Fifth graders, Kathryn Stickney and Sydney Eichner
On Monday, April 6, the Nottingham West Elementary School held an assembly to welcome Army Specialist Adam Hulslander, an Army soldier who was home visiting from Iraq. SPC Hulslander, who has been serving for three years and was originally stationed out of Alaska, came to personally thank the students of Nottingham West for their generous donation of over 400 goodie bags that were sent to the troops in Iraq last October. The students honored SPC Hulslander with patriotic songs sung by the chorus, poems presented by several fifth graders, and even a song and dance routine, also done by fifth graders. Along with his message of thanks, SPC Hulslander treated the kids to a Q&A session, in which they were able to ask questions about what life was like as a soldier in Iraq.
SPC Hulslander delivered a wonderful message of thanks to the students for their donations, and he let them know how much it meant to the soldiers who received them. The overall theme of the day, however, was a resounding message of gratitude from the students to him, and the many like him, who sacrifice so much and serve our country so bravely.
Wonderful illustration displayed of Army Specialist Adam Hulslander
SPC Hulslander adresses a crowd of engaged students
Fifth graders Jessica Baker and Danielle Doyle eagerly greet SPC Adam Hulslander
Every year the Litchfield Fire Fighters Association sponsors its Ham and Bean Supper. The food is good, the feeling of community is great, and on top of that, kids get to climb through fire trucks and see the Easter Bunny. It just doesn’t get any better than that.
Held at Griffin Memorial School, the Ham and Bean Supper is the only fundraising event for the Fire Fighters Association. Funds raised support the annual scholarship given to a graduating Campbell High School senior, provide support for any firefighter who gets injured, and often provides money for equipment for the fire department. The association is a non-profit group dedicated to promoting fire safety as well as supporting many town activities.
As always, Warren Adams refused to share his magical bean recipe. This year, Hudson Fire Department Explorers helped serve the supper.
“The Explorers were at a training session in the afternoon, and the Hudson members just came back and pitched in,” grinned Adams.
“We always come,” said Ray Peeples. “We love to get out and chat with people in the community. This is what community should be about.”
As usual, the event was very well supported by the community. Tables were filled with families. There was lots of laughter and good humor.
Superintendent Dr. Elaine Cutler and her husband Tony, who was the cook for the winning chili just a few weeks ago, came to enjoy the fun.
“These kinds of events are what makes Litchfield special to me,” she said.
By the end of the evening, Warren Adams was beaming.
“We had a great turnout. We’ll be able to support our community. It was just great seeing everyone in the community.”
The serving line was staffed with both Litchfield and Hudson Explorers
Nathan Perry, 5, with the Easter Bunny
In a decision foreshadowed by months of previous discussion, Hudson’s Board of Selectmen unanimously moved for an early termination to the contract of cable facilitator Jacob G. Nazarian IV during the non-public session of their March 24 meeting.
“The contract with the cable facilitator has been terminated due to issues with time management and his unwillingness to follow instruction from the BOS with regard to that issue,” newly elected selectmen chairman Roger Coutu stated via e-mail.
Nazarian was hired as an independent contractor back in August 2008 with a term set to run through June 20, 2009. Nazarian’s strong background in video production, directing and editing justified the selectmen’s decision for a higher than average hourly pay rate of $27 per hour. However, according to the Hudson Community Television Facilitator Contract, the facilitator work schedule was not to exceed 45 hours per month without prior written permission from the town administrator.
At the close of 2008, the board of selectmen accepted a plan for a Cable Access Center from the Cable Utility Committee (CUC), which involved the lease of a facility on Old Derry Road. A portion of this plan stated that, “the facilitator’s contract will likely need to be modified to increase the number of monthly hours from 45 to 65.”
The selectmen requested further information regarding an increase in monthly hours for the facilitator, primarily due to the fact that the future position of senior camera operator was anticipated to eliminate some administrative duties for the facilitator.
Nazarian’s timesheet for December, which contained 69 hours, was approved and was followed by a January timesheet consisting of 82 hours. At this point, the selectmen agreed to pay only 45 hours per month unless further hours could be justified.
Nazarian appeared during the public input portion of the board’s February 24 meeting to speak to these issues. During this time, he explained that the access center was expected to involve “more energy and more effort to go forward.” He also opined that the board was not supporting the originally approved access center plan. Lastly, he pointed out that his timesheets submitted prior to December also contained more than 45 hours each but were nevertheless approved.
Selectman Shawn Jasper responded that these timesheet overages should never have been allowed to happen. Selectman Richard Maddox added, “We supported the plan. We said 45 hours. If they had come back to us and justified why, we would probably have said more but they haven’t done that, so we’ve held them to what it says. We do support the (cable access) facility but we still need to manage this like every other department.”
Shortly thereafter, Nazarian submitted his February timesheet, which contained 88.5 hours, leading up to the selectmen’s decision for an early contract termination.
In accordance with the Early Termination clause of the facilitator contract, Nazarian was given a 60-day notice, which included two month’s worth of pay, totaling 90 hours.
When contacted this week for comment regarding the early termination, Nazarian expressed surprise and disappointment over this turn of events, revealing that he received word of the contract termination via e-mail. “I don’t know what happened. No one came and talked to me. They never even had me in for a meeting,” he began.
Nazarian stated that specific goals for his position were never articulated. Seeing the town’s cable access model as heavily geared toward governmental information, Nazarian therefore decided to concentrate more on the other two cable access segments of public interest and education.
He explained his proposal for community outreach, which included free access user classes and public education for interested residents and town department heads, the goal being “to create an access user army to cover more things in town, to create more local programming.” Overall, his hope was for an increase in the “quality and quantity of local programming to the benefit of town subscribers and residents and/or internet viewers.”
Speaking this week, he voiced his discouragement that much of the training and programming pioneered since his hiring may not continue. “We were providing local access programming that you just don’t find anywhere,” he stated.
Asked specifically why his timesheets continuously exceeded 45 hours, Nazarian responded that it takes a greater number of hours to provide the programs mentioned above and also to get a new access center up and running.
“How am I supposed to stop with all of these services already in motion? What am I supposed to do, just say ‘stop’ to everyone?” he asked, referencing the need for training and third party interaction, particularly relating to the access center. “I was under the impression that the town and the CUC were moving to increase the hours of the cable facilitator,” he added.
“It’s really important to me that people in town know that this is my passion. This is very near and dear to me. I’m not looking to berate people, but imagine how it felt for me to tell my son how I am no longer employed by the town,” Nazarian additionally stated.
In a separate motion also made by the selectmen during March 24’s non-public session, former cable facilitator James MacIntosh was hired as senior camera operator at a rate of $14 per hour.
“We have hired MacIntosh as a senior camera operator at present, in order to have him on hand to assist us with gearing up the new Public Access Cable Facility,” explained Coutu. Coutu also suggested the possibility of a later contract negotiation with MacIntosh in which he could potentially be asked to step back into the now vacant facilitator position.
Regarding the cable access center proposal, the board previously requested a more specific and complete operation plan. Coutu, who is also the selectman liaison to the CUC, explained that this plan will soon be available.
“The cable committee has written a plan as requested by the BOS and will be presenting it to the board for their perusal and, hopefully, their approval, so that we can move on and get the new facility up and running. We expect to have the plan before the BOS within the next few weeks.”
“We expect that, with Jim on board at present, we will see little effect with the productions that are in the planning stages,” added Coutu.
“It’s our intent to continue with public access television and to have it available to anyone who wishes to produce local cable programming,” Coutu concluded during a portion of the board’s April 7 meeting.
The voice of over 3,000 Hudson voters who cast ballots during the March 10 elections was apparent in the defeat of the proposed Operating Budget of $26,935,060. This figure, which had been recommended by the Board of Selectmen (5-0) and by the Budget Committee (8-3), received a total of 1,446 votes in favor and 1,563 votes in opposition.
As a result, the default budget of $26,886,556 must be used as the Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10) budget. A default budget has not been used since the town began operating under a Senate Bill 2 (SB-2) form of government back in 1997. The SB-2 structure is an alternative to the traditional town meeting, allowing voting to take place throughout the day and also through absentee ballots, the initiative being to facilitate residents’ involvement with town operations.
For FY10, the default budget is technically $48,504 less than that of the proposed Operating Budget. This number can be deceiving, however.
Operating and default budgets both include sections for the General, Sewer, Water, Library, and Conservation Funds. The General Fund, which affects property taxes, includes areas such as the Police, Fire and Highway departments. The FY10 submitted budget for the General Fund was $20,788,475 while the default figure for this fund is $20,483,967, a decrease of $304,508. More specifically within this realm of the default budget, for instance, the Police Department’s budget was cut by $190,337 while the Fire Department’s budget suffered a loss of $114,096.
“People need to know that it’s not a $48,000 shortfall that the Town Administrator and the department heads have been trying to work out … what people did not realize, and maybe we didn’t do a good job of selling it, is … what the default budget does to the general operating budget to the Town of Hudson is a decrease of $305,000. Maybe we just assumed people understood that, now we’re going to have to deal with those consequences,” stated Selectman Richard Maddox during a March 24 meeting.
During a workshop meeting held on the evening of April 7, the selectmen reviewed strategies for adapting to the default budget figures in the General Fund prior to the July commencement of FY10.
To make the General Fund portion of the default budget work, department heads at this time have proposed the re-allocation of over $326,200 worth of funds. For example, funds saved on items such as the freezing of the Town Engineer position and the gas contingency reduction could possibly be re-allocated to specific areas in which funding was lost through the default budget such as the town’s solid waste contract and a roof for the Central Fire Station.
These potential fund re-allocations will not change the final General Fund default figure approved by voters. Furthermore, several departments will still experience cuts regardless of any approved future transfers.
“People have to understand that in the default budget existed positions that were funded but were not filled, so the money is there and we’re going to be able to transfer some of that money in order to meet those needs that these departments have felt are a priority,” stated Selectmen Chairman Roger Coutu.
“We’re not talking about adding money, we’re talking simply about moving money from an account that’s not going to be spent next year to an account that could be spent,” added Selectmen Vice Chairman Ken Massey.
The tax rate, based upon the default budget, will not be affected by any potential transfers. However, Selectman Shawn Jasper did suggest that future decisions on a legislative level could affect the tax rate.
On the other end of the spectrum, the FY10 submitted budget for the Sewer Fund was $1,480,425 while the default budget in this area is $1,801,060, a $320,635 increase. These overages are due to the default budget’s inclusion of the funding for several capital reserve funds. However, the selectmen have the option to hold off on funding these reserves for FY10. In such a situation, these dollars would therefore remain part of the Sewer Fund Unexpended Fund Balance (surplus).
Also, the Water and Library funds took hits of over $30,000 each as a result of the default budget while the Conservation Fund saw an increase of nearly $5,000. To cover $37,466 worth of deficits within the Water Fund, dollars will be taken from the Water Utility Unplanned Maintenance Line. For the Library Fund deficit, $32,092 less will be transferred from the General Fund while for the Conservation Fund, $4,927 more will be withdrawn from the General Fund.
Current water and sewer rates will remain the same however, since sewer rates were budgeted to cover the Default Budget Sewer Fund Appropriations and water rates are also expected to cover default expenditures for the Water Fund.
Over the next couple months, the selectmen and department heads will continue to explore transfer possibilities, particularly in regard to the General Fund. The selectmen also plan to further examine departmental areas, which have been cut.
“[The citizens] have approved the [default] budget, we know what the bottom line is in that budget and we’re going to live within that budget … we can’t spend $1 more,” said Coutu.
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