The Pelham Good Neighbor Fund Committee celebrated their 40th Anniversary with a Dinner Dance at the Harris Pelham Inn with close to 200 people attending.
The Pelham Good Neighbor Fund was established 40 years ago by Pelham residents who wanted to provide food and financial assistance for their less fortunate neighbors. Since the Fund began, over 2,000 residents have received emergency situation assistance with their heating oil, rent, electricity, transportation, and other household expenses. The Good Neighbor Fund also coordinates the annual food drive with the Post Office for the Food Pantry, awards college scholarships, and financially supports a local women’s shelter. The annual golf tournament is the major fundraising activity for this charitable organization.
Currently, the committee that manages this Fund consists of 12 active volunteers. Their involvement, along with the commitment and financial support of individuals and area businesses, have helped the Town of Pelham be a better place to live. Truly, Pelham is where people help people.
Today, the main purpose of this function was to help Lew Demetroulakos, the wife of long-time member Telly, 70, who is bedridden with a brain tumor. This is a positive event to help her get through what is happening in her life. She smiled and laughed the whole time. Good luck Telly!
The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist … (Lawrence Leone).
One act of kindness can inspire an entire community... (Author Unknown).
This organization is just another silent minority that loves to help. Thank you for your kindness.
Maureen and Andy Chester, Pelham, looking at the many items
In response to being asked the question, “They made it sound like you bought for yourself” by Lowell Sun reporter John Collins, Rice responded, “No is the answer to that.”
(Photo from Lowell Sun)
After 27 years of working for the Revere Public Library, Revere, MA, Pelham’s new Library Director, Bob Rice, is being investigated and questioned by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office with regards to $220,000 of “questionable purchases” as Revere’s Public Library Director. Rice was recently hired to be Pelham’s new Library Director earlier this year.
Rice “abruptly” resigned his position as Director of the Revere Public Library (January 2009) when Revere police officers began questioning him regarding his purchases of Red Sox baseballs, a Roman Legionnaires helmet, an antique Thompson submachine gun, four elephant man sculptures, Roman pillars, a Rolex watch, a Batman sculpture and Batman cars, swords and armor, and Star Trek: The Next Generation technical manual.
“In addition, we found approximately 200 additional items stored at the library that are questionable for library use,” quotes The Revere Journal of the independent audit performed by Melanson Heath and Company. Purchases made in the audit were made during 2007-2009.
Audit information received from The Revere Journal continues to state that “For the fiscal 2007, 2008, and 2009 to date, we found 150 invoices totaling $220,000 which we consider questionable for library usage. We also find evidence that similar purchases were made prior to fiscal 2007. During the course of our procedures, we identified $40,000 of questionable purchased items from information provided by vendors that were made outside the time period included in the scope of this investigation.”
The audit also states that “Rice had a system where he had allegedly forged the billing stationery of several companies that he ordered from. He would order things from the company, and then doctor those items up on the phony billing stationery to look legitimate. That, apparently, is how he got so many questionable items approved by the city’s auditors who he had to submit purchase orders for each and every item,” reports The Revere Journal.
During a videotaped interview by reporter John Collins of the Lowell Sun, Rice stated that “Without going into the soap opera nature there, I was not liked by the city auditor. I was forced to hire the auditor’s brother and aunt and I was forced to hire the mayor’s ‘next door neighbor and babysitter’.” Rice stated that he had received 15 to 22 applications from qualified individuals who held Master’s Degrees for positions advertised. Rice further stated that the employees he hired “were not productive” and once he made his opinions known, he felt as though he “had a big target” (on me).
“I am glad to leave. They made these allegations against me as I was leaving. I felt glad to be gone and rid of them,” commented Rice in the Lowell Sun interview.
Revere Mayor Tom Ambrosino offered the written comment that, “After reading the auditor’s report, I thought Bob Rice’s resignation was appropriate.”
Purchases made by Rice were placed online and shipped to his home, the report states.
In speaking directly with Bob Rice in an effort to offer him the opportunity to speak with regards to his side of the story, he stated, “On my lawyer’s advice, I have no comment.”
Town officials from Pelham’s Board of Selectmen were not available to make any comment.
Purchases made by Bob Rice
Although the overall 2009 Windham Tax Rate shows an increase over that assessed for 2008, the municipal side of that formula shows a decrease.
According to Windham Town Administrator David Sullivan, the 2009 Tax Rate has been set at $18.92 per each $1,000 of assessed valuation. This is an increase of 92 cents within the last year. Windham’s 2008 Tax Rate was set at an even $18 per $1,000 assessed property valuation.
The annual tax rate is set by the Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) in Concord, based on each town’s expenditures and obligations, minus all revenue received.
The increase in the tax rate comes despite the 2009 town operating budget being lower than it was for the preceding year. The tax rate increase is attributable to increases on the school side of the ledger, largely for the new high school, as well as the implementation of the new public kindergarten program in Windham.
Based on property which is valued at $400,000 for taxation purposes (not market value), this 92 cent increase on the 2009 Tax Rate will mean a $368 hike in the amount of taxes due for this year.
Despite the increase in this year’s tax rate, Sullivan commended last year’s board of selectmen members, as well as all department heads for doing their share in keeping taxes lower than would have otherwise been the case.
With three-quarters of 2009 already relegated to history, Windham Assistant Town Administrator Dana Call reports that this year’s town operating budget “is still holding steady” and looking good across the full spectrum of town departments.
According to information provided by Call, as of the end of September, $9,396,868 of the total $13,499,974 appropriated for 2009 had been spent. This left a balance of $4,103,106 to carry town expenditures through to the end of December. Each town department found itself with 75 percent or less of its 2009 appropriated budget expended as of the end of September (75 percent through the 2009 calendar year). While some departments are doing better, all are within what had been anticipated when this year’s budget was formulated a year ago.
Vehicle fuel, heating oil and propane have all continued to have a favorable impact on what was budgeted for 2009, Call reported, with current costs being lower than what was anticipated.
In all departments, due to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) being lower than expected, there has been a savings on personnel costs. COLA had been budgeted at 3.75 percent, while in actuality it was only 3.5 percent. This accounts for a total of about $15,000 in savings throughout town employment.
Personnel vacancies also account for substantial savings, including eight weeks of no deputy town clerk, 18 weeks of no town planner, 16 weeks of no community development director, 38 weeks of no police captain (a portion of which was paid by third-party disability), 38 weeks of no police patrol officer. To some extent, however, Call said, salary and benefit savings from personnel vacancies are being offset by earned time buyouts that occur when employees retire. Due to changes at the state level, there has also been an increase in the cost of Windham’s contributions to the fire and police departments’ retirement funds. Taking into account these additional costs, however, there was still a total savings of approximately $120,000 on personnel expenses, as of September 30.
As for the police department, there is an overage in the property maintenance account, because of the town having to rent an emergency generator for an extended period of time. The approximately 10-year-old generator failed this past summer and the cost to rent equivalent equipment has been $1,900 per month since that time. Unexpected maintenance costs elsewhere in the police department have also caused an approximate $7,000 overage of that line item.
The overtime account at the Windham Transfer Station was also over budget as of the end of September, due to a staffing shortage, which resulted from the number of hours the facility is open to residents. Waste removal, however, remains under budget. “Single-stream recycling is working” as was hoped, Call said.
Capital Road Improvements were over-expended three-quarters through 2009, due to improvements made to London Bridge Road, as well as work done along Langdon, Weston and Flat Rock Roads, projects which were awarded back in 2008.
As for incoming funds, State Shared Revenue will not be available for 2009, according to Call, due to state budget cuts. The overall impact of this lost revenue will amount to about $69,000, she added.
On a more positive note, the collection of Meals and Rooms Tax by Windham establishments did see an increase of more than $6,000 as of September 30.
On the down side, the collection of revenue from motor vehicle registrations continues to be lower than in recent years. Call said $96,000 less had been collected for motor vehicle registrations as of the end of September, compared to the same time in the past two years.
Town revenue earned through contracted police details continues to be up over the past two years, due to a higher percentage now being retained by the town. The percentage went from 5 to 10 percent this past March, Call said.
Due to the lagging economy, for the second year, building permit fees also continue to be significantly less than was collected two years ago.
The amount of interest earned on banking investments is also down significantly so far this year. At this time in 2008, the rate of interest paid was 1.33 percent. Currently that rate is only a half a percent.
Overall, though, Call explained, total town revenues, as adjusted for the setting of the town’s annual tax rate, are down only $21,000 (0.4 percent). Call said she hopes that this fairly low loss of anticipated revenue will keep Windham’s Tax Rate level, at least for the time being.
The only extensive discussion of the issues presented by Call to selectmen revolved around overtime being expended by the Windham Fire Department. Selectman Bruce Breton said he raised the issue last April, but hasn’t seen the board do anything about it since that discussion. Town Administrator David Sullivan said he doesn’t know what else the fire department could do to keep its overtime costs down. Fire Chief Tom McPherson has already “tweaked” the department’s budget considerably during the past two years, Sullivan said, resulting in the 2009 budget being less than was allocated for 2008.
Chief McPherson does not intend to eliminate the fifth firefighter position per shift, one that was established two years ago, Sullivan said. “He’s made that clear, repeatedly.” Sullivan also remarked that the 2009 Fire Department Budget is still within the parameters that would be expected 75 percent through the current year.
“A lot of people (employees) will be taking earned time off between now and the end of December, Breton said. “I’ll bet that it (the remaining overtime budget) will all be used up,” before the end of the year.
Call said she will be providing a fourth-quarter synopsis of the 2009 town operating budget prior to the end of December, so that the figures can be used in finalizing a proposed 2010 operating budget for the Town of Windham.
For the second time this year, Windham has a new Town Planner.
Initially, Laura Scott was hired for the job, replacing long-term Town Planner Alfred Turner. Early last spring, Turner left his employment in Windham, after having completed more than a dozen years on the job. Subsequently, however, Scott applied for and was given the newly created job of Community and Economic Development Director. That, once again, left the Town Planner’s job vacant.
Several weeks after her move to Community and Economic Development Director, during the selectmen’s meeting on November 2, Scott said she was pleased to introduce Elizabeth Wood as Windham’s new Community Planner and Code Enforcement Officer. Wood took on her new duties on October 30.
Scott said Wood was selected from a pool of qualified applicants due, not only to her impressive resume, but also to her enthusiasm and high-level of boundless energy.
Wood said, “It’s good to be here,” adding that everyone has been great, both at work and in the new neighborhood that she now calls home. Wood recently relocated to New Hampshire, after leaving her home and employment in Wyoming.
“I like small towns and I like planning,” Woods said, referring to the size of the town in which she is now working.
Woods also said she’s looking forward to checking out the recreational trails in Windham. “I hear there are some great ones,” she said. Woods also commented that she’s “recruiting” people for ultra running expeditions. She may be contacted through the Town Planning Department for further information.
One of the things of which Wood is most proud, Scott said, is having helped her previous place of employment, Sheridan, Wyoming, garner recognition, in 2008, as one of the “Great Places in America.” Sounds like a worthy goal for Windham, New Hampshire.
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