Epping visitor drives Town Hall batty
The unwanted guest entered the room around 7:45 p.m. as the board was holding its weekly meeting, turning the routine meeting into a hilarious scene that was caught on camera as the town's public-access TV cameras aired the meeting live.
'Shoot it, chief!' Selectman Jim McGeough yelled in jest to Police Chief Gregory Dodge, who was sitting in the audience.
Instead, Dodge grabbed what appeared to be a tablecloth adorned with Christmas trees and attempted to catch it. He tossed it into the air, but the bat continued on, terrorizing some and leaving others in hysterics.
It shot back and forth across the room for nearly three minutes, sending some in the room running for cover.
Many ducked to avoid a direct hit while others scurried out of the meeting room before it was finally shooed out a back door.
At one point Selectman Robert Jordan grabbed a blue and white umbrella and swung it in the air as he tried to swat the bat.
Dodge tried several times to catch the bat under the tablecloth, but he struck out as the bat flapped its wings and raced by him.
Board Chairman Karen Falcone, who covered her head with a red folder, suggested the board take a five-minute recess, but the meeting went on and the cameras continued to roll, providing a bit of unexpected entertainment for local cable viewers.
Administrative Assistant Joyce Blanchard didn't mess around when the bat invaded. After covering her head with a copy of the minutes from the last board meeting, Blanchard raced out of the meeting room and hid in the selectmen's office.
'I tried to be brave, but when it flew toward me and I could see its head and ears, it was too close for comfort,' she said. She joked that working with bats flying around 'isn't part of the job.'
A woman who was looking to be appointed to the Lamprey River Advisory Committee finally decided to leave the room, but when she got up to walk out into the hall the bat flew in front of her, stopping her in her tracks.
This close encounter with bats at the Town Hall isn't the first. The hall was built in the late 1800s and is known for having bats hanging around in the tower.
Bats have disrupted other televised board meetings in the past. About a year ago a bat flew into a budget committee meeting and sent women in the room running.
Paul Spidle, who sits on the committee, recalled how the bat was eventually caught using a jacket and a box.
'It took a while,' he said.
Falcone said she was amused by the bat, but not frightened like others, though she was among those who covered their heads. 'They don't bother me,' she said.
Selectman Dianne Gilbert, who remained seated at the selectmen's table but ducked throughout the bat incident, remembers a bat entering the meeting room on two occasions during her many years on the board.
'I'm not a fan. They make me queasy,' she said. 'If it was a canary flying around it wouldn't bother me.'