Hudson Loses a Man Who Never Stood Out but Was Always There

by Len Lathrop

Gordon French with wife, Bette, and daughter, Bobbie

Gordon French died on Sunday, January 26.  As his long-time friend and fellow Alvirne Trustee for over 15 years, Ruth M. Parker called Gordon a true gentleman, a great guy, never had a negative word about anyone, and most of all, Ruth pointed out that Gordon never stood out, but was always there to get the job done and to help other people.

Retired Judge Phillip Hollingsworth, Gordon’s brother-in-law, explained that Gordon “ran his life and business in a way that today might be described as old world.  He trusted people and he honored people.  He tried to help people in his life, and with his business, to always make sure he took the best care of the customer that he could.”  His son Richard added that making sure people had the right insurance was first and collecting the premium was secondary.  The Judge hopes that with today’s current economic crisis we re-examine our values and re-learn the value of people — something that Gordon never forgot — and that our nation can return to that time.

These values that Judge Hollingsworth mentioned were deeply rooted.  Gordon was educated in Hudson for grammar and junior high school.  High school meant walking to Nashua High School (now Elm Street Junior High), about a three-mile trek each way.  He excelled in school, even while playing three sports, which he was tri-captain of the basketball team, captain of the baseball team, and also ran for the track team.  Upon graduation, Gordon was recruited for basketball at Yale University; however, he chose Dartmouth for their V-12 Military Program.

An early family photograph of the French family

Think of what the roughly 25-year-old Gordon must have learned as his mother Maude gave her time to help establish Alvirne High School.  Some of his values might have come from his mother when, at the first day of school (held at the Hills House), the relatives of Dr. Hill wanted the property returned to the family because they didn’t want it used as a school.  Maude was the first teacher, and that was where the high school in Hudson began.

When the Korean War broke out, the Navy recalled Gordon to serve as an intelligence officer in Washington D.C., where he served for two years.  As the family grew, Gordon coached basketball for the Nashua Biddie Organization, with many of his players going to be high school athletes at Nashua High.  Daughter Bobbie mentioned that she was amazed by the number of former players who came to say good-bye at the wake.

Today you can see the family-run insurance company on Derry Road by Library Park.  Gordon’s father started at the family farm, which was located across from where Route 3A intersects with Route 102 today in Hudson, and Gordon joined the firm in 1949.  By the time Gordon entered the insurance business he had graduated from a special wartime program at Dartmouth College and, in addition to earning a bachelor’s degree in two and a half years, he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Navy.  As World War II ended he began teaching in Milford, CT, and then in Henniker, NH.  During the summer of 1947 he met Bette Haug.  Bette pointed out that the first date was called off as she had been exposed to the measles and back then no one had been vaccinated.  The relationship flourished and they were married on May 1, 1948 at Saint Patrick Church in Nashua.  Gordon and Bette celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last summer.

Mr. French remained active with the insurance company until his death.  Rick pointed out the number of people who have told stories of how his dad helped them when things just weren’t going right.  Helping people when they needed help seemed to be Gordon’s credence in life.

You might not have known Gordon French, but his actions and values as a Hudson resident, a teacher, a coach, an Alvirne Trustee, and much more, have, I am sure, touched your life.  And as Judge Hollingsworth stated, “Whether the values that Mr. French lived by will return is a hope for us all.”

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Mama Mia!  It’s a Palooza!

Ashleigh McCarthy, Katie Mascaro and Brittany Decker from the B’Naturals.

The smell of a delicious pasta meal wafted through the halls of Alvirne High School on Friday night, January 30, as the Alvirne Friends of Music hosted their Pasta Palooza dinner.  The event, held at Alvirne’s Checkers Restaurant, has become an annual fundraiser for the group, with the proceeds going to support the Alvirne Music Department.

Upon entering the school cafeteria you were greeted with the sounds of Italy as a small group of musicians, complete with an accordion player, played a few well-known Italian ditties to set the mood.  Gerry Bastien “tickled the ivories” as he led this talented group.  A raffle table, holding approximately 50 raffle items, lined the hallway as you entered the atrium.  Checkers Restaurant was transformed into Little Italy complete with grapes, vines, large white columns and red and white tablecloths.  Once inside Checker’s you were treated to a delicious pasta dinner, complete with salad, bread with dipping oil, and dessert.  Your attentive servers, with names such as “Amore,” “Alfredo Fea,” and “Mascaro-ni,” brought you dinner with a smile.  These servers were several Alvirne Music Students who volunteered their time for the evening.  During dinner the B’Naturals, led by Liz Beaton, serenaded the crowd with their rendition of That’s Amore

Countless parent volunteers from Friends of Music also volunteered their time during the evening to help with setup, ticket sales, serving, cooking, overseeing things, and cleanup. 

The food, which was enjoyed by approximately 400 people, was donated by T-Bones, Hudson; Uno’s, Nashua (Amherst Street); and Coca-Cola, Manchester.  It seemed like the entire town came to enjoy the meal, and after finishing off 50 pounds of pasta, 15 gallons of sauce, eight gallons of salad, and an abundance of bread and desserts, no one left hungry.  The businesses who donated food, raffle items and ticket printing, really stepped up to the “Pasta Plate” to make this event the success that it was.

Accordion, Linda Coporale; trumpets, Ian Jutras and Jake Galloway; keyboard, Mr. Jerry Bastien.

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Litchfield Can’t Sue Over Kindergarten

by Lynne Ober

At Litchfield’s deliberative session last Saturday, voters asked many questions about the budgeted kindergarten program.  Among those questions was “Why don’t we sue, like Hudson?”  School Board legal counsel Gordon Graham responded by saying that Litchfield was prohibited from suing because they had previously supported a warrant article in favor of kindergarten.  Graham explained that once the voters voted in favor of the program then New Hampshire Constitution Section 28A no longer covered them.  He also explained that Hudson had never voted in favor of kindergarten and therefore could sue to recover additional funding.

As business administrator Steve Martin had explained, kindergarten accounted for 40 percent of the Operating Budget increase this year but will be offset by revenue as the state will fund the cost of the portables, the installation and setup, and pay $1,200 for each enrolled kindergarten student.  The net result is that kindergarten has a very slight impact on the increased budget.

Laurie Ortolano submitted an amendment to Warrant Article 1 to remove kindergarten funding from the Operating Budget.  At the time that she did so, many believed that they would get support from School Board member Ralph Boehm for this action.

After the deliberative session, Bill Spencer mentioned that he ran into Ralph on Thursday.  “We discussed the kindergarten issue.  He [Boehm] said he hoped someone would move to remove it from the Operating Budget.  I told him I would not make the motion.  He indicated to me that he would speak in support of its removal if it was offered.  He also said he voted ‘no’ when the School Board voted on recommending the Article.”

At the deliberative, Spencer did question why kindergarten funding was not in a separate warrant article, as the previous superintendent and School Board had promised.

Ortolano also spoke about allowing voters to have a separate vote on this important issue, and said that was behind her desire to remove the dollars from the Operating Budget.  With a secret ballot requested, the 80 people in attendance could vote without worrying about what others would think of their vote.

Finally Boehm got up and spoke in favor of leaving kindergarten in the Operating Budget.

“When he [Boehm] got up to speak at the deliberative session, I was shocked to hear him come out in support of leaving it in the Operating Budget,” stated Spencer.

The amendment failed and kindergarten remains in the budget.

In response to a question from the floor, parents learned more information about the proposed programming.  The school district will not provide two-way busing.  If a child is assigned to the morning session, buses will pick up and deliver to the school but parents must pick up children at the end of the session and provide transportation home.  If a child is assigned afternoon kindergarten, parents must provide transportation to school and the district will provide transportation home at the end of the day.

After the session, School Board chairman Dennis Miller said the vote on Article 1 would be interesting.  If people vote “no” on the Operating Budget the school district will actually get more money.  The Default Budget is $20,849,678 while the proposed Operating Budget is $20,727,636.  The school district will receive less money if the warrant article passes, but if the warrant article fails the district will receive the higher default budget.

The teacher contract, Warrant Article 2, also was discussed by participants.  The contract, which Dr. Elaine Cutler said would be posted in its entirety on the school district Website, proposes three types of salary increases:  a cost of living [COLA] salary increase of 2.5 percent per year, a step increase, and a longevity increase for teachers who have reached the top of the step schedule.  All of these raises have been in the previous contract as well.

Teachers eligible for step increases will get, in addition to the 2.5 percent COLA, a step raise between 2.76 and 4.48 percent.  Add the step to the COLA raise and those eligible teachers will get a total yearly raise between 5.26 percent and 6.98 percent for the life of the contract (three years).

Under questioning from the audience, business administrator Steve Martin admitted that a number of teachers at the top of the step would also qualify for a longevity raise in addition to the 2.5 percent COLA raise.  Martin did not state how many teachers would be eligible in the first or subsequent years of the contract.

As Martin explained the longevity, the contract specifies that a teacher with 15 to 19 “creditable” service years, with the last five in Litchfield, would get an additional increase of $1,500; for a teacher with 20 or more, the additional increase will be $2,500. 

According to the documents passed out at the deliberative session, the first year’s cost for longevity is $91,500, which is a 10.91 percent of $9,000 increase over the current year.  In the second year of the contract, it increases 10.38 percent to $101,000, and the third year has an 11.86 percent increase to $113,000.  These increases are not part of the warrant article.

When Al Raccio asked why the school district did not include the longevity dollars and only included the step and COLA increases, Martin said that it “was impossible to predict the amount of longevity needed.”  Martin did not explain how the district could hand out the amounts requested and not put those amounts into the warrant article.  Nor did Martin address why the handout said, “Teachers at the top of the pay scale, which is 37 percent of our teaching workforce, will not receive a step increase.  These teachers will only receive the 2.5 percent COLA.”  Under resident questioning, it was determined that a number of the teachers at the top of the pay scale will receive both the longevity increase and the COLA.

The remainder of the warrants received little to no discussion and will appear on the warrant as proposed.

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Municipal Advocacy Committee to Discuss State Revenue Sources

by Gina M. Votour

Selectman Ken Massey was unanimously chosen by the Board of Selectmen to represent Hudson at the next full membership meeting of the New Hampshire Municipal Association’s (NHMA) Municipal Advocacy Committee (MAC).

Based out of the New Hampshire Local Government Center (LGC), NHMA serves as a communication facilitator between municipalities and the state on issues such as legislative policies.

Massey is a member of MAC’s Governmental Affairs Sub-Committee and recently represented Hudson during NHMA’s 2009-2010 Legislative Policy Conference back on September 12, 2008.

Due to a budget deficit on the state level, the primary agenda of the upcoming meeting will be to analyze issues which may impose upon the state’s revenue sharing with cities and towns, including the meals and rooms tax and the 35 percent employer share for retirement costs of teachers, police, and fire employees.

A letter from NHMA to member municipalities explained that “NHMA members have expressed reluctance in the past to take formal policy positions on any revenue sources under consideration at the state level, but staff has been asked whether NHMA members would support another revenue source or increases in existing revenue sources in order to avoid potential cuts in revenue flowing to municipal government.”

The state’s highway fund and the gas tax are also planned for discussion at the meeting, during which time each town or city will be offered the chance to vote. 

Regarding the gas tax, Massey pointed out during the January 27 Board of Selectmen meeting that over $10 million out of the $12 million worth of gas tax monies raised are normally diverted from this fund for several agencies. 

“If a bill were to be presented into the legislature that would require that all of the gas tax money be used for the purpose for which it was raised, then the state would have an additional operating deficit,” Massey stated as an explanation for last year’s vote to maintain diversion practices.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Richard Maddox disagreed with Massey on the diversion issue but nevertheless expressed his trust for Massey to act in the best interest of the town, especially since town funds would not be involved.  “I have no problem with Selectman Massey doing what he believes to be right, even though I disagree,” stated Maddox.

Taking a different stance, Selectman/House of Representatives member Shawn Jasper expressed his overall opinion that the role of the Municipal Association is simply to protect the revenues of municipalities and that they should not be trying to set state tax policies.  

“I am disappointed that they have decided to go down this [road] … the last thing the legislature needs right now is a group like this coming together and just arbitrarily, without a great deal of study, making recommendations …,” Jasper stated, adding that the voting group may “not have any real knowledge of the state revenue system.”

A motion to instruct Massey on which direction to vote at the NHMA meeting was not made.

“I will use my best judgment, recognizing what both Selectman Maddox and Selectman Jasper have said …,”Massey therefore concluded.

The meeting will take place on Friday, January 30, at 9:30 a.m. at Concord’s Red River Theatres.

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Getting Ready for Deliberative Session

by Lynne Ober

For the last two weeks, Litchfield Selectmen have been struggling to prepare for the February 4 Deliberative Session.  Usually the worst of the discussions are over by this time of the year; warrants are set and posted and budgets have been reviewed and also posted. 

Board of Selectmen Chairman Frank Byron solicited help from his Board.  While three of the five-person Board agreed to speak to warrant articles, Byron found himself responsible for a couple of warrant articles that no one wanted to defend.

At Monday’s meeting, he reviewed his prepared PowerPoint slides, which he had previously e-mailed to the Board.  As part of his preparation, Byron reviewed budget data from 38 towns that he called “similar to Litchfield in size.”  He said that he had calculated the cost of the town budget for Litchfield residents on a per person basis, and said, “It only costs $497.12 per person to run the town of Litchfield.”  Byron said that was the second lowest cost per person among the 38 towns surveyed.  He also told the Board that highway expenditures for road maintenance, snow removal, and associated work was the fourth lowest among those 38 towns.  Also, both police and fire departments were middle of the road for expenditures.  Byron said it was more difficult to calculate for the fire department expenditures because several towns reported zero expenditures for a fire department.

The Board was a little mixed on what they saw as “drivers” for the budget.  As Selectman Andrew Santom pointed out, this year’s operating budget is lower than last year’s because selectmen have moved so much work into separate warrant articles.  Selectmen discussed how they should approach getting their message out.

Selectman Pat Jewett volunteered to write articles for the three newspapers.  She asked for help from her fellow Board members.

Selectman George Lambert worried about the impact of the ‘No Means No Law’ and was concerned that no road work would get done if the road warrant articles were voted down.  He and Selectman Al Raccio discussed whether a “no” vote would impact making emergency repairs, such as the work done on Brickyard when the flood damaged the culvert and eroded the road bed.

However, when Byron presented his ideas on how to speak to the petitioned warrant article that recommended appointing a road agent, there was significant disagreement among the Board members.

Lambert pointed out that he disagreed with most of the supporting slide and said that road work was not being done; selectmen had no control, and it was clear that people also felt that having an elected road agent was inefficient and did not serve the needs of the town.

Santom wanted to drop all but the last bullet on Byron’s slide.

Byron did not agree with either of these positions, but recognized that a consensus had to be reached. Raccio, trying to move items along, made a motion to retain Byron’s slide but modify it later.  That motion failed.

Finally, when Santom said that he and Lambert would discuss this at the Deliberative Session, Byron was delighted and pointed out that he was only working on this because no other selectman offered to speak when he asked for volunteers to speak to warrant articles.

Lambert offered to format the slides into a version that would easily be read on TV and to have a trial run-through with the cable committee.

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