Alvirne Christmas Concert

by Maura McCarthy

Alvirne High Band

On Thursday, January 5, the annual Alvirne Christmas concert finally took place in the Steckevicz gymnasium.  The concert, originally scheduled for December 11, was postponed until December 12, postponed again until January 4, and postponed a third time until January 5, all due to icy, wintry weather.

Keeping with tradition, Gerry Bastien, music coordinator for the Hudson School District, led the Alvirne Concert Band in the holiday favorite Bugler’s Holiday, with Ian Jutras, Jake Galloway, and Kyle Lambert, all on trumpet, literally blowing away the audience.  The perpetual crowd pleaser Sleigh Ride was conducted this year by Jen Cahill, who won the opportunity at the Jeanie Barkley Memorial Fund auction.  The Concert Band also performed Big Four March and Fantasy on Coventry Carol, much to the pleasure of the audience.

Alvirne Singers

A new addition to the program this year was the Women’s Choir directed by Liz Beaton, choral director for Alvirne High School.  Consisting primarily of freshmen, the Women’s Choir impressed the crowd with their renditions of I Feel Pretty, Ave Maria, and Grown-Up Christmas List, among others.

The Alvirne Singers, also led by Ms. Beaton, entertained with a medley of songs from the play Oliver!, a stirring version of Ode to Joy, and the sentimental Where Are You Christmas.  The Alvirne Singers also delivered a solid performance of Kum Ba Ya under the direction of Lisa Hansen, Alvirne’s choral student teacher.

The B Naturals and Nothin’ But Treble, two groups who never fail to delight, wowed the crowd under the direction of Ms. Beaton.  The B’s performed Silent Night, Alleluia, America the Beautiful and I’ll Be Seeing You, with style and flair.  Nothin’ But Treble performed a close to perfect a cappella version of Ding-a-Ding-a-Ding, one of those tunes that stays with you for hours.

The Stage Band led by Mr. Bastien thrilled the audience with Alamode, The Sermon and Big Band Holiday, with soloists Anthony Condo on trombone and Rebecca Patenaude on alto sax.  Led by Ms. Hansen, the Stage Band really delivered with Sambita and Amazing Grace, with soloist Samantha Sirvydas.

So, while we had to wait a little longer than usual, this evening of tradition and celebration was well worth the wait!

John Kerry and Brad Fernald

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Hudson Swears In New Police Chief

by Len Lathrop

Jason Lavoie receives pin from his father, John Lavoie

The Ann Seabury Community Room at the Hudson Police Station was a sea of blue on Tuesday evening when Hudson’s new Police Chief, Jason Lavoie, was introduced by Chief Gendron and sworn in by Selectman Chair Benjamin Nadeau.  Prior to Jason’s father, John, actually pinning the new badge on his uniform, exiting Chief Gendron spoke of Jason and his 18 years as a Hudson police officer pointing out that whoever hired him must have been a very smart police chief.  As Gendron stated, “As I leave in 12 days, 5 hours and 46 minutes, I know that I am leaving the department in very capable hands.  Jason has the experience and clear understanding of the concepts of community policing, customer service and the challenge of providing the best possible training to its members.  And he needs to do that to provide a professional agency and to provide a quality of life the citizens of Hudson come to know and deserve.”  Jason understands that the authority given to him as police chief is only by the trust of the citizens of Hudson and that trust must never be violated.  Jason, my congratulations, best wishes and continued success in your law enforcement career.

The newly sworn in chief then addressed those in attendance.  “This is amazing having all these people come out, this whole experience has been the most humbling thing that I’ve ever gone through my whole life.  When I look around and see the friends, people you’ve grown up with since high school, family members, members of the community that have taken time to come out here and time out of their busy schedule, it really means a lot, as I look around and see the “sea of blue,” the prettiest color around that I’ve ever seen … I thank them all for coming here, it means a lot … chiefs from nearby towns who have taken the time to come out from their agencies, there are other department heads here.  I can’t tell you how much it means when you look out there and see those people here in support of me today.  I can assure you this, that there was a man a number of years ago that had a vision, he had philosophies and instilled them, and so many people that are here today - everyone here wearing this uniform - this agency is not going to fall back at all, he put the right people into positions that they needed to be in, and will continue to provide the best services not only to the businesses but to the citizens of this town. You have nothing to worry about, we have a great police department and I will be out there every day for you.  And if there is anything you need, please don’t hesitate to ask, give us a phone call.  Thank you all for coming.”

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Benson’s Property Deed Transferred to Hudson

by Gina M. Votour

At long last, the Town of Hudson has acquired the 165-acre property once known as Benson’s Wild Animal Farm.  Adding to the good news is that the purchase price remained at the originally agreed-upon figure, $188,000, between the town and the state’s Department of Transportation (NHDOT), who have owned the Hudson-located property for nearly 20 years.

The deed was recorded on Thursday, January 8, 2009, after nearly seven years of what could be likened to a game of ping-pong between the town and the state.  Before selling the property to the town, the state first set standards by which historical buildings on the property should be maintained.  Wetland designation and asbestos cleanup were other factors which held up the sale. 

One of the largest issues of contention, however, was the final purchase price of the property.  The 2002 Quit Claim Deed was negotiated to include a property price tag of $188,000.  However, in recent years, the state recommended that the property be reappraised, which threatened to significantly multiply the purchase price.

In July of 2008, the Board of Selectmen finalized and sent a Revised Quit Claim Deed back to the state.  The deed retained the purchase price amount of $188,000. 

Governor John Lynch had been in favor of the property transfer for some time.  Lynch’s Press Secretary Colin Manning explained that the governor had asked NHDOT to work with Hudson to come to an agreement on the land purchase.

“The Governor is hopeful that the land can be returned to the town,” Manning stated back in July.

A glimmer of hope appeared in September when the state revealed that the appraisal would occur with all wetland restrictions in place, which indicated that the $188,000 price was likely to prevail.  The deed recording last week proved this to be true.

The Benson’s landmark was founded and named in 1924 by John Benson, and focused on animal exhibits, games, and a circus.  The year following Benson’s death in 1943 saw the purchase of the park by the Boston Garden Corporation.  In 1979, the property was sold to Arthur Provencher, who kept the park running until 1987, changing its focus to amusements in an effort to prevent what turned out to be its inevitable closing.  In 1989, the state purchased the property for wetland mitigation as part of a planned Circumferential Highway.  The Circumferential Highway plan fell through and, since then, the land for the most part has remained unused.  Heavy overgrowth and building deterioration naturally have occurred throughout the years.

Although it could take several years, given the state of the property and its structures, the town hopes to convert the space to a recreational area, an idea supported by many Hudson residents.

Future property uses are outlined in the Revised Quit Claim Deed.  The deed states on page 15, section D1 that “The Property shall be maintained in perpetuity as wildlife habitat, natural area, and open space without there being conducted thereon any residential, industrial, or commercial activities….”

The deed continues, “This restriction does not prevent the Town from using the property for educational, passive recreation, cultural and historic purposes … the Town may establish a museum, museum shop, amphitheater, caretaker’s residence, kiosks, bandstand … [etc.].”

The Benson’s Committee was formed back in 2001 and has long embraced the idea of converting the property to a town park.  Now that the property purchase will be complete, committee members are very enthusiastic. 

“I’d like to have a party; I’m serious ... I think we owe the town a thank you,” exclaimed Committee Chairman Esther McGraw.  McGraw, who for years has worked tirelessly on this project, expressed deep appreciation to the many volunteers who have aided the committee, including the Boy Scouts, Alvirne High School, and Continental Paving.

“I wasn’t about to give up,” McGraw continued, describing the committee’s years of efforts repeatedly followed by setbacks.

McGraw telephoned the other committee members to inform them of the news.

“They’re thrilled; it’s about time,” McGraw proclaimed. 

McGraw’s intention to plan the committee’s first meeting in over two years received a green light during the January 13 Board of Selectmen meeting when Selectman Ken Massey stated it is now time to “reinvigorate the Benson’s Committee.”  Massey explained that the main tasks of the committee will be to update the Master Plan originally developed by the town back in 2002, and also to come up with “an operations and maintenance plan for managing the park.”

Selectmen Chairman Ben Nadeau added, “I would just like to thank Selectman [Roger] Coutu and Selectman [Shawn] Jasper and the Benson’s Committee and all the members of the previous boards that have worked very hard in having us acquire the Benson’s property.”

The deed will be formally presented to the town at 10 a.m. on Friday, January 23, within the Governor Council Chambers at the State House in Concord.

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Default Budget Set

by Lynne Ober

Litchfield selectmen have finally set their default budget, but the decision was not unanimous with both Chairman Frank Byron and Selectman Al Raccio voting against the default budget.

RSA 40 specifies the parameters for the default budget.  Selectmen and school board members must confirm to these parameters if the default budget is to be legal.

Section IX (b) is written, “Default budget’ as used in this subdivision means the amount of the same appropriations as contained in the operating budget authorized for the previous year, reduced and increased, as the case may be, by debt service, contracts, and other obligations previously incurred or mandated by law, and reduced by one-time expenditures contained in the operating budget.  For the purposes of this paragraph, one-time expenditures shall be appropriations not likely to recur in the succeeding budget, as determined by the governing body, unless the provisions of RSA 40:14-b are adopted, of the local political subdivision.”

The pieces that are clearly allowed and legal under the law are:

“(1) Appropriations contained in the previous year’s operating budget;

(2) Reductions and increases to the previous year’s operating budget; and

(3) One-time expenditures as defined under subparagraph IX(b). “

The RSA also states that, “This amount shall not be amended by the legislative body.  However, this amount may be adjusted by the governing body, unless the provisions of RSA 40:14-b are adopted, acting on relevant new information at any time before the ballots are printed, provided the governing body, unless the provisions of RSA 40:14-b are adopted, completes an amended default budget form.”

At issue are a number of items added to the default budget over several meetings of selectmen.  Most of the items were requested by Police Chief Joey O’Brion.

At Monday night’s meeting O’Brion spoke during Public Input and requested that two police cruisers be added to the default budget.  Selectmen had already added one cruiser to the budget.  

“The board only put in one cruiser and I requested two,” began O’Brion, who also acknowledged that only one cruiser was in the operating budget.

O’Brion stated several times that the town would have cruisers with mileage over 200,000 miles and would be in “dire straits” if the two cruisers weren’t added to the default budget.

When Byron asked O’Brion for the mileage of the three cruisers currently in service, O’Brion said the lowest was at 30,000 miles.  One was at 60,000 miles and one was approximately 70,000 miles. 

Byron then asked how many miles were driven each year and O’Brion said that each cruiser gets driven 48,000 miles every year.

“You still have a brand new car – the cruiser at 30,000 and you only have two patrols out at a time,” stated Byron.  “I don’t understand how you state that cruisers will have 200,000 miles.”  Byron then added 48,000 to each mileage given by O’Brion and said, “One will have 78,000 miles; one will have 108,000 miles and one will have 118,000.  Can you explain your statement that the cruisers will have over 200,000 miles?”

Although O’Brion spoke, he declined to answer Byron’s question.  Byron again patiently asked the question and asked for clarification.  Byron and O’Brion went over the mileage one more time and Byron asked why O’Brion used a figure of 200,000 miles.  For the second time O’Brion refused to respond to Byron’s question.

“O’Brion said that it was unfair to the officers to drive in an unsafe vehicle, leading selectmen to ask questions about timely maintenance, which O’Brion said was done.

Byron calmly pointed out that if O’Brion got one cruiser that he’d still have two front line cruisers with less than 80,000 miles and again reminded the chief that only two cruisers are ever on the road at the same time because Litchfield only has two patrols per shift.

Selectman Andrew Santom agreed and pointed out that if O’Brion got one new car that he’d still have two new cars for patrol.

Selectman Pat Jewett said that Hudson turned their cars in at 80,000 and cited a recent Hudson~Litchfield News article about that.  However, Jewett did not note that the article cited the bid cost and said that Hudson pays approximately $20,000 for each cruiser while O’Brion had requested $29,000 per cruiser.  In Hudson two new cruisers cost approximately $40,000 while in Litchfield those cruisers will cost approximately $54,000.

Santom finally stated, “The cars don’t have enough mileage to be pulled off the road,” and the chief did not respond. 

However, Budget Committee members said they had cut the request to one cruiser for this year because the second cruiser was being considered so that the chief would have a newer car for his commute between his home and his office.  The town car that the chief is currently driving back and forth to his home in Weare would be traded in.  Neither the chief nor selectmen discussed this issue at Monday’s meeting.

Laura Gandia spoke and said that she felt the town would be at liability if they deviated from their practices.

Selectmen voted 3-2 to add the second cruiser with Byron and Raccio voting no.

Selectmen now find themselves in an unusual position.  State law clearly states that the default budget may contain the previous year’s expenditures and only one cruiser was purchased this year.  Selectmen typically confer with their legal counsel on issues.  In this case they might want to check with both their legal counsel and with New Hampshire Department of Revenue, who is charged with over-seeing budgetary items before proceeding to the ballot. 

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Jewett Wants Generator Installed at High School

by Lynne Ober

After the ice melted and the electricity again ran to homes, selectmen in many towns began thinking about the next event.  Litchfield Selectman Pat Jewett decided that the portable generator purchased by the town and under the care of the fire department should be permanently installed at Campbell High School, and moved to have that done.  Selectman George Lambert seconded for discussion.

Jewett said the generator had been bought for a shelter and it made more sense to be permanently installed at the high school.  “To put it any other place is false; it is wrong,” she told her fellow selectmen.

Selectman Andrew Santom recalled that selectmen had discussed both a permanent installation and a portable option and had decided to pursue the portable option.  “This [generator] is an emergency management asset.  It is ready to be moved.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Frank Byron concurred with Santom.  “The intention was to give the town flexibility.”  Byron pointed out that the generator could be used at Griffin Memorial School or Litchfield Middle School as well as at the high school.  During the recent ice storm the generator had been set up at Talent Hall, and the hall was used as a warming shelter while Litchfield waited for the loaner generator to arrive and be hooked up at the high school.

“The best use is to keep it portable,” said Byron.  “We can move it around as we need it.”  Byron also stated that the generator had to be tested monthly and that the fire department would conduct those tests.  “The best scenario is to keep it at the fire department.”

Selectman Al Raccio noted that the mobility provided the best economic advantage for the town and said that it could be moved to multiple locations as needed rather than being permanently installed at one location.  Raccio outlined several scenarios where the generator might be needed and emphasized the reason that the board went with a portable generator was to provide taxpayers the most flexibility and the best response time in case of emergency.

“The generator can also be used as a mutual aid asset,” said Raccio, and discussed how the fire department could use it to help other communities when it wasn’t in use in Litchfield.

Jewett felt that it could be installed at the high school and still pulled out if needed at other locations.

Selectman George Lambert said that it was important to remember how the decision was made and emphasized that selectmen wanted a portable and functional solution.  “It’s important to understand how the decision was made.”  He also felt that portable provided the best functionality.  However, when the vote was taken, his was the only “yes” vote.

The vote on the motion was 1-3-1 with Lambert voting “yes” and Jewett abstaining from voting on the motion she made.  Although Lambert asked to be able to change his vote to “no,” Byron announced the vote as 1-3-1.  The generator will remain at the fire station and will be deployed as needed.

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