Windham Presbyterian Church Celebrates Sunrise Service for Easter

by Doug Robinson

As the daylight sun crests the horizon, Pastor Jim Stuart reads “Fill us with your power Lord, as we worship you today!  Set our hearts on fire.  Make us a people radiant with Faith, Hope and Love.  We praise and thank you Lord for new life through you.

Dozens of Christians traveled into the hills off Searles Rd. in Windham to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus during Windham Presbyterian Church’s annual sunrise service.  The Easter service, officiated by Pastor Jim Stuart, focused on “Christ the Lord is Raised Today.”

As the sun rose at 6:09 a.m., the golden and orange glow of the brilliant sun rose above the horizon, and those in attendance sang the traditional hymn Christ the Lord is Risen Today.  Dressed in a heavy wool coat, white steam blew from the pastor’s breath as the thermometer registered a meager 33 degrees.  But those who came to worship were not deterred by the cold as they were warmed by the knowledge of God’s beauty and Jesus’ unending love.

Jonah and Miranda, Windham, enjoy a hearty breakfast before they attend Easter morning church service at Windham Presbyterian Church.

Pelham Crowns its Biggest Loser

by Karen Plumley

At the final weigh-in and conclusion of the six-month Pelham’s Biggest Loser program, contestants looked and felt like winners!  Left:  Erin Upton, Chuck Upton (86lbs) – Pelham’s Biggest Loser, Mike Koch (4th), Joe Slattery (5th), Brian Santos (6th), Tina Santos (3rd), and Kelly Masiello - Organizer.  Not in photo was Sandra Chaisson (2nd).

Modeled after the popular NBC reality series, The Biggest Loser, Pelham’s Biggest Loser competition came to its six-month conclusion on Saturday, April 4.  The final weigh in took place in the early hours of Saturday morning, at the home of contest creator Kelly Masiello of Pelham.  Masiello, a health-conscious mother and first grade teacher at Pelham Elementary School was inspired to start up the competition after her own incredible transformation, which was featured in a recent issue of Shape magazine.

Contestants were all given the instruction to choose alias names so that they could remain anonymous.  But soon these strangers from all around the local area became fast friends and helped each other to stay focused, meeting and sometimes exceeding their weight loss and health goals on a weekly basis.  At the end of 26 grueling weeks, the top six performers lost a total of over 310 pounds between them! 

In an e-mail statement sent to the players, Masiello congratulated everyone on their efforts.  “We met early Saturday morning for the finale.  After weigh-in we had the chance to chat and have a light, healthy breakfast.  All of your hard work and commitment to the game certainly paid off – you all looked terrific!”

No one was more of an inspiration than Masiello, who poured her heart and soul into the program.  Pelham resident and PBL contestant Michael Koch (“Wolf”) noted, “I joined this program because Kelly has a way of challenging me.  Her and I have had a few bets over the years between us and so far I have lost every one of them.”  Masiello sent out weekly emails of encouragement, and made a few early morning phone calls, too.  “Any time I started to slack off I thought of the earful I would get from Kelly … she is passionate about her fitness and unselfish for running this program.  Who are we kidding?  Kelly doesn’t need to lose an ounce and she dedicated her time to all of us, even the ‘losers’,” Koch said.  Koch placed fourth at the final weigh-in, losing a total of 14.4 percent of his body weight, or 47.2 pounds.

Joe Slattery (“The Farmer”), the fifth place winner did not even join the program until three months into it.  He lost a total of 34.4 pounds, or 14 percent.  “The first four weeks were slow and then I finally saw results.  My wife and children were very supportive, investing time and energy to make sure I ate well and had time to exercise,” he described.  “What started as a little contest ended being a great life changing experience for many people, allowing healthier years ahead,” enthused Slattery.

Chuck (“Tom Cruise”) and Erin (“Miranda”) Upton of Windham joined Pelham’s Biggest Loser as a couple along with another couple, Brad and Marianne Bemister.  The Uptons’ goals were to lose weight, get healthy, and feel better.  But they also learned a little bit about themselves along the way.  “I learned that I have an incredible will power and am even more competitive than I ever realized,” explained Chuck.  Erin also stated, “I can push myself just as hard as any trainer.  I have the ability to be my own motivation at the gym.”  Most importantly, they realized together that mistakes do happen, but shouldn’t be a reason to give up.  “I’d never beat myself up about those mistakes … I’d pick myself up and keep going,” described Erin.  Together, the Uptons lost a total of 105 pounds.  “We are so grateful and just know that if it wasn’t for everything Kelly did for us, we’d still be holding on to all that weight.”  Chuck was crowned Pelham’s Biggest Loser, with a total weight loss of 86.2 pounds.  He won $635 and an official Biggest Loser T-shirt.

Salt Reduction Resolution Adopted

by Barbara O’Brien

Windham selectmen have unanimously accepted a resolution intended to reduce the amount of salt used on area roadways, and, thereby, also reduce the effect on water bodies in the region.

During their board meeting on Monday, April 6, selectmen voted 5 to 0 to adopt the resolution as proposed, as well as to formulate an action plan of salt reduction strategy for the impaired water shed areas within Windham’s urbanized area, which includes Dinsmore Brook and the North Tributary to Canobie Lake.

Transfer Station Manager Dave Poulson said that “the action plan is the critical part of this.” The action plan will be expected as part of the new storm-water runoff permitting process, Poulson said; adding that salt reduction will be “mandated” by the Department of Environmental Services (DES).

Poulson said that the Windham area is considered to be one of four dedicated water impairment issues related to the widening of Route 93. “It’s a very serious subject,” he added. “We have to show we’re doing our part.”

By adopting the salt reduction resolution and related action plan, Windham becomes eligible for a federal grant. This particular grant is designated to financially assist communities in developing actions intended to reduce salt loading within the impaired water shed areas. “This process is new and everyone is learning the dynamics of this very complicated issue; finding a balance between driving and the environment,” Poulson told selectmen. This grant allows 80 percent federal funding, with a matching 20 percent from the Town of Windham. Based on DES calculations, Windham could receive $57,250 in federal money, leaving local taxpayers responsible for $14,313 in matching funds or services in-kind. The total amount dedicated by the federal government for the I-93 corridor salt reduction project is $2.5 million.

“Windham will be responsible for salt reduction or meeting total maximum daily loading with or without the grant,” Poulson emphasized. “DES is urging communities to act on this grant before a termination date is activated, money is given to other communities, or grant money is taken back by the Feds,” Poulson cautioned.

Poulson said he expects the new storm-water runoff permit to arrive some time in May. The percentage numbers for mandated salt reduction will be included with the permit, he added.

In response to a question from Selectmen’s Chairman Galen Stearns, asking how the action plan should be implemented, Poulson said town officials have to determine how to calculate the amount of salt to be used in the two impaired areas. Commercial areas also  need to reduce the amount of salt used on parking lots, etc., he said.

“It’s going to be something else to monitor,” Poulson said, explaining that the town will be continuously monitored and audited by DES. “We’re still in limbo, at this point,” he said. “I hate to be doom and gloom, but they’re talking about not opening four lanes (on Route 93) because of this issue.” Referring to the high level of commuter traffic that travels through Windham on Route 93, Selectman Charles McMahon said, “The reality is that trains aren’t coming.” One of the original concepts involved in the reconstruction of Route 93, from the Massachusetts state line to Manchester, was to build a commuter rail along that route.

Poulson said that there is no chemical means of reducing the salt (sodium chloride) content that has infiltrated area water bodies. “It can only be flushed out,” he said. “It’s a slow and tedious process.”

According to the resolution adopted by selectmen on April 6, “the Town of Windham will continue to team with all parties associated with salt reduction efforts in the I-93 corridor and the protection of New Hampshire water resources.”

High School Hiring Continues

by Barbara O’Brien

In about four months the new Windham High School will be welcoming students in grades nine and ten.  Administrators have been preparing for that goal for a very long time.

The latest step in preparing Windham High School for opening day was the hiring of eight additional classroom teachers and a facilities manager who will oversee the three existing Windham schools as well as the new high school.

During the meeting on Tuesday, April 7, school board members voted 4 to 0 to hire Warren Billings as the district-wide facilities manager.  Voting in favor of the hiring were Bruce Anderson (chairman), Mike Hatem (vice chairman), Jeff Bostic and Ed Gallagher.  Board member Mark Brockmeier did not attend the meeting.

Billings, a resident of Concord, has extensive experience in the construction business and at one time owned and operated his own company.  Previously, Billings was employed as the operations manager of The Mall of New Hampshire in Manchester.  Most recently he was the facilities manager at Concord High School.

“What I know and what I love is to provide a safe, warm place for kids,” Billings said.  Were he to do things over again, he said, he would have majored in education back in college.  His wife was an education major, Billings said, and both his son and daughter are in the education program at the University of New Hampshire.

On a personal note, Billings also runs a competitive rowing program in Concord, with about 90 young people currently participating.

Billings said he already visited the three existing schools in Windham and feels that the school district has excellent facilities.

“It’s obvious someone has been on the ball,” he told school board members.  When asked about the state-of-the-art equipment at the new high school, Billings said he is very familiar with digital controls.

Billings will begin working for the Windham School District on Monday, May 4.

Also added to the roster during the April 7 meeting were one Special Education teacher who presently teaches in Derry, one Chinese language teacher, one Biology teacher with 30 years experience in Manchester, one Mathematics teacher who earned a Master’s Degree from Harvard, and two Spanish language teachers.  In addition, school board members voted unanimously to hire two more teachers for the high school, both of whom currently work at the Windham Middle School.  Shannon McKenna who has two years of teaching experience at the middle school will be teaching Social Studies at the high school beginning with the 2009-2010 school year.  And Joe Mancinelli who presently teaches eighth grade Science at Windham Middle School will be moving to the new high school.  Mancinelli is also the advisor for SMILES, a community service program at the middle school.  Mancinelli said he plans to also develop a SMILES program at Windham High School.  SMILES is an anagram for ‘Spreading Meaningful Irreplaceable Life Experiences Selflessly’.

School Superintendent Dr. Frank Bass said staff members who have already been hired to work at Windham High School represent “a wonderful cross-section.”  Some of the new teachers are right out of college, others have 10 to 20 years or more of experience, and there are all levels in between, Bass said.

More than 1,200 applications were received for positions at the new high school, while 140 interviews were conducted.  The interest in working for the Windham School District is phenomenal, Bass said.

Former Selectman Wants to Repair ‘Tot Lot’

by Barbara O’Brien

Former Windham Selectman Dennis Senibaldi wants to move forward with making much-needed repairs to the ‘Tot Lot’ playground located at Griffin Park.

Senibaldi has already met with the current Windham Board of Selectmen on two occasions, attempting to garner permission to improve the drainage and, subsequently, have the rubber surface that’s under the playground equipment replaced.  During their last session, selectmen voted unanimously to allow Senibaldi to go forward with compiling information pertaining to the project.  They asked him to return to the board with this information before the end of April.  They also discussed scheduling a public hearing which would allow them to accept the playground as town property once the repairs are finished.  According to David Sullivan (town administrator), the playground was never officially accepted by the town when it was completed in 2005.

The existing rubber surface was installed beneath the playground equipment about four years ago but began cracking approximately six months later.  Senibaldi said the poor drainage is the reason for the deterioration.  Jennifer Colvin, a member of the Griffin Park Playground Group, said she has been dealing with trying to get the situation remedied since that time.  Colvin said she is concerned about the cracked rubber posing a danger to children, as well as being an inherent liability.

“There are serious cracks out there,” Colvin said.  “Someone needs to get out there and get the work done.”

“The water just sits there,” Senibaldi said.

There is one year left on the original five-year warranty, Colvin told selectmen.  The rubber surface was installed and warranted by Surface America.  The sub-surface under the rubber was done by Childscapes.  Colvin said that Surface America will replace the rubber surfacing one time at no cost to the town under the existing warranty but will not extend that warranty beyond the original five years.

The question that appears to remain is who is responsible for repairing the sub-surface, which is reportedly causing the poor drainage problem.

Selectman Charles McMahon said he finds “the stalling has been appalling” by the two firms involved in the original work.

Sullivan said the problem has been brought before selectmen on three prior occasions, but nothing was done to remedy the situation due to a lack of money.

Colvin told selectmen that there is still about $6,000 left in the original playground building fund, money which is intended for maintenance costs.

Senibaldi said Herbert Associates, an area engineering firm, is drawing up the drainage plans at no cost to the town.  He also said he wasn’t asking for any money to do the work, thanks to a generous donation from a private enterprise.  Senibaldi estimated that the work would take about eight weeks to complete.

Selectman Ross McLeod said he would like to see members of the Windham Planning Board provide over-sight to any drainage work done at the Tot Lot.  McLeod said he wants to be certain that the work is done right, and that those doing the job “aren’t just applying a band-aid.”

Selectmen decided that newly hired town planner Laura Scott will be involved in overseeing any work done in the area.

Senibaldi also said he would like to see work done in building a bridge across the swale near the soccer field at Griffin Park.

“It’s four feet of mush,” he said of the width of the soggy area.  “Right now it’s nothing but a mosquito hotel out there,” McMahon commented.  Senibaldi was advised to check with the Department of Environmental Services regarding any wetland issues which might be applicable to the area.

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