes, it could happen,” McPherson said.  “It’s only going to take one incident.”  McPherson described the type of incident could occur should a delivery truck, school bus and/or new student driver become involved in an accident on a road with no other access for emergency equipment to respond.

Police Chief Gerald Lewis also spoke during the September 29 meeting, saying he “wholeheartedly supports” McPherson in his goal to have a second access road.  “We’ve been working on this together from the beginning,” Lewis said.  As for the potential for an emergency at the school, Lewis said there are “a multitude of possibilities.”  Without a second access, “We might not be able to get in and out in an emergency,” he said.  Referring to such incidents as Columbine High School in Colorado, where numerous students and teachers were shot by two students several years ago, Lewis said, “God forbid it should happen here.”

The minimum requirements for a second access road to the high school would be a width of not less than 20 feet and no less of a vertical clearance than 13 1/2 feet.  “It’s not true that we can just build a gravel road and gate it,” McPherson said.  Were a gravel road to be constructed, he explained, it would have to meet specific parameters and would have to be sufficient to hold the weight of fire apparatus.  The surface would have to be suitable for all weather driving capabilities, McPherson said.  Any gates erected at the entrance to such an access road would have to be approved by the local fire chief, as well.

Discussions on the need for a second access road go back to December of 2004, McPherson said, and continued sporadically thereafter.  Correspondence among state and local officials and boards spelled out the rules “clearly,” he said.  “There has been no deviation during that time.”  McPherson said some people are claiming that the need for a second access road was raised at the “eleventh hour.”  This allegation is not true, he said.

In regard to what was described as a maintenance road running between two athletic fields, McPherson explained that this cannot be considered as a second access, because it does not meet NFPA and state fire codes.  That maintenance road, which runs off London Bridge Road and not Route 111, borders fields surrounded by a chain link fence and which have steep slopes.

“I think we can get there, but we need to work together,” McPherson said, referring to the goal of opening the school on time with a second access road in place.  “There are options,” he said.  “And I’m willing to listen to these options.”  What McPherson said he is not willing to do, however, is to go beyond 60 days of opening the school without the second access road being completed.  McPherson said school district officials have been told repeatedly about what is required in a second access road.  “I think they know time is of the essence,” he said.

“The school board needs to come forward and show me a plan,” McPherson said.  “I need to see the options and see what will work.”

Hatem, stressing he was speaking strictly as a Windham rsident, cautioned selectmen to “turn down the heat a little bit for now” in regard to pressuring school board members about the access road.  “There is a solution,” he said.  “We will make this work.”  Hatem also said that everyone involved needs to come to a consensus.

“We want to explore every option,” Dr. Bass said.  “We want to get it right.”

Selectmen Chairman Dennis Senibaldi made the final comment of the evening.  Everyone involved needs to get together for the benefit of the entire community, Senibaldi said.  “We need to get this solved sooner than later.”

Following the meeting, School Board Chairman Barbara Coish, who was videotaping the meeting for cable TV, said only that “the school board asked for 30 days.  Until we are ready to speak none of us should be speaking on the subject of additional access.”  The School Board will hold its next public meeting on Tuesday, October 7, beginning at 7 p.m. in the town’s planning and development building, next to the old Town Hall. 

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Blasting Site Developers Want Change to Road

by Barbara O'Brien

The developers who want to build a light industrial park on property off of Ledge Road are asking that changes be allowed regarding the roadway at that development.

Representatives of Meadowcroft Development met with members of the Windham Planning Board to discuss the issue on Wednesday, September 24.  Sub-division approval on the development had already expired by the time the meeting was held.

Meadowcroft had also been given two years in which to substantially complete the proposed 1,400 foot road into the future light industrial complex.  The approval for the road construction expired on September 20.  Meadowcroft representatives say the road was not finished as planned due to a state-mandated shut down on blasting at the site.

Meadowcroft has been at the center of controversy in Windham for nearly two years now, largely as the result of complaints related to extensive blasting at the Ledge Road site.  Residents have been reporting structural damages to their homes, as well as water contamination, air pollution and noise complaints for about a year and a half.  As a result, blasting was halted in October of 2007, first voluntarily by the developer, than later by representatives from the State Department of Environmental Services (DES).  Subsequent studies of the blast area, particularly for nitrates, are still continuing, with a final report expected in the near future.

Attorney Bruce Marshall, legal counsel for Meadowcroft and Precision Drilling and Blasting said the developers are asking that the road be shortened by about 300 feet, from the original 1,400 feet to approximately 1,100 feet in length.  Marshall said the developers were willing to shorten the road length in order to address concerns raised by town officials and area residents last year.

Tom True, of True Engineering, who is representing Meadowcroft, said the shorter roadway reduces the need for as much excavation and, therefore, less blasting at the site.  According to True, the shorter road could mean a reduction of about 300,000 cubic yards of fill having to be removed from the site.  When asked how much fill has been removed from the site to-date, neither True nor any other Meadowcroft representatives could answer the question.  Planning Board Chairman Phil LoChiatto said the developers need to have a great deal more specific information available for any future discussions of the issue.

Attorney Marshall said the ongoing study of the effects blasting has had on the neighborhoods surrounding the construction site has been quite the educational process for both DES and Meadowcroft.  He said there have been recent changes made in both State DES specifications, as well as in the developer’s procedures, as the result of recent research.  He also said that Meadowcroft has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money on conducting the mandated research.

During the public input session of the meeting, residents were asked to stick solely to the topic of changing the length of the road, but the words of caution went unheeded.  Each resident who spoke expressed anger, frustration and despair at what they say has devastated their homes and community.

Steven Allen, a resident of Meetinghouse Road, said he’s concerned about the impact on the entire area and doesn’t feel relevant issues are being addressed.  “What is the developer’s responsibility to the property owners?” Allen asked.  “This has turned into a long, drawn-out nightmare that is wrecking our lives.”  When originally proposed, developers said the construction project could take about seven years to complete.  Only two years of that time has already passed.

Another resident, who lives on Haverhill Road, said the developer originally said that the road couldn’t be shortened, because it would require more blasting.  “How can they do it now?” he asked.  “We keep getting different stories.  And, frankly, we’re all getting tired of it.”

“There’s no reason for this project to go on,” Jack Hamburger, of Haverhill Road, said.  “It needs to be shut down.”  Hamburger also said that he feels that a lot of comments being made by the applicant (Meadowcroft) have proven to be untrue.  He also pointed out that Meadowcroft had even operated at the site last year without having all the appropriate permits in place.

“It’s not an industrial park, at all,” another resident said.  “It’s a gravel pit. It’s a strip mine.”  Prior to the operation being shut down earlier this year, truckloads of fill from the blasting were taken off-site on a regular basis.  Signs on site also indicated that crushed gravel was for sale.

Terri Marescia, of Meetinghouse Road, said she was speaking not only for herself, but other neighbors, as well.  “No matter how long the road is, it will require excessive blasting,” Marescia said.  “It’s damaging to our homes, our families and our health.”

Joanne Vignos, also a resident of Meetinghouse Road, asked planning board members if they have the authority to deny the project.  Chairman LoChiatto said he would have to seek a legal opinion from town counsel.  Any denial made by the planning board would have to be based on Windham’s Town Ordinance.

Arthur Cunningham, a Hopkinton lawyer representing some of the area homeowners, said, “This plan is not for an office park. It’s a pretext to get around the town’s zoning ordinance.”  Cunningham said that he recommends that the approval for sub-division be denied.

Selectman Bruce Breton asked if it was an office park, which was originally proposed in July of 2006.  Planning board member Walter Kolodziej said the original proposal was for a fitness center/sports complex.  People thought it was a very good addition to the town, at the time, he added.  “It looked good on paper.”  Since that time, however, Kolodziej said,  “It’s more or less boomeranged on us.”  Kolodziej said he would need more information on the proposed road shortening before he could render an opinion.

Planning board member Ruth-Ellen Post also recalled that the original proposal called for a combination fitness center and office park to be constructed on the 46-acre parcel off Ledge Road. Following the meeting, Attorney Marshall said that the proposed development has always been intended to be an industrial park and not a gravel pit or quarry.

No decisions were made during the September 24 meeting.  The discussion has been continued until Wednesday, November 5.  In the meantime, a site walk of the construction site has been scheduled for Saturday, October 18 at 2 p.m.  The public is invited to attend the site walk and advised to dress appropriately for traversing the area.

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Another Traffic Signal Possibility Off Route 111 By-Pass

by Barbara O'Brien

On the recommendation of Windham Selectman Charles McMahon, the majority of board members have decided to ask the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) to allow for the future installation of a traffic control signal at the intersection of the newly-named Delahanty Road and the Route 111 By-Pass, which is a state-owned roadway.

McMahon told his fellow board members that he feels there is no “traffic management” at that intersection, which runs between Semi-Conductor and the Bohne property.  In the future, McMahon said, the lack of sufficient traffic control could impede economic development in the area.  The addition of traffic control could make adjacent land more valuable, he added.  “It’s also a matter of basic traffic safety,” McMahon said.

Because construction on the Route 111 By-Pass is in its final stages right now, McMahon said, that leaves little time to contact the State in regard to gaining permission for the installation of a future traffic light, should it be needed at some point in the future.  McMahon said he also plans to take his idea to the Windham Planning Board sometime in October.

Under McMahon’s proposal, those who might develop the adjacent property at a future date would be responsible for the cost of installing a traffic signal at that location.  It wouldn’t be the State DOT that would foot the bill, he said.  It would just be a matter of the State giving approval.  “The State shouldn’t leave us with a traffic conundrum,” McMahon said.  “This is a small benefit to the town.  One we should fight for.”

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he’s concerned about there being too many traffic lights along this stretch of roadway.  He doesn’t want to see this area become like Salem, Hohenberger said.  Hohenberger questioned whether it would be possible to build a service road behind the adjacent property, a road which would provide access to Route 111A.  Hohenberger said he doesn’t look at this particular traffic light as “a benefit” to Windham.

Selectman Bruce Breton said he agrees with McMahon that having a controlled intersection at this location is a benefit, both safety-wise and in regard to increasing property values.

At the conclusion of the discussion, selectmen voted 4 to 0 to 1 to pursue State approval for a future traffic light in the area of Delahanty Nursery and the Golf Course.  Voting in favor were Charles McMahon, Dennis Senibaldi (chairman), Galen Stearns and Bruce Breton.  Roger Hohenberger abstained from voting.

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