Acting Town Engineer Receives 20-Year Service Award

by Gina Votour

Acting Town Engineer Gary Webster (l) is praised by Selectmen Chairman Roger Coutu.

Acting Town Engineer Gary Webster was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation for 20 years of dedicated public service to the Town of Hudson.

During the September 8 Board of Selectmen meeting, Selectmen Chairman Roger Coutu bestowed the award to Webster after reading the following:

“Gary Webster has been with the Town of Hudson for the past twenty years and is currently serving as the Acting Town Engineer.  Gary has the primary responsibility of inspecting road construction projects.  Gary also reviews plans for compliance with water and sewer compliance.  Oftentimes the demands of these responsibilities extend beyond the normal work day and Gary can be found onsite until the mission is accomplished, even if it means coming to work early, staying late, or working on the weekend.  Gary has attained the level of Master Road Scholar as a result of his participation in educational classes sponsored by the NH Department of Transportation and the University of New Hampshire.  Gary is also active in American Legion Hudson Post #48 and has been a volunteer for American Legion Baseball for over twenty years.  Gary was raised in Hudson and currently resides in Hudson with his wife Connie.”

After he finished reading, Coutu also offered personal praise for Webster’s work ethic.

“Gary, on behalf of the Board of Selectmen, I can say that I have knowledge firsthand of your dedication and the hours and the input that you have given this town without any recompense at all other than your weekly pay and your knowledge of the work.  You’ve been a great contribution to our town, and I want to extend our sincere appreciation, sir.  Thank you very much,” commended Coutu.

Hudson Police Captain Relieved of Duty

by Len Lathrop

Pending an investigation by the New Hampshire Attorney General, Captain Donald Breault was placed on administrative leave on Tuesday, September 8, for what is being termed by several sources as a “personnel matter.”  The three selectmen who spoke with the Area News Group had no comment and advised that the matter was being handled by Town Manager Stephen Malizia.  Malizia attended shift roll calls at the police station Tuesday afternoon and into the night to advise members of the department of the situation, and to enforce the fact that selectmen had the greatest confidence in the men and women of the Hudson Police Department.  It appears this matter was brought to the surface by Chief Jason Lavoie who advised Malizia.  Breault has been a member of the Hudson Police Department since 1989 and has risen through the ranks to his current rank as Captain.

Barrier Spraying Begun

by Lynne Ober

Litchfield’s Mosquito District Board held a public hearing last Friday evening, but no one came.  According to the chairman, Alfred Raccio, the handouts delivered by Litchfield Fire Department to residents in the area of the positive test were very well-received.

“Kudos to the fire department,” said Raccio.  “I know that residents were extremely pleased to get the information delivered to their doors.”

Raccio has met with both the school board and Litchfield’s Recreation Commission.  Barrier spraying began this week and will be done again on Tuesday, September 15.

According to Board of Selectmen Chairman Frank Byron, barrier spraying is similar to watering with a sprinkler on your garden hose.  The insecticide was sprayed to the tree and brush line in several areas.  No spraying was done on field areas or on playground equipment.

According to the Recreation Commission, park users should avoid touching or entering wooded areas where spraying has occurred for 72 hours following treatment.  To assist residents in identifying those areas, signs were posted as soon as spraying was done.

Raccio provided a list of approved barrier spraying areas, and these are:

Darrah Pond-Map 7 lot 121, Brickyard-Map 9 lot 42, fire station and old town hall-Map 12 lot 14,

Library-Map 12 lot 23, Jeff Lane-Map 20 lots 44,45,46, and on Map 21 lot 69, 36 Brook Road (the ball park on Corning)-Map 22 lot 23, around the three schools, GMS, LMS and CHS, 151 Hillcrest Road (the incinerator)- Map 15 lot 26, 240 Albuquerque Avenue (the tennis courts).

Weekly testing is ongoing.  Results of the tests will be posted on the Litchfield town website.  Raccio said that test results are usually available mid-week.

“We need to get more results before we can determine if this positive test was an anomaly or will be an ongoing situation,” concluded Raccio.

Layoff within Hudson Department

by Gina M. Votour

A vote taken by Hudson’s Board of Selectmen this week resulted in a layoff within the town’s Community Development Department.

Almost one year ago, when the selectmen were reviewing the budget for Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10), a decision was made to de-fund a secretarial slot within the Zoning portion of this department due to declining revenues.  The total savings estimated at the time was $34,318 plus benefits.

However, this past March, the Operating Budget was knocked down by voters.  A Default Budget, which included funding for this job, was subsequently put in place for FY10, which began in July 2009.

On June 23, the selectmen had a discussion in which mixed opinions were revealed regarding whether or not to once again remove funding for this position.  At this time, a consensus was reached to keep the position for the months of July and August and to revisit the issue once again during the first week in September.

Toward the end of the Board’s September 8 meeting, Selectman Ben Nadeau therefore put forth a motion to eliminate the position.  Nadeau gave two reasons for his thinking, one being his prediction of a slowdown in the building and planning world, and the second being that the board should simply follow through with their original action plan from the previous budget season.

Although Selectmen Chairman Roger Coutu did credit the January hiring of Assistant Town Administrator Mark Pearson to an increase in productivity within this department, Coutu agreed that funding for this secretarial slot should nevertheless be removed.

“For the past three to six months, they [the secretarial staff] have been deluged with Benson’s work, which I thought was a little overboard.  I will support the motion because I think there is no need for the position,” Coutu explained.

Selectman Shawn Jasper was not in favor of a layoff and asked that better justification be given in this instance.  He also referred to Pearson’s comments made a couple weeks earlier in which a good case was made for keeping this position filled within his department.

“We will sacrifice public service in probably the most visible department in terms of interaction with the public.  I just don’t like the idea of ‘Well, we said we were going to do it, therefore we’re going to do it’,” stated Jasper.

Selectmen Vice Chairman Ken Massey concurred with Jasper.  Massey additionally brought to light the fact that the tax rate for FY10 is already set so tax bills for December and June would not be affected either way by a layoff.

Nadeau’s original motion to eliminate the position ultimately passed 3-2, with Jasper and Massey voting in opposition.  A two-week notice was planned to be given to the employee in question.  Since open positions within the Finance and Highway departments were approved earlier that evening, Jasper strongly suggested that the individual submit an application for one of these jobs.

Since the line item for this position remains open, it could potentially be re-funded during the next budget cycle.

35 Years Ago:  Alvirne High School Fire

In the early morning hours of Sunday, September 8, 1974, a fire began in the auditorium/gymnasium section of the building, and by the end of the day Alvirne High School would be destroyed.  The fire department received a call at 5:29 a.m. with a report of the fire.  Deputy Fire Chief Robert Buxton arrived first at the blaze and found the auditorium/gymnasium section of the school fully involved and had suffered collapse in areas, with the cupola on the roof on fire.

With such an extensive fire burning and the rest of the school threatened, Buxton quickly called for help.  Fire companies from Litchfield, Nashua, Salem, Derry, Londonderry, Pelham, and Windham responded to assist Hudson firefighters in battling the flames.  The response was massive, with 200 firefighters manning 11 engines, seven tankers, four ladder trucks, and numerous support vehicles battling the flames for 13 hours before bringing the fire under control.

The building at the time had no sprinkler system, which allowed the fire to spread across the roof structure and down to the second floor.  The nearest fire hydrant was over a mile and a half away, which required thousands of feet of hose being laid out to bring water to the scene.  Six engines lined Derry Road, relaying water from the hydrant to the fire.  The pond, located at the Alvirne Barn, along with a 23,000-gallon cistern, was completely drained to provide water for firefighters.  A water tanker shuttle with seven tankers from the Hudson Central Fire Station filled numerous portable water tanks set up around the building.  Four ladder trucks, large diameter water guns, and many hand lines poured thousands of gallons of water into the building, trying to contain the flames spreading from one end of the building to the other.  Hudson firefighter Don Cole suffered a broken wrist while battling the fire and was taken to a Nashua hospital for treatment.

Fire Chief Frank Nutting, at the time of the fire, was vacationing in Maine and made the long trip back to Hudson to take command of the fire.  Fire chiefs from Nashua, Salem, and Londonderry assisted him with command and operations of the fire.

By dawn, a large crowd of residents, students, and alumni gathered to witness the devastation, and several wept openly as they viewed the destruction.  During the afternoon, a crane was brought to the scene to remove walls that were in danger of collapse.

Investigators from Hudson, the State Fire Marshall’s office, New Hampshire State Police lab, and agents from the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms descended on the scene to investigate the cause of the five million dollar fire.  To date, the fire has been listed as suspicious and no arrests have been made.

Although the material building of the town’s school was gone, the school community spirit of citizens and students would rise Alvirne from the ashes.  Within hours of the flames being controlled and what was left of the building being ruled safe to enter, 200 students, adults and teachers were working together cleaning desks, sorting through the burnt books, papers and equipment, salvaging what was good and throwing out what was no longer usable.

The work would continue for over a week.  Members of the Highway Department worked to remove equipment not damaged by the fire; the fire department used pumps, water vacuums, brooms and squeegees to clear water from the floors; with the work of the community, more things were salvaged than had first been thought possible; a thorough check by safety inspectors and architects determined that much of the remaining building was also salvageable.

One major problem still faced the town — what to do with the 1,200 high school students.  Nashua had a school building that at the time was not being used.  The town leased the St. Francis Xavier School building for $15,000 for the year.  School children from Memorial School’s forth and fifth grades were bused to the Nashua School building, and dual sessions for grades six through twelve were held at Memorial School.  Alvirne students used books salvaged from the fire and borrowed books from other high schools.

On November 9, 1974, at a special school district meeting, town residents voted to authorize a two million dollar bond to rebuild Alvirne High School.  Along with insurance payments, money from Trustees and other people made up the $4.3 million needed to rebuild the school.  The Irving Heresy Associates, the original architects who had the original plans for the building, and the Davison Construction Company were hired to complete the work.

On September 9, 1975, students walked the halls of Alvirne High School again — one year and one day after the fire.

The dedication and community spirit of the town’s residents, students, teachers, School Board and Trustees rose the school from the ashes.

The Hudson~Litchfield News thanks Captain Dave Morin for his work on this story and for allowing the release of this story and picture that is scheduled to run in his local firefighter newsletter, the Hudson Heat.

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