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Burton Commons party finds happy people

Special to the Union Leader

June 05. 2013 8:24PM

Residents of the Councilor Ray Burton Commons at 10 Washington Drive in North Woodstock had visitors on Tuesday, when the new two-story structure off of Alpine Village Road was officially dedicated to the man whose name in on the building’s sign.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 202 supportive housing for the elderly, built and managed by Southern New Hampshire Services, has a community room, small kitchen, library, laundry room, and an elevator. All 16 units are 550 square feet, with one bedroom each, and can accommodate couples. Residents moved in starting late last year.

Front and center at the open house/dedication was District 1 Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who wondered if there would be space for him when he’s ready to move.

The housing is designed to allow low-income elderly to live independently. “It’s beautiful, it’s convenient, the amenities are so close,” District 1 state Senator Jeff Woodburn said while viewing the one vacant apartment, which will soon get an occupant.

The location of the building is also convenient — Woodburn joked that the residents could expect parades just outside their front door with Burton — which, as someone pointed out, wasn’t far off the mark. The Woodstock 4th of July parade begins on Alpine Road, and Burton is a regular participant.

Residents do not have to go outside to get their mail. There are mailboxes in the front hallway.

Commons’ resident Ted Bartlett, who assisted at the ribbon cutting, moved in at the beginning of December and likes the place. At 91 — he’ll be 92 next month — he cooks his own meals, as do other residents, and keeps active.

Depending on the weather, Bartlett rides his bike six to 10 miles a day. His cycling is aided by the bike’s small electric motor, but the stationary bike set up in his living room is all pedal power.

“I can ride a bike better than I can walk,” Bartlett said. The Common’s library has an online computer for residents’ use, but Bartlett doesn’t need it. The retired TV repairman/antennae installer has his own laptop.

Gale Hennessy, executive director of Southern New Hampshire Services, said that there are 1,000 units of HUD-subsidized housing throughout New Hampshire, living space that serving the “deserving, elderly citizen.”

Rita Perry, HUD project manager said, “It warms our hearts when we see the residents and the beautiful building.”

Hennessey said there’s one more residence going up in Manchester, and then that’s the end of the HUD 202 program. The building was designed by architect David M. White and constructed by Cheshire Builders Inc. and was built on a budget of $1,998,068, At the brief ceremony before lunch, Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s representative, Simon Thomson, conveyed the senator’s best wishes. Thomson also related a personal story. He said he asked his father, Peter Thomson, coordinator of New Hampshire Highway Safety Agency, when they were going to start naming things after him. “’I could never do as much as Councilor Burton,’” Simon Thomson said his father replied.

Chuck Henderson, representing Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, said he could imagine, maybe sometime way in the future, a grandchild visiting a grandparent and seeing Burton’s name and asking , “Who was Councilor Ray Burton?” The grandparent would reply, “As a matter of fact, he’s over here, doing that little trick he does where he folds up the map to show how district 1 had grown.”

Woodburn noted that Burton had received accolades at the North Country Charter Academy graduation on Sunday. “It’s only Tuesday,” Woodburn commented, “by Saturday, we’ll name the whole state after him.”

Hennessey said Burton had always been there in the front lines supporting the programs.

The HUD 202 program provided capital advances for supportive housing for very low-income elderly, along with rent subsidies. The interest-free does not have to be repaid so long as the building serves its purpose for 40 years. Going forward, similar projects will have to be developed using other funding streams, and might not be managed by the same organizations. The details are in flux.

SNHS has built and manages 24 elderly housing projects through HUD Section 202.

Though SNHS is the Community Action Agency for Hillsborough and Rockingham counties, it provides housing for disadvantaged elderly residents throughout the state.

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