August 01. 2014 6:45PM

Schools, utilities key concerns in Windham resident survey

Union Leader Correspondent

WINDHAM — Of the 371 Windham stakeholders surveyed this past spring, many aired concerns about overcrowded schools and lack of public utilities.

During the July 30 planning board meeting, town staff and members of Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC) revealed results of the survey.

Community Development Director Laura Scott said the survey results would be used in drafting a community vision, part of the new master plan process.

A separate survey conducted by Northeastern University, centered on residents’ economic development preferences, is still underway. Scott said those results would be addressed publicly this fall.

Town officials noted that there are currently 12,937 residents in Windham, meaning only a small percentage participated in the survey.

A total of 357 responders, representing 96 percent of those surveyed, are full-time residents. One responder was a seasonal resident, while 13 responders owned businesses in town.

The highest concentration of responders, 106 people, live in the area of town surrounding Canobie Lake and Cobbetts Pond.

Average age of responders was in the 35 to 54 range. Forty percent of them indicated they plan to remain in town for “more than 20 years.”

SNHPC senior planner Jack Munn, who shared a survey summary with town officials during this week’s meeting said at least 10 responses were derogatory in nature.

Munn said those responses weren’t included in the 106-page summary, as the SNHPC’s policy is to omit “vulgar” comments.

Planning Board Vice Chairman Alan Carpenter questioned that policy, asking if some of the so-called derogatory comments contained “constructive information.”

Munn told him he didn’t believe they did, though Scott suggested some of the negative comments be considered while writing a final report.

Overall, the citizens surveyed praised Windham High School, the Windham Rail Trail, transfer station and public recreation fields.

The town administrative facilities were deemed “adequate” by responders, though Golden Brook, Center and Windham Middle schools were considered “poor.”

Many people wrote in comments about the schools, Scott said.

Nearly 200 responders indicated it was a high priority to increase school capacity: 88 said it was a medium priority, while 211 responders agreed protecting local lakes, streams and wetlands was also a high priority.

A total of 259 people said it was a high priority to “protect drinking water quality and quantity.”

“Overall, it seems almost everybody feels increasing the capacity of the schools is very important,” Munn said.

He added that other top priorities include increasing transfer station hours, bringing more business to town and increasing recreation opportunities.

Twenty-nine percent of survey participants thought the town should provide public water for both residential and commercial properties, though 34 percent disagreed.

A survey question asking residents if they’d like to see public sewer provided in town yielded similar results.

Forty-two percent of participants, or 158 people, said they’d like the town to provide natural gas for both residential and commercial properties. A complete list of the Windham master plan survey results may be viewed via the “2015 Master Plan” link on the home page of the town website,