The Wanderer - Mobile Edition
By Jean Perry
The first time the police came to my door, I knew the reason why right away.
There I was back in November about a half-hour before the doorbell rang, standing on my back deck looking through the bare trees at the street block behind my house, watching for my boy as he 'chugged' down the sidewalk pretending to be a train, listening to him make 'choo choo' noises as he reached each driveway 'railroad crossing.' Oh, there he is, I thought, reassured by the echoing of 'choo choo' throughout the neighborhood.
As a mother, nothing makes my ears perk more than the sound of emergency response sirens while Diego is out riding his scooter, or the reassuring sounds of the train noises he makes, signaling to my nerves that everything is fine. But in that moment, out on the deck with my likely third cup of coffee, I heard something else that perked my ears up like a mama bear out in the wild with her cubs, reacting to a branch snapping beneath the weight of a hunter. I may have even heard myself growl.
"Shut up! Stop making that noise!" I heard. As the creature of logic that I am, I immediately deduced that it could only have been aimed at my son - the boy cheerfully chugging along in his world where he is a train and the sidewalk is his track - something so offensive to one person's ears that they called the police to put an end to this criminal activity, this anarchistic chaos, this ... little boy's fun.
Hello, officer. Come on in.
There have been some complaints about the noise, he told me. Yeah, I figured that was why you were here. It's unfortunate, he said, that some people can't understand or just don't care, but he wanted to come tell me that this has been happening so that I was aware of it.
Many of my readers know by now that my Diego, 13, is autistic, and man does he love his trains. He loves the dinging of a railroad crossing and the horn of a passing train (especially when the driver gives him a 'shave and a haircut' to acknowledge his waving).
This officer knows Diego, so he was of course sensitive to the situation. Nonetheless, that beating hunk of meat in my chest sank. I clenched my teeth and squeezed my toes until the officer left, then I turned teary-eyed to my partner standing close by and let myself be held for a spell while I grappled with the thought, will it always be like this, will he always face this ... rejection?
For the next two hours it was, "No, D. You aren't going to get arrested. You did nothing wrong." I wondered if that person could have known how frightening for Diego it would be for the police to come knocking on our door. I wondered if they even cared. I was certain they didn't.
It was time for another brainstorming of solutions so that everyone could be happy - Diego, me, and yes, the meany-pants who called the cops.
We parents of autistic kids are superb troubleshooters. We don't simply think outside the box; we've thrown that box away years ago because that box is useless to us. So I handed Diego a harmonica to 'toot' at each and every railroad crossing rather than the usual screeching out "choo choo" that this un-neighborly neighbor found so offensive to her ears. Now, his tooting just sort of sounds like Bob Dylan mid-harmonica-solo scootering past the house. Problem solved. Even Diego loves the harmonica 'horn' more than his other method, so now I can let go of my passive-aggressive fantasies of addressing the so-called neighbor.
Now here I am in December, answering my phone. "Hello, this is Jean." Hi, yes, this is Officer Botelho from the Fairhaven Police Department. Can I talk to you for a few minutes?
This call, I thought, was undoubtedly regarding my bicycle and lawnmower that were stolen from my garage a few weeks ago. "We've received some noise complaints about the honking going on." Oh, for crying out loud, here we go again....
As most parents of autistic kids know, for kiddos who are so sensitive to sound, they sure do make a lot of noise. As long as it's their noise under their control, and not the sudden buzzing of a bee or the ominous hum of a halogen lightbulb.
This time, I fear, I must take responsibility for the amalgamation of the elements that formed this latest clusterduck. For it was I who taught Diego the air-horn-pulling-down motion of the arm that kids make at tractor-trailer trucks so they would sound their horn.
So there would be Diego, air horn motioning with his arm in the front yard at the passing traffic with all his might, his entire body moving up and down with each jerking pull, his tongue touching the side of his smile as he concentrated deeply on the fine and gross motor movements required for such a delicate gesture. And he would get beeps! Trucks, cruisers, cars of people he knows, cars of complete strangers delighted by the sight of this boy smiling and laughing with each beep granted. He would have a blast for about ten to fifteen minutes or sometimes sooner, depending on how long it took for me to ascertain that the threshold of annoyingness had been reached.
I would watch him from the front steps and sometimes from the front window of our Route 6 home. Such joy he would exude beep after beep. That sweet smile. The thumbs-up he'd flash me after a particularly loud honk by an ambulance.
So when I learned that there was someone in my neighborhood looking outside with scorn at my child doing what he loves to do the most, it grabbed hold of that beating mass in my chest and I took it personally.
I told the officer while choking back my emotion that my son is a sweet boy. He's 13, and he has autism. He comes home every day from school and plays by himself because he doesn't exactly have a whole bunch of friends calling him up and asking him to hang out. He belongs to a world that rarely recognizes him, that rushes by him. So when someone takes the time to beep, to acknowledge him, it makes him happy. It makes him feel connected to the world. So, unless he is doing anything illegal, I would not be taking any action to stop him from soliciting beeps from passing cars, I told him, on Route 6 - the busiest street in Fairhaven on which we living here have all chosen, knowing full well that there would be beeping, trucks jaking, loud motorcycles, and revving engines almost 24/7.
Fair enough, the officer told me. "I just wanted you to know what was going on."
I thanked him, put the phone down, bit my lip and did what everybody else does these days - I went on an angry four-letter-word-laden rant on Facebook.
"To the neighbors who called the police on my autistic son," I wrote (well, no need for profanity here). The post struck a chord within the community. People wanted to get involved, aghast at the neighbors' actions. Before I knew it, there was a public event created by another citizen on Facebook and she called it "Stand With Diego" on Sunday, December 18. People started RSVP'ing to it. The outpouring of support from the community penetrated that hammering hunk of a heart in my chest. The hashtag #Honk4Diego was born that day, and so was the hope that, with a little support from the world around him, Diego just might make it through.
In response, I submitted a letter to the editor in my own community's weekly paper. I addressed it to the anonymous neighbors who called the police. I acknowledged the community rallying around Diego in response to their Grinchy actions, and I thanked them for providing just the right amount of manure for this garden of love and humanity to flourish. I forgave them for being mean-spirited and easily annoyed, and I wished them a "Merry beeping Christmas" and a "Happy honking Holidays."
The turnout that Sunday was enormous. Children from school, other neighbors, people we had never even met - dozens showed up on my front lawn with pinwheels and signs that said "Honk for Diego," "Honks Trump hate," and "I Stand With Diego." People all over the front yard stood, making air-horn-pulling gestures with their arms. A local charitable biker gang rode past the house in solidarity with Diego, pausing long enough to throw Diego a T-shirt and rev their engines loudly to annoy the neighbors, one could only presume. Heck, the outpouring even touched the blackish heart of one of the neighbors who had called the police, and he subsequently came to my door to leave Diego a Christmas present and apologize. We hugged. The world was suddenly better.
Still, even after experiencing all the love, there lingers a residual emotion, one of a mother whose child is misunderstood at large by the world that, despite a little autism awareness, may still withhold compassion, refrain from making the effort to accept the child that is 'different,' who plays differently, who is carving out his autistic place in this non-autistic world.
As Autism Awareness Month this year comes to a close, I ask only that you take a second to look past the outward appearances, transcend the obvious responses to 'different,' and find it somewhere in your own beating mass of meat in your chest to connect with those who most need that connection. Say hello, smile, let go of your own discomforts for a second, and for goodness sake, honk your horn. Honk at every single child that makes that old air horn arm because, don't we all just want the same things in life? To feel kindness, to be seen, to feel connected, and to be acknowledged and validated in this world we share with each other.
The Lofty (But Not So Regal) Bald Eagle
By George B. Emmons
I saw a bald eagle yesterday soaring over the Buzzards Bay shoreline, clearly identified by its awesome wing span with striking white head and tail.
As our largest and most impressive local bird of prey, it is nevertheless an enigma to many bird watchers how such a carnivorous raptor could have been selected by our founding fathers as the national symbol of a peace loving country.
The winged symbol permeates almost every federal event, announcement, and public occasion, and a clue to the reasoning behind its selection can easily be found on the back of a one-dollar bill. In one talon the eagle clasps thirteen arrows, closely united as the solidarity of the Iroquois Federation, much admired by architects of our own new government. In the other talon is a branch of olive leaves as a universal symbol of friendly intentions to balance out a two-fisted show of both peace and strength.
However, in actual aerial behavior, the bald eagle might be said to soar on gossamer wings of evil intention with a bad habit of stealing fish from the osprey, who is better at catching them with light hollow bones able to dive completely under water and then surface holding its catch with curved claws, head first for aerodynamic efficiency. At speeds of up to one hundred miles an hour, the eagle can knock the osprey's prize out of its grasp to then catch it before it hits the water.
Because of this bad behavior, Benjamin Franklin advised against selecting the eagle for such an honorary title, as a thief stealing others' food, keeping a messy dead fish smelling eerie, and a coward often letting a much smaller territorial king bird chase it away from its own imperial perch.
Instead, Franklin nominated the wild turkey for a profile of clean living and a reputation of quietly minding its own business. But his suggestion was turned down because turkeys become rattled when felt threatened with danger, flying scatterbrained in all directions, not deserving to take wing as a symbol of national fortitude. So, the eagle remains to this very day, with questionable credentials.
We all have our own personal opinion about the interpretation of what is and what is not acceptable in human behavior and, through anthropomorphism, we often project those mortal values into the lives of animals that share the environment with us.
When rising sun of spring brings the welcome dawn through our windows looking at the osprey nest platforms of our nearest neighbor, I hope my narrative and image of the eagle painted for you does not materialize with the first light of day.
Destination Imagination! Destination Knoxville!
By Sarah French Storer
The name Destination Imagination says it all. This volunteer organization's mission is to teach kids the creative process while working with a team to develop a solution to a problem. The teams may choose a challenge from a series of topics: technical, scientific, engineering, fine arts, improvisational, and service learning. Additionally, there is a Rising Stars! program for pre-school through second grade that is non-competitive. The teams compete at a local and state level, culminating in the annual Global Finals tournament. This year, there are three - yes, you read it correctly, three! - Tri-Town teams heading to the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee on May 24.
Going to Global Finals is no small feat for the teams. Not only do they need to excel at their regional and state tournaments, but they also must raise the funds to travel to the site of the final tournament.
Each of the local winning teams will be fundraising over the next month to offset the cost of the trip, which can be as much as $1,400 per participant. The teams pay for registration, lodging, and food at the University of Tennessee campus, in addition to their travel costs and shipping of sets and props.
Sarah Cecil is the team manager for the Lightning Bolts, a group of seven fifth-graders from Rochester Memorial School, which chose a Fine Arts challenge for their project. The team placed first among three teams at the regional tournament at Dennis Yarmouth High School, and tied for second place at the state finals at Worcester Polytechnic Institute against nine other teams.
This is the third year the team has competed together, and Cecil says she just stands back and lets them work.
"They have all learned to work well together; they know each other's strengths and weaknesses," said Cecil. "If someone is melting down or struggling, someone else will help bring them back to the project."
The participants develop their project entirely on their own, and there are no wrong solutions or ideas. It is an open-ended process, Cecil added.
"It's thinking outside the box. The kids can make it whatever they want it to be; it's driven entirely by them," Cecil said.
The team developed an eight-minute presentation in which they were to pick a color and determine its meaning and make one element of the story disappear. The team chose the color red, and wrote a story in which the meaning of the color - anger - was illustrated through the impact of its disappearance from a fictional town on the town's inhabitants.
The team was required to develop the characters, costumes, set and lighting, all to further the plot of their story. One of the Lightening Bolts team members Eva Hartley told Cecil, "[I] like Destination Imagination most because it gives me the opportunity to do things and try stuff that I didn't think I could do before." Most recently, Hartley was using a power saw to cut plywood, a task she may not have tried on her own.
Sometimes parents are puzzled by the idea that there are no wrong answers in solving the challenges, but it appears the kids' creativity thrives under these conditions - Tri-Town teams have made it to the global finals four times over the past five years.
The DI Dazzlers (and sparkle) is a team of sixth and seventh-grade Rochester students, which recently won their regional and state competitions against seven other teams in their age group, to qualify for the Global Finals. The team meets weekly all winter to develop and create their project.
DI Dazzlers (and sparkle) team manager Jennifer Hunter underscored the value of participating in the program.
"It's a great way to build relationships and work together as a team," said Hunter. "My daughter isn't the sports type, so this is a great alternative and still allows her to work as a part of a team."
The team chose the engineering challenge, in which they were charged with designing and building a load-bearing structure using only balsa wood and glue. Their creation, at less than nine inches tall and weighing no more than 50 grams, at the state tournament successfully held 530 pounds before breaking.
Team member Emma Jones described her dedication to the program when she said, "I love Destination Imagination because it gives me a chance to use my imagination and creativity in order to solve problems. I am able to work together with my teammates to solve challenges that I might not ever try on my own."
Hunter said being part of Destination Imagination "builds great character and helps make [the participants] so well rounded."
The veteran Destination Imagination team H Squared is heading to the Global Finals this year for the third time. This close-knit team, made up of three sophomores and two juniors from Old Rochester Regional High School, has been working together for four years, with two of the members having been on the same team together for the last eight years.
Team manager Tina Rood has been managing the team since its inception. She also is the coordinator for the district, working to recruit new participants and team managers.
Rood's co-manager for the team, Dr. Kerry Bowman, passed away last summer, and Bowman's family created a fund to help ensure that the Tri-Town Destination Imagination program continued to expand and succeed.
The H Squared team chose the Fine Arts challenge, researched the meaning of a color, and developed an original story in which the color disappeared. As Rood described it, the love story centered on a cartoonist who suffered from unrequited love and in response made the color red disappear from his cartoons.
The team developed costumes and sets for the story, and won a Renaissance Award for the non-human element of the story: a pencil that functioned as the narrator.
The Renaissance Award is given in recognition of excellence and extraordinary effort in engineering, design or performance.
The team was given additional accolades at the regional tournament, receiving the Spirit of DI award, which Rood says was given "in honor of the team's perseverance this year."
Rood extolled the values of the Destination Imagination commitment, saying, "We get to the end of the year, and we see what these teams have created, and we say wow! And then when we start again next year, we ask how can we do it again, and the kids do - and it's better than last year!"
Teams begin working on their challenges in October and work through March of the following year, working weekends and school vacations, putting in an incredible amount of time with their teams to develop their solution to the chosen challenge.
It can be overwhelming for new team managers, Rood noted, and as the district coordinator she works with other veteran team managers to mentor new recruits, helping the managers through the process and guiding them on how to best facilitate their team's efforts.
"Once you get bitten by the bug, you say to yourself, 'Oh, my gosh, I have to do this again!'"
Going to the regional, state, and Global Finals is a reward for a year of hard work. Teams have become experts in their particular challenge, and by going to the tournaments they get to see teams from all over their state, and ultimately from throughout the country and the world, present unique solutions from a whole different perspective.
"There are as many unique solutions as there are teams," Rood said.
Each of the three Tri-Town teams will be hosting fundraising events throughout April and May to ease the financial burden to the participants. Also, donors have the opportunity to "Flamingo Flock" a friend or neighbor. From now until May 20, for a donation of $20, a flock of 20 flamingos will visit the front yard for 24 hours of a person of the donor's choosing. For information about these or future events, call Lightning Bolts team manager Sarah Cecil at 508-322-0226.
The DI Dazzlers (and sparkle) team has a GoFundMe page: www.gofundme.com/send-the-di-dazzlers-to-globals. They also will be hosting a raffle with prizes from local businesses, and other community-based fundraisers, such as a car wash on Saturday, May 13, from 9:00 am - 1:00 pm at the Mattapoisett Fire Station. The team has set up a Youcaring Compassionate Crowdfunding page at www.youcaring.com/2017ORRDIGlobals. The H Squared team will also be collecting donations through direct solicitation in front of local businesses.
Donations for each of the teams can be made directly to Destination Imagination, Inc. at 1111 South Union Avenue, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002 Attn. GF Donation Dept. Make checks payable to Destination Imagination and include the team number on the check: DI Dazzlers #119-30259; Lightning Bolts #119-58196; H Squared #119-89977. Donations are tax deductible if made before May 1.
Hunter's daughter Isabella reflected on her team's achievement: "I do DI because it allows me to use my imagination and I enjoy performing. This year has been incredible. I never thought we would make it this far. I can't wait for Globals!"
Upcoming Addiction Presentation Could Save Lives
By Jean Perry
As the opioid addiction epidemic spreads across the country, and even takes root in our very own Tri-Town, the issue of addiction - opioids, alcohol, nicotine, all addictions - has become a priority for area public health employees who serve the Tri-Town citizens.
Especially susceptible to addiction are the youth of Tri-Town, and as recent youth risk surveys at the junior and high school have shown, the risk is present and very real as young adults make poor decisions to try addictive substances long before the development of their brain's frontal lobes can dictate otherwise.
Reverend Catherine Harper at Saint Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Marion has seen firsthand the effects that addiction has on the youth of the community and their families struggling to support loved ones afflicted with addiction. Harper, along with Public Health Nurse Kathleen Downey, has joined the addiction awareness movement in Tri-Town to get residents, especially children, informed on addiction and how parents and caregivers can arm themselves with the knowledge to keep their children safe from the perils of addiction.
A few of Harper's parishioners had approached her, seeking guidance and support for their families struggling with a family member with addiction.
"These parishioners and myself decided we wanted to bring some education and awareness to our parish community and out into the community to bring awareness of what's going on," said Harper. Many in Tri-Town communities, Harper said, believe, "It's not me, it doesn't have anything to do to me," said Harper, "and not realizing that it's happening around the corner."
"I was not aware really of how bad the crisis was, and seeing the need and trying to encourage our parishioners to get involved," said Harper. "Now we've all come together to address addition."
The first step was a survey amongst prominent town leaders - elected and appointed officials, religious leaders, law enforcement, and educators - who are in cornerstone positions of the community.
"What came back on every single survey was, pay attention to the high school kids, the junior high school kids, go back to the schools," said Harper. "And it's all substances, not just opioids."
The youth risk assessment survey soon followed, which returned shocking statistics on junior and senior high school student experimentation with addictive substances, the impetus for the establishing of the community-wide group Healthy Tri-Town Coalition, whose aim is to increase awareness of addiction and other matters that threaten the health of Tri-Town citizens.
According to Downey, Tri-Town has seen its share of tragedy caused by addiction. "There have been deaths in the Tri-Town," Downey said, and the use of Narcan (Nalaxone) within the community to save lives from opioid overdose.
"There are families that are deeply involved," said Downey. "Overdoses, kids in the school system.... We haven't lost a student to an overdose, but we have lost recent graduates, which makes it all the more compelling that we have to get involved."
Downey offered some scary statistics: just one dose of an addictive substance of any kind to a child age 13 and under raises that child's chance of future addiction by 25% and up to 50%, depending on the study cited.
"That is scary," said Downey. These substances include seemingly harmless medications like cough syrup with codeine, and Percocet often prescribed for pain.
To drive home the message that every child - your child - is susceptible to addiction, the coalition has brought in renowned speaker Dr. Ruth Potee on "The Developing Brain and Addiction," on Thursday, April 27, in the ORR High School auditorium.
Potee is one of Massachusetts' leading experts on the physiology of addiction and the teenage brain.
The coalition believes the attendance of ALL parents in Tri-Town is critical to parents understanding the risk factors and how to protect their children.
Whether the addictive element is drugs, alcohol, nicotine, sugar, video games, or caffeine, the understanding of how addition "re-wires" the brain is essential in order to prevent it. Dr. Potee will offer this information and more, said Downey, who encourages both parents and children to come to the event.
"She had a very powerful dialog, just talking about, as a family member, the hurt and the pain that they went through," said Downey. "She held everybody. She engages the audience. She's really impressive."
The risk to opioid addiction in particular is of increasing importance now, Downey said, as powerful and deadly opioids have started appearing in cocaine and marijuana, which have caused the overdoses of young people in Brockton, as reported by medical staff at Brockton Hospital, Downey pointed out.
These victims, said Downey, claimed never to have tried opioids, yet Narcan was able to recover the victims from an overdose - and Narcan only works on opioids.
"This is not just starting," said Downey. "We're going to continue to see more and more cases and anybody who thinks this does not affect this community, they're nuts."
A key element to protecting kids, said Downey, is to reach them younger than we have thus far, all the way into pre-school.
"And erase the stigma," said Downey. "We have to address the stigma."
"I'm just praying that kids and parents will come to this," said Harper.
When people finally open their eyes to addiction, said Downey, they wonder how they missed it up until then.
"It's just being open to it and saying, you know, I'm not going to be surprised," said Downey.
Downey wants to see all Tri-Town teens at the April 27 presentation.
"We hope to fill that auditorium," Downey said.
The Dr. Ruth Potee presentation of "The Developing Brain and Addiction" is Thursday, April 27, at 7:00 pm at the Old Rochester Regional High School Auditorium. The event is free to the public. Refreshments will be served. For further information, visit www.healthytritowncoalition.org.
Hartley Wins Selectman Seat, Question fails
By Jean Perry
Greenwood "Woody" Hartley III is Rochester's winner in the race for Board of Selectmen in this April 12, 2017 Annual Town Election.
Hartley received well over half the votes for Board of Selectmen with 584. Incumbent Richard Nunes received 326, and Bendrix Bailey got 239 votes.
Hartley was present for the closing of the polls along with his wife, children, and grandchildren. Hartley first made a quick call on his cell phone to his mom, Shirley Hartley, 87, before commenting.
"We won," Hartley told her. "Good, good, good," was her reply.
Hartley, who lost out to Naida Parker for selectman during the 2015 town election, ran a rigorous campaign this year headed by campaign manager Mika Cambra.
"I 'm very thankful to the voters, may campaign team, and my family," said Hartley. "And I'm very excited to start this new adventure."
The ballot question for a $1 million debt exclusion to repair and resurface High Street and a portion of Hartley Road failed, with 588 votes no, and 323 votes yes.
For the write-in campaign for old Rochester Regional School Committee, Joe Pires won the only seat up for grabs with 206 write-in votes. Rachel Barrett-Habicht received 78 write-ins, Robert Joyce got 72, and Matt Russo had 64 write-in votes.
The following are the results of the remaining non-contested races: Beatrice Renauld, tax collector, 931 votes; Naida Parker, town clerk, 897 votes; William Souza, Board of Health, 920 votes. David Shaw, Cemetery Commission, 921; Debra Lalli, Board of Assessors, 895; Jana Cavanaugh, Board of Assessors, 904; David Sylvia, Park Commission, 902; William Watling, Jr., herring inspector, 942; for Library Trustee, Phoebe Butler with 885 votes, and Rhonda Reints with 816; Arnold Johnson, Planning Board, 873; Rochester School Committee, Meagan Bennett with 678, and Anne Fernandes with 747; Frederick Underhill, Water Commission, 909.
There were a few write-ins for Mickey Mouse, Donald Trump received one vote for town clerk, and Pee-Wee Herman got one vote for Planning Board.
Voter turnout was 1,159, or about a 27 percent of registered Rochester voters.
Enhanced Safety Signaling Planned
By Marilou Newell
During the April 12 Mattapoisett Board of Selectmen meeting, members of an ad hoc safety advisory committee - a group brought together by the selectmen to study means and methods for improving safety at the bike path crossings located at Brandt Island Road and Mattapoisett Neck Road - gave their report.
The group comprised of Police Chief Mary Lyons, Planning Board member Nathan Ketchell, Highway Superintendent Barry Denham, and cycling advocate Bonne DeSousa have researched the problems and possible solutions for nearly a year, finding it to be a rather complex issue indeed.
Also present was Bill DeSantis, principal corporate director of Bicycle Transportation Planning and Design of VHB, a consulting group recently tapped by the town to complete engineering processes for Phase 1B of the bike path.
DeSantis' inclusion became necessary when the committee learned just how difficult an issue it was to try and improve safety at these critical crossing.
During a March Mattapoisett Bike Path Committee meeting, DeSousa reported that a "traffic engineer" was needed before the state would consider or allow the town to make changes. She said at that time, "Any changes have got to comply with the uniform traffic control division ... it's more confusing than you can imagine...." She also explained that the federal government oversees all manner of traffic safety signage to ensure national uniformity. "We have to spend the money to do a traffic study, then get it blessed," she said.
With VHB on board, the town could now engage a professional to look at the situation. To that end, DeSantis proposed flashing red lights on the bike path to alert pedestrians and cyclists that they are approaching the intersection and a yellow caution light that would be triggered simultaneously to alert motorists.
Selectman Tyler Macallister has been very vocal in his comments that cyclists were the biggest problem at the crossings, going so far as to say, "The number one problem is the cyclist not the drivers ... they are blasting across ... how do we get them to stop!"
DeSantis explained to the surprise of some in attendance that, "Cyclists are not required to stop ... it is not law."
Selectman Paul Silva wondered aloud about changing the design on the bike path to make it necessary for cyclists to stop. Denham said that the path had been designed to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation requirements. "What we've got now complies," said Denham.
DeSousa added, "We stopped talking about redesigning the bike path. We found something we thought would work but needed engineering help to do it." She also reminded the selectmen that the Howard Stillman Bates Foundation had offered a "substantial donation" last August, monies that she thought might help with safety modifications.
Although the selectmen weren't completely sold that these additional visual warnings would translate into improved behavior on the part of cyclists, Silva said, "It's worth it if we save even one life." The selectmen voted to spend up to $35,000 of money that was previously allocated for this project at the fall special town meeting.
Subdivision Clears Conservation Review
Rochester Conservation Commission
By Marilou Newell
After several visits before the Rochester Conservation Commission, plans developed by Bracken Engineering of Plymouth finally cleared the last erosion control hurdles on April 18.
Zach Basinski of Bracken Engineering represented Gary Mills and Douglas Church in their two Notice of Intent filings, but the previous hearings on the matter of the two-lot subdivision planned off Hartley Road were represented by Donald Bracken.
Bracken had to satisfy the commission that erosion control measures had been repaired. The critical stormwater management features had degraded due to long delays in getting the project started.
Armed with a new set of plans, Basinski reported that the two homes planned for Old Mill Way, off Hartley Road near the Hartley Mill Pond, would be situated outside flood zones, adding additional space between the structural footprints and jurisdictional areas, and that erosion control measures had been repaired or replaced.
Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon said that with the homes being shifted away from resources areas, and with Natural Heritage stating there is no need for remediation, in addition to the corrections to the erosion controls, positive Orders of Conditions should be granted.
Taking the projects separately, the commissioners agreed with Farinon and the projects were approved.
Also coming before the commission was Steve Gifford representing Leah MacLeod, 59 Marion Road, with a Request for Determination of Applicability for a septic system repair. Gifford said that work would be outside an identified riparian zone, 130 feet from Doggett Brook that runs through the property, and 81 feet from the bordering vegetated buffer zone.
The project received a Negative Determination with no special conditions.
An abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation filed by Steve Long of Borrego Solar Systems for property located at 453 Rounseville Road was again continued at the request of the applicant. Long said that his wetland scientist was in the process of completing wetland delineations and wanted her to also complete an on-site survey of the property. The proposed project is for a large-scale solar farm. The hearing was continued until May 2.
The commissioners also discussed several term expirations taking place on April 30 within their ranks. Farinon said that Kevin Cassidy, who was not present, had expressed a desire not to seek reappointment. Daniel Gagne, Rosemary Smith, and Laurene Gerrior all wished to continue in their service to the community as members of the commission. They voted to recommend to the Board of Selectmen reappointments as requested.
The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for May 2 at 7:00 pm at Rochester Town Hall.
Board Stalled on Fate of Front Street Condos
Marion Zoning Board of Appeals
By Jean Perry
The Marion Zoning Board of Appeals members voted to close the public hearing for the expanded construction of a proposed five-unit 11-bedroom condominium at 324 Front Street, but discussion were stalled and no vote taken.
There was little left for applicant Christian Loranger, his attorney John Mathieu, and architect Anthi Frangiadis to add to their presentation to the ZBA and an audience of abutters and residents opposed to the project's size. A color rendering of the outside facade of the building was on display - as requested by the ZBA at the last meeting - but no further information was added.
Neighbors still maintain that the size of the proposed upscale condominium complex is just too large for the neighborhood. The current historical home on the site has a footprint of 2,382 square feet, and the proposed building would take up 3,972 square feet.
The board determined that there was enough proof in the form of signed affidavits of former owners of the multi-family house to establish that it was, in fact, a multi-family use prior to the established bylaw restricting multi-families to certain zones. But the question the board could not wrap their heads around before adjourning for the night was whether the proposed structure would be a detriment to the neighborhood or impinge upon "social structure," as stated in the bylaw.
The board, unable to comprehend the meaning of "social structure," decided to hold-off until town counsel could research into the legal meaning of the term.
The board had abutter comments from the public hearing before it was closed to consider in its deliberations, including comments from abutter Julia Kalkanis of 17 Maple Avenue.
"This project is hard for us to hold onto because it's just so large," Kalkanis said. "Why does there have to be 12,000 square feet (total)?" She continued, "I moved here because I love this small quaint town. I didn't want a huge apartment building right next door to my house."
ZBA member Kate Mahoney asked Loranger, "Did you ever consider a smaller project?"
Loranger said he had polled the community on what their needs would be for housing options. The magic number for square-footage of living space, he said, was 1,200 square feet. "This is what the people in town that were interested in downsizing wanted us to build.... You cannot fund this project with [only] four units."
Abutter at 326 Front Street, Peter Douglas, asked Loranger, "Do you recognize the board has no obligation to make the project economically viable to you?"
The abutters wanted, for the record, to state that none of them supported Loranger's project as presented.
ZBA member Bob Alves cautioned that another developer who wanted to come in and construct 40B affordable housing would likely get the approval, sparking another debate outside the scope of the matter at hand, including whether or not people speed down that section of the street and whether or not the current house is an eyesore or not.
Town counsel determined that she found sufficient evidence for a finding, and added that the project would still need to undergo site plan review with the Planning Board, to which Loranger's attorney disagreed without much debate.
"Once you go to expand (the current scope)," said Building Commissioner Scott Shippey, "You do not have the protections of the pre-existing.... You are only protected for what is existing."
After closing the public hearing, the board members went back to the basics, flipping through bylaws and seeking definitions to words such as "footprint." Deliberation amongst the board slogged on until the meeting was adjourned, with board members preferring more time to independently review bylaws and "digest" submitted information before voting.
The next meeting of the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for April 27 at 7:30 pm at the Marion Town House.
Chairman Rebuts Indian Cove Accusations
Marion Conservation Commission
By Jean Perry
Marion Conservation Commission Chairman Cynthia Callow spoke out on a letter to the editor featured in the April 6 edition of The Wanderer, submitted by an applicant for a Notice of Intent to construct a driveway through wetlands on his Indian Cove property.
Callow said Michael Popitz, a member of the Planning Board, insinuated in his letter that the commission unfairly denies projects in the wetlands to some, but allows certain such projects for others in town.
"I thought long and hard about this," said Callow on April 12. "I thought long and hard on whether to say anything and start a volleyball match, but I think it's been started...."
Callow wanted to set the record straight that some comments Popitz made "were uncalled for," including that the commission focused more on what Popitz deemed " less important issues" of the plan, which made the project seem "foolish," Popitz alleged.
"If that appeared foolish, I don't know what the applicant was talking about," said Callow. The commission has never, she said, treated any applicant "in a foolish way."
Furthermore, she said, contrary to Popitz's comment that the board is "self-appointed," Callow pointed out that the Board of Selectmen appoints the commission, and no one on it is self-appointed.
"This commission works very hard," said Callow. "It is unfair for anyone to say, I think, some of the things that were said.... Never once has anyone been favored over anybody else."
Callow addressed comments Popitz made about a certain member of the commission that, as Callow put it, is "working on too many committees in town." Mentioning commission member Norm Hills, she said that Hills treats everybody equally and does everything "by the book, and by the letter."
"I'm personally offended by that," said Callow. "And not once has any citizen been treated [by the commission] without respect." She continued, "[Popitz] has the right to opine; he does not have the right to insinuate."
Also during the meeting, the commission granted approval for 11 Hiller Street for a 4- by 9-foot seasonal aluminum staircase and concrete pad.
The Marion Department of Public Works received approval for milling and overlay and full-depth reconstruction of a roadway along a portion of Creek Road and a new drainpipe within Spring Street.
Blankenship Trust LLC received a Negative 2 determination for a Request for Determination application to upgrade a septic system at 470 Point Road.
In other matters, the commission received a letter from the Plymouth County Mosquito Control about a project slated near 75 Holly Road at Piney Point. A ditch maintenance project is planned to control mosquito breeding by alleviating water flow issues at the location. Some trees and shrubs may be removed to allow access for an excavator.
The next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is scheduled for April 26 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.
A Night of Jazz at ORR
By Jo Caynon
Last Tuesday, the musical talents of students from across the upper Old Rochester Regional district were put on display in the annual Night of Jazz concert. Members from around the community filled the high school auditorium to hear the junior high jazz band and high school chorus, jazz combo, and jazz band play a range of songs from the genre.
The concert had another side to it as well, since it was junior high band teacher James Farmer's last year as conductor at ORRJHS. Farmer was greeted with a standing ovation right off the cuff. Through his role at the junior high, he has taught nearly every high school band member. The high quality performances seen later that night attested to the foundation that he and other district music teachers have created.
The junior high jazz band, made up of seventh and eighth graders who passed auditions, officially began the concert with three pieces. "Hugh's Blues" stayed true to the typical jazz style, while "Undercover Bossa" added a bit of Latin jive into the mix. Their last piece, "Vehicle," reminisced heavily on both the seventies and the theme music for old cop shows.
The high school jazz combo played next, showcasing the talents of seniors Maxx Wolski and Joe Gauvin on percussion, along with underclassman Patrick Igoe on bass. All three musicians had solos in their first number "Autumn Leaves," and this was built upon in "Blue Bass" as they each seemed to answer each other with dueling lines. The combo then invited drama director Paul Sardinha onto the stage to join them in playing piano for a smoother number. Afterwards, Wolski was recognized for being accepted into the All-Eastern Jazz Band, made up of students from the 14 eastern seaboard states, as the only vibraphone player.
Led by director Mike Barnicle, the high school's mixed chorus followed with a triplet. Although it got off to a rocky start, the singers built up each note with the strength to finish every song out on top. "Tuxedo Junction" was accompanied by several members of the high school jazz band, and "Old Devil's Moon" was returned for an encore performance after the FORM choral concert. "Put a Lid On It" closed out the set with senior Camryn Kidney on trumpet.
"Hey Cammi, do you want to make some funny noises on a trumpet?" Barnicle explained that he had asked earlier that day, to which Kidney had replied, "'Heck yeah, I do!'" Using a hand-held mute on and off, Kidney phenomenally resembled the original trumpeter on the piece.
The high school jazz band took the stage last, coming back from a successful weekend in which they won a silver medal at a regional competition. They performed five songs, including "Sway," which included vocals by sophomore Mariana Hebert accompanied by the very strong and well-defined saxophone section. The jazz band's last song was comically revealed to have been chosen by a "committee." Even if the group hadn't played the piece for more than three weeks, the deep bass lines and spirited jumps and slides performed by instruments from nearly every section were in more than fine condition. With the closing selection for the night, the jazz band provided an accurate reflection on the reasons why the ORR district needs to retain such a valued art.
Foreign Students Visit Tabor
Tabor Academy Update
By Jack Gordon
Throughout the last several weeks, Tabor has hosted dozens of foreign students from around the world on campus as part of several foreign exchange programs. Throughout the beginning of April, students from England, China, and France have come to Tabor to experience an American school and the American lifestyle.
On Monday, April 17, a group of students from a school in Lyon, France arrived on campus after the school's long weekend for Easter. After touring the school, the students will participate in classes, extracurricular activities, and more. All the students will be visiting several locations in the local area, including the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Sandwich, Plymouth, and Boston. As with all of the students who visit from foreign countries, the students will stay in dormitories and in the homes of day students.
Last week, nine students from RDFZ School in Beijing, China visited Tabor for a week, participating in a similar week of activities to that of the French exchange students. The Chinese students visited classes, took part in some afterschool extracurricular activities, and visited key local destinations. Being from Beijing, the students were surprised with the contrast of the Tabor campus and Marion community to their own bustling metropolis.
"We were surprised at what a quiet location the school was in with pine trees along the road, rabbits jumping out on the street, and squirrels climbing up on the top of branches. Instead of walking outside surrounded by giant buildings, the ocean was a beautiful surprise," said one Chinese exchange student.
The students saw several similarities between their school and Tabor, but also a number of differences. The students cited similarities in many of the sports, including hockey, squash, and crew. One of the major differences, however, lay in the quality of the food both at Tabor and in local restaurants, they said.
"Some of [the foods] I even can't say the name, but they all really tasted good ... in China, our dining hall is not as good and we always order food and get delivery," said one of the RDFZ School students.
The students also cited differences in the teaching styles of the teachers at Tabor and at their home school. They noted that they could not ask questions at their home school until a teacher had finished a lecture and given them exercises. At Tabor, they said, "Teachers are full of passion and very interesting, and they also give us a question before classes begin. After we have learned the context of the class, teachers talk about questions to us and ask us what we think about them."
Before the Chinese students came, Tabor hosted actors and actresses from Ellesmere College in England for a week as they visited to showcase their performance of Gosforth's Fete, an English farce by Alan Ayckborn. While the performance of this play was the main reason for the visit of the English students, these students also got to explore the local area and experience life at Tabor much in the way the other student groups did. This visit was part of the Ellesmere/Tabor exchange that has taken place over the past 20 years, following a visit of Tabor students to Ellesmere College during spring break.
While all these exchanges are great opportunities for Tabor students to explore foreign schools and for foreign students to experience Tabor, more opportunities are on the horizon for further exchanges over the next few years. Associate Director of the Center for International Students Rick Dasilva has recently been working on developing a new partnership with Rysenteen Gymnasiam in Copenhagen, Denmark that will expand international exchange opportunities for Tabor students.
According to Tabor's website, partner schools are located in Argentina, Canada, China, Egypt, Iceland, India, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Turkey and the U.S. Also, "Tabor will serve as the math/science center for the network due to our excellent programs in these disciplines and for our niche in marine science."
Although Tabor is located in a tiny seaside town, miles from the nearest international hub, a global community is introduced through these exchanges to not only Tabor Academy but also to the Marion and Southcoast communities as a whole.
Copyright Wanderer Com Inc.