January 31, 2011

Snow removal budgets stretched thin

Union Leader Correspondent
REGION -- With a January of near-nonstop winter weather -- and another storm brewing this week -- town snow removal budgets are feeling the pinch.
“Our crews have been basically working nonstop since the first storm in January,” said Derry Public Works Director Mike Fowler on Friday. “It seems like one never-ending storm because as easy as it may look on the first day of a storm, we’re out in advance of the storm and out for the following days cleaning and pushing back snowbanks.”
Fowler estimates that he has spent about $450,000 – or 75 percent – of his $600,000 winter maintenance budget this season. That money is supposed to last until June, he said.
Salem is already just $8,000 shy of overspending its snow budget, just one month into the town’s new budget cycle, said Salem Public Works Director
 Rick Russell.
Since Jan. 1, Russell said Salem has spent $492,000 of its $500,000 budget. This month alone he said Salem has seen 42 inches of snow, just two inches short of the snow total for all of last season.
“It seems like everything has been coming since the day after Christmas,” Russell said. “Our guys have had very little rest and it seems like
 they’ve had only two or three days off because when it stops snowing, we’re not done.”
In Windham, Highway Agent Jack McCartney said he is about halfway through his $168,000 budget for snow plowing services and two-thirds of the way through his $85,000 sand and salt allotment.
 “There’s only been a few storms, but the problem is that because of the cold weather we are always out sanding and salting the roads,” McCartney said. “They were so close together and there have been so many single-digit days that there’s no melt. Usually there’s a January thaw, but January’s over and we don’t have a thaw to help us out.” 

McCartney said large snow accumulations in the winter can also lead to flooding and drainage issues through the spring. 
“One thing leads to another and that’s generally the stuff that hurts even more than when you have a lot of storms,” he said. “It kills our budget.” 
Windham’s winter maintenance budget has been stable for the past three years, McCartney said, and when he reaches that limit, he must makes cuts in other areas of the highway department budget. 
Fowler said that Derry’s past practice has been to similarly find other areas to cut back in the wider public works department. 
“Sometimes with the repaving of a road or something like that that we purposefully wait to get through the winter season before we actually do them in April or May, just in case,” Fowler said. 
Fowler said the town could also ask the council to release reserve funds to support winter maintenance efforts. 
In Salem, where the town has a second deliberative session in March, town officials can ask voters for more winter maintenance money as needed. 
Salem Finance Director Jane Savastano said the town has asked for more snow funding just once in the past six years, with a request of an extra $400,000 in 2008. Last year, voters removed $200,000 from the $900,000 winter maintenance allotment after a season of limited snowfall, she said. 
As a last resort, Savastano said selectmen could take money from a snow trust fund to put toward the winter maintenance budget. 
But though money is tight, officials say no changes are made to maintenance protocols. 
“We change nothing and we will not compromise public safety,” Russell said. “People ask what we will do to cut back and save money, but you don’t start cutting back when you’re out of money. If there’s a way to do that safely, we’d be doing that all along.” 

Local races shape up

Union Leader Correspondents
DERRY/LONDONDERRY -- All Derry council and school board incumbents will face challengers in their March bids for re-election, while in Londonderry very few incumbents have signed up to run again.
Derry Town Council Chair Brad Benson will ask voters to support him with a second term as councilor at-large, but he will be up against three challengers.
Doug Newell, who has twice run for town council but never been elected, is also seeking the councilor at-large seat.
Newell has served on two charter commissions, is a member of the Derry school district fiscal advisory board and is a founding member of the Alliance of Derry Taxpayers. He said he has started four successful businesses over the span of a 35-year business career.
“Business development is important and I know what goes on in the formation of a business,” Newell said. “I know how businessmen think and I know what might bring them to Derry and what might drive them away.”
Jeff Lawman, who recently ran for the school board, has also thrown his name in for councilor at-large. Lawman has spent 20 years in the quality assurance and reliability engineering industry.
“I have an entire career based on not discussing and philoso­
phizing about issues, but actually solving them,” he said. “If I don’t have an actual solution in mind, I don’t want to waste a bunch of people’s time talking about it.” 

Maria Lebel, wife of state Rep. James Webb of Derry, also filed her candidacy for councilor at-large. Lebel could not be reached for comment. 
Council Vice Chair Neil Wetherbee, who represents District 3, will also seek reelection in March. 
Shannon Coyle, wife of Councilor Kevin Coyle, will vie for the District 3 position. This would be the first public office for Coyle, who works as a police officer in Londonderry. 
“I’ve been watching the town council and its activities over the last six years and I just wanted to take my turn putting forth the effort to improve Derry,” said Coyle. 
“Not everything they’ve done is bad, but I think it’s time to do something a little different and I want to enter my opinion into the ranks of town and move it one step forward.” 
Kevin Coyle, who has one more year on the council, has filed his candidacy for a term on the school board. 
“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, with one year left on the town council,” said Coyle. “I’m hoping to add a different voice to the school board. It’s been for a long time that the same people and their friends run and there’s never been some real competition. This year people will have a choice, which I think is good.” 
If elected to the school board, Kevin Coyle said he would fill out the remainder of his council term, with one year of overlap. 
Three others will also be running for two positions on the school board, including incumbent Wendy Smith. Current school board member Mark Grabowski decided not to seek reelection. 
Daniel McKenna, who has served on the school district’s fiscal advisory board for 5 years, will make his first run for a position on the school board in March. McKenna has twice served as a state representative and is a full-time law student. 
“I think the school board has done a good job over the past few years, but I think the next couple years will be challenging and important for the schools,” McKenna said. “I want to bring a new perspective and some new blood to the board.” 
Katherine Prudhomme-O’Brien is also seeking her first term on the school board. 
As a homeschool parent, Prudhomme-O’Brien said she would bring a unique perspective to the board. Prudhomme- O’Brien taught her eldest daughter at home until high school and currently homeschools her 9-year-old daughter. 
“I have a right to have a say because not only am I a taxpayer, but as a homeschooler, I have an interesting perspective on what it means to educate children,” she said. “I think creatively because I’ve educated my daughters on 40 or 50 dollars every year.” 
In Londonderry 
The town’s filing period for both town and school positions began Jan. 19 and ended at 5 p.m. on Jan. 28. 
The terms of School Board members John Robinson and George Herrmann are expiring this March. 
Incumbent Robinson filed for re-election shortly after the filing period opened, School Board Clerk Lynn MacDonald confirmed, though Herrmann previously said he wished to take some time off from politics. 
Residents Glenn Douglas, Nancy Hendricks and Todd Joncas all announced their candidacy for school board over the past week. 
This year’s town openings include two three-year terms on the Town Council, two three-year terms on the Budget Committee, two three-year terms on the trustees of the Leach Library, and one threeyear term on the trustees of the trust funds. 
The terms of town councilors Paul DiMarco and Mike Brown expire this March, along with the terms of Budget Committee members Don Jorgensen, Dan Lekas and Mark Oswald. 
Neither DiMarco nor Brown is seeking another council term. DiMarco served a single town council term and previously was on the Planning Board, while Brown previously served on the Budget Committee, the zoning board and had been a town councilor for the past two terms. 
Three residents, Deborah Shimkonis Nowicki, Tom Freda and Joe Green, will vie for the two open council seats. 
On the Budget Committee, just one of the three incumbents, Dan Lekas, is seeking re-election. Residents Chris Melcher and Tom Dalton have also filed for Budget Committee. 
Seeking to fill two library trustee positions are John Velliquette, William Bringhurst and Karen Goodman. 
John Velliquette and Donald Moskowitz will vie for the sole opening on the trustees of the trust funds. 

At Mack's, the pies have it!

Pelham resident Sabina Chen beamed with her son, Milo, while showing off her winning ribbon Saturday afternoon after earning second place for traditional pies in the 21st Mack’s Apple Pie Contest. 
Union Leader Correspondent
Derry’s Deborah Pierce earned first
place for traditional pies
 in the apple pie contest Saturday
at Mack’s Apples in Londonderry. 

LONDONDERRY -- The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In that spirit, residents from Londonderry and beyond gathered inside Mack’s Apples farm store Saturday afternoon for some good old-fashioned New England fun during the orchard’s 21st annual Apple Pie Contest.
Thirty contestants vied for top pie, with 38 pies spread across the table, tempting the palates of a baker’s dozen of local “celebrity” judges.
Twenty-three pies were traditional, two-crust pies, while another 15 pies contained nontraditional ingredients such as cream, nuts, other fruits and even cheese. Twenty other locals had signed up for the contest in advance, but didn’t show up to the farm store on contest day.
Though turnout was lower than in previous years, when
 sometimes over 80 pies were up for judging, the spirit of the longtime tradition was alive and well, with local maple proprietor Hank Peterson serving, yet again, as one of the event’s judges. 

“He’s sort of our Supreme Court judge,” joked orchard owner Andy Mack Jr. “And he has a very refined palate.” 
This year’s entrants ranged from many first-timers, to those who’ve competed in up to 20 previous contests, along with many past year’s winners. 
Over the years, Mack and Peterson have judged an estimated 1,000 or so pies. “And we’re still both pretty thin,” Mack said. “So pie must be good for you.” 
Pies were judged on a seven-point basis for flavor, and three-points for appearance. The reason for this practice, Mack noted, is simple. “If a pie tastes good, then who really cares what it looks like,” he said. “It’s a very scientific application here,” Peterson agreed. 
Within 20 minutes, the judges retired to their chambers to ponder which confections had made it to the final round. “There’s an element of chance here, for sure, but we’ve had rather consistent results,” Mack said. 
Another 20 minutes later, around half of the pies on the table had made it to the final round. 
Upon learning that her nontraditional Peanut Butter Apple Pie had made it to the final round, Londonderry resident Samantha Morrill screeched with delight, and immediately grabbed her cell phone to send her mother a text message. 
Morrill, whose pie earned her second place in the Non-Traditional category, said it was her fourth time entering the contest, though this year was the first time she’d made it past the first round. 
“I worked some of the pie’s kinks out since last year,” she said with a grin. 
Londonderry’s Jason Phelps, a self-professed foodie, entered the contest for the first time this year, making both a traditional pie and a pie he called “Apple Cheddar Crunch.” 
One challenge he faced was honing the perfect piecrust. “We determined lard was the winner,” said Phelps, who didn’t place in this year’s contest. “Before my aunt advised me otherwise, I was a butter and Crisco guy.” 
Winning this year’s traditional pie contest was Deborah Pierce of Derry. Sabina Chen of Pelham garnered second place, while Londonderry’s Doreen Stubbs took third place. 
Nontraditional winners were Hudson’s Denise La-Roche for first place, Morrill for second place and Tina Starner from Haverhill, Mass., earned third place. LaRoche was last year’s second place winner for traditional pies. 
All six winners were presented with ribbons and goodie bags containing locally-made treats and gift certificates to local eateries, while the First Place winners were each presented with a handcrafted trophy pie plate, proclaiming their winning status. 
For some winning pie recipes, visit www.macksapples.com. 

January 30, 2011

Planning on her own moon landing

Remembering the 40th anniversary of Alan Shepard Jr.'s 
flight to the moon on Apollo 14.

Aspiring astronaut Kealey Cela on the steps of Pinkerton Academy.
She is inspired by Pinkerton alumnus Alan Shepard, and knows the sky's the limit.
Union Leader Correspondent
Alan Shepard, second from left in back
 row, on the steps of Pinkerton Academy, 1938.
DERRY -- It’s likely astronaut and hometown hero Alan Shepard imagined himself exploring outer space even before he was old enough to read.
He loved looking up into the East Derry night sky, beyond the stars.
By the time he was old enough to pick up a Buck Rogers Amazing Stories comic book in the 1930s, it’s certain Shepard had already seen his future.
It was 40 years ago this week that Shepard became America’s fifth “moon man,” navigating Apollo 14 to outer space and back.
Whatever fueled Shepard’s dreams, it was enough to propel him into the history books 10 years before his historic moon walk, as the first American to navigate outer space in 1961.
Today, there are still plenty of kids with other-worldly dreams — that, according to a recent online survey conducted by New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News in which
 about half the 100 respondents agreed that kids still want to be astronauts.
For one such kid, Kealey Cela, the dream has already become somewhat of a reality.
A 16-year-old Pinkerton Academy junior and member of the JROTC program there, Cela is all about aeronautics. She has been to space camp three summers in a row, and even experienced what it’s like to be on a mission to the moon.
“They have these real space shuttle simulators, and they give you different anomalies you have to solve, like on a real mission. If you don’t solve them, you fail. So you have to learn quickly about team work. It’s so real and so amazing,” said Cela.
Because her dad is in the military, Cela learned early on to love jet-propulsion, and the adventures it brought, as she moved from base-to-base in Japan, Hawaii and California, among other places. It was a middle-school teacher in Virginia, however, who encouraged her to pursue the sciences after she had won her third straight science fair.
After moving to Derry three years ago, she finally found her way to NASA’s Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala.
Her fate was sealed.
“I had always wanted to be a pilot.
But space camp was life-changing for me. It set me on a career path. I’ve actually met some astronauts and
 have realized that there are so many opportunities for women in space,” Cela said. 

Julie Shepard Jenkins, front and center, at home with her
family shortly after the return of Apollo 14.
“I would like to be the first woman on the moon.” 
She said with NASA’s development of the Ares rockets, advanced technology which will allow astronauts to first land on the moon and then relaunch to Mars, she feels like it’s fateful.
“This is perfect timing for me, to be getting ready to go to the Naval Academy just as they’re exploring this new era of space travel. Maybe I’ll be the first woman on the moon and the first astronaut to go to Mars,” said Cela. 
There is at least one person on Earth who knows that if you can dream it, you can make it happen. Juliana Shepard Jenkins, daughter of astronaut Alan Shepard, continues to promote space travel through a non-profit scholarship program in her father’s memory. 
“All my life I was surrounded by these brilliant men, these seven astronauts who were hand-picked to make sure the space program succeeded. Like Lewis and Clarke, they were pioneers in space. They not only jumped at the chance to travel beyond this Earth, they had to earn it through hard work,” said Jenkins, now of Texas. 
She was 20 years old when her father made his second journey into space in 1971. 
“I was never worried about him going into space, although I do remember his first flight, when I was just 10. 
I asked him if they were going to be able to get him back down, and he said, ‘Obviously, they won’t put me up if they can’t get me down,’ which was the perfect answer for a 10-year-old,” Jenkins said. 
“By the time he was ready for Apollo 14, I had seen how much it meant to him to return to space. Dad had been grounded with an ear infection right after his first flight. 
He spent the next 10 years constantly working with doctors to get his problem fixed so he could return to space,” Jenkins said. “You know those tubes they put into children’s ears to fix ear infections? 
They’re called ‘Shepard tubes’ because they were first used to help my dad get back into the program, and back in space.” 
In 1984 the Mercury Seven Foundation was established by Shepard and the other surviving Mercury Seven astronauts as a non-profit organization that awards scholarships to college students pursuing careers in aeronautics. 
Her father retired shortly after his successful Apollo 14 mission, and died in 1998. 
Jenkins continues to support his work, and speak to students whenever she can about the importance of America’s space program. 
“I don’t know exactly how traveling into space changed my father’s perspective, but I know he would sit outside and look at the stars at night. He’d study them constantly. He had such a great smile, and I think part of it was that he’d lived his dream,” Jenkins said. “I think for him it was worth it to do what JFK had said: put a man into space. There was no manual. My father — these astronauts — accomplished it, and learned so much from each other along the way.” 

January 29, 2011

Middle-schoolers send strong anti-bullying message

Members of Londonderry Middle School’s new Anti-Bullying Club showed off some of the
student-made posters submitted over the past few days, as the school held its annual Respect Week. This year’s Respect Week featured lessons on bullying and its negative effects.
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Just be nice.
That’s the main message the 20 or so student members of Londonderry Middle School’s newly created Anti Bullying Club hope will resonate with their peers.
This past week marked the school’s Respect Week, a longtime annual tradition for students and staff members. While past Respect Weeks have followed similar themes such as peace, tolerance and diversity,
 this year the guidance department opted for an anti-bullying theme, as it offered an opportunity to educate children on the state’s new anti-bullying laws.
The law, which became effective Jan. 1, includes cyber bullying and school bus incidents in its definition of bullying, and dictates response tiers for the level of bullying, with disciplinary actions to be handled by school administration.
Guidance councilor Nancy Marston said such lessons are nothing new at the middle school, which has always taken a strong stance against bullying behaviors.
With themes such as Random Acts of Kindness Day and Talk To Someone New and Make A New Friend Day students throughout the school were encouraged to
 get hooked on reaching out to their peers. 

Daily intercom messages, featuring skits from Principal Richard Zacchilli and Assistant Principal Wendy Hastings, explained the new state laws using kid-friendly language. 
Students were also asked to create posters with an anti-bullying message. Winning posters will adorn each classroom for the rest of the school year. 
“The word of the week was respect,” Marston said. 
The Anti-Bullying Club was formed earlier this school year, after several seventh graders approached Zacchilli and guidance councilor Heather Newman in hopes of making a difference in their school community. Other classmates soon joined their efforts. The club currently has around 20 seventh grade members, and counting. 
“We didn’t like that our school was filled with bullies and bullying,” club member Anna Hickey said. 
Classmates Kylie Chisholm and Jordan Dufresne said they were originally inspired to take on the cause after watching a film on the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. 
“Respect Week teaches us to be nice, to do for others,” club member Hayley Peters added, while her classmate Aly Aramento decided to jump on board after watching a television news segment on the tragic consequences of bullying. 
“People have killed themselves because the bullying got so bad,” student Casey Daron said. “We just want to say, bullying is never OK.” 
His friend, Matt Hotchkiss, one of the club’s three male members, agreed. “I joined this club to show others that guys need to stand up to bullying as well as girls,” he said. 
On Friday afternoon, members of the club presented an educational video they’d created to the entire school, with students tuning in on televisions set up inside each classroom. 
The skit, which was based on the picture book, “One,” by Kathryn Otoshi, told the story of the color Blue, who was bullied by the color Red, and all the other colors remain silent. 
This all changes when One comes along, and stands up for poor Blue, saying “If someone is mean and picks on me, I, for One, stand up and say NO.” The moral of the story is that everyone matters, and sometimes, kindness begins with the actions of “one.” 
“I thought it was a good message,” eighth grader Haley Dumarsq said after watching the video. “All of us are different, and the same, at different times.” 
“It was really cool to see what happens when a person stands up,” classmate Elise Hennessey agreed. “You can really change how others act.” 

January 28, 2011

The Sled Dog Connection

Pam Lacombe-Connell and her son, Jacy, assemble their sled dog team for a practice run in Auburn. 
Union Leader Correspondent
Jacy Connell helps one of his sled dogs from the truck.
DERRY -- Pam Lacombe-Connell is an accidental musher. If anything, she was roped into sled dog racing by her subconscious urge to get inside the mind of the one animal that, for her whole life, had fascinated her.
Connell is an artist first.
But a dozen years ago, after adopting a Siberian husky mix — a replacement dog for the family Pomeranian — something about the spirit of that dog spoke to Connell.
That, and her husband’s way with wood.
“My husband Stephen loves wooden boats.
That year he was building one. Our son, Jacy, was about 2, and we loved to go hiking in the winter. Anyway, I remember watching my husband bend the wood and create this thing,
 this boat, and that’s when it occurred to me,” Connell said. “So I asked him if he could build us a sled, and the rest is history.”

She is not necessarily an avid musher so much as she’s a joyous musher. It’s her 16-yearold son, Jacy, who has spent more than half his life flying at the heels of the family’s small herd of sprinting hybrid hounds. 
Saturday he will compete in the Vermont Burke Mountain Sled Dog Dash, although Connell wishes they could also attend this weekend’s New England Sled Dog Club race on Lake Chocorua in Tamworth. 
“Tamworth is one of our most favorite races, but we already planned to go see friends in Vermont, otherwise we’d be in Tamworth,” Connell said. 
Other than that, it’s been a lean couple of years in terms of racing. Beth, the matriarch of the pack, became a mother to seven puppies last year, and so their focus has been on training the yearlings to follow Beth’s lead. 
With all the snow lately, Connell and her son try to load up the dogs as often as possible and take them on practice runs in the Auburn woods just off Depot Road. It takes longer to prepare the team than it actually does to sprint the four miles with them — each dog is released from a compartment in the back of the pickup truck and hooked on to a short lead that is anchored to the truck frame. One by one they are harnessed and hitched to the two-man sled.
At this point, anticipation, for the dogs, manifests in a chorus of yowls that would make their coyote ancestors proud. As soon as Connell plunks herself down into the sled and her son steps into place on the back, they are in no time flat skidding over the mounds of snow and fast out of sight. 
Connell said having one Siberian husky led them to adopt another, which coincided with finding out that you didn’t have to live in Alaska to enjoy mushing as a hobby. 
“We found the New England Sled Dog Club, and found out they had a two-dog class race, so we tried it. We were so excited, and we just had to become a part of it,” Connell said. 
She also learned that not all sled dogs look like stars of Disney movies. 

A portrait by Lacombe-Connell.
“That’s probably one of the biggest misconceptions, that sled dogs are all huskies, like the dogs in ‘Snow Dogs,’ or ‘8 Below.’ I thought so too. But then you go to the races and you see these hound hybrids that are more geared for sprinting, like Alaskan greyhounds, and Alaskan pointers. They have a thinner coat and love to work on a team, and have that extra speed,” Connell said. 
“People are surprised when we bring the dogs around. That’s the No. 1 question: Why don’t we race with huskies?” 
In these 12 years since everything turned to mushing, sled dogs have earned Connell’s respect, so much so that they are pretty much the exclusive subject of her artwork. A graduate of Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, Connell acknowledges that it is the mythology of the dog as a breed that has captured her imagination since childhood. 
“All Native American mythology around coyotes, how they can be a mirror of a person, showing us the good and the bad, and the way they teach us lessons, as in Aesop’s Fables. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved dogs, and wolves and coyotes,” Connell said. 
Her home is also her business — an old 1800s-farmhouse in East Derry, which she calls Coyote Farm Fine Arts. 
Every day she paints or draws, mainly portraits of working dogs. It’s a slow process for her; she takes in all the fine details of her four-legged sub-jects, and works particularly hard at making sure their spirit shines through. 
“I take it to heart. I just hope that the respect I have for these dogs is conveyed in my work. I’ve told clients that if they look at a portrait and they don’t see that spark, if I have failed to capture the essence of their pet, I don’t want to charge them for it,” Connell said. 
Although so far, no one has ever rejected a portrait. 
“I always felt it — but never really understood — that special bond that exists between man and dog until I started sledding,” Connell said. “The sincerity of the relationship between musher and dog is hard to put into words. Maybe it’s even hard to express in a work of art, but I try.” 

On the Web: www.sleddogfineart.com

Planning Board OKs Freezer Warehouse expansion

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Following the Planning Board’s unanimous approval, plans for an 82,000-square-foot addition incorporating two Rockingham Road freezer facilities will now head before the Town Council.
Owned by Ed Dougherty, both the Londonderry Freezer Warehouse and Highwood Cold Stor­
Continued From Page A1 
age are located at 219 Rockingham Road. 
Initial expansion plans were presented to the Planning Board on Dec. 8. During a brief public hearing on Jan. 26, the board granted its approval to rezone both parcels from commercial to industrial, on the condition of the Planning Board’s approval of a voluntary merger or lot consolidation of both parcels. 
Planning officials noted that the current warehouse use is much more compatible with the industrial district, as the use is already well established in this location. 
The Londonderry Freezer facility was built in 1998 as a 60,000-square-foot freezer warehouse, which was expanded in 2000 with a 30,000-squarefoot addition. Today’s facility is around 94,000 square feet. 
Highway Cold Storage was built in 2002 at 101,000 square feet and was expanded in 2005 to a total of 126,00 square feet. 
Tucked behind heavy vegetation, neither facility is visible from Route 28. 
An 82,000-square-foot addition of warehouse space, office and quality control areas would bring the site’s total footprint to 176,000 square feet, with plans to also include 24 new parking spaces and fire access toward the back of the building. 
No one from the public commented on the matter during this week’s meeting. 
The project will head before the Town Council for final approval in the coming months. 

Woodmont picture still fuzzy for residents

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- With a detailed final master plan not yet submitted for the proposed 630-acre town center project on former Woodmont Orchards land, residents and town officials attending Wednesday night’s conceptual workshop had a difficult time envisioning what the area might look like in the future.
Around 20 residents braved the snow showers to attend the workshop, which was held during the Planning Board’s regular meeting. The workshop originally had been scheduled for two
 weeks earlier, but another snowstorm forced town officials to push forward. 

The Woodmont Commons project represents the town’s first time using the new Planned Unit Development ordinance, a factor that left citizens and town officials alike with more questions than answers. 
Londonderry’s PUD ordinance was passed early last year, giving the Planning Board the ultimate say on future development. The PUD was unanimously approved by the Town Council in early January 2010 and allows for a developer of a parcel or parcels of land to propose a master plan. 
A conceptual plan for Woodmont, proposed by Pillsbury Realty Development LLC, includes an estimated 650,000 square feet of retail, 1,300 new homes, three hotels and 700,000 square feet of commercial space, with the remaining 40 percent of the property reserved for open space and agricultural uses. Development is expected to continue over a 20-year period, with an estimated 60 housing units to be built annually, project officials have said. 
Attorney John Michels and TND Engineering’s Chester Chellman spoke on behalf of project developer Mike Kettenbach, who was unable to attend this week’s workshop. 
“From a developer point of view, we need input for certain things,” Michels said Wednesday night, suggesting that future workshops tackle particular aspects of the project, one at a time. “We have big plans here. One of the problems is that it’s hard for anybody to see them.” 
Planning Board Chairman Arthur Rugg agreed, emphasizing the need for more visual aids in future presentations. 
“I like these plans, but they’re tough to download,” he added. 
Community Development Director Andre Garron said: “The main tenet of PUD is to master plan large tracts. One of the things I think we’re all struggling with is getting a little bit more meat to the bone. What we have before us is a concept of a master plan derived from two design charettes this past fall. I guess what we’re hoping for is more citizens’ input as to whether this concept is acceptable.” 
Among the many questions Garron presented were concerns over what type of housing would be built and how many units, what type of retail uses would be included and if a hospital were being built, how large would it be? 
“If you don’t have some general consensus between the board and developer, you really can’t proceed to look at infrastructure and other elements,” Town Planner Tim Thompson added. “So that really needs to be the first focus at this point.” 
Thompson recommended that the upcoming workshop meeting be dedicated to discussing the project’s timeline. 
“We have to touch on a landuse plan before anything else comes into play, and I think that’s our key element,” Michels countered. “It may take two sessions to do part one. But you have to have a land-use plan and density plan before you move on to the infrastructure.” 
Although preliminary plans call for 1,300 units, Chellman said the final number remains to be determined. 

January 27, 2011

The Road to Salt

Transport roadways run through a Chilean salt mine that ships salt to New Hampshire,
which will then be used to treat slippery roads.
 A lot of us take road salt for granted, but there are some truly 
wonderful stories behind the stuff that keeps our roads safe in winter. 
A conveyor of salt is loaded onto a ship in Chile, bound for NH.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Before you step out onto your snowcovered front porch steps this morning, or drive down your snow-packed driveway, making a left turn onto the slush-covered street to start your daily commute, don’t forget to thank the good people of Chile, who have been keeping New Englanders moving for years, even on snowiest of mornings.
That’s right. Tropical salt dug from the Tarapaca Salt Flat in Iquique, Chile, is shipped directly to Portsmouth,
 where it’s carted away by trucks that distribute it to a salt terminal near you — if you live within 125 miles of the Seacoast. 

And it’s not just happening here in New Hampshire, but that same salt is being delivered to towns and cities along the East Coast, from Maine to South Carolina. 
If you are among those who have taken the importance of rock salt with a grain of salt all these years, now is as good a time as any to consider how the 80,000 annual tons of sodium chloride imported to New Hampshire from South America gets here, and why. 
Oh sure, salt is most notorious as the dietary enemy that makes our blood boil in large quantities, and when lacking, kills us (a.k.a. death by hyponatremia). Our love/hate relationship with sodium chloride is as natural as it is unnatural. After all, it’s the only member of the rock family we humans eat in some form or another every day of our lives. 
Ask Bill Creighton why we sprinkle our New Hampshire highways with salt imported from deserts more than 4,000 miles away, and he will tell you it was simply a stroke of economic genius by one David Mahoney, who preceded him as president of Granite State Minerals in Newington. 
“Fifty years ago, Mr. Mahoney was one of the first entrepreneurs to look into taking salt from different parts of the world to compete with domestic mines in the United States,” said Creighton. “He understood the economics of shipping versus rail transportation. In terms of energy per volume, shipping the salt from Chile is far more efficient than bringing it here by rail.” 
While some western regions of the state still rely on salt brought in by railroad from Midwestern mines, much of New Hampshire owes its drivable highways and byways to Chilean mine operations. 
And to take the international intrigue of road salt just a little bit further, the salt mined in Chile is part of a worldwide salt empire run by K+S Group, which is headquartered in Germany. Not only do they also provide road salt for most of Europe, they have also recently purchased the Morton Salt Company, expanding their salty holdings beyond roads, sidewalks and water softeners, to the condiments in your cupboard. 
Salt shakers aside, if you know your salt history, you know 2011 marks the 70th anniversary of America’s love affair with road salt. In fact, New Hampshire was the first state to use salt to treat roads, according to the National Research Council in Washington, D.C.
The science of road salt has come a long way since then, said Mary Kay Warner, spokesman for K+S Group’s Pennsylvania offices. 
Derry's stockpile of salt is ready for the next
big storm, thanksto miners in Chile.
“Making sure that salt works effectively as a road agent requires a complete understanding of how it’s applied, in terms of anti-icing versus de-icing,” said Warner. “I’m right now looking at a 100-page report that details the technology behind all of this. That’s how technical it’s become.” 
No matter how it shakes out, Na+Cl still adds up to plain old sodium chloride, and while the effect of salt on snow-covered highways is marvelous, it is not magic, said Bill Boynton, of the state Department of Transportation. 
All the tropical salt in the world is powerless to melt New England ice when the temperature dips below 15 degrees. 
“It loses its effectiveness when the temperature gets as low as it has been the last few days. We do have some chemicals we can mix, like the stuff you buy for your sidewalks, but it’s more expensive. 
Tuesday was a difficult day for us quite honestly, when you’re talking about 4,200 miles of state highway. When salt is the dominant anti-icing agent, and the temperature is hovering around zero, there’s not much else you can do except plow, sand and remind people to slow down,” Boynton said. 

For rush-hour drivers, it's already been a long winter

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Although seasoned New Hampshire drivers know to expect some hazardous road conditions in January, commuters say that this month Mother Nature has targeted rush hour with heavy snow and bitter temperatures.
Tina DeLuca’s commute from Salem to her nursing job in Peabody, Mass., usually takes about 40 minutes. But last Tuesday, DeLuca and hundreds of other commuters spent more than three hours crawling along Interstate 93 in the early-morning snow.
“It was just horrible,” DeLuca said. “This has been the worst winter with the amount of snow.
 Even just yesterday I went by four spin-outs on my way home.” 

Wednesday afternoon, DeLuca ducked out of work early to avoid yet another storm expected to pick up overnight. 
“If I can leave earlier and beat it, I will. I tried to beat it (earlier) this week, but didn’t,” she said. “They already know that I will be going in late tomorrow because of the snow.” 
Beth Bell Lavoie of Windham spent about two hours getting to work in Billerica, Mass., on Tuesday on a slippery I-93. The commute usually takes about 40 minutes, she said. 
“It took me an hour just to get out of Windham,” she said. “But the good news is that it’s easier to get on the highway in a storm because everyone’s going so slow. There’s always a silver lining in everything.” 
On especially bad days, Lavoie said she is able to work remotely from her home. 
Jason Kehoe of Londonderry has been commuting from Londonderry to Salem for about three years. And he said it doesn’t take long to figure out how to survive New Hampshire’s winter roads. 
“I just leave earlier in the morning,” he said. “You get used to driving in the snow, and you make the changes you need to make.” 

Snow hides landscapes in need of help

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Even with more snow on the way this week, members of the town’s Beautify Londonderry committee can’t help but think spring.
The program, a town-wide cleanup traditionally held on five consecutive weekends each
 April and May, faced some challenges around this time last year when former program leader Carolyn O’Connor, who was also the town administrative support specialist, resigned from her positions, and town officials decided against replacing her. 

Thanks to the efforts of community volunteers, though, Beautify Londonderry continued on last spring, 300 volunteers strong. 
Residents Kerri Stanley, Joel Sadler and Maureen Pauwels stepped up to the plate to fill O’Connor’s shoes, under the guidance of the town’s Solid Waste Committee. 
“We’d like to increase that number, as there will always be a need for the picking up of roadside litter, not to mention what volunteers do to clean up town and school properties in raking, mulching and planting,” Stanley said yesterday. 
As the program approaches its fifth season, Stanley, who serves as a spokeswoman for the program, said she and event organizers would welcome anyone from the community to assist in this year’s efforts. 
“We’re eager and ready to tackle the project this year and hope to increase the number of volunteers and amount of projects, as well as local businesses who would like to sponsor this great and thriving cause,” Stanley said. 
In previous years, Beautify Londonderry has boasted between 800 and 1,000 community volunteers and resulted in completed projects such as litter removal around the skate park, at the Kendall Pond Conservation Area, and on a number of roadways in town. Spring cleaning and planting will also take place on the grounds of the district’s schools, at the senior center, cable access center, Leach Library, police department, Town Common, the Morrison House museum, the town offices and at the town’s fire stations. 
Many local businesses also lend a helping hand by donating supplies, organics, gardening gear and safety vests. 
Volunteers are typically an eclectic bunch, made up of members of local youth and service groups as well as concerned individuals and entire neighborhoods. Members of local Boy and Girl Scout troops usually help, as do classrooms from district schools and parishioners from local churches. 
With Beautify Londonderry to run weekends from April 23 through May 22 this year, event organizers are hoping to have a full array of volunteers lined up by April 1. 
Stanley said she’s hoping to recruit more school organizations this year and plans to visit students in local classrooms to educate and inform them on the upcoming programs. 
The Londonderry Indian Pathfinders, a local organization for fathers and daughters, have already offered to serve as volunteers this year, which Stanley said would help minimize costs since the Pathfinders’ assistance, along with help from A Londonderry Emergency Response Team (ALERT) would reduce the need for police department escorts on the town’s busiest roads. 
For more information on Beautify Londonderry, visit www.londonderrynh.org, or contact Stanley at beautifylon donderry@comcast.net or 434-3476. 
The Beautify Londonderry Committee will also meet tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Woodmont Conference Room on the first floor of Town Hall. 

Ex-teachers admits 'sexting' with former students

Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- A former West Running Brook Middle School teacher faces up to a decade in prison after admitting this week to sending obscene cell phone messages and photographs to two of his former students.
Richard Victorino, 33, of Manchester pleaded guilty to all charges on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney John Kacavas announced Wednesday afternoon.
Victorino admitted to carrying on texting relationships with two of his former students and sending obscene matter to them via text messages, including self-photographs, as recently as this past June.
The identity and gender of the former students have not been released, though both were under the age of 16 at the time the text messages were sent, prosecutors said.
One of the alleged victims had been a student of Victorino's while he was a teacher at the Derry Middle School, during the 2008-09 school year.
Victorino had previously worked as a student teacher and substitute teacher at Londonderry Middle School during the 2007-08 school year. Prosecutors said another victim was one of Victorino's former Londonderry students.
The FBI conducted investigations into the matter this past summer, with assistance from the Secret Service and both the Derry and Nashua police departments.
Victorino, who also faces fines of up to $250,000, has been in custody since Aug. 12 and is being held without bail.
Derry Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon said Wednesday she was initially made aware that one of her former teachers was in some sort of trouble last summer when the FBI began seeking information on Victorino's employment records.
Hannon, like other local school officials, wasn't given specifics of those charges until earlier this week.
"The FBI wasn't very forthcoming," she said, stressing that until very recently she'd been under strict FBI orders not to discuss the case publicly or release any information.
"(Victorino) hadn't been our employee for over a year. We were very surprised by all of this," Hannon added, noting that last she'd heard, Victorino had accepted a teaching position in New York.
"To the best of my understanding, this is the first issue we've had come forward with him," Hannon said, though she declined to release specifics on Victorino's brief employment in Derry. "Obviously, we weren't aware of any issues with him while he was here or in Londonderry."
"You hire people, you interview them, they're fingerprinted and background-checked," she continued. "But you just never know what kind of character someone has. You just don't expect anyone you're relying on to serve as a role model for students would ever cross that line."
Londonderry Superintendent Nathan Greenberg agreed.
In a letter sent home to parents on Tuesday, Greenberg called Victorino's behavior "despicable" and expressed regret that he had been employed briefly in the district as a substitute language arts teacher in 2008.
"Once again, this points out how important it is for all of us, as parents, to monitor our children's usage of all electronic devices and encourage our children to report any inappropriate behavior at once," he said.
Victorino's sentencing hearing will take place on May 2.

January 26, 2011

Visions of the Future

The Stockbridge Theatre lobby is filled from top to bottom with 1,391 works of student art, which will be on display through Feb. 5 as part of the Scholastic Art Awards of New Hampshire installment. 
Union Leader Correspondent

Detail of “The Truth is Not in the Mirror it’s Within Yourself”
 by Catherine Veilleux of Goffstown High School.
DERRY -- Think of the Scholastic Art Awards of New Hampshire as the Olympics of the local art world, a hand-to-hand competition where student artists put their interpretive skills to the mat for a brush with greatness as they go for the Gold Key Award.
This year, 1,391 works of art by students from around the state in grades 7 through 12 are on display inside the lobby of the Stockbridge Theatre on the Pinkerton Academy grounds in Derry, now through Feb. 5.
Program administrator Scott Chatfield, an art teacher at Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, said the 88-year
 proud history of the competition continues today because it means everything to young artists who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to show their work — or earn scholarships for their efforts. 

Last year, for example, more than $1 million in scholarships and prizes was awarded through the Scholastic awards program, which has launched more than a few notable careers for past recipients, including Andy Warhol, Truman Capote, Joyce Carol Oates and Sylvia Plath. 
Students in the national competition submit work in 20 visual art categories. Of the 1,391 New Hampshire entries, 708 earned individual awards, said Chatfield. Those who earned top honors, the 237 “Gold Key” winners, had their work submitted for the national competition, with the names of national finalists to be announced in March. 
The national awards ceremony is held in June at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 
“Last year 17 New Hampshire artists were recognized at nationals,” Chatfield said. “That’s impressive.” 
After 17 years of working to coordinate the annual statewide event, Chatfield said he sometimes wonders why he puts so much time and effort into the program. Then another year’s worth of entries rolls in. 
“When we start hanging the art, and I see the results year after year, it’s just such an incredible feeling to see these kids with this great talent be recognized for something that, for most of them, is life-changing,” Chatfield said. 
He said it is particularly moving in light of recently proposed state legislation, HB 39, which would effectively remove the arts, among other disciplines, from the required core classes that make up the current definition of adequate education at the state level. 
“That is appalling to me, that this kind of thing is taking place, especially when we have this amazing program that really showcases what’s great about school art programs,” Chatfield said. 
“You know some of those kids aren’t going to be artists, but they will have art in their lives no matter what. That’s the important thing to get across to people, that you can enjoy and appreciate the arts around you,” Chatfield said. “It simply brings joy to your life.” 
Students with exhibited work will be recognized during two ceremonies on Feb. 5 in the Stockbridge Theatre, one at 11 a.m. for the lower grades and one at noon for older students. All students will receive certificates and Silver and Gold Key recipients will receive a key pin for their achievement. 
The New Hampshire Art Educators’ Association annual $1,000 scholarship is being awarded this year to Brianna Seidel of Goffstown High School. 
A $500 scholarship provided by Coca-Cola of Northern New England will be awarded to Haley Cummings of Pelham High School. 
The event is sponsored by host Pinkerton Academy, the New Hampshire Institute of Art, the Brown-Monson Foundation, the New Hampshire Art Educators’ Association, the Currier Museum of Art, Coca-Cola of Northern New England, and John and Sheila Hoglund. 

On the Web: www.artandwriting.org 


Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- Next month’s school deliberative session will run precisely the same way it has for the past decade following a decision in Rockingham County Superior Court late last week.
On Jan. 20, Judge Tina Nadeau denied a motion for
 a preliminary injunction filed by residents Al Baldasaro, Sean O’Keefe and Brian Farmer against the Londonderry School District and its meeting moderator, John Michels.
The three residents filed the lawsuit in early December 2010 after alleging the existing quorum required during the annual deliberative session was unconstitutional as it potentially
 prevented residents attending the annual meeting to influence the outcome.
Following the court ruling, the Feb. 11 deliberative session will be subject to a 500-voter quorum requirement, same as has been done in previous years.
The school district’s quorum requirement has been in place since the charter was approved
 at the March 2000 ballots.
Over the past few years, attendance at the deliberative session hasn’t even come close to 500. On average, attendance has been in the 200-person range.
According to court documents, Nadeau stated the three petitioners “have not provided information sufficient to warrant the grant of this extraordinary
“As for the ultimate decision regarding whether or not the quorum provisions are proper, the Court finds the issue to be a purely legal question not requiring any further evidence,” Nadeau continued. “A final order will be issued in due course.”

Contacted last night, Baldasaro said he still expected a final decision would ultimately be made in his and his fellow petitioners’ favor, even if that decision doesn’t come in time to affect this year’s deliberative session. “There is no doubt in my mind it will be decided this quorum is unconstitutional,” Baldasaro said. “Now, its just a waiting game. There’s no legislative authority for this quorum.” 
This was not the first time residents have questioned the quorum. Last year, School Board members Steve Young and Ron Campo led the board’s charge to reduce the quorum from 500 to 350. The item was rejected by a significant majority vote last March. 
Young said the vote was a likely indicator that most residents were satisfied with the way the school district governs, and noted that complaints about the district’s existing quorum have been few and far between. 
Yesterday afternoon, Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said he was pleased to learn of the judge’s decision and looked forward to maintaining the status quo when it comes to the district’s governing. 
“This will allow us to go forward with the February deliberative session, which had been voted on three separate times in the past 10 years,” Greenberg said. 

Proposed School Budget Cuts $4.5 million, 46 jobs

Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Facing the leanest budget year in recent memory, the Derry School Board finalized a proposal Tuesday night that cuts more than $4.5 million and 46 teaching jobs from the current year.
“This budget is very, very important and took a lot of hard work,” said School Board Chairman Kevin Gordon at Tuesday’s meeting. “It was a tedious, long task, and not an easy task to do.”
The proposal unanimously approved Tuesday comes in at $73.4 million, including $2.9 million in reductions from salary and benefits associated with the elimination of 46 teaching jobs and 14 other district positions.
Looming over this year’s budget is the anticipated loss of $6.4 million in state adequacy aid,
 $500,000 in catastrophic aid and $483,000 for expiring kindergarten funding. 

Some controversy has also surrounded increases to Pinkerton Academy tuition, which will rise $342 per student next year to a rate of $9,712. Derry will send 84 fewer students to Pinkerton next year, resulting in an overall savings of $161,000. School district business administrator Jane Simard said Tuesday that the district would’ve saved more than $700,000 if Pinkerton tuition had remained constant. 
Pinkerton Headmaster Mary Anderson has said the trustees took Derry’s concerns into consideration and cut $2 million and 11.5 faculty positions from their initial budget proposal. 
On the warrant document, voters will see a school budget of $76.6 million, said Superintendent Mary Ellen Hannon. That number includes $1.3 million in federal projects, $1.2 million in the self-funded food service program and $719,000 in a federal education jobs grant. 
The single-year jobs grant saved about 13 teaching jobs that were part of the original reductions proposed, Hannon said. 
Though only one teacher spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, about 25 educators filled the audience area, standing in solidarity for a brief moment. 
“Teachers are in the audience here tonight because we all believe in Derry education and we want Derry education to be the thing that brings people to Derry,” said Meg Morse-Barry, a town resident, Derry teacher and president of the Derry Education Association. “... We’re coming up to a school year that’s going to be rather difficult and we hope that in the year 2012 and 2013 we can look at bringing some of these people back.” 
Hannon called for residents to continue reaching out to Concord with concerns about the impacts adequacy funding cuts will have in Derry. 
“It’s about every voice and the governor has told me that Derry has been heard,” she said. “... What that means politically for him, I have no idea. I have been a part of this process and testified in Concord and found it to be incredibly disturbing that the voices are not heard and that politics overtakes what’s best for the children.” 
The school warrant also includes a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which Hannon said serves educational assistants. She said the two-year contract would see a $21,800 impact in 2011-2012 and $78,000 in 2012-2013. 
The school’s deliberative session is Feb. 12. 

Inventioneers Turn Heads in Nation's Capital

Members of the Inventioneers demonstrate how their prototype SMARTwheel works. 
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- They may not have their driver’s licenses quite yet, but that doesn’t mean the six members of Londonderry’ world champion FIRST LEGO League team, the Inventioneers, can’t make a lasting impression when it comes to the safety of drivers well beyond their home state. 
Earlier this month, team members Tristan “T.J.” Evarts, 15, Jaiden Evarts, 13, Bryeton Evarts, 10, Paige Balcom, 16, Emily Balcom, 14, and Kate Balcom, 13, once again traveled to Washington, D.C., where they hobnobbed with the likes of federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, National Highway Traffic Safety Deputy Administrator Ronald Medford and the federal Department of Transportation’s Research and Innovative Technology Admin-istrator Peter Appel. 
While there, the longtime teammates demonstrated the latest prototype for their SMARTwheel invention, and shared plans for an interactive school assembly program and a national patent scholarship program. 
SMARTwheel, an acronym for Safe Motor Alert for Restricting Texting, is a steering wheel cover that senses the driver’s hand movements and issues an audible alert when the driver is sending text messages. 
In a blog entry dated Jan. 14, LaHood expressed awe over the team’s accomplishments. 
“As I tested out the SMARTwheel during the team’s visit, I was impressed by how much thought and technical skill the team put into their design,” he noted. “I couldn’t be prouder of everything they’ve accomplished, and you’d better believe I’ll be on the lookout for what they do next.” 
A pilot test of this invention was conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last winter. 
“Using 20 test subjects, they drove using a simulator with and without the SMARTwheel,” Kate said, noting a 90 percent improvement in texting behavior when using the team’s prototype. 
Because education has a broader impact, the team also developed an education program, noted team member T.J. Evarts. Their DUIT program, which stands for Driving Under the Influence of Texting, has already been presented to Robert Williams, state transportation chairman. 
More recently, “DUIT” has been expanded to encompass other driving faux pas, such as “tweeting, typing, touch-screens and takeout.” 
With Paige, the team’s oldest member, preparing for her driver’s license exam, the Inventioneers originally began designing their project for use as a training tool for teenage drivers. Knowing that teen drivers are statistically 10 times more likely to be involved in a serious car crash, the idea was to help their peers learn safer habits, she noted. 
“That logic filters out all distractions while driving: eating, touching up makeup, etc.,” T.J. explained, noting that as the invention became more refined, the most recent incarnation is smaller, sturdier and more reliable. With a seventh prototype completed, the team plans to continue refining its invention. 
Following this month’s meeting with federal safety officials, Appel is arranging for the team to begin further work with MIT. Further research will take place next month in the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center at the Cambridge campus. While there, the team will continue on its mission to improve the nation’s transportation system, and also follow up on Appel’s introduction of their work to the vice president of vehicle technology at the Specialty Equipment Market Association, a trade association for aftermarket devices on vehicles. 
With a utility patent filed early this past December, a final patent could take up to three years to be approved. Once it’s approved, however, the Inventioneers will hold a 20-year patent for the SMARTwheel. 
While they await final patent approval, there’s no slowing down for the Inventioneers, who have since retired from competing. In April 2010 the team was presented with the Championship Award after competing in the FIRST LEGO League World Championships in Atlanta. 
The Inventioneers are looking for help gathering funds to attend the Lifesavers Conference in Phoenix this coming March. For more information, visit the team’s website at www.theinventioneers.com.

January 25, 2011

Operation special delivery

Meryle Zusman, communications director for the Derry Public Library,
holds a stack of postcards for service men and women.
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- Somewhere in the world there is a soldier longing for an encouraging word from a friendly stranger.
Abby Plante, a page at the Derry Public Library, has made it her mission to make sure no member of the U.S. military is left empty-handed
 during mail call. 

“The idea came shortly after my son, Paul, was deployed to Iraq,” said Plante.“I had asked him to let us know if he saw soldiers over there not receiving mail, and he sent me a list of people — I was actually shocked at the length of the list,” said Plante. “Shocked in that it was hard to un­derstand someone being there and not having the support of people back home.” 
So Plante has launched a postcard campaign through the library. At her expense, she’s printed up 500 American flag postcards that read “Thank You For Your Service,” on one side. 
On the other side, she’s written the names of service men and women who would like to receive mail. 
“As a family, and extended family including my son’s relatives, we have passed around the list he sent home initially, sending letters just to tell these men and women that we’re proud of them, and appreciate what they’re doing. There are others, though, I’m sure many more we don’t know about yet, who’d appreciate some mail,” Plante said. “According to my son, you can never get enough mail from back home.” 
The cards are waiting at the library. Patrons can come in and fill one out. Plante will complete the address and mail them as quick as they are filled out. 
“We also have coloring pages for younger kids who can’t write, or those who are developmentally disabled who’d like to send some cheer,” Plante said. “They will be distributed by the base chaplains to soldiers who could use a lift.” 
People can also come into the library and fill out a request form, to have someone added to the list, said Plante. 
“We have some suggested messages for anyone who isn’t sure what to say — mostly we just want to let them know we’re thinking of them, and that we’re proud of their service. You can simply say, ‘Your bravery and strength of character represents what America stands for. Thank you.’ It doesn’t have to be anything fancy,” Plante said. 
She has gotten a little help from Col. Howie Steadman, who heads the JROTC program at Pinkerton Academy. 
“Abby’s son Paul was a cadet with us for four years. He went on to UNH and joined the Army ROTC there, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant. I’ve communicated with him by letter since he’s been deployed, and he always mentions how important the letters are that he receives,” Steadman said. 
Steadman has gathered up some names of other Pinkerton alumni for Plante to add to her list. 
“We have a few groups at the school that have been sending letters and packages to deployed Pinkerton alumni who are stationed all around the world. You learn quickly through feedback that the letters are really their connection to home,” Steadman said, something he understands personally ever since his daughter, Danay Steadman, Pinkerton Academy Class of 2008, was deployed to Kuwait two months ago.
“Her spirits are good, but I know what it means to her when she gets mail from home,” Steadman said. 
“I know it matters because, over the years, we’ve had former cadets who come back to tell us all about their time serving, and they always remember to thank us for keeping in touch. They always tell us how much it meant to them to get a little bit of information about what’s happening on the home front,” Steadman said. “It’s no small thing.”