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Keeping the Community Afloat

The Winners of the 2015 Wanderer Keel Awards

By Jean Perry

The communities of our Tri-Town are special, and what makes them special are the people who live in them, the people who work in them, govern them, and those who volunteer their time for the highest good of their town.

This is why, once a year, we at The Wanderer are excited to bring forward three distinctive people from each of the three towns to recognize their hours of community service and dedication to their town, and honor their innumerable contributions that keep each of the communities afloat, like the keel of a ship that keeps the vessel from capsizing.

This year, citizens from each town submitted the names of some pretty spectacular nominees for the 2015 Wanderer Keel Award. Three of them really stood out to us, and we are thrilled to announce the winners of this year's award: From Mattapoisett, the late Ruth Bates; from Marion, Robbi Dunn-Tracy; and from Rochester, Gordon Helme.

Mattapoisett resident Ruth Bates, who passed away on November 14, 2014, was known as "an unabashed tree hugger" - a Lorax of Mattapoisett of sorts. She was one of the original members of the Tree Committee, a volunteer Bay Watcher for the Buzzards Bay Coalition, a trustee of the Mattapoisett Historical Society, and a trustee of the Mattapoisett Land Trust.

Ruth's husband Richard Bates said, even just a few months before she died, she was attending Tree Committee hearings as a resident to ensure that any trees to be taken down by the Town were properly surveyed and not unnecessarily removed. She was known as a woman who would speak her mind in public meetings when it came to what she cared about most.

"She just loved the town," said Bates. "When we would go on vacation, often we'd come back and she'd say, 'Take a look at this town as if you were looking at it for the first time. What do you think? It's pretty beautiful, don't you think?'" Bates said his wife would ask him. "Why would you leave it?" she would then say.

Bates said Ruth just loved Mattapoisett and never concerned herself with personal recognition or monetary compensation.

"She just had a love of the town and the people," said Bates. "She was always too embarrassed to actually accept something like this (Keel Award)," he said. "She'd have put a quash to that in a hurry."

Marion Keel Award recipient Robbi Dunn-Tracy keeps busy in Marion with her work in the health care administration business, family, and the various groups to which she belongs. But she is never too busy to lend a hand to her neighbors whenever they are in need of assistance, says Kathi Rogers, who nominated Dunn-Tracy.

A member of the Sippican Woman's Club, Dunn-Tracy likes what the group stands for and how they devote their efforts to raising funds for scholarships for local students. Dunn-Tracy said what she enjoys most is supporting and promoting the good things in the community, which she did for a time on her own community access show on ORCTV, up until a couple years ago.

"When people view our community, I want them to see all the positive things that can go on in the area," said Dunn-Tracy. "If I see something good to be done, I'll promote it."

Dunn-Tracy has also done volunteer work with Gifts to Give of New Bedford, an organization that provides food, clothing, and toys to local families in need, in which she says she truly believes.

She was reluctant to talk about all the good work she has done, because, as one can gather from speaking with Dunn-Tracy, she is all about the helping and not at all about the recognition.

"You do things for others that you would want done for yourself or your family," said Dunn-Tracy. "That's how I was raised. I saw my own parents doing it ... and obviously I'm trying to be a good role model for my kids."

Dunn-Tracy said one would be surprised by the need that exists in Tri-Town, saying one wouldn't expect there to be a significant amount of families who need help with food or shelter or clothing, but the need is there.

"We are all so fortunate to be members of this community," said Dunn-Tracy. "But you never know what happens behind closed doors."

Instead of focusing on her own good work, Dunn-Tracy often changed the subject to shift towards other community members whom she said deserved the Keel Award instead of her. Rogers respectfully disagrees.

"I truly believe that Robbi represents all that is good about Marion and what makes it a wonderful community in which to live," said Rogers. "Her actions help keep Marion on 'an even keel.'"

In Rochester, Gordon Helme is at the helm of the SHINE program (Serving Health Information Needs of Elders) as a SHINE counselor, keeping Rochester's senior population afloat as he helps the aging population of his town navigate the rough waters of health care, social security, benefits programs such as fuel assistance and food assistance, among other things. Helme also assists the Veterans' Services Office in Rochester, Marion, and Mattapoisett.

According to Director of the Rochester Council on Aging Sharon Lally, Helme is an asset to the community.

"He saves people a lot of money and aggravation," said Lally. "He's just a wonderful guy."

Two years ago, Helme assisted roughly 250 Rochester seniors. This past fiscal year, he said he assisted about 125.

"I don't know if it's because I've been doing a good job, or they don't like my service," laughed Helme.

Helme said throughout his past employment, he has always worked with people. He was also the regional veterans' officer for the New England U.S. Small Business Administration.

When asked why he devotes so much time to the Rochester C.O.A. - three days a week with the SHINE Program, as well as sitting on the Rochester C.O.A Board of Directors - while also spending two days a week at the New Bedford Veterans' Services Office, he simply said, "Because I enjoy it."

"I have always enjoyed working with people," said Helme. "I just seem to get a sense of fulfillment from helping people," instead of staying home, he added, doing "other things" that retired people may do.

The Wanderer congratulates our three 2015 Wanderer Keel Award winners and thanks those who submitted nominations to bring these outstanding citizens to the forefront to be honored and recognized for the good work they are doing in our community. Do you know anyone else in the community who deserves recognition? Email us at so we can get the word out about all the great things Tri-Towners are doing to make a difference!

Swordfish Tales

Mattapoisett Historical Society Museum

By Marilou Newell

By the age of ten, Tom Brownell had witnessed the thrill and the danger associated with swordfishing.

One day, while hunting for swordfish, about 30 miles south of Martha's Vineyard with his Dad, a fish was "ironed." But on this day, the enormous animal reared up from underneath their boat and pierced the deck clear through the planking with its massive sword. The surprised youth and his father quickly stuck rags into the breach not unlike putting a finger in a dike.

On July 23, Brownell and his hunting partner of many years, John Clark, told a group gathered at the Mattapoisett Historical Society Museum to hear fishing tales, "...we've got so many stories..." Thus, Brownell and Clark shared a few of those tales and, as they spoke, their eyes seemed to view the scenes they were describing in that far distance of time where the horizon meets the sea.

They talked about the mechanics involved in hunting these great fish. To 'iron' a swordfish means to spear it with a special tool that allows the spearhead to disengage from the shank. The spear is attached to a long rope line. On the other end is a large ball. Once speared, the swordfish swims until exhausted while the hunters follow, waiting for the opportunity to bring the huge animal aboard the boat.

Brownell said, during his youth, he fished with Earl Broadman of Hollywood in a boat built by Brownell's family business. Each summer, he would go on as many as 35 fishing trips. After that, Brownell began partnering with Tommy Borges (now deceased) and John Clark. He said each man had his own finely-honed individual skills and jobs during the hunt. Borges was the wheelman, Clark was the spotter and angler, and Brownell was the striker, spearing the fish. They were tuned in to each other, had confidence in each other, and were successful for that reason the men shared.

"Johnny would tend the line. Tommy would steer the boat, putting the sun to my back, said Brownell. "Tommy knew just how I liked it and put me right on the fish. I was the striker." Brownell demonstrated the stance he would take as he spoke.

Striking the fish needed to be precise to set the spearhead. Then the fish would take off trailing 300 feet of line. It would take up to 60 minutes before they could attempt landing the fish. Clark never took his eye off the ball and when the time came, Brownell said, "Johnny did most of the fighting with the fish."

Brownell described the perfect hunting day as one where "we had popcorn skies" and flat calm waters. He said Clark could spot a swordfish fin yards away.

Fishing began in June and ended in September. They went out to sea "every good day," Brownell remembered. And for more than 30 years, he remembered many good days.

During the season, swordfish migrate north following baitfish. The men would head out around dawn and return after dark. It took two to three hours to reach the hunting grounds some 30 miles south of Martha's Vineyard.

And swordfish weren't the only fish they saw.

He said the ocean was full of all types of sharks and whales. Clark remembered what he saw on one day in particular.

"Acres of black whales, as far as the eye could see, sleeping on the surface of the water," said Clark.

Seth Mendell, who was among the assembled to hear these men speak, offered the following explanation, "Whales are mammals and have to sleep on the surface of the water so they can breath. They are the only mammals who can shut off half of their brains while sleeping, while the other half keeps them breathing."

The biggest swordfish the trio ever brought in weighed 504 pounds after being "dressed." But the very best day of his fishing life was July 17, 1983. On that day, they landed six fish weighing from 190 to 400 pounds.

Brownell said that swordfishing's heydays ended around 1985 with the arrival of factory ships from Russia invading George's Banks.

"At night, there were so many huge ships from Russia all lit up, it looked like a city on the ocean," said Brownell. He said these industrial ships used long nets sweeping everything out of the water from fish, to sharks, to whales, everything. "And the water seemed to warm up a lot," which Brownell said contributed to the decline of baitfish.

When the fishermen first began selling their catch to local restaurants, the price was around 25 cents per pound. That figure rose to six dollars per pound by 1985.

Brownell said, of the years he fished with Tommy Borges and Johnny Clark, "We never really grew up." He concluded wistfully, "It was the best time any three guys could have!"

You can view photographs of Brownell and his partners during their days at sea and related tools of the trade at the Mattapoisett Historical Society Museum through the summer season.

The Barnacle Whisperer

By Marilou Newell

Michelle Cusolito is an educator, naturalist, author, and to a group of folks gathered at the Mattapoisett Library on July 28, she was the "Barnacle Whisperer."

Cusolito told about 20 young people from ages 8 to 12 that barnacles are amazing animals, whose lives along our coast can only be seen at low tide. But it is during the high tide that they are active, albeit rather hard to see without a magnifying glass or a snorkel.

Before arriving at the Mattapoisett Library to impart barnacle wisdom to this thoroughly engaged group, Cusolito made a visit to Ned's Point and collected rocks encrusted with barnacles and brought them in large pails of seawater.

First, she had the children examine the rocks, noting that the barnacles were very tiny. She then handed out magnifying glasses in order to bring the tiny crustaceans into better view.

After asking the kids to jot down some thoughts about what they observed, she placed the rocks into clear bins and then slowly splashed sea water over them, mimicking a rising tide. She told the children to give the barnacles a bit of time and then to observe any changes.

Aubrey, Daniel, Sarah, Annie, Connor, Cameron, Meghan, Violet, Alex and others waited patiently, just as scientists in all disciplines must when studying nature. They were waiting for the barnacles to open up and release their feeding legs.

Sarah said, "Oh, that smell!" as she peered into the container on her table and waited for the barnacles to open. Cusolito cautioned the kids that when studying nature, one had to be patient - there was a great deal of waiting involved in science.

As they waited, Violet asked Cusolito, "Do you know what happens?" Science involves a bit of skepticism, too, it seems. Cusolito chuckled and replied that yes, she did.

Cusolito has given talks on barnacles to students and to educators helping the latter group to understand the complexities of these tiny creatures as they develop materials for their own classes.

This group of curious minds learned that barnacles will attach themselves to any slow moving or stationary object - be it a ship, a whale, or a rock. They are hermaphrodites and their offspring voraciously consume plankton, grow, molt, and then settle down to find a home. They excrete a type of organic brown glue used to attach their bodies to the object of their desired home site. This substance is so strong that it is being studied for possible use in dental applications. Things that make you go "hmm," or from this group, "Oh, yuck!"

Earlier in the afternoon, Cusolito pointed out that the Tri-Towns' libraries are part of the MOBY program, which stands for My Own Back Yard. The program encourages youth in the communities to explore their own towns to search out nature in pastures, streams, seashore, or even the night sky.

The MOBY program offers backpacks at each library that are filled with exploring materials for specific study in such topics as organic gardening, insects, the beach, or bird-watching and available for check out.

ZBA Looks at New Plan, Denies Church's Appeal

Marion Zoning Board of Appeals

By Jean Perry

Members of the Marion First Congregational Church didn't like Christian Loranger's initial design for the five-unit condominium complex he is building next door, even though Loranger's plan complied with the Town's Zoning Bylaws and a building permit was issued.

Some church members, represented by Bill Saltonstall, filed an appeal with the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals back in May to overturn the building permit for the project. During the public hearing for the appeal on June 25, attorney Patricia McArdle argued that the church had no standing to file an appeal and the building permit Building Inspector Scott Shippey issued Loranger was legal and legit. The board took the matter under advisement and then finally voted to deny the appeal on July 23.

However, July 23 was also a public hearing for an amendment to the design of the condominium complex slated for 16 Cottage Street - one that Loranger and his attorney, John Mathieu, said was created to satisfy the church members' concerns and to build a condominium that was more palatable to them. This new plan required approval from the ZBA, as the plan does not conform to the Zoning Bylaws.

The church was concerned about the size of the proposed building and its close proximity to the property line of the abutting church. The new plan slides the proposed building over by ten feet, which affects the parking spaces for the condo complex.

Loranger, owner/agent of Sippican Preservation, LLC, now needs two parking waivers to move forward: one to waive the requirement for two spaces per unit, and the other to allow parking spaces in front of the building.

"We're here tonight, after a lot of negotiations with the neighbors," said Mathieu, "to ... see if the board would approve the amended plan ... to address everyone's concerns."

According to Mathieu, the neighbors reviewed the new plan and were in agreement with the schematics. The neighbors also influenced Loranger's landscaping plan to add a row of shrubs for screening.

"We've done all that we can do to address their concerns," said Mathieu.

When ZBA member Bob Alves asked where the additional parking spaces would be located, Mathieu said they were looking toward street parking around the property. Alves cringed.

ZBA member Betsy Dunn suggested that parking issues are usually within the purview of the Planning Board. Dunn also had her own concerns over the footprint of the building, specifically the basement, which is currently not livable space in the current structure that exists on the lot. She argued that it was not livable space and is not taxed. Shippey corrected her, assuring her that the basement space will be assessed as taxable square-footage.

Saltonstall referred to a letter written by Margie Baldwin on June 20 expressing concern over the plan and the church neighbors' willingness to work with Loranger on a plan they personally would approve of. He stated for the record that the neighbors all approve of the amended plan.

"It's a better plan, and we feel that the roof configuration, the entrance, the parking situation, and the elevations of this building are generally improved," said Saltonstall.

Abutter Christy Dube said she supported the amended plan, but was not in favor of two balconies that would overlook her backyard.

"The two decks that would allow neighbors to look into my backyard," said Dube. "I'm not supportive of that one element.... As the direct abutter, I think my family has the most to live through."

Loranger said he would work with Dube regarding her concern, adding that Dube is married to his first cousin.

Discussion turned back to Planning Board for approval of the parking and having the ZBA make the decision on the parking waivers. Loranger wants to avoid having to go to the Planning Board.

"I would respectfully ask, if there is any way you could do the ruling on the parking, I'd ask you to...." said Loranger.

The public hearing was closed and the matter was taken under advisement for a decision at a later meeting.

Before adjourning, the board voted to deny the church's appeal of the building permit for Loranger's previous plan, with four in favor and one abstention: Dunn.

In a follow-up interview, when asked why she abstained, Dunn refused to comment.

"I choose not to say," said Dunn. "I don't have to tell you why."

When asked if it was because she was a member of the Marion First Congregational Church, the appellant for the abutting condo complex, Dunn again declined to comment. She eventually disclosed that she is a member.

During a follow-up phone call, ZBA Chairman Eric Pierce said Dunn's membership in the church had come up relative to the appeal hearing, but he did not advise her to disclose it.

"It's not up to me to make her [make the disclosure]," said Pierce. "She has to step up and say I'm a member of the church."

Pierce said he is glad Dunn abstained from voting on the matter, even though he acknowledged the church had no standing for an appeal because they wouldn't suffer any damages.

"We're a small town and we often have this person (board member) say, 'I know this person and we have this relationship,'" said Pierce. "And people either not vote or not discuss."

Pierce said he did not have a good answer for why Dunn would initially hide her church membership when questioned after the meeting.

The Wanderer learned Dunn was at one time the treasurer for the First Congregational Church of Marion, and on July 28 The Wanderer called the church and asked for a list of the church officers to confirm that she is no longer the treasurer, but was refused.

"We don't share that kind of information with a newspaper," the secretary stated. After, she confirmed that Dunn is no longer the treasurer, saying Ben Dunham was the current treasurer.

On July 28, The Wanderer also discovered that newbie to the ZBA, member Joanna Wheeler, a non-voting associate member, is the church clerk at the Marion First Congregational Church. Wheeler could not be reached for comment on July 28, and the chairman did not respond to a voicemail on July 28.

The next meeting of the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for August 13 at 7:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

Solar Attorney Questions Board's Purview

Rochester Planning Board

By Jean Perry

The attorney for Clean Energy Solutions, developers of a solar farm located in Marion but with the access site in Rochester, questioned the Rochester Planning Board's assertion that it has jurisdiction over a solar facility in Marion beyond the access site in Rochester on July 28. Planning Board Chairman Arnold Johnson told Attorney Richard Serkey the board reserves the right to look at anything that the Town of Marion's Planning Board might overlook.

Serkey said the Rochester element of the solar facility proposed for Karen and Dennis Clemishaw's property off Perry's Lane is limited to the access site off Tucker Lane. The board had told G.A.F. Engineering, LLC's engineer Bob Rogers that it would not easily grant a list of waivers the applicant had asked for the project. Rogers, who argued that a stormwater waiver is appropriate because no stormwater drainage system that would prompt a site plan review is slated for the site, pointed out that the Planning Board's own engineer hired to review the site found no objection to the waiver for stormwater drainage.

But what flows into Marion, stays in Marion, Rogers told the board.

"Why are we even having a discussion of this in this town?" asked Serkey. Johnson replied, "Because we reserve the right ... to look at anything that involves this project and based on what Marion does and does not do."

Johnson said the board's primary concerns were access, view, decommissioning, and safety.

"Decommissioning?" said Serkey. "I would suggest to you that that is governed by the Town of Marion."

Johnson disagreed.

"Should Marion waive something that shouldn't be waived, or doesn't put something in their decision, we're going to reserve the right to put it in our decision."

The board discussed the waivers, but decided not to take action and continued the public hearing until a later date. Board member Gary Florindo supported the idea of holding off on any waiver approvals.

"I would rather hold as much control as we can," said Florindo. "Not because we want to cause problems for the project, but if things pop up.... If we give them the waivers ... we're going to lose a little bit of control." He continued, "We're not here to control the project ... or tie you up, but if we have to act, we have to hold the right to act ... if something's not right."

Johnson said Rochester's stormwater regulations are stronger than Marion's, and Rogers said the project fully meets the Mass DEP stormwater management standards.

The Planning Board held this site plan review hearing for the project based on an earlier decision that the applicant would have to submit whatever applications and accompanying plans with Marion to Rochester as well.

"My point," said Serkey, "is that each town has separate interests that are within each town's separate jurisdiction." He said both towns do not have jurisdiction over all of the aspects of the project unless it has an impact on that town's particular interests.

But there lies the potential for an abandoned solar farm viewable from Rochester, said Planning Board member Ben Bailey.

"The view would be ugly if it was abandoned and not decommissioned properly," Bailey said.

The board suggested, due to the ambiguous nature of the waivers requested, the applicant should withdraw the letter requesting the waivers and submit a new one.

There was some concern from Johnson regarding the life of the solar arrays and the responsibility of decommissioning an abandoned project, suggesting perhaps the board should require a bond to cover the cost, should the project be abandoned.

Greg Carey from Clean Energy Solutions suggested the board could make decommissioning a condition of the site plan approval. But, conditions without monetary backup, said Johnson, usually get ignored.

"Do you bond every condition ... you place?" asked Serkey.

Of course not, Johnson told him. "It costs money to enforce it. We've seen this in subdivisions," said Johnson. "When someone's holding something significant, they've paid attention."

The project currently calls for an Astroturf-like screening that would attach to the chain link fence around the site for screening, but the board favored more natural screening such as trees and a berm. However, pointed out Rogers, live trees would need water and constant maintenance or they would die.

Abutters to the project present that evening all supported the project, saying they would prefer to see a solar farm at the site than any other commercial project.

As the project moves through both Marion and Rochester, Rogers said, as Marion makes suggestions for changes, Rochester would receive those fresh changes and stay "ahead of the game" when it comes to the changes.

The next meeting of the Rochester Planning Board is scheduled for August 11 at 7:00 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

ConCom Meets with Candidates

Mattapoisett Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell

With so many vacancies on various boards and commissions in Mattapoisett, it was surprising to see four residents come forward vying for a single slot made available with the departure of Tom Copps from the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission.

Chairman Bob Rogers invited the candidates to briefly share their backgrounds and reasons for tossing their hats in the ring saying, "Most time it isn't fun being up here."

Richard Francis said he has lived in town for 35 years and works for a local excavating company. He said he wanted to get into town politics and thought that the Conservation Commission was a good place to start.

Dianne Tsitsos told the commission that her background was in international business development and, more recently, she was consulting for local businesses. She said she was not familiar with the Wetlands Protection Act, but felt up to the challenge.

Mike Dubuc, a cranberry farmer, also is seeking a seat on the commission. He is a fairly new member of the community and is presently on the Agricultural Commission. He said he was somewhat familiar with wetlands regulations and was willing to help the commission.

Joan Belknap told the commission she is a science teacher and school principal, is currently working on projects for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and was part of the team that wrote the harbormaster plan for the City of New Bedford. She said she is familiar with the Wetlands Protection Act and other waterways regulations.

Rogers told the candidates the commission would review the resumes they had submitted and make a selection at their next regular meeting. He said the next step was sending the Board of Selectmen their chosen candidate for review and appointment. The group was thanked for their willingness to assist the town.

Earlier in the evening, David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates, representing Jay and Julie Duker, came before the commission for a continuance of a hearing for the construction of a private recreational pier into Aucoot Cove.

Davignon had come before the board on several other occasions regarding the Duker application, each time being asked for additional information. On this night, Davignon was accompanied by Stan Humphries of LEC Environmental Consultants.

Humphries said the barrier beach that the proposed pier will traverse was acceptable or "to the performance standards" necessary to achieve a Chapter 91 license. On the issue of the beach being more or less viable as a reliable location for the pier, Humphries said, "I think it will take a significant storm to create a breach.... If that comes in the future, this owner has come forward with many ideas for improving the area ... including beach nourishment at the low tide mark...."

Rogers voiced concerns that the pier would one day be disconnected from the shoreline due to the movement of the barrier beach and questioned the wisdom of placing a pier in this location.

Abutters Brad and Jane Hathaway were present to voice their concerns. This is not the first time the Hathaways have attempted to draw attention to the movement of the barrier beach over the decades and the rising waters.

"The high tide washes over that area now," Jane Hathaway said, "...and the water is getting higher and higher with global warming."

Brad Hathaway asked the chairman, "Does the Conservation Commission have any interest in eel grass?" He said the letter LEC had submitted to the commission claimed there wasn't any eelgrass present where the pier will be constructed, but Hathaway countered that his pictures told a different story.

Rogers said a letter from the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries wasn't strongly worded enough.

"They tell us to do everything in our power to protect eelgrass, but will they stand up if this gets appealed to the DEP?" said Rogers. "I don't feel they'll stand up," he told Hathaway.

Hathaway said, "But if you allow this, then the abutters have to spend the money to appeal. If you deny it, they, the applicant, has to spend the money."

This roused commission member Peter Newton to reply, "Whatever action we take, we take based on our conscience."

Of the pier itself, which Davignon described as one that would be used only for small craft, Jane Hathaway asked, "You keep saying small craft, but who polices that? ...What if the Dukers sell and someone wants to come in with a big boat in the future?" Newton and Rogers said that the Chapter 91 license would be pulled if that came to pass.

The hearing was continued until August 10, at which time Davignon was asked to revise the engineered drawings to reflect that all beach areas in the construction zone were barrier beaches and to show the wedge anchoring system that will be employed.

Rogers said a determination on the project would take place at the next meeting.

In other business, a Notice of Intent was withdrawn by Daniel and Lisa Craig of 4 Seabreeze Lane. The commission will issue an Enforcement Order and ask the Craigs, along with all the residents with deeded easement rights through the Craigs' property, to attend the next meeting. The commission has been attempting to work with the Craigs in an effort to have encroached lands remediated. Rogers also said that he would ask the Buzzards Bay Coalition to attend the meeting.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for August 10 at 6:30 pm in the Mattapoisett Town Hall conference room.

Solar Project Will Not Disturb Wetlands

Marion Conservation Commission

By Jean Perry

A community solar farm project developed by Clean Energy Collaborative, slated for a parcel of land off Tucker Lane, will have no impact on wetlands, Wetlands Engineer Mark Arnold told the Marion Conservation Commission July 22.

The wetlands at the parcel consist of cranberry bogs, swampland, and bona fide vegetative wetlands (BVW). Some trees within the BVW will be lopped off at 10 feet to mitigate shading on the solar arrays. Trunks will remain with the root system left intact, avoiding the disturbance of the ground vegetation and shrubs. No heavy machinery or trucks will enter the BVW because the work will be done by hand.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection did issue a comment on the project plan, voicing concern over impact on the BVW and possible loss of wetlands at the site.

"It's not really a loss," said Arnold about the roughly 3,000 square-foot area of concern. "It's really just an alteration.... We're actually not disturbing any groundcover."

Conservation Commission Chairman Norman Hills requested a copy of a long-term maintenance plan for the project site, but neither Arnold nor the developer's community solar manager, Greg Carey, had one for submission that evening.

Arnold's plan, which he submitted with the Request for Determination, reflected a 25-foot "no-build zone" within the 100-foot buffer zone, but as the commission pointed out, the no-build zone actually extends to 30 feet.

The commission continued the hearing until August 12 and requested that Arnold return with a plan reflecting the accurate 30-foot no-build zone as well as a maintenance plan. Hills - also a member of the Planning Board - said the Planning Board had about 20 or so items that still need to be resolved before that board approves the site review. Hills suggested the ConCom refrain from making a determination on the solar farm project until those Planning Board issues are resolved.

Also during the meeting, the commission issued a negative determination for the Tremont Advent Christian Camp Association, located at 45 Oakdale Avenue, to rebuild an existing structure damaged by snow over the winter. Located within a flood zone, the structure will be raised an additional 4 feet to meet flood zone construction regulations.

In another matter, the commission accepted a change to the previously approved plan for Sid Bowen of 16 Vine Street. Bowen's wife, Angela Watson, present on Bowen's behalf, said the proposed structure, due to zoning setback requirements, will be relocated to the opposite side of the driveway on the property. The footprint, she said, would be smaller, an existing garage that was slated for removal will now remain, and the distance to the drainage area would remain the same.

The commission granted a negative determination for Judith Cope of 16 West Avenue to re-grout a stone groin (a jetty-like structure usually placed to hold sand in place).

The RDA hearing for Chuong Pham was continued until August 12, the next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission, to be held at the Marion Town House at 7:00 pm.

Ticks, Drugs, and Section 8 Control

Marion Board of Health

By Jean Perry

With the help of an intern, the Marion Board of Health and Public Health Nurse Kathy Downey are getting the word out about tick-borne diseases through multimedia presentations - for all ages from kindergarten to adult - and other tools such as new and more detailed signs placed strategically at popular hiking paths and conservation lands warning the public about ticks.

Intern Jenna Kiridly reiterated that Marion is in fifth place for the highest prevalence of tick-borne diseases in Massachusetts, with incidents in Plymouth County nearly doubling the amount of Lyme disease, Babesiosis, and other tick-borne diseases in Cape Cod.

Kiridly said the Center for Disease Control has now declared Lyme disease an epidemic, with Tri-Town at the epicenter of it all.

"It is an issue that we need to tackle," said Kiridly, "both by increasing education ... and vigilance and preventative measures."

Kiridly said the multimedia program she developed is sustainable and can be managed after her internship is over.

The signs she designed and placed at hiking trails are "more attention grabbing." Therefore, she said, people will pay more attention.

In other matters, during the July 28 meeting, the board discussed ongoing work unfolding under a grant to fund opioid abuse and abuse prevention programs in the area. Through collecting data and organizing the results, including data collected from the recent youth risk survey undertaken at Old Rochester Regional Junior and High Schools, Downey is now heavily involved in addressing seven main problems divided into two types: use and consequence.

"I've looked at 'use' as more like 'first use,' and 'consequence' as anything after first use," said Downey. She addressed issues like Narcan and how to get more people to possess it to prevent overdose deaths.

The board discussed possible root problems that lead to opioid abuse in youth, such as initial use of painkillers for dental work and orthopedic issues. Downey said, as she has spoken to different people dealing with opioid dependency, that most say their primary care physician was not the initial prescribing doctor. Most of the time, the pills are prescribed through emergency room physicians.

The grant will also fund the development for a school curriculum about drug use prevention and addiction.

Before adjourning, Health Director Karen Walega said Ken Steen, developer of the Marion Village Estates 40B housing development, called her to perform two inspections on two units - inspections Steen said the housing authorities of other towns had demanded. Walega wondered what she should charge for these inspections.

Board members had several different amounts in mind - from $50 to $150 - but the board decided to investigate what they charge for other types of inspections before settling on a price.

The board wondered why the Town of Marion would be asked to perform an inspection they viewed as being state jurisdiction.

"They (the housing authorities) don't know that its brand spanking new, and I didn't find any problems," said Downey.

The next meeting of the Marion Board of Health is scheduled for August 25 at 4:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

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