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.
Quincy is developing some long-term plans to upgrade the city’s buildings, roads, and equipment. In his recent State of the City address, Mayor Thomas P. Koch announced that in the coming months, he plans to propose to the City Council a five-year capital improvement plan to address some of Quincy’s biggest infrastructure needs. He said it would mean “increased investment in our streets and sidewalks, sewer, water, and drainage projects, and a focus on our public buildings that need serious attention.” Quincy has not previously had a long-term capital investment plan, according to Christopher Walker, the mayor’s spokesman. He said the plan would be a “rolling” document that the city would update annually. Koch said that as part of the plan, he intends to propose major improvements to the city’s neighborhood firehouses, and that he is forming a committee to begin studying the feasibility of building a public safety headquarters. The public safety headquarters, if constructed, would be a combined facility replacing the existing police and fire headquarters buildings, both of which Koch noted are “showing the serious strains of age.” The planning study will be carried out through $1 million the city secured from the Legislature for that purpose. In conjunction with the effort, a separate committee will be studying the need for a new city animal shelter.
2015 marks Sharon’s 250th anniversary, and the town is celebrating with a year of events. Festivities were set to kick off New Year’s Day with the raising of an illuminated anniversary ball, and this week when Sharon schools reopen after the holiday break, all students and faculty will receive an anniversary wristband, according to David Clifton, co-chairman of the 250th Anniversary Celebration Committee. “We’re hoping this is a year when the community can come together to celebrate the history and diversity that the town has,” he said in an interview. The next event, an arts and music festival hosted by the Sharon Creative Arts Association, is scheduled for April 12 at the Sharon Community Center. Arts festival details will be announced as the time draws closer, he said. Other events throughout the year will include walking and bike tours, concerts, a black-tie-optional ball in June, a parade in September, and a talent show in October.
Easton and state officials recognized six organizations, businesses, and residents this month with the inaugural Greenest of Easton awards, acknowledging their efforts to improve environmental awareness and education. The town was the first in Bristol County to be designated by the state Department of Energy Resources as a Green Community, which promotes renewable energy initiatives. The certificates were awarded to the Southeastern Regional Green Team, a student group that has organized projects including a green roof at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School; Christopher Getchell, principal at Parkview Elementary School; town resident Karen Cacciapuoti, who promotes agricultural literacy and outdoor education; the Olmsted School Green Team, for its efforts in areas including recycling; Langwater Farm, for the greenest business; and Sheila Dever-David, a kindergarten teacher at Parkview Elementary, as the greenest teacher. For more information on the Green Community program, visit www.mass.gov/eea/energy-utilities-clean-tech/green-communities.
Westwood has joined other Massachusetts communities that are taking mobile and online complaints from residents about quality-of-life problems, such as potholes and street light outages. A new program through Commonwealth Connect allows residents to use their mobile phones or devices to report nonemergency issues in their neighborhoods. The platform launched last week, and already has attracted several citizen reports, including a request for repaving. The platform allows people to track the resolution of each complaint. Westwood is requesting online posts about issues such as potholes, missed trash collection, dead animals, illegal dumping, street flooding, and street light outages. The reports will be referred to the appropriate town department. People who have an emergency should still call 911; Commonwealth Connect is for nonemergencies only. The program is available for download to iPhones or Android devices. It also can be accessed on the town’s website at www.townhall.westwood.ma.us/index.cfm/page/Report-a-Problem/pid/34395.
Rockland is seeking to pay tribute to its military veterans. A committee has begun raising the $150,000 needed to erect a new memorial to Rockland residents who have served in the military from the time of the Spanish-American War, according to Anton Materna, the town’s director of veterans’ services, who is chairing the panel. The town currently has several bronze plaques listing the names of Rockland veterans on the face of the interior walls at Veterans Memorial Stadium. But Materna said the plaques, which list all veterans from the Spanish-American War through the Vietnam War, are accessible to the public only when the stadium is open. He said the new memorial would be accessible at all times and lit at night. The plan calls for aluminum plaques mounted on granite walls. The memorial will list all the names contained on the existing memorial, plus those of veterans who have served since Vietnam. The plan is for the project to be entirely funded with private donations. The committee has quietly raised about $15,000 so far. Next month, it plans to launch a major outreach effort to seek donations from members of the community or anyone else who might interested in contributing.
Youth LEAD, a Sharon-based youth leadership training organization that hosts an annual diversity conference in the Boston area, has named Beth Hoke as its new executive director. Hoke was previously executive director of the all-volunteer Sharon Pluralism Network and was trained as a clinical psychologist. She said in an interview that she plans to refocus Youth LEAD’s mission on building its local program in Sharon in the short term, while looking to build partnerships with surrounding communities over the long term. The group has previously worked with college campuses and helped launch a Youth LEAD program in Oklahoma City. In Sharon, the group is planning the annual youth-led conference for next May. More than 50 young people are enrolled in Youth LEAD, an acronym for Youth Leaders Engaging Across Differences, which seeks to foster multicultural understanding and engagement. The group also runs a small program in Brockton. According to Hoke, the previous executive director, founder Janet Penn, left the post earlier this year.
Town leaders in Abington are looking to appoint another School Committee member after the committee’s newest member resigned because he is moving to Vermont. Jonathan Mihal, who edged out then-committee chairwoman Jannette Cummings Leary in April, said he is leaving Abington to work and study at the College of St. Joseph, his alma mater, in Rutland. Mihal said he wished he could serve longer, but he was proud that he got to help with the successful campaign for a new middle and high school. Town Manager Richard LaFond said selectmen and School Committee members will meet in January to appoint someone to the job. According to the town charter, the appointee will serve until the next town election, set for April 25, at which time voters can elect someone. The opening was posted Dec. 15.
The Onondaga County Sheriff’s Department in upstate New York says it is continuing to seek leads and accept tips from residents in the town of Cicero a year after a West Bridgewater woman disappeared. Carol Nee, 50, the married mother of two adult daughters, was last seen on on Dec. 8, 2013, while visiting relatives in Cicero. Nee, who according to the sheriff’s department suffered from paranoia and post-traumatic stress disorder, has not been seen or heard from since she was reported missing from the home. Detectives say there’s no indication of foul play in Nee’s disappearance. According to the department, the area around the Cicero home has been searched several times by sheriff’s deputies, aided by a K-9 unit, a helicopter, and members of the department’s Wilderness Search and Rescue Team, and turned up very little evidence. Nee is described as being 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighing 140 pounds, with black hair and green eyes. The sheriff’s department is accepting tips or leads at 315-435-3081 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The average property tax bill for single-family residents in Pembroke is going up $172 this year. The state Department of Revenue recently approved the tax rate set by the town for fiscal 2015. The rate is $14.74 per $1,000 valuation, or 5 cents higher than last year’s $14.69 per $1,000, according to Catherine Salmon, the town’s chief assessor. The owner of an average single-family home valued at $333,400 would pay $4,915 in taxes this year, or 3.6 percent higher than the $4,743 the owner of an average home valued at $322,900 would have paid last year. Salmon said some of the increase stems from the debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, adopted by voters last January to replace and repair roofs at four town schools. The town set the rate after selectmen agreed to maintain the town’s longstanding policy of having a single tax rate for residents and businesses. The new tax rate and updated property values will be reflected in the third-quarter tax bills for fiscal 2015 that are set to be mailed this coming week. The bills for the first two quarters were estimates, based on the fiscal 2014 figures.
The Marshfield St. Patrick’s Day 5K, which bills itself as “America’s most Irish road race,” will mark its fifth anniversary in March. The race has raised more than $259,000 for special programs at the Marshfield public schools, and the town honored race volunteer Tom Miller on Dec. 8 for his dedication to the event. Last year nearly 4,000 people registered, according to Miller, who is business and finance director for the school district. Proceeds go the Marshfield Education Foundation, which offers grants to the schools. The Board of Selectmen presented Miller with a certificate celebrating the race’s anniversary and his work on the event. “I think it’s a phenomenal achievement,”said John Hall, selectmen chairman. The 2015 race takes place March 14. For more information, visit www.marshfieldstpatricksday5k.com.
Cohasset residents will soon be able to use their smart devices to report problems directly to Town Hall, and they are promised an immediate response. That’s because Cohasset has joined the Commonwealth Connect Program, a statewide program that allows residents to use their phones and computers to advise municipalities of nonemergency needs. Cohasset Town Manager Christopher Senior said he anticipates that the program will begin with the town’s Department of Public Works early in 2015, after the software is installed and staff is trained. ”Clearly it will work for things like potholes that need to be filled, trees down, or stree lights out, but it could be broader than that,” Senior said. The program started in Boston and has spread to at least 50 communities, including Braintree, Middleborough, Quincy, Randolph, and Whitman. According to the state’s website, the most frequent requests are for pothole repair, followed by requests to deal with fallen trees, trash, and graffiti.
The state Department of Revenue has approved Raynham’s property tax rates for fiscal 2015, pegging the residential rate at $15.24 per $1,000, down slightly from last year’s $15.42 per $1,000. The commercial rate was set at $21.59 per $1,000, nearly unchanged from last year’s $21.63 per $1,000. The town had set the rates — subject to the state’s approval — after selectmen decided to maintain the town’s policy of having a split tax rate and the existing shift of the residential tax burden on to businesses. Under that shift, businesses pay 26 percent more than they would if there were a single rate. Based on the new residential rate approved on Dec. 15, the owner of a single-family home valued at $309,800 will pay $4,721 in taxes this year, which is $186, or 4.1 percent, more than what the owner of an average home valued at $294,100 would have paid last year, according to Maureen Monahan, the town’s assistant assessor.
Several bidders have expressed interest in buying a former firehouse next to the Foxborough Town Common. Officials hope the sale of the town property, which includes three contiguous parcels, will spark the introduction of a mixed-use development. The deadline for development proposals is Monday.
A site walk on Dec. 1 attracted several people, according to Town Manager William Keegan Jr. The two-story brick firehouse dates to 1925. Redevelopment plans do not have to incorporate the building. The properties have a combined assessed value of $1.1 million, according to the town’s development documents. If bidders do not submit offers that are acceptable, Keegan said, the town could withdraw the property from the market. But he said he is optimistic that several offers will be made.
Walpole police have decided not to pursue larceny charges against local political blogger Sam Obar, according to Deputy Chief John Carmichael. Police had initially asked a Wrentham District Court clerk-magistrate to charge Obar with larceny for taking down two of Board of Selectmen candidate Susan Lawson’s signs last spring and replacing them with those of another candidate. But Carmichael said Obar apologized to Lawson and the police withdrew their complaint in August. “Right from the start we were fine with whatever the two could come up with,” Carmichael said last week. “There were no politics involved. It was our obligation to help somebody who felt they had been victimized. The court was just the forum, and we were just the catalyst. She was happy with the apology, and, as a result, we pulled the complaint.” Obar, an elected Town Meeting representative and college student, had no comment.
The Brockton City Council has authorized another $500,000 for legal fees to fight a proposed gas-fired power plant on the city’s South Side, according to Councilor Thomas Monahan, who represents Ward 2 downtown. The vote last Monday reaffirmed the council’s position to try to stop the power plant, sought for more than seven years by Brockton Power, a subsidiary of Swiss conglomerate Advanced Power AG. The city has spent about $1.25 million to date on the effort to block the development, which opponents say is too close to a densely populated low-income neighborhood. Mayor Bill Carpenter, who had campaigned as a power plant supporter, has advocated for settling the federal lawsuit brought against the city by the company. Earlier this month, concerned that pressure was mounting on the council to stop fighting the plant, the opposition group Stop The Power released a 14-minute video urging members to not accept a settlement. The video can be seen at www.vimeo.com/112978507
A bill dedicating all the boat excise taxes paid by boaters who live or dock in Mattapoisett to improving public docks and piers in town has been voted favorably out of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Revenue. Currently, 50 percent of the revenue collected goes to maintain public boating infrastructure. Representative William Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat, filed the legislation after Town Meeting voters approved the measure in October. The bill, which now proceeds to the full House, would direct all boat excise revenue to the Town Municipal Waterway Fund, which oversees docks and piers. Straus said that boaters are always advocating for more funds, but that he kept the bill narrowly focused because he was unsure other coastal communities would feel the same way as Mattapoisett does. The co-chairman of the Revenue Committee, state Senator Michael Rodrigues of Westport, was among those advocating for the bill’s passage.
Abington Town Manager Richard LaFond says the town is moving ahead with demolition of the barn and house on the site of the former Griffin’s Dairy at 326 Plymouth St. and will be looking to decide what to do with the land. He said some are advocating it be used for athletic fields, particularly because there will be a temporary loss of field space during the construction of a new high school. However, he said, others in town prefer it remain agricultural. The public is invited to make suggestions on Monday regarding the site’s possible future use. Selectmen have asked the Old Colony Planning Council to help the town determine options for the best use of the property. Part of that process is hearing the public’s concerns and ideas. The meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. in the Cotter Room at Town Hall. No vote is expected to be taken at the meeting.
The search is on for a new high school principal, as George Usevich plans to retire after 50 years in the Norwood school system, 25 years of them as high school principal. School officials hope to choose a successor before Usevich finishes up at the end of the school year. “George Usevich has been the heart and soul of Norwood High School,” said Superintendent James Hayden. He said Usevich’s most recent accomplishment was helping the community transition from the old Norwood High School to the new state-of-the-art school while keeping traditions and memories alive. School Committee member Courtney Rau Rogers said focus groups of students, faculty, and parents are being asked what qualities they would like to see in a new principal.
Rochester Police Chief Paul Magee is asking residents to report any suspicious activity after a weekend break-in. One or more burglars appear to have cut a screen and then opened a window to get into a house on the 400 block of Snipatuit Road on Sunday at an unusual time of day, between 6 and 8 p.m., the chief said in an interview. Most break-ins occur during the day, not in the evening when people are more likely to be home, he said. Several thousand dollars in property appears to have been stolen, including antique rings and other jewelry, collectible coins, a knife, and a pellet gun, he said. Tire tracks were the only physical evidence found, and police have no suspects, he said. Magee said that often in a rural community like Rochester, a group of thieves comes into town and targets a house, and if it is successful, it targets other homes in the area until someone is arrested.
Mary, Joseph, and Jesus will take center stage on Norwell Common Dec. 14 from noon to 3 p.m. for the seventh annual Live Nativity, presented by New Hope Chapel. Norwell’s Board of Selectmen last month unanimously approved use of the town-owned Common for the event, as it has since 2008. “I’ve gotten an e-mail here or there over the years, but there isn’t any fuss,” said Town Administrator James Boudreau. Most living nativities occur on church or other private property, but Norwell officials have said they consider the event more of a family day than a religious ceremony and have no problem with it taking place on public land, Boudreau said.
A Special Town Meeting in Cohasset voted 112 to 51 last week to reimburse a selectwoman for the $9,200 she spent in legal fees to successfully defend herself against an accusation of conflict of interest made by her colleagues. Selectwoman Martha Gjesteby was exonerated by the state Ethics Commission of the 2013 conflict charge, brought by board members at the time who alleged that she inappropriately e-mailed municipal personnel information to a private citizen. The Ethics Commission dismissed the accusation, and also upheld Gjesteby’s countercharge that the Board of Selectmen had violated the state’s Open Meeting Law when it discussed her situation in a closed session.
Hanover is preparing to choose a project manager as the next step in its proposed Center/Sylvester Elementary School building project. The town is expected to seek proposals shortly from firms interested in doing the work, according to Town Manager Troy B.G. Clarkson. The Center/Sylvester Elementary School includes the third-to-fourth-grade Sylvester School building and the adjacent prekindergarten-to-second-grade Center School building. The town has proposed closing the Sylvester building — which has deficiencies in its mechanical systems and other facility issues — and constructing an addition to the Center building that would house the third and fourth grades. The Massachusetts School Building Authority in September invited the town to carry out a study examining all options for addressing the Sylvester building’s needs, including the town’s proposal. The project manager, when selected, will help the town choose an architect for the study. Town Meeting in May authorized $500,000 for the study. The school building authority may provide partial reimbursement for the costs.
Scituate Town Meeting voted unanimously earlier this month to borrow $2 million toward rebuilding 760 feet of private sea wall along Oceanside Drive in the Sand Hills neighborhood. The state would lend the money over 20 years at 2 percent interest, and also provide a $2 million grant for the project, which will extend between Third and Sixth avenues. In exchange for the new sea wall, homeowners agreed to give an easement to the town, from between 10 feet inland of the new wall to the water’s edge. Town Meeting also defeated a proposal to sell the Pier 44 property, which the town bought in 2011 with $1.8 million provided by the MBTA. The property — now known as the Scituate Harbor Community Building — is currently used for public and private events and may serve as temporary quarters for the town library while a new library is built.
Hingham municipal employees sent care packages and a group photo this month to Keith Jermyn, the town’s director of veterans services, as he continues to serve the Navy in the African republic of Djibouti. Interim director Jaime Litchfield said Jermyn is a member of the Seabees and is helping to build a base there. Litchfield, who formerly worked for the state’s Department of Veterans Services, said Jermyn, a lifelong resident of Hingham, was deployed a couple of months ago and will be in Africa about a year.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed backup cooling plan for the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth. Entergy, the owner of the Pilgrim nuclear plant, is seeking permission from the state to install and maintain two moorings in Cape Cod Bay. Ed Coletta, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman, said that the moorings would “allow water to be pumped into the facility to provide backup cooling,” in case of an extreme natural disaster, like the tsunami and earthquake that struck Japan in 2011. But the proposed mooring system has come under criticism by some activists. “We don’t think the plan will work,” said Pine duBois, executive director of the Jones River Watershed Association. “Given the turbulence of the bay there, I think they’re crazy.” She believes it will too dangerous for water to be pumped from that location during a major storm or disaster. “We think they should have a backup plan that works,” said duBois, who plans to attend the hearing. “We think this is for show and they’re not taking it seriously. We just don’t think it’s a good plan.” Entergy could not be reached for comment. The hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the Mayflower Room of Plymouth Town Hall at 11 Lincoln St. State officials will also consider written comments received by Dec. 8. Those should be addressed to David E. Hill, Environmental Engineer, DEP Waterways Regulation Program, 20 Riverside Drive, Lakeville, MA, 02347.
A job posting for Marshfield superintendent of schools should be available Jan. 5, according to School Committee chairwoman Marti Morrison. She said in an interview that Marshfield is looking for a superintendent who is a “good, strong academic leader” who can help the school district maintain its achievement. “We’re not a struggling district,” she said. “We don’t need major changes.” Superintendent Scott Borstel plans to leave in December to teach at Johnson & Wales University, but he will be available during the transition, Morrison said. The School Committee has named Assistant Superintendent Ellen Martin to fill the superintendent’s job on an interim basis. Morrison said Martin does not plan to apply for the permanent job, so she will participate in the search. The School Committee was scheduled to meet last week with a representative of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which is consulting on the search. A committee to screen candidates has yet to be named, she said.
Norwood voters at Monday night’s Special Town Meeting will be asked to approve money for reconstruction of the town light department’s nearly 50-year-old high tension power lines. Bernard Cooper, assistant general manager, said the project could cost $12.7 million, with approximately $2.7 million expected to come from the light department, leaving taxpayers to come up with the remaining $10 million. Other issues before voters will include whether to acquire a piece of land adjacent to Ellis Pond, whether to have the police department withdraw from the civil service system, and whether to spend up to $500,000 to replace the Callahan School boiler, though half that cost of may be reimbursed by the state.
Braintree’s public schools will spend $254,000 for new computers and technology upgrades, an expenditure approved by the Town Council earlier this month. The money comes from funds left over from previously approved school building maintenance projects that came in under budget, according to Michael Coughlin, the mayor’s chief of staff. “It’s money that’s repurposed for school technology,” he said. School Superintendent Maureen Murray said the plan was to buy a variety of different computers, iPads, and ebook readers for classrooms, and to do some work systemwide to make it possible to eventually bring wireless to all the schools. “We’re still figuring out the exact configurations,’’ she said. “But it’s been a while since we had a big expenditure like this [for technology], so we’re really looking forward to it.”
Single-family homeowners in Norton would see an average increase of $243 in their annual property tax bills later this year under the tax rate established recently by the town. The fiscal 2015 rate was set at $15.39 per $1,000 valuation, subject to approval by the state Department of Revenue. The new rate is only 2 cents higher than the town’s current one. But based on the rate, the average tax bill for a single-family home would go from $4,340 to $4,583, according to town manager Michael Yunits. He said the increase was due to a rise in property values and the debt exclusion, or temporary tax increase, that the town adopted for the high school renovation and new addition project that was completed a year ago. Yunits said the town began repaying the debt for the project last year and that the cost of those annual debt payments will rise over the next several years before peaking and heading downward. The town is funding $13 million of the cost of the overall $32 million project, with remaining costs borne by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.
A million pennies will be on display beginning Nov. 16 in town, where a collection drive met with success. Phil Hamric, who spearheaded the Lions Club fund-raiser, said 200 bags, each with 5,000 pennies, will be placed in a sofa-like shape at the Abington Library so children can sit on the windfall. The $10,000 milestone, which was reached Oct. 10, will help pay for technology upgrades at the library, as well as boost its large-print books, in keeping with the Lions Clubs International’s worldwide support of programs for the vision-impaired. Hamric said the kick-off ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. and will feature a few short speeches and music by the South Shore Men of Harmony. The pennies will be on display through Dec. 3. Hamric said he will never try to repeat the heavy-lifting fund-raiser, but he would be available for consulting. “It’s definitely a game for the young,” he said with a laugh.
A deadlocked School Committee voted unanimously during an emergency meeting Oct. 30 to reopen the search for a new superintendent and extend the contract of Interim Superintendent John Moretti. On Oct. 23, the committee took three separate votes with the same 3-3 tie between finalists Paul Haughey, director of student services in the Blackstone-Millville School District, and Craig Levis, director of special education in Smithfield, R.I. Chairman George McCabe, Jennifer Kitchenbaum, and Gordon McKinnon all supported Levis, while Ellen Pennington, Keith Boyle, and Heather Graham supported Haughey. “Democracy is messy sometimes,” said McCabe before the board voted to reopen the search. McCabe said that even if the committee were to take another vote and it were to come out 4-2 in favor of one candidate, it might not be the best solution. “It’s very difficult to start out a new position as a superintendent and not have a unanimous or near-unanimous School Committee behind you, so I believe [the extension is] probably the best solution right now,” he said. Moretti, whose contract was set to expire Dec. 31, agreed to stay on until next June 30. He has been serving since May 2013 and oversaw the opening of the new East Bridgewater Junior Senior High in September 2013.
A group of World War II veterans will get special recognition this year during the Duxbury American Legion Post 223’s Veterans Day commemoration. Adjutant General John Magnarelli said the post began the year with 19 veterans of that war, and two have since died. Magnarelli hopes to have around 10 of the “Greatest Generation” veterans attend the ceremony, which will held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the post at 5 West St. They will receive medallions and a State House proclamation. Information about the veterans, including where they served and any special medals they earned, will be cited. Magnarelli said the Duxbury Post has about 190 members, a majority of whom are from Duxbury, but also include veterans from Marshfield, Plymouth, Kingston, Pembroke, Weymouth, Quincy, and communities in Florida. He said the youngest of the group is 88. “We want to recognize these guys while we still can,” he said. “These guys are special.”
The town of Pembroke plans to seek a firm to develop and operate a solar electricity facility on its former landfill off Hobomock Street. The annual Town Meeting this past spring authorized town leaders to lease the site for a solar facility, and officials are now preparing to select a developer for that purpose, said town administrator Edwin Thorne. He said at one of its next two Monday meetings, the Board of Selectmen plans to discuss with the Energy Committee whether the selection should be done through a request for proposals. He said either way, the town hopes to have a firm in place by sometime this winter. The capped landfill is not currently in use, although the town maintains a recycling center and a place for residents to drop off grass clippings on areas adjacent to the site. Thorne said that by having a solar array built on the site, the town could receive income from the lease of the property and payments in lieu of taxes from the developer. He said it could also save money by reaching an agreement to purchase power at a discounted rate from the solar facility. Town Meeting also authorized selectmen to negotiate payment-in-lieu-of-taxes and power purchasing agreements with a future developer of the site.
Walpole voters rejected a $21.2 million tax override last week that would have allowed borrowing to pay for new police and fire stations, a new senior center, Department of Public Works garage, and improvements to the current Town Hall. The vote was 5,705 against the proposal to 4,707 in favor — a 55 to 45 percent split – according to the ttown clerk’s office. Local officials had pushed hard for the project, which won approval from the representative Town Meeting in October. The cost of the override would have varied annually over the length of the loan, peaking in fiscal 2018 when the average Walpole taxpayer would have paid about $160 more in property taxes, according to interim Town Administrator James Johnson.
Scituate’s newest selectwoman, Maura Curran, handily defeated three other candidates last week to win the seat vacated after Rick Murray’s July resignation. Her term expires next May. Curran collected 3,411 votes, to Michael G. Scott’s 2,205, Gerard P. Kelly’s 2,158, and Marilyn Howe’s 389, according to the town clerk’s office. The office said turnout was 59 percent, about twice the norm. Curran, who moved to Scituate in 1994, previously chaired the Advisory Board and School Committee and also served on the town’s Affordable Housing and Capital Planning committees. The town also has a new fire chief, John Murphy, who was sworn in late last month to replace retiring chief Richard Judge. Murphy moved up from the deputy chief position and has spent his firefighting career in Scituate.
Voters gave the final nod last Tuesday to a sweeping plan to replace Holbrook’s three public schools with one new building for pre-kindergarten through Grade 12. The project as backed by 3,102 voters — 71 percent of those who cast ballots — with 1,108 opposed and 136 ballots left blank, according to School Committee chairwoman Barbara Davis. Holbrook will pay $47.2 million for the $102.9 million campus, with the remainder — about 69 percent of eligible expenses — reimbursed by the state. Town Meeting approved the plan on Oct. 22. Julie DiBona, amother of two daughters at South Elementary School, credited the support of Selectman Matthew Moore and a volunteer committee called Promote and Vote Pre K-12 for the success at the polls. The committee held meetings, gave out information at events, and campaigned on social media. “Without that, I don’t think people would’ve been educated,” she said. Davis, an active supporter and member of the Permanent School Building Committee, held signs all day at the polling place. Supporters made phone calls and continued to campaign until the end. “It just shows you that if people have the facts, they will make a good decision,” she said. One of the next steps is to hire an owner’s project manager, and an official request for services will be ready in a few weeks, she said.
Foxborough officials have selected LLB Architects, of Pawtucket, R.I., to design a new town hall. In a Special Town Meeting Nov. 17, Foxborough residents will be asked to approve $557,585 for the design and project management services, according to Town Manager William Keegan Jr. The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Oct. 28 to recommend approval of the article. The architecture company has worked before in town, designing an addition to the mid-century Boyden Library, an $11.6 million project. After design services are completed for the replacement town hall, voters would be asked to approve construction funds at Town Meeting. Discussion about whether to replace or renovate the existing municipal headquarters date back at least 10 years. Town officials and committees are recommending new construction at the existing South Street site. Although LLB Architects is known in Foxborough for its work on the modern library, the town hall would be a Colonial design, Keegan said. LLB Architects was among six architecture firms that submitted proposals, he said. Four firms were interviewed by a committee. For the project management services during the design phase, town officials chose Vertex, a company based in Weymouth.