Pelham X-Games Provide Fun and Competition

by Tom Tollefson

Richie Rogers, 16, does a handstand on his skateboard

The weather on Sunday, October 11, provided a drier day for Pelham X-Games than originally scheduled on September 25.  The second annual skateboard competition, headed by the Pelham Recreation Department and Eastern Boarders, had been previously postponed due to wet grounds. 

“He’s been wanting for this for months.  When it got postponed, he was a little upset, but he’s been practicing every day and waiting for today,” Connie Molinaro said about her son, Jordan.  

The Pelham Parks and Recreation Department, along with Eastern Boarders, put on the competition to give an event for the young skating population, who prefer skateboards over the more “traditional” sports and events.

“It’s really just to give this population an event,” said Pelham Parks and Recreation Director Brian Johnson.  “It’s one of the fastest growing sports in America and it’s not embraced.” 

A total of 18 participants showed up to compete for first, second, and third place in age groups for 15 and up and 14 and under.  Each competitor had a minute to showcase their best skills and tricks in each of the two rounds. 

Eastern Boarders provided judges for the competition, who supplied medals for the first-, second-, and third-place finishers in each of the two age groups, in addition to prize bags filled with skateboarding products. 

“Impressive” and “fun” were the most common words the judges used when referring to the talent level and overall feel of the Pelham X-Games.

The skaters agreed the competition was high with participants from areas beyond the borders of Pelham.  “I skate here every day, and some of these tricks I haven’t seen before,” said EJ Martin, second-place finisher in the older group. 

Richie Rogers felt pressure as well.  “When you’re all by yourself, it’s a little bit more pressure, but it’s cool because a lot of people here are competitive,” he said about the skaters having their time to compete with all eyes on them instead of several of them competing at once. 

One of the competition’s many highlights came from Rogers’ handstand on a skateboard. 

“I did gymnastics for eight years, so I incorporated that into my skating,” he said.

Another highlight came from first-year competitor Cameron Breton’s half-turn in mid-air as he flew over six stairs.  “It felt pretty good and I was glad I landed it,” he said.

If you missed the X-Games, they will be viewable on Pelham Public TV and also on the Pelham Recreation website.

Winners from the 15-and-up division (left to right):  Ryan Sheehan, 15 (first); EJ Martin, 20 (second); and Richie Rogers (third).

Winners from the 14-and-under division (left to right):  Scott Greacen, 11 (second); Cameron Breton, 12 (first); and Mike Sheehan, 14, (third). 

A Walk with Windham’s Ghosts

by Gloria Sullivan

Bill Johnson as Deacon John Armstrong

On a sunny but brisk Sunday afternoon, about 100 people came to take a walk in Windham’s Cemetery on the Plains.  The Windham Historical Commission hosted “Ghost Walk”; a unique event to raise funds to continue renovations at Searle’s School and Chapel.

The Historical Commission intertwined their fundraiser with an opportunity to introduce people some of Windham’s historical figures.  For a $10 donation, visitors were invited to take a self guided walking tour of the cemetery where they encountered living ghosts, portrayed by various Windham residents.  The ghosts were decked in period attire and some even spoke in an accent from yesteryear to lend additional authenticity to the occasion.

The graveyard itself as it appears from Ministerial Road, looks like any other cemetery until you explore the far corners.  The earliest gravestones are of minimalist design, dating back to the 1700s.  As the years went on Windham became a place of industry and Route 93 was constructed to connect major cities.  At this time, many multi-ethnic names were suddenly present among the etched gravestones.

Charlene Cochrane of Windham portrayed Mrs. Elva Tarbell who lived an impressive 99 years.  Her son, Wilbur, was the only casualty in World War I.  He was a submariner with the Portsmouth Shipyard and was on his fourth patrol in the area of the North East China Sea and The Yellow Sea in China.  The ship was never heard from again after a rendezvous with another ship followed by some rough seas.  It is suspected that the ship sank due to hitting a mine and was presumed lost at sea along with all 75 men on board.  On Tarbell’s parents’ gravestone, the year of death for their son is etched as 1946.

Isaac Dinsmore, portrayed David Gregg, the first person to be buried in this cemetery.  Gregg, who was killed by Indians when he was just 9 years old stood beside Ed Daigle, who portrayed his father, William.  Daigle explained how William Gregg buried his son on this land in the exact spot that he laid slain and refused to move his son’s body.  He explained how the land where his son, the last person to be killed by Indians in Windham, became a cemetery by town vote as a result of this unfortunate event.

Bill Johnson portrayed Deacon John Armstrong who, as his gravestone reads, departed this life in 1795.  Armstrong’s father owned 80 acres by Cobbett’s Pond and later traded it for a farmhouse and enough land to harvest a successful apple crop.

Historical family Captain Nathaniel and Agnes Hemphill stood proud bearing the distinction of having the largest family to ever have lived in Windham.  With their 18 children, they resided on North Lowell Road.  The Captain proudly displayed a photo of his dear wife Agnes in front of their farmhouse and, to no surprise to the group of onlookers, she appeared to be pregnant in the black and white antique photo.

Many folks discovered a tiny and likely unknown park within the grounds of the Cemetery on the Plains.  State Representative Mary Griffin portrayed Harriet Garaphelea Hughes Berry, for whom the Park was created in memory of by her husband.  There is a bronze plaque outside the stone walls of the cemetery that reads, “Love endures beyond the tomb, forgetting none whose trust is in the king of love, by whom death means not dust to dust,” Griffin read from her pages of historic facts.

In an ironic variation to the romantic story of having a park named after her by her husband,  Griffin spoke in character by adding “After I died, my husband married my sister.”  She remarked that people from that era were hard working and they shared a great interest in the growth of the town.

Dr. Benjamin Simpson, portrayed by Dick Forde, stood proud at the base of his impressive graveside monument, which appeared to be at least 20 feet tall.  He explained how he was successful in selling dry goods and was able to put himself through medical school at Hanover School, now known as Dartmouth Medical School.  He became successful in both his career and with his investments and was also a tax collector and a selectman in town while practicing medicine until the age of 80.  He passed away two years later and his wife and three of his five children are buried beside him.

Frank Morse, portrayed Robert Bartley, Jr., who moved to Windham from Ireland in 1833.  He bought the Windham Center Store from the Nesmith Brothers and he lived in the building that housed the store most of his life, until 1865.  His son Francis operated the store until 1870.  Bartley was married three times and fathered 15 children.  He considered himself an anomaly in town, being a Democrat, which was then referred to as the “know nothing party.”  He was an early supporter of Franklin Pierce and abolition.  “Thank God I lived to see the end of slavery before I died in 1867,” Morse stated in character.

Morse raised cows, chicken and many pigs behind the store and was known for his hams, which he cured with a recipe he brought with him from Ireland.  He was also a town moderator, town clerk, a treasurer, Postmaster and Justice of the Peace.  “In 1852, they put the library upstairs in my store and I became the town librarian,” he added.  Unfortunately, in 1856 the store burned to the ground.  Morse rebuilt and the building is now known as the stone library near the old town hall.

For those taking the tour, it was a great opportunity to be outside on a beautiful autumn day.  Debbie Drake and Gail Logan of Windham thought it was great that they discovered a park they had never noticed before today while they spent an hour and a half strolling through the cemetery.  “It’s a good way to learn about history,” Drake commented. 

Isaac Dinsmore and Ed Daigle as David and William Gregg

State Representative Mary Griffin standing in front of Garaphelea Park

Selectmen and Town Treasurer in Disagreement

by Barbara O’Brien

For the past several weeks, Windham Selectmen and Town Treasurer Bob Skinner have been publicly disagreeing about how and where to invest the town’s money.

Windham does its banking with Citizens Bank at a branch located on Indian Rock Road, which makes it very convenient to conduct in-person transactions.

As town treasurer, Skinner serves residents as an elected official.  He is, therefore, not answerable to selectmen.

“I realize by RSA [state statute] that it’s his call,” Selectman Bruce Breton said of Skinner’s choice of which bank to use and which town funds to invest.  On the other hand, Breton continued, “I feel the board of selectmen should make recommendations to the treasurer.”

Breton also said he feels Skinner should take the selectmen’s suggestions into account when making financial choices affecting the town.

The continuing discussion began when Breton said he had checked interest rates at other banks and felt Windham could earn more money than is currently earned through Citizens Bank.  The interest rate presently being paid on the money deposited at Citizens Bank is one-half percent.  Breton said he wants to know how Citizens Bank compares to other financial institutions.

“I want to know if Citizens Bank is competitive,” Breton said.

Skinner’s contention is that all federally insured (FDIC) banks offer similar interest rates, although he did not offer any specifics.  Skinner also said that Windham has very little excess money to invest anywhere.

Selectman Ross McLeod agreed with Breton, adding that he recalled asking Skinner to check other banks for comparative purposes, but that request had apparently not been honored.

“We have no real money to play with,” Skinner said, adding that by December 1 the town would be looking to borrow money in anticipation of taxes.  “You have to have money in order to invest,” he said.

“There are peaks and valleys for the operating budget,” Assistant Town Administrator Dana Call said.  “But static funds can be invested any time.”

“We just want to know we’re getting the best deal,” Selectman Roger Hohenberger told Skinner.  “We need the information.”

Town Administrator David Sullivan said town officials also have to factor in any fees that a bank charges to manage money.

“Citizens charges the town no fees,” Sullivan said.

Breton said that the town must keep a minimum of $100,000 on deposit with Citizens Bank to avoid any transaction fees.

“I’m not sure how many years this goes back,” he added, claiming that no interest has ever been paid on the $100,000 minimum balance.  There are also various other accounts which aren’t earning any interest for the town, Breton said.  “Any additional interest would be a benefit,” he said.

During the most recent public discussion of the situation, Breton said he’d checked with a number of other banks himself and learned that one particular bank, Centrix, paid up to 1.25 percent interest on deposits.  Breton also said that each bank he had checked on met all stipulations of the town’s investment policy.

By not investing money with a bank that pays a higher interest rate, the town “is foregoing funds that are easily accessible,” McLeod stated.  “This is free money,” he added.  McLeod also said he feels there’s a “need for more stringent management” of town funds.  “You don’t hide the town’s money under the mattress,” McLeod said.

Breton said he felt selectmen should make a recommendation to Skinner regarding investment choices for town funds.

“If the treasurer doesn’t take the advice, so be it,” Breton said.  “He’s accountable to the taxpayers.”

Skinner responded to the criticism by saying he considers selectmen’s comments to be “a very serious challenge.”  He also said he doesn’t feel these other banks could possibly pay a higher rate of interest.  FDIC banks can’t go higher than one-half percent, Skinner said.  “I stand by doing business with Citizens,” Skinner insisted.  “They do an excellent job of maintaining all the town’s accounts.”  Other banks that have been contacted are also too far away, Skinner added.  “To drive 20 miles to do banking is horrible,” he said.

Call, who was asked to help investigate other banks’ services and rates of interest, said she agreed with Skinner that the town should not change banks for handling its operating budget.  Another bank could be used to invest other town funds, however, Call said.

“I don’t believe these [other banks] figures,” Skinner said.  “There’s no money out there in CDs,” at this point in time, he added.

Call replied that she has quotes from various other banks in writing.  It would be wise for Skinner to meet with representatives of these other banks in person, though, Call said.

Selectman Charles McMahon said he wants “precise comparisons” as to the benefits of each bank being considered for investments.

“I want to know what’s factual,” McMahon said, adding that he doesn’t want to put the town at risk, nor does he want to lose out on earning interest.

On a motion by Hohenberger, selectmen voted 4 to 0 to instruct Call to perform an analysis comparing Citizens Bank to Centrix Bank in regard to investment opportunities.  Voting in favor of the motion were Selectmen Hohenberger, Breton, McMahon, and McLeod.  Chairman Galen Stearns did not attend the meeting where the vote was taken.  Following the motion, McMahon instructed Skinner to contact Citizens and Centrix Banks and to obtain quotes in writing, adding that he “wants to see the results at the October 26 board meeting.”

Selectmen Support Four-Lane Expansion

by Barbara O’Brien

Although the reconstruction of I-93 has already been underway for several years, the debate continues as to whether the stretch from Manchester to the Massachusetts State Line should be widened to three or four lanes.

Original plans called for a four-lane expansion along the approximately 20-mile stretch, but concerns raised by certain conservation advocates have resulted in an ongoing legal debate.  Because the decision remains unresolved, state officials from the Department of Transportation (DOT) are seeking input from local representatives whose communities will be directly affected by the decision.

Windham, located off Exit 3 of Route 93, is one of the municipalities being heavily impacted by the reconstruction.  As a result, selectmen took up the three- or four-lane question during their meeting on October 5.  Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson summed up the opinion of other town officials when he said, “Four lanes is the right way to go.”  McPherson said he was basing his opinion on safety and congestion concerns.  McPherson said that Windham Police Chief Gerald Lewis, who was out of town at the time, also favors the four-lane highway configuration.

“I agree four lanes is probably needed based on the volume of traffic,” Selectman Roger Hohenberger said.  In the future, however, Hohenberger added he would like to see rail transit brought in along that portion of Route 93.  “I am really against stopping the expansion between Exits 3 and 4,” as some have proposed, he added.

Selectman Roger McLeod said he agreed with Hohenberger’s comments, explaining that expanding the highway from two to four lanes would not only help to reduce traffic congestion but would also help to alleviate safety concerns being expressed by emergency services agencies.

Selectman Charles McMahon, who also serves as a state representative for the region, said, “I’ve been supporting this expansion for the past 20 years.”

Vice Chairman Bruce Breton recommended that selectmen send a letter to the DOT supporting the four-lane concept.  Breton’s motion was approved by a vote of 4 to 0.  Chairman Galen Stearns did not attend the October 5 board meeting.

Second Assistant Superintendent Sought

by Barbara O’Brien

School board members in both Pelham and Windham decided last spring that SAU #28, which represents both school districts, needs a second assistant superintendent.

On October 7 during the semi-annual joint SAU Board meeting, these same board members unanimously agreed that each of these two assistant superintendents should focus on just one of the two towns.  The recommendation that one assistant superintendent should represent Pelham, while the other should focus primarily on Windham, was made by Superintendent Frank Bass.  “This would benefit both districts,” Bass said.  “This makes the most sense going forward.”

Bass represents both Windham and Pelham, dividing his time between the two similarly-sized school districts.  He is currently in his third year as SAU #28 superintendent.

SAU #28 School Board Chairman Linda Mahoney said she also feels that having an assistant superintendent for each of the two school districts “would be a benefit all around.”  Mahoney is on the Pelham School Board.

Dr. Bass emphasized that the two assistant superintendents will be sharing ideas and working with one another as a team.  The two school districts “will still be utilizing shared resources,” Bass said.

The funds needed to pay a second assistant superintendent are already included in the proposed 2010-2011 SAU #28 operating budget.  According to SAU Finance Director Kathleen Sargent, $100,000 is included in the proposed budget for a second assistant superintendent’s salary, while approximately $45,000 will be needed to pay for benefits.

Roxanne Wilson is currently the only assistant superintendent for SAU #28.  She has held that job for the past five years.  Her major duties at this point include curriculum development and assessment.  Upon the hiring of an additional assistant superintendent, these duties would be incorporated and expanded, Bass explained.

“Does Roxanne (Wilson) choose” which school district in which she prefers to work, asked Windham School Board member Daphne Kenyon, who was recently appointed to fill the seat previously held by Mark Brockmeier, who resigned from the school board last month.  Dr. Kenyon said she feels that Wilson has earned the right to choose which school district she would prefer to represent.

“Roxanne should have first choice,” Kenyon said, adding that Wilson will have seniority over the new person hired.

“I would like to have the opportunity to have a choice,” Wilson said, but did not specify which school district she would prefer.

Dr. Bass said that Wilson’s preference will be considered in deciding which assistant superintendent will represent Windham and which will focus on Pelham, but not in advance of the hiring process.

“We’re looking to find the best fit for each community,” Mahoney said.

Kenyon continued to express the opinion that Wilson’s preference should be known up front, stating that to know this information will make the hiring process easier.

“We’re looking to find the best fit for each community,” Mahoney said, adding that it’s important for candidates to be “flexible.”

SAU School Board members also decided to form a search committee for a second assistant superintendent, with members from both Windham and Pelham.  After considerable discussion, it was decided that the committee will include Superintendent Bass, Assistant Superintendent Wilson, one principal from each of the two school districts, one teacher from each of the two school districts, one school board member from Pelham, one school board member from Windham, the Human Resources Director from SAU #28, and a community member from each of the two towns, for a total of 11 members.  School Board member Jeff Bostic will be representing Windham, while Deb Ryan will be representing Pelham on the search committee.  Stating that hiring another assistant superintendent is “a major expenditure,” Kenyon said she prefers that the entire SAU Board participate in selecting search committee members.

Plans are that the new assistant superintendent’s position will be advertised during November and December, with initial interviews beginning in February or March.  The full SAU Board will make the final decision on which candidate will be hired.  It is anticipated that two or three final candidates will be brought forward to the full SAU Board.

“I feel we will get a good pool of candidates,” (for the second job of assistant superintendent) Mahoney said, looking forward to the upcoming hiring process.

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