Hearings held on Berlin police proposal, 6.4 acre land buy

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun

GORHAM — The Gorham select board held second back-to-back public hearings on Monday night, Nov. 20, in the Medallion Opera House. The second one lasted over an hour, giving taxpayers time to ask questions on a proposal by Berlin police department that it sign a four-year contract with Gorham to cover its full-time police services and emergency dispatching services.

Encouraged by a 2016 town meeting warrant article that directed it to study the idea, the select board itself solicited Berlin’s proposal, detailed at an earlier public hearing by Berlin Police Chief Peter Morency.

By discussion’s end, only three people raised their hands to vote “yes” when select board chair Terry Oliver called for a straw poll. Eight voted “no,” and another 4 or 5 abstained.

Gorham Police Chief P.J. Cyr admitted on Monday night that he was disappointed to find when he ran the numbers that there would be no savings to Gorham taxpayers in the first year but instead a slight cost and only modest savings in the next three years.

Gorham would still have to pay for the “back-end” costs and user fees for communication equipment at town hall, the building and repeater on Pine Mountain and an estimated $51,610 in one-time capital costs to provide security and fire alarms at town hall that would no longer be staffed, as now, 24/7. The town would also lose $12,050 in revenue for dispatch services it provides to Shelburne, Randolph and Coos County.

Much of the discussion focused on whether or not it is reasonable for a town of 2,800 people to operate a seven-officer police force, including the chief.

One taxpayer characterized the uniformed force as primarily dealing with underage drinking and shoplifting at Walmart.

Another said, however, that she attributes still being alive today to the care and attention the Gorham police paid to her plight some years ago when she was married to a man she said “wanted her to be dead.”

Budget committee member Bob Demers said he believes five and a half officers is sufficient.

Another resident said, however, that you couldn’t quantify what doesn’t happen because potential miscreants stay on the straight and narrow, rather than commit crimes when they see police on duty.

Retention of certified officers has been a problem, Cyr explained. Having less than seven officers increases the likelihood that some will leave and take jobs elsewhere.

Without enough staff, consistent scheduling, including for vacations and holidays, becomes difficult or impossible and morale plummets. Sick days also create big problems. Compensation is also always a factor, and union contract negotiations are now underway, he said.

Sending someone to the N.H. Police Academy costs $80,000 to $85,000. Gorham has sent nine trainees to the Academy in the last five years, Cyr said.

Berlin has 21 officers. Twelve live in Gorham, all of whom at one time worked for Gorham Police Department. Cyr said the Berlin Police Department provides a good professional service with excellent supervision. Gorham’s focus is on community policing. His management decisions are guided by professional Best Practices, he said. Those interested in comparing Gorham’s cost to other small towns (pop. 1,000 to 3,000) can use data maintained by the N.H. Municipal Association.

Encouraged by the select board, Cyr said he has already determined that the Gorham Police will only operate and maintain three cruisers in 2018 and not four as now. The department can no longer use its 2008 vehicle for patrol. When questioned, the chief said a new cruiser costs $35,000 plus another $5,000 to equip.

Concern also arose as to what would happen if a contract with Berlin were to be signed and then it either didn’t work out or residents wanted to once again have their own police department.

Sgt. Mike Cote of the N.H. State Police, Troop F, said that he believes that it must be very hard for members of the Gorham Police Department not to know whether or not they have a job, since a contract with Berlin might be signed after the March 2018 meeting.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “I wouldn’t like not knowing whether I have a job; you’re beating this to death.”

Oliver said that the select board would try to move quickly at a regular meeting to decide what recommendation it would make at the March 2018 town meeting.

Select board member Mike Waddell said, however, he thought he and his fellow board members should decide whether or not this proposal was in the town’s best interest.

He urged townspeople to be in touch with him. Ordinarily only a few voters let him know what they are thinking, and he’d like this to be different.

The evening’s first public hearing was on the town buying 6.4 acres for $17,500 from Eversource so the town would own the property on which it dumps snow and dirt, stores crushed gravel and creates compost. The planning board has already agreed to a subdivision that makes this possible. The conservation commission recommends the action. The purchase price of less than $3,000 an acre, likely to be expended before year’s end, will come from capital reserve. The town has contracted with CMA

Engineers to come up with a site plan that will meet the concerns of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission since the property is near the now-for-sale hydrodam facility as well as electric transmission wires. A joint use agreement has already been signed. The cost of any site work recommended by CMA will be included in the Public Works budget presented at town meeting.

In the past, handshake agreements between PSNH and the town’s public works director were the norm, but now far greater formality and adherence to standards are required.


Through his work with Team Rubicon, Treiss finds himself in the middle of disaster zones

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN — Frederick Treiss finds himself in the middle of some of the world’s biggest natural disasters. The Berlin man is one of many military veterans who volunteer their time and skills through Team Rubicon to respond to international disasters.

Using vacation time from his job as a water, sanitation and hygiene specialist with the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, Treiss spent a week in Houston following Hurricane Harvey, assisting efforts there. Days later, he was in Puerto Rico helping restore water after Hurricane Maria.

“It feels good to help people,” he said, when asked why he spends precious vacation time working in places devastated by disaster.

In September, Treiss spent a week in Friendshipwood, Texas, a small town near Houston. He said Team Rubicon had teams out in some of the poorer neighborhoods helping to clean up flooded houses or what he termed “muck and gut.”

Treiss said many of the homes were not in great shape before the hurricane and estimated about 90 percent of those where Team Rubicon was working had flood damage.

His job was to go around to the various sites and make sure teams were following safety standards and protocols. If standards needed to be changed to adjust to conditions, Treiss would oversee that.

As the focus on efforts in Texas switch from disaster response to recovery and building phases, Treiss estimated Team Rubicon will be working in the Houston area for two years.

Treiss was home for four days when the call came for help in Puerto Rico. He said he found conditions in Puerto Rico far worst than in Texas. Many areas in Puerto Rico were isolated, with no basic services and roads blocked, making it hard for relief workers to get in.

He was sent to Isabela, a community about three hours from San Juan, to assist with getting water to people there. Before Treiss arrived, debris and mud had been cleared from a major water conduit. Treiss spent eight days working with a chainsaw team clearing roads so trucks could carry water to area villages.

It was hot, grueling work with temperatures in the 90s and humidity at 95 percent.

He said the infrastructure in Puerto Rico is very primitive, with many people depending on subsistence agriculture. Treiss noted people depend on fruit trees as a food source and many were destroyed in the hurricane.

Houses were generally made of concrete and Treiss said some were destroyed by the hurricane while others survived without much damage. But all were without electricity, water, and cell service in the area where he worked.

Treiss said the residents were very nice to the recovery workers and sought to share their limited resources with them.

“People who had hardly any food would come down and bring us food,” he said.

Treiss said he can see real tangible results from the work he does with Team Rubicon and likes the idea of serving people. He also enjoys the sense of camaraderie among the volunteers and said working with like-minded people on a common mission is a powerful feeling.

“Being a former solider, it’s great to have a mission,” he said.

Treiss joined Team Rubicon about three years ago after seeing one of the organization’s flyers at a state emergency management conference. A U.S. Army Reservist with extensive training in emergency response, Treiss felt the organization was a good match for him.

While his work for Team Rubicon has taken him to disaster spots all over the world, Treiss had an opportunity recently to work at home.

After the recent storm, Treiss helped organize Operation River Driver to assist people in northern New Hampshire with clearing storm debris and damage assessments. A team braved the snow and freezing temperatures over Veterans Day weekend to complete 11 work projects.

U.S. Marine Corps veterans Jake Wood and William McNulty founded Team Rubicon in 2010 following the massive Haiti earthquake. It has grown from eight to over 65,000 volunteers with more than 225 operations under its belt.

Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.

City repairs storm damage while waiting for federal disaster declaration

By Barbara Tetreault

BERLIN – While the city waits for the Oct. 30 storm to be declared a federal disaster, it has worked hard to repair the damage it left before winter arrives.

Public Works Director Michael Perreault and Jay Poulin of HEB Engineers gave the city council an update on repairs Monday night. Perreault has estimated Berlin incurred close to $500,000 in damage from the storm.

Although he has not yet submitted a declaration request to the Trump administration, Gov. Chris Sununu has said he believes Coos, Grafton, Carroll and Belknap Counties will meet the federal threshold for a disaster. The declaration will make communities eligible for federal funding to reimburse them for money spent repairing damage from the hurricane-force winds and flooding that occurred. Under a disaster declaration, Poulin said the federal government will cover 75 percent of mitigation costs.

Perreault said Heidi Lawton of the N.H. Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management visited Berlin last week to review and access damages. She confirmed that the damage in the Howland, Coos and Grafton Streets area alone met the threshold amount for all of Coos County to be included in the disaster declaration.

In the meantime, Perreault said he expects to wrap up repairs this week to allow the impacted areas to get through the winter.

He said the Enman Hill Brook area — Howland, Coos and Grafton Streets, have all been paved with a binder base.

The abutting residential properties are being repaired and curbing installed. In the spring, he said the city will raise the manhole structures, install sidewalks and repair a couple of drainage lines.

Perreault praised the work of AB Excavating, reporting the company has done a tremendous job for the city. He said he was also thankful Pike Industries pushed back the scheduled Nov. 3 closing of their paving plant in Gorham.

In the Haskell Street area, Perreault said there was a lot of washout damage because the drainage system was plugged with debris. He said the street has been repaired and a temporary curb installed. A permanent curb will be installed in the spring and an additional course added to the road.

There was washout damage from the top of Forbush Street all the way down to Kent Street. The washout areas there have been repaired and repaved and damaged inlet pipes repaired. Inlet debris in the Johnson Brook area at the bottom of Kent Street has been cleaned and removed. Washout areas have been repaired.

Washout damage on Hillsboro Street has also been repaired.

Still to do is around Bean Brook Bridge where the abutment area washed out. Perreault said as soon as AB Excavating is done at Enman Hill area, it will move to Bean Brook.

At the Service Credit Union Heritage Park, there are tree stumps to remove and the fence needs to be repaired.
Perreault said his department has had four dump trucks and four loaders working for two weeks and has picked up most of the debris around the city from the storm. He said they are still finding debris in the storm collection system and making miscellaneous repairs.

Poulin reported that the Route 16 project is wrapping up. He said the contractor, Sargent Corporation, will finish up for the year next week. He said the $6 million project will be substantially complete with just a few minor items to be done in 2018.

One item scheduled for next year are the decorative crosswalk markings. Poulin explained a thermoplastic material is used instead of paint. The material is attractive, enhances visibility, is easy to repair, and has a lifespan of five to ten years. He said it is fairly expensive, costing about $36,000 to do all the crosswalks in the project. Mayor Paul Grenier said he would like to talk about the decorative sidewalks at length at a future meeting. He said the city may want to use the money to repair other streets. Poulin said the city has time to consider the decorative sidewalks because the work will not be done until 2018.

Early and middle Paleoindians likely focused on hunting caribou

By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun

JEFFERSON/RANDOLPH — Those who now hunt large mammals in the fall with guns and modern-day bows and arrows in these two small towns aim to kill deer, moose and bear.

But for some 1,500 years — thousands of years ago — caribou (Rangifer tarandus) were the prime target for the early peoples who hunted with fluted points when they traveled through the valleys and along the riverbanks of these two communities. These Paleoindians chipped stone points to serve as their hunting tools as the glaciers of the last Ice Age melted. These symmetrical points were finished by carefully removing a single long parallel-sided flake or "flute" from one or both sides.

A viewshed analysis of Paleoindian sites — six in Jefferson and one in Randolph — supports the interpretation that Early and Middle Paleoindian inhabitants living 12,900 to 11,600  years ago focused on hunting caribou.

Three Granite Staters recently published their findings in a 10-page report — “Paleoindian Adaptation to the Landscape of Northern New Hampshire” — in “PaleoAmerica: a Journal of Early Human Migration and Dispersal,” sponsored by the Center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A & M University.

State archeologist Dr. Richard “Dick” Boisvert is the lead author of the 10-page research report. He describes the paper as “a summary, in part, of two decades of work in Jefferson and Randolph” that makes the case that these were specialized caribou hunting localities.”

Boisvert collaborated with GIS coordinator Tanya Krajcik, who also is an archeologist at the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, and avocational archaeologist Mark Greeley, past president of the N.H. Archeological Society. All three have worked on “digs” in these two Coos towns.

“In northern New Hampshire we have a cluster of Paleoindian sites (Jefferson I to VI) and the multiple-occupation Potter site to the east on the Moose River in Randolph,” they write. “These rivers serve as a corridor (along today’s U.S. Route 2) between the Connecticut and Androscoggin Rivers and have facilitated movement across the American Far Northeast for over 12 millennia.”

The trio say they hope their “essay may serve as a model which can be challenged, tested, supported, modified or rejected by future research.”

They conclude that caribou were the Paleoindians’ prime target because of the way these seven sites were positioned on the landscape and the observed variability in the artifact assemblages excavated at these sites plus some function-specific areas within them. Strategically placed vantage points and concentrated household encampments, along with function-specific workshops, have distinct distributions, they point out.

The authors describe some “intensely used spaces” about 430 to 540 square feet in size, where a wide variety of implements made from diverse rock types can be contrasted with smaller sized sites or site subareas where only a narrow range of tool forms were found.

“This pattern emerges among the sites in Jefferson, where household encampments are flanked by bifacial tool manufacturing areas, fluted projectile point finishing areas, and meat/hide processing areas, and at the Potter site in Randolph, with its multiple activity areas.” (This site) “combines all facets of the caribou hunting requirements in a single, heavily utilized location,” they say.

These are “settlement patterns,” say the authors.

In Jefferson, small low-density sites and certain locations where only point fragments and other stone flakes from tool manufacturing were found “are positioned with strategic views of the Israel River Valley floor,” they note. “They interpret these as hunter’s vantage points designed to have low profiles and to facilitate seeing herds of caribou, which would then be systematically harvested.”

But they point out, “household encampments with attendant special function areas would not necessarily have broad views of the valley, although some do.”

The Potter site in Randolph reflects a very similar pattern, but there the archeologists found no hunter’s lookout. However, its “viewshed is extensive, looking up the Moose River valley and applies to essentially the entire site. The site also occupies one of the few places where there is level land and close access to water. Potter is strategically very well placed to serve as a multipurpose Paleoindian caribou hunting and processing site.”

“Both valleys would have had caribou herds traveling along the valley margins and riversides,” the authors point out. “The size and destinations of the herds are difficult to estimate over the span of the Early and Middle Paleoindian periods.”

The authors point out that in 2002 archeologists Arthur Spiess and Page Newby postulated “extremely large herds moving enormous distances in the earlier centuries with a shift later to possibly smaller aggregations moving in and out of the emergent forests. ... Observers positioned on the hill slopes would have had excellent views, allowing them to signal and direct the drivers and hunters, perhaps pre-positioned closer to the herds and/or kill zone, to systematically harvest the animals. The products of the hunt — pelts, meat, antler, or a combination — would then be taken back to the habitation areas for processing.”

In addition, “the focus on caribou hunting is interpreted as a necessary adaptation to cold stress induced by extreme cold winters” during what scientists now call the Younger Dryas Chronozone, when Early and Middle Paleoindians trekked through this region. This climatic period is marked at either end by abrupt climatic reversals beginning with a sharp cooling and ending with an equally sharp warming.

Climatic conditions in the New England-Maritimes Region reached near glacial temperatures, and environmental zones reflect tundra-like and sub-boreal zones. The authors note that although there are disagreements about how humans would have reacted to the temperature drop, “our interpretation of the data leads us to conclude that regardless whether this climatic shift would have been consciously recognized by Paleoindians at the onset, such a decline would have required adaptations to cold stress.”

Boisvert has spent time in Jefferson over seven summers, starting in the late 1990s, as well as in Shelburne, Berlin, Colebrook and points north.

This summer the 35 volunteers in the field school spent six weeks near the Applebrook B & B on Rte. 115A in Jefferson, with most tenting at rustic Coldbrook Camp in Randolph. Up to the final day nothing much had been found.

“But on the last day an important find was made, in what is a classic scenario in the field,” Boisvert emailed. “In the last pit on the last day we found definitive proof that we have another Paleoindian site. That pit produced twice as much in terms of artifacts than the rest of the site combined and had a diagnostic tool: a spurred end scraper. The crew was excited.”

Jeff Baron of Gilford, an anthropology major at the University of New Hampshire found it.

“The spurred end scraper was quite likely used to scrape the inner side of a hide to make it usable,” Boisvert said. “If the hide is not scraped, then it will rot. Leaving the fur on is optional.” 

More details are described in the journal article in which 40 articles are listed as references. Many are academic pieces. An impressive number of Ph.D. dissertations (three), Master’s theses (four), senior theses (five), plus journal articles and book chapters that were co-authored with Boisvert, based on findings at these seven Paleoindian sites plus other Coos locations: Colebrook, Glacial Lake Israel in Jefferson and the Pliny Range.