The Braintree School Committee last week named Dedham High School’s principal and a former Southbridge superintendent as the two finalists for the top job at Braintree’s public schools. Superintendent Maureen Murray has announced she will retire at the end of June after two years in the job. The district has said it will award a three-year contract and pay a new superintendent between $158,000 and $172,500. The schedule calls for public interviews the week of April 6 and an appointment by the School Committee by the end of April. Finalist Ron McCarthy is in his fifth year as principal of the 700-student Dedham High School and has been an educator for more than 30 years. Finalist Patricia Gardner stepped down as head of the Southbridge schools in January,
citing “philosophical differences on how the school district should move forward,” after less than a year on the job. She was Southbridge’s third superintendent since 2013. The nine-person Braintree superintendent search committee worked with the Massachusetts Association of School Committees before recommending McCarthy and Gardner. “They have selected two excellent finalists and are in a very good position,” association executive director Glenn Koocher said.
Middleborough voters will soon decide whether to continue taxing farm animals and equipment. The Saturday, April 4 annual town election includes a ballot question submitted by the town assessor to eliminate the current excise tax imposed on individuals and small businesses that own farm animals, machinery, and equipment. Assessor Barbara Erickson said the town collects “just shy of $2,500” from the tax, and spends more to process and mail the 33 bills. “I am recommending we get rid of it,” she said. “It won’t make a big impact on the town’s financials, and it’s not really a fair tax because it’s very hard to determine if someone [should be] considered a farmer.’’ The measure needs a majority vote to pass, with a “yes” leading to its elimination of the tax and a “no” preserving it, according to Town Clerk Allison J. Ferreira. Ferreira said a lack of contested races also on the ballot is not unusual. “Last year we had no contested races, as well,” she said. “Nobody is being compensated in any way, and [the elected positions] take up a lot of time. We’d love to see more people run, though.”
Sherrill Barron and Stephen Owen, both running unopposed in the April 6 election, are expected to be among a group of new faces joining the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School Committee this spring. Up to half of the eight-member committee could soon consist of new members. Barron, a retired teacher, told the Globe in an interview that she opposes replacing the state’s current standardized tests
with a new set based on the national Common Core standards. She said Common Core is a push to take local control away from cities and towns, and comes with unfunded mandates that edge school budgets higher. Lakeville voting runs from noon until 8 p.m. at the Ted Williams Camp. The town has two contested races. Laura Graber, Richard LaCamera, and Patrick Marshall are running for one open seat on the Library Board of Trustees, and Michael Levrault is challenging incumbent Barry Evans for Park Commission.
Duxbury Town Meeting voters overwhelming agreed to spend nearly $2 million of Community Preservation Act money to purchase 267 acres of mostly unbuildable land. The 17 parcels, several of which are bogs, will be purchased by the town from owner Stanley Merry and may be leased to bog farmers, as is done elsewhere in town. The vote was 212-12 in favor of the purchase. Town Meeting voters approved the measure on March 14. Proponents argued it was important for open space, conservation, agriculture, and water supply.
The Randolph Town Council last week voted unanimously to send the message to the Tri-Town Water District Commission and officials in Braintree and Holbrook that the construction of a new water treatment plant would fit the needs of their community better than signing on as a customer of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. “The message is that we want to control our own destiny,” said Town Councilor Arthur G. Goldstein. Town Manager David C. Murphy said a decision on how to supply water to the three communities rests with the Tri-Town board, which has been struggling with an outdated treatment plant. He presented estimates at the March 23 Town Council meeting that projected the cost of a new plant planned for Braintree at $43.5 million, with Randoph’s share just under $15.8 million. The MWRA would charge Randolph a joining fee of roughly $12.5 million that could result in a yearly payment of about $501,000 for 25 years, Murphy said. Cost projections show that consumers would pay roughly 20 percent with the MWRA, he said. “I guess the question is: ‘Do you want to be a customer or do you want to own the business?’” Richard Brewer, Randolph’s Tri-Town representative, said a recent study showed that the local reservoir has a much larger capacity than previously thought.
The Stoughton schools have asked for a 4.67 percent hike in the 2016 budget, an increase of just over $2 million that would bring total spending to about $43 million. Superintendent of Schools Marguerite Rizzi said new spending would include three mathematics support staff positions, one each at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. “We’re happy with where we’re at when it comes to [English Language Arts] scores, and we’re looking forward to increasing math scores with these additions,” she said. The schools have also included five other Town Meeting warrant articles for capital spending, the most important being a $2.25 million project to replace the windows and doorways at the West Elementary School. The other articles request $40,000 to replace a School Department truck; $100,000 for fire suppression systems at two schools; $65,000 for an air conditioning system in the media center of the O”Donnell School; and $75,000 for air conditioning for the administrative offices at Stoughton High. Selectmen at a recent meeting questioned the need for the air conditioning, new truck, and fire suppression systems.
Municipal board members and the general public have an opportunity to learn more about the state’s Open Meeting Law. Attorney General Maura Healey’s office is holding a regional forum on the law on Wednesday, April 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hanover town hall. The event is one of four free educational forums that Healey’s office is holding around the state this month and next to better inform government officials and other residents about the requirements of the law. Since 2010, the attorney general’s office has been responsible for enforcing the law, which sets out requirements that government entitites must follow to ensure public access to their proceedings. Hanover Town Clerk Catherine Harder-Bernier said hosting the regional event is another step in the town’s ongoing efforts to make the workings of its government more transparent. The forum should be particularly helpful to relatively new board members, but Harder-Bernier said even veteran members would benefit because of the many changes that have been made to the law. Anyone planning to attend is asked to contact JoAnne O’Connor, Hanover’s assistant town clerk, at email@example.com or at 781- 826-5000, ext. 1079.
Weymouth firefighters have saved 118 people from opiate overdoses since they began carrying the overdose-reversal medication Narcan two years ago. That’s, on average, more than one person a week — and doesn’t count people who were saved by crews of private ambulances, according to a press release issued last week by the town. “Narcan has proven its importance time and time again,” Fire Chief Keith Stark said. “This medication saves lives, and that’s what we’re in the business of doing.” In March 2013, the Weymouth Fire Department became one of the first municipal agencies in the state to carry Narcan under a pilot program administered by the state’s Department of Public Health. “Our frontline first responders, including many EMTs and paramedics, recognized the severity and frequency of the overdose problem,” said Brad Flannery, who chairs the local firefighter union’s Narcan committee. “Our members reached out to the DPH and lobbied for inclusion in the pilot program. We couldn’t stand by and watch people die when there was something we could do to help.” All first responders in Weymouth now carry Narcan, and provide information about treatment and prevention through the town’s Family Addiction Support Team.
A race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen is the only contest for town office at Pembroke’s May 2 annual town election. Incumbents Lew Stone and Daniel Trabucco are vying with John G. Brown for the two board seats. Brown is new to Pembroke’s political scene, but not to politics. He managed the unsuccessful congressional campaign last year of fellow Pembroke Republican Vincent Cogliano Jr. He also previously worked in the media department of the Republican National Committee, served as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill, and ran unsuccessfully for a county freeholder seat in New Jersey. Candidates are running unopposed for ten seats, including School Committee members Michael Tropeano and Virginia Wandell, who are seeking reelection. No one filed nomination papers for an open seat on the Housing Authority.
The Easton Agricultural Commission is taking applications for garden plots at Wheaton Farm, with the assumption that the snow eventually will melt and the ground will thaw. “I think everyone needs a dose of optimism right now, that spring will come,” said commission spokeswoman Stephanie Danielson. This is the third year for the community garden, comprising 25 plots on town-owned land managed jointly by the Agricultural and Conservation commissions, Danielson said. Gardeners must agree to use organic methods and help with general upkeep of the site. Gardening classes and get-togethers are planned, Danielson said. “We like to note the community aspect of the garden started with the beginning,” she said. “The deer fencing was installed as an Eagle Scout project under the direction of Scout Maxx Fioriti, [and] the irrigation was funded through a donation made by Avery Lee Williams. Turning the garden and mowing around it in the first year was done by Flynn Family Farms.” Danielson said the gardens are on land that was part of Easton’s first land conservation purchase; the town now owns more than 4,000 such acres, she said. More information about the community garden is available at www.easton.ma.us.
A wind turbine the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority has commissioned for Bridgewater is scheduled to be installed over the late summer and early fall, and should begin generating electricity by the end of October, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo. The turbine has been ordered and manufactured, and the MBTA is developing specifications for a contractor to install it, he said in an e-mail. The agency plans to award an installation contract in August. The turbine will be built along the commuter rail right-of-way, on the northwest corner of the rail crossing with Titicut Street, he said. The site is just east of the Bridgewater Correctional Complex. The turbine is expected to produce 1.56 million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, saving the MBTA about $200,000 annually, he said. MBTA representatives have met with the Massachusetts Department of Correction, Bridgewater Town Council, and Bridgewater Conservation Commission to discuss the project, though no town approval is required. The turbine will stand 213 feet high from the ground to the center of the blades, he said. The MBTA already has a turbine operating alongside the tracks in Kingston.
Ever wonder what food red wiggler worms like best? Or how a floor surface affects the bounce of a basketball? What about whether freezing an onion before you cut it leads to fewer tears? Those questions, and more, will be answered at the Martha Jones School’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Fair in Westwood on Thursday, March 26, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The second annual fair will feature exhibits from about 100 kindergarten through fifth-grade students, according to parent organizer Mike Jud, who said the purpose is “to give kids a chance to show their enthusiasm for science.” The fair doesn’t award prizes, but parents and Westwood High School student advisers provide comments to the participants – in person, on paper, and by Twitter at #mjstem. More information about the fair, which is open to the public, is available at https://sites.google.com/site/mjsstemfair/home.
Jeffrey Granatino, superintendent of schools in Canton since 2010, will take over the top job in Marshfield on July 1. The Marshfield School Committee voted unanimously on March 10 to select Granatino from among three finalists. He stood out, committee chairwoman Marti Morrison said in an interview, because he is a current superintendent with more than five years’ experience and he comes from a district similar to Marshfield, with many of the same goals. Before becoming superintendent in Canton, he worked as interim superintendent in Norwood. He is a past principal of Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School, and he has completed part of the coursework toward a doctorate degree at Northeastern University, Morrison said.
At least one new member will be elected to the Kingston Board of Selectmen at town elections on April 25 as two challengers and one incumbent vie for two seats on the board. The three candidates seeking three-year terms are Selectwoman Susan Munford and Peter Boncek and R. Lindsay Wilson, both of whom have run for office in the past and are active in the town, according to Town Clerk Paul M. Gallagher. Gallagher said that seven people had indicated an interest in running but only three returned nomination papers with the required signatures. Gallagher said the snowy weather combined with a tough economy has left some people reluctant to run. Another contested race is for a spot on the Board of Health with incumbent Joe Casna facing challenger David Kennedy, a former Finance Committee member. A post that could see a write-in candidate is the one on the Kingston Elementary School Board, which had drawn no candidates by the deadline.
Freetown-Lakeville Regional School Committee member Robert Nogueira, who represented Freetown on the board, has resigned, citing personal reasons in a letter to committee chairman David Goodfellow. He did not elaborate on the reasons for his departure. Nogueira was elected in 2009 and served on the committee during the transition from a partially regionalized school district, which had separate governance of each town’s elementary school, to a fully regional district. He said in the March 2 letter that he “truly enjoyed” serving Freetown and Lakeville during his time on the committee. He could not be reached for comment.
Hingham officials may be asking voters at Town Meeting to spend $2.9 million to buy the marina at 26 Summer St., but will have to see how the financial picture looks, especially after an expensive winter. “There are a lot of competing priorities this year,” said Irma Lauter, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. She said the town is facing approximately $1.8 million in bills for snow-related costs. But, she said, she would also like to see the town own the property at some point. A tentative proposal calls for the town to buy the marina and lease it to the current owners for two years, while it determines how the property best fits in the larger harbor development plan, she said. Town Meeting is April 27.
Hull Town Meeting will decide in May whether to take the police and fire chief positions out of Civil Service. Selectmen voted for the change earlier this month, saying it would give officials more flexibility in both hiring and firing. Town Meeting voted down a similar proposal in 2003, according to Town Clerk Janet Bennett. Both the police and fire chief positions are opening up in Hull. Christopher Russo has been serving as interim fire chief since Robert Hollingshead retired in January. Police Chief Police Richard K. Billings is turning 65 in April 2016, and under Civil Service rules he must retire then. Billings, who has been named a defendant in several civil lawsuits alleging discrimination within the Police Department, would remain under Civil Service until he retired regardless of the outcome of a vote, officials said. Hull Town Meeting is scheduled to start May 4. About a quarter of communities in the state have Civil Service police chiefs, and slightly less than 20 percent have Civil Service fire chiefs, according to data from the state Civil Service agency.
Billy Sullivan’s first and only duty as Scituate’s new mayor will be to preside at the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade – which has been postponed to April 12 “due to excessive weather.” “It feels good,” 51-year-old Sullivan, who works at the Village Market in Scituate as well as a restaurant and inn in Cohasset, said of his win. He defeated Wayne Ross, who urged supporters to vote in “the only election that can be legally bought” where participants are asked to “vote online! vote often!” The election is a fund-raiser for the parade, with voters paying $1 per ballot for the traditional event that started as a small stroll around the block in the Minot neighborhood to celebrate the community’s Irish roots. The parade, which is now run by the Scituate Chamber of Commerce, has grown to five times its original length and runs from the Gates Middle School on First Parish Road, through downtown Scituate Harbor to Hatherly Road. Start time is 1 p.m. More information is available at www.scituatechamber.org.
A race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen is one of three contests on the ballot as Raynham’s annual town election kicks into full gear. March 9 was the deadline for prospective candidates to return nomination papers for the April 25 election. In the selectmen’s race, incumbent Richard Schiavo is opposed by Karen Roberts, a Finance Committee member who unsuccessfully challenged Schiavo in 2012. There are three contenders for two Raynham seats on the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional School Committee. Incumbents Louis “Tony” Ghelfi and Patricia A. Riley are vying with challenger Ion J. Baleanu, a political newcomer. The other contest is a two-way race for a seat on the Board of Sewer Commissioners, with incumbent John A. Dolan facing a challenge from Gordon D. Luciano, a member of the Board of Assessors and a former selectman and Regional School Committee member. Eight other candidates are running unopposed.
Despite complaints from School Committee members who said they should also be paid, the Randolph Town Council voted recently to back a charter change measure that calls for only councilors to receive a $5,000 a year stipend. “Our responsibilities are more demanding and complex than those of the School Committee members,” said Town Councilor Arthur G. Goldstein. He said in an interview that the council, which is currently unpaid, surveyed similar communities and found several that had stipends for city councilors but not for school committee members. At a joint meeting of the two boards, School Committee members urged an equal playing field for all elected officials. The measure will go before voters in November at the town election. The election season will also see terms expiring for all elected town officials. Those elected under the new form of government put in place about five years ago are seven School Committee members; nine town councilors; and the three trustees of Stetson Hall, a historic building used for a variety of events.
Abington town officials voted unanimously Monday to push back Town Meeting until June 8, when the financial picture may be clearer, but they want voters to approve the financing of a ladder fire truck next month. Town bylaws say Town Meeting is to be held the first Monday in April, but they also give selectmen authority to postpone it. Town Manager Rick Lafond said the town recently got estimates that suggest the town could end up with $180,000 less from the state this coming year, but said the legislative process is far from over. Meanwhile, officials want voters going to the polls on April 25 to OK a capital exclusion override that would have the town pay for the estimated $1.2 million fire truck in one year. The move could cost the average homeowner $204, according to town estimates. Supporters say it might be best to purchase the truck, which was approved at Town Meeting last year, before tax bills begin reflecting the cost of the new middle and high school.
A Sharon family overcharged on property taxes by the town may get relief from the May 4 Town Meeting, but the property owners will need special state legislation to receive any rebate, Town Administrator Frederic Turkington said in an interview. Town records overstated the 9 Glendale Road property’s street frontage, he said, resulting in six years of higher tax bills. The town can remedy the last three years on its own, but state law prohibits the town from granting an abatement farther than three years back so special legislation is required, and Town Meeting must provide local approval. The Board of Assessors asked the Board of Selectmen to reopen the Town Meeting warrant to add the necessary article, and the selectmen granted that request March 3. The family was overcharged $5,401.77 for the years that require legislation, Turkington said. He said the Legislature is not always eager to pass such special provisions, but Sharon’s case is a “very unusual” error in record-keeping. Assessors’ records show that the property consists of 0.44 acres of vacant land assessed at $207,000.
The May 12 town election in Mansfield has two likely contests to date, but candidates have been slow to return the necessary paperwork. “Hopefully things will pick up in the next week or two,” said Town Clerk Marianne E. Staples. She said that although several candidates — including incumbents whose terms are expiring — have taken out nomination papers, none had returned them with the necessary signatures so that their names can appear on the ballot. One likely contest is for selectman; incumbent George Dentino and town Finance Committee chairman Steve Schoonveld have both taken out papers. Another is for a School Committee seat; incumbent Wayne Smith could face a challenge from Jennifer Walsh. Staples said all comers are welcome to join in the fray and have until March 24 to return completed nomination papers. She also said changes are coming for voters a year from now, when they will be able to register to vote online and will see candidates from two new political parties — the Green Rainbow and the United Independent parties.
About 500 students in Foxborough’s public schools have special needs, generating a considerable amount of paperwork for both the families and the district. To help parents cope with documentation, the Foxborough Special Education Parent Advisory Council is sponsoring a free two-hour “Let’s Get Organized Workshop” on March 23 at Igo Elementary School. “The amount of paperwork parents of children with special needs accumulate can be daunting,” said council chairwoman Margaret Chaisson. “The volume can build quickly, and parents usually have no idea what papers will turn out to be important and what they can toss, so they save everything and then can’t find the document they are looking for when they need it.” The evening workshop run by Family Ties of Massachusetts will provide steps on how to prioritize the papers, and a binder to put them in, Chaisson said. She asked that participants preregister by March 16 by contacting her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hingham School Committee voted unanimously last Monday to approve a $45.9 million proposed operating budget for next year. School Committee chairman Ray Estes said the proposed budget is a 5.4 percent increase over the current spending plan and consists primarily of contractual obligations such as teacher salaries and special education costs. Full-day kindergarten will be new in the fall, but the costs will be covered by tuition. Town Meeting voters will have the final say on the budget on April 27. In other business, the School Committee voted to have all students attend school on Good Friday to make up a snow day. Students who attend the Plymouth River School are also being directed to attend a half-day Saturday session on March 28 to make up for an extra day lost there because of roof damage related to the snow.
Three people have pulled papers to run against one another for a seat on the Board of Selectmen in the May election in Cohasset. The candidates include incumbent Martha Gjesteby, an octogenarian whose three-year term expires. She defeated the then-chairman of the board for the seat in 2012. Peter Pescatore, chairman of the town Advisory Committee since 2011, and School Committee vice chairman Paul Schubert also took out nomination papers signaling their intention to run, according to Town Clerk Carol St. Pierre. Schubert’s term on the school board expires in May. Candidates have until March 19 to take out nomination papers, and until March 23 to return them with the required signatures, St. Pierre said. The town election is May 9.
The Plymouth Zoning Board of Appeals recently approved plans for a development of 16 single-family detached homes under Chapter 40B, the state’s affordable-housing law. By a vote of 5-0, the board agreed, with conditions, to a request by Plymouth Pines LLC to modify a comprehensive permit for the 2.88-acre site at 335 Carver Road. The zoning board’s action came on the recommendation of the Planning Board. The homes will be a mixture of two and three bedrooms. As required under Chapter 40B, four units — or 25 percent of the total — will be affordably priced. The board originally granted the permit in 2006 to another developer, Twin Pines Farm LLC, to construct 20 condominium units on the property. Last August, the board granted a transfer of the permit from Twin Pines Farm LLC to Plymouth Pines LLC. In discussions with town officials and community members, Plymouth Pines LLC proposed significant changes to the plan, including reduction in the total number of units from 20 to 16 and the switch from a multifamily condominium to detached homes. The new plan also provides for more open space, as well as rain gardens to store stormwater from throughout the site.
The Marshfield School Committee expects to select a new superintendent on Tuesday, following interviews and meetings with the three finalists last week, according to two School Committee members. The finalists are Pamela Gould, assistant superintendent for human resources for the Plymouth public schools; Jeffrey Granatino, superintendent of schools in Canton; and Anthony Pope, a consultant for the Panasonic Foundation, an education reform organization in New Jersey. Pope previously served as superintendent in Marlborough. Members of the search committee would typically visit the candidates’ districts, but since Pope does not have a home district, the committee set up an evaluation system without those visits, Carol Shrand, vice chairwoman of the School Committee, said in an interview. Last week, the finalists were scheduled to undergo evening interviews and daytime visits to the Marshfield schools, meeting principals, parents, central office staff, teachers, and members of the community. Shrand and School Committee chairwoman Marti Morrison said they expect the School Committee to deliberate and make a final decision Tuesday.
State Representative John Rogers, a Norwood Democrat, and Norwood Fire Chief Anthony Greeley are among the contestants in this year’s “Dancing with the Stars” to benefit the Norwood Circle of Hope Foundation. This year’s event will take place April 17 at 7 p.m. at the Four Points Sheraton. Satellite viewing sites include the Olde Colonial Cafe, Lewis Restaurant and Grill, and The Colonial House Restaurant. The other contestants this year include Maura Belanger, an elementary school teacher and breast cancer survivor; Diane Costello-Fruci, who along with her husband runs Norwood Wines and Liquors; Gus Eldayaa of Gus & Donna’s Barber Shop; and real estate agent Julie DiSangro Gross. Contestants last year helped raise $107,000 for the foundation, which helps local residents dealing with catastrophic illness. Kathy St. Cyr, organizer of the event, said this is the fund-raiser’s sixth year. “Every year it seems to get bigger and better,” she said. “It’s exciting.” She praised the dancers, who take lessons and hold fund-raisers in preparation for the big night.
Officials in Norwell want residents to fill out an online survey about how much they’d be willing to pay for a new library and town hall, and where they’d like them located. The 12-question survey is available at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/norwellforward and was prepared by the Norwell Library-Town Hall Study Committee to gauge community support for the building projects. The committee expects to present a preliminary proposal to the spring Town Meeting. The current library on South Street was built in 1973. Norwell Town Hall was built in 1955, and was used as an elementary school until 1984; town offices moved in two years later. Discussion about the need for new library and municipal facilities began in 2002. Among the options being considered are renovating the current town hall to include the library, or building new structures at various sites in town. The study committee is asking residents to fill out the survey by this Friday.
Holbrook parents got a break Tuesday when the public schools reopened after a Monday closure that resulted from snow-related problems at Holbrook Junior-Senior High School. A wall was damaged during snow removal and a front-end loader damaged gas equipment, Superintendent Patricia Lally said in an interview. Initially, she did not know how long the schools would be closed, because officials were concerned about a possible structural problem, she said. But workers repaired the gas equipment, and an inspection cleared the building to reopen. “We’re just fortunate that it’s not worse,” she said. The day off was Holbrook’s seventh snow day this year, pushing the last day of the school year from a Friday to Monday, June 22. Lally said it would have been nice to end on a Friday, but she was glad the district started school before Labor Day, so it could avoid going later into the summer. The school is expected to be occupied for about two more years; Holbrook has voted to build a $103 million pre-K-through-12 school, projected to be ready in December 2017.
Skaters need ice – but not the kind of icy snow that covered the roof of Ulin Rink in Milton and led to officials closing the facility last weekend as a precautionary measure. “The decision was made in the interest of public safety,” said Fran Jackson, director of communication for Curry College, which manages the state-owned rink. “There is no known structural damage.” Jackson said the college consulted with the state building inspector and brought in a structural engineer to assess the situation before closing the rink at 4 p.m. on Feb. 21 so more snow could be removed from the roof. She said early last week that the rink would remain closed until the state building inspector reinspected and deemed it safe. Fourteen skating groups regularly use the rink, she said, including Milton High School; Braintree, Norwood, Milton, and Westwood youth hockey teams; theCommonwealth Figure Skating club, Curry College; and numerous adult hockey leagues. The rink also is open to the public at various times for skating.
Voters in Avon can find out about the latest proposal for improving the town’s public safety facilities at an informational meeting scheduled for March 12 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall. The town’s Public Safety Building Committee has proposed building a new police station at the site of the former Crowley School, and also hopes to renovate the current shared facility for the Fire Department. The two projects would cost about $11.3 million, an expense requiring Town Meeting approval in May of an override of Proposition 2½’s debt limits, according to Town Clerk Patricia Bessette. If approved, the cost would add about $100 a year to the average household’s property taxes, officials said. The average home in Avon is assessed at $263,000. Avon voters in the past have rejected more expensive plans for a new combined police and fire station. The Public Safety Building Committee says the current building is inadequate and unsafe.
Snow days will be distant memories by the time classes end in Hull this year, since the last day of school has been pushed back to June 30, according to Superintendent Kathleen Tyrell. In addition, the town’s public schools will be open half a day for grades one through 12 on Saturday, March 7, to help make up for the 10 snow days accumulated so far, Tyrell said. Because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath, there will be no tests or major projects that day, she said. Hull was hit hard by the recent snowstorms, with some side streets still impassable last week, according to Town Manager Philip Lemnios. A crew from the New York Department of Transportation early last week brought equipment to help dig out the peninsula, and members of the Hull High School basketball team helped shovel out the town’s senior center and homes of senior citizens. Lemnios has been writing daily updates on the town’s website, with weather-themed literary references that he challenged residents to identify. One example: Thoreau’s “We are hunters pursuing the summer on snowshoes and skates, all winter long. There is really but one season in our hearts.” Hull public school students will experience summer in the classroom this year, thanks to the winter storms.
Residents of Marshfield’s Rexhame Terrace neighborhood who lost a dispute with the town over ownership of part of Rexhame Beach have appealed the Dec. 31 Land Court verdict that declared the beach town-owned.
Hanover is planning to expand a program that has helped it keep better tabs on its Fire Department equipment needs. Since last summer, the Edward J. Collins Jr. Center for Public Management at the University of Massachusetts Boston has been helping the department devise and implement a computerized program that would provide detailed data on the maintenance and condition of its vehicles and criteria to use in making decisions on when to replace them. “It’s a very helpful tool for us,” Town Manager Troy Clarkson said of the system, which is still being finalized. Rather than simply replacing fire trucks or ambulances on a randomly selected schedule, he said the data-tracking system offers “an empirical basis for making those decisions.” He said the town is now looking to develop a similar data system for its Department of Public Works. The Collins Center is offering the assistance through its Municipal Performance Management Program, which helps cities and towns use data and analysis to improve their operations. Clarkson said Hanover joined the program on an introductory basis with the Fire Department initiative. He said it will probably enter into a more formal contract with the center to help the town in other areas.
A more detailed analysis of the four potential options for replacing Carver’s elementary school will be presented Tuesday at the Carver School Building Committee meeting. Town Administrator Michael Milanowski said the committee is leaning toward the option that calls for a new building of about 108,000 square feet at the site of the current elementary school buildings on Main Street. Carver Elementary comprises two buildings that house the town’s roughly 800 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 5. “It’s likely to be more costly to repair than to build new,” said Milanowski. The town has hired HMFH Architects Inc. of Cambridge and a project manager from PMA Consultants in Braintree to help evaluate the options. In addition to constructing a new building at the current school site, options also include renovating and adding on to one of the elementary school buildings; and new construction at two possible sites at the Carver High School campus. Previous plans for a new school have been shot down by voters unwilling to fund it, but School Superintendent Liz Sorrell said the town needs the new space more than ever. “These buildings are severely overcrowded and aging. We have more students than we have space for,” she said. The town is hoping to have about 56 percent of the price of the new school paid for by the state through the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
Never mind the snow. The town of Sharon is looking ahead to beach season at Lake Massapoag, and the Board of Selectmen has voted to keep costs the same as last year. Season car passes will be $67 for residents, $34 for senior residents, and $100 for nonresidents, according to recreation director Amanda Levasseur. Lower rates for walk-ins without cars are also available. Residents have their choice of two beaches; nonresidents must use Community Center Beach. Day passes, available only for Community Center Beach, will be $10 per person or $20 per family. Passes are sold online, starting in the spring, via a link from the Recreation Department website. The town raised prices last year to recoup the cost of offering online sales, she said. In an interview Tuesday, Levasseur said selectmen are considering opening the residents-only Memorial Park Beach for two additional hours in the evenings, from 6 to 8 p.m., but the change would cost about $7,200. She said she has recommended raising the money by offering extended-season passes for $125 that would be good from April 1 to Nov. 1. They would be targeted at two audiences: Sharon High School upperclassmen who want to use the parking lot as an overflow school lot (their families could also use the pass for summer beach-going), and triathletes who use the pond in the off-season, she said.
It may still feel like the dead of winter, but the spring election season is in full bloom in Plymouth. Candidates are taking out nomination papers to run for seats that will be on the ballot of the May 9 election. Townwide positions available this year include two seats on the Board of Selectmen and three on the School Committee. Voters will fill a regular three-year term on the selectmen and separately choose someone to fill the remainder of the term of Mathew Muratore, who resigned after being elected a state representative. The three-year seat is currently held by Kenneth Tavares, who is the only candidate to emerge so far. Former longtime selectmen David Malaguti; Lizabeth Cavacco; and Craig Sander, a member of the Charter Review Committee, have all taken out papers to run for the one-year seat. Incumbents Dennis Begley, Kimberly Hunt, and Margie Burges, have all taken out papers for the School Committee seats. Tavares, Malaguti, Cavacco, Begley, and Burgess have all returned their nomination papers. Voters will also choose two Planning Board members — one to complete an unexpired term — and one each on the Housing Authority and the Redevelopment Authority. They will also elect 49 Town Meeting members, 45 of them to fill regular terms and four to complete unexpired terms. The deadline to take out and file nomination papers is March 23.
The federal government will provide $4.5 million to dredge Duxbury Harbor, something local government and business leaders have been asking for for years. Town Meeting voters set aside $80,000 last year for dredging, but needed the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the 34 acres it maintains at the same time to make it workable. In an e-mail to those involved in the project, Town Manager Rene Read said he expects the project will start in the fall, and he thanked several people for their efforts.
Anyone seeking to pull a building or health permit in Hanover now has to do it online, after the town recently switched to an all-electronic permitting system for its Community Services Department. According to Town Manager Troy Clarkson, Hanover joins a growing number of cities and towns that are moving to the exclusively online permitting system. “There’s a sign on my door that says we are open for business, and we mean that,” he said. “By being completely online, we are able to be respectful and helpful to people from the private sector whose time is precious.” The new system applies to building, health, electrical, and plumbing permits, which all come under the Community Services Department. Clarkson said the town actually installed the online permitting system three years ago, but continued to also allow traditional paper permitting while they worked to make sure the electronic format was operating properly. The recent switch came after officials concluded the online system was working well. Clarkson’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget calls for creation of a new position within the department to oversee the online permitting – which the town hopes to expand to other departments – and the town’s GIS mapping system.
Raynham plans to hold a Special Town Meeting next month to reauthorize land takings needed for Walmart to construct a new traffic signal at the intersection of Route 138 and Center Street. The date of the meeting has been tentatively set for March 10. The installation of the signal is the last of a series of traffic mitigation measures Walmart agreed to undertake as part of the permitting for its new supercenter on Route 138, which opened last March. The annual Town Meeting last May approved the land takings, but the town did not carry them out within the 180-day period required by state law, necessitating a new authorization vote. Town Administrator Randall Buckner said the land takings did not occur because the town was awaiting funding from Walmart to cover the approximately $20,000 in land-taking costs. He said the town was not critical of the retail giant, however, noting that Walmart received the funding request in the fall and provided the money last month after completing a procurement process. Buckner said the town is pleased Walmart provided the money and will proceed with the project. Christopher Buchanan, a spokesman for Walmart, said by e-mail, “Walmart has every hope, as does the town, of beginning work shortly after the Town Meeting reauthorization. Once this reauthorization occurs, we will have more of a firm date to commence the construction.”
Town Council vice president Sheila Whitaker and Councilor Scott Pitta are not seeking reelection in April, each have told the Globe by e-mail. Their decisions leave two open seats among the three council posts up for election this year. Incumbent Councilor Timothy Fitzgibbons has taken out nomination papers in District 2. Dennis Gallagher, a former selectman, has pulled papers for Whitaker’s at-large seat. As of Wednesday, no one had pulled papers for Pitta’s District 1 seat. Anyone interested in running must obtain nomination papers by March 5 and return them by March 9. Pitta was elected when the town changed its form of government in 2010, eliminating Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen in favor of a Town Council and town manager. He promised himself and his constituents he would limit himself to two terms, he said in the e-mail. Too often, he wrote, “elected officials come to believe that they are the only one who can do the job well.” He said he knows other residents are just as capable and can bring new ideas to the council. Whitaker said she has enjoyed the work of a councilor, but her children’s schedules have grown busier, and she has moved into a new role at work for which she needs to take some courses. She said she hopes new councilors will carry out the vision of the town master plan and revitalization plan.
With a town cemetery that is nearly sold out, Halifax’s Special Town Meeting will be asked on Tuesday, Feb. 17, whether it wants to spend $120,000 to buy a parcel that could be used as a cemetery. “People continue to die, and we’ll need more space,” said Town Administrator Charlie Seelig. He said the town was notified in December that a 10-acre hayfield, which had been receiving property tax breaks in the past as farmland under state law, was about to be sold. Under the law, the town has first rights to buy the property, Seelig said. The town determined that about 5 acres of the parcel at the northwest corner of the intersection of Franklin and Hayward streets was dry enough for cemetery use. “We don’t get parcels available to us at this price on a frequent basis. The price is never going to go down for land,” Seelig said. He estimated that the town cemetery behind town hall has space for another five years, but that most of the lots are already purchased or occupied. Also, Special Town Meeting voters will be asked to approve a measure that would reduce delays in the time it takes police officers to be reimbursed for private police details; to formally OK capital expenditures approved by the Silver Lake Regional School District; and to accept state highway funding of $135,469 so the town would not have to wait until spring Town Meeting to use the money for road work.
Leslie O’Neill said she is hoping to hang onto an Abington School Committee seat to which she was appointed last month. O’Neill said in an e-mail that she plans to run in the April 25 election to get elected to the seat she was named to Jan. 12 by selectmen and School Committee members to finish out the term left vacant by Jonathan Mihal, who moved out of state. O’Neill, who works as a cake decorator, served as a co-chairwoman of the Beaver Brook Elementary School parent teacher organization and volunteers in the art room for the first and second grades. She and her husband have three children in the school. She also volunteers as religious education instructor for St. Bridget Church. Candidate nomination papers are due back March 9.
Hornstra Farms prides itself on its fresh milk and reliable service, and last week’s snowstorm did nothing to change that, said Alison Hornstra, a spokeswoman for the Norwell company. “It’s very challenging, but it was business as usual,” she said, noting that Hornstra trucks made 541 deliveries -- in Norwell and as far away as Duxbury and Braintree -- during the Feb. 2 storm. She said that until January’s blizzard, Hornstra hadn’t missed a scheduled delivery in 100 years; the governor-ordered traffic ban led to a first-time, one-day delay. Life went on as usual for the approximately 80 cows at the company’s dairy, she said. They’re milked twice a day -- at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m. – by the three employees who live on the farm. “The cows don’t go out when it’s like this; they don’t even know it’s snowing,” Hornstra said. “They’re perfectly content.”
A senior housing complex in Quincy will be kept affordable for at least another 30 years and undergo a substantial upgrade as a result of $66 million in new financing recently approved by MassHousing. The 640-unit Quincy Point Apartments, on Highpoint Circle, is being acquired by 1000 Southern Artery Renewal Development Limited Partnership, a joint venture between Quincy Point Congregational Church Homes and the National Foundation for Affordable Housing Solutions. Quincy Point Congregational Church Homes had been the sole owner prior to the sale. MassHousing worked with 1000 Southern to accommodate its preferred financing package, which included a $66 million construction loan from MassHousing and a $52.5 million Fannie Mae-backed permanent loan provided and serviced by Greystone. As a result of the MassHousing financing and a separate award of federal low-income housing tax credits, 1000 Southern has agreed to maintain a minimum of 90 percent of the apartments at affordable rates for at least 30 years to residents earning up to 60 percent of the area median income. The 640 apartments are contained in three eight-story buildings built between 1965 and 1972 and connected by pedestrian corridors. The planned renovations include exterior upgrades, installation of new energy-efficient windows, lighting, boilers and chillers, as well as new sliding doors and fire alarm equipment, and improvements to common areas. Individual apartments will also see improvements, including new kitchens and bathrooms.
One of the Coast Guard’s newest cutters is named for local legendary lifesaver Joshua James, and Hull celebrated the connection recently by welcoming the vessel’s prospective commander to town. “This is a huge honor for Hull, and a very exciting moment for the museum,” said Victoria Stevens, curator of the Hull Lifesaving Museum, which held a reception for Captain Andrew Tiongson. The museum is housed in the former Point Allerton Lifesaving Station, which opened in 1889 under James’s leadership. He and his crews saved an estimated 540 lives, and he is considered the father of the modern Coast Guard. The cutter Joshua James is part of a fleet of eight vessels being built by the Coast Guard and named for legendary Coast Guard figures. The ship is under construction in Mississippi and is expected to be commissioned in Boston late this summer, Stevens said.
Rents at the Spring Gate apartment complex in Rockland will remain low for at least the next 15 years under new financing provided by a state agency. MassHousing announced recently it had closed approximately $15 million in loans to four affordable rental housing communities totaling 1,695 apartments. Among the loans is $1.2 million for the 204-unit Spring Gate Apartments, on Hannah Way. The new loans will be used to help pay off the remaining balances on loans made when the apartment communities were first built in the 1970s under a federal subsidy program that is now being phased out. The new financing provides for the owners to participate in a new federal subsidy program, known as Rental Assistance Demonstration, or RAD. By agreeing to enter that “project-based voucher” program, the owners are committing to keeping rents at affordable rates for at least another 15 years. The program will also increase the income flowing into the properties from the federal subsidies, better positioning the owners to make improvements to the properties. Built in 1973, the Spring Gate Apartments are owned by Connolly and Partners LLC, of Boston. The housing is on 10 acres behind Rockland Plaza Shopping Center.
Westwood’s public schools notified parents recently of a case of pertussis, or whooping cough, and urged parents to watch their children for any signs of the disease – characterized by cold-like symptoms and intense coughing – and to contact their family health care providers if needed. “Kids get vaccinated and a booster [shot], but it’s not unusual for pertussis to still be in the school population,” said Linda R. Shea, the town’s health director. “No vaccine is 100 percent.” However, she urged everyone to get the vaccine because pertussis is potentially dangerous. Shea said close family members were most at risk of being exposed to the illness, although anyone who was not vaccinated was at risk. And while recent reports of measles outbreaks in California have been linked to unvaccinated people, Shea said that was not an issue locally.
The town is hiring a lawyer familiar with railroads to help it deal with the MBTA’s proposal to bring regular commuter rail service to Gillette Stadium and Patriot Place. The Board of Selectmen voted last month to authorize Town Manager William Keegan to find an attorney with what Selectman John Gray called the “requisite skills” to meet with the board on the train issue. Local officials in Foxborough and Walpole have expressed surprise at their lack of input into the plan, and the speed at which it appears to be progressing. There was particular concern about reports that the Kraft Group, which owns the stadium and the New England Patriots, had signed an agreement for MBTA parking there. The MBTA currently runs occasional special-event trains to Patriots’ games. “We’re still gathering information, sorting it out to understand all the pieces,” Keegan said.
A field of at least 100 full-sized flags will be installed in Mansfield in conjunction with the town’s Memorial Day celebration this year, following a proposal from a committee of citizens that gained town approval recently. Selectmen granted permission for the group to participate in the Colonial Flag Foundation’s national Field of Honor program this year. However, the town is still working out the best location for the flags, which will measure 3 feet by 5 feet each and will be on 8-foot poles, according to the town’s veteran service officer, Heath Hobson. Hobson said the group wanted to install the field of flags on South Common, but an alternate site between town hall and the police station was suggested because of underground utilities and a sprinkler system on the common. Residents and others will be able to buy a flag in honor of someone living or dead through the Colonial Flag Foundation’s website, www.healingfield.org. After the flags are displayed from May 16 to 31, those who bought the flags would take them home.
Candidates for town offices in Norwood have until Feb. 17 to get their nomination papers in. Seats up for grabs this year include those now held by Selectman Bill Plasko and School Committee members Joe Montesano and Michal Bergeron. Bergeron was appointed in November to finish the term vacated by Paul Samargedlis, who resigned in September. Bergeron, 73, served previously on the committee from 1994 to 2000. In a recent interview, he said he was still considering whether he would run to continue serving on the committee. Also on the April 6 ballot are posts on the Finance Commission, Planning Board, Board of Health, Housing Authority, and Library Trustees, as well as positions of constable and moderator.
A longstanding wholesale wine and liquor distributor is building a $50 million manufacturing plant in Dedham with the support of a first-ever tax break from the town that will help bring 75 jobs to the area.