Recognizing a Hero

Executive Councilor Ray Wieczorwek with Bill Grinley and family

William J. Grinley, Bill to his friends, served 12 months in Iraq and during that time he was awarded the Bronze Star.  Grinley, a resident of Windham, owns Patriot Welding and Fabrication in Pelham.  On Tuesday friends, officials, family and veterans gathered in Pelham Town Hall to honor Grinley for his service.

The medal  was awarded for meritorious service as an allied trades technical officer in charge of the Frag 5 Site for the 1015th Maintenance Company at Adder, Iraq.  During that time his professional skill and knowledge coupled with 18 years’ experience as a metal fabricator was put to use and he was recognized for his knowledge of production controls, scheduling and organization to his unit.  Under his guidance the 28 personnel assigned to this unit labored in the heat, and dust to complete their mission.  Grinley was recognized for his attention to detail, energy and positive thinking.

This unit supported Americans, Romanian combat patrols, Australian coalition forces and the Polish army.  In addition, they found time to construct a variety of items from flag stands to barbecue grills.  They performed multiple modifications to vehicles used by Special Forces.  Perhaps their greatest achievement under the supervision of CW2 Grinley was to produce an ASV extracation system, which allows the opening of an exterior door in the event of a rollover.  This system allowed trapped soldiers to be extracted even when the door is combat locked from the inside.  Under Grinley’s supervision, this device was installed on countless vehicles and he was credited with developing a design and implementing a device that ensured that soldiers involved in ASV vehicle rollovers are rescued quickly.

Tuesday State Representatives Jean Guy Bergeron, Russ Ober, Lynne Ober and Charlie McMahon joined with Executive Counselor Ray Wieczorek in presenting a proclamation from Governor John Lynch.  The men from the American Legion and VFW posts spoke about their high regard for those who serve today and congratulated Grinley.

When he took the podium, Grinley was all smiles.  He talked about his service, but he also talked about those who had influenced him as he grew up.  He thanked his wife, Christian, who took over the business when he was deployed and thanked his chief fabricator for his loyal service in his absence.  “Many small businessmen who are deployed overseas do not have a business to come back to, but mine is still thriving thanks to the efforts of these two people.  My wife stepped in and did what I had been doing.”

Grinley also thanked the Pelham Police Department for their drive-bys.  His wife said that she felt very safe thanks to their attentions and noted that when she had called for assistance that they were immediately there.  “It made me feel very safe.”

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Windham Fire Department Holds Open House

By Lynne Ober

Matthew Palmer, 4, enjoyed his tour of an ambulance.

The Fire Safety Open House is an annual event at the Windham Fire Station. It’s a chance to climb into an ambulance and see what the EMTs do with a patient, and a chance to sit in a fire engine.  Nothing could be more exciting.

Fire Chief Tom McPherson said that his staff looks forward to hosting the open house and welcoming the public.  “Every year we have a great turnout.  Today we have 14 staff on hand.”  With the day bright and warm, families quickly began filtering into the fire station.

Fire engines were strategically placed so that you could walk from one to another.  Firefighters stood by to answer questions.

“We have a children’s fire safety room set up inside,” said Eric Hilderbrandt, who has been with the Windham Fire Department since 1998.  “The kids can try on kid-sized fire gear and see what a firefighter looks like when he gets all geared up for a fire.”

There were tours of the fire station and the ever-popular opportunity to hold a fire hose and squirt water.

Two cars were available for demos and firefighters showed how to use the Jaws of Life to extract a trapped car passenger.

The communities of Derry, Salem, Londonderry, Windham, Hudson, Pelham, Raymond, Atkinson and Litchfield have pooled law enforcement resources for the purposes of forming a Regional Special Operations Unit [SOU].  The SOU command vehicle was at the fire department and the HAZMAT unit had brought their vehicle and was on hand to give tours and answer questions.

As always, one of the highlights of the open house is the Annual Chili Cook-off.  Who has the best chili?  Participants got to taste the chili and vote for their favorite.

“Matthew, loved to play firefighter,” said his mother, Allison Palmer.  “He was ready to come early this morning and he’s been going from vehicle to vehicle.  He’s just having a great time.”  Matthew, 4, came dressed as a firefighter and said that he wanted to be a firefighter when he grows up.  “I’m a nurse and we play rescue all the time,” smiled his mother.

Benjamin Riordan, 3

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Discipline of Planning Director Upheld

by Barbara O'Brien

Disciplinary action against Windham Planning and Development Director Al Turner has been unanimously upheld by the Board of Selectmen.

The issue came to light when Turner asked for a public hearing on a suspension levied on him by Town Administrator David Sullivan.  That hearing was conducted on Thursday, October 9.  All five Windham selectmen, plus an attorney representing the town, attended that meeting.  The only item allowed for discussion was the issue which resulted in Turner being suspended from his job for a period of one day, without pay.  Sullivan and Turner were also both in attendance, sitting beside one another at a table facing selectmen, throughout the procedure.  Turner and Sullivan have worked together in Windham for approximately 13 years.  Sullivan has served as town administrator for Windham since 1988.

At the beginning of the hearing, Turner said he was not looking forward to the meeting, but felt the need to bring out certain facts.  Sullivan said, out of respect for Turner, he would be attempting to not delve into Turner’s employment history, other than its relation to the event which resulted in his suspension.

Sullivan said he didn’t take the decision to suspend Turner lightly, but that the responsibility for him to do so goes along with being the town administrator.  The violation which earned Turner the single-day suspension was against Sullivan, himself.  I feel the facts will stand on their own and are undisputable, Sullivan said.

The violation with which Turner was charged relates to a retention basin at the Porcupine Road development and the handling of paperwork and a subsequent meeting pertaining to that issue.  Turner failed to keep the town administrator in the loop, as to what was happening, Sullivan said.  What made him even more concerned, Sullivan said, is that Turner is generally one of the town’s employees who does the best job of keeping him informed.  This change of behavior makes the issue even more disturbing, Sullivan said.  Generally, If there’s an issue, we talk, Sullivan said of the history between him and Turner.

In this case, however, Sullivan said he was not told by Turner of correspondence received from an attorney representing the developers of the Porcupine Road site and that attorney’s desire to have a meeting with Sullivan.  The faxed letter, intended for Sullivan and marked as confidential was, reportedly, taken from the fax machine by Turner.  Sullivan said he did not learn of the attorney’s letter or his request for a meeting until after the fact.  Additionally, Turner was said to have held a meeting at the construction site with representatives of the developer, without Sullivan being advised that the meeting was taking place.

Nobody wants a surprise.  Nobody wants to be embarrassed.  We’re supposed to be working hand in hand,” Sullivan said of Turner’s failure to apprise him of the situation.  “Al (Turner) received a letter addressed to me and did not forward it, Sullivan said.

Subsequently, on September 18, Sullivan met with Turner and placed him under a two-day suspension without pay.  This was actually egregious enough for a three-day suspension, Sullivan said, which is the limit of his authority as town administrator.  In this particular case, a written reprimand just doesn't cut it, Sullivan said, adding that he spent a great deal of time mulling over what he should do regarding disciplinary action.

Sullivan called three witnesses to testify at the hearing:  Assistant Town Administrator Dana Call, Maintenance Manager Al Barlow and Transfer Station Manager Dave Poulson, all of whom concurred that town employees are well aware of Sullivan’s three tenets of management, which include, Do your job, keep me informed, and don’t embarrass me.  A tenet is described as being a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true, especially one held in common by members of an organization, movement, or profession.

I will not tolerate this behavior, Sullivan said of the incident with Turner, adding that if another such incident occurs, further disciplinary action, up to and including termination will be taken.  Sullivan said he feels he has been more than fair and impartial, in handling this issue.

Turner said he had no intention of harming or upsetting Sullivan and realizes the importance of working as a team.  He said he had asked for the public hearing in order to protect himself from unwarranted punishment.  During his testimony, Turner said he didn’t realize that Sullivan hadn’t already received the letter from the developer’s attorney when he picked up the fax in question.  I don’t feel that the discipline (suspension) is commensurate with the infraction, Turner said.  I did my job by bringing together the parties and securing a resolution to the detention pond issue.  I was shocked when I was told of the suspension, he added.  I feel this is very harsh for a minor lack of communication.

According to Turner, he found nothing unusual in the attorney’s letter to Sullivan and didn’t realize it wasn’t for his viewing, as well.  Not informing Sullivan wasn’t intentional, Turner said.

Turner said he feels that the suspension was actually used as retaliation for another action he took in regard to town business.  The topic of this issue was discussed following the public hearing, in non-public session.

Sullivan said he feels as if his reputation and integrity are being impugned by Turner making allegations that the suspension is related in any way to other issues related to the town.  I want to make this clear, Sullivan, said.  I did not take this action due to any other issue.  My motives were true and fair.  Sullivan said he is also very much aware of the whistle blower protection act, which serves to protect employees who file complaints related to their jobs.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he was having a difficult time understanding why Turner didn’t bring the attorney’s letter to the attention of Sullivan.  Why didn't you? he asked Turner.  Turner replied that he receives hundreds of faxes a day and that most of them are routinely listed as confidential.  Turner said he had assumed that Sullivan, Dana Call or local engineer Peter Zohdi had faxed a copy of the letter to him, as he was the person working on the issue.  Sullivan said Turner made a lot of assumptions in reference to this matter and to do so was a mistake.

Looking back, Turner said, I wish I had marched over to Dave’s (Sullivan) office and given the fax directly to him.  Turner also said that he wasn’t previously aware that the meeting he held at the site with the developer’s representatives was the same meeting that the attorney wanted to have with Sullivan.  I didn’t know I shouldn’t have the meeting without Dave (Sullivan)”, Turner said.

At the conclusion of the hearing, each selectmen expressed his opinion on the discipline issue against Turner.  Bruce Breton said he was upholding Sullivan’s decision to suspend Turner, because he felt Turner’s behavior was unbecoming for an employee, by not giving Sullivan the faxed letter as he should.  Galen Stearns said he was also upholding Sullivan’s decision, because Turner had failed to obey proper direction given by the administrator.  Charles McMahon also upheld Sullivan’s disciplinary action.  I concur, McMahon said.  The evidence is clear.  Roger Hohenberger said he was upholding Sullivan’s edict, because Turner violated employment policies in two instances; first failing to give Sullivan the faxed letter and second for holding a meeting, which Sullivan was asked to attend, without him.  Chairman Dennis Senibaldi also agreed, saying that he feels Sullivan is always abundantly clear in expressing his three tenets to employees.

No information was available as to when Turner will serve his one-day, unpaid suspension.

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Drainage Study Completed for Additional Parking at Griffin Park

by Barbara O’Brien

The required drainage study for a parcel of land being proposed for additional parking for Windham’s Griffin Park has been completed, but further action on the project is being delayed to allow representatives of Cobbett’s Pond Improvement Association (CPIA) to review those findings.

Selectmen discussed the Griffin Park additional parking issue, most recently, during their board meeting on Monday, October 6.  The concept has already been under consideration for several years.  It was in March of 2005 that voters approved accepting the donation of a 1.8-acre parcel of land with two buildings, located across Range Road from Griffin Park.  The land is being offered by Windham residents and developers Anthony and Susan Mesiti.  The donation is contingent on the parcel being built as a parking lot.  The construction must take place before the land will be conveyed to the town.

Selectman Charles McMahon said the desire to provide more parking for those using Griffin Park is being driven by population growth and the need to ensure the safety of those visiting the park.  McMahon said it’s vital to get all the parked cars off the sides of Range Road and into a safer location.

As for the drainage study, Selectman Roger Hohenberger asked what impact the proposed parking lot would have on nearby Cobbett’s Pond, a water body which has already been described by state and federal officials as imperiled.  Selectman Bruce Breton said that the study indicates that the water flow would be the same after construction as it is now.  Breton said there is no intention to use the lot for winter parking, so there would be no need to put down any road salt in the area.  Hohenberger suggested that no salting be made a condition of approval for constructing a parking lot on that property.

Kathleen Difruscia, attorney and a member of the Cobbett’s Pond Improvement Association, expressed concern due to the fact that the proposed parking lot is located in the water shed area for Cobbett’s Pond, and asked selectmen to give engineers and the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) two to three weeks to review the drainage study.  Difruscia said she and other association members are worried about the possible deterioration of water quality due to the parking lot being built.  There is no harm in waiting (for selectmen to make a decision) this time of year, Difruscia said.  We’ve already been waiting to see drainage plans since 2005.

Difruscia also reminded selectmen that a variance would be required from the zoning board of adjustment before approval for such a parking lot could be granted.  A parking lot is not a permitted use in that area, she said.

According to Difruscia, the improvement association is not trying to stop the building of a parking lot, but simply wants to assure that everyone involved is on the same page.

Windham resident Carolyn Webber suggested that town officials look at an alternative to building on the land being donated by the Mesitis.  She asked them to consider park property located near the soccer fields.  She said she has concerns about children and elderly people crossing Range Road to attend activities at Griffin Park.

Chairman Dennis Senibaldi said safety is of the utmost concern to town officials in regard to the parking situation at Griffin Park.  He also said that selectmen are in full agreement with the need to protect Cobbett’s Pond.

Anthony Difruscia, also an attorney and member of the CPIA, asked selectmen who’s going to pay for the parking lot construction and who’s going to build it.  This is a total donation of a completed project, McMahon replied.  No taxation of residents is involved.  An approved plan must be in place prior to the actual donation taking place, McMahon explained.

Selectmen have placed the Griffin Park parking lot proposal back on the agenda for Monday, October 20.  This is expected to provide the representatives for the Cobbett’s Pond Improvement Association with the time needed to review the drainage plan.

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Windham Renewable Energy Committee Set to Move Ahead

by Barbara O’Brien

A committee formed with Windham School Board approval last May is looking for permission to move forward with a study of alternative forms of energy for the high school, now in the final stages of construction off London Bridge Road.

Committee chairman Alan Carpenter met with school board members during their Tuesday, October 7, meeting to report on the progress made by WIRE (Windham Initiative for Renewable Energy) during the past five months of its existence.

The WIRE committee was formed following an initiative last year by Windham Middle School student David Hutchins, in which he presented information to the school board regarding  possible construction of wind turbines at the hilltop site of Windham High School.

Carpenter, a former Windham selectman, told school board members the mission of WIRE is to inspire citizens and educate students about renewable energy, particularly wind and solar power.  Carpenter said committee members already have looked into potential partnerships with corporate and higher education entities.

As for ultimate goals, Carpenter said, they are educational, as well as being a symbolic gesture.  The purpose is to reduce the carbon footprint and enhance energy independence, he said.

In conducting research, Carpenter said, committee members have been doing almost everything electronically, thereby reducing use of paper.

One of the committee’s largest undertakings is the development of its Website – completed, but not yet operational – as committee members await school board approval.

Carpenter said the committee has contacted seven companies regarding analysis of the high school site for wind turbine suitability but is a long way from having the money to have the job done.  In hopes of raising that money, or a portion of it, WIRE has partnered with the local non-profit organization known as Windham Endowment for Community Advancement.  Tax-deductible donations may be made to the endowment and earmarked for the renewable energy project.

School board member Beverly Donovan said she needs additional information on how the process would work administratively regarding fund raising and setting aside money for specific projects.  She asked that the proposal be reviewed by school district counsel, Gordon Graham.

Superintendent Frank Bass said that WIRE, originally approved by the school board, means the board continues to have legal supervision over all committee activities and would have the final say in such matters.  The school board, superintendent and committee would work together to plan a path for the future, Bass said.

Carpenter emphasized that WIRE is “not a one-project event” and he foresees the committee going forward into the future.

School board Chairman Barbara Coish said plans will be made to hold a joint workshop with WIRE in which an in-depth discussion can be conducted, so the committee can move forward with its concepts.

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