Pelham Celebrations on the Green

by Lynne Ober

And the race is on.  When the Easter egg hunt started, kids raced into the field to gather eggs.

The activities started at 11:00am with the Book and Bake sale at the library and with the Karate demonstration at Sherburne Hall.  The bounce house was already set up on the Village Green and thousands of brightly colored eggs decorated the green.  It promised to be a day of family fun and those promises were kept.

Library Director Sue Hoadley said, “All in all, it was another spectacular day!  Our "gate count" was 636 or about six times our usual daily average!  When all was said and done, nearly $521 was made by the bake and book sale.” 

With Phase I of Sherburne Hall complete, the Sherburne Hall Committee was excited to open the hall to the public.  New paint, new lighting, new carpeting made the hall shine.  Families gathered to watch the energetic karate demo given by the Family Martial Arts led by Burt Cunningham.

Before the egg hunt began, Pelham’s Fire Department brought a fire engine onto the green and opened the doors for kids to climb aboard and see what the inside of a fire engine looked like.  There was a steady line of interested kids and parents talking to the fire fighters and looking at the equipment.

The Egg Hunt began at noon and everyone knew not to be late as excited children quickly scoop the Easter eggs up.  This year there were areas for younger children who could safely, and a bit slower than older kids, enjoy gathering their eggs.  The Easter Bunny was a big hit on the green before the egg hunt started and was exchanging high fives and hugs with fans of all ages.

Crossroads Baptist Church partnered with the Pelham Parks and Rec to provide lots of outdoor fun.  In addition to the bounce house and egg hunt, there was a coloring contest and face painting.  Six beautiful mountain bikes were also raffled off.

After the egg hunt, Sherburne Hall was officially opened.  Bill McDevitt, who has worked on the committee, offered  thank yous to all who contributed.  He talked about the process and the next steps.

The audience was told that between $10,000 and $15,000 was needed to replace the stage curtain and that chairs needed to be purchased.  McDevitt, as well as Charlene Takesian and Glennie Edwards, current Chair of the committee, all kept their remarks light and positive.

What wasn’t discussed was the thousands of dollars that these volunteers raised and then couldn’t use on the hall.  Why?  When the Municipal Complex was done, there wasn’t enough money to complete it and years later it still isn’t complete.  What garnered little public notice was the lack of adequate fire suppression in the Municipal Complex hallways.  Selectmen never budgeted the amount for needed fire suppression equipment.

But, when the committee approached selectmen about completing phase I, they were told that it now became their responsibility to install the needed fire suppression equipment.  Why did volunteers have to pay for something that tax payers should have paid for?  “I don’t want to talk about that,” said Glennie Edwards, “but they wouldn’t let us go forward if we didn’t hire an engineer and install fire suppression equipment in the hallways.”

The interesting part of this conundrum is that the town has held a number of receptions in the lobby and hallways without installing this equipment.  Last year there was a well-attended reception for a returning Iraq veteran and his family.  Never did selectmen discuss the need for this fire suppression equipment – never, that is until the Sherburne Hall Committee wanted to paint, clean, carpet, install lighting and replace the stage curtain.  The money that could have gone to the stage curtain has now gone to provide that fire suppression equipment that selectmen never budgeted for.

“There’s still a lot to do,” smiled Edwards, but she agreed with other committee members that the hall looked vastly improved and was worth celebrating.

Families poured into the hall to see the show.

After McDevitt’s opening remarks, there was an entertaining show put on by O’Halloran Irish Step Dancers, who kicked their heels and moved their feet to the beat of lively Celtic tunes.

Following the dancers Jennie Mack, a songwriter and entertainer, gave an hour-long concert.  Woven throughout her performance were whimsical rhymes and humorous tidbits designed to tickle all funny bones.  Jeannie Mack accompanied herself on guitar and harmonica.

“I’m having a great time,” said Nathan Fondabowski, 4.

Nicholas Robichaux, 6, shows off his Easter goodies after the egg hunt.

Greek Festival Day at PMS

Pelham Memorial School was buzzing with enthusiasm last Friday as the seventh grade students, parent volunteers, and teachers enjoyed a ‘Greek Festival Day.’  Seventh graders gathered together in PMS’s own ‘Greek Taverna’ to enjoy the epicurean delights of the Mediterranean Sea region.  Students savored stuffed grape leaves, Greek salad, hummus, spanakopita, and lots of olive oil-dipped crusted bread.  No Mediterranean meal is complete without a delicacy or two.  Students relished koulourakia, kourambiedes, fruit delicacies, and Italian anise cookies.

When students had their fill of the fruits of the Mediterranean, they were introduced to the fine art of Greek dancing.  With handkerchiefs in hand and the bouzouki music strumming, students had fun learning the traditional syrto dance.

From there, students went on to participate in the art of mask making.  Using their creativity, they fashioned fearsome masks that represented the mighty heroes and creatures from Greek mythology.

Last but not least, students enjoyed modern day Bingo with a twist.  The intense game focused on Ancient Greek scientists, mathematicians and math symbols, Ancient Greek history and geography, and the classical Greek myths.  Everyone had a marvelous time at the Greek Festival!

PMS teachers would like to thank all the volunteers who participated in the festival, and also a special thanks to all who donated the delicacies for our Greek Taverna.

Other Options Considered for School Building Needs

by Barbara O’Brien

The majority of voters who participated in the annual Windham School District election on March 10 decided against spending approximately $800,000 to further define potential plans for renovating existing school buildings or building an entirely new structure.  Many of the people who voted down the warrant article said they did so because of the economic climate and the seemingly ever-increasing tax rate.

The space problems and outdated facilities are not going away, however, and school board members are still faced with finding a solution.  “Regardless of the vote, these needs still exist,” said architect Kyle Barker, who did the original study last fall.

“The town is bigger than its educational system is designed for,” school board vice chairman Mike Hatem said.  “The enrollment has increased and it’s not going to decline.”

Barker attended the school board workshop on Tuesday, March 31 to discuss what direction the school district might need to take to resolve at least some of these pressing issues.  Prior to the Election Day defeat, there had been five options proposed by Barker, none of which had yet been endorsed specifically by school board members.  Board members did, however, seem to be favoring Option 5, which called for a new middle school to be built on the same grounds as the new Windham High School.  According to Option 5, there would also be renovations made to the existing middle school, which would then become an upper elementary school, as well as major renovations to Golden Brook Elementary.

Golden Brook Elementary School currently needs the most work done, partly because of the age of the structure, which first opened to students in 1971, and partially because of the lack of space, a problem that will only worsen as the new kindergarten program becomes established.  For the first three years of the kindergarten program, the New Hampshire Department of Education will be paying for the lease of portable classrooms.  After that time, the school district must either build a permanent structure for the kindergarten (with partial state funding) or pay for the portable classrooms out of taxpayers’ money.

During their March 31 meeting, board members discussed what should be done about Golden Brook.  According to Barker, renovations and repairs to the 38-year-old school would cost about $3 to $4 million.

“At what point do you say ‘too much money’?  It’s time to build new,” Barker stated.  Answering his own question, Barker said that “Golden Brook is at the cusp” of whether it would be more economical to renovate it or to just simply take it down.  One suggestion Barker made was to consider taking down the oldest section of Golden Brook and replacing it with a two-story structure, thereby increasing the square footage.

In addition to the work needed at Golden Brook, Barker said only minimal renovations ($70,000) would be needed at Windham Center School, as extensive work was done there in 2000.  As for the existing middle school, the cost of renovations would run about $3 million, Barker said, including roofing, windows, and cafeteria upgrades.

Barker said space needs are a problem across the board in Windham at the three existing schools and that Windham has one of the highest students per classroom ratio in the state.  Out of 153 school districts in New Hampshire, Windham has the 151st highest, he said.  Currently there is an average of 23 students per class in Windham, although some classrooms house as many as 25 or 26 students.  State guidelines say that there should be 25 students or less enrolled per classroom at the elementary school level.

Later in the workshop discussion, Windham Middle School Principal Kori Becht and Assistant Principal Dan Moulis suggested a different option from those originally proposed by Barker.  They presented an option by which Windham Center School would house students in kindergarten through grade 5 for a total of 625 students, while the existing middle school would be converted to a second facility for grades kindergarten through five for another 625 students.  In addition, a new middle school for grades six through eight (for a total of 750 students) would be built on high school land and Golden Brook School would be demolished.  There would be four schools in Windham, instead of five, Becht said, which might be more cost-effective in the long run.

“This is a good option that probably should be explored,” Barker said of Becht’s and Moulis’ suggestions.  As for demolishing Golden Brook School, Superintendent Frank Bass said the land on which the school currently sits could “be turned into a field of whatever.”

Glenn Davis, who serves as the owner’s representative for the construction of Windham High School, said, “Golden Brook is a huge problem.  The cost to operate it is much higher per square foot than a new, more efficient structure would be.”

School board member Mark Brockmeier said he would also like to see the possibility of having two schools housing students in kindergarten through grade six, with approximately 700 students in each, investigated and considered as Option 7.

Barker said that approximately $6,000 to $7,000 remains in the original school facilities study fund and he will be able to use that money to investigate the suggested Options 6 and 7.

Contract Awarded for Cemetery Care

by Barbara O’Brien

They were not in total agreement, but the majority of Windham Selectmen decided to approve a one-year contract providing grounds keeping care for the town’s cemetery.

During the board’s March 30 meeting, selectmen voted 3 to 2 to award the contract to Concrete Services Landscaping of Salem, NH.  Voting in favor of the contract were Galen Stearns (chairman), Roger Hohenberger, and Charles McMahon.  Voting in opposition were Bruce Breton (vice chairman) and newly elected selectman Ross McLeod.

Concrete Landscaping Services did not submit the lowest bid for the job but did come highly recommended by members of the Windham Trustees of the cemetery.

“What makes cemetery grounds keeping so unique?” Hohenberger asked.  According to Wendi Devlin (cemetery trustee), Scott Polumbo (owner of Concrete Landscaping Services) has shown that he is very sensitive to the needs of grieving families and has made himself readily accessible to the public.  “It’s important to have someone there who is very helpful and accommodating to people,” Devlin said.

Polumbo, who attended the meeting on March 30, said he has been working in the business of landscaping for 23 years.  He has also served as the Superintendent of Cemeteries in North Andover, MA since 1982, a period of 27 years.  Previously, Polumbo worked in Windham as a sub-contractor for Methuen Memorial for a period of three years.  The contract with Methuen Memorial cost the town $29,148 in 2008, an amount $2,148 higher than that being proposed in the bid from Polumbo.  Seven bids were received by the March 27 deadline, including one less than that submitted by Polumbo for Concrete Landscaping Services, and one the same as Polumbo’s bid of $27,000 for the 2009 season.  The lowest bid was received from Gordon Landscaping and Hydroseeding of Candia, NH in the amount of $23,998.  The identical bid to Polumbo’s was from Delahunty Nursery of Windham, also in the amount of $27,000.

Devlin said that Gordon Landscaping and Hydroseeding was not being recommended by the cemetery trustees because there was no evidence of the company having prior experience with cemetery grounds keeping.  Despite it being a local firm, Delahunty was not recommended because of Polumbo’s prior record of excellent service to Windham.  The trustees felt that good service and dependability should be rewarded.

Selectman Breton said he voted against giving the contract to Polumbo because he wanted Delahunty Nursery to get the job rather than having it go to an out-of-town company.

The seven bids received ranged in price from a low of $23,998 to a high of $32,410 for a one-year contract beginning this year.  The work to be done includes mowing, trimming, and the cleanup and removal of debris and trash.  Included are 20 hours per week of maintenance, with lawn care being done as required, including seeding, fertilizing, and watering.  There is no irrigation system in place at the town cemetery.

Polumbo said that he also will be reporting and repairing any vandalism or weather damages occurring at the cemetery, including damages to headstones and foundations.

Polumbo said he was willing to extend the proposed contract to three years, or even as far out as five years, at the same price of $27,000.  David Sullivan (town administrator) said the board meeting was not the time to be negotiating changes to a contract.

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