February 28, 2010

Crews continue to work as residents rally

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – As of 9 a.m. today, Derry officials said Public Service of New Hampshire estimated about 49 percent of its customers in Derry were still without power, down from yesterday's estimate of 71 percent.
     “So we are seeing improvement. We know there are about 600 PSNH crews working in the state, with some dedicated effort toward Derry.  What's different about this storm from the ice storm of 2008 is that, statewide, the outages are not concentrated like they were back then,” said Ray Brown, spokesman for Derry's emergency operations team.
    Police and fire crews teamed up with public works personnel and the town's civilian response teams to go out on wellness checks in the late afternoon continuing into the night, visiting about 35 homes identified as "high risk" due to residents who may be elderly or ill.
     Volume of calls for service to the fire department were up 50 percent, with more than 350 calls received in the wake of the storm. An emergency shelter set up at Londonderry High School was determined to have the most beds filled statewide, with about 40 residents signed up to spend Saturday night and many more coming for a warm meal or a hot shower.

     “If past is prologue, those numbers will increase as people find it harder to tough it out at home,” Brown said.  There was a report of an 88-year-old man who died at home Friday, but Brown said it is not clear if it was in any way related to the storm.

      Beyond making sure residents are safe and warm, Brown said the next practical matter is determining whether school is on for Monday. School superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon attended a 1 p.m. meeting with town officials Saturday. Brown said they are hoping to make a final determination following an afternoon conference call today with the district's administrative unit.
     In assessing the fallout from this storm, Brown said it is equally severe as the 2008 storm that crippled the region for days, but less dramatic.
     “It's like the second time around, and many of our residents know what to do. Still, the after effects for the town as a whole are just as severe, if not moreso,” Brown said.  

     With some exceptions, the downtown area including many businesses along Crystal Avenue were up and running yesterday, including several restaurants, gas stations and supermarkets. Otherwise, outages were widespread, particularly in the northeast and southeast reaches of town..

      Gas station owner Wayne McCalvey was relieved to see the Abenaqi fuel tanker arrive just before 2 p.m. Saturday to dump another 11,800 gallons of gas at the rotary Mobil Mart.
     “We have been bone dry since 7 p.m. last night,” McCalvey said yesterday. “We had people coming from as far as Salem with multiple cans.” Normally open around the clock, he reluctantly shut his doors around 8 p.m. Friday night.
     Up the road at the Irving gas station on Tsienetto Road, clerk Mike Christilles said they sold a record 5,000 gallons in one hour between 7 and 8 p.m. last night.
     “We didn't run out, but we had a truck come and top us off last night with 13,000 gallons, and we just got another 8,000 gallons this afternoon,” Christilles said. He and counter clerk Bob Joyner were in constant motion, keeping up with the heavy demand for gas, coffee, beer, wine, cigarettes – and milk.
     “That's the only thing we ran out of, but we just got a delivery of milk, so we're back in business,” Christilles said.
     Tony Lavoie was one of those customers filling up gas cans to keep the generator humming at his home in one of the hardest hit sections of town, north of Tsienetto Road, off Bypass 28.
     “We actually bought our generator during the ice storm. As we got it home, our power went on so we never actually used it until now,” he said. “I highly recommend it, though. It turned out to be a great investment.”
     He got his generator hooked up to the furnace in the morning, so heat was flowing at home, although his kids weren't there to enjoy the warmth.
     “Actually, our neighbor hooked his generator up to the TV and DVD player so the kids in the neighborhood are all over their house watching videos,” Lavoie said.

February 27, 2010

Derry in the Dark: Storm knocks out power to 89 percent of town

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Joe and Nancy Carter heard trees crashing outside their home on English Range Road late Thursday night. By morning, there was no way out, with a tree blocking not only their street, but their own driveway.
     “I called my daughter, and she came and got us,” said Nancy Carter, getting ready to order breakfast at the Derry Diner at about 10 a.m. with her husband, Joe, daughter, Stacy Wright, and granddaughters, Kailyn and Teagan.
     “I live nearby, so I was able to get close to their street,” said Wright. “After breakfast, I'll take them back home.”
     The Carters, left without power from the storm, already knew the drill, having made it through similar circumstances during the 2008 ice storm.
      “We have one tank of gas left for our Coleman stove, and we have a grill,” said Nancy Carter. “We also have a wood stove, so we're not too worried. There are plenty of people out there who are worse off than us.”
    Derry Diner owner Ralph Donovan said he found out early in the morning that the town's other diner, MaryAnn's on Broadway, was without power. Again.
     “It's not fair. They didn't have power during the ice storm and we did. It should be our turn to be without power,” said Donovan, who was filled to capacity at 84, with customers waiting.
     “We'll be serving breakfast only, till 3. We gotta go with what we have, and today, we have breakfast,” Donovan said.
     Debbie Mangano was filling up two gas cans at the Mobil at the rotary. “Gotta get home and gas up the generator,” she said. “I know from the ice storm that it could be days.”
     Ditto that, said Daniel Hagan, getting 10 gallons of gas for his generator at home.
     “I'm also getting beer and cigarettes,” Hagan said. “Hey, at least there's gas this time. Last time around, it was hard to find.”
     John Hill said the ride from his home in Chester to the Mobil station took patience and knowledge of back roads.
     “I couldn't get to Raymond, and even though I made it to Sandown, Route 102 was closed halfway down,” said Hill, filling four red gas cans for his generator. “I think we learned from last year's storm that you can't count on PSNH and you can't count on the governor to clean up the trees.”
     By morning Gov. John Lynch had declared a state of emergency following the overnight rain storm featuring heavy winds that felled trees and power lines, and dumped several inches of rain resulting in flood watches in communities surrounding the state's many rivers and lakes.
     Residents looking for coffee and Internet connections filled the Coffee Factory throughout the day, sharing tables with strangers as they surfed the Web checking email and getting updates on the storm.
     Bob Spiegelman of Londonderry said he had already book a hotel suite in Manchester for the weekend.
     “We were seven or eight days without power last time,” Spiegelman said. He found an efficiency condo with a refrigerator, so he could pack up his perishables in a cooler and enjoy the comforts of home.
     “As soon as I heard there were so many people without power, I called to book a room. If it turns out to be more than a few days, we'll probably stay with friends. But for now we will have lights, food, Internet – sure, it will get old after a few days, but I'm not one to suffer,” Spiegelman said.

February 24, 2010

School's out; kids are climbing the walls -- and it's fun

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It's hump day on school vacation week. Staycationing school kids are desperate for action, but the snow shortage has made outdoor recreation a challenge.
     As a result, they are climbing the walls – and it's a blast.
     “I've been rock climbing about two years and I love it,” said Halle Hamilton, 9, who yesterday owned the rock climbing wall at Sports Zone. “I especially love making it to the top,” which she did most every time, as neatly formed rows of her peers watched her while waiting for a turn.
     She rings the bell at the top of the wall before descending in exaggerated leaps, catching big air all the way down to the ground as she bounces her feet off the face of the manufactured mountain.
     Next was Isabella Brouillet, 9, whose sweaty palms were impeding her progress.
     “Put your foot on the red one,” coached Halle from the floor.
    “I can't; it's gonna be too hard. My hands are slipping,” hollered Isabella from her vertical perch about 15 feet up.
     “You can do it,” Halle insisted, and Isabella did get a little further before her sweaty hands made it impossible to hold on and she bounded back to earth, disappointed but undaunted.
     Meanwhile, Autumn Thompson, 9, of Litchfield, was harnessed and ready for her first climb of the day – rock wall climbing is what kids attending the Winter Sports Camp do between other activities, just to have even more fun than they were already having playing soccer or shooting hoops.
     Most of the kids manage to get about halfway up before losing their footing or missing a ledge.
     Christopher “Everyone calls me Chipmunk” Coventry, 7, of Derry, was no exception. He made it about 10 feet up when he lost his nerve. He huddled into a crevice.
     “Don't give up, Chipmunk,” said Kyle Helman, 12, of Londonderry. “Keep going.”
     Chipmunk looked up. Then he looked down. Then he looked for a little help from Tim Burke, who was on duty helping kids get harnessed and hooked
     “I'm nervous,” said Chipmunk quietly from up on high.
Tim Burke is there to catch "Chipmunk" Coventry on the way down.
     “Nervous? Don't be nervous. I gotcha,” said Burke, who quickly grabbed on and scaled the wall, reaching around Chipmunk on both sides to show him where to place his hands. “Try it like  this,” Burke said.
     Chipmunk gave it his best shot, but was ready for a break. He slowly floated toward solid ground like a butterfly on a leash, into the waiting arms of Burke.
     “You'll get it next time, bro. You've got all week to figure it out. If you don't make it today, don't worry,” Burke said.
     Chipmunk was reassured, and took his place at the end of the line, ready for his next climb.
     “It's fun. It makes me feel like I'm in the Olympics,” said Chipmunk, joining the applause for Halle as she reached the rock wall pinnacle once again, giving the victory bell one extra tug, just because she could.

February 23, 2010

This land is your land; this land is my land...

Turf Wars brewing over proposed conservation land.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Turf wars are brewing over how conservation land is purchased in town – and why.
     It's classic East Side/West Side controversy in a town divided by more than geography. For years, the question of open space has been a sore spot that, with this newest dispute, has yet to heal.
       Conservation Commission chair Margi Ives made a request at last week's regular council meeting to purchase a 132-acre two lot parcel for $240,000 using money from the town's conservation fund, land the town's been eyeing for more than a decade.
     That is dirt, cheap – quite literally. The balance of the total purchase price paid to the sellers, Ben and Robert Lowe, would be paid by a supplemental grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service – a “phenomenal deal” according to councilor Neil Wetherbee, a former commission member who now serves as council liaison to the board.
     Commission member Paul Dionne spoke in favor of the deal, which would preserve some “ecologically rich” real estate that harbors wetlands, is occasional home to deer, moose and beaver, and which also hosts a well head – important to preserving the town's well water supply.
     As a motion was made to close the public hearing, Council Chair Rick Metts interrupted, saying he had a written statement submitted by resident Maureen Rose, asserting that the town's open space policy is lopsided, and over recent years members of the Conservation Commission have gone after properties in their own neighborhoods for personal gain.
     “There is no coincidence and the town council must stop these so-called coincidences,” wrote Rose, in part. No coincidence, said Rose, that current commission member Dennis Wiley is a direct abutter of the property in question.
     Not only did Rose go on to name names – listing several past and current members of the volunteer board as “self-serving” – but went on to say that no effort is made to conserve land in the town's most densely populated areas, where it's most needed, and that council is just as guilty for allowing this practice to go on.
       While Wetherbee admitted that it's no coincidence several of those involved with the commission live within walking distance of one another on the East side of town, he takes exception to Rose's allegations – as did Ives and Dionne.
     “I'm not sure what Maureen Rose means by 'personal gain.' I do go to Hood Park and the Rail Trail and Cole Marsh, and enjoy all the town's conservation land. It belongs to every single resident of Derry. The land we protect comes directly from a list of properties that have been identified, not just by us, but by the state,” said Ives.
     “The town of Derry has a Conservation Commission with one of the best reputations in the state. We are the fourth largest town in the state, in the Southern tier where land is rarely protected. We've come up with a criteria used over the last 15 or 16 years to rate land, not from the heart, but we do it from the head,” Dionne said.       
     However Councilor Janet Fairbanks, who campaigned on the lack of parity in open space distribution, said she agrees with Rose's assessment of the situation wholeheartedly.
     “The Conservation Commission does everything she accuses them of. If they don't like being criticized for taking taxpayer money and enhancing their properties, then stop doing it; it's that simple,” Fairbanks said.
     “Paul Dionne walks out his door, crosses his private road and within 300 feet he is in his own personal playground that taxpayers paid for. If he doesn't like walking out his front door, he can always go to the left and he can walk the J&F property the town bought the building rights to,” Fairbanks said. “He feels attacked? Guess what? We're affronted over here on the West side. We're affronted that this continues to go on and no one tells them to stop; just stop what you're doing and make this fair and equitable.”
     If it sounds somewhat personal, it probably is, said Councilor Brent Carney.
    “It's gotten overly personal, and frankly, the arguments over this land are the same arguments we have heard over every other property the Conservation Commission brings forth,” said Carney.
     “I can understand people wanting to better their own community, but I would argue that anyone who lives anywhere in this town can get to a piece of conservation property, no matter where they live, within about a 10 minute walk,” Carney said.

“That said, there needs to be more green space downtown. That doesn't mean we should say no when something like this comes along,” Carney said. “I won't base my decision on where a commission member lives. If buying this land is in the best interest of Derry residents, no matter where they live, I will support it.”

Bring me your old, your classic, your folk art Jesus

Antique appraisers draw  300 curiosity seekers to Birch Heights Sunday.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Joy Johnson knew her husband's heirloom Swedish coffee pot was more than just a relic from the past. On Sunday, antique dealer Caroline French confirmed that the value of the copper bowl-shaped pot, which once kept the coffee hot while his ancestors hayed in the fields, was more than sentimental.
“It's a beautiful, 19th century piece,” said French, who estimated the antique pot would fetch at least enough for a couple of round-trip tickets to Stockholm.
“My husband's family said we could have the pot once we had a house with a fireplace, so we got a house with a fireplace, and then we got the pot,” said Johnson, now a resident of Birch Heights retirement home since her husband, Roland, passed on. “I don't have the house anymore, or a husband. But I still have the pot. And no, I won't be selling it. Not in my lifetime.”
Johnson was mostly curious about the antique she'd been harboring for years, and since Sunday's mini antique roadshow was free, she couldn't resist the chance to see what it was worth.
She was not alone. There were so many curiosity seekers that a shuttle bus ran non-stop for three hours from the retirement home to offsite parking at Parkland Medical Center. Although the public was invited for free appraisals, the event also doubled as a marketing tool.
David Burton, a manager at the retirement community which opened its doors just over a year ago on Kendall-Pond Road, said he wasn't surprised that the line of people drawn to the antique appraisal open house snaked through the lobby.
“We had a similar event at our location in North Carolina and it was mobbed, so I had a feeling we'd see the same thing here. New England has it's share of collectors,” said Burton.
Like Cindy Bakios, for one. She brought a sampling of items she and her man, Joe Vance, have been collecting for years from local flea markets and yard sales. She brought along her daughter, Jessica Boggiatto, who inherited her love of old stuff from her mom.
“This is just a sampling of our stuff. I have my dad's Gibson guitar and my great-grandfather's violin with me. Joe has a tapestry screen and my daughter has a book of prints. We also brought along some Ted Williams memorabilia and a painting from the 1700s,” said Bakios, who arrived a half hour early and still had to wait about an hour for an appraisal.
Chuck and Gail Hamblett of Londonderry love to search local yard sales for anything with military references. He brought one of his finds wrapped in a green bath towel as a makeshift sheath, an Indian Princess sword from the War of 1812, so called for its ornate handle featuring the head of a princess.
“I got this at a yard sale, and this one, too,” said Hamblett, unveiling another weapon, this one with some identifying etchings that, he said, indicated it was a Navy cutlass from the U.S.S. Kearsarge, perhaps used during the Civil War.
“I think I paid five bucks for it,” he said, with the smile of a guy who has spent some time Googling “antique military swords” on the Internet.
As the line continued to grow, Scott Ramsay, a live-in manager at the complex, gave up hope of having his own antique treasure appraised. He was busy making sure cookie trays were refilled and residents were comfortable during the three-hour open house.
“I didn't think it would be so busy, but at this rate, I won't have time. Wanna see it anyway?” he said without waiting for a response, walking down the hall to his room and returning a minute later with an interesting looking piece – and story to match.
“My great-grandfather ran a general store in Old Town, Maine. Back in the 1890s he turned the store over to his wife and went off to Alaska to prospect during the Gold Rush. He brought back this seal-skin kayak. You can see it's made of skin and bones – and carries with it the dust of ages,” said Ramsay, angling the flesh-tone model under a ceiling light and then puffing some air into one of the miniature seats to release a small dust cloud.
A group of four buddies, all with their own particular passion for old stuff, sat together waiting for appraisals. Ron Vance had an old box of metal toys he'd recently purchased at a barn sale. William Fulton held a glass paperweight he'd inherited from his grandmother, who was a secretary for someone in Washington D.C. during the 1930s. Scott DeFrancesco had a weathered tin horn which he found on a construction site in Derry.
“Looks like it's from Grover Cleveland's Presidential campaign, from the words on it,” said DeFrancesco, giving the tin horn a twirl between his fingers. “It's hard to read, but you can see it, right there.”
Gene Trombley of Derry had a framed portrait of Jesus. It was a wedding gift to his in-laws back in 1947, and whoever framed it used an old military poster as backing. Trombley was just curious what it might be worth. He also brought an old JFK tapestry that hung for years in his father's den.
“I'm not selling them. The Jesus picture, I consider it folk art, and just think there can't be another one like it out there,” he said.
After waiting for more than an hour and shifting from seat to seat in what felt a little like a game of non-musical chairs, the four friends had their moment with appraiser Stephen Cyr.
“Some people have brought in some surprisingly interesting things,” said Cyr, between customers. “Others, I've had to disillusion. I've had to tell them they can't retire in the immediate future.”
He spent some time evaluating Vance's old toy collection, telling Vance they were a good find, although they would have held more value if they'd been in mint condition.
“I'd say about $50 for each of these, and maybe $75 for this one,” said Cyr.
Folk Art Jesus was appraised by Cyr at $100. JFK had some issues.
“He said $60 for the tapestry. My dad was a heavy smoker, so there's smoke damage. And the corners also have some damage from the nails he used to hang it on the wall,” said Trombley. “Oh well. That's no big deal. I'm gonna have it cleaned and keep it forever anyway. I am sure my grandson will appreciate it someday, and by then, it might be worth 80 bucks.”

February 22, 2010

Deadly plunge into Beaver Lake: Neighbors rally rescue effort

Harry Duval, left, and Josh Gallant, right, look out across Beaver Lake yesterday where neighbors, including the boys, mounted a heroic rescue effort the night before to save Edward Jackson, who drowned after driving his ATV into open water.
Union Leader Correspondent

— A Derry man drowned in Beaver Lake after riding his four-wheeler into a patch of open water.
      Police said Edward Jackson, 53, of 41 Tsienneto Road, was riding around the lake and doing doughnuts on the ice just after 11 p.m. Saturday. Several neighbors looking out their windows watched in disbelief as he drove across a hole in the ice and the tail lights of his ATV disappeared into the water.
      “I was up watching a show on the History Channel about the Kennedy assassination when I saw the guy out there on the ATV. He’d been out there a while, and then I saw him making a big arc,” Craig Fowler said.

 "I thought to myself, ‘Oh my god; I hope that guy knows there’s open water there.’ Everything that happened next was like slow motion."  Fowler said he yelled to his girlfriend to call 911 as he grabbed his boots and ran outside. By then, his neighbors across the lake, Mike and Suzanne Duval, had already called 911.  
     "I was asleep, but my wife saw it happen," Duval said. "She got on the phone and woke me up. By the time I looked outside, I could hear my teenage son a few doors down, outside on the porch. That's  when I heard what sounded like someone trying to paddle in the water."
Ladder and life jacket
      Harry Duval and his friend, Josh Gallant, both freshmen at Pinkerton Academy, had also seen the ATV go into the water. They were visiting with Duval's brother-in-law, Barry Cohoon, and his family.
      "I yelled to my cousin, 'We gotta do something.' She grabbed the phone to call 911 and that's when we ran outside. That's when we heard a moaning coming from the water," said Harry Duval. "It was the scariest thing I've ever seen."
     His uncle, Barry Cohoon, grabbed an extension ladder and a life jacket, while Fowler ran to get a canoe along the shore. Duval ran to the lake and remained on the phone with fire officials as he watched his friends scrambling to find a way to reach the submerged rider.
     Fowler said he searched the surface of the lake with a flashlight, but at first couldn't see anyone."I was hoping to see someone out there flapping around in the water, but by the time we got out  there with the canoe, there was not a sound," Fowler said.  
     Using flashlights, they were able to spot a helmet sticking out from the water, so they directed the canoe toward the helmet, said Fowler.
     Duval said Fowler didn't have a paddle, so he used his hands to move the canoe through the frigid water. Duval extended the ladder out into the water so that Fowler could grab hold of it and pull himself closer to where Jackson was.
      "We always keep ladders down by the shore in winter, just in case," Duval said.
     "I didn't know at that point if there was anyone inside the helmet. When I got there, I could see a shoulder. I tried to reach out to the guy, but the canoe started to roll, so I had to shift my weight to the other side of the canoe as I grabbed onto the guy's coat. Then I just used both my hands and pinned him to the side of the canoe and shifted my weight again, just to keep his head out of the water," Fowler said.
     By then he could see the blue and red lights from police and fire crews approaching.
    "I guess I was just running on pure adrenaline," said Fowler.
Hanging on for dear life
      Rescuers directed Duval to get off the ice, but he refused until he could see that the rescuers had reached Fowler.
     "I wasn't going to leave Craig out there. He was hanging onto the guy for dear life, and all I could think was that he was going to go in with him, before they got to him. Once I could see they'd reached him, I was happy to leave the ice," said Duval. "Everything was crazy and dark. What a scene."
     New Hampshire Fish and Game Lt. John Wimsatt said Jackson was unconscious when he was pulled from the lake by rescue divers. Jackson was taken to Parkland Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.
     Information from the medical examiner yesterday morning listed the preliminary cause of death as drowning with associated factors of hypothermia, Wimsatt said.
     Wimsatt said it appears alcohol may have been involved in the accident. The water was about 6 to 8 feet deep where Jackson drowned, he said.
      "Neighbors actually saw the headlights and tail lights disappear into the lake. Unlike a snowmobile, the ATV didn't submerge because of the big tires, so they knew right where to find him," Wimsatt said.
More people on lakes
     Duval said the lights were still on yesterday morning when Jackson's friends came back and pulled the ATV from the lake.
     "I felt bad for those guys. They were naturally upset over losing their friend. I didn't think they were going to get it, but finally they got the ATV out. Fish and Game was supposed to come and haul it out, but they wanted to do it, almost like a last act of friendship," Duval said.
     Wimsatt said the Fish and Game department has noticed an increase in nighttime activity on lakes across southern New Hampshire, and will be stepping up patrols.
     "Snowmobile trails are not so good right now, due to lack of snow, which is the main reason why we're seeing more people out on lakes," said Wimsatt.
    He noted a similar incident Feb. 5 on Big Island Pond in East Hampstead in which Bernard Czeremin, 52, was thrown from a snowmobile while riding about 10:30 p.m. Czeremin struck a snow mound protruding from the ice and was thrown from the snowmobile, Wimsatt said.
     "Bitter cold helps to quiet lake activity at night. But the combination of lack of good trail snow and warmer temperatures has been bringing more people to the lakes," Wimsatt said.

New recruit, court prosecutor, two promotions for DPD

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Timing is everything, which is why Dan Beattie saw the humor in the fact that it's Gump Week all this week on American Movie Classics cable channel.
     On Friday, he was promoted from from sergeant to lieutenant.
     Yes, I'm Lieutenant Dan now,” said Beattie, smiling broadly as he acknowled the correlation between his new rank and the popular character of the same name from the movie, “Forrest Gump.”
     Beattie, a 14-year veteran of the force, was one of three Derry officers recognized Friday during a promotion and swearing in ceremony at the town offices. Also promoted was Frank Stoncius, who has been with the department 17 years, and was promoted Friday to the rank of sergeant.
     “Frank Stoncius is an outstanding officer, and I saw in him the capability of being a supervisor years ago,    something he didn't wish to pursue at that time. We're pleased to have him join the administrative ranks,” said Police Chief Ed Garone.
     Stoncius has been a field training officer, participated in the school safety program and is a representative on the Townwide Safety Committee.
     Officer Patrick Starkey comes to the Derry force as a new hire from the Milton Police Department, where he served for the past three years. Prior to his police training, Starkey served five years with the U.S. Air Force. His hiring brings the department to 55 police officers.
     “We have two recruits currently in training at the Police Academy. Once they join us in April, we will be at our full complement of 57,” said Garone.
     Also recognized Friday was Marcia Rosenn, a former private practice attorney who was recently hired as the department's first civilian prosecutor, replacing Anthony Ruggiero, who retired at the end of January.
     “Derry has a great police department. It was one of the towns I prosecuted for while working at Rockingham County Attorney's Office.When I heard there was an opening, I put in an application and crossed my fingers. I really am thrilled to be here,” said Rosenn.
     Garone said Ruggiero's retirement presented the department with an opportunity to make a change and hire a civilian attorney as a court prosecutor.
     Rosenn earned a degree in psychology from Amherst College and worked in the mental health field before earning a law degree from Boston University School of Law. She has worked since 2005 for the Rockingham County Attorney's Office prosecuting felony cases.

February 19, 2010

St. Thomas back to class after CO scare

     St. Thomas Aquinas Principal Paul Rakiey, center, confers with Derry Fire Capt. Scott Haggart, right,  Wednesday evening, after a recheck of the school building by fire crews. Earlier in the day the school had been evacuated after 23 students and a teacher suffered flu-like symptoms and were sent to area hospitals.        
     Although several of those afflicted registered slightely elevated CO levels, all were treated and released. Officials continued to check the school building through the night but did not find any leaks or elevated CO levels inside the building. In addition to one already installed in the basement, eight new CO sensors were added inside the school as a precaution. Rakiey said he was pleased with the response of local fire crews and commended them for handling what could have been a chaotic situation. He said in the coming week school officials were going to take a closer look at how the emergency was handled internally.

February 18, 2010

St. Thomas evacuated after carbon monoxide scare

Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY – Fire officials have yet to figure out what sickened 23 students and a teacher at St. Thomas Aquinas school yesterday morning, after complaints of “flu like” symptoms sent all 23 to area hospitals.
     Just before 11 a.m. emergency crews were called to the school by Principal Paul Rakiey, who became concerned after five eighth-grade students began to suffer from dizziness, nausea and headaches, including a student and teacher who passed out.
     A fleet of emergency vehicles were lined up in the lot between the church and school, and rescuers swarmed the parking lot as panicked parents started arriving in waves, rushing toward an office building where all evacuated students were waiting.
      After evaluating all those complaining of symptoms, 12 patients were taken to Parkland Medical Center, eight to Elliot Hospital, and one to Catholic Medical Center. They were transported by 10 ambulances and 1 school bus. Other students were taken by their parents to area hospitals for evaluation.
     Although initial reports were that there may have been a gas leak at the school, Haggart said there were no positive readings coming up inside the building on gas meters being used to monitor carbon monoxide levels.
     Most of the affected students were in third-floor classrooms in the eighth grade wing, said Rakiey. He noted that most of the students started to complain of feeling sick after attending Mass across the parking lot inside the church. However, at least one student felt ill before Mass started.
     “It began with one of the eigth graders, who actually passed out while reading a book at the front of the classroom,” Rakiey said. A teacher who was among those treated, had also passed out before Mass, while in the office.
     “I wondered at first if it was a flu outbreak. Then I had to wonder for a moment if it was an orchestrated hoax. But as more children became sick, I realized it could be something like carbon monoxide, so I called 911,” Rakiey said.
     Haggart said the fire department was going to close up the building and allow the heating system to run, then return at 5 p.m. to check for CO levels.“We are doing everything we can to recreate the circumstances,” he said last night. Crews were going to continue to monitor the building at intervals overnight.
     Shortly after the 5 p.m. air quality check, Haggart said meters still were showing 0 parts per million of the odorless gas.
     Rakiey said last night that eight additional CO sensors had been purchased and installed in the building, supplementing one already installed in the basement. He said the heating system in the building was not the original one installed when the school was built in 1953, but he was not certain when it had last been replaced.
Evaluating the school's heater, and all processes that went into play in dealing with yesterday's emergency would be part of a follow-up session with the school board president and other officials.
    Haggart said in considering other possible reasons for the widespread illness he questioned Rakiey about whether students had been exposed to incense during Mass. They had not.
     “They did burn reeds for Ash Wednesday, but they did that the day before, and it was outdoors. I honestly can't imagine there would be any correlation there,” Rakiey said.
     Haggart said his crews had not yet been able to rule out a “transient source” of noxious gas, such as a delivery truck that may have been emitting exhaust.
     Haggart stressed that the level of CO registering in afffected students amounted to about half of the level of CO a smoker would have in his system.
     “It's normal to some degree to have slight levels of carbon monoxide in the blood, and the levels we're finding are not terribly high,” Haggart said.
     Susan Desrosiers said she wasn't too worried when she got the call from the school just after 11 a.m. that her son, Cole, an eighth grader, was feeling ill.
     “Not until I got here and saw all the trucks,” she said. “Then I was concerned.” She had her son sit inside her SUV to see if he started feeling better.
     “But when I checked on him, he was pale, and said he felt faint, so I rode with him in the ambulance to the hospital,” she said.
     After treating her son with oxygen for a short time, his CO levels were down to 0 and he was released.    She said one of his classmates was still at the emergency room by 1 p.m., still showing eleveated levels of CO, even after an hour on oxygen.
       As of last night, all students had been treated and released from the hospital, Rakiey said. Teachers were going to call all families last night, to make sure everyone was all right, he said.
     Cindy McCarthy of Raymond was among those who had heard about the emergency and rushed to the school without knowing what to expect. She arrived just before noon to pick up her three grandchildren. She said her youngest grandson's CO levels were slightly elevated.
     "We're gonna take him home. I think some deep breaths and he'll be OK," said McCarthy.
     The school has an enrollment of 223 students in grades pre-K through 8. According to Lynn Kish, the school's director of development, school was back in session this morning.

February 17, 2010

Free Audiobooks at the library: In your ear

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – What sounds like a book, is invisible and moves from the nearest public library into your ear with the push of a button or two?
     If you said any one of the thousands of digital audio book selections from the state's Overdrive Digital Library Reserve system, then you are one of the enlightened few.
     “Statistics show people are using them. It's just a matter of getting the word out to our clients here in Derry that this wonderful resource is available,” said Diane Arrato Gavrish, the library's assistant director.
     Gavrish said the statewide digital audio book system, while underutilized, is catching on – not only because of the growing popularity of iPods and MP3 players, but because it's a technology that's easy to tap into. Using your home computer or laptop, a library patron can search for and download a book onto their iPod or mp3 player to keep for a two-week loan period, without ever leaving home.
     As a way of promoting its digital services, the library is giving away two MP3 players, an impromptu promotion that hopefully will get people talking about the future of digital literacy.
     Or at least, about some really good books they've heard lately.
     “It's a free raffle. Just come into the library over the next month and you can pick up a raffle ticket. People who find us on Facebook or Twitter can get a second ticket, if they mention that to us when they come in,” said Gavrish, who Tweets and Facebooks regularly to a modest but growing group of library followers.
     Starting March 17, winning raffle tickets will be pulled and winners will be notified. Yes, it's a little gimmicky, but the Friends of the Derry Library felt it was a good way to get behind a trend that, nationally, is gaining momentum.
     According to a recent study of library trends over the past decade published by the American Library Association, currently 22 percent of Americans visit their public library via computer – that's 51 million people. Offering a digital collection that is comprehensive and current is key.
     In New Hampshire, it the push has been trickling down to local libraries from the state library, said Gavrish.
     “For the State Library to be the forerunners in something like this is kind of interesting. They aren't always the ones to lead the charge when it comes to technology,” Gavrish said. “This is exciting, and it's something available from the smallest of libraries – from Danville to Derry.”
     Meryle Zusman, Derry library's webmaster, said this particular trend underscores the relevance of libraries in a digital age.
     “We have heard of some libraries getting Kindles and Sony Readers that patrons can actually borrow. For us, this is all just another way to continue our mission, which is not just to provide books for people who come into the library, but to get material that entertains, educates and enlightens into the hands – and ears if they prefer – of as many people as we can,” Zusman said.

Snow day, minus snow, equals happy kids

Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY – A perfect storm means different things to different people. Windham Middle School student Zoe Goldthwaite and her breakfast posse, still lingering over pancakes just before noon at Maryanne's Diner had one clear message for their school superintendent, Frank Bass: Bad call; good decision.
     "At first, I was mad at the weatherman when I woke up and there was no snow," said Sean Fabian, 13.
    "Yeah, me too. But now I think we should be thanking the superintendent," said Tim Erdlen, 14.
     Bass and his fellow school superintendents across the state collectively closed more than 325 schools yesterday under clear skies based on radar projections from multiple weather tracking sources that showed snow blowing into southern parts of the state by 7 a.m., gaining steam by 1 p.m.
     As it turned out, flurries sputtered throughout most of the morning and didn't even begin to stick until after 2 p.m. -- the time most schools start dismissing.
     By the evening commute, the roads had turned treacherous, and accidents were reported all over the state's southern tier. 
Making the call
     Derry Cooperative School District Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon was one of the first to call it a snow day. By yesterday at 3 p.m., as fat, sticky flakes were coming down fast, she was feeling good about her decision.
     "I had one angry phone call today. Usually, it's more," said Hannon. "The caller thought we should have had early dismissal instead of canceling."
     Superintendents across the board agree that early dismissals are, like stay-home moms, mostly a thing of the past.
    Nashua district superintendent Mark Conrad said yesterday that erring on the side of caution is usually the best call, for students and parents.
     "Once we get children into school, we don't like to have early release because, in some instances, you don't have parents at home. Or if you're in a situation where the traffic is going to be bad in the afternoon, and parents may be getting stuck somewhere in Massachusetts as they are scrambling to get home from work in time for their kids, that creates a whole other set of problems," Conrad said.
     Another consideration for urban districts like Nashua and Manchester are the number of students who walk and must negotiate snow-covered sidewalks.
     Conrad said morning delays and early dismissals create problems for teachers, who either have to truncate lesson plans or abandon them altogether when the school day is abbreviated.
Frustration at 1 p.m.
     Manchester Superintendent Thomas J. Brennan was up a good hour before sunrise to check weather reports and make calls to colleagues.
    "I think we all had the same idea," he said. "The frustration occurred around 1 o'clock that the weather wasn't coming as quickly as expected."
     Brennan said districts aim to be conservative, to weigh all the variables of calling off school. It was Manchester's second snow day of the 2009-10 school year.
     Londonderry Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said his day began the way every school superintendent's day begins when snow is on the radar.
     "At about 4 a.m., you start to check. You go outside to see if there's anything happening. Then you check with the weather service and every other weather resource available. Then, you start checking in with other superintendents," Greenberg said.
     Unless snow is falling, superintendents bypass the town highway department and check in with each other, swapping information they have each gathered from private meteorologists hired by their districts, or other weather services.
     One call they don't make is to the state school department, said Lori Temple, spokesperson for the New Hampshire Department of Education.\     "Honestly, I couldn't even tell you which schools are closed today," she said yesterday morning.
     Temple explained that the only state-mandated requirement schools have across the board is that a 10-day cushion be built into the 180-day school calendar to cover unforeseeable events like snow. 
Snow envy
     Derry Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse couldn't help but wonder out loud if the highly publicized storms that crippled the mid-Atlantic states recently might have contributed to yesterday's snow day decision-making -- compounded by the lack of snow days schools have logged so far.
     "I don't know, it just makes you wonder," Stenhouse said.
     National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Sinsabaugh was not ruling out regional snow envy as a contributing factor to yesterday's widespread school closings.
     "I think your school people got some bad information from somewhere. The way we issue warnings is that we put it out there for the time the snow is going to begin. At 3 a.m. we issued a winter storm warning, from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 7 a.m. Wednesday morning. OK, looking back, that was probably a bit of overkill. But it looks like you are getting some pretty heavy snow right now," said Sinsabaugh, just before 3 p.m. "This is wet, greasy snow, the dangerous kind. You wouldn't want school buses out in this." 
New Hampshire Union Leader reporter Dan Tuohy contributed to this story.

February 16, 2010

Proposed senior center bridges generation gap


Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY – After eight years of germinating, a big idea is about to take root in Derry. A local senior-centered organization is moving full steam ahead with fundraising to build a first-of-its-kind activity center in East Derry by adding onto the existing Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry.

     “We're the fourth largest community in the state, and we have more than 2,100 seniors, yet we don't have a dedicated senior center,” said State Rep. Beverly Ferrante, R-Derry, a board member for the Nutfield Senior Center.

      She said if all goes as planned, doors could open on the Nutfield Senior Center by fall.

      Tonight's Council meeting agenda includes a request by Nutfield Senior Center President John Moody on behalf of the center for $396,000 in town money toward the $1.2 million needed to complete the project. He is proposing a match-funding deal similar to the one extended to the Derry Rail Trail Alliance two years ago, which provided that the group raise matching funds before receiving money from the town.

     “If we can get the town council to allocate the money, that will go an extraordinarily long way to get others to jump on board,” said Moody. “I'm optimistic that we can do this – not everyone who's talked to me bout it is. They say this isn't the time, or the economy is bad, or what have you. But we've been down that road before in our community, and I believe there are sometimes when it's got to be about what is the right thing to do.”

     He said the town has a healthy capital reserve fund from which it could set aside the money for a project that will attach the 5,000-square-foot addition onto the existing 30,000-square-foot Boys and Girls club, resulting in a reconfigured 35,000-square-foot community center at a fraction of the cost.

     “They don't need to do anything other than leave the money there until we raise an equal amount. If we aren't successful, their money is not at risk. To me, it's a no-brainer,” Moody said yesterday.

      The group has already received a $396,000 non-construction federal grant with the help of Sen. Judd Gregg, which can be used for furnishing the new center and other programming expenses.

      Supporters of the endeavor spent the weekend distributing information to residents during the town's annual Frost Fest, officially launching the community fundraising push, Ferrante said. Brochures have been mailed and checks are starting to trickle in.

      “Sometimes, in a down economy, you find people for whatever reason are more inclined to give. I have already gotten $50 checks from some seniors, which is fantastic,” Moody said.

     Late last year the group announced its plans to collaborate with the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Derry to solve the problem of finding a home for a senior center. Current programming for seniors has all but outgrown the Marion Gerrish Center across town, which provides space for more than 140 different organizations in addition to seniors.

     “We had done a lot of research, and looked at 10 other senior facilities, in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. We wanted to see what was going on in senior citizen land, and we found out that it's a changing landscape,” Ferrante said.

     Not only will the new center supplement existing senior programs,but given its unique location, open new doors of programming opportunities, said Eric Bodenrader, the town's Park and Recreation director, who currently coordinates senior activities.

     Although Moody has been the driving force behind the project, it was someone else who gave the project its wings.

     About a year ago, Derry Chief of Police Ed Garone, a 35-year member of the Boys and Girls Club board of directors, had a brainstorm: Instead of starting from scratch, what if there were a way to build the senior center as an addition to the existing Boys and Girls club building, which is already fully equipped with a kitchen, a gym and plenty of turf?

     “My wife and I are grandparents, and we enjoy our three grandchildren very much. It just seemed to me that there may be a way to create some melding between the two age groups that would be advantageous for both,” Garone said. “There are a lot of kids with no grandparents, and a lot of grandparents with no grandkids around. I thought this might create an opportunity to service both segments of the population.”

     Garone ran the idea past Moody, who was immediately on board. The idea was also an easy sell to Boys and Girls Club director Art McLean, who was intrigued by the possibilities for breaking new ground, not just physically, but philosophically.

      “Our board of directors voted over a year ago to make the offer to the senior citizens center, to allow them to build an addition to house the center here, and they've been working hard toward that goal for 12 months    now. Although their facility will run independent of the club, they will be able to use our building while the kids aren't here – which is great, because the building is under utilized during the day,” McLean said.

      But this collaboration is really about the ways the newly configured community center can become an inter-generational hub for residents of all ages, he said, making it the first such collaboration nationally in Boys and Girls Club history.

      “Most exciting is that by combining a youth organization with a senior organization, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for cross-programming,” McLean said.

      Although the group is optimistic that the council will vote in favor of supporting the project following the public hearing set for March 2, they are prepared to see the project through no matter what happens, said Moody.

      Garone has confidence in Moody's sense of confidence.

     “In the person of John Moody we have someone with a lot of motivation behind him. Yes, it is a horrible time to be raising money. But I suppose if we waited for the perfect time we wouldn't get a whole lot done,” Garone said.

      “If we can pull this off, I think it will be a trendsetter for many other clubs and senior citizen centers around the country, to take this lead and to try it themselves. It's a natural fit.” Garone said.

February 15, 2010

Cultural exchange links students from U.S. and China

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Noah Wilder's chopsticks flopped between his fork-friendly fingers as he manipulated the meat filling from a bowl into a small dumpling shell. Then he used his fingers to pinch the dough together to form a Chinese dumpling, as instructed by Bo Lei, an accounting student at Southern New Hampshire University.
     “I didn't do very well,” said Wilder. “I think I'll keep eating them, but only if I can get someone else to make them.”
     Friday's dumpling demo was meant to give West Running Brook middle schoolers a taste of authentic Chinese culture. It was also meant to tie in with the celebration of Chinese New Year, which began yesterday.
     But it was also a way of bringing international college students together with American school kids for a morning of fun-filled cultural exchange.
     In one classroom the seventh-graders learned about the origins of the Chinese Zodiac and why fireworks are an important part of the tradition. Xi Feng, who is earning his master's in information technology at SNHU, explained that in ancient times, every year on the same day a monster named “Nian,” would come into the village and eat people.
     “Nian translates to “year,” said Xi Feng, writing the Chinese characters for the monster's name on the board. “A wise man had an idea of how to scare the monster away. They burned bamboo, which is hollow, and makes noise and sparks when you burn it. His idea worked, and so every year after that, the people would celebrate that they could live safely from the monster by lighting fireworks.”
     He was one of a fleet of SNHU students who are guided through their college experience by Debbie Donnelly, assistant director of the university's International Student Services.
     “Many schools request that students come to talk to classes around Chinese New Year,” Donnelly said. “It's really fun for our students to go out into the public schools and see how American students learn. And it's also fun for the American students, to have a day like this one to really have some fun while learning about another culture.”
     In another classroom, students learned about the intricate art of paper cutting, and the significance of the red envelope, in Chinese culture, which is given by elders to children on special occasions, usually containing money.
WRB teacher Maria Green.
     Maobo Sun and his wife, Xuefei Zhu, were teaching students in another classroom how to create Chinese calligraphy using a large paint brush and black ink.
     “Wonderful,” said Xuefei Zhu, after Zachary Derepentigny replicated the Chinese character for “good luck” with the jumbo brush.
     West Running Brook math teacher Maria Green said she had as much fun learning as her students did.
     “Each presentation engaged a different part of the students' brains – culture, storytelling, the history of paper, making dumplings,” Green said.
     “It's not only great to be able to expose them to other cultures, which helps them to respect and understand their differences. But the thing I think is most important is that this is the generation that will be working globally. They are the ones who need to understand that they are living in a world culture. Understanding our differences is the beginning of understanding how much we have in common,” Green said.

February 14, 2010

Derry "De-Frost" Fest delivers fun

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – As the snow continued to melt away under yesterday's warm, sunny skies, residents made the best of the De-Frost Fest – the unofficial new name for the town's 11th annual celebration of wintry family fun.
     "When we saw the forecast Wednesday, we knew what was coming – and what wasn't,” said Parks and Recreation Director Eric Bodenrader. “It's the second time we've had to significantly alter our itinerary due to no snow and no ice in 11 years.”
     Instead of the much-anticipated snowboard competition at Alexander-Carr Park and snowmobile demonstrations at Hoodkroft Golf Course, families flocked to Veteran's Hall for an afternoon of free indoor activity.

     Retired science teacher Gordon Corbett of Maine, who was also a candidate for Teachers in Space in 1985 along with his New Hampshire counterpart, Christa McAuliffe, used storytelling and hands-on demonstrations to teach the kids about the positive buoyancy of bananas – and other fruits and vegetables – and how the Titanic might not have sunk if only a good science teacher had been on board.

After dropping a large tomato into a tank of water and watching it float, Corbett dropped in a second, smaller and riper tomato, which sank to the bottom of the tank.

     “How is that possible?” gasped one little girl in the front row.

     “The riper tomato has more sugar, and that makes it heavier,” said Corbett. “It sinks.”

     He then switched gears, using a model of the Titanic to launch into a lengthy demonstration on the science of sinking ships.

     Earlier in the day families were finding their way to Ernest P. Barka Elementary School, where the gym had been transformed into a mini-golf course/dance party.

    The Puttin' Families First Mini Golf Tournament was not officially part of Frost Fest, but when it was clear there would not be enough snow to sustain outdoor activities, the Upper Room extended an invitation to the community at large to join in the fun.
     “It's a great way to bring families together in the depths of winter,” said Upper Room Executive Director Kim Bavaro. “We had so many wonderful organizations donate their time and talent for this. We're hoping to make it an annual event.”

     Inside, Alex Fellows, 12, was giving his younger brother Josh, 8, a hard time as he missed a shot on the 8th hole.
     “Actually, this is a lot of fun. I'll take this over sledding any day,” said Alex
      Kayleigh Younie, 7, rocked out to a little “Can't Get Enough of Your Love,” by Barry White, courtesy of Get Down Tonight Entertainment, while her sister Heather, 8, labored over a tough shot on the 6th hole.

     Yesterday's schedule concluded with the Frost Ball at Promises to Keep, which included a Valentine's Day dinner, dessert and dancing for $35 per person.
     Frost Fest continues today at Gallien's Town Beach from noon to 4 p.m. as the Beaver Lake Association offers and ice fishing clinic and chili contest – and a modified version of yesterday's postponed snowmobile demonstrations will take place. Donations made for chili sampling benefit the Sonshine Soup Kitchen. While there, families are welcome to enjoy open skating and ice hockey – but it's bring your own equipment. Crowning of the Frost Fest King and Queen will take place from 2 to 3 p.m.

   Across town Ice Breakers ice sculptors will be posted outside The Depot Square Steakhouse between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.creating some incredible ice art, and free hot chocolate will be served.

February 13, 2010

Panel: Drive home I-93 Plan

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Transportation Commissioner George Campbell said yesterday's “Roads to the Future,” panel discussion on regional infrastructure in southern New Hampshire reminded him of something President Dwight Eisenhower once said about the highway system he envisioned half a century ago.
     “Eisenhower said, 'Get everyone at the table to plan the battle or else everyone will battle the plan.' Seems to me this region has been working really hard at working at this together,” said Campbell. “We're responsible for the backbone of the system, and work with you in planning, but really it's about your communities getting together and making a difference.”
     Positivity was the central theme of the discussion, which touched on many familiar topics – how to fund the widening of I-93 north beyond Windham, making an Exit 4A a reality for Derry and Londonderry, how best to develop acreage around the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and the need for a comprehensive ground transportation system that, ideally, will include a centralized passenger rail system.
    Campbell was one of seven panelists invited by the Greater Derry/Londonderry Chamber of Commerce to discuss the region's current and future infrastructure planning and field questions from the more than 100 members of the business community who attended. Also on the panel were Mark Brewer, direct of the Manchester/Boston Regional Airport; Jack Munn, of Southern New Hampshire Planning; Gary Stenhouse, Derry Town Administrator; Sen. Robert Letourneau, R-Derry; Andre Garron, Londonderry Planning Director; and George Sioras, Derry Planning Director.
     Campbell's focus throughout the discussion was on the importance of completing work on I-93 within the next 10 years.
     “There are almost a million miles of federal highways, and (I-93) is the 28th most congested. It's strangling our economy, hurting our shipping, it's unsafe. We have spent well over 20 years for the permitting process and land acquisition, and we are finally in the construction phase,” said Campbell.
     He noted that the only portion of the total $780 million project that is funded are the ongoing improvements from the Massachusetts border to Windham at Exit 3, and recent work completed on ramps at Exit 5.
     Campbell said that at the rate the program is currently being funded, there would be no room in the budget to continue to the much-needed widening until 2030.
      “And delays are just going to drive those costs up, so we're looking at a number of different options on the table,” Campbell said.
     Installing tolls in Salem would be one way to generate the money needed, said Campbell. Under federal guidelines, tolling is allowed on a federal highway if there is an unfunded capital project. He cautioned that with Massachusetts also considering “border tolls,” NHDOT is actively studying how tolls would affect the town of Salem, which has some concerns which it recently raised through its board of selectmen.
     “With technology and good planning, we can make the system work, but the burden of proof is on us and we're glad to step up to that challenge,” Campbell said.
     Airport Director Mark Brewer spoke about the economic struggles that have affected air travel nationally, challenges that have trickled down to Manchester's transportation hub. At its peak in 2005, there were 65,000 passengers flying through Manchester; currently there are about half that many, Brewer said.
     In an attempt to improve the airport's regional service, Brewer said they have been trying to attract carrier Jet Blue, which is currently looking to expand flights to one new city in the New England area.
     Another important consideration is improving and expanding ground transportation options, Brewer said.
     “A major issue for us is that people are flying into the Manchester/Boston Regional Airport and then the only way to get somewhere else, aside from a taxi, is by private auto, or renting a car. We need to work on a comprehensive ground transportation strategy that includes bus service to and from the Seacoast, to and from Boston, to Nashua – north, south, east and west,” Brewer said.
     That was his seque to the need for a passenger rail system, which he said he strongly supports. He also said he has met recently with top Amtrak officials, who for the first time are showing interest in operating a passenger rail service that would extend from Nashua through Concord.
      “I saw an estimate from the Nashua Regional Planning Commission that put the cost at about $249 million in capital alone,” Brewer said, adding that operating costs would depend on how much of the capital gets paid for with grants, and the number of daily runs.
     “The good news is Amtrak is taking a serious interest in us. They aren't asking whether they they want to operate here, but how they can operate here,” Brewer said.
     He said a train depot where the the new airport access road ends could potentially provide transportation for up to 5 percent of the airports daily passenger flow, or about 400 daily customers.
     One question Brewer fielded from the audience was the target date for completion of the airport access road, which is said is June 29, 2012 – thanks to federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding, which bumped up the timetable on that project.
     Derry Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse underscored Campbell's point that, from his town's perspective, waiting another 20 years for expansion of I-93 is not an option – especially because the reality of Exit 4A depends on funding for I-93 expansion.
     Creating an exit in Derry is key to the town's economic future, said Stenhouse. It would ease rush hour congestion in the downtown area and deliver traffic to the Route 28 TIF district, which the town is actively developing to attract new commercial business.
     Munn also continued the theme of regional cooperation, and said SNHP is working on creating an online data base listing all commercial industrial properties available for development within all participating communities.
     “Job creation is what economic development is about, but to get to job creation we have to do strategic planning. Particularly in this region, we can no longer view our neighbors as competitor, but rather as collaborators,” Munn said.

February 11, 2010

Pinkerton Student earns top volunteer honors

Feb. 11, 2010
Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY – Pinkerton Academy sophomore Erin Jackson was recently named one of two teens who will be recognized nationally for her volunteer efforts, receiving the 2010 Prudential Spirit of Communty Award, a national program that each year singles out two outstanding students from each state.
     Erin, 15, organized a month-long drive in August to collect food for families in need. Thanks to her efforts, more than 2,000 jars of peanutbutter and jelly were donated to the New Hampshire Food Bank.
     To accomplish this, Erin organized her fellow Children of the American Revolution members to design collection bins, make signs and posters, and schedule collection times and locations. In addition to netting 3,300 pounds of peanut butter and jelly, Erin’s volunteers collected $1,776 in cash donations and a pile of school supplies.
      “Working for a common goal brings people together and it brings out the best in people,” said Erin. “We may be young, but we are mighty and we have the ability to effect a change.”
      The awards program, now in its 15th year, is conducted by Prudential Financial in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP).
      Sabrina Vail, 14, of Raymond, a student at Iber Holmes Gove Middle School, was also honored as one of this year's top two teen volunteers. Both Erin and Sabrina receive $1,000, an engraved silver medallion, and an all-expenses-paid trip in May to Washington, D.C., where they will join the top two honorees from each of the other states and the District of Columbia for several days of national recognition events. Ten of the honorees will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2010 at that time.

     Program judges recognized two other New Hampshire students as Distinguished Finalists for their impressive community service activities. Michael Lagasse, 18, also a Pinkerton student, and Kayla McDermott, 18, of Nashua High School South, will each will receive an engraved bronze medallion:

PostSecret: Like an Online Confessional

Union Leader Correspondent

DERRY – Every Sunday the secrets go out into the universe, like visual confessions to the intercessory Internet gods. They have been mailed by strangers to the keeper of the secrets, Frank Warren, a self-made social scientist who has for six years been collecting anonymous admissions sent to absolve a guilty pleasure, a heavy heart, a burden of hatred or an innocent mistake.
    What started in November of 2004 as what Warren describes as a “community art project” expanded three months later to the Internet, where the weekly PostSecret blog has been drawing an endless flow of secrets ever since – and a growing flock of followers who come faithfully each week just to read them.
     “You wouldn't have to pay for my therapy if you just took the time to be a dad,” reads one of this week's 20 secrets. It's hand-printed on a post card picturing a little girl setting up a tea party, all alone.
     “I am a professional relationship coach who hasn't had sex in six years,” reads another.
     “When my cat wakes me up in the morning I like to think she's encouraging me and saying things like 'Come on, get out of bed. Today can't be much worse than yesterday. Things will get better. I promise.' Even if she just wants food, it's nice to have some hope.”
     Six years later, the floodgates of confession remain open and 1,000-plus weekly “PostSecrets” continue to pour into his Maryland home mail box. It's an international phenomenon he says he still doesn't fully understand, one that has spun off into several books and national PostSecret tour, which lands Friday at the Stockbridge Theatre for one of two New Hampshire stops this month.
      “It's hard to put into a nutshell how all this came about, but I can tell you my own fascination with secrets began long before PostSecret began,” said Warren.
      With well over 300 million page views to date on postsecret.com, and nearly a quarter of a million followers on Twitter, Warren acknowledges the success of his online experiment is a product of this particular time and place, and our collective interest in the secret lives of others.
     “These new tools of communication that are being introduced to the world, right now – like Facebook and Twitter – are allowing many of us to have new kinds of conversations that were not possible before, bringing literally millions of people together around the world by sharing these new voices and stories,” Warren said.
     Although the original blog is bare bones – touted as the world's largest ad-free blog – and is not weighed down by interactive posts or flashy animations, the brand's evolution includes a sister site called PostSecret Community where devotees can find news, event updates, and enter into chats about the current week's posts, or anything PostSecret related.
     What Warren has learned is that the act of sharing a secret – even anonymously – can be life changing.
     “PostSecret has a a large component of anonymity. But once down that road, you see all our secrets are reflections of our common humanity. Depending on our level of courage, there are certain secrets we can face privately and others we can face publicly. What I see happening on the tour is, once one person is brave enough to step up to the microphone and share a secret, that courage is contagious and just cascades through the audience,” said Warren.
     He begins by sharing telling a few of his own secrets. Then, he shares the “secret secrets” on the big screen behind him – those deemed too racy by his publisher for inclusion in a book – and before you know it, there are lines of people ready to take a giant step forward and share the most shocking, sexual, poignant and funny secrets with a roomful of strangers.
     Warren, often called “The most trusted stranger in America,” has also tried to capitalize on the site's popularity to promote a cause that is near and dear to him. Having lost a family member and close friends to suicide, Warren chooses to donate a portion of the proceeds from the Post Secret empire to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
     “I think what others are feeling is the same thing I get from it,” said Warren. “I see these postcards and every day it makes me feel like I'm not alone with my own burden. I feel more connected to people by reading their secrets. In a way, they give me strength.”
Limited tickets are still available for Friday's appearance at the Stockbridge Theatre. For ticket information call 437-5210. For information on the Feb. 24 appearance at UNH call 862-2290. In conjunction with Warren's appearance at 7 p.m. in the university's Granite State Room, a display of secrets collected from the UNH community will be on display beginning at 9 a.m., also in the Granite State Room.