The Wanderer - Mobile Edition
ORR Seniors Receive Sobering Message
By Jean Perry
Everyone noticed the boxes of tissues placed at the end of every row in the auditorium on April 10, as students filed in and prepared for "Every 15 Minutes," a presentation to seniors about drunk driving and texting while driving. The tissues were an ominous sign of what was to come, but some students seemed amused, probably convinced that tissues would not be necessary.
Each student that passed through the doors was greeted by a dark figure in a black cloak, his face a skull. He looked the students in the eyes as they passed, and then the figure of death led a stream of others cloaked in black behind him to the front rows of the auditorium, while their classmates chuckled, finding it funny.
The sentiment did not last long, though.
Once Linda Chaves, an ER trauma nurse, spoke to the students about her experiences with drunk-driving injuries at Newport Hospital, the mood quickly changed.
"I'm not here to lecture you," said Chaves. She was there with a message, and she began by listing the statistics.
Every 15 minutes, a person dies from drunk driving. Drunk driving claimed 24,365 American lives in 2012, and injured or maimed 917,000. There are 1.6 million DUI arrests every year.
Things quickly became solemn as Chaves got to the point when she had to deliver the devastating news to a mother that her son was killed after he drove drunk and crashed.
She let out a scream, said Chaves, "Like a wild animal that got its foot caught in a trap."
Parents seated in the first row were the first to start reaching for the tissues to wipe away tears.
Chaves told the captivated audience how a hospital staff prepares the body before loved ones enter the room to see their lifeless child, under a heated blanket, with one single hand placed on top - the first thing a distraught mother reaches for.
The stage was very dimly lit - no stage light shone on Chaves - and the auditorium was dark. The tone was already serious, but the energy in the room shifted dramatically when Chaves disclosed that, several years ago, while at work, the police arrived to give her the devastating news that her own 19 year-old son, Charlie, was killed after he drove drunk and struck a tree.
She recalled the last time Charlie called her from college, the night before he was to return home for a visit - "I love you, Mom," he told her. "I love you too," she told her son.
"I can't tell you how precious those words are, because they were the last words I ever heard him speak," she said.
At that moment, those tissues at the end of each row did not seem so uncalled for. Tears were falling, noses began running, and tissues were suddenly being passed down.
"Please think before you go out," Chaves pleaded. "Call your parents, stay where you are..." Whatever you do, she begged, do not drive drunk or get into a car with someone who has been drinking. That decision could have a lifetime of consequences.
"And I'm living that lifetime," said Chaves. "Please be safe. You are loved by a lot of people who care about you."
A film created by ORR students followed with the star being the grim reaper who met the seniors at the auditorium door. He walked from classroom to classroom, every 15 minutes entering another and calling on his latest victim, who quietly got up and followed death out the door - leaving behind only a photograph and the name of the student taped to the wall.
The message was driven home as students saw their friends depicted as victims, with the saddest, most sorrowful music one could imagine playing in the background. At one point in the film, one of the "deceased" victims sat alone at a table in the middle of the cafeteria, invisible to the others who were carrying on without them, living their lives and getting ready for their bright futures - a future the victim would never get to have.
Students performed a skit with the Rochester Police depicting a crash, with a white, blood-soaked blanket draped over the friend of the teenager who selfishly chose to drive drunk - now in handcuffs.
One girl read a poem that she wrote to her mom about what her final thoughts would be while dying after a crash. Some students and their parents who were seated on the stage in a semicircle began sobbing and wiping tears as they got ready to read the letters they wrote to their parents "from beyond the grave" and the letters their parents wrote to their "dead" children.
Rochester Police enacted mock house calls to a few parents, delivering to them the news that their child had been killed while the child witnessed the scene unfold.
What transpired next was extremely emotional and, if it didn't hit the kids in the audience by that point, it did now when moms and dads, sons and daughters read their letters to each other, struggling to get though it - wrapping their heads around just how important a child is to their parents, how their children are their whole world, and how life would end without them.
The message was love. To let love keep them from making the fatal mistake of driving drunk, getting in a car with someone who has been drinking, or texting while driving. To allow the image of their parents' suffering - and one father who was an emotional wreck on the stage - keep them from ever taking the risk.
"My family means everything to me," a father read from his letter to his son. "Each day is a challenge. I just wish and pray to have you back," he continued as tears poured down his reddened face. "And I can't wait for the day I take my last breath so I can hold you again."
There was serious sobbing in the audience now. It was safe to assume, that at this point, not one eye remained dry.
"My arms will ache to hug you," said one mother to her daughter who was crying on the stage.
Parents continued reading letters remembering their dead children, and students read their own letters, apologizing for their selfishness and their stupid mistake.
"What I just witnessed is pretty much going to keep me sober for another day," said speaker Pat Cronin, who talked about his battle with drug addiction. "I wish that I had this in my high school."
ORR Faculty Member Deb Soares said her son, Terell, is 21 years-old and still thinks about the impact the "Every 15 Minutes" program had on him. She said he always calls her when he needs a ride after drinking.
"I didn't expect it to hit me this hard," said Ali Grace, an ORR student, after the presentation. "I know that, due to this, my choices in the future are definitely going to change."
"It was very powerful," said Colin Knapton, who appeared on the stage during the presentation. "It was very personal." He said the presentation has convinced him to never take the risk of driving drunk.
The Day of the Grackle
This Mattapoisett Life
By Marilou Newell
It's happening again. The skies are blackened by swarms of winged devils. The calm of early mornings and twilight reveries vibrate with evil squawks. The treetops sway under the weight of thousands of single-minded beings. They come to procreate on my property and then raise their young, whose waste will be spread across my backyard, fouling the space so completely it will be June before we can go outside. I'm reminded yet again that Mother Nature rules, and we mere mortals droll as we watch her creatures fly through the skies and land in our woodlands for another season of 'Sex in the Pines.'
It wasn't always like this. In 1990, when we purchased our patch of paradise here in Mattapoisett, we spent springtime in joyful pursuit of gardening. First, there were the weekends of yard cleanup, then the preparation of the flowerbeds, and finally the pleasure of planting. Oh, that sweet earthy smell of freshly tilled soil and newly spread mulch would fill our heads with "Ode to Joy" as we blithely danced across the lawn like garden fairies. But not any longer ... for the last three years we have been preyed upon by (think dark ominous music) THE GRACKLES!
We'd see these denizens of the dark underworld in the village and marvel at their boisterous clans as dusk rolled in off the water. They were just part of the fabric of scene; we thought nothing more of them.
Then one early spring afternoon as I lay in my hammock reading and alternately nodded off, my trance-like nap was sliced through by the noise of hundreds of grackles. I opened my eyes and after some effort adjusting my aging eyesight, I saw in the canopy above the shadowy shapes of birds, lots and lots of birds. At first I marveled at the spectacle, thinking 'isn't that grand,' but then, as if on cue, these flying manure machines began to sprinkle their off-springs' waste sacks across my lawn and bomb the bird bath. I couldn't believe my eyes. Apparently the mother birds' manual on good housekeeping states that the nest must be kept clean for the health and wellbeing of the babies and that tossing the cruddy crap crates into a body of water is best. The pool cover, with a pond of spring rain in the center, was taking the brunt of the assault and had become in a single afternoon a sewer treatment plant. Hitchcock would have loved this.
As I lay there contemplating what my recourses might be, I reasoned that if I could disrupt the nests and wreck a little havoc on the cozy condominium complex these unwelcomed neighbors had built in my trees, they would leave and never return ("She is a crazy lady. The babies aren't safe here. Let's head for Haskell's Swamp."). I decided to take action.
Near at hand was the long-handled pool strainer. With a pole approximately 15 feet long and a square paddle-shaped strainer on the end, I figured I could do some serious suburban renewal on the nests. I grabbed the tool and began whacking the arborvitaes like a bass drummer in a marching band. Nothing happened. I sensed thousands of tiny eyes looking down on me with mild amusement. Not one single bird budged from its perch.
I would not give up so easily. Wasn't I a member of the top of the food chain club? Don't I possess a brain bigger than an acorn with complex cognitive capabilities? Yes, I will dislodge these interlopers, these unwelcomed guests and they will away to someone else's yard. With each successive whack, I let out a grunt that sounded sort of Yeti-like or at least what the Big Foot hunters claim one sounds like. Nothing happened. I was merely working up a sweat.
I like to believe that I have great stores of persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. After all, hadn't I completed the Fourth of July 5K in 1991 by speed walking, this in spite of overhearing someone on the sidelines comment "...that one isn't going to make it very far..." I not only finished the race, but I did so in less than 60 minutes - a personal best for yours truly. Go stick that in your pipe and smoke it. I wasn't giving up, not me!
By then, however, my arms were getting very tired, my shoulders had all but collapsed into my rib cage, and my neck was locking up. Then from somewhere on the edge of the battlefield, I heard a small voice say, "Hi Mrs. Newell, whatcha doin'?" I slowly lowered my weapon and my sightline and found a tiny neighbor standing nearby. With as much grace as a crazed person can summon in a moment of extreme mental agitation, I replied, "Oh, hi Mikey." He wore a puzzled expression that warranted some sort of reasonable response from me. I attempted to gently place the pole on the ground, pretending it was normal to be swinging it overhead and slamming it against trees. I then said, "Well, you see Mikey, all these birds are pooping in my yard..." and before I could elaborate further he scampered off calling to the other kids, "Hey, wanna see Mrs. Newell kill the birds!" Mercifully, he didn't return. I suspect watching ants come and go from an anthill was more of a draw for the little boys than witnessing a mentally deranged grandmother's attempt at javelin tossing with a piece of pool equipment.
We spent the next few weeks hiding in our sunroom, unable to enjoy our backyard as the baby birds matured and excreted increasing volumes of poop with every passing day. The pool cover was now beyond redemption. The birdbath was empty and caked with thick white-gray masses and the lawn was thoroughly covered with drying crap bombs. I wanted to weep.
But then one afternoon, as we sat stoically yearning inside our sunroom wishing we owned a low maintenance parcel versus what we had created, our version of Versailles, I became aware of the quiet. "Hey honey, I don't hear those damn birds screaming," I remarked. My husband listened and concurred, "Yup."
It was over. The babies had flown the coop, and the adults were off to their vacations in other wooded areas. We ventured outside to clean up the mess not unlike that left behind after a massive spring break party.
We spent the balance of the warm season enjoying our yard and pool and reminiscing about how horrible the early spring had been, our suffering at the beaks of those filthy birds, and how we would never stand for it ever again.
How wrong we were. The following spring the now grown-up babies from that first generation descended upon us, returning to repeat what their kind do - pair-up and mate, and breed a new generation of poop-copters. But we weren't ready to surrender.
We hit the internet searching for any type of guidance or tool we could find that might dissuade the grackles from using our yard as a maternity ward. My husband became so incensed that he was willing to spend any sum if the purchased item worked. Soon we had a machine that emitted a series of predator bird calls. Falcons, hawks, eagles - their screaming, terrifying calls peppered air waves and reverberated throughout the neighborhood.
At first, we were sure this expensive gadget was working. We didn't see any birds of any type for about a week. In the meantime, we placed owl and hawk decoys around the yard and even set a string of predator balloons hovering above the pool's surface to discourage the unlawful dumping. We were moderately encouraged by the result. Sure, we had to listen to the recorded hollering of hawks and falcons, but we didn't care. Better that than piles of poop. But our joy was short lived. The nasty packets appeared anew. The grackles had quickly learned that although the place was full of scary sounds, scary things didn't happen.
Crestfallen, my husband made one final attempt at dislodging the flying vermin by employing an air horn. He blasted away, sending ear-splitting noise up to the heavens. Nothing happened. The grackles simply looked down on him and gave him the one-feather salute.
As we face another spring, we have mixed emotions. On the one hand, we love the sunshine and warmer temperatures. On the other hand, we watch the birds gather nesting materials and fly up into our trees, mocking us as they take up residence for the season.
One result of aging is learning to deal with limitations. Generally, these limitations are in the form of bodies no longer willing or able to perform tasks. But in our case, we take that one step further: We accept that the animals have won. The deer have eaten our bushes and left piles of brown marbles across vast expanses, the cats in the neighborhood prefer our flowerbeds to kitty litter, the woodchucks will burrow under the shed and eat our flowers, as will the rabbits with more digested vegetation sprinkled around. And last but not least, the grackles will once again raise their young whose poop we'll clean up so we can sit outside. Whoever coined the phrase "S - - T happens" can't possibly know how right they were.
(P.S. No animals were harmed during the writing of this story.)
Rochester Election Ousts Two Incumbents
By Jean Perry
This election spells a little bit of change for Rochester, with two incumbents voted out and two new candidates elected in.
For Rochester Memorial School Committee, Jennifer Kulak was the big winner with 212 votes, followed by Meagan Bennett with 165 votes, beating out running incumbent Timothy Scholz who took in 159 votes, and Cheryl Hebert who had 127.
Board of Health incumbent Sandra Keese had 170 votes - not enough to beat William David Souza and his 185 votes.
Write-in candidate for Planning Board Lee Carr received 71 of the 93 write-in votes, turning his currently appointed seat on the Planning Board into an officially elected one.
Election volunteers were a bit rattled after 8:30 pm when one single ballot was missing. There were several painstaking recounts until the ballot was discovered in the darkest corner of the voting machine and proudly held up high by Town Clerk and Selectman Naida Parker as the others quickly put their jackets on to leave.
"We would be nothing if we weren't thorough," stated Parker, who maintained her uncontested position as Town Clerk, with 336 votes.
Voter turn-out was roughly 10 percent, with 402 out of the 4,092 registered Rochester voters exercising their right to vote on April 9.
Towns Get Facts About ORR Cyber Theft
Tri-Town Selectmen's Meeting
By Jean Perry
Selectmen on April 10 finally got to the bottom of the 2011 cyber-hacking incident that resulted in the theft of $134,000 from an Old Rochester Regional bank account.
On February 9, 2011, UniBank alerted school administration to several suspicious money transfers, including a $4,000 deposit to someone in Nashville, Tennessee. By the end of the day, there were 20 electronic transfers of ORR funds to 20 different accounts by the time UniBank froze the ORR payroll account that had been compromised.
Superintendent Doug White, reading from a prepared statement, said bank representatives came to the school and tested the computer system on February 10 and traced the breach to a single computer in the business office. The computer was infected with malware that allowed a remote keystroke logger to record every keystroke made on the keyboard, thus allowing the hacker to acquire passwords and other sensitive information.
White said $100,992.39 was recouped within two months of the incident, but $33,774.61 was never recovered. The insurance company denied the district's claim for the loss because the incident involved a third-party and not an ORR faculty worker, and UniBank's investigation found the bank was not at fault for the breach.
Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne addressed allegations that $600,000 was the actual amount stolen, and he questioned White about the discrepancy, which Gagne said he heard from White himself when the rumor of a cyber attack began circulating.
"When you called me back that morning ... did you not say to me at that time that it was $600,000?" Gagne asked White.
"I could have," replied White. "I didn't go to the file." He said he did call Gagne back right away after going through the file for further information.
"But you do remember saying $600,000?" said Gagne.
White replied, "I potentially could have." He said that once he went to the file, though, he realized it was $134,000.
When asked if the School Committee could ever recover the remaining stolen funds, ORR Attorney Josh Coleman stated, "To be honest, I think it would be unlikely ... The bank didn't find any fault of their own."
Mattapoisett Selectman Paul Silva suggested appointing a committee to handle these kinds of situations in the future to quickly assess and disperse information to the three towns so that if there is ever another cyber-hacking, the three towns could monitor their own computer systems.
The selectmen adopted the motion, and the School Committee reluctantly took a vote to also appoint a committee.
Rochester Selectman Richard Nunes criticized what he considered the School Committee's proclivity for discussing matters in executive session instead of being open with the three towns.
"There was no attempt to hide anything," said former School Committee Chairman Dr. Peter Bangs, who chaired the committee at the time of the cyber-theft. He said executive session was warranted because public disclosure would have compromised the ongoing criminal investigation.
Current School Committee Chairman Jim O' Brien said law enforcement advised the committee to keep quiet, but stated that if he were chairman at the time, he probably would have asked more questions.
O' Brien got defensive when he alluded to one Rochester selectman who ran a letter to the editor in several local publications after Rochester selectmen and the ORR School Committee met in executive session on March 17 to discuss the cyber-theft. O' Brien said Nunes disclosed "many facts that went on during that meeting" in his editorial. O' Brien criticized those who "pack up their sand toys whenever they're not satisfied then run to the [press]."
"There was no conspiracy," said O' Brien. "But I will admit, if I had to do it over, I would have certainly met in executive session ... with all three towns."
But third-party incidents not involving personnel do not qualify for executive session, stated Mattapoisett Selectman Jordan Collyer.
Nunes defended the letter he published, saying. "My comments did not reflect anything I said during executive session ... so don't try and paint me as blabbing an executive session to the papers."
Nunes continued, "I'm tired of the School Committee running into executive session at the drop of a hat." He said executive session has become "the rule and not the exception" for the committee. "It shouldn't have to be like that."
Selectmen asked the School Committee why they do not record their meetings with ORCTV like the rest of the boards and committees do. The question went unanswered.
Discussion got heated after selectmen emphasized that the $34,000 recovered was "no chump change," expressing disappointment that the committee's legal counsel did not formally request the return of the money from the bank.
"I believe we've taken every step possible ... we feel we could to recover that money," said White.
"It could have been a lot worse," said Collyer. "With every negative there is a positive ... and we shouldn't discount that."
Selectmen asked White and the committee to work with their attorney to "put something together" and try to recover the $34,000 from the bank.
Also during the meeting, selectmen discussed the cable television license renewal, voting to keep Attorney William Solomon for negotiations, despite Mattapoisett's penchant for an attorney from Kopelman and Paige. The vote was 5-1 in favor of Solomon, with Silva abstaining.
The next scheduled joint meeting of the Tri-Town Selectmen is scheduled for June 19 at 7:00 pm at ORR.
River Road Repaving Discussed
Marion Conservation Commission
By Joan Hartnett-Barry
A Notice of Intent filed by the Town of Marion, c/o Department of Public Works, to rehabilitate River Road in order to improve roadway infrastructure and roadway safety, brought four residents of the road in for comments at the Wednesday evening meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission.
Shawn Sida and Magdalin Lotsteolt of CDM Smith presented a proposal of what and how River Road looks now and how it will look after the repaving. At issue are the continual flooding of the road during heavy rainstorms and snow piles from plows sitting over a catch basin, thus blocking its use.
The proposal has River Road staying at the same elevation and width, but straightened out in certain places. The entire road will be replaced, a 12-inch pipe will run underground beneath it, and two filtered catch basins will be installed with catch hoods to collect any oil and grease. No berms will be installed. The Department of Public Works will maintain the drainage swales and basins.
After the presentation, several residents weighed in on the proposal. "While we are happy and excited to have this work done, we question why the road can't be elevated," said Chris Collings of 13 River Road. "I find it hard to believe that not elevating the road will change this situation with constant flooding," said Collings.
Paul Hyde of 39 River Road said that his home sits on the river side and water that comes down the road is now running between his home and his neighbor's home. "I'm in the low spot," he said, "the road tarmac is wearing away in front of my house."
Hyde said he thought about putting in a berm, but that would only drive the water onto his neighbor's lot.
"It's called River Road for a reason," said Jim Colageo of 41 River Road. "The bottom line is that if the lower portion of the road doesn't come up, it'll flood again."
The board told the crowd that if a road is in a flood plain, it cannot be elevated. Syde agreed to meet with DPW Chief Rob Zora. The board asked the residents to provide any photos of the flooding so the issue can be discussed further. The hearing was continued until April 23 at 7:40 pm.
A discussion followed regarding a Request for Determination of Applicability to install a gunite in-ground swimming pool and a patio at 52 Water Street for applicant Maryellen S. Shachoy. The property is in a flood plain and the pool would be located approximately 150 feet from a wetland area.
Two employees from Dartmouth Pools represented the client and answered questions from the board. "The impact on the site will be minimal and all soil will be taken off site," said Norry Alves, of Dartmouth Pools.
The board asked about any potential discharge of pool water. "There will be no discharge. The discharge line will be blocked and there will be no pumping of water into the wetlands. A filter will be used," said Alves.
A full Certificate of Compliance was issued to Henry and Judy DeJesus for razing the existing house at 12 Hartley Lane and constructing a new dwelling, stone patio and gravel driveway.
Another Full Certificate of Compliance was issued to James and Marie T. Davidian of 21 East Avenue, Planting Island for reconstructing a licensed concrete boat ramp.
Last, the board discussed the replication of wetlands at 154 Spring Street. The applicants, William and Karen Curley, were represented by David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates, Inc. The Curleys were seeking a Full Certificate of Compliance for razing the existing dwelling and constructing a new dwelling with an attached garage, replicating wetlands and landscaping. William Curley spoke and said that he planted red cedar trees and rushes.
A question remained regarding the success of the replication of the wetland. The board explained that it was common practice to have a non-partial professional - whether a botanist or other certified professional - make a determination on the success of the replication. The Order of Conditions for the applicant included wetland replication monitoring and an annual progress report, which was not done.
"We'd like a report by a qualified professional that says the replication was successful," said board member Jeffrey Doubrava.
FinCom Asks Probing Questions
Mattapoisett Finance Committee
By Marilou Newell
As Mattapoisett's Finance Committee nears the end of its hard work preparing for the spring town meeting, they met on April 9 with various department heads to ask questions pertinent to capital funding requests.
First up was John DeSousa, Chairman of the Community Preservation Committee. As he had done at the selectmen's meeting the night before, DeSousa gave a presentation that outlined the year-long work the committee has now completed, which included the development of a master plan. The master plan contains firm guidelines on the process for requesting funds from the CPC, the system for grading or prioritizing the requests, and the types of requests that may be requested. He said that committee members had also participated in training at the state level to become more familiar with this relatively new funding source of community projects. DeSousa explained that the Community Preservation Act, which recently underwent some rule changes, now allows the CPC to accept donations from the public.
In February, the CPC voted to accept all seven requested projects and bring them to town meeting where voters will decide the final fate of each. Those projects are: Barlow Cemetery - $3,627 for fencing repairs and general maintenance; Mattapoisett Historical Society/Museum - $16,000 for new cataloging system of historical documents; Buzzards Bay Coalition - $96,000 for land acquisition at Nasketucket Bay; town wharf - $49,000 for masonry repairs; Bike Path Committee - $39,000 for engineering fees for Phase 1B; town beach bath house - $50,000 for repairs including handicap accessibility structural improvements; and Recreation Department - $55,000 for a tot lot adjacent to the tennis courts at Center School. A lead person from each organization that requested funding will lobby for their project at town meeting. The CPC cannot initiate a project; it can only review requests they receive and either accept them based on specific criteria or reject them.
Chairman of Capital Planning Chuck McCullough was next to give his committee's presentation of capital expenses received from various departments for 2015 budget consideration. During his presentation, Police Chief Mary Lyons was asked to explain the need for a new utility vehicle. She explained that this would be a SUV-style cruiser of the type now being ordered versus a sedan style. The Finance Committee members also asked about the need for a new ambulance. Chief Lyons explained that neither Tobey Hospital in Wareham nor St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford is designated as a trauma center by the state. This means that trauma victims must now be transported to Rhode Island Hospital. She said that transports to Rhode Island are about twice a week and add many additional miles to older ambulances.
The committee also questioned why the estimated costs for a new fire station - part of the five-year capital plan - had gone from $2.5 million to $3.5 million. Fire Chief Andrew Murray was on hand to explain that costs for building a new fire station had increased from when he completed researching similar structures. They also questioned him on the requests for repairs to fire suppression vehicles. Chief Murray explained that the requested sums for repairs would be good investments in the fire engines, giving them many more years of services rather than purchasing new vehicles that won't fit in the current fire station facility.
McCullough completed his presentation by presenting the full list of funding requests prioritized by Capital Planning. Those requests are: (1) fire department's Engine 4 repairs - $15,000; (2) police utility vehicle - $35,000; (3) library window repairs - $7,000; (4) fire department Engine 2 refurbishment - $125,000; (5) new ambulance - $200,000; (6) local schools combined computer infrastructure upgrades - $49,000; (7) local schools technology upgrades - $30,000; (8) Hammond Street parking - $18,500; (9) local schools playground repairs - $21,000; (10) beach raft repairs - $10,000; (11) town hall office equipment - $13,400; (12) road sign project - $22,000; (13) highway department building repairs - $40,000; (14) library generator - $50,000; (15) fire department station vehicle - $36,000; (16) highway department utility vehicle - $50,000; (17) new math curriculum - $49,000; and (18) new police cruiser - $32,500.
Town Administrator Mike Gagne said that voters would most likely not fund the full list, noting that possibly only the top six items would pass. FinCom member Pat Donoghue questioned if items that had been given a prioritized position could be taken out of sequence. She was reminded that policy had been changed to discourage funding a need that might enjoy favoritism with a specific group, rather than what was best for the community at large. Gagne said that only the items that could be funded from free cash or other approved sources would be included in the town meeting warrant. That is part of the work that FinCom will undertake leading up to the printing of the town meeting warrant.
Nick Nicholson, Superintendent of the Water and Sewer Department (an enterprise business), was last to appear before the FinCom members. He shared that the new water meters are a great improvement for the town's 'cash registers.' They not only improve the recorded amount of water consumed by each customer, but they also identify leaks and other problems that might otherwise go undetected. He talked to them about the need to purchase more sewer capacity from Fairhaven for future sewer needs when such areas as Harbor Beach, Aucoot Cove, Brandt Island Beach, and Pease Point are added. He also said that there are plans to expand the sewer system to the north along North Street all the way to the end of Industrial Drive.
Nicholson said that he will be seeking authorization to sell property located inside Bay Club and at 33 Church Street to offset the cost of constructing a new water and sewer facility. He noted that such a building would consolidate the current fragmentation of the department and also eliminate rent payments for the 19 County Road office building.
Nicholson went on to explain that phase 3 of the water supply development will be delayed about a year until the new water and sewer rates are in place and the impact of the increase can be evaluated.
The next meeting of the Finance Committee is April 15 at 6:30 pm.
ConCom Agenda Full Again
Mattapoisett Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell
First up on a long agenda that faced the Conservation Commission on April 14 was the Mattapoisett Land Trust. Gary Johnson, chairman of the trust, came forward to discuss repairs needed at the Munro Preserve located at 0 Main Street adjacent to the town wharves. The area behind the sea wall that was built in 1998 has sustained storm damage, resulting in exposed landscape fabrics and dislodged stones that allow some erosion. The land trust partnered with University of Massachusetts and brought along two senior interns who offered their expert advice and proposed repairs. Tom DeLomba and Sean Graven recommended laying down new landscape fabric, and riprap and surge stones to fill in the eroded spaces. These larger stones, they said, should be more resistant to wave action.
After a review of older documents, it was determined that the trust needed to close out an earlier permit that would allow ConCom to issue a certificate of compliance on the original sea wall construction and ongoing maintenance. Once that was completed, they could file a request for determination on the immediate maintenance needed. Members of the commission noted the importance for complete transparency and equal treatment for all applications to avoid any perception that they were treating anyone differently. The trust will move forward in completing the paperwork.
David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates represented a number of clients. The first were Brian and Betsy Andrade on their application to obtain a permit in perpetuity to perform beach nourishment as needed at 70 Aucoot Road. This was approved with standard conditions.
His next clients were Thomas and Maureen Clancy, 10 Briar Road, to replace the existing cottage with a new single-family dwelling. There are no wetlands considerations and a filing with DEP was returned with no comments. The project was approved with standard conditions.
Representing Anthony Campbell and Norah Cross, of 1 Goodspeed Island, Davignon was seeking to clean-up open permit paperwork for work that never proceeded. This was approved and a certificate of compliance was issued.
Certificates of compliance were also issued for his clients, Donald and Ellen Ross, 5 Woodland Avenue, of Pease Point Improvement Association for sea wall repair.
The certificate of compliance requested by Daniel and Laurie DaRosa of 3 Goodspeed Island was tabled until June to give the recently-planted beach grasses, in what had been deemed a "no touch" zone, sufficient time to determine their long-term viability.
For William and Myriol Saunders, 6 Deer Run, the commission told Davignon that they needed a copy of the 'as built' plans before a certificate of compliance could be granted. There were questions regarding the scope of work that has taken place on the property.
Richard Charon represented James and Debra Jones, 3 Cove Street, who submitted a notice of intent. Their unique property and home features a beach-front lot and 902-square feet of living space on stilts. They propose to raze the existing home and build a new 920-square foot home, meeting all flood zone requirements. However, the Jones do not plan to move forward with construction until such time as public sewer service becomes available. Their application was approved with conditions and the exclusion of propane tanks.
Jason Braz, representing Jorge Verissimo of Brandt Point Village, then met with the commission for a public hearing on two lots in the development that have been sold. ConCom's Bob Rogers said that they needed to keep this project and others at the site on their radar screens to ensure coordination with the planning board. Recently, the planning board reviewed Phase 2 of the development and decided on another public hearing due to a change in the number of bedrooms proposed for homes planned at the site.
Midway through the evening, the commission tabled a hearing with Leisure Shores due to the absence of the applicants' representatives. A call to Dana Barrows, manager of the marina, alerted him and he arrived some minutes later. There was apparent confusion on his part, and he requested a continuance until he could be prepared to present the commission with an updated float replacement and master plan for other clean-up work at the business. Barrows said that he had requested and received an opportunity to meet with Town Administrator Michael Gagne recently and was very appreciative of his time and input on what has become a very long and drawn-out entanglement for owner Robert Ringuette.
Barrows also said that when the commission had been less than pleased with a five-year replacement plan the business had offered some weeks ago, they withdrew their financial support for the hiring of an independent peer review environmental engineer that the commission had mandated. Chairman Peter Newton expressed his concern at hearing this and told Barrows that it was within the commission's right to seek outside assistance, that this was not tied to either accepting or rejecting their plan. Barrows circled around several times, sharing with the commission all the forward movement and positive actions the enterprise has undertaken and his desire to cooperate with all town departments. His request for a continuation was granted.
The next meeting of Mattapoisett's Conservation Commission is April 28 at 6:30 pm.
Backlash Continues Over Good Friday Decision
Old Rochester Regional School Committee
By Jean Perry
Grief over Good Friday continued at the April 9 ORR School Committee meeting, as one resident introduced a petition with 115 signatures opposing the Joint School Committee's decision to switch Good Friday in 2015 from a religious holiday into a regular school day.
Margaret McGee of Rochester said that in 1776, the Declaration of Independence established the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.*
"And I still believe in freedom of speech and freedom of religion," said McGee.
The joint committees voted on March 27 to make Good Friday a regular school day, Superintendent Doug White pointed out. He said in order for the vote to be rescinded and a new vote taken, one member from the prevailing side - a member who voted to nix the religious holiday - would have to make the motion to rescind and the motion would need to be seconded. Subsequent debate would take place, and then the original motion would be made, seconded, and re-voted.
Slightly complicating matters is the fact that some members who originally voted for the change are not returning to the committee after elections. Rochester School Committee Member Michelle Cusolito did not run for reelection, and Tim Scholz lost the election later in the evening.
"We look at the best practice for the best quality of education," said Chairman James O' Brien. He said the committees looked at several factors when making the vote on the school calendar.
Rochester resident Robert McGee told the committee, "Nine out of ten people that I have talked to are against it." He added that "most people" are also going to keep their kids home on Good Friday next year.
O'Brien said there was no attack on any singular religion. "It was in defense of all religions," said O' Brien. "Jewish, or Hindu, or no faith at all." He continued, "We try to make the best decisions that will affect great education."
School Committee Member Charles Motta said he would like information about how students and their families actually celebrate Good Friday this year to better understand the situation.
Speaking in favor of the committees' decision to eliminate Good Friday, Rick Cusolito, husband to former School Committee Member Michelle Cusolito, cited the 1971 Lemon v. Kurtzman Supreme Court decision regarding public funding of religious schools. The ruling established the "Lemon Test," a three-prong test concerning law and religion.
The Lemon Test governs legislation pertaining to religion, which must contain each prong: 1) it must include a secular purpose; 2) it must not enhance or inhibit a religion; and 3) there must be no "excessive government entanglement" with religion.
Since Cusolito voiced his concern at the end of the meeting, there was no further debate on the subject. The topic will likely be discussed at the next Joint School Committee meeting on May 8; however, O' Brien stressed that the meeting could be rescheduled to a different date.
Also during the meeting, the board discussed ORR school choice slots for the 2014-2015 school year, but took no action until further information could be provided.
White said his office has received many applications rather early in the season, and his administrative assistant is daily receiving between 20 and 25 calls requesting information.
The junior and high schools could increase the number of slots for next year and use the revenue to go towards bringing faculty levels back up, as Devoll suggested, or put towards "stuff" like computers, as suggested by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Elise Frangos. The schools currently have 93 school choice slots filled by out-of-district students.
In other matters, ORR High School Principal Michael Devoll asked the committee to vote to approve a new location to host the 2014 senior prom, after the chosen venue, Lakeview Pavilion in Foxboro, burned down April 5. Devoll said the venue has promised the return of the $1,000 deposit for the event, and the committee approved relocating the prom to the Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston.
The committee also approved the Athletic Trainer contract, which received two bids this year instead of the single bid received every year by the school's current athletic training provider, Southcoast Occupational Health.
White said the bid from Hawthorne Medical Associates was a lower figure; however, the deal was contingent upon the school's current trainer leaving Southcoast and accepting an employment position with Hawthorne. The employee refused, so the school will continue with Southcoast.
The next meeting of the ORR School Committee is scheduled for May 14 at 6:00 pm in the superintendent's conference room at ORR.
*The Declaration of Independence, signed on July 4, 1776, affirmed the right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," and stated the reasons for separation from the British Kingdom. It was not until the U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787 and ratified on March 4, 1789 when the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights prohibited Congress from establishing a federal religion, "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." The Fourteenth Amendment subsequently protected citizens from discrimination, including religious discrimination.
Good Friday Debate Gets Heated
Mattapoisett School Committee
By Jean Perry
Backlash from the Joint School Committee decision to make Good Friday a regular school day made its way to Mattapoisett on April 14.
Mattapoisett School Committee Chairman James Higgins kicked off the discussion by making it clear that he now has second thoughts about the calendar change in light of the public discourse, reading a prepared statement and clarifying that he did not vote in favor of the change, yet he did not vote against it. Nor did he abstain, Higgins claimed, saying he just simply did not vote either way because he was confused by the calendar discussion during that meeting.
He said he cannot ignore the public's concerns and, at this point, will ask the Joint School Committee to revisit the matter.
"We cannot make decisions based on political correctness" stated Higgins. He continued, "I do not think people from other religions are offended [by the Good Friday religious holiday]."
Committee member James Muse, who voted in favor of the Good Friday change, said, "I assure you I didn't vote on political correctness."
Muse said Good Friday was not a federal holiday or a state holiday, and that the Good Friday decision was based on creating cohesiveness throughout the school calendar.
"I do not believe," continued Muse, "...that we should be voting for religious holidays in a public setting."
While some committee members discussed the value of the half-day Wednesday before Thanksgiving and discounted it as an effective learning day, a table of four teachers in the back of the Center School cafeteria spoke among themselves, appeared puzzled, raised their hands in question and shook their heads no.
Mattapoisett resident Tom Aldren asked why Good Friday wasn't listed on the agenda. He argued that Good Friday was a holiday, pointing out that the New York Stock Exchange is closed that day. He said, as a Mattapoisett tax payer, he resented that the Good Friday change was "Rochester-driven."
"I'm pretty upset that something this contentious was pushed through without anyone knowing," said Aldren. He continued, "I feel pretty disenfranchised ... and I'd like it to be revisited."
"I don't have an issue on how it was done," said Higgins. "...This is not an issue of squeaking it by." But that the topic was raised during the joint meeting did "surprise" him. He said he felt unprepared for the discussion and subsequent vote.
"Nothing was done deceitfully. It was an open public meeting," said Higgins. "There was hardy debate and your position as well spoken for," Higgins told Aldren.
One teacher joined the debate and asked the committee to also reconsider reinstating the half-day before Thanksgiving, arguing that it was, indeed, a valuable teaching day - and so are the days leading to summer vacation.
The discussion returned to Good Friday, and Muse took a defensive stance when rebutting Aldren's comment that everything he learned about the Good Friday vote was from what he read in The Wanderer.
"Not everything in the paper is fact," said Muse, saying that those "facts" are "up for interpretation." He continued, "I take offense that there was any inference that this wasn't an open public meeting with open public debate."
Aldren bellowed out, "Ha ha ha ha!" as Muse's face reddened as he spoke.
In a follow-up interview, when asked what part of The Wanderer's Joint School Committee meeting coverage was "not fact," Muse stated that he did not read the article. He clarified that what he meant was that newspapers summarize the meetings and that they do not include all of what took place at the meeting.
The discussion ended and Aldren left the meeting.
In other matters, the committee discussed school choice options for the district, touching upon the pros and cons of school choice, but taking no action until next month. The committee asked to see more information - specifically from local real estate agents - before deciding whether to offer any further school choice slots next year or not.
Concerns focused on unexpected students moving into the district, which would drive up the teacher to student ratio. Higgins presented several studies about the benefits of smaller class sizes during early education, and advocated hiring another second-grade teacher for next year in light of some unexpected funding freeing up in the fiscal year 2015 budget.
Superintendent Doug White explained that the funding Higgins referred to is one-time funding, and Higgins suggested a new teaching position could be initially limited to a one-year position.
The second grade next year faces a ratio of 1:23 in two classrooms, and 1:22 in the other. The committee discussed a target class size of 1:17 to 1:19 as optimal.
The next Mattapoisett School Committee meeting will be May 19 at Center School. The time will be earlier, at 5:30 pm, because of the Rochester Town Meeting.
AFS Club Visits Arcola, IL
By Renae Reints
Members of Old Rochester Regional High School's AFS club went on a short-term exchange to a high school in Illinois last Wednesday through Sunday. The students were hosted by AFS club members in the small town of Arcola. While there, they experienced what life is like in America's mid-west.
ORR students on the trip included freshman Tessa Comboia; sophomores Abby Field, Cate Feldkamp, and Holly Frink; juniors Annie Henshaw, Samantha Malatesta, Chloe Riley, Kate Colwell, and Morgan Browning; and seniors Emily Hyde, Evelyn Murdock, Lizzie Machado, Nancy Pope, Robby Magee, and Renae Reints. ORR's senior foreign exchange students - Louisa Truss from Germany and Ailina Cervantes Diaz from Costa Rica - also went to Arcola. The students were chaperoned by Nurse Kim Corazzini and parent-volunteer Rhonda Reints.
While in Arcola, the students attended a day of school at the town's high school. "I always think that ORR is such a small school, but theirs is like half the size of ORR," said Frink, "Everyone knows everyone and they're really just kind to each other."
Frink and many of the other ORR travelers admired how the students from Arcola always make a point to say hello to others in the halls or around town. "It's small, but it's something," said Frink.
Malatesta noted how this unity reached beyond the students. "Their community supports them so much more than ours. They're just so invested in their school," said Malatesta, "The community is the one that's raising money so that they can get iPads next year. It's not the school; it's the parents and the people that have graduated."
This devotion reaches beyond academics in Arcola. Each year, townspeople paint the telephone pole bases on the main road to resemble members of the high school's football team. Besides just decorating in support of their teams, Hyde noted, "They all go to every sporting event. It's not just the athletes that show up to the basketball games, the track meets - it's everybody. Everybody from different towns even, not just Arcola."
Along with the welcoming culture in Arcola, the students of ORR had the opportunity to spend an afternoon immersed in the area's Amish community. They visited a museum at Rockome Gardens, enjoyed an authentic lunch in the home of an elderly Amish couple, toured a buggy-making shop, and visited an Amish farm where they got to ride in a horse and buggy. The simple way of life of the Amish was foreign and intriguing to the ORR students who come from a less diverse area.
"You always think that they're different people, but they're so much like us," said Hyde of the Amish people. The other students from ORR were equally delighted with their Amish experience. Many of them chose Amish experiences as their favorite part of the trip.
"I really loved riding in a horse and buggy. That was great," said Frink, "I just liked getting introduced to different cultures."
"It was so cool to see the different kinds of transportation, not the basic car that everyone else has," said Machado, adding, "Honestly, the people that were there, they were so nice; they were so welcoming."
On their last day in Illinois, the ORR students visited Chicago with their friends from Arcola. They had the opportunity to go to the top floor of Willis Tower (previously known as Sears Tower) and walk on the Sky Deck's Ledge - a glass box extending off the building's 103rd floor, 1,353 feet above the city. After this thrilling experience, the students had Chicago's famous deep-dish pizza for lunch. They spent some time at Navy Pier's shopping center before a sad goodbye outside ORR's hotel for the night.
Despite the brevity of the trip, some strong friendships formed between the students from ORR and Arcola. The initial meetings had passed when Arcola's AFS club visited Tri-Town last month, and last week's trip was about strengthening those friendships along with sparking new ones.
"You can only get to know each other so much in a short period of time, but being able to really meet them when they came to ORR, and then to live with them," said Frink, "you really get to know someone when you know where they come from."
"It's one thing to go to Ned's Point with somebody," said Hyde, touching upon a similar point, "but when you're living in somebody's house for three days, you just grow so much closer."
Murdock said she felt this trip was more beneficial than previous exchanges because it wasn't overly-structured. "This year, I felt so much closer to all of them because we actually went to where they hang out. We went to their restaurants and we went to the park," she said, "We got to spend a lot of down time with them - hanging out them and their friends and seeing what people actually do there."
Colwell, like the others, was sad to leave but happy for the memories made. "I really enjoyed seeing everyone again, because I missed them," she said, "I thought it was really nice going out to lunch with them, and having deep-dish pizza in Chicago and everything."
Each student made their own unique memories while in Arcola. Henshaw took an early exercise class with her host student's mother - a fun and tiring morning she won't soon forget. "It was 'Chicks in Training' and I got to exercise with most of the kids' moms," Henshaw laughed. "That was an amazing bonding experience."
A previous exchange student herself, Henshaw was able to compare this AFS trip to her experiences in Panama last summer. While the Panama trip was organized for community service and the Arcola trip was organized for making new friendships, Henshaw said the ideals behind the exchanges are similar. "The purpose of the trip was somewhat the same, that it was about meeting new people and building relationships, and understanding other cultures and being accepting of other cultures."
That's just what ORR's AFS club did out in Arcola, Illinois. Now that they're home in Tri-Town, the students are cherishing their memories and staying in touch with their new friends in the mid-west, while the underclassmen look forward to future AFS exchanges.
Freshmen Perform Macbeth
Tabor Academy News
By Julia O'Rourke
It has been a long-standing tradition at Tabor Academy for English I students to read and perform Shakespeare's Macbeth in the second semester of the school year. This tradition was taken a step further this year to make for a great performance this past weekend.
Freshmen began reading and analyzing the themes of Macbeth this winter, finishing just before spring vacation. The students were then assigned roles that they would play in the annual spring performance of Macbeth. The students stage the five acts of the play in this performance, with each class being assigned their own scenes.
While students were studying their characters and memorizing lines, they got to experience something less traditional to this annual project. During the first weekend in April, all of the students headed to Gamm Theater in Pawtucket, RI to see this production. However, in a slight twist, this version of the play took place during World War I. Students found this play very compelling, while it was also very helpful for them to understand their characters.
For the student production, each class had control of their costumes and set. This made for a very diverse play that kept the audience interested this past Saturday.
This event is one that the school looks forward to, but it also helps the freshmen to understand the story of Macbeth in more depth.
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