June 30, 2010

Fireworks: Light'em If You've Got'em

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Thanks to a newly discovered wrinkle in the town's ordinance book under the “fireworks” section, residents can assert their independence with fireworks this year, on a technicality.
“The police have been operating under the assumption it's illegal to possess and use fireworks. It seems that may not be the case. I don't know what the penalties were for those caught with fireworks, but likely they had to do with fines, not criminal consequences,” said Councilor Neil Wetherbee.
A phantom ordinance was cited by police and fire officials during the last regular Town Council meeting as the catalyst for requesting that the current council vote to ban fireworks. The council voted to table the matter, pending further discussion.
According to Capt. Vern Thomas, such an ordinance was passed by a sitting council “sometime in the 1980s.” However, police were unable to find record of the meeting minutes where the vote was taken.
That said, if it doesn't exist on paper, it doesn't exist, said resident Mike Gill, who objects to police persistence in reinforcing such an ordinance. He says the state law, which allows certain Class B consumer fireworks within outlined parameters, is comprehensive enough to protect residents of Derry from those who might shoot fireworks in a congested area, or too close to a building.
“I am opposed to the town of Derry spending my tax dollars for what I consider a nuisance ordinance, or silly attacks on my personal freedoms when this is something already covered under a state RSA,” said Gill.
He further questions that an ordinance ever did exist in town.
“I've been involved in town politics since 1981 and there's never been an ordinance for fireworks, to my knowledge. If the police and fire want to make something a matter of public policy, they need to come forth with some statistics to show why it's necessary,” Gill said. “Somehow people have to stand up and say to the powers that be, 'Don't be silly; Why rewrite what already exists on the state books?'”
Wetherbee said he is in favor of taking a look at how the town might otherwise control the display of fireworks without an outright ban, as other municipalities do.
I had an e-mail from a resident who suggested we look at a permitting process, which makes a lot of sense to me,” Wetherbee said..
Chief Ed Garone said last week that the ordinance presented to council for approval was prompted by the annual confusion in town over fireworks.
“The only time I permit fireworks is when a person has a pyrotechnic license,” Garone said.
That position, without a written ordinance enacted by the town, carries no legal weight, said Councilor Kevin Coyle.
“Obviously there is no ordinance in Derry, otherwise, the police would not have come to us asking for us to vote one into the books,” Coyle said. “Under the state law, the only restrictions on Derry residents are those put forth by the state. And to that, I would say that the Coyle family is looking forward to displaying fireworks this year.”
Under state RSA 160:B, “Any person 21 years of age or older may display permissible fireworks on private property with the written consent of the owner, or in the owners presence, except in a municipality which has voted to prohibit display.”
State Fireworks Inspector Ken Walsh of the Divison of Fire Safety, said he's been fielding calls from several towns lately looking for clarification on how to enforce fireworks bans – or lift them – depending on the municipality.
He said he was contacted several months ago by Derry officials, but has yet to receive an update on its ordinance.
“Now I know why. It sounds like Derry needs to figure out what it wants to do, which by state law is whatever its governing body wants to do. Unless they vote otherwise, the restrictions on fireworks are limited to those restricted in the state – which include bottle rockets, firecrackers and certain sparklers,” Walsh said.
The last time the state updated its records, which are posted on line, was in 2003 or 2004, when East Derry still had an independent fire department. Based on that survey of fire chiefs, Derry is listed as “permissible” based on town ordinance and restrictions. East Derry is listed as “prohibited.”
“The only way we would change that is if town officials direct us to,” Walsh said.
By the same logic, if town law enforcement officials believe there was at one time an ordinance voted on by the council, a letter of notification would have been required for state fire safety records, which may exist in state archives.
“It would take some digging, but it would be interesting to see if we actually have such a letter dating back 20 years,” Walsh said.
What's happened in those 20 years is that the fireworks industry has gone to great measures to make fireworks safe. Having three retailers in neighboring Londonderry – including two new superstores – makes banning them a harder sell to the public than perhaps it was two decades ago.
“The fireworks industry has worked hard to get away from the stigma that fireworks are dangerous. Now you can go into a retailer and buy a big box of fireworks that might display up to 36 different charges, all safely – really it's on the borderline of what a professional would use. But as with everything, if people follow the rules, use precautions, don't set them off while drunk, keep people a safe distance away, it remains a matter of personal responsibility,” Walsh said.

June 28, 2010


Brownell Insurance clinches inaugural title for Derry girls softball league.*
*See editor's note below
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – After weeks of bat-swinging, ball-catching, fist-bumping, gum-cracking, base-stealing, heart-breaking action, the first ever Derry Little League Girls Softball Championship went to the dozen girls of summer in red Brownell Insurance T-shirts, who yesterday won one for the record books.
There are no losers this year,” said the loudspeaker voice from the press box as Brownell huddled for a team photo in center field to celebrate their 12-9 victory. Their formidable foes, Derry Imaging Center, settled for second-place trophies and star-shaped chocolate lollipops.
After two rain delays, the six-week season ended yesterday where it began in May, on O'Hara field. It took several years of planning, but this year the League took over the town's recreational softball program and fielded four teams in the 9 to 12 age group. Greater Salem Footcare and Fred Fuller Oil competed with Brownell and Derry Imaging, enjoying all the perks of regular Little League competition – uniforms, concessions, music, manicured field, diamond dirt and a scoreboard, although Brownell coach Al Walalis insists the girls are more focused on learning and fun than standings or scoring.
They don't pay that much attention – neither do we. I can't honestly tell you what our record was this year,” Walalis said.
Organizers are already looking forward to expansion next season.
Some of these kids will be 13 next summer. Maybe we'll start a senior league,” said League Executive Vice President Donald Kirkland.
He said the league had hoped for more players this season, but had a tough time fielding teams in the younger and older age groups. “That's OK. Before you walk you gotta crawl,” Kirkland said.
League President Steve Tritto regards the addition of girls softball as the best thing to happen to Derry's Little League program in a long time.
We're here with two great teams playing championship softball on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. It doesn't get any better than this, and their success is a testament to the four team managers and all the parents,” Tritto said.
Coach Walalis almost didn't make it through the tension of the sixth inning.
We've been battling all year long with this team. They've had our number all season, beat us every game we played,” Walalis said, pacing a little as his daughter Ashley settled into the zone.
Although the game remained close and was all tied up, 9-9 in the fifth inning, Brownell took a three run lead in the sixth, and held it for three fast outs, erupting in cheers as they ran victoriously to the dugout.
After trophies were handed out to both teams, Walalis called his team back for one last bit of coaching.
Everybody, hands in,” he said, as the girls made a circle around him, clutching trophies in one hand and piling their outstretched free hands into the center. “I couldn't be prouder of you girls. One last time, Brownell Insurance, on three.”
And with that, the girls called it a season – “One-two-three-BROWNELLINSURANCE,” free hands flying up in the air, a fitting end to the beginning of something bigger than all of them.
*Editor's note: Thank you for all the Anonymous comments. Unfortunately that makes it hard to  respond directly, but to those parents disappointed about 'coverage' of the game, let me clarify:
 I came out to get a photo of the championship team, not to provide coverage of the game. I arrived after 2:30 pm expecting the game to be wrapping up, but due to rain delays which I wasn't aware of, I got there at the top of the game, not the bottom. Instead of going home, I stayed for the next 90 minutes on my own time, standing on the "visitor's" side where I was directed when I arrived, and mainly took shots at the end, of the teams congratulating one another, receiving trophies and then of Brownell celebrating victory. It was never intended to be a photo shoot of the game. I did do a feature about the league in May when it launched, and took photos of both teams at that time. That story is archived, and photos were posted here. While I understand the feeling that some feel Derry Imaging should have been featured more prominently after such a great season, I am not a League photographer; I was there for the news, and on this particular day, it was to take a photo that summed up the game's outcome. I posted the slides at the request of several parents who saw me taking photos after the game. It was meant as a courtesy, not a slight, and I just wanted the chance to explain. I also wanted to point out that of the town's three newspaper's, I was the only reporter/photographer who came out for the championship game. CR

June 27, 2010


Union Leader Correspondent
NEWTON – Ann Byers is walking on sunshine. She's also using it to power every appliance in her house, now that all her solar dreams have come true.
“I attended the first Earth Day in 1970. I remember the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the oil crisis in 1979 with Jimmy Carter, and the gas lines. Back then, I wanted solar power so badly, but it was a technology that was out of reach for most people. Now, it's right in my back yard,” said Byers, practically misty over the blue-and-silver solar tree that has become the MVP of her 50-acre family tree farm.
“Isn't it beautiful?,” she says, watching the afternoon sun drench the 14-panel solar photovoltaic array looming in her yard in what's called a grid-tie connection – it turns sunshine into electricity through an inverter, which feeds directly into her electrical system. On the sunniest of days, if the panel absorbs maximum energy, her meter will spin backwards, as it did last week, feeding excess solar energy back into the grid.
It's something Byers refers to as having a “LITINU” day – that's Unitil spelled backwards – on her daily blog, Harvesting the Sun, where she is chronicling her experiences living solar.
Brian Pellerin, a principal with Freedom Renewable Energy in Derry, predicts Byers will probably never pay another electric bill.
“Ann is unique in that she is doing a lot of other things to live green and reduce her energy consumption. But anyone can realize dramatic savings by going solar,” said Pellerin.
His company, established in 2007, is relatively new in a rapidly growing and competitive field of alternative energy providers. Using solar science, Pellerin's crew will give a free estimate of the viability of going solar by using a Solar Pathfinder, a globe-shaped instrument that can actually show down to the hour, how much sun your property gets every day of the year.
“For the first two years we guarantee the amount of savings you'll realize, and if not, we will pay you the difference,” Pellerin said. “We try and make the investment foolproof.”
That was the beginning of what impressed Byers so much. She knew she wanted to go solar, but in learning about how efficient – and affordable – the new technology is, she was moved to launch the blog in the hope that others will join her on the sunshine express.
“I called around for the longest time, but I couldn't get anyone to come out to my house to even see if it was doable. You don't know how frustrating that was, or how much this means to me, to be relying on the sun to power my home,” said Byers.
In dollars and cents, the cost of solar is about $8 per watt installed, said Pellerin. So using Byers' 14-panel 3,000-kilowatt array as an example, the cost on paper was $24,000. Minus the 30 percent federal tax credit being offered as part of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, Byers will get back about $8,000 from the government, plus another $6,000 rebate check from the state, bringing her total investment down to about $10,000.
“And given her electric savings, Ann's system will pay for itself within about five years,” Pellerin said.
Such incentives are meant to spur a burgeoning industry, Pellerin said. The federal tax rebate is good through 2016, and the state rebate is drawn from quarterly cap-and-trade auctions which fund the state's renewable energy program.
In addition, newly-passed legislation known as PACE, or Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing, will make renewable energy more affordable for everyone, Pellerin said. Under PACE, municipalities will lend money to property owners to install an energy efficiency project which is then repaid through a rider on the property owner's taxes.
Byers said her journey began with baby steps. Although her mind and and spirit have always been Earth friendly, it took a while for Byers' lifestyle to catch up.
“I wasn't even composting,” she says in hushed tones, unable to mask the shame she feels for her lapse in garbage collecting.
In a former life she living in a condo with her husband, Harry, and teen-aged daughter, half of a two-car family working in marketing for a major money center bank. Then her job was moved to Boston, which meant a longer commute and more time away from home.
“My husband begged me not to buy another pizza for dinner. It had become a quality of life issue,” Byers said.
So 20 years ago she became a stay-home mom, got involved in her community, joined the Master Gardener group through UNH Cooperative Extension and got involved with the family tree farm, mostly white pines, which she took on after moving back into her childhood home in Newton.
“We do good forestry management. It's helped me get rooted in the earth,” said Byers.
She composts everything she can, and uses a Solar Oven to bake things outside between April and October. They h installed a wood-burning cook stove in the kitchen, which heats the entire house, and an induction cook top which cooks more efficiently without generating heat. They have replaced every light bulb with compact fluorescents, and recently invested in a Sundanzer refrigerator and freezer, which will run off a DC battery powered by the sunshine she's harvesting.
Their old hot-water heater was replaced three years ago with one that's “on demand,” eliminating the holding tank of preheated water, and her old oil tank is rusting in the basement, a monument to how carbon neutral she's become.
“This is all the process of a dream for me,” said Byers. But I'm not just on a personal mission. It's an American thing to do, a patriotic thing to do. As a country, we have to get away from fossil fuel. Otherwise, what kind of earth are we leaving to our children? Forty years ago we were moving in the right direction. It's taken a while to get back to the point where people are excited again about solar energy, but it's happening.”

June 26, 2010


Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – “I'm sorry; you have cancer,” the words hit Carol Cascadden like a brick when her doctor delivered the diagnosis five years ago. It was the beginning of an 18-month journey through chemotherapy and self-discovery.
But she has lived to tell her story.
“I'm so grateful I survived,” said Cascadden, who needed a tissue to dry her eyes as she stepped up to the Survivors registration table last night. Her emotions got the better of her on the drive from her Hampstead home to Pinkerton Academy's football field for the 14th annual Relay For Life.
All that she'd endured, all that she'd suffered, all that she'd feared and all that she'd conquered welled up inside of her. As she walked through the gates and took in the scene – a tent city surrounded by a sea of cancer warriors – the signs, the decorations, the balloons, the team T-shirts, the spirit of solidarity against a common foe was just what she needed to remind her just how good it feels to be alive.
“It's my first relay. I have wanted to be here, but since the cancer I've had quite a few mishaps,” said Cascadden, elaborating on the unbelievable run of bad luck that had her on a first-name basis with paramedics and hospitalized several more times for a broken hip, two broken wrists, a snapped Achilles tendon and a fractured pelvis.
“When you hear those words, that you have cancer, you think your life is over,” Cascadden said.
But five years later, her life is well worth celebrating, so she gathered with some of her friends from the Londonderry Curves who formed a team to raise money to support those who, like Cascadden, have walked through the darkest of places, never knowing when the light of day would return.
The Curves crew was one of 89 teams that registered for the annual event which, last year, raised more than $200,000 for the American Cancer Society. It is the largest of the 22 Relays held throughout the state each year, said Brigit Ryan, of the ACS regional office in Bedford.
What brings many people back year after year to walk through the night for a worthy cause is the tradition and camaraderie, including the various theme laps, where participants get to dress up in costume or compete as they make their way around the track.
One of the favorite and most solemn moments comes at 9 p.m. each year, during the Luminaria Quiet Hour. Candles are lit and a slide show flips through photos of loved ones lost to cancer. This year that hour – and this relay – was dedicated to Betty Jane "BJ" Allgaier, who served as co-chair of the annual event for the past three years. Although she survived breast cancer for a decade, last fall the disease resurfaced in her lungs. She died in April, leaving a void within the Relay community, said Steve Dente, a Rotarian who has been part of the organizational team for years.
BJ was the No. 1 advocate for those with cancer. She was a powerful woman. She had a powerful voice, and was behind so much of what this event is about,” said Dente, unable to finish the thought through his tears. “We are all missing her tonight.”

At the beginning of the event, participants gathered around the grandstand. Survivors in dark purple T-shirts came forward for carnations while the rest of the crowd sustained applause for several minutes until the last flowers were handed out.
Survivor Jason Phelps stepped to the microphone.
Cancer is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I've never looked back, never asked 'why me.' I started meeting new people – at first mainly doctors and nurses. But then I met other patients, other survivors. I got involved in Making Strides, and Relay for Life, and I met people who think cancer sucks and want to find a cure,” said Phelps. “It changed my attitude about life.”

June 23, 2010

WWII hero Borowski dead at 90

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Long before he was a war hero – and for many years after – Walter Borowski was just a homegrown son of a farmer, one of a dozen children born here to Polish immigrants, a scrappy kid who learned how to win a school yard fight and always looked forward to spring.
That's when he could get his hands dirty in the rich Derry soil, tilling and planting, tending and reaping what he had sown from the earth.
On Saturday, just as the summer sun was beginning to warm the soil to perfection, Borowski died at home at the age of 90, never to realize another harvest.
Although he could have lived his life in obscurity, his valorous story was uncovered by former town historian Rick Holmes, who spent long hours with Borowski chronicling his service to his country during his D-Day adventures as a “cliff climber” at Point du Hoc in France.
Holmes understood the significance of what Borowski had done, of all he'd seen and of all he'd never forget. Holmes calculated the miraculous odds against which Borowski survived as one of the first U.S. Army Special Forces Rangers to scale the cliffs and face German artillery fire.
After two years of planning with several others, Holmes arranged for Borowski to receive a Legion of Honor medal, France's highest military award. It was pinned to his suit jacket by French Consul General Christophe Guilhou on February 4, now also known as “Walter Borowski Day.”
Yesterday Holmes steeled himself as he attended services for Borowski, grateful for the invaluable gift of history that he received from his dear old friend over the past few years.
“I kept thinking yesterday that, in the framework of his 90 years, Walter survived 66 years and 13 days longer than most of his comrades, who were lost in the invasion,” Holmes said. “Almost everyone who was with him died.”
As it turns out, Borowski was to receive another honor. This Saturday he would be one of two people given the Pinkerton Academy Bradford V. Ek Honored Alumnus Award, given biennially to Pinkerton graduates whose lives have contributed honor to the school and its ever-growing alumnus association, now 17,000 strong.
Borowski, already a Pinkerton Hall of Famer, was a 1937 graduate of the high school, said Robin Perrin, Pinkerton's Director of Alumni.
“Walter knew about the award. Rick Holmes had prepared him a few weeks ago for the Saturday luncheon. I decided it would mean more to his family to have the award delivered during calling hours just prior to the service, so I took it to them. It seemed to really mean a lot to them, to be able to have it in their hands,” Perrin said.
Borowski, whose kidneys have been slowly failing, talked at length during an interview in January about how he felt just before the impending Medal of Honor ceremony. He confessed to being more scared of facing the crowd than he was of swimming ashore in the dark, uncertain calm before the eventual storm of brutal combat that followed.
Borowski survived the experience, but carried with him the wounds of war that never heal.
“Maybe I'm the last of the surviving Rangers -- I don't know,” said Borowski, in January. “All I know is I was one of the first ones over the cliffs that day. We spent the next six days in hell. After the war – after I lost my brother and saw all the bad things in this world, the camps where thousands upon thousands of human bodies were bulldozed – I had enough. I just wanted to come home.”
On Feb. 4, after Borowski received the ribbon and absorbed as much applause from his admirers as he could stand, he gathered his thoughts and addressed the group, humbly dedicating his war ribbon to the memory of all of those who did not survive, including his older brother, Jerry, a paratrooper who landed in France on D-Day ahead of Borowski and was killed in combat the next day.
“For my fellow Rangers. We went through hell, but we did it, “Borowski said. “Thank you.”

She's tackling the world

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Jennifer Pirog knows that this is her once in a lifetime moment and so she's running with it like she's just intercepted a game-winning touchdown, and is closing in on the end zone.
Not only is the 41-year-old Manchester Freedom wide receiver from Derry in the best shape of her seven-year football career, but she's about to make history as one of 45 American women participating in the first-ever International Federation of American Football Women's World Championship next week in Stockholm, Sweden.
Six teams representing the best female athletes from around the globe – USA, Austria, Canada, Germany, Finland and Sweden – will go head-to-head for the championship. Although the U.S. team is the No. 1 seed going into the games, win or lose, all of the players are there to demonstrate their passion for the sport while putting women's football on the international map.
Priog has been in Austin, Texas, all week practicing with top players, culled from IFAF teams around the country, for a crash course in teamwork.
“I can't quite describe what it means to be here at this point in my career. It's exhilarating to be with all these women who are really, really good players. It's like we're one team, even though we may play each other in our regular season, it's like we've been together forever,” said Pirog during a phone interview from Austin Monday between workouts.
She grew up in Merrimack in a football-centric family, but never got to play on teams like her brothers. Seven years ago she heard about a women's league in Massachusetts and tried out, but that league fell apart.
Then she found Freedom in Manchester.
Pirog was a quick study and fast became one of the team's most well-rounded players, said Dave Sarvis, former head coach and current director of operations.
“What sets Jen apart? She's a former power lifter and has been actively involved in sports since she was young, so she brings that natural competitive nature and desire to be the best at her craft to the field with her,” said Sarvis. “She's highly motivated and critical of her self, and that makes her a bona fide athlete and standout player.”
Current owner of the Freedom, Ray Simoneau, explained the international tournament is a test run for what organizers hope will be a recurring event.
“It's a pilot series, something they're thinking about doing it every four years, so this is a trial. Although women's football has been popular for years in Europe, this is the very first time an American team has gone overseas to play a football game or tournament of this type,” Simoneau said.
Looking forward to the Freedom's 10-year franchise anniversary feels good, said Simoneau. “We're still here, and we find that once fans find us, they stay with us. We've outlived other local football franchises, like the Wolves. I believe women's football is not only here to stay, but after this, it's only going to grow.”
He noted that in addition to Pirog, fellow Freedom teammate Julie Carignan was also called up for the international tournament, doubling the hometown pride for Freedom fans.
“Julie's been with us since day one. She's an outstanding defensive player and puts her heart and soul in the game,” Simoneau said. “In the last couple of years she's been taking on more of a coaching role, she's had some tough injuries. But she was chosen for the international team for her past performances. To be honest, I'm not sure where the team would be without either of these two ladies – they do so much more behind the scenes, and bring so much more to the team than I can say.”
As for Pirog – whose team nickname is Frog “because it rhymes with Pirog and she happens to like frogs” according to Sarvis – her talent and ability are boundless.
“Here's a gal who never played before she came to us, and has learned multiple skills and skill sets for offense and defense. She started as a corner back and developed into what we call a shut down corner. That means you can put her one-on-one with the best athlete on the field and know we can take that athlete out of game and make them a non-factor. Her coverage techniques are that good,” Sarvis said.
She went on to learn special teams and had a lot of interceptions, so her open field running ability stood out, and she became our punt returner. Because of that, she made her way onto offense where she learned both running back and wide receiver positions. She went from zero to star athlete and a threat in four positions on the field,” Sarvis said.
And off the field, it would be hard to find a more humble or well-tempered person. She's just spectacular, both she and Julie are the kind of players you want to send to an international tournament to represent the United States,” Sarvis said.
Pirog downplays her success as a player with regular doses of reality. Participating in women's football is all about the passion, because she doesn't get paid a dime for it. During the regular season, she works the two weekly practices and Saturday games around her schedule as a hairdresser in Nashua. She's tough, but she's also 41 and will be that much closer to 50 in four years when the next international team is being fielded.
So yeah, I truly know it's a once in a life time thing for me. I say every year it will be my last playing football – been saying that for a while. But maybe, after this, it will really be it,” said Pirog. “It sure would be a good way to end my football career.”
The IFAF Women's World Championship in Stockholm, Sweden is June 26 - July 3 and kicks off with Game 1, U.S. and Austria, on Sunday.  Game video will be available for downloading 24 hours after a game is over.  Video & stats for all games will be available for downloading at: www.2010WWC.info

June 19, 2010

Pinkerton graduates 782 under sunny skies

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It took more than 782 diplomas to graduate Pinkerton Academy's Class of 2010 yesterday. It also required parking spaces for about 5,000 people, maybe half a dozen police officers directing traffic and a large collection of inflatable beach balls to punctuate every speech and award presentation with jubilation.
As family and friends made their way into the Pinkerton football stadium for the 10:30 a.m. ceremony, seniors lined up two-by-two, waiting for the familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” to officially launch the academy's192nd commencement.
Salutatorian Lexi Hamsmith was introduced by Beverly Lannon, Dean of Faculty, who described a young woman who had overcome much adversity and worked hard to achieve academic and personal excellence. Hamsmith moved 15 times in her life before landing at Pinkerton as a sophomore, an experience that taught her how to interact with others with a heightened sense of compassion and understanding.
In her prepared remarks, Hamsmith spoke about how as students their individual lives have been like puzzles constructed of pieces contributed by parents, teachers and peers. Graduation marks the beginning of self-definition, said Hamsmith.
“We finally have the chance to break through the restrictions others have placed on us. Today is the day that we are no longer enclosed by the pieces others have given us and we are granted freedom in the discovery of ourselves,” Hamsmith said.
Class Valedictorian Kelly Glynn touched on the push and pull seniors feel, between academics and social life, as they approach the high school finish line, and the balancing act that will continue, throughout college and the rest of their lives.
“Farewell to the Class of 2010. May each of you find that balance which gives you the most happiness,” Glynn said.
Leading up to diploma time, several students were recognized for their achievements – in total, the senior class received $7.9 million in awards and scholarships, the largest single amount going to Jake Hawkins, who received a four-year Department of the Air Force Scholarship worth $414,000, and will attend the U.S. Air Force Academy's officer training program in Colorado.
Many seniors passed the time between arriving at school and entering the stadium by seeking shade as the mercury climbed toward 90. Ben Proulx found a grassy patch of turf where he listened to music on his iPods.
“Right now? I'm listening to Jack Johnson, 'Upside Down,” said Proulx, who will play football and study criminal justice as a college freshman at Sacred Heart University.
Daniel Rainieri Jr. just wanted to make sure he did something memorable on his last official day of school, so he mounted his mortarboard onto a viking helmet.
“It's a good landmark so we can tell our parents how to find us in the crowd,” said Samantha Robichaud, walking in front of Rainieri. She said she's still contemplating her immediate future, but hopes to travel the world.
“It feels like just the other day we were in second grade, and now here we are,” said Robichaud. “It's been the best four years of my life.”

June 18, 2010

Farm Market coming together for July 7 launch

Last call for vendors goes out as preliminary list is announced.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – Countdown to farm fresh downtown Derry is underway, as the preliminary list of 15 vendors was announced yesterday.
“We had originally projected six to eight vendors, so this is a nice surprise. We will be at full capacity if we get another three vendors, and (market manager) Bev (Ferrante) is still getting calls,” said Stu Arnett, hired to oversee a handful of the town's economic development projects, including orchestrating the market project.
Vendor Patrick Connelly, who runs Field to Fork Farm in Chester, said the opportunity to bring his goods to market so close to home is a perk.
“Until now, I had to go to Exeter to sell,” said Connelly, who runs a small organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, but is slowly growing his business to be able to sell off site.
“I started ramping up production of our laying hens in January – it takes about 22 weeks for a chicken to become a laying hen,” Connolly said. “We're getting there. The eggs are going to start out smaller, but by July or so, we should have larger eggs.”
He said it's also great for residents to be able to buy local, fresh goods and produce, underscoring the national uptick in “locavores,” those who go out of their way to consume locally produced groceries for philosophical reasons.
Connolly said given the trend toward local, he's trying to find the balance between running a small community farm and feeding the hungry masses.
“There's an overwhelming demand for local food lately, and so we're only able to offer a certain amount of meat to customers. We don't want to scale up our production too much, or we'd have a feed lot going, so we're trying to scale up responsibly and make good use of our land,” Connolly said.
Although he will only be bringing certified organic eggs to the downtown market, he also sells goat, beef, pork and chicken from free range livestock through the CSA.
Other vendors signed on for the market include: J& F Farms, Folsom's Sugar House, The Wild Miller Gardens, Mike Gibbons Pottery, Natalie's Coffee, Caroline's Homemade, Rockingham Acres, Jamie's Sweet Temptations, Wicked Good Soaps, The Coffee Factory, Merrill Farm, an herb and spice vendor and some crafters.
Derry's Downtown Farm Market launches July 7 and will run weekly from 3-7 p.m. at the intersection of Broadway and the bike path, at the Town’s “Pocket Park.” Parking will be on-street, and in the nearby municipal lot.
Residents needing to register their vehicles, or pay their Town bills can do double-duty, as the Town Municipal Center is also open until 7 p.m. Wednesdays. The Market is free and open to all.
For further information contact Beverly Ferrante: 434-8974 (home) or Stuart Arnett 419-9154 or 219-0043.

Ellie Sarcione: Church-going, tree-hugging, tender-hearted firecracker.

Ellie Sarcione sits outside her pigeon coop. Credit: Carol Robidoux

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – If there is never an Ellie Sarcione Appreciation Society in this town, it could be that she was simply misunderstood.
Sure, she's a church-going, tree-hugger extreme, and will forever be remembered as the “deer head lady,” for the time a few years back that she delivered a severed deer head to the doorstep of a state Fish and Game official to prove a point about illegal poaching on conservation land.
But beneath her radical, firecracker exterior beats the tender heart of an independent, if not slightly eccentric, thinker.
Earlier this week she appealed to the town council during public comment on a proposed fireworks ordinance, asking if she might be granted a permit to continue using firecrackers to keep hawks from decimating her flock of racing pigeons.
“It's the only way to keep 'the girls' safe,” said Sarcione yesterday, showing off her coop of dapple gray homing pigeons, which she's been nurturing for years.
She had 25 at last count, although she figures there could be another 30 or 40 living in exile at neighboring J&F Farms.
“Sometimes, right before they go into the coop at night, they start to swirl around and around in the sky – it's beautiful,” said Sarcione, who has always had a weakness for animals.
Aside from her great dane, Simba, there are currently two geese families who stop by daily for meals on the shore of her backyard pond, sharing space with the ducks and beaver. She also keeps two feral cats well-fed enough not to give in to the temptation of all the edible woodland creatures that frequent Sarcione's mini wildlife preserve.
Her bird collection started in the 1970s with a pair of white doves, which were stolen, cage and all, from a tree in her yard. One day not long after, while traveling the back road to Londonderry, she noticed a large flock of pigeons. So she pulled over just to see where they were going. Several trips and several bird watching expeditions later, Sarcione tracked the pigeons to the yard of big time pigeon racer Bob Gorton, who taught her everything she needed to know to raise a flock of her own.
“It's just fun watching them. It's relaxing,” said Sarcione, who has had more than her fair share of reasons to stress.
Ellie Sarcione and "the girls." Credit: Carol Robidoux
She sits down in the grass and scans the clouds for pigeons, her expression softening when she glimpses four or five darting across the open space above her yard.
“My husband Bill was killed in a motorcycle accident. It will be 21 years in September,” said Sarcione. “After he died, I had to close our business. I took four jobs just to survive. My mother died four days after Bill, she fell and hit her head and had a subdural hematoma. I wanted to go down to Florida to be with her, but I had to bury my husband.”
She pulls her legs closer to her chest and watches a few more pigeons return to the roost.
“My dad was killed by a tractor trailer on my 16th birthday. To this day, I haven't opened the birthday card he had for me. I still have it. I don't need to open it. I was turning Sweet 16 – I know what he was telling me. We always had a special bond,” said Sarcione.
“That's why I'm such a tomboy at heart – I asked him once if he'd wished he'd had another son instead of a daughter. We golfed and played tennis, spent time fixing things and doing things – he just wanted me to always be able to take care of myself, to reach down inside myself and find what I needed to pull myself back up, because no one else will do it for you,” said Sarcione.
Both she and her brother were adopted, a fact of her life she always knew. But the details never followed. She has tried to find out more about her birth parents, but 70 years ago records were not kept the way they are today.
“I've had a blood test, and so I know I have some Native blood. I also have a rare blood type – AB Rh D negative,” which is why, she explains, she was never able to have children.
“Sometimes I ask God why am I still here, when everyone I have loved is gone – and I never got to say goodbye to any of them. I figure maybe it's to tell people you don't ever get over it, but you learn how to live with it,” Sarcione said.
“After my husband died, I never remarried. You have one love in your life and he was it. I guess I've transferred all that love to great danes and birds,” said Sarcione, tossing some cracked corn on the grass as she calls out “babygoosebabygoose.”
Seconds later, two goose families waddle ashore.
She takes Simba for daily five-mile walks through the woods – she figures it must be her Native American blood that binds her so closely to nature, that makes her such a warrior for conservation and preservation of the land.
“This morning I was outside early, and someone threw something out the car window as they passed by my house, so I hollered at him. He turned around, came back and explained he was just delivering newspapers,” said Sarcione, pausing to smile.
“He went on to tell me he was later than usual because his daughter was graduating, and I apologized for yelling at him. I thanked him for coming back to explain – it was so nice, really. People don't take the time to do that kind of thing anymore,” Sarcione said.
“You know, I've been called eccentric – hell, I've been called a lot of things. I just say that if I am, I've worked hard at it all my life.”
Ellie Sarcione with the resident goose family on her Derry property. Credit: Carol Robidoux

June 17, 2010

'Curtain closed on Windogate' investigation

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – An investigation into accusations of impropriety on the part of two councilors in handling of the bidding process for new windows for the Taylor Library is an open and shut case, after the council voted last night to drop the matter by a vote of 3-2-2.
A report presented Tuesday night to the council by Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse summarized his findings after interviewing eight people involved in the “windowgate” dispute.
I have come to the conclusion that this matter was, in reality, a misunderstanding between the Taylor Trustees and Council member (David) Milz,” wrote Stenhouse in his conclusion.
The investigation was requested by Councilor Brad Benson, who asked Stenhouse if he would look into allegations leveled at the June 1 Council meeting, during which Councilors Janet Fairbanks and Kevin Coyle questioned statements in the official Taylor Library trustees minutes that seemed to indicate that Milz had been asked by Benson for a copy of the quotes for replacement windows with the intention of under bidding the work.
Benson maintains that he knew nothing about the request, and had no intention of bidding on the work. Milz said he was just trying to be helpful by offering to get Benson's professional opinion to help the trustees decide, after discussion over the disparity in bids – from $300 to $1,800. Milz stressed that he had not consulted with Benson in advance of the trustees meeting – his first since appointed Council liaison – and Milz said he did not even know what was on the agenda.
Stenhouse said he spent 10 hours interviewing both councilors and members of the library board, including secretary Carla Carney, who was responsible for recording the minutes. In his report, Stenhouse said Carney told him that she believed the minutes to be “fairly accurate,” but added that the minutes are prepared from her handwritten notes and “not meant to be a verbatim account.”
Fairbanks said she was surprised to learn that Stenhouse had conducted the investigation, saying that was not what she meant when she asked two weeks ago for an investigation.
This is not what we asked for. It puts Gary in a bad situation seeing as how he answers directly to Brad,” Fairbanks said. “We didn't vote as a board, so I'm not sure how it got turned over to Gary. I had to read about it in the newspaper.”

Benson clarified that he had asked Stenhouse to sort out the dispute following the last council meeting in an effort to settle the matter quickly.

Coyle said he would have rather followed the town charter's directive, which would be for the council to investigate the matter as a board.
Councilor Neil Wetherbee, who led the discussion in Benson's place as vice Chair, said he did not see a conflict with asking Stenhouse to investigate and was satisfied that his report was fair and thorough.

From there, the discussion devolved into a dispute over Benson's management style, with Coyle and Fairbanks accusing Benson of micromanaging the process for investigation, as well as other agenda items since taking over the chairman's role.
Benson took issue with the accusation, and countered by asking why neither Coyle nor Fairbanks thought to ask him directly about the questionable minutes prior to formally requesting an investigation during a public meeting.
Quite honestly, in a more civilized society, I would've gotten a phone call asking me 'What is this about, can you explain?' But in this society, it's about going to the press and releasing things,” said Benson.

At that point Benson said he wanted to end the discussion and move to a vote, to which Fairbanks said, “I guess we're being micromanaged again.”

A motion made by Fairbanks to look further into the matter failed to pass – Fairbanks and Coyle voted in favor, Wetherbee, Olbricht and Chirachiello voted against, and Benson and Milz abstained.

Council not ready to reinstitute fireworks ban

A motion to accept the fireworks ordinance at Tuesday's meeting was tabled, as councilors looks for public input
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY – It doesn't matter which way you head into Londonderry from here – north or west – in the time it takes to count to 20 you can be pulling into a fireworks retailer. What you do next depends on what the town Council decides about the town's antiquated fireworks ban.
As it stands, if you drive back home with your box of Heavy Hitter maximum charge 33-shot star-spangled explosives, you are breaking the law. Although there is no statewide restriction on the sale of fireworks, municipalities can enforce restrictions for sales, possession and use.
Last night Police Chief Ed Garone, Capt. Vern Thomas and Fire Chief George Klauber all spoke in favor of reinforcing the town's standing fireworks ordinance, which bans the sale, possession and display of fireworks in Derry.
On a technicality, the ordinance needs refreshing – the minutes from the council meeting where the ban was established, sometime in the 1980s, are missing from town records.
Whether prompted by the number of fireworks retailers popping up in Londonderry – the newest, Alamo, is just a cherry bomb's throw away from TNT, both just over the Derry town line on Route 102 – or just a matter of trying to reduce the number of nuisance calls to police is not clear.
But Tuesday night, safety officials came before the council asking them to vote in favor of maintaining the ban. Council put off the vote, unanimously tabling any action.
Councilor Kevin Coyle sought clarity.
“Chief, under the ordinance people can drive to Londonderry to buy fireworks, cross back into Derry and be violating the law? Coyle asked Garone.
“It would be unlawful to possess them in Derry,” Garone replied in the affirmative, igniting a lively discussion.
.“It just doesn't make sense to me, where you can buy these things and say, oh by the way you can't use them,” said Coyle. “It's like saying you can buy the marijuana, but don't smoke it.”
“Only in New Hampshire do you have package stores on the state highways,” said Town Administrator Gary Stenhouse.
Klauber pointed out that currently stores are obligated by ordinance to find out where customers reside and inform people when they purchase fireworks if they are illegal in their town.
“It's the same for towns like Manchester, Nashua and Hudson, where fireworks are illegal. It's part of the current RSA,” Klauber said.
The council was uncomfortable voting on the ordinance Tuesday, so close to a holiday dedicated to the pursuit of a fantastic fireworks.
“I realize the arguments on both sides of the issue, but I would hope people would take the opportunity to contact us and weigh in on this. I'm just not comfortable voting on this two weeks before July 4,” Councilor Neil Wetherbee said.
Stenhouse pointed out that even if they voted to maintain a ban Tuesday night, the ordinance would not go into effect for 30 days. In the meantime, police consider the former council's vote banning fireworks to be valid, and continue to treat fireworks complaints as such.
Yesterday, Councilor Davie Milz said he's received two e-mails from constituents, both against permitting fireworks in town.
“But both of those were based on the noise factor – no one expressed any concerns about safety,” Milz said. He reluctantly admitted that he has some experience with fireworks on his four-acre lot, but has always done it by the book, keeping safety in mind.
“I am conflicted in that, where I live, you might be bothering five people within in a mile radius. But people who live downtown, there's no way of controlling where the fireworks will go or how many neighbors you will bother. When we discuss this again, I would certainly be in favor of establishing a cut-off time – otherwise, you're always going to have people with a couple of beers in them blowing off fireworks at midnight, and that doesn't help anyone,” Milz said.
An unscientific poll of a dozen people shopping yesterday at Hood Plaza showed all in favor of allowing fireworks – but perhaps with a permit system.
Frank Sanchez of Londonderry said he attends Derry's annual fireworks display – which is sanctioned – but questions how the town aims to enforce a ban, given the enticement of border stores.
“My biggest thing about fireworks is that you need to have someone responsible in charge, to keep it safe. Other than that, how can you ban anything in a place where the motto is 'Live Free or Die'?” Sanchez said.
Sharon Hayward of Derry said her son has been known to shoot fireworks on their two-acre lot on the east side of town, without incident.
“It's ridiculous. It's no different than the liquor wars in Salem, where they have New Hampshire and Massachusetts state troopers waiting to arrest people who cross back over the border after buying alcohol. Banning something doesn't stop people from buying it. They will find a way. You have to take personal responsibility,” Hayward said.
She would like to see the Council consider time restrictions to keep peace between neighbors and permits to help officials keep tabs on where to expect explosions.
But she is less concerned about a little noisy celebration on national holidays during summer months.
“We've been here 35 years, and my neighbor used to light a canon every Fourth of July. Everybody prepared for it. We expected it. My other neighbor is a veteran, and every Veteran's Day he used to invite his veteran friends over and they'd shoot their guns in a salute,” Hayward said. “Every year I had to give my dog a pill in advance, to get him through it – who am I to spoil someone's fun on a holiday?”