March 30, 2010

Saving the Pinkerton: Town explores options

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Momentum to “save” the Pinkerton Tavern has gathered steam in the months since it was formally announced that the popular restaurant was likely to be razed to make way for the widening of Route 28.
So far the process is mired in complexities, but may get a boost from state-funded relocation program.
One complication is that the building and lot are owned by Arnold Goldstein of Bedford, while the business is owned by husband-and-wife restaurateurs Jen Lutzen and Guy Streitburger, who still have a dozen years left on their 20-year lease.
Once the TIF District project was defined and approved by the council, the town sent offers for land acquisitions to17 property owners along that stretch of highway. Lutzen and Streitburger are not included because they aren't the physical property owners.
For the record, only three of the 17 property owners have officially accepted the town's offer.
Yesterday, Goldstein said he's satisfied with the appraisal on his property, which would drive the town's offer, a figure that has not been publicly announced. However, the current assessed value of the property, including the building, is $627,300.
Relocating Jennifer and Guy is more important than working out issues with me,” Goldstein said.
The town landmark has been damaged by fire over the years, but retains enough sentimental and historic value to have the support of the town's Heritage Commission in trying to leverage a deal to save the structure.
Town officials are seeking the best solution, one that would retain the Pinkerton Tavern as a local eatery. But the amount of land in front of the inn needed for the highway project would require moving the tavern 30 to 40 feet. While the physical move is not an impossible mission, wetlands behind the building prevents that.
On Friday, Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse said the town has through its economic development arm, contacted a relocation specialist and is exploring three possible options – reopening the restaurant with reduced parking on the same site, relocating the building to another nearby lot or reestablishing the business at an entirely new location in a different venue.
“I've authorized the Arnett Group to retain some experts – we want to do this with an independent set of eyes,” Stenhouse said. “We're trying to do the right thing. Part of our problem is ignorance. We had forgotten about the Uniform Relocation Reimbursement Act. New Hampshire law is pretty much copied right from the federal law, all according to a formula.”
Under the URRA, homeowners and businesses can qualify for compensation from state and local government programs that include help relocating and losses of net income up to a maximum of $10,000.
Dave Allen Motors, located next to the Pinkerton Tavern, is also slated to lose a chunk of real estate in to the widening project. Allen said yesterday he is among those property owners that have not yet responded to the town's offer.
“Honestly, I'm in limbo. I won't know what I will do until I find out what's happening with the Pinkerton,” Allen said. “For example, if they move that building, it would be a much better alternative for my driveway than the one they have proposed.”
Allen also has offered a one-acre buildable lot that sits behind his business as an alternative location for the tavern, an option he's mentioned to both the town and to Lutzen and Streitburger.
“I have put it out there. I called (Town Public Works Director) Mike Fowler on Friday to remind him, and I think they have some engineers looking at it. But no one has said, 'Hey, great idea; we'll take you up on that.' So for now, I don't know what I'm going to do,” Allen said.
“Everyone wants something to happen, but I don't know what's going to happen. I think it's further along than exit 4A,” said Allen, with a laugh. “The town claims they're ready to go to work in July on the project, but I don't see how.”
Stenhouse said optimistically, the widening project would still be on target for the end of the summer, given the need to resolve the Pinkerton issue and settle up with the other 13 businesses involved. He speculated that the other businesses may simply be exercising their right to an independent appraisal, under state law.
“If they think they can get more money, as a business deal, why shouldn't they try? If their appraisals come in lower, then that will be up to the Board of Land and Tax Appeals to decide. Some may settle before we get to eminent domain. Regardless, we're on top of the situation, and once we get all this together, we will sit with the council and decide on the best option, including financial options,” Stenhouse said. “We will know the answers within four weeks.”

March 25, 2010

Planning Board works on commercial zone for Frost Farm

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Rezoning a stretch of land around the Frost Farm has become a painstaking process. Last night the Planning Board set the course for the inevitable zoning change by ruling out the creation of a Historic Overlay District in favor of General Commercial III.
The main difference, said Planning Board member John O'Connor, is in the details. He was the only board member in favor last night of creating a historic district.
I thought we could do more with architectural designs and signage under the historic district,” said O'Connor.
A five-page draft of the Historic Overlay District included three full pages detailing signage restrictions, compared to the two-page General Commercial III guidelines, which included only two sentences pertaining to signage – calling for low-profile signs that fit with the existing architecture of the neighborhood, and no lighted, scrolling or electronic signs. As currently written, the zoning would restrict commercial businesses with drive-thrus, such as banks or pharmacies, to one-lane. Restaurants with drive-thru service would not be allowed.
The question of rezoning was raised seven months ago when resident George Reynolds, who owns property next to the state-owned woods that surround the farm, asked the board to rezone the stretch of Route 28 where he lives, from Office/Research and Development to General Commercial. He was interested in expanding his small welding business, but cannot under the current zoning.
Another neighbor of the farm, Scott Davidson, came forward to caution the board that such a zoning change would include the Farm, and open up that area to commercial development that would degrade the integrity of the farm's historic appeal.
Although commercial development along Route 28 is part of the town's overarching plan for economic revitalization, supporters of the Farm convinced the board to take time to think through zoning options that might allow for controlled development while protecting the town's most famous historic landmark.
Frost Farm Trustee Hercules Pappachristos took advantage of the opportunity for public input last night, coming forward to ask the board about their suggested maximum square footage for retail or office buildings, currently limited to 5,000 gross square feet in the draft.
“What's to stop someone from buying all the parcels and building a box store?” Pappachristos asked. “We're just concerned there are powerful companies that can buy up groups of lots. They have deep pockets. They've approached the downtown before.”

Board chair David Granese assured him that between the wetlands that run behind several of the parcels in question, and parking and sewer requirements, it would be unlikely that could happen.

We will continue to be vigilant,” said Charlie Dent, who also attended the workshop along with his wife, Marilyn Dent, and Laura Burnham, all Frost Farm Trustees. “We appreciate the time this board is taking. They really seem to care.”
Bill and Jean Smith, who own Rockingham Acres Garden Center located across the street from the Frost Farm, also attended the workshop. They are in favor of zoning change to commercial because it more accurately reflects what that part of town has become.
In August, Bill Smith told the board that 11,000 cars per day travel Route 28, a main artery to and from town, and a zoning change would provide the town with an opportunity for new businesses which would in turn bring some relief from the tax burden currently shouldered by home owners.
The board agreed to meet for a site walk of the area on May 1 before reconvening to rework the language in the new General Commercial III zone draft, which will eventually go before the council for adoption.

March 24, 2010


More people than ever are discovering their inner chicken farmer.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Today's discriminating consumer is looking for a happy, prolific chicken, says Deborah Reddeck, resident chicken expert for Blue Seal feed stores.
Reddeck knows chickens. She owns 25 of her own, and has for more than a decade. Recently Reddeck ran a community workshop for people in various stages of chicken ownership – from the dedicated backyard chicken farmer to those still exploring their inner poultry purveyor.
What they all have in common, said Reddeck, is that they recognize the wisdom of owning a backyard flock, particularly in this economy.
“There are really two things going on right now  – on one hand, you have people interested in saving money. They are following the victory gardening trend and trying to reconnect with agriculture and the environment. Chickens not only make eggs, but they provide compost. But the other thing we're seeing is that it's also part of the wholesome food effort; people want to make sure they're putting healthy food in their bodies,” Reddeck said. “They're becoming more suspicious of the industrial food supply and are interested in self-sufficiency.”
Current sales figures support her thesis – hatcheries are selling out and dealers can't keep up with orders, said Reddeck. Ever since the sign out front of the Derry Blue Seal started advertising it was time to order spring chicks, the orders have been non-stop.
“Last year we ordered about 500 chicks. This year, we expect orders to be up even more,” said Samantha Lang, who has been working at the Crystal Avenue feed supply chain for two years.
“Something new this year is that we're offering fancy layers – people are getting interested in birds with hundreds of different colored feathers that lay all different colored eggs,” said Lang.
It's a trend you can thank Martha Stewart for, said Micky Ridgway, a fourth-generation supplier at Ridgway Hatchery in LaRue, Ohio, which fills local Blue Seal orders.
Aracaunas, sometimes called the Easter egg chicken, will lay eggs in shades of blue, green and rose, said Ridgway – and are among the most popular chicks ordered locally through Blue Seal.
“Beyond the novelty, I believe once people find out how relatively easy and inexpensive it is to raise chickens, they start to explore the different breeds and actually get excited about having interesting or exotic chickens,” Ridgway said.
Heather Flannery is broadening her breed horizons  this yea. She's ordered a dozen baby chicks, all different varieties. Last spring was her first brush with chicken farming, and she and her kids still love everything about the hobby – except for the occasional heartbreak.
“Something got Professor McGonagall the other day. She was our big chicken, a cochin,” said Flannery, who refers to her surviving hens as “the girls.”
“We named them all after the female characters in Harry Potter, so we still have Hermoine, Tonks, Hedwig, Ginny and Moaning Myrtle,” Flannery said.
This season she's tripling the flock and going beyond layers to include dual purpose chickens – hens that lay eggs and can then be roasted up for dinner.
“I'm hoping some of them will look enough alike that I won't get too attached to them,” Flannery said. “I'm trying to be more conscious of what we're eating as a family. I just feel good about getting our eggs fresh anytime we want them.”
That is exactly what keeps Gary Lynch communing with his chicken flock after seven years of egg collecting.

“I look at it as being able to enjoy living with nature. Plus, I'm afraid they do some strange things to the eggs you get from the store. Here, it's straight from the chicken to your mouth. When I get extra, I share them with neighbors and friends,” Lynch said.
He got started chicken farming during a previous marriage, as a way to get involved with his stepkids and share a hobby. It was a lot of fun, and taught everyone about the circle of life, especially if a hawk found its way into the hen house.
When the marriage broke up, Lynch took his half of the flock and went on his way.
“You wake up in the morning and go outside, see if they need water, collect some eggs and then just sit there with your coffee in front of the cage. I'm looking at them, they're looking at me. It's better than HDTV,” said Lynch.
For Christina Grover, chicken farming is part of her long range plan to be self-sufficient. She attended the Blue Seal workshop to see what she needed to do to be ready to raise chickens. She will spend this summer plotting where to put the coop and how many chickens to invest in.
“There's a certain way we live now, and a certain way I think we were meant to live. We've gotten so far from the way we were meant to live in this culture. So, given the way money is right now, and how things are in the world, I feel like I have to make some changes. In fact, I just planted some seeds. I'm expanding my garden this year, too,” said Grover.
She said parenthood has changed her world view. She graduated from college with a degree in history and planned to work in a museum. Instead, she became a mother. Then, September 11th happened. Then, came their second child.
“I've survived cancer, three years ago. Yeah, a lot has changed in my life in a short period of time, but reality has hit pretty hard. If I could buy a farm tomorrow, I would. My husband is a software engineer and he totally supports me in my urge to take care of my family on my own. We're not crazy green people; we're just trying to think of ways not to have to rely so much on the world,” Grover said.
“I walked into the Blue Seal for dog food when I saw the sign, about chicks. I took it as a sign, literally, and plan to do it next spring,” Grover said. “It's part of my long-term plan, to have chickens and eggs – maybe goats and goat cheese. Chickens will be a good start.”

March 23, 2010

Drew Road project may be fast-tracked

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Virginia Stefanilo is tired of fighting with the town about the need for a new culvert next to her home on Drew Road.
Fortunately for her, the last two storms were so devastating, the needed repair – currentky scheduled for sometime in 2012 – may be fast-tracked to this fall.
“I want to show you how much land I've lost here,” said Stefanilo, pointing to the barren dirt next to her home. “It used to be a pine forest. It used to be so lovely.”
Last week's torrential rains filled the swamp behind her home beyond its limit. Rushing water poured from the brook, washing out the road and threatening the home of her across-the-street neighbor, Jodi Salerno, who has her own frustrations.
Salerno's home is currently encircled by piles of sandbags. Her front yard is ruddy mounds of dirt. Her side yard is a crater large enough to swallow a car. The rush to save her home every time the spring rains come, and the residual flood damage that follows, is getting old.
“The water was rushing up to the house and my husband was scrambling to get the sandbags out, and a fire fighter came up to us and said we should just walk away, just take our belongings and let it go,” said Salerno, the disbelief still lingering in her voice. “They offered to help us move some furniture to the second floor, but they told us there was nothing they could do to stop the water.”
Salerno and Stefanilo see it differently. They believe the town needs to raise the road and build a proper bridge, or at least replace the inadequate culvert with one that can handle the flow of water that has been creating real problems since 1996. That's when new construction on Hampstead Road seemed to trigger unmanageable flooding in Derry, said Stefanilo.
Yesterday a crew of about six workers with backhoes and trucks climbed down from the road to take a look at the culvert, which was crushed in on one side from the force of the water. The fill from underneath the road was washed out, and the road was visibly sagging by about three inches. It has been closed to traffic since the storm.
Highway Department Director Alan Cote said the rain expected last night through today was not going to help matters.
“It got whammed twice. We weren't anticipating two months worth of rain in 48 hours,” said Cote, who stopped by yesterday to see the condition of the road. “This culvert drains a 3,100-acre water shed. A lot of water comes through here, and it has for years – you can see, it's the site of an old mill.”
Cote said moving up the construction date of the project would depend on funding – a cost which he estimated could be around $450,000 – an unlikely sum, given the tight budget the town is currently working on.
“One way or another we'll have to find the money. It won't be a cheap project,” Cote said.
Public Works Director Mike Fowler said he will be going before the council to try and shift funding from other bridge projects which had been slated for repair. There were five bridge projects ahead of Drew Road – the fourth being Fordway Bridge, scheduled for this summer, and the fifth, South Avenue Bridge, which was on target for repair in 2011.
In the meantime, Cote said repairs done yesterday could make the road safe enough for one lane of traffic.
Complicating the matter, said Stefanilo, is that the land abutting the wetlands, Weber Memorial Forest, is protected conservation land, which means that any dredging and filling for construction needs to be permitted and approved by the Department of Environmental Services.
It is a necessary but routine process, said Conservation Commission chairman Margi Ives.
“I'm no engineer, but they will probably have to figure out what kind of bridge and culvert can handle the flow, something that will last for years to come,” said Ives. “It's similar to the bridge they just replaced on Island Pond. They had to order a custom made bridge and it was delayed, which meant the road was closed for an extended period of time.”
Stefanilo said she feels like while the town and Conservation Commission figure out how best to solve the problem while protecting the wetlands, her home – and her neighbors' homes – are being sacrificed.
“You know what the town told me? They said Mother Nature did this. But I think differently. I think they know it's something they can fix. They just choose to patch it up, like they're doing right now. The culvert has never been big enough to handle all this water,” Stefanilo said.
Salerno said she can't help but feel cynical at this point. She knows the town has money socked away in its “rainy day” fund. Given what the rain has wrought lately, she feels it's time for the town to release some of the taxpayer's money it's holding and take care of the roads.
“It's just frustrating. I don't think the town is trying to mislead us, but every time I talk to someone, I get a different story. And every time it rains, like it did last weekend, my yard gets torn up, my basement floods and we have to pile up the sandbags,” Salerno said. “I don't know what else we're supposed to do, but we can't keep doing this.”

March 19, 2010

When Students Become the Teachers

Pinkerton Academy's surgaring season is over, but the educating continues.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – James Lyon is not one to get sappy about the close of another sugaring season. But this was one for the record books.
“It was by far our worst sugaring season in 29 years,” said Lyon, waiting for his 10 a.m. Environmental Studies/Outdoor Skills students to arrive. “Sap only runs when the trees are thawing, and we haven't had cold enough nights to freeze the trees.”
The campus sugar house has been a staple of the high school's forestry program for decades. By mid-March students have normally produced about 60 gallons of maple syrup. Right now, their meager sap collections have boiled down to only 20 gallons of the sweet stuff.
While producers in other parts of the state may be having banner seasons, Pinkerton's operation is a victim of bad timing as much as anything, said Lyon.
“We tapped on Feb. 28 when they came back from school vacation. The best run here was the week before and during vacation. Our season is over, as of today. The sap went bad overnight,” Lyon said, filling a collection bucket with a little bit of water, for demonstration purposes.
Even though the season is over, his students continue to do tours of the campus maple groves and sugar house for local school and community groups. As his next class assembles, a busload of 19 second graders from Main Street School in Exeter drop their backpacks at the gazebo and line up in groups of two.
One group follows seniors Mike Brassard, Steffan Morgenstern and Nick McEachern to the tree with the sap bucket that has been filled with decoy water.
“On a good day, the buckets will fill two times a day,” said McEachern, as three boys plunge their pointer fingers into the drink.
“Tastes like water,” said Brian Weston, 7, picking up on the well-intentioned ruse as he licks his finger again, just to be sure.
“Actually, the sap is only about 2 percent sugar now. We'll boil it down to about 67 percent,” said McEachern.
Lyon's proteges fielded all kinds of rapid fire questions from the school group with ease, including why so many buckets on one tree (depends on the size and health of the tree), what happens to the ants inside the bucket (they get filtered out) and what is that little hole for at the bottom of the tree (it's where leprechauns hide.)
The tour included an explanation of the gravity-driven sap tapping tube system that connected several trees and emptied into a large collection barrell, filled with sap that passed the finger-licking test, and a stop inside the sugar house, where the science of syrup was explained.
Outside the sugar house, Pinkerton students Paige Gerhardt and Donald Swan used a poster to teach the kids about the threat of Asian Longhorned Beetles to the state's maple tree population.
“This whole thing is wonderful,” said Kathy Bean, teacher of the Exeter second graders. “I especially love the fact that they're using students to teach my students. We all learned something today,” she said.
Although field trips to sugar houses has always been part of her science curriculum, Bean said this year the school budget forced her to be creative.
“I looked on the Internet and found that Pinkerton did these tours. It's a free trip for my kids to a school campus, which is a bonus,” Bean said “I'm glad we came here.”
As Bean's students slurped tiny cupfuls of Grade A medium amber goodness, Lyon watched from afar as some of his own students said goodbye to the second graders while others assisted a group from Silverthorn adult daycare in Salem, just coming out of the sugar house.
“This program gives our kids a chance to polish their public speaking and group management skills,” said Lyon, who likes to keep a low profile during the tours. “It's something special. I don't know that there's anything else quite like it at Pinkerton.”

March 18, 2010

Downtown Committee pursues parking fix

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – A newly formed Downtown Committee is asking the town to consider making parking a priority.
During a March 4 meeting, Acting Library Director Diane Arrato Gavrish told the committee that the owner of the Shugrue property, located next to the library, wanted to know if the town was interested in buying the place, knowing there has long been a need for extra parking there.
The committee agreed that if there were a way to do so, buying the land would make it possible to supplement the library's existing 13 spaces and two handicapped spaces. Committee chair Mike Gendron notified Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse, who had Public Works Director Mike Fowler work up some figures to determine how many parking spaces could be drawn from the property. Fowler said the lot would sustain 18 to 20 additional spots.
During Tuesday's council meeting, Gendron and library trustee Elizabeth Ives appealed to the council to consider the purchase, but were quickly advised that further discussion would have to go on the next agenda as a non-public session, because it involved the purchase of a property.
Ives was allowed to outline why the library felt it was urgent for the town to act on this land deal, which is a time-sensitive offer. The owner has said she will opt to renovate and rent the space if the town is unable or uninterested in buying the property, assessed at $189,000.
Most obvious, Ives said, was the lack of parking at the library. Many families with young children, and elderly patrons have expressed concern over difficulty in getting to and from the library, particularly in bad weather. Although there is a municipal lot a block away, Ives said that lot is used by employees of other nearby businesses. She also said that with recent library programs drawing 75 or more participants, the need for parking is evident.
Patrons have been towed from the two-hour street parking spots, which can also feel unsafe to families unloading young children with armloads of books. And although the Masonic Temple allows patrons to park in their spaces, there are times where none are available.
Strategic options weighed by the Downtown Committee included having the town buy the property in two installments over two years at a cost of $90,000 per year, or for the library to use $40,000 from its capital reserve fund, with the town paying the balance.
Gendron said the committee is not going to make a habit of asking for money, but in this case, timing is everything.
“We don't want to be going to the well too often, so we want to go to the town with only the most important things we think are necessary. As a committee, our main goals are getting parking on the east and west ends of Broadway,” Gendron said. “Spending money is not high on the town's list, but it's our personal opinion that it's probably the best time to invest in our town – the labor cheaper and materials cost less.”
When asked, Stenhouse was sympathetic to the group, but realistic about the upcoming budget process.
“People want to save Pinkerton Tavern, they want parking next to the Adams Memorial building and the library. We have a $1.5 million budget hole, my friend. It's easy to advocate for library parking. I think it's important. But is it more important than parking for the Adams building? It's really not a question of timing; it's a question of resources,” Stenhouse said.
“The Council has to decide, and I don't envy them having to set priorities. These various groups come and do a shotgun approach – this is important, that is important. But it can't all be important at once when you only have X number of dollars,” Stenhouse said. “The wish list is growing.”

March 17, 2010

Council scrutinizes EMS contract renewal


Union Leader Correspondent 
DERRY – With two new members seated following last week's election and Monday's recount for District 2, the council last night settled in and worked through some growing pains, electing a new chair and engaging in some healthy debate over general procedures before getting down to the business of the night.
Councilor Brad Benson was unanimously voted in as chairman, and quickly set a cordial and efficient tone for the meeting.

Most of the debate last night was focused on renewal of the town's intermunicipal ambulance service agreements with Chester and Auburn.

Town EMS Director Chuck Hemeon said Derry has been providing services to its neighboring towns for more than 20 years. He made an initial presentation to the board on the proposed three-year contracts. Hemeon said the base fee of $47,250 was negotiated at a 5 percent increase over last year and would go up by an additional 5 percent each year over the next two years.
Derry also collects an additional transport fee, billed directly to patients. Last year, the total revenue for Derry from both towns for both fees was $217,680.
Resident Doug Newell questioned why the town wasn't maximizing its bargaining power, adding that rather than paying a fair share of Derry's costs, the town is in essence giving away services to Auburn and Chester that they'd otherwise have to pay a premium for.

“Why don't we put a 1 in front of that ($47,250) just to get started. Auburn has a tax rate of about half of ours. Let's get them to pay their fair share. And not only there, but we ought to be asking Pinkerton for a contribution in lieu of the fact that we provide fire and ambulance for Pinkerton kids because a bunch of them are coming from Auburn, Chester and Hampstead, and the taxpayers in Derry are picking up the tab,” Newell said.

Hemeon said while it may have been possible to up the fee to Auburn and Chester, he feels the net 15 percent increase over the three-year contract was positive in this economy.
“These towns wanted to negotiate with Derry in good faith, but as we negotiate these contracts, I think we're bringing in good revenues,” Hemeon said. “It's a win.”

After several questions were raised about how much Auburn or Chester would have to pay for private service, and how best to calculate a fair percentage of cost, the council decided to hold off on voting until the next council meeting.

“The idea that we could be making a fortune by upping the price of our services is not realistic. For 20 years, it's really been a matter of one town helping the other, and I think the majority of councilors saw that, too,” Hemeon said, after the meeting.

March 16, 2010

Rainy days and Mondays

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Waterways already swollen with snow melt reached their tipping points yesterday, spilling over onto roads and saturating flood-prone areas of town.
As a result of impassible roads in adjoining towns, Pinkerton Academy was closed yesterday, mainly due to flooding on Route 102 in Chester, said school spokesman Robin Perrin. Buses and parents were not able to get Chester students to the regional high school.

While most main roads were clear, side streets were puddling up depending on location. Cars sped through the deepening puddle on North Shore Road from water rushing downhill and crossing over into Beaver Lake, extending the water level up over the bank and back onto the road.
Derry fire officials said there were several trouble spots in town. Roads accumulating standing water were reduced to one lane, and a handful of roads were closed as of last night, including: Wind ham Road at Strawberry Hill; North Shore Road near #105; Franklin Street at Folsom Road; 41 Drew Road; and 74 Chester Road.
Hoodkroft Country Club looked more like a fowl weather water resort, attracting a flock of Canada geese on one side of the green, and some seagulls on the other.
A fleet of Comcast repair trucks were parked at the Hannaford supermarket around lunchtime, taking a break from restoring service to homes that lost power when the wind and rain began to kick up late Sunday night. Police fielded several calls for downed wires and trees, but no injuries were reported.
Fordway Road, which leads directly to the town's Dog Park, was closed just beyond the turnoff for the transfer station. One woman, with a disappointed-looking doberman in the back seat of her car, made a U-turn in front of the Road Closed sign and headed back toward the downtown.
Brook Street resident Amy Beaulieu was inside talking on her cell phone as the rain picked up around noon. She popped her head out to let her German shepherd get some fresh air, keeping one eye on the brook that runs alongside her home. The water was steadily rising and in the process of swallowing a picnic table and gas grill.
“It never comes up to the house,” she said, glancing at the rushing water. “Well, it hasn't, yet.”

Milz sworn in as Distrct 2 Councilor

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – If he ever had his doubts, David Milz is now a firm believer in the fact that every vote counts. He was declared the winner of the District 2 council seat after a recount yesterday at the town municipal building, edging Tom Cardon by one – 289 to 28.
It was the same result arrived at Tuesday, following the election, which prompted the recount.
The counting process involved five teams of two who went through every ballot from District 2, with Town Moderator Margi Ives overseeing everything. She announced the results, with an interesting side note.
“There were 29 blanks and three over votes,” she said, explaining that meant 29 people didn't chose either Milz or Cardon, and three people voted for two people, disqualifying their vote completely – 32 wasted votes.
Milz, who was waiting at home for the news, arrived to be sworn in after he got the call from Dave McPherson that he'd won.
“I only threw up twice this morning. Really,” said Milz, who said he has been having trouble sleeping in the week since Election night, knowing it would all come down to this moment.
He went downstairs to Town Clerk Denise Neale's office for the brief swearing-in ceremony, flanked by councilors Brian Chirichiello and Neil Wetherbee.
“Dave 'Landslide' Milz. Sounds like a new nickname,” said one of the two, as Milz smiled, then raised his hand and accepted the call to service from Neale.
Afterward, Neale gave Milz her best advice.
“Remember: Make up your own mind and no teams,” she said. “Oh, and did they tell you that I will shoot spitballs at you from behind, if necessary?”
State Rep. Frank Sapareto was sitting in for Cardon during the recount. He called Cardon after the announcement.
“He's disappointed, of course, but wishes all the best to Mr. Milz,” Sapareto said.

Congressional Candidate meets GOP faithful in Derry

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Rich Ashooh spent last night shaking hands and making small talk with those who gathered at The Halligan Tavern to get to know the First Congressional District a little better.
     “It won't take you long to figure out who I am and what I've done,” said Ashooh, speaking quietly to the small gathering invited by the Derry Republican Committee for a meet and greet.
     Born and raised in Manchester, the 45-year-old Bedford resident and father of five is the grandson of Lebanese immigrants. After 17 years at BAE Systems, Ashooh recently left his job as VP of government relations to devote himself to campaigning.
     His years in the manufacturing business and lifelong political activism are his strengths, said Ashooh.
     Briefly touching on his key issues – jobs and the economy – Ashooh wasted no time zeroing in on his Democratic opponent, incumbent Carol Shea Porter, and the missteps he says the current administration has made in the midst of a failed economy.
     “Carol Shea Porter and President Obama, are the same. In many ways, we hired the same people, with no experience in fixing the economy or getting the job done,” Ashooh said.
     “In manufacturing, if you want to change what you're making, you retool the machine,” said Ashooh. “What President Obama has been doing is retooling the message.”
     Avoiding the politics as usual will mean bringing some strong and proven ideas to the table, Ashooh said.
     “ I will bring ideas to Washington, ideas that will work. Ideas that will transcend the factions. I'm ready for this. I know what can be done and know how to get it done,” Ashooh said.
     Ashooh will face former Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta and Newmarket businessman Bob Bestani in the GOP Primary.
     Katherine Prudhomme-O'Brien of Derry was among those who came out to hear Ashooh because she hasn't made up her mind who to vote for yet.
     “I'm leaning in his direction right now,” O'Brien said. “I liked what he said, about opposing tolls here in New Hampshire, and I definitely want someone with experience in manufacturing – that's very important to our state economy.”
     Jill Domosh and her daughter, Melissa Blasek, were also interested in Ashooh.
     “I liked him,” said Domosh. “I really just wanted to have the chance to see him and hear him speak on the issues.”
     Her daughter, currently a student at Berkeley School of Music, said she is a huge believer in home schooling and small government.
     “That's one reason I'm such a staunch Republican – I was home schooled, and I want the same thing for my kids someday,” Blasek said.

March 15, 2010

Derry woman: Hot tub incident not "one time mistake"

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- In the days since Cheryl Maher exposed Utah State Rep. Kevin Garn's inappropriate relationship with her 25 years ago, her motives have come into question.
     For years Maher, now 40, says she has been trying to expose the truth about Garn's actions, and the damaging effects of such secrecy.
     Until now, no one listened.
     Garn, a longtime Republican lawmaker and practicing Mormon, resigned his post Saturday after confirming Maher's allegations -- that she sat naked in a hot tub with him when she was 15 -- were "essentially" true. He had agreed to pay Maher $150,000 in 2002, a promise made during his unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Congress. Maher received the payment in 2003.
     In an interview Saturday night, Maher recounted the now notorious “hot tub incident.” It was not an impetuous one-time “mistake” with a 15-year-old girl, as Garn has said publicly.
     Garn, then 30, and Maher's father, Richard Maher, were business partners. Maher started working for her father at 14, when he took her out of school. She was struggling socially and suffering academically with undiagnosed learning disabilities, she said.
     “I was thrust into an adult world, and Kevin was there, complimenting me, and essentially grooming me for what was to come,” Maher said. “He knows exactly what he's done.”
      She and Garn had worked together for about a year when, according to Maher, who alleges Garn asked her to get into his car that day, without saying where they were going. They stopped so Garn could purchase alcohol, said Maher, then went to a private hot tub place, where tubs are rented by the hour.
      “I told him I didn't have a bathing suit. He said I didn't need one, and got out of the car. I remember at that point just sitting there, thinking, 'What am I doing here?'” Maher said.
     Garn had been her Sunday school teacher and a trusted family friend. When Garn crossed the line, Maher tried to process it the best she could. She finally confided in a friend, who told Maher that she had a similar experience with Garn.
     “No one says anything. There are people in the Oak Hills Ward, people in that church, who knew he was a schemer. They aren't coming forward. I'm feeling betrayed by the church. It's not just Kevin. I know of others in the Ward who were abused by church members, and tried to tell. They were shunned by the Ward members and, eventually, left the church,” Maher said.
    She is not surprised that since her revelation, her ex-husband has called various media outlets to let them know of Maher's struggles with addiction and mental illness. Maher is not fazed by it.
     “I have an accurate diagnosis now – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and addiction. My voice was never heard throughout the years. I was in some dark places, but had been misdiagnosed and overmedicated. I tried to fix myself, but through it all I kept this secret. I was full of fear and doubt and insecurity as a woman. When I went into recovery, I had to take a closer look at the destruction of my life,” Maher said.
    Maher's ex-husband, Eric Knight, said yesterday he believes Maher is using this incident to get back at the church, at Garn and at him.
     When asked about what happened in 2002 with Garn, Knight said he was in agreement with Maher's decision at the time to expose Garn right before the 2002 Primary.
     “I was there along with her in feeling that, given what had happened, he shouldn't be a congressman,” Knight said. He also corroborates Maher's story, that Garn flew to Boston when he discovered Maher was about to go to the press a week before the election.
     However, he disputes the spirit in which Garn gave Maher $150,000 and had her sign the non-disclosure agreement.
     “He was concerned for her. He thought the whole thing was settled, and that she was OK. Cheryl asked for the money. Kevin asked her how much would be fair. When she told him $150,000, his response was, 'This was a dip in the hot tub, but OK.' Kevin meant it as restitution for trauma based  on her experience with him. He never meant it as hush money,” Knight said.
     Knight also confirmed that he, Maher and Garn did discuss the matter with their bishop, Ken Bratt, from the Mormon church in Derry, and with a regional church official, Mike Pouliot. Knight said it is his understanding that the matter was referred through the proper church channels and Garn's bishop in Salt Lake City was notified.
     “It's just like what was happening in New Hampshire, with the Catholic church. I went to the Mormon Bishops. In 2008 I wrote a seven-page letter to the Church of Latter Day Saints, detailing everything.The church is accountable. The church knew, and nobody did anything,” said Maher.
     Maher has a copy of the church's response, a three-sentence letter that says, “Please be assured that this matter will be given further review.” That was the last she heard from the church.
     What Maher and Knight do not agree on is Maher's motivation, and state of mind. They continue to fight bitterly over custody of their children. Knight portrays his ex-wife as mentally ill and spiraling out of control; Maher said facing her addiction through a 12-step program helped her turn a corner; she is still healing, and says she's never felt more at peace than she does right now. Born and raised Mormon, however, she said she has had to come to terms with the shame of being excommunicated from the church.
     “That's what we're taught, that if we leave the church, we are forever shamed. I have gone through so much shame, between the sexual abuse and being excommunicated,” Maher said.           
      “Throughout my own process, I found myself being angry at God. I asked him if he was just a Mormon God, or did he really love me. I had to find peace, that God knew what was going on and that there was a way to set things right.”
     She knows that Garn went through a “repentance process” in 1993, a formulaic practice within the Mormon church that includes restitution. In Maher's view, it is a process that keeps a person from having to be honest about their “sins” or the harm they may have done to others.
     She said she knows that Garn will recover from this in his own way, now that the truth is out.
     “I have nothing to gain. This isn't about the money. I'd give it back in a heartbeat, if Kevin would accept payments. I have nothing to gain, except to speak freely about sex abuse. I've gone through a process to get here, and I finally feel free,” Maher said.

March 12, 2010

Recount set for Monday

A recount to decide the winner of District 2 Town Council seat will be held March 15 at 10 a.m. at the town municipal complex due to a close race between David Milz and Tom Cardon --  Milz edged out Cardon by one vote.

In the other two races, District 4 incumbent Brian Chirichiello retained his seat and Joel Olbricht will be the new at-large councilor.

One thousand cranes workshop Saturday

According to Japanese tradition, if you fold 1,000 origami cranes, the cranes will grant you your heart's desire. In the spirit of peace, a local student activism group is inviting the public to join them March 13 from 1 to 3 p.m. for Lil’ MDGs Thousand Cranes for Peace Origami Workshop at the Derry Public Library in the Paul Collette Conference Room.
During this event, registered participants will be making origami paper cranes that will be sent for dedication at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum in Tokyo, Japan. No prior experience with origami or folding paper cranes is required. Participants will receive instructions on folding on the day of the workshop. The goal is for 1,000 papeer cranes.
Those who attend will also be eligible for a ticket to Disney through the Give a Day, Get a Disney Day national volunteer initiative. To qualify, you must register online for this workshop by going to: and searching for activities in zip code 03038. Locate the Thousand Cranes for Peace Origami Workshop posted by Lil' MDGs and follow the instructions posted there.
If you already know how to fold origami paper cranes and would like to sign up to assist other volunteers at the workshop, please send an e-mail to Kristen McDonalds at or call Lil’ MDGs at 603-722-0414 to register yourself as an instructor for the Give a Day. Get a Disney Day event.
Lil’ MDGs was founded by three children, all under the age of 9, in 2004. Today, Lil’ MDGs has more than 20,000 children volunteering for them in 40 countries. Lil’ MDGs is now an initiative of Derry-based Jayme’s Fund and s is supported by various national and international organizations and corporations, including, but not limited to, the United Nations, Pepsi, Nestle, Coca-Cola, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Disney, The George Lucas Education Foundation, the We are Family Foundation, and President Obama. To learn more about Lil’ MDGs, and to get involved check them out on the web at

March 10, 2010

Chirichiello reelected, Cardon and Milz set for a recount

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – After a long night of vote counting, town council candidates in District 2 will now have to wait for a recount, after David Milz edged out Tom Cardon by one vote – 289 to 288.
     District 4 Incumbent Brian Chirichiello easily won reelection, with 227 votes over Joseph DiChiaro, 128, and Al Dimmock, with 80.
     Winner of the at-large seat was Joel Olbricht with 999 votes, edging Doug Newell, with 868 votes, followed by James Webb, with 121 votes
    In the only other contested race, Judy Strakalaitis won over Bruce Neale for Supervisor of the Checklist, 851 to 763.
     None of the school board members running were contested, which means Brenda Willis, Kevin Gordon and Ken Linehan will all return for another term.
     Town moderator Margi Ives said a total of 2,139 residents came out to the polls yesterday, of the town's more than 21,000 eligible voters.
     “We can do better; we should do better,” Ives said. “Voter turnout in Derry is anemic.”
     Hand counting of absentee ballots and write-in votes took until nearly 11 p.m. This year's process was complicated by a dual ballot system, which meant voters had one ballot for town office candidates and one for school board candidates.
     Cardon was the only candidate who waited for the final vote count to be read inside the town municipal center. He must formally request a recount by Friday at 4 p.m., said Town Clerk Denise Neale.
     Earlier in the day candidates lined the entrances to both polling places as voters trickled in throughout the day.
     Kids Vote, which brings students to the polls to vote for school-specific issues, was a hit with many school-ages students, including Verity Brodeur, 9, a third-grader at Derry Village School. Given a choice between Funky Hat/Crazy Hair Day, Twin Day and Grade Spirit Day, she chose spirit day.
     “That's it?” said her 5-year-old brother, Elias, after watching his sister check off her choice and drop her ballot in the box. “Voting is easy.”

March 9, 2010

Farmer's Market Meeting Today at 1 p.m.

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Calling all farm hands – well, actually, calling all farm market hands. Derry's newly formed Downtown Committee is hosting a meeting today at 1 p.m. in the third-floor training room of the municipal building. The purpose, said committee chair Mike Gendron, is creating a viable weekly farmer's market for the downtown area.
     “Primarily, we're looking for people who want to organize, because this will take a monumental effort,” Gendron said. “It will require a business plan and will have to be run like a business, so at this stage, we're not just looking for folks who want to set up a stand; we're looking at it organizationally.”  
     He said the committee has been taking notes on other successful farm market models, in particular, the Ithaca Farmer's Market, which brings area farmers and artisans together to sell produce, wine, flowers, clothing, pottery, and jewelry.
     Councilor's Janet Fairbanks and Brent Carney initially raised the idea of establishing a downtown farmer's market. Although Carney is not seeking reelection, Fairbanks is still engaged in the process and interested in seeing this idea become a reality this year.
     “We'd like to see it happen on Tuesday nights in the summer, in conjunction with the concert in the park series,” Fairbanks said.

March 8, 2010

Derry company provides lessons in solar savings

Union Leader Correspondent
FREEMONT – Cheryl Rowell was busy snapping photos of the solar panels being hoisted to the roof of the town's safety complex as a group of Ellis Elementary School students walked past her, heading back to their classroom across the street.
     They were completing their field trip to the town's newest sustainable energy hub, and Rowell was there to document the moment.
     After 14 months of gradual greening around town, beginning with energy audits, yesterday's installation of two panels on the town building was truly a Kodak moment for Rowell, a member of the town's volunteer Energy Committee.
     “I don't have any idea how much we'll save – those panels aren't going to generate a ton of power, but it's something to build on,” said Rowell.
     Paid for by two grants – $2,500 from the Walmart Distribution Center in Raymond and $1,000 from New England Grassroots Environment Fund – the solar array is the latest in a series of greening efforts around town meant to trim the energy bill.
     It will also provide a new area of study within the science curriculum for students, one that incorporates lessons in math, economy and sustainable energy.
     “Students will be able to track how much power the panels are storing through a graph on a website set up by the company installing them,” said Rowell.
     Yesterday, Brian Pellerin, one of the founders of Derry-based Freedom Renewable Energy, fielded questions from several groups of students who walked across the street to see the work in progress, on everything from photovoltaic effect to marshmallows.
    “How does it work?” asked one fourth-grader, prompting Pellerin to break down the basics of how a solar cell made of silicone wafers converts sunlight into electricity.
     “How long do they last?” asked another curious kid, who had a follow up question, after Pellerin told him each panel can collect sunlight for 30 years.
     “But what if it's cloudy for an entire 30 years?” he said, like any skeptical, vitamin-D deficient New Englander in March.
     Pellerin assured the kid that, thanks to our particular climate, we actually get more sun than Tampa or Houston.
      “Even in the worst weather, crazy storms and all, New Hampshire gets about 3.8 to 4.6 hours of sunlight a day,” Pellerin said. “That's actually a common misconception around here.”
     He said each panel on the town building will produce ½ kilowatt for every hour it's exposed to the sun – which translates to a total of about 4.5 kilowatts per day between the two panels. Given that the average home in New Hampshire uses abot 25 kilowatts per day, savings for the town's largest building will quickly add up.
     Another student asked about special clothing needed by the two guys, UNH student intern Jason Morse and installation manager Rich Doucette, who were climbing a big ladder and crawling to the peak of the roof to start laying down the rails that would hold the panels in place. Pellerin assured her there was no special clothing, only safety gear.
     “I don't have a question; just a comment,” said another fourth-grader., still dwelling on safety gear. “It would be cool if you used giant marshmallows as protective gear.”
     Agreed, said Pellerin, with a smile, who confirmed that people have all kinds of questions about renewable energy, particularly the merits of solar in a state known for its piles of seemingly unmeltable snow.
     “Actually, Germany leads the world in solar, and they have less sunlight hours in a day than we do,” Pellerin said.
     Pellerin, who is a member of Derry's newly formed Energy Committee, said many municipalities are exploring solar options right now, based on the spike in requests for estimates and jobs going out for bid.
     “With all the incentives out there, it's the right time,” Pellerin said. Homeowners are currently eligible for rebates up to $6,000 from the NH Public Utilities Commission, and federal ARRA funding allows for a 30 percent tax credit – a dollar for dollar match.
     In round numbers, that means the $18,000 it would cost a residential customer to install enough solar panels to generate 2 kilowatts will spend about $7,500 after rebates, and save about one-third of their normal electric bill.
     Solar isn't going to work for every home. But energy audits can help every family find inexpensive ways to save energy and money on their monthly utility bills, said Pellerin.
We are getting busier all the time. It's a combination of more awareness, availability of grants, and people's general hatred for electric and oil companies,” Pellerin said.
On the Web:
Database of state-by-state renewable energy incentives:
Northeast Sustainable Energy Association:

Helping Haiti: Derry Village students will work for change

Union Leader Correspondent 
DERRY – Every so often there are lessons learned inside the classroom with lasting value, beyond a student's ability to read, write or calculate the percentage of children being left behind.
     When fifth-grade teacher Joanne Duncan heard about the devastation in Haiti following the January earthquake, she had the urge to do something. 
     “Naturally, as a teacher, this led me to my students. Fifth grade is the perfect age to tap into their sense of citizenship and compassion,” said Duncan.
     A four-week Spare Change for Haiti campaign was launched. While coin collecting in schools for worthy causes is not uncommon, Duncan felt the students would be able to truly relate to the need by understanding how different life for children in Haiti was, even before the earthquake.
     She enlisted the help of school staff member Kristina Hunter, who had been to Haiti twice in 2009, doing mission work with a group called Doorway to Peace, a Boston faith-based organization. 
     “How many of you lost power during the storm last week?” Hunter asked the 400 elementary students huddled together on the gymnasium floor. Hands shot up into the air as far as the eye could see.
     “Well, that's how it is for most people in Haiti all the time. They never have power, they don't get water from a sink. They don't have telephones. If you are a boy or girl in Haiti, you might have to walk a mile every day to get a bucket of water for your family,” Hunter said.
     “A lot of boys and girls there only eat one time a day. They don't get their food from the grocery store. They pick it from the field or from the trees, or maybe a neighbor cooking on the side of the road will offer them something,” Hunter said. “They have fresh bananas and coconuts and almonds falling from the trees. It's a different life. Since the earthquake, the cost of food has gone up because it's harder to get.”
     For every child at Derry Village School who dropped his ice cream money into the donation box, a hungry child in Haiti had rice for another day, said Hunter.
     Each fifth-grade class sponsored a younger grade and was responsible for daily coin     collection duties, giving up recesses to count and recount, and record the information in a “checkbook”. Each week Kathy Jerome of the Manchester Chapter of the American Red Cross stopped by to pick up what had been collected, get to know the students and encourage them in their efforts.
    "We didn't offer a pizza party to the grade that collected the most, or any other kind of incentive. We just wanted to organize something that would get the students working together as a community with a common goal,” said Duncan.
     Having older students serve as role models and mentors created a different sort of hierarchy – upperclassmen who have earned their place at the top of the heap were working side-by-side with younger students for a common cause, teaching by example how to make a difference with a simple yet generous gesture.
     Lisa Michaud, executive director of the Manchester Red Cross chapter, attended a special   assembly Friday to accept a handmade “check” which was used to announce the final figure to the student body – $1,897.97. They reacted with gasps, cheers and applause.
     “Because of what you've done here, there is a boy or girl sleeping in a tent tonight with a warm blanket, a pillow and a hot meal. It's amazing for me to see young people who realize there are children just like them, living someplace else, who are in need,” Michaud said.
     She explained that the Red Cross is a humanitarian organization, a big word that they had so beautifully defined with their actions.
     “That means we care about every human being. Whether we are ever going to meet the people we help doesn't much matter. It's doing the right thing that matters. By your actions you've changed the lives of people in Haiti. Not many can say that they've changed someone's life today, but you did, and for that I want to thank you,” Michaud said.

Derry on Facebook: For fans and Derry-curious alike

Union Leader Correspondent 
DERRY – Image is everything, which is why Stu Arnett,the town's marketing consultant, is taking baby steps into the 21st century of social networking.
     He wants to tread carefully, and get it right.
     While “The Town Of Derry” now has an official Facebook page seeking fans and, as TownofDerryNH,” has sent nearly two dozen informational tweets into the Twitterverse, this foray into virtual community is still very much a work in progress, admits Arnett.
     Best case scenario would be that Facebook reinvigorates the town's sense of community, becoming an online meeting place that provides an interactive forum for residents, business owners, prospective residents and the Derry-curious.
     Currently in “test” mode, Arnett said the new media outlets are still being tweaked as his team from Arnett Development Group considers content intake and linking capabilities prior to making a formal presentation to the council at the March 16 meeting. In the meantime, he is inviting the public to “friend” the town and let the social networking begin.
     Feedback is welcome.
     While many cities and towns around the state can be found on Facebook, not all are “official” sites. The City of Portsmouth, NH, is an unofficial page with nearly 4,000 fans – and a backstory.  
     Three years ago, tech-savvy Carl Levine of Stratham set out to change the structure of Facebook for Seacoast locals who had to choose a network that didn't represent them.
     “You had to choose from Manchester, Boston or Portland, Maine. So the page started as a way of asking the guys who run Facebook to establish a regional Facebook network in Portsmouth,” said Levine, of Stratham.
     Although the regional network system is now defunct, the page remains a thriving hub of all things Portsmouth, said Levine, who has moved on. Personally, he is still a fan, but rarely uses the site he launched. Professionally, he oversees the social media aspect of a small Stratham-based adult incontinence business, Disposables Delivered.
     “I'm still a fan of Portsmouth, and spend a lot of time there. I think it gives the town some great visibility, and the built-in advertising feature would be a plus for any town,” said Levine, referring to the targeted ads that appear through Facebook's built-in data collection system.
     He said a town looking for an official Facebook presence would do best with a “page” rather than a “group” because it would retain that interactive presence with its fans.
     It also adds a layer of communication within the town structure, which is high on Derry's list of priorities. In the short time since Levine launched the Portsmouth page, Facebook has evolved quickly. Now business and town-run entity pages abound with personalities defined by those who update them. The Derry Library, for example, is updated several times daily by various librarians on duty, and is pushing to reach 200 fans this month, providing a direct connection to the library faithful.
     Facebook can also aid the efforts of public safety officials in times of crisis, said Levine.
     “In situations, like the storm we just had, fans would automatically get your updates, providing they can get on the Internet, that is,” Levine said.
     The City of Manchester is one of the few official pages found on Facebook launched by a New Hampshire municipality. Six months since it began, it has accumulated only 22 fans and generated no interaction – likely more for lack of exposure than a statement on the city's popularity.
     Arnett is intent on finding the happy medium – an official town page that informs and enlightens – and puts a virtual face on the town of Derry.
     “We are interested to see what happens next, and looking forward to hearing from people,” Arnett said.