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No Shadow Means Good News

It's official! Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning, so he's predicting an early spring. It's easy to believe that he's right with the unseasonably warm weather we've been having, and his recent predictions have been spot on. Now if we can just get him to pick a candidate in the election!

Wastewater Treatment from Flush to Finish

#2: The Marion Wastewater Plant and Lagoons

By Jean Perry

Over the brook and through the woods one can find a place tucked away in a wooded corner of Marion where families of swans go every day to float upon sparkling wintery waters. Ducks congregate here and call it their home, and geese gather beneath clear blue skies under the watchful eyes of a loyal osprey couple that returns to this spot year after year.

Emerging from the surrounding woods is the occasional deer and random hungry coyote looking for a meal amongst the abundance of nature in this most unexpected habitat. There are goats that graze and chickens that roost to the distant humming of machines and pumps that operate as vital organs in a system constantly renewing a symbiotic cycle of life.

There to greet you are Samson and Goliath, a couple of llamas and the first friendly faces you will see as you round the bend and enter through the fenced-off area that protects this seemingly magical place. It is, in a way, if you want to talk about the miracle of modern engineering merging with biology - the miracle of poop processing.

Welcome to the Marion Wastewater Treatment Plant/petting zoo, our 'number two' installment of "Wastewater Treatment From Flush to Finish," a tale that starts in your toilet and ends in Aucoot Cove - literally, the business of the 'business' of 1,648 homes in three main sections of Marion - the village, the "Berry" area, a part of Converse Road, and Delano and Dexter Beach.

In charge of this muck menagerie is Marion Water & Sewer Superintendent Frank Cooper. From his office in the control room, he operates the entire wastewater treatment process with a few clicks and keystrokes of his fingers, processing around 588,000 gallons of your flushings a day.

The plant uses a SCADE system which supervises and controls all the stops along the way once last night's dinner makes its way from your house, through a low-pressure grinder pump, into the underground gravity system that pipes everything to 50 Benson Brook Road.

The computer screen looks a bit like a video game, except there is nothing 'fun' about wastewater treatment, unless you're a fat, happy microscopic little anaerobic organism that's got a 24-7 all-you-can-eat buffet of activated fudge. I mean sludge.

Cooper said a lot of work went into getting this software online and accessible via laptop and, only just recently, Cooper and his crew of four can now access the controls remotely using a smart phone app.

"This is something I'd been waiting for for some time," said Cooper. If something were to need attention at the plant, "Now I don't have to go running home if I'm out to dinner at Turk's."

An excursion of the site led by Superintendent/Tour Guide/Zoo Keeper Cooper through the plant began with the electrical room, in which is evidence of the complexity of Marion's system.

This room of large computery-electric boxes full of technology and lined with rows of red and green lights, buttons, and gauges more sophisticated than this sentence is located beneath the main building along with the lab and the pump room, a room where the pipes run through assisted by, well, pumps.

A long pipe with the words "Waste Activated Sludge" on it hangs overhead, and pipes labeled "Wastewater" and "Plant Water" run parallel to each other in this rather tidy environment. It was a room for the imagination of one with little plumbing intellect. It all looked so clean and organized. You'd never know there was a nightmare of nasty flowing in such an organized fashion happening above.

Onward and upward to ground level, Cooper led me over to the two large side-by-side outside tanks where the real poop processing begins.

The tanks fill and alternate, with each running its own cycle. One does one thing while the other does its thing.

Approaching the tanks, we happened upon some ducks just hanging out in the sewer water floating with the floaters. They bolted from the pool of wastewater and Cooper said something while inspecting the tanks that made me pull a side look.

"This is looking good to me," he said. "I like what I'm seeing. That's a healthy-looking foam. A nice light brown."

Just then the sound of pressurized air escaping surrounded us and I prayed that it was supposed to do that and I was just not unfortunate enough to be at the wrongest place at the wrongest time for an explosion.

Oh look, said Cooper. The aerator is turning on in Tank 2.

Aeration. The second step in the actual processing, after anoxic mix, which simply stirs the wastewater around. With aeration, tiny bubbles of air are released from the bottom and fizzle to the surface to oxygenate the "water" and make the little bacteria happy. (Think Wonka's chocolate river.) It also helps release nitrogen, 'number one' offender in water pollution, an important matter that I swear we will get to.

After aeration, the wastewater just sits there in the 'react' part of processing where it is gently mixed to a finer consistency before the 'settle' process. That is when the heavier suspended solids sink to the bottom after the bacteria have digested their 'food' and dropped dead.

The 'decant' phase consists of a large trough that slowly pushes the wastewater down, acting like a French press - only this isn't coffee and you certainly don't want to drink it. From there, the diluted water travels to the equalization tank where it passes through a system of two large disks that further filters out the smaller solids.

The disk room wasn't so bad, except for the swarms of dead poop flies stuck to the walls and the big lamp. They are called midges, and they look just like mosquitos, except they don't bite, said Cooper reassuringly.

"There's no such thing as a plant that doesn't have them," Cooper said. In the summer, sometimes there is an impenetrable cloud of them, just congregating above the two disks, reveling in the unnatural habitat we humans have created for them. (You're welcome, midges.)

These disks give the wastewater its "final polishing," as Cooper put it.

The UV room, where wastewater runs through for a final disinfecting, was my favorite room. Aside from the pretty lights, there was a non-wastewater smell to it I couldn't quite put my finger on. Must, a sweet must. Old books. Yes, old books steeped in warm water. As a book lover, it was a smell I could only shamelessly describe as 'sexy.'

I could have stayed in there longer, but there was more to see.

The clarified wastewater then begins the final leg of its journey. It flows through 4,000 feet of underground pipe, beneath Route 6, surfacing as "Effluent Brook," which streams a half mile until reaching freedom in the marshes on the edge of Aucoot Cove.

Back at the plant, in addition to the goats, llamas, and chickens, there are these three elephants in the room, so to speak, and I was eager to meet them.

These three wastewater lagoons - the last stop for activated sludge and the center of the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) permit situation - are both critical and problematic now for Marion.

A critical component of the operation of the plant, the lagoons were created in 1971, a time when nitrogen pollution and the EPA were of no concern. That has changed and, with the EPA's latest NPDES permit issued as a draft to the town, these unlined lagoons have got to go.

"We always knew that the day was coming that there would be a change in the process," said Cooper. The levels of pollutants allowed have become more stringent with this new NPDES, and a number of municipalities are challenging the science behind the levels the EPA has determined at appropriate. "We're not freaking out about that; we knew it was coming."

The worst-case scenario would be a total overhaul of the plant. The town, however, has a defense it hopes will mitigate future costs to the town, although lining the lagoons is looking like it may be imminent.

Just by standing there looking at the 20 acres of water, covered with a thin sliver of silver ice with ducks standing on top and a family of five swans swimming on the far side of the largest lagoon, one would never know that a number of feet of condensed crap sits decomposing on the bottom.

Not only is it a seeming bird sanctuary, it also functions as a retaining system for overflow of sewage intake, holding it until it can be sent over for processing, with the sludge returning to settle on the bottom. Shutting them down would spell disaster for Marion.

"That underscores one reason why those lagoons are critical," said Cooper.

The lagoons are simply lovely in the spring, or so I am told.

"I've got hundreds and hundreds of photos," said Cooper. He has seen turtles, otters, even bird watchers who report rare species sightings.

"I got bird lovers out there and they freak out over what they see here," said Cooper. It is evident that Cooper takes pride in his work and in the lagoons.

"I've gotten a lot of compliments from the engineers on how well we do," he said. "I know I love it here," Cooper said looking out over the lagoons at the swans. "That's why it's so critical that they still have somewhere else to live."

And who could argue that?

Author Hank Phillippi Ryan Offers Hope

By Marilou Newell

At the age of 55, Hank Phillippi Ryan, well known investigative reporter and now award-winning author, decided she could - and therefore would - write mystery novels.

That was 11 years ago, she told a packed room at the Mattapoisett Public Library on January 31. And how right she was to follow her dream, one that had started decades earlier back in her Indiana childhood.

The real life scene is set in rural Indiana where the young Ryan and her sister rode their ponies to the library every Saturday. Ryan stocked up on the 'Nancy Drews' and 'Sherlocks.' Those books transported her, instilling a love for a good story that included "problems to be solved."

Ryan shared that, as a child, she wasn't the most popular kid in school. She wasn't a cheerleader; she was more of an outsider especially by the time she got to junior high. She was nominated as the "most individual" by her classmates, a distinction that did not endear her to them or vice versa. Her photograph was even published upside down in the school year book. It felt like harsh uncalled-for treatment to Ryan. But it was also turning point.

While her mother comforted her wounded pre-teen ego, she told Ryan that "the world wasn't fair" and that she needed to get used to it.

"Then and there I decided I would make things better," Ryan told a rapt audience.

Fast-forward, Ryan would spend the next 30-odd years pursuing truth, uncovering secrets, and reporting crimes.

"I wanted to make a difference, make things better," she said as she described exposing problems in the 911 system, medical treatments to aid in disease control for newborns, alerting the public to unscrupulous home improvement contractors, and even taking on the mortgage crisis. And while her years of delving into stories and issues of the day was satisfying, earning her an astonishing 33 Emmys and 13 Edward R. Murrow awards, the desire to write crime fiction was ever present.

Ryan has taken decades of investigative experiences and blended it with that desire to tell good stories, using what she described as a proven formula: two engaging characters that return to each story, themes ripped from her own headlines, knowledge of how the criminal mind works, a murder or two, and a happy ending.

Once again, Ryan has shown that where there is hope, there is possibility; her crime fictions have reached the heights of acclaim with five Agathas, two Anthonys, the Daphne, two Macavitys, and the Mary Higgins Clark award.

"I am the poster child for following your dreams," she said wrapping-up her nearly hour-long presentation. "I am proof that is it never too late."

Ryan's guest speaking engagement coordinates with the Mattapoisett Library staff's ongoing training program. This year, the library received a LSTA grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. The grant provides for staff development in the practice of referring and assisting readers to their next good book. The library staff will be focusing on adult mysteries throughout the year, according to Library Director Susan Pizzolato.

Ryan's books are available throughout the Tri-Town library system, but you might have to go on a waiting list based on the enthusiastic crowd that lined up to shake Ryan's hand in thanks and appreciation for an interesting and entertaining afternoon.

By the way, her given name is Harriet Anne in case you were curious. You can follow Hank on Facebook or visit www.hankphillippiryan.com.

Marion, Are You Ready for Disaster?

By Jean Perry

Should a disaster or emergency ever fall upon Marion, you'd be in good hands with the Marion/Rochester Regional Health District and community volunteers who would be ready and waiting to assist you at Sippican School, Marion's designated emergency shelter.

Local health officials, in conjunction with the Medical Reserve Corps, have spent the last year mobilizing volunteers and coordinating their efforts to establish one cohesive plan for setting up an efficient and fully functioning emergency shelter for Marion and Rochester residents.

Regional Coordinator Lisa Jackson gave about 20 area residents an introduction to the logistics of an emergency shelter at Sippican, a list of dos for those needing shelter, and a message on the importance of volunteering.

First, when arriving at the school, residents are required to sign-in, and sign-out should they leave. Jackson stressed the importance of this first step in the process.

"It's accountability," said Jackson. Not only does it ensure that people can be safely located within the building, it also helps when relatives might be looking for someone in the event of a disaster. When a person's name appears on the sign-in/sign-out sheet, families can be reunited easier.

Several mock stations were set up so residents could tour the virtual emergency shelter, seeing where cots would be provided in a make-shift dormitory in the all-purpose room, where food service would be located in the cafeteria, where medical treatment could be found, and where pets could be kept.

Yes, pets are allowed at the Marion emergency shelter.

"It helps people feel more at ease with their pets with them," said Health Agent Karen Walega.

Pet owners should bring their own pet food and crates, although a few extra crates would be available for smaller animals. There is even a veterinarian on the roster of local volunteers.

Residents should come prepared with their own medications and bedding, and anyone with special dietary needs or food allergies should bring with them the supplies they need.

The shelter at Sippican School last opened during the blizzard of 2013 when the town lost power for 50 hours.

"It got cold real fast," said Marion Police Chief Lincoln Miller. About 180 people came out, either to sleep or just to warm up for a while. Some came just to charge their electronic devices at a charging station set up to keep in contact with loved ones while warming up.

"That was one of the largest sheltering [operations] we've ever had in this town," said Miller.

It gave health officials and emergency response personnel the opportunity to assess areas that needed improvement and where there was a shortage in volunteers.

There is still a need for volunteers, said Jackson. You do not need to be a medical specialist, either. The local MRC needs data entry help, personal care assistants, childcare workers, food workers, and communications workers, among other things.

"Not all communities are this well-prepared," said Jackson.

Public Health Nurse Kathleen Downy urged community members to contact her with interest in volunteering. She said people who come to the shelter feel more comfortable with familiar faces from the community volunteering.

"Please join the MRC," said Downey. "It's a great organization."

Restoration Funds Need Town Meeting Approval

Marion Conservation Commission

By Jean Perry

Unpermitted work at Washburn Park undertaken by the Recreation Department back in 2014 went before the Marion Conservation Commission on January 27 as a result of an Enforcement Order the commission issued the Town shortly after the incident.

The clearing of vegetation within the buffer zones of vegetated wetlands - and right up into a pond, conservation commission members noted - will remain unresolved for the time being as the commission waits for a more detailed mowing schedule and operations and maintenance plan from engineer Mark Manganello. Financing of the restoration project will also have to pass a Town Meeting vote.

Damage caused by clearing along what Chairman Norman Hills referred to as the "skating pond" at Washburn Park needs to be mitigated and restored. Manganello had with him a plan outlining areas for re-seeding and where fill and brush piles need to be removed, but it lacked a comprehensive mowing plan and operations and maintenance plan.

"It is what it is," said Manganello on behalf of the Rec Department. "If areas need to be restored, we're fully on board with that."

The commission agreed that boulders should be placed to mark the borders of vegetative wetland buffer zones and inhibit any further work in the future.

The hearing was continued, but no date was specified. The matter must pass Town Meeting and a complete plan submitted to ConCom.

"I'd like to see this thing get done and put behind us," said commission member Jeffrey Doubrava. "If this were a private party versus the town...." he trailed off. "It's been a year and a half."

The next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is scheduled for February 10 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

Trash Talk Continues

Mattapoisett Planning Board

By Marilou Newell

The Mattapoisett Planning Board has seen several requests from subdivisions and cluster housing developments for changes to their covenants - changes that would allow those residents to participate in municipal trash collection. To date, the board has approved covenant modifications that would allow the Bay Club, Villages of Mattapoisett, and Brandt Point Village to petition the Board of Health to receive trash collection under the contract the town currently has with ABC Disposal.

The modifications executed by the Planning Board after consultation with town counsel contains language that provides an exit to the modification if the town incurs additional costs by approving trash collection from these special neighborhoods. With all this as the background, resident Paul Osenkowski, a vocal opponent of these changes, brought the subject up again during the February 1 meeting of the Planning Board.

Osenkowski presented the board members with copies of proposed contracts between the Bay Club for $16,900, Village of Mattapoisett for $8,500 and Mattapoisett Landing for $4,700 and ABC Disposal for an upcoming contractual period. He shared his sentiments with the board members that the contracts may represent additional costs to the town by approving covenant modifications. He said, with the limited revenue sources the town had, incurring additional public service costs would drive up residential taxes.

Board member Karen Field responded, "But didn't we say if it cost more, it would revert back to the subdivisions?" Members Mary Crain and Nathan Ketchel, after reviewing the changes they executed to one of the covenants, concurred that was in fact the case.

"I'm asking the Planning Board to at least look into this, " Osenkowski asked. The board members agreed to check into the matter further.

Other business handled earlier in the evening was a meeting with engineer Douglas Schneider regarding property owned on Wildwood Terrace. His client, Bruce Rocha, was applying for clarification of lot lines that were established via deeds versus plans of record. The Planning Board moved to accept the clarification.

Tree Warden Roland Cote also came before the board with two requests to remove diseased trees located at the corner of Beacon and Foster Street and at 136 North Street. After producing photographic evidence of the necessity to remove the trees, board members moved to approve the removals. Cote said that the trees would not be felled until the summer due to financial constraints at this time and assured the board that new trees would be planted.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for March 7 at 7:00 pm in the town hall conference room.

Planning Board Addresses Non-Conformance

Marion Planning Board

By Andrea Ray

The Marion Planning Board was taken slightly aback on February 1 by a non-conforming structure addition submitted by Garrett Bradley of 8 Park Street, and they conversed candidly as they tried to figure out how to handle it.

"I have no idea how these plans conform to the actual lot," board member Norm Hills observed.

"I have the plan," Administrative Assistant Terri Santos said, spreading the map over the table.

"Oh, so we only got one plan!" Chairman Robert Lane surmised, as the entire board gathered around the table to scrutinize the plans. The plans were for a second-floor addition over a non-conforming garage.

"It seems like a little much," observed board member Jennifer Francis.

"Well, they might stay within the original footprint," Lane said.

"They're going to expand the footprint; it's in the plans," Hills rebutted. Francis joined in. "It looks like the addition is going to quadruple the volume of the original plan!"

"What should we tell them?" Lane mulled. Eventually they opted for a note telling the applicants to consider the fact that the proposal exceeded the non-conformance of the current non-conforming structure. "It's a substantial increase of footprint and square footage," said Lane.

Still marveling over the addition plans, the board moved on to another request. G.A.F. Engineering, Inc. recently filed an Approval Not Required application with the Planning Board for Map 5, Lot 23 Ridgewood Lane. Representative Bob Rogers was on hand to explain the ANR designation.

"The extension was previously approved in May 2007 with approval conditions. The condition for approval was that the applicant must deed a portion of the land parcel to a suitable entity for conservation or recreation," he explained. "Since the building lot abuts the Sippican Land Trust, a six and quarter parcel will be combined with the Sippican Land Trust."

"Has the Conservation Commission approved the plans?" Lane inquired.

"The Conservation Commission approved these plans all the way back in 2004," Rogers assured him.

In other matters, Hills asked about the status of the board's annual report.

"I filed it," replied Lane.

"You filed it?" Hills replied. "Did the board ever get to see it?"

"No, it's handed to me and I file it. We've always done it this way," Lane explained.

"My experience in the past has always been that the board gets approval," Hills pointed out.

"Your experience isn't with the Planning Board," Lane stated. "Here, we've always done it this way."

"Just because we've always done it this way, doesn't make it right," Hills insisted.

"Noted, now let's move on," Lane said, settling the issue.

At that point, there was only one agenda bulletin left to cover, which was an initial draft of the Peer Review Engineering Contract.

The contract was drafted for the potential hiring of a peer review engineer in Marion for future projects. "It's not urgent," Lane said, cutting across the subject quickly. "I propose that we wait on the drafts until we've heard from [Marion Town Counsel] Jon Witten." The board agreed.

In other matters, Hills mentioned "complete streets," which is an idea Marion has been considering to alleviate traffic circulation problems and make roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists. Complete roads offer bike lanes and sidewalks separate from car traffic lanes.

"I attended a workshop on complete streets a few weeks ago, and it's a good thing that I did," said Hills. "It turns out that, if I hadn't gone, Marion wouldn't be eligible for complete streets," he reported, hints of bewilderment and amusement in his voice.

Also during the meeting, Hills questioned the rainfall amounts in the bylaws.

"We currently use the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) rainfall data and table from 1998 as a reference in our subdivision bylaws," Hills explained. "I think we should consider changing the reference in the bylaws to the more recent NOAA rainfall table from 2015. It would be more recent and accurate than the information from 1998."

Fellow board members chimed in with agreement.

"I've read the table and the information, and I find it well-informed," said member Michael Popitz. "I feel that we should reference this table in the future."

"Whatever we can do to help infrastructure handle climate change while moving forwards, we should do," Francis observed as she echoed Popitz's agreement.

The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board will take place on Tuesday, February 16 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Music Hall.

Easy Night for ConCom

Mattapoisett Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell

Mattapoisett's Conservation Commission caught an easy agenda for their January 28 meeting, which turned out to be beneficial since only three of the five commissioners were available to attend.

First up was a Notice of Intent to build a new septic system at 6 Aucoot Road, filed by MSMF Property Group, LLC. The leach pit located on the property where the home is being renovated failed when tested. The plan submitted by Collins Civil Engineering Group includes filling and crushing the failed system and construction of a membrane-lined leach pit.

Conservation Commission Chairman Bob Rogers pointed out that the property could be tied into the public sewer system versus building a new septic system, an option he called "better for the property and the environment." He requested that the applicant provide more thorough documentation as to why his suggestion could not be acted upon. The applicant asked for a continuance until February 8.

Next up was another Notice of Intent filed by Norma Klein, 4 Indian Avenue. The application is for the demolition of an existing one-car garage and construction of a new two-car garage and various landscaping improvements. The commission approved a standard Order of Conditions.

A continuance was heard from a previous public hearing for the NOI filed by Jeffrey and Lauren Jordan, 4 North Street, for the construction of a 400-square foot patio, a new 580-square foot covered patio, and new dormers for the roof of the house. Representing Charon and Associates, Carmelo Nicolosi provided the commission with an updated plan of record that detailed the limits of work and stormwater runoff management. A standard Order of Conditions was approved.

Nicolosi also represented Blue Wave LLC for the solar array project scheduled for construction on Crystal Spring Road. He presented the commission with a revised plan of record that included a grass strip through the center of the array to allow for emergency vehicle assess.

Environmental Agent Liz Leidhold reported that the Buzzards Bay Coalition was seeking the support of the commission for a land acquisition from Howard Tinkham and family.

The 114-acre land acquisition would be a joint partnership between the Towns of Mattapoisett and Fairhaven in the heart of the Mattapoisett River watershed with 3,700 feet of frontage on the river itself. The parcel also abuts town well No. 3.

Leidhold explained that Mattapoisett's Water and Sewer Department would own the land. The commissioners agreed to support the project, with Rogers noting, "This is another nice piece of land for watershed protection - that is our role."

Regarding Phase 1B of the bike and pedestrian path, Rogers said the Department of Environmental Protection would be holding a public meeting at the site on Goodspeed Island on February 4 at 10:00 am to review the appeal of a Request for Determination of Applicability approved by the Conservation Commission. The appeal was filed by abutters Daniel DaRosa and Tony Campbell.

CLE Engineering will represent the town as it defends its Negative 3 (Notice of Intent not required) decision of December 14 that would have allowed test borings as mandated by the Department of Transportation, part of a long list of requirements the town has been working through over the past several years.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission is scheduled for February 8 at 6:30 pm in the Mattapoisett Town Hall conference room.

Ideas Flow Like Water

Rochester Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell

The February 2 meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission had an agenda that was absent of any hearings. But that didn't mean there wasn't business to attend to and ideas to explore.

Conservation Agent Laurell Farinon opened the discussion with the commission to craft 2016 Conservation Commission goals. The commission members, along with Farinon, came up with an impressive to-do list.

First on the list is to complete the update of the Explore Rochester Trail Guide that is a partnership with Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School students.

Second on the list is to continue working on a new open space plan with the assistance of SRPEDD.

The third idea is to create a sub-committee that would be responsible for making site visits to evaluate all town-owned properties with an eye towards any work the parcels might require. This thought then inspired the fourth idea: forest management planning.

And finally a fifth idea, now a goal, is to develop a brochure that would assist residents, especially those moving into the community, on 'living near wetlands.' The thought here, the commissioners agreed, would be to help residents understand what they may and may not do to property situated near or that includes jurisdictional areas.

Commission member Kevin Cassidy said, "People don't know what they can and can't do. This is better than handing them an enforcement order."

After listing the goals, they reviewed several completed projects from their 2015 list: the creation of a new Conservation Commission website; a digital version of the trail guide; and updating the open space plan.

Farinon then directed the meeting towards the Makepeace Neighborhood Fund, a $2,000 grant that Rochester has received. Farinon asked the commission to consider using the fund to partner with other departments for the construction of a paved walking path around the town's baseball fields located near the senior center. Commission members concurred that this was a viable and worthwhile use of the grant monies.

Lastly, the commission discussed some edits to the Surface Water Protection Bylaws, a newly written set of bylaws proposed to be included on the warrant for Rochester's Annual Town Meeting.

The bylaws would help to ensure that Rochester's fresh water resources and surrounding watershed areas would be protected by local laws enforceable at the local level, including restrictions for water withdrawals by 'tanked vehicles.'

Commissioner Michael Conway reported to the commissioners that the water commission had unanimously agreed to support adoption of the new bylaws.

The next meeting of the Rochester Conservation Commission is scheduled for February 16 at 7:00 pm in the Rochester Town Hall meeting room.

FinCom Gives Candid School Budget Opinion

Marion Finance Committee

By Jean Perry

"We've got to do something about that," said Marion Finance Committee member Karen Kevelson on January 28 with a draft of the FY2017 Sippican School budget in hand. "They're out of control."

Kevelson, frank in her thoughts on the school's various proposed line items, took control of the discussion and addressed a number of new requests above a level-funded budget, which accounted for an increase of $212,990, or 10 percent, Kevelson said. The Finance Department issued department heads a memorandum requesting a level-service budget as the town faces an approximate $1 million deficit.

New requests include three new aides, an additional first grade teacher, a new kindergarten teacher, and part-time health and part-time computer teachers. "What I want to do is call Doug [Superintendent White] tomorrow and tell him that he has got to get this down."

Kevelson was skeptical of the request for three aides, presumably to staff the new breakfast program at the school as part of their duties.

"[And] they want to use them for recess because I guess teachers don't want to do that anymore," Kevelson said. She then criticized the breakfast program.

"I wouldn't have thought we'd need it financially," said Kevelson about the breakfast program. "And, if kids have breakfast at home and then they're going to go to school and have another breakfast, if they don't exercise then they're going to start to gain weight."

She added that she does not support last year's hire of a full-time assistant principal, saying the school's student body of 459 did not merit the position.

"I think a part-time was fine," said Kevelson. She acknowledged the increased data collection resulting from new state accountability requirements, however, "These are normal kids. I mean, this is Marion," continued Kevelson. "You don't have kids pulling out knives and threatening bringing guns to school and threatening teachers."

As for a part-time health teacher, Kevelson said she thinks a basic health class taught by the physical education teacher would suffice.

"I believe in Health and all that, but I think Health [class] is more important in seventh grade through twelfth."

Kevelson shared comments from a recent phone call she had with someone who was considering moving to Marion who was "not impressed" with the school system. She went on about how, of course, Marion could not compete with a school system like Lexington, adding, "If you have a child with special needs, then this is the town to be in then. I didn't just say that," she said without pausing.

"We have to make some more cuts before we go forward," said acting Chairman Peter Winters.

"I think the budget should come down ten percent," said Kevelson.

The committee turned to the regional school budget.

"I haven't even looked at the regional budget yet because that just scares me," Kevelson said.

Like during a prior meeting, the topic of a possible request for a second assistant principal for the high school came up.

"You can want all you want," said Kevelson. "Does he want it? Yes. Does he need it? No."

Also during the meeting, the committee sat down with Harbormaster Isaac Perry and Police Chief Lincoln Miller to go through their departments' budgets.

The committee was pleased that both budgets were aligned with the request to keep them level service, with mostly contractual employee salaries accounting for the slight increases.

Perry requested $55,000 for the replacement of two control boat motors that he said would come out of the Waterways Account. Other than that, he said he did not foresee any significant capital projects for the next five years.

Miller presented his budget, which is up 1.96 percent from last year's budget, he said, mostly because of contractual salary increases.

Although he did not request it in this year's budget, Miller asked if at some point the committee would consider granting him funding for an administrative assistant.

"There's never been an administrative assistant. I do my own paperwork. I do my own everything," said Miller modestly. "I didn't put it in here, but I did want to bring it up." He said he often takes paperwork home with him at night - "a lot of paperwork."

"Keep us reminded of that over the year," Kevelson told him. "For next year's budget, put in a part-time 'AA' and we'll see how it goes."

The next meeting of the Marion Finance Committee is scheduled for February 3 at 7:00 pm at the Recreation Center on Atlantis Drive.

ORR Asked to Separate Capital From Budget

Tri-Town/ORR Budget Meeting

By Jean Perry

Administrators, finance committee members, and selectmen from each of the three towns met for Round One of regional budget talks with the Old Rochester Regional School Committee and school administrators on February 1.

The driving forces behind the recommended 7.5% increase of the $18.3 million budget are health insurance, retirement assessments, and eight proposed new items, in addition to a $60,000 decrease in school choice revenue.

School Business Administrator Patrick Spencer introduced each of the eight items listed in order of importance on the regional's "wish list"; however, after discussion, some looked more like 'needs' than 'wants.'

At the top of the list is a special education teacher for a new cohort of five students about to turn 18, leading to the need to establish an age 18-22 adult transition program as mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Act.

As Director of Student Services Michael Nelson stated, without the program, it would cost the towns $90,000 to $120,000 per student to place these students out of district rather than $55,000 with the program. It would be less of a financial burden on the budget, explained Nelson, to keep the students in the district for their education and training ... "Which I think would be ideal to provide in their own home communities," he added.

Second on the list is a new social worker in addition to adding .2 to an existing social worker position to make it full-time to meet the regional school district's social/emotion strategic goal of supporting the emotional wellbeing of an increasing number of at-risk students. One social worker would be designated to each of the two schools, at a budget increase of $69,800.

Five years ago, said ORRHS Principal Michael Devoll, there were nine students with significant social/emotional needs. That number has grown to 30.

"We're really not able to meet the needs of our students," said Devoll. "Right now, we're really running around trying to put out fires instead of being proactive...."

Third on the list is a new special education coordinator to be split between the junior and senior high schools estimated at $92,000. Devoll and ORRJHS Principal Kevin Brogioli agreed that between teacher evaluations, student discipline, and special education meetings for 180 pupils on individualized education plans (IEPs), there is not enough time for the assistant principal of each school to effectively attend to everything.

You have 180 students with IEPs, and each has an annual meeting chaired by the assistant principal, Devoll explained. "Essentially, they're in a meeting a day all year long," said Devoll, adding that ORR's caseload per assistant principal is "unheard of" in other districts.

The fourth request, $54,000, is for an art teacher to restore the one that was cut from the budget back in the mid-2000s. Devoll said state colleges require one year of art for admission, yet many students are unable to complete that requirement because there is not enough room in the limited classes.

"And we're saying 'no' to them ... while still telling them they have to take an art class," said Devoll.

Fifth on the list is an extra late bus on Wednesdays at $20,000; sixth, a teacher leader coordinator at $24,000; seventh, a new part-time sign language teacher, a request denied last year, $35,000; and eighth, a new guidance counselor at $54,000.

Devoll said parents are looking for more facetime with their child's guidance counselor, which often doesn't happen until junior year for many parents.

"It would make a world of difference," Devoll said. "I think our families are calling for it, and I think it's appropriate."

Mattapoisett Town Administrator Michael Gagne strongly advised School Superintendent Doug White to separate all capital project expenditures from the budget to look at funding them using money that was freed up last fiscal year when the committee voted for a debt reconfiguration to refinance a loan with a significant interest rate reduction.

With an annual $113,000 of freed-up debt, Gagne said the district could borrow on it to pay for capital expenses without a reduction in the original debt cost. Mattapoisett Selectman Paul Silva concurred, and Marion Finance Director Judith Mooney suggested looking into it.

"Let's start by doing it now," Mooney said. Offset the $383,000 in capital expenditures in the FY17 budget by borrowing against the $113,000. "That should take care of your capital plan," said Mooney. It could be done at Town Meeting with a vote to create more debt, yet keeping the payments the same. No tax increases, no assessment spikes.

Gagne emphasized separating the capital from the budget, saying, "Then I can look at the budget for ORR ... as I look at the budget for Mattapoisett local schools." He suggested holding another meeting to compare apples to apples.

"I think it's unfair for you to have capital in your budget," Gagne told White.

During closing comments, Karen Kevelson of the Marion Finance Committee had this to say: "As parents and community members and teachers ... we want to give our students everything they need ... and some of the things they want." But, just like a child's Christmas list, "I think there are too many wants on this list for this year, given the financial restraints."

Silva simply stated that, as it stands now, Mattapoisett could not support the proposed budget.

"Let's take out the capital. Let's see what the real numbers are and see what that looks like," Silva said.

Another joint meeting of the three towns and the ORR school district is scheduled for Wednesday, February 17 at 4:30 pm in the superintendent's office conference room.

Senior Superlatives

ORR Update

By Sienna Wurl

This week at Old Rochester Regional High School, the senior class was abuzz with excitement over their Superlative Night on January 28. The members of the class of 2016 wore their best attire to watch their peers receive their awards or to receive them themselves. Principal Michael Devoll and Athletic Director Bill Tilden donned black suits and led the show as co-hosts.

Superlative Night began with a game of Know Your School, in which five seniors were selected to compete to determine who was the champion at school-related trivia. The prize? A parking spot directly in front of the school, right under the flag pole in the front of the lobby. A coveted spot - especially in the dead of winter when the snow and ice make the walk from the parking lot into the school that much more unbearable.

The lucky seniors selected were Aibhlin Fitzpatrick, Zenobia Nells, Nicholas Kondracki, James Estudante, and Will Santos. Evan Santos kept score.

Every person got a whiteboard on which to write their answers. A projector played a slideshow on the screen behind the players with questions and answers. Questions ranged from easy: name a new staff member who started this year, to more difficult: name as many teachers who graduated from ORR as possible. The winners, Fitzpatrick and Will Santos, were ecstatic to receive the parking spot.

Then began the actual superlatives. Every category had a minimum of one boy and one girl in the running to win. Devoll read off the boy contestants, and Tilden read the girls. After the winners were announced, they were invited on stage to give a speech if they wished. The superlatives and their winners are as follows:

Most Spirited: Brett Noone and Natasha Shorrock; Most Likely to Succeed: Evan Roznoy and Jane Kassabian; Most Athletic: The Santos Twins (Will and Evan) and Zoe Smith; Largest Appetite: Nick Kondracki and Aibhlin Fitzpatrick; Teacher's Pet: Matthew Fortin and Rachel Scheub; Most Likely to Move Away: Marco Li and Catherine Feldkamp; Most Changed: Frederick Miller and Tayla Campbell; Class Hippie: Emil Assing and Emily Josephson; Best Smile: Evan Bishop and Kristina Sauerbrey; Best Laugh: Adrian "Paul" Kavanagh and Angela Conde; Class Angel: Wiley Gibson and Bailey Sweet; Celebrity Look-Alike: Frederick Miller and Kayley Silvia; Most Accident-Prone: Seth Gomes and Emily Faulkner; Hall Wanderer: Darien Dumond and Tanya Medeiros; Most Unique: Shawn Perreira and Abigail Field.

Then came intermission, when pictures were taken and snacks purchased. On stage, the band Skinny Moth and the Prospect, comprised of seniors Holly Frink, Eli Kovacevich, Shane Fitzgerald and Jeffrey Murdock, entertained the audience, and they even included the hit song Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars, to which many people sang along.

After the short intermission, the show was back on and the superlatives began again, but this time with a twist. It was the teacher superlatives, when the seniors voted on the best teacher for each category.

The winners, as selected by the senior class: Most Talented: Dr. Colin Everett; Most Inspirational: Ms. Kathleen Brunelle; Best Dressed: Mr. Michael Beson; Most School Spirit: Mr. Steve Carvalho; Best Coach/Club Advisor: Mr. William Tilden; Most Humorous; Mr. Michael Nailor.

And finally, the night ended with the second half of the senior superlatives, awarded as follows:

Best Eyes: Shane Harkins and Kristina Sauerbrey; Class Flirt: Corey Dias and Alexandria Powers; Most Gullible: Matthew Fortin and Eryn Horan; Most Musically Inclined: Shane Fitzgerald and Zenobia Nelles; Unsung Hero: Joshua Winsper and Bailey Sweet; Gym Warriors: Joshua Winsper and Elexis Alfonso; Highway Menace: Andrew Homen and Courtney Dextradeur; Most Artistic: Emil Assing and Abigail Field; Most Sarcastic: Jacob Chavier and Autumn Carter; Best Hair: Jeffrey Murdock and Kristina Sauerbrey; Drama Court: Rikard Bodin and Alexandra Melloni; Cutest Couple: Edward Krawczyk and Nicole Mattson; Class Clown: Evan Portelance and Haily Saccone; Best All Around: The Santos Twins (who were jokingly called "The Santi" for the night) and Jane Kassabian.

All in all, the night was a success, with the best turn out anybody could remember. The auditorium was packed, the seniors raised money to help pay for prom, and everybody enjoyed themselves!

Tabor Student Works Towards Female Empowerment

Tabor Academy News

By Madeleine Gregory

This fall, Alexis Jones, a feminist activist and author, came to Tabor Academy to talk about her experience and her organization "I AM THAT GIRL".

Many Tabor students left inspired to make a change - whether by continuing with their friends or teachers the conversation she started or by starting their own projects. One student, Trinity Monteiro, felt such an impact and was so inspired by Jones' speech that she decided to establish her own I AM THAT GIRL chapter on campus.

"At first, it was a lot of emailing back and forth with Alexis and her team," said Monteiro. "Then I had an application and a phone interview before my chapter was approved, and then I could start my online training."

Having an official chapter of IATG at Tabor provides the space for students to talk about their own worries and insecurities as well as larger issues they face. Monteiro believes this kind of space is necessary, and already IATG has provided the platform for a lot of important thinking.

"In the last year, I have done a lot of self reflection and am not focused on changing myself, but improving who I am and finding out what makes me the best version of myself," Monteiro said. "I'm hoping that the conversations we have in meetings will encourage others to make a similar discovery."

The chapter meets at least twice a month to discuss topics that are on members' minds.

"It's about what they feel need to be talked about most," said Monteiro, "whether that is something exciting or something that hurt them or affected them in some way."

Some meetings will be exclusive to girls in the chapter, ensuring that the group is able to think and speak freely. Other meetings, however, will be opened up to a larger population, so others are able to learn more about the organization and the mission, and help empower girls as much as they can. Monteiro also hopes to possibly build a relationship with Our Sisters' School in New Bedford, spreading her message as far as possible.

While the group is understandably focused on girls, Trinity is working to incorporate guys into IATG. Jones emphasizes that feminism isn't just a girl's issue; it affects boys as well, and helping to empower women simultaneously empowers them.

"A lot of guys have approached me wanting to join the group or help out in some way. It's really great seeing this kind of reaction," Monteiro said.

Across the board, the reaction from the school has been overwhelmingly positive. Both faculty and students have offered help with, expressed excitement about, or even joined Monteiro's I AM THAT GIRL chapter at Tabor.

"One of the best things ... for me is I have been able to connect with a lot of girls from our community that I was not as close to before and they have all expressed so much love, support, and excitement for all of it," said Monteiro. "And that is what keeps me going."

The biggest goal of IATG is to spark conversations and make girls feel safe in sharing their stories and problems. Already, Monteiro has created a safe space in which these things are possible.

The I AM THAT GIRL message of empowerment is already spreading throughout the Tabor campus, and the future of IATG promises to continue to spread this message to students and faculty, male and female, to create a more cohesive and supportive community.

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