Town of Hudson Executes “Not to Proceed” Orders on Benson Park Contractor

by Doug Robinson

In preparing for repairs to the Office Building, the roof has been covered with a large tarp.

On Friday morning, August 7, 2009, Mark Pearson, Assistant Administrator for the Town of Hudson, along with a uniformed Hudson Police Office, presented Kevin Langill, Contractor at Benson’s Park, with a “NOT TO PROCEED” order on the scheduled work for the Hazelton Barn.

Again, on Tuesday morning, August 18, Langill was presented with a second “NOT TO PROCEED” order for work contracted to be done on the Office Building.  This time, the “Not to Proceed” order was delivered by a lone Hudson Police officer.

Both orders delivered were worded the same. “I have been directed by the acting chairman of the Board of Selectman to inform you to NOT PROCEED WITH ANY WORK ON THE WOOD CEDAR SHINGLED ROOF OF THE OFFICE BUILDING (HAZELTON BARN) UNTIL AFTER THE MEETING ON AUGUAST 25, 2008.”

In speaking with the owner of KSL Contracting, Kevin Langill, at the time of these notifications, tempers became heated between the Town of Hudson and KSL Contracting regarding quality of work, timeliness of invoices paid, and conditions of the property created by KSL Construction.

The Town of Hudson purchased the Benson property from the State of NH for $188,000.  After obtaining the land and buildings, bids were solicited from various contractors to not only clean up the property, but to also repair the A Frame House, Gorilla House, Elephant Barn, Office Building, as well as the Hazelton Barn.  KSL Construction was awarded the bid to make the necessary repairs to the A Frame, Gorilla House, Office, and Hazelton Barn for approximately $97,000.

When the Selectman and KSL Contraction inked the contract for repairs, the contract stated that invoices will be paid within 15 days “at the acceptance of the work.”

“We were paid in 4 days for the A Frame” commented Langill.  “However, I presented the invoice to the Town on August 4 and I still have not been paid as of today (August 18).

In speaking with Town of Hudson Board of Selectman, Richard Coutu, he stated that as he was going away on vacation, and he has “charged Selectman Ken Massey with the fact finding mission and to report back to the Board” regarding matters about Benson’s.

Selectman Massey stated that he had been requested to be the lead investigator regarding all the matters of Bensons.  He had been asked to get “all the facts uncovered.”  When asked of what facts he was investigating, Selectman Massey stated that he could not comment and that the information would be discussed at the August 25 Selectman’s meeting.

In speaking with Hudson’s Assistant Town Administrator, Pearson, he too stated that he had “no comment” regarding BensonsIn asking of Pearson if the “Not to proceed” was signed by all of the Selectman, he again stated “no comment.”   In asking of Pearson of who placed the gag order on his no comment response, he responded, “All I can say is, no comment.”

Subsequently, a follow up phone call was made to Chairman Coutu and he was asked if three or more Selectman signed the order to “NOT TO PROCEED.”  After a pause, Coutu stated that he called the other members of the Board and did not recall their answers.  When asked, “If they, the other Board of Selectman members did not authorize this stoppage of work, then you have over exercised your right as a Selectman and have acted unilaterally for the Board of Selectman and that is a violation of the Board of Ethics for the Town of Hudson.”  Coutu did not respond.

In calls made to the various board members, all interviewed do not remember discussing the “NOT TO PROCEED” order, and none of the Selectman interviewed remembered any discussion regarding any stoppage of work.  Calls to Selectman Jasper went unanswered.

In addition to a work stoppage order, Pearson also ordered Eric Langill, co-owner of KSL Construction to remove himself from the Benson’s property after he and Langill exchanged heated words regarding the payment of invoices.  According to the Nashua Telegraph, “Coutu approved a letter ordering Langill off the property, which was served with a police officer, until cooler heads prevail.”  In addition, the Telegraph also reported that Pearson “reported ‘substandard’ work in some areas of the project, including use of the wrong wood materials, dumping debris in the woods, and leaving old construction materials behind in the buildings.”

“The substandard work of which Pearson is speaking refers to the OSB Exposure – 1 boards we placed on the roof of the Gorilla House.  As this is not a historical building, the materials used are more than correct.  We used only a few boards and they are only used on one side of the roof.  As for the leaving of old construction materials behind, my company has invested in over $3000 of dumpsters in an effort to keep our work areas clean.  The materials of which Pearson is speaking are debris, which was present on the property before we began our construction.  In an effort to keep our work area clean, we have staged materials along the roadway in an effort to work more efficiently.  As for the old wooden beams, they can be recycled and used in the Elephant Barn and this would save the Town a lot of money.  Pearson also challenged us on the dumping of debris in the woods.  As evidenced, the dumping of debris was a single trash barrel, filled mostly with dirt.  I have not idea who dumped the single barrel.  I can only guess that someone wanted a barrel, and dumped the dirt in the woods,” continued Langill.

Complaints by KSL Contracting also centered on the timely payment of invoices.  While the A Frame house was paid in 4 days, Langill claimed that his invoice for the Gorilla House was past the 15 days.

Upon researching the paperwork with Hudson’s Finance Department, KSL Contracting submitted an invoice to the Town of Hudson in the amount of $13,845 for work done on the Gorilla House.  The invoice was submitted to the Town of Hudson on Tuesday, August 4.  The invoice was date stamped by the Community Development Department on Wednesday, August 5.  On Monday, August 10, the invoice was authorized for payment by “MAP,” Mark A Pearson.

In speaking with the Assistant Town Administrator, Pearson regarding the 5-day delay in the processing of the invoice, he stated that he wished to investigate the work of KSL Contracting before signing off the invoice for payment.   According to the contract, Pearson stated that he was responsible for the “acceptance of the work”.  It was apparently at this time, during his inspection of the Gorilla House that concerns over the quality of the workmanship arose.

On August 18, Pearson accompanied by an unnamed independent contractor evaluated and discussed the workmanship of the work completed to the Gorilla House.  While present at this inspection, the reporter for the Area News Group was asked to leave the area.  Upon stating that this area was not open to the public by Pearson, the reporter stated that he was with the press.  Pearson stated that it was necessary for him to have this time, and for the reporter to wait for him at the front entrance of the park.  Upon arriving at the front entrance with the unnamed consultant, Pearson seeing the reporter’s camera sped off in his town vehicle without making a comment.

As for the Office Building, Langill stated that he believes that he was ordered, “NOT TO PROCEED” due to the conflict between himself and Pearson regarding the replacement of the Cedar Shingles.  According to Langill, Pearson’s specifications for the construction of the cedar roof will not allow the cedar shingles to breath from the inside out as it would be missing a specific layer of needed construction.  As a result, Langill told Pearson that he could not warranty his work.

In addition to the conflicts of workmanship and payment of invoices, the Area News Group also received information received from the Town of Hudson via RSA 91-A (Freedom of Information Act), KSL Contracting has presented the Town of Hudson two change orders regarding their bids for the Benson’s Park.  The first change order, presented on 7/27/09, states “Removal of (2) false dormers on the back side of the office building.  Typical roofing materials installed in same area.  Non-structural.”  The second change order states, “In the best interest of the Town of Hudson and for the general public to have Benson’s open for a 2009 season, KSL Contracting request’s that payments for each building completed, be issued within (3) business days of each invoice.  This change is to accommodate the Town of Hudson to open the park to the public as quickly as possible.  Thus requiring (3) signatures from the Board of Selectman within (3) days of invoice.

Langill confirmed that his company had requested the change orders from the Town of Hudson.  As for the removal of the false dormers on the Office Building, Langill stated that this request initiated from a conversation with Chairman Coutu.  “Now that the trees have been cut down you can see the dormers.  I just want to cover the Town of Hudson and myself as this is a Historical building and to receive authorization in writing, stating that is ok, for KSL Contracting to take out the dormers.  As for the payment of invoices in three days, Langill stated that he felt that waiting 15 days was “unreasonable.”

Work to the A Frame has been completed and payment has been made to KSL Contracting.

The dumping complaint is recorded by the reporter’s photo.

The completed Gorrilla House.  According to KSL Contracting, tree limbs to the left of the building, at their expense, were cut away from the building to protect the integrity and life of the roof to the building.

OSB Exposure 1 used to roof the Gorilla House are shown through the opening.

Town of Hudson Assistant Administrator Pearson hastily leaves Benson’s Park with his unnamed consultant as he is under a gag order from selectmen. 

“The Gorilla House was vandalized the same night we completed the work” commented Kevin Langill.

Art Show in Litchfield on Saturday

by Lynne Ober

Gail Barringer and Steven Calawa - with the reproduction of the Edward Hill Darrah Pond painting

History is very important.  Remembering and celebrating history has become the New England way.  This year Litchfield is celebrating its 275th year.

“It’s a year-long remembrance,” said Steven Calawa, who is president of Litchfield’s Historical Society.  He and Gail Barringer have been working on an art show that will feature Litchfield artists.  The show will be held on Saturday, August 22 from 11:00 a.m. ­– 3:00 p.m. at Griffin Memorial School.

“I think we were thinking about art and Litchfield artists for a variety of reasons,” said Calawa.

It began when Barringer saw portraits drawn by McQuesten ancestors.

“She thought they should be displayed at some point, and we just started talking about an art show.  It grew from there,” smiled Calawa.

Margaret and Bernice McQuesten were prominent artistic Litchfield residents.

“Bernice actually taught Michael Bergeron how to draw.  She painted her entire life.”

According to Calawa, Margaret, born in Litchfield, graduated at the top of her class from the Museum of Fine Arts program in Boston, MA, and then lived in Newton Center with her sculptor husband, Champney Hughes, who is renowned for the work he did in European churches.

In addition, Barringer and Calawa recently presented a reproduction of an oil painting done by Edward Hill in 1895.  The painting shows the Layton family, who owned Darrah Pond, boating on Darrah Pond.  According to Calawa, Abby Laton wanted the painting to go to the Litchfield Historical Society when she died, but at that time there was no society.  So the family donated it to the New Hampshire Historical Society.

When Erdine Mabry MacDougal (a beloved long-time resident of Litchfield) died, the duo wanted to present something to the historical society in her memory.  That wish came true when they presented the reproduction on August 1.  After MacDougal died in the fall of 2008, a photograph transparency was made of the original painting and given to Image4.

“Image4 is used by the New Hampshire Historical Society, and they recommended them to us,” said Calawa.  “They did the painting.”

“Stephen looked at antique shops for a suitable frame and finally found one but it was too big.  He took it to Canal Street Collectibles in Nashua and they cut it down and framed it for us,” said Barringer.  Looking at the frame, it is impossible to tell that it needed to be cut down.

The picture will be on display at the art show for all to see.  A second copy has been made and mounted in a more contemporary frame and will be presented to the town.

Selectmen Reject School Board Impact Fee Usage

by Lynne Ober

Litchfield Selectmen have been struggling with a request made by the Litchfield School Board for the use of impact fees.  At the heart of the issue is whether it is a legal usage or not.

New Hampshire state law is very strict on how collected impact fees may be used.  The idea behind impact fees is that a town may collect them in anticipation of costs related to growth in the town.

When School District Business Manager Steve Martin met with Selectmen to discuss the use of impact fees to cover the costs of building two additional storage boards, there was a lengthy discussion about legality.  The upshot of that meeting was to send the request to the town attorney for review and comment.

Martin had said that school board counsel said that building classrooms would be a clearer use of impact fees, but felt that the request was legal.  At the time Martin stated that the district’s attorney said that this was a relatively weak use of impact fees, but felt that it was a legal use.  Martin also talked about expanded programming and the need for environmentally sound storage.

At the time Selectman Steve Perry, who is a former Planning Board Chairman said, “You are really not expanding services.”  Perry felt that the space currently in use by the SAU was there for that reason and that classrooms were already paid for to be used as classrooms.  He didn’t believe that building storage sheds was the result of growth.

This is request is for an athletic storage building while the other building was characterized as a “pre-engineered metal building.”

Selectman George Lambert moved to allocate $20,000 of school impact fees for the engineering as described and Selectman Andrew Santom seconded.

However, Chairman Frank Byron said he was against the proposal because he did not feel that it met the legal requirements for the use of impact fees. 

There was discussion about the letter from the school district attorney that said that the SAU is taking space away from classrooms.  Byron felt that this was an incorrect statement and noted that the actual space the SAU takes up had always been designated as space for the SAU. 

Byron also said that the increase in student population has not been shown.  In fact presented data showed a decline in the number of students.  Since impact fees are supposed to be used to cover the growth in the area, the decline in student enrollment did not indicate that impact fees should be used.

Selectman Pat Jewett who also sits on the School Board said the space occupied by the SAU was intended to be four special education classrooms.

When the vote was taken, the motion failed because the vote was 2 – 2 – 1 with Jewett abstaining and Byron and Lambert voting no.

Santom then said that he felt that Jewett should have voted rather than abstaining on another vote.  The board discussed the matter.

Lambert then moved to reconsider the previous motion and Jewett seconded.  This motion also failed 2 – 3 with Lambert and Jewett voting yes.

Questions over Benson Park Opening Time Frame

by Gina M. Votour

Tensions flared once again as Hudson’s Board of Selectmen attempted to hash out yet another issue relating to Benson Park during a recent meeting.

Acting as representative to the Benson Park Committee, Selectman Shawn Jasper got the ball rolling when he put forth a motion to post ‘No Trespassing’ signs at the property’s entrances to prevent public access prior to its opening. 

The remaining selectmen expressed concern with this idea however, feeling overall that it could be seen as just a further sign of delay for the park’s eagerly anticipated opening. 

“I don’t understand why we are trying to make this so hard on people, I think we should just open it up,” proclaimed Selectman Ben Nadeau, who instead suggested signs which would simply tell members of the public to enter the 165 acre property at their own risk.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Ken Massey and Selectman Richard Maddox both immediately concurred with this line of thought. 

Strongly disagreeing with his fellow board members, Jasper explained that the park should not be opened too soon since a vast amount of work remains to be done.  Furthermore, an exact plan for this work and its completion does not exist.

“What we have out there is generally a mess right now.  There is so much to do.  It’s a very sad place right now [but] we can make it a wonderful place to be,” stated Jasper.

Massey and Nadeau both pointed out that allowing the public to roam the land sooner rather than later may actually encourage volunteerism for future projects, however.

Jasper then raised the issue of potential safety hazards within the property.  He also emphasized that there are no rest areas since water and sewer lines have yet to be connected.  He additionally reminded the others that, per the deed from the state, once the park is open it cannot be closed.

Therefore, at three separate points throughout the course of this discussion, Maddox flat out asked Jasper when he thought the park would open.  To this question, Jasper could not provide an answer.  He again explained the necessity for the Benson Park Committee to devise a concrete plan prior to a public opening.  A portion of this time would involve the assembly of volunteer subcommittees.  “This has got to be a community project ... give us [time] to get organized,” stated Jasper.

Since a strong sense of exasperation was obviously being felt by all board members, Jasper pointed out that the rush to get the park open is only leading to bickering among the board and the Benson Park Committee members.  “Let’s slow down, let’s have a plan … and let’s stop fighting about how soon we’re going to get it open,” Jasper pleaded, further adding that prospective volunteers may be turned off after seeing town officials and committees continuously battling over this project.

“I hope we can all back off a little bit, give the committee that breathing room to get its feet wet and to get moving because right now … we’re [going] in every different direction and …nobody’s getting along,” Jasper reiterated.

Somewhat of a consensus was reached when the board agreed to step back and allow the Benson Park Committee the freedom to devise an overall plan followed by a possible time frame for opening dates.  Jasper also withdrew his original motion for ‘No Trespassing’ signs. 

Although there are no exact dates for any type of public opening, the hope at this point is that the Benson Park Committee will come back with the possibility of two or three soft openings for this fall in which people would be allowed to simply walk around certain areas of the park.  A hard, or full, opening which could include the historical building areas may not occur until sometime next year however.

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