Suspicious Device Reported in Road in Marion

The Marion Fire Department received a call at 9:04 am on Friday, March 24, about a suspicious device in the middle of Pumping House Road off Route 105 in Marion.

Fire Chief Brian Jackvony said firefighters secured the area, closed off the road, and viewed the suspicious device from afar using binoculars. What they were able to identify was a soda can with two lit cigarettes sticking out of the top, placed in the middle of the road on top of a water valve metal street cover.

“It was certainly out of the ordinary,” said Jackvony.

He said the protocol for an incident such as this is to contact the State Hazardous Material Division and the State Police bomb squad.

“At this point we really didn’t know what was in the can,” Jackvony said.

Hazmat was contacted in case anything flammable or chemical was contained inside the can.

After the Marion Fire Department left the scene at 10:44 am, the State Police kept the road sealed off while the bomb squad assessed the suspicious item.

According to Jackvony, the item was removed and taken with the State Police for evidence.

“We were very precautious in our approach to it,” said Jackvony.

A press release from the State Fire Marshal’s office reported that there was no threat associated with the device and it caused no damage. If anyone has information about it, they are asking you to contact either the Marion Police Department at 508-748-1212 or the State Fire Marshal’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit at 1-800-682-9229.

By Jean Perry

 

Animal Shelter Donations

“It’s been ruff living in a shelter. Make a paw-sitive difference today.” This sentiment is the reasoning behind Hailey Cohen’s community service project. Over the past few weeks, Hailey has been volunteering at the Fairhaven Animal Shelter, located on Bridge Street in Fairhaven. She is also collecting desperately needed supplies for the shelter. The shelter provides a safe and temporary home for animals that have been abandoned and is a nonprofit organization that relies heavily on the kindness of the community for support. The shelter is in need of supplies such as wet/dry cat food, wet/dry dog food, and non-clumping cat litter. They need household and cleaning supplies as well – bleach, Windex, anti-bacterial wipes, hand sanitizer, paper towels, and gently used towels and blankets. Hailey is now asking for the public’s help. From mid-March until the end of April, she has set up collection drop-off boxes in the Elizabeth Taber Library, Spring Street in Marion, and the shopping plaza at 67 County Road in Mattapoisett (Sister’s Hair and Shipyard Galley). She will be checking the boxes on a weekly basis and delivering the supplies to Fairhaven. Your donation goes a long way to help provide for these animals.

This summer, as Hailey turns 13, she will have completed her Jewish studies and will celebrate with a bat mitzvah service. As part of the curriculum at Falmouth Jewish Congregation, each student must partake in a community service project as a way of learning to become a responsible citizen who makes a positive difference in his/her community.

For more information or questions, please contact Debbie Cohen at debcohen@comcast.net or 508-273-3552.

24th Annual Buzzards Bay Swim

With spring on the horizon, there’s no better time to test the waters and get ready for the 24th annual Buzzards Bay Swim on Saturday, June 24. With nearly 200 swimmers and 20 teams already signed up, the Swim promises to be a fun, philanthropic outdoor event that you won’t want to miss. Swimmers can register now at www.savebuzzardsbay.org/swim.

The Swim draws participants of every age, ability and fitness level, and first-time swimmers are encouraged to register. Swimmers complete a 1.2-mile open water point-to-point course across outer New Bedford Harbor to raise money for clean water in Buzzards Bay. Beginning in the South End of New Bedford and ending at Fort Phoenix Beach State Reservation in Fairhaven, participants are greeted at the finish line with a beach party featuring a pancake breakfast, fresh coffee and pastries, live music, free massages and local beer.

“When I first told people I was swimming the Bay, people said, ‘I could never do that.’” said Rosie Byrnes of New Bedford, a three-time swimmer who first participated in 2013. With a few months of weekly training that first year, Rosie was able to work her way up from swimming just 12 laps in a pool to 44 laps – the equivalent of the Swim’s 1.2-mile distance – by June.

Don’t want to swim solo? Many swimmers recruit friends and form a team to swim across the harbor together. This year, several spirited teams including “Just Keep Swimming,” “#cleanwater,” and “Scollops not Scallops” are registered and training for the Swim. The champion “Salty Seadogs” of Lakeville will be back to defend their Wheeler Cup award for fastest adult team, as will the youth teams from Waltham’s MetroWest Aquatic Club, who won the Quicks Awards for fastest youth teams in 2016.

Prizes are awarded for the top fundraisers and fastest swimmers, both individuals and teams. Swimmers who have participated in the Swim for five, 10, and new this year, 20 years will also receive special participation awards.

All funds raised through the Swim support the Buzzard Bay Coalition’s work to protect clean water in communities across the Buzzards Bay watershed – from Little Compton to Vineyard Sound.

Newcomers “Scenic Swim Team” from Austin, Texas, are already at the top of the fundraising leaderboard, having raised $1,500 so far. Not to be outdone, locals and members of team “ButtersBergers” of Acushnet are attempting to raise $5,000 this year in honor of their fifth Buzzards Bay Swim. Think you can outdo them? Register now at www.savebuzzardsbay.org/swim.

The Buzzards Bay Swim is a Waterkeeper Alliance SPLASH Series Event, presented nationally by Toyota. The SPLASH Series engages local citizens in recreational use of our waterways to celebrate access to clean water. Event sponsors also include Amica Insurance, Anderson Insulation, YMCA Southcoast and Fiber Optic Center.

Injured ORR Boys’ Hockey Team Falls Short at States

Averaging over six goals per game, the Old Rochester Regional High School boys’ hockey team made it clear they were the top Division 3 South program this season.

The Bulldogs (24-4-0) earned their spot in the State Championship on Sunday, March 19 at TD Garden against undefeated Shrewsbury, but ultimately they took a 3-1 loss to the significantly larger Central Massachusetts program.

“It’s a Division 1 team that’s fully loaded with no injuries,” Bulldogs Head Coach Eric Labonte said of his opponent. “Even if we were fully healthy, I think they’re a bit too much for us.”

By that, Labonte means that Shrewsbury High’s enrollment of over 1,600 students would make them a Division 1 team if they were located in Eastern Massachusetts. Instead, only Division 3 hockey exists in Central Massachusetts, so Shrewsbury is in the smaller bracket despite being a larger school.

As aforementioned, depth was another issue for the Bulldogs. They skated just three defensemen against Shrewsbury and junior Evan Stanley got hurt in the first period, adding to the team’s misfortune as they were already without his classmate and fellow defenseman, Zak Labonte. In Stanley’s place, eighth-grader Sam Parks stepped up and saw significant ice time.

By contrast, depth was an asset for Shrewsbury.

“They were running three lines and five defensemen,” Labonte said of his foe. “We were out there with Band-Aids on trying to make it work. We got run down.”

On the ice, one major problem the Bulldogs ran into was Shrewsbury’s tough defense. Throughout the season, their opponent allowed a meager 28 goals in 24 games and had eight shutouts.

In the first two periods, the Bulldogs could not muster anything on the attack, but a minute into the third period, senior forward Sam Henrie changed that. He flipped one up into the back of Shrewsbury’s net; it was his 40th goal of the season.

“He’s been doing that all year for us,” Labonte said of Henrie. “He’s the first one in on the forecheck. He’s basically been a one-man forecheck. He uses the body and comes up with the puck.”

Senior forward Noah Strawn (44 goals, 48 assists) was the Bulldogs other top scorer. Albeit the two forwards put up nearly half of their team’s goals this past season, Labonte credited senior defenseman Landon Goguen (19 goals, 39 assists) for setting up his team’s offensive success.

“He’s a one-man breakout,” Labonte said of the defenseman. “He’s probably the most patient, smartest kid I’ve ever coached in 23 years of high school hockey. He can shoot the puck from the point. He’s real patient with the puck and you can’t have a breakout without the defensemen leading it. He’s been spectacular for us all year.”

While the game itself did not go the way they wanted it to, the Bulldogs did appreciate the priceless opportunity to play hockey at TD Garden.

“It’s what every kid wants,” junior forward Tayber Labonte said. “It’s the place to be. The Bruins skate on the ice, so it’s the ice you want to skate on. It’s awesome.”

The Bulldogs lose five seniors to graduation, which might not be a particularly large number, but they are losing a handful of high-quality players. In addition to Strawn, Henrie and Goguen, the Bulldogs will lose forward Ryan Labonte (11 goals, 16 assists) and goaltender Chase Cunningham (1.57 goals allowed per game, four shutouts), who were seniors this season.

“I love them all,” Tayber Labonte said. “They’re great guys and I’m friends with all of them. I’ve known Sam and Lan since I was two years old. It’s just tough to watch them leave.”

By Tom Joyce

 

Climate Resiliency Dominates Master Plan Discussion

The conversation during the Marion Planning Board meeting on March 20 centered on two elements of the draft Master Plan, facilitated by Ken Buckland, the former town planner and consultant for the town.

Whether the board was discussing climate resiliency or open space – the two Master Plan elements under review that evening – the central theme was the same: Marion is a low-lying coastal community and would be well served to keep in mind extreme weather events when contemplating future infrastructure modifications and open space planning.

Planning Board member Stephen Kokkins underscored the need within the plan to consider the time horizon when discussing sea level change. Kokkins questioned the emphasis placed on sea level changes and the ranking system outlined by the plan.

Board member Jennifer Francis said, “[The plan] is underwhelming about coastal resiliency and severe storms. The threat is going to be here in the same timeframe that we are going to be able to do something about it.”

The Master Plan considers a ten-year time horizon, and the board acknowledged a disagreement among its members as to the rate of climate change and its affect on Marion and the coastal communities in that time, but agreed that climate change is contributing to severe weather and increased sea level.

Board member Michael Popitz remarked that the town, in its planning for infrastructure, should “keep in mind the ideas discussed in this and other sections, ideas such as flooding in the Gateway area of Marion – investments in areas of sea level rise should keep that in mind as part of the planning. Be forward thinking, have a vision of the future.”

Popitz suggested that the town should consider future sea level rise so that adjustments are made now to prevent the need for revising the projects in the future. Francis agreed and felt this idea should be added as its own paragraph to emphasize its importance.

“Whenever we spend money in town on infrastructure,” Francis said, “we should remember that it should be designed with extreme storms in mind, maybe even more than sea level rise, right now.”

Kokkins added, “We should make sure Marion is working in concert with other towns in the region, including on large infrastructure projects.”

Francis highlighted the Town Resilience Committee contemplated by the Master Plan and suggested that its main focus be on town infrastructure and town properties. She suggested it could also be a resource for private property owners and for other towns.

Board member Will Saltonstall asked if the town had a Hazard Mitigation Plan, to which Francis replied that there was an application in for it, under the purview of the town administrator and Board of Selectmen.

The town is not eligible for FEMA disaster relief funds until the plan is completed.

The discussion moved to Open Space and Recreation, the second element of the Master Plan to be reviewed that evening.

Efforts are underway to set up an advisory group to include the Community Preservation Committee, the Sippican Lands Trust, Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission, Marion Tree and Parks Committee, the Marion Marine Resources Commission, Marion Recreation Department, Planning Board, and the Washburn Trust to coordinate efforts to protect and manage open space in town.

The group, called Stewards of Community Open Space (SOCOS), still in the beginning stages of formation and waiting for selectmen review, believes it has an important function in town and can effectively influence policy changes.

The group would like formal recognition by the town before the Master Plan is completed. In response to whether the individual land protection organizations within the group could all be under one umbrella, Buckland replied that this should be taken one step at a time, but, he added, “If the iron is hot, it’s time to brand the cattle!”

The board acknowledged that the protection of open space within the town has broad implications with regard to other elements in the Master Plan. Board member Eileen Marum suggested that open space be considered during the planning of housing developments.

“Open space can help with temperature control, reduce impervious surface percentages, provides more value versus man-made structures for water treatment facilities,” said Marum.

Chairman Robert Lane noted that cluster housing developments, which would have the same housing density as allowed under current zoning but would allow houses to be clustered to maximize contiguous open space, would require a zoning bylaw change.

Francis suggested that people in Marion feel that there is enough protected open space in town. “A lot of people may feel we have enough open space – forty-nine percent of the town – and maybe we should consider changing the wording from expanding open space to maintaining open space.”

Saltonstall noted in the discussion of harbor resources that the plan should “emphasize public access to the waterfront and preserving or enhancing that use.” Francis added that the plan should “explicitly remind people we are also talking about the harbor environment.”

In closing the discussion, Buckland reminded the board of the last two elements of the plan to be reviewed: Natural and Cultural Resources and Implementation.

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve an ANR plan presented by Rich Charon on behalf of Nadler and Malone located at 81 and 91 Allens Point Road. The plan described a legal non-conforming lot, which the board approved with the note that the parcel was approved only for conveyance purposes and was not a buildable lot.

The board also briefly touched on the creation of the Transportation and Circulation Task Force. Francis will be contacting potential Task Force members and will report back to the board.

            The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board is scheduled for April 3 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

By Sarah French Storer

 

Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission

The Open Space Acquisition Commission has made a new webpage to better communicate to Marion residents, www.marionopenspace.com.

While the town website, www.marionma.gov, contains some information, Open Space Commission members consider the town site a cumbersome way to get information across to folks in town. In addition to the basic information on the town website, this site will have easily updated details about trails, lists of wildlife and reports from the committee. “On our new site we have posted all our trail maps right at the top of the page so they are easy to find,” said Commission Chair John Rockwell. “We went with a blog format because it is easier for folks to make comments,” he added.

Links to maps of the open space along the route of the bike path and of all the permanently protected open space in the town are on the new site.

A Flora and Fauna list from 1995 is also up on the site, and the Commission would like interested folks to take a look and suggest updates. “We know there are more than a few birders in town and would love to have their observations reflected in the current list,” said Rockwell.

The Commission has also posted their 2016 Annual Report.

The Open Space Acquisition Commission expects to post more information regarding open space in the town in the coming month, and has created an email address openspace@marionma.gov to make it easier for folks to contact them.

For more information, contact Commission Chair John Rockwell at 508-728-5585 or johnrockw@gmail.com.

RLT Annual Meeting Has New Venue

The Annual Meeting of the Rochester Land Trust has a new venue this year. Instead of the usual Pot Luck at the Congregational Church Hall, the meeting will be held at Covanta SEMASS at 141 Cranberry Highway (Route 28) on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:00 pm.

The public is invited to attend the brief business meeting, after which the group will be given a tour of the plant.

The Rochester Land Trust has had several notable achievements this past year, including acquisition of the Pony Pasture and much stewardship work on existing properties. New officers will be elected and the Year in Review, given out each year at the Annual Meeting, will give members a detailed look at all that has been accomplished.

So please plan to join the Rochester Land Trust at its Annual Meeting and get a look at the inner workings of that big plant that gobbles up so much trash.

Yee-haw for the Rochester Country Fair!

The Rochester Country Fair grounds may still be blanketed by melting snow, but underneath it all is a team firmly rooted in tradition, a neighborly network tightly-knit into the fabric of Rochester.

Even months before the always-anticipated event, the Rochester Country Fair Board of Directors and committee members are hard at work raising funds and planning the events that make the country fair the special event it always has been.

This past Saturday night was the annual country fair dinner dance at the Redman Hall in Wareham. Much like the country fair itself, the night was filled with music and the sounds of familiar folks having fun. Although the RCF folks are always planning and hosting fundraisers, this particular night is traditionally one of just getting together in the spirit of the country fair and having fun amidst a year of planning and organizing.

“It was probably a bit smaller this year than we’re used to,” said committee co-chair Julie Koczera, citing weather and scheduling conflicts of the usual partygoers, ”but everyone who did go had a great time.” The dinner dance is meant to be a kick-off event, said Koczera, so folks can hear about the progress of the country fair planning process so far.

There are some changes to the country fair this year, with the biggest being the restructuring of four days down to three. Instead of starting on Thursday, the fair will begin on Friday, resulting in a more jam-packed line-up of activities throughout the days and nights instead of the occasional lull in between events.

“That way,” said Koczera, “we consolidate some of the events and that way we’re filling in the gaps more efficiently and for less money. We think we have a great plan, and we’re excited about the woodsman show that’s going to take place on Friday night this year.”

The woodsman show, one of the main events, used to take place in the evening rather than during the hot day, so this is a favorable move to both sides, said Koczera.

“We’ll have a jam-packed Sunday this year,” said Koczera. “Military trucks will pull as well, and we haven’t had that before so were excited about that.”

There will also be a new “man versus food” hotdog eating challenge for those who dare…

Also new this year is the first annual Lego Building Contest, celebrating the American farmer. Contestants can submit one creation built on imagination to the Rochester Country Fair photo booth on Friday, August 18, the first day of the fair. The three categories for prizes are: best farm display, best farm implement/vehicle, and best farm animal.

(Also, expect a few guest appearances, like Old Colony Superintendent Aaron Polansky who will be a guest wrestler!)

The committee still needs volunteers for some small projects around the fairgrounds, including creating a volleyball court.

The Rochester Country Fair is Friday, August 18 through Sunday, August 20. For more information, visit the website at www.rochesterma.com/index.html, or email the staff at Rochestercountryfair@comcast.net.

See you at the country fair!

By Jean Perry

BOS Says ORR School Comm Played ‘Emotions Card’

Having received calls of concern over the Old Rochester Regional FY18 budget, Marion Board of Selectmen Chairman Jody Dickerson on March 21 said it was time the selectmen went ahead and gave the public “the correct information.”

“The School Committee has done a great job with their propaganda machine,” Dickerson said. “They’re entitled to their own opinions, but they’re not entitled to their own facts.”

Dickerson said the ORR school district had in its original budget already appropriated money for the music program at the junior high, and he offered to show that to anyone interested. “The school committee has decided to use that money for something else, not what we appropriated it for. And I think they’re doing the kids and the parents and the rest of this town an injustice.”

Dickerson said the school committee should be held accountable for the financial mess it got itself into with what the board considers poor contract negotiations that provide salary increases the budget just cannot fund.

“Hold them to the fire,” Dickerson said. “They’re responsible to the students and the tax payers. I strongly suggest parents and students contact the school committee. Use the money where it was appropriated, not for their own pet projects.”

According to Dickerson, whose opinion is shared by representatives from the other two towns, the school district would not be in this situation now if during contract negotiations the committee pushed for contracts with 2 percent pay raises rather than the 3 percent that Dickerson says happened.

“All other town employees only got a two percent raise,” Dickerson said.

This just isn’t fair, said Selectman Steve Gonsalves. “I spent a lot of time in my community helping,” Gonsalves said, including at the schools and student events. “To say that I’m trying to take away a saxophone from junior is not true.”

Even though this is his first ride at the rodeo, Gonsalves said, he feels the financial distress the school district is now experiencing was avoidable. “Then to throw it to the media as if we’re here to take away something that we didn’t cause,” said Gonsalves, “… This is not fair. I feel this is very disingenuous, and I feel that they’re manipulating people’s emotions.”

Gonsalves said it was unfair that the towns’ selectmen, town administrators, and finance committees have been “tarred and feathered” as they have been.

“This is just not right,” said Gonsalves, again emphasizing that the school budget had included funding the music department. “It was there, it was appropriated for that, so where did the money go?”

One parent from Marion approached the podium to speak her mind, but admitted that after hearing what the selectmen had to say, she would refrain from making some of her prepared remarks until she heard all sides of the story.

“A cut like this to this program would be devastating to my kid,” said Sheila Gibbons. She said, as she sees it, the budget is an argument between responsible, grown-up parties arguing about teacher compensation and salaries “and the children are caught in the crossfire.”

“Is there a way that all responsible parties can somehow come together?” asked Gibbons. She noted the high price tag of a new town house and commented that she personally would not support that project until the schools were fully funded.

We have always supported the schools, Dickerson replied. But there are other priorities in town as well, such as police and fire and other town departments.

“I’ve grown a lot of trees in my life,” said Gonsalves, “but there’s no such thing as a money tree. It doesn’t exist.”

Gonsalves said that using the music program, “the most sensitive issue,” was intentional in order to manipulate the public. “I’m sorry,” Gonsalves said, “I don’t buy it.” As for teachers and their importance, Gonsalves said, “I married a teacher.”

“Please get both sides of the story and let’s stop the emotion train and let’s derail it,” said Gonsalves.

In other matters, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has denied the town’s request for an in lieu of payment offer to cover the fine the corps imposed on the town for the unpermitted seawall construction years ago at Sprague’s Cove.

The corps’ requirements for in lieu of cash payment options are strict, said Town Administrator Paul Dawson, and unreasonable for the town to attempt. Some options would be to replicate other wetlands in town, or create wetlands in another part of town – all within a deadline of June 30.

A lack of funds, resources, and time, said Dawson, makes the fine of $33,539 the more reasonable and cost-effective option, due by July 14.

The selectmen could add an article on the Annual Town Meeting warrant to ask voters to appropriate the sum, but the board chose to seek legal advice from town counsel to see if there is any way to appeal the corps’ decision.

“With all due respect, I personally do not agree with them,” said Dickerson, with Gonsalves concurring. Selectman Stephen Cushing stated, “I completely disagree with what they’re (the corps) saying here.”

The board voted to authorize town counsel to seek an alternate remedy to paying the fine.

Also during the meeting, the board voted to accept a land donation from Sally Durfee, after the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission recommended the acceptance.

Dawson described the property referred to as 0 Front Street as a “very small sliver” that abuts land already owned and protected by the town.

Also briefly discussed, some residents have lodged complaints about speeding on Route 6, as well as on Route 105 between Route 6 and Interstate 195, and have called for a traffic study.

After discussions with the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development Division (SRPEDD), there is little the town can do about lowering the speed limit without state intervention.

According to SRPEDD, other minor “traffic calming methods” the town could utilize would be to add signage promoting the speed limit, but selectmen doubted the effectiveness of signs.

“It’s not an easy fix, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be an easy fix,” Dawson said. “It looks like there’re a lot of moving parts there.”

Whatever the board can do, Gonsalves said, should be done, especially with the crosswalk at Hermitage Lane on Route 6.

The next regular meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for April 4 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

By Jean Perry

 

Spring Art Class for Tweens at MAC

The Marion Art Center is now accepting registrations for the following children’s art class for spring 2017:

Fashion Design & Illustration for Tweens (ages 9-12): Tuesdays, 3:30 to 5:30 pm; April 4 to May 30 (8 weeks – no class on April 18); Instructor: Catherine Carter; Tuition: $180 for MAC members* and $195 for non-members (supplies not included). Minimum of 5 students required for this class to run. Registration deadline for Spring Session is March 28.

Love fashion and coming up with your own designs? This exciting MAC offering for youngsters between ages 9 and 12 will cover the basics of fashion illustration, including drawing the fashion figure and rendering fabrics with colored pencil and marker. We will create a series of design projects inspired by a range of sources including fashion history, ethnic costume, and fine art. The instructor, Catherine Carter, has taught drawing, painting and design at colleges and museums for the 15 years. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and currently works at Hatch Street Studios in New Bedford. Her artwork may be viewed at her website: CatherineCarterPainting.com *Current membership is required for discount. The 2016-2017 Membership Year runs August 1, 2016 – July 31, 2017.