Pelham Loses a Passionate and Loyal Leader

by Karen Plumley

Philip J. “Buddy” McColgan Jr. and wife, Mrs. Joan (Severance) McColgan

Philip J. “Buddy” McColgan Jr., a resident of Pelham since 1971, passed away on Friday, January 16, surrounded by the family he adored.

“He instilled the important values of love, family, and devotion in all of us.  He was extremely passionate about life,” described his daughter, Maureen Couture, also of Pelham.  McColgan leaves four surviving children – Maureen, Philip III, Karen Riddle, and Cheryl Hall – and the love of his life for 58 happy years, Mrs. Joan (Severance) McColgan.

Born on August 23, 1926 in Stoneham, Massachusetts, Phil McColgan Jr. graduated from St. Patrick’s High School and enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving with the 37th Special Seabee Battalion in World War II.  After returning home, he established himself as a pressman, like his father before him, with the Boston Globe.  During his 42 years of employment at the newspaper, he was also a member of the Pressmen’s Union and eventually became its chairman.

Settling down with his family in Pelham, McColgan quickly became involved in the politics of the town.  He had previously held the position of town moderator in Stoneham, and took up that post in Pelham as well.  He also served as an active member of the Budget and Municipal Building committees and, in due course, became a state representative.

“It was an accomplishment that made him very proud,” noted his son-in-law and fellow budcom member Larry Hall.  “He served on the Budget Committee for three terms and was a member of the committee that crafted our current municipal complex,” Hall continued.  The latter position, as with all of them, he did with unparalleled passion and vigor.

“He was a great guy, very pro-public safety,” described Pelham Police Chief Joseph Roark.  By no means was McColgan a pushover, however.  “But once he was convinced [of a project’s value], he remained loyal and very vocally supportive.  He was a navy man, so there was no sugarcoating with him — a rare trait in politics these days.  He would give it to you straight, and never did anything secretively,” Chief Roark explained.  “I would much prefer working with that.  I always knew where he stood.”

“He loved to tell stories,” noted fellow Budcom member Joe Puddister.  “His personality was contagious and he could always make me laugh.”  Puddister, who served on the Budget Committee with McColgan for two years, noted that he was quick to welcome new members and was always willing to lend a helping hand.  “His mind contained a lifetime of immense knowledge…”

On a more personal side, McColgan loved to read and fly.  He had his own plane, an old Fairchild he called “My Jo”.  According to Hall, he enjoyed the privilege of taking his grandchildren (he had a total of 12) up for their first plane ride.  He also enjoyed sports, history, and possessed an impressive library collection of books on the subjects of the Civil War and World War II.  In his travels he would sometimes visit the old Civil War battlefields and, with the knowledge he had of the war from his readings, he could re-create how the battles occurred.

“But what he loved most was his family:  his wife, children, and grandchildren.  The grandchildren were special; he was always at a recital, school play, baseball, basketball, field hockey, soccer or football games.  He was there for wrestling tournaments and graduations.  The grandchildren always knew when ‘Papa’ was there because he never failed to bellow out their names at any point during the games, ceremonies, and events,” enthused Hall.

Phil “Buddy” McColgan Jr. wasn’t afraid of tough decisions, rose to all the challenges that the Town of Pelham had to offer, and never shied away from a conflict.  He had a special place in his heart for public safety, the library, schools, and cemetery concerns.  Honest, hardworking, and loyal, McColgan was a passionate man in all aspects of his life, and he will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

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Pelham Swimmers Much Improved in Salem Meet

by Tommy Gates

Pelham Swimmers

Last Saturday morning coach Jay Chandler had to rise very early in order to get his brand new Pelham Python swim team over to the Salem Boys & Girls Club for a big swimming meet against a powerful Salem Blue Devil team.  The Pelham girls and boys dropped decisions to the Blue Devils, but Chandler is impressed with the way his six girls and four boys have all improved on their times in their first three meets.  Pelham junior Kelly Maglio had the Pythons No. 1 highlight on the morning as she won the 100 Yard Breaststroke in a time of 1:25.37, to just beat Salem freshman Michaela Duffy by just more than a second.  Pelham’s top male performer came in the 100 Yard Backstroke where Salem’s Mark Bacigalupo won this race, but Pelham junior Rob McLean put on a burst at the end to just edge Salem’s Ben Forster for second place in a time of 1:35.97.  Pelham freshman Roxanne Lapierre had quite a successful meet, as she took second place behind Salem freshman Angela Bleeker in the 200 Yard Freestyle in 2:51.82, and then came back with another third place finish in the 100 Yard Freestyle when she stopped the clock in 1:17.94.  Pelham senior Bill Rimes took third place in the 50 Yard Freestyle when he came in at 27.95 seconds, and he just missed another third place medal in the 100 Yard Freestyle when Salem’s senior Dean Goodale beat him out by two one-hundredths of a second.

 Kelly Maglio combined with Freshmen Sarah Chapman, Roxanne Lapierre, and Cate McCarthur to place third in the 200 Yard Medley Relay in a time of 2:55.25.  and Maglio, Lapierre, Chapman, and Lauren Tocco combined to take another third place finish in the 200 Yard Freestyle Relay when they stopped the clock in 2:29.80.  The Pythons last points of the meet came in the Boys 200 Yard Freestyle Relay when juniors Rob McLean and Reece Dumdey and seniors Adam Paquette and Bill Rimes, were able to grab third place in 2:16.53.  Coach Jay Chandler sees the improvement of his Python swimmers from week to week.  Chandler said, “For a first-year program I think we’re doing very well.  We’ve still got a couple more meets before the big State Meet in February, and I’m pretty sure we’re already going to have two swimmers going to that big meet.”

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Separate Warrant Articles Ask for Athletic Facilities

by Barbara O’Brien

Two of the warrant articles to be decided by voters this coming March ask for money to build additional athletic facilities at the new Windham High School, which is expected to open this coming August.

After considerable discussion, school board members decided to place the proposed athletic facilities in separate warrant articles.  They said they felt that combining the two into one warrant article would result in an increased chance of defeat.

Articles 2 and 3 on the 2009 warrant ask voters to raise and appropriate sufficient money to build a second gymnasium, as well as an artificial turf playing field and adjacent track.  The combined amount that would need to be bonded should both warrant articles pass would total $3,158,942.

Each of the two warrant articles also allocates one-half ($500,000) of the interest which has accrued on the original bond issued to build Windham High School.  School board members decided to split the accrued interest 50/50, so as not to show any favoritism toward either the gymnasium or the athletic field/track.

Article 2 asks voters to approve the issuance of a bond in the sum of $2,158,942 to construct a track and artificial turf athletic field.  Article 2 also asks that an additional $62,669 be raised to make the first year’s interest payment on that bond.

Article 2 is being recommended by a unanimous vote of the school board (5 to 0).  Some members of the public attending the hearing on Tuesday, January 13 said they don’t think this is the time to be asking residents to spend more money, due to the struggling economy.  Some people said they would prefer that any excess money left over from the building project or the accrued interest be returned to the general fund to offset the tax rate.  Others said they would like to see the track and field built now, while the construction crew is still on site and prices are somewhat lower than they might be in a couple of years.

Article 3 asks voters to approve the issuance of a bond in the amount of $1,000,000 for the construction of a second gymnasium at Windham High School.  In addition, the warrant article requests the appropriation of $29,028 for the first year’s interest payment on that bond.  Article 3 is being recommended by school board members by a vote of 4 to 1.  Chairman Barbara Coish was the only board member to vote against building a second gymnasium at this time.

Glenn Davis, Owner’s Representative for the School District said it would be possible to build the second gym while school is in session, as the area which would be under construction is located to the rear of the high school and, therefore, would not cause problems with transportation, etc.  If the gym article does pass in March, he said, it would be a push to get it done prior to the opening of school.  It could take three months just to get the steel delivered, Davis said.  The advantage to doing the project this spring, however, would be that the construction crew would already be on site.

The issuance of a bond requires a 60% majority of voters in order to be approved.  Both of these proposed projects are included in the current Capital Improvement Program.  School officials are looking into taking out a bond for a period of 10 years.

Should either or both warrant articles be approved by voters this coming March, 30% state building aid would be available.  That money is not given to the school district in a lump sum, however, but is pro-rated over the life of the bond.

Should both articles gain sufficient voter support to be approved, the tax impact in the first year would be 4 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.  In the second and subsequent years, the tax impact would be 15 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation.  On a $400,000 home in Windham, this would translate into a $16 increase in taxes for the first year and $56 in increased taxes for the second year.  According to school board member Mike Hatem, an existing construction bond , which was used for Center School and Windham Middle School, in the amount of $6 million, will be paid off in 2009, thereby lessening the tax burden.

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Voters to Have Say on New Salt Shed

by Barbara O’Brien

The Department of Environmental Services (DES) is requiring that a new location for the storage of road salt be established within the Town of Windham by 2011.  To accomplish that task, selectmen are proposing a warrant article which will be decided by voters this coming March.

Article 4 asks voters to raise and appropriate $960,000 for the purpose of engineering and constructing a highway complex, including a salt shed and associated site improvements on town-owned property located adjacent to the Windham Transfer Station off Ledge Road.  The land being considered for the location of the salt shed/highway facility is known as The Wilson Property.

A new salt shed location is being required by the state as a stipulation for Windham’s new storm water run-off permit.

According to the proposed warrant article, no more than $625,000 would be taken out through the issuance of a bond.  The remaining $335,000 needed for the project would be taken from a capital reserve fund which was established specifically for that purpose.

Should the warrant article pass voter scrutiny in March, there would be no tax impact in 2009.  It is expected that a five-year bond would be initiated, with the first payment of $125,000 due in July of 2010.  It is estimated that a bond could be secured at an interest rate of four percent.

In 2010, the impact on the tax rate would be seven cents per $1,000 property assessment.  During the four subsequent years of the bond, the tax impact would be six cents per $1,000 property assessment.

According to Highway Agent Jack McCartney, the life expectancy of the proposed salt shed would be in excess of 30 years.  Plans are to build a 60-foot by 80-foot concrete and steel structure which would provide covered storage for both road salt and sand, as well as include a four-bay garage and office space for highway maintenance employees.

Town Administrator David Sullivan said that the proposed project is supported by the town’s Capital Improvement Program (CIP).

During the public hearing on Monday, January 12, the only comment made on the proposed warrant article was by resident Margaret Case, who said she’s not opposed to the construction of a salt shed but is concerned about the location of such a facility on the Wilson property.  Case said she wants assurance that the nearby water supply will not be negatively affected by the storage of road salt.  Sullivan said that the project, should it be approved by voters, will be under close scrutiny by DES officials to assure that aquifers won’t be tainted.  Sullivan also noted that Transfer Station Manager Dave Poulson is an environmental engineer and has extensive experience in this area.

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Selectmen Discuss Elderly Exemption

by Lynne Ober

Pelham Selectmen continue to work on March 2009 warrant articles.  At a recent meeting, Selectman Bill McDevitt recalled that at the March 2008 ballot he had encountered two residents who expressed disappointment that the Town had not updated its Elderly Exemption for a long time.  McDevitt pointed out that the current state law allowed people of certain ages and certain incomes to pay slightly reduced property taxes.

After the March 2008 discussion, McDevitt researched the issue and discovered it had been 10 or more years since the Town updated its Elderly Exemption.  McDevitt outlined the current guidelines for the Board.     People aged 65-74 could receive an exemption of $25,000 in assessed value if certain criteria were met (single, net income less than $19,000; married, combined net income of less than $28,100), and whether single or married assets can’t exceed $60,000 (not including the home).

People aged 75 and over who meet the criteria don’t pay any taxes.  This legislation is known as “enabling” legislation because it requires a positive town vote before exemptions can be given.  The legislation has upper limits and towns can set their limits within those allowed by law.  Pelham has chosen to adopt the high end of the limits for people 75 or older who meet the criteria.

McDevitt provided a packet of information for the Selectmen to review which included towns that Pelham might compare itself to.  He spoke in favor of Pelham modestly increasing the income and maximum asset limits to be a little more relevant with prices and values in today’s economy.  However, he was hesitant because with changes in exemptions a dollar in tax not paid by one party would wind up being paid by somebody else.  That concern noted that the values hadn’t been updated in 10 years and values had changed greatly over the same time period.

Mr. McDevitt reviewed the number of people requesting exemptions and found it curious that there were approximately 10 people aged 65-74 receiving an exemption and approximately 40 people 75 and over receiving an exemption.  He then reviewed suggested amendments (that were revised using compound numbers from the past 10 years and the assessed valuation).  The amendments being discussed looked at the various age groups and made recommendations for increases.  Under discussion were the following:  for elderly aged 65-74, single income would change from $19,000 to $25,000; married, income would change from $28,000 to 37,000.  Maximum assets would change from $60,000 to $80,000.  The assessed value reduction would go from $25,000 to $33,000.  McDevitt noted one of the problems was when the amounts are increased it would be unknown how many people would qualify.  He suggested that the Selectmen prepare a warrant article to change the limits to $25,000, single income; $37,000, married income; maximum assets, $80,000; and assessment reduction for those aged 65-74 of 33,000.

When Board of Selectmen Chairman Doug Viger questioned if there was any restriction to stop other family members moving in with those having exemptions, Town Administrator Tom Gaydos answered “no”.  Gaydos explained that this situation had arisen and had been examined.  He reported that when the Town went to the Board of Tax and Land Appeal, they were informed that the law doesn’t specify other household income.

Discussion continued about the suggested amendment to the exemption.  Selectman Hal Lynde suggested changing the starting age for total exemption from age 75 to 76 if the amendments were put forward, to limit the number of new people qualifying.

Gaydos said the total amount of taxes (spread amongst the town taxpayers) for the age 65-74 range was approximately $4,300; the amount (spread amongst the town taxpayers) of taxes for people receiving 100 percent was approximately $166,000.  Gaydos also offered to work with McDevitt on draft language for Selectmen to review.

At press time, the final warrant article has not been approved, but work has continued and, according to McDevitt, “the changes have been approved by the BOS.”

McDevitt outlined the changes that have been initially approved, and these are, “Homeowners 65-74: To qualify for a $25,000 reduction in assessed valuation TODAY, they must have annual income of not more than $19,000 (if single), $28,000 (if married), and maximum assets (not including the home itself) of $60,000.  Proposed changes are single income maximum of $25,000, $37,000 if married, and maximum assets of $80,000.  The reduction in assessed valuation will be increased to $33,000 for those who meet the qualifications.”

When asked to clarify the changes, McDevitt noted, “So a qualifying homeowner with a home assessed at $250,000 will, under the proposed exemptions, be assessed based on $217,000.  Homeowners 75 and over are today exempt from property taxes if they meet the criteria as described above.”

If selectmen approve the changes and agree, this will appear as a warrant article on the March 2009 ballot.

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