The Wanderer - Mobile Edition
What Pungo Knew
This Mattapoisett Life
By Marilou Newell
Uncle Pungo, with his funny nickname, was always a favorite of mine, although I hardly knew him at all until the final years of his life. His given name was Nehemiah Wilson Newell. He was my Father's younger brother, his only brother, his only sibling. They looked like brothers. Any other similarities are in the mind's eye.
Reasons known only to those who can no longer speak the common language of the living, my Father and his brother were very different from the very beginning. For one, the world opened up completely with daily interactions and relationships, while being gifted with numerous opportunities based on aptitude. Pungo enjoyed the privileged status of being adored by his mother. He did well in public school and received additional tutoring at home.
By contrast, Dad left school at the beginning of the third grade. He never really learned how to write. It was his Victorian grandmother who nurtured his heart and his mind. It was his grandmother who taught him how to read. It was his grandmother he mourned his entire life. We don't know why, we only know that detail.
My Father remained in a cloistered community, keeping his own counsel, living inside his head, making his own opportunities. Pungo was verbal and intellectual. Dad was non-verbal and innately insightful. Each was intelligent, resourceful, and creative in their individual ways. Pungo decamped from Cape Cod by enlisting in the Navy. It was a one-way ticket, he never looked back.
He spent his productive years in the Navy, making it his career. With his large family of sons and a daughter along with his devoted wife, they traveled the globe. He became a prime mover in very early Naval electronic communications and computer technology. His fine mind for abstract thinking and complex problem solving earned him positions of responsibility within the post-Korean war military paradigm.
What little we know about Dad's childhood, we know from my conversations with Pungo. Their childhood was quite sparse in the things that make life comfortable. They were cold in the winter, ate the leftover seasonal catch of the day or not at all. There weren't any creature comforts. Their poverty was both material and emotional. My fraternal grandmother had been educated. Her father had been a doctor. She once owned a dry goods store. She married beneath her station as my Mother always explained. She married a subsistence lobsterman. Why?
When my Father quit school, he joined his father in the rowboat. Every day, day in and day out, pulling lobster traps, removing the catch then baiting the traps again and again - he never complained that it had been too much. He could make his body perform the tasks at hand. Thus employed, his mind could wander. I believe the silent repetitiveness, the quiet acceptance he surely enjoyed being in the boat with his father, eased his psychological disconnectedness.
Pungo told me that Dad had confided to him that he didn't feel right, thought something was wrong shortly after returning home from the war. This, my uncle explained was 'shell shock'. It was never discussed beyond that brief exchange, certainly never professionally treated. It was just something one brother told the other, unburdening Dad from that point forward. Talk therapy at its undocumented finest.
Pungo and my Father came to appreciate each other's talents. Dad always spoke glowingly of how 'smart' Pungo was, while Pungo said my Father could fix anything.
Before Pungo retired to Reedsport, Oregon, he lived with his wife in California. By then, he was enjoying a bit of gardening and well earned rest with his wife. Dad was still working seven days a week. But by then Dad also allowed himself the pleasure of owning a camper and would take overnight trips to Maine at least once a year. The rest of the time the camper sat in the driveway waiting. Pungo said that just knowing it was there had been enough to give my Father a sense of freedom from his self-imposed boundaries.
Long about this time, Dad began to study a road atlas. He covertly planned his first trip west to visit Pungo. It wasn't until a day or so prior to his heading out on that first solo journey that anyone knew he was going.
Armed with maps that noted the KOA campgrounds every 500 miles or so, Dad departed. He ingeniously had had additional gas tanks welded to the frame of the camper, and invented a way to switch the gas flow without stopping. He also developed a water-cooling system that would spray water on the transmission to keep it cooled during long uphill grinds. A few years later, I benefited from Dad's single-minded determination when he drove to California and brought my son and I home with all our possessions while towing my VW bug behind the camper. He had visited two years prior and had said to me, "Just let me know when your ready to come home and I'll come get ya." That trip to rescue me was his third trans-continental crossing.
Then came Dad's final trip west. It would become his most difficult in spite of it being his fourth solo passage. We didn't think it mad that a person of his advancing age would head west, traveling over 6,000 miles alone in total, staying only two days on the west coast before turning around and heading back east. It was just the way Dad did things. So when he called me from a phone booth at a KOA campground in West Virginia asking me to meet him the next day in Connecticut, signals went off. Something wasn't right with Dad. We made our plan.
When I saw him driving towards me at the prescribed time and location, the look on his face was grave and his color ashen. His left arm had been horribly sunburned from long hours of traversing the western desert in the high heat of the day. He was thirsty and had a day's growth of facial hair. He began to cry when our eyes met.
I had brought a friend along with me to drive my car back so that I could drive the camper and give Dad a much needed break. Dad simply got out of the camper, wiped his face, thanked me and got into the passenger seat. I drove the rig home as he sobbed quietly. I remained silent.
After a while, he was able to share that he had felt unsure he would make it home this time. Apparently his resolve to drive long hours alone had waned, his confidence shattered somewhere in Arizona. He'd lost track of time. He'd awaken to himself while driving and had been terrified because he didn't know where he was. For Dad, this trip had become a survival campaign, a drama in his head. We never discussed his emotional breakdown. We simply drove home where he returned to being what others thought he was, a man in full possession of his faculties.
Years later during one of my final conversations with Pungo, he said that on that last visit Dad told him he thought his mind was going. My uncle believed that the last trip west had been a test Dad put himself through to assuage his growing concerns over his mental functioning. Apparently on the way home, Dad realized his worst fears though he never said a word to any of us. By the time Pungo shared this with me, I knew all too well that Dad was suffering from dementia. For his part, Dad had spent many years faking it. He became really good at it. He functioned at a high level for a long time while dementia slowly robbed him and us.
I am grateful that Pungo was willing to give Dad's family bits and pieces of history, much of it now written down. I'm also glad that Dad at least had a brother, no matter how physically separated they were, who he cared about, admired and could confide in. Dad's singular persistence and courage at living an independent life allowed him a graceful exit as his mind slipped away - a stoic character trait Pungo understood and appreciated long before we did.
Marina Business Zoning To Be Reviewed
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell
Mattapoisett's Planning Board has reviewed and modified language on several by-laws as part of an overall plan to make zoning by-laws more user friendly and in line with master planning which they undertook last fall. The updated by-laws that will be sent to town meeting for the voters to accept or deny are signs, screening, parking, and trailers.
On this night, board member John Mathieu asked the other members to take up review of 'marine residence zoning'. Currently, the town has three distinct sectors where marina-related business activities are permitted. Those locations are Aucoot, Brandt Island, and Eel Pond. Since all of these locations are sensitive environmental areas, Mathieu proposed the dissolution of the marine residence zoning in favor of 'special permitting' on a case-by-case basis. He said that in order for the town to provide the residents with local services in support of marine activities, more opportunities in more locations were needed. Given the present limitations, expanding marine businesses isn't feasible, and Mathieu stated that "... it would be almost impossible to put any marine business in those areas."
Mathieu went on to say that the Planning Board is responsible for planning the commercial land uses in town and, as such, needs to establish processes that ensure the board's oversight of site plans. The process today allows for commercial enterprises - from time to time and in certain circumstances - to bypass the Planning Board and go directly to the Zoning Board of Appeals. To ensure proper management of commercial development, he said that the Planning Board needs to be involved. Mathieu noted that if marine businesses came under special permitting applications, the Planning Board would be in a better position to help this type of commerce grow, while controlling where and how to benefit the community and any residential abutters.
Paul Osenkowski, 8 Oaklawn Avenue, said that he would want to see that any current marine-type business be allowed a grandfathered status to continue operation. The board is seeking public input on this matter prior to taking any action. The first step in the process will begin during their next meeting when each member is to return with proposed new language, and the public is invited to give input. After the issue has been fully vetted through board meetings and if consensus finds in favor of changes, then two public meeting will be held to fine tune the text and present it via the town meeting warrant.
Earlier in the evening the board heard from Korey Medeiros, of Sitec Inc., representing Jeffrey and Charlotte Cheyne who were seeking to divide a parcel presently held in a family trust that would give two existing parcels an additional 50x50 feet each. The properties are located at Channel and Union Streets. The board approved the application.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is March 17 at 7:00 pm.
Multiple Injuries in Rochester Crash
At just after 6pm on Tuesday, March 4, the Rochester Police and Fire Department's responded to a motor vehicle crash on Neck Road near the causeway at Snipatuit Pond. Initially there were three person's injured in the crash of a vehicle that had hit a telephone pole with one of the parties being ejected from the vehicle. Medflight was called due to the severity of the injuries and NSTAR electric was called as the telephone pole had been broken off and was hanging by the wires. Patients had to be extricated from the vehicles prior to being transported to the hospital.
Early reports were that there was possibly a fourth person in the vehicle during the crash but that person was not found at the scene. Canine units were called to assist with the search for the fourth passenger. The State Police reconstruction team was also called to respond to the scene. Marion and Freetown EMS assisted with patients. No additional information was available at press time but updates can be found at www.wanderer.com
Fire Inspector Faces Possible Charges
By Jean Perry
The Mattapoisett Police Department has filed for criminal charges against Fire Inspector Lieutenant Patrick Saltmarsh for allegedly stealing $1,345.76 from the Firefighter's Association, and Saltmarsh could possibly face six counts of embezzlement from an association.
According to a February 28 press release written by Police Chief Mary Lyons, newly-elected association members in January spotted what they considered to be several dubious withdrawals upon reviewing bank account transactions made during the time when Saltmarsh was treasurer of the Firefighter's Association.
Lyons stated that association members discovered an unusual credit card payment to the Department of Revenue, which raised a red flag because the Firefighter's Association is a tax-exempt organization, stated Lyons.
"As they continued to audit the account, four ATM transactions were identified as unusual," Lyons stated, "because it was not the practice of the association to use the automated teller machine to conduct business." Lyons specified that Saltmarsh was in charge of the ATM card while he was association treasurer.
"Lt. Saltmarsh did cooperate with the police during this investigation," stated Lyons. "He did not deny making the transactions."
Saltmarsh's Attorney Philip Beauregard said during a March 3 phone interview that he is concerned about how town officials have handled the situation since the beginning, citing "unusual circumstances" over how the association investigation led straight to police involvement, specifically the embezzlement charge of $20.
Beauregard questioned the police decision to prosecute "as opposed to asking [Saltmarsh], 'did you make a mistake and would you like to pay it back?'"
"We wouldn't have pursued charges if we didn't feel that he was guilty," said Lyons during a phone interview on February 28. "We're sure that he took the money. He didn't deny it."
Beauregard told The Wanderer the $20 transaction paid for a Firefighter's seminar.
"And they're saying that's embezzlement," said Beauregard.
"He had a lot of excuses for why he did it," said Lyons. "In the end, they just don't all add up."
Saltmarsh has not yet been formally charged with embezzlement; rather, Beauregard emphasized that police have filed the criminal complaints with the Fourth District Court in Wareham, and on March 11 a judge will decide if Saltmarsh is to be formally charged.
Saltmarsh was placed on paid administrative leave prior to the embezzlement accusations for an unrelated issue that is still under investigation.
Beauregard stated that earlier this year, Saltmarsh was notified of a medical emergency by a citizen who ran across the street asking for assistance. According to Beauregard, Saltmarsh responded by calling the police, the Town's designated primary first responder for emergencies, who is responsible for calling and dispatching the ambulance.
According to Beauregard, Saltmarsh was faulted for not running across the street himself to respond to the call for help, as Saltmarsh could hear the sirens of the police approaching to the scene.
"He believed the situation was under control," said Beauregard.
The Wanderer left several voicemails to Town Administrator Michael Gagne and Fire Chief Andrew Murray for clarification on the matter, to which they did not reply.
Future Town Clerk's Pay Reduced,
Water Budget Increases
Mattapoisett Finance Committee
By Jean Perry
The Town Clerk's Office budget will reflect a salary decrease for the elected office position, a notion suggested by Town Administrator Michael Gagne, who pointed out that the candidates who have submitted papers for the position have little experience and none of the certifications held by current Town Clerk Barbara Sullivan.
The salary will be reduced to about $52,000 or less, down from Sullivan's current pay of $59, 025. Finance Committee Chairman Patricia Donoghue suggested putting the difference into the training line item to provide training opportunities for the next town clerk.
"That's not a bad idea," replied Gagne, adding that the new town clerk will require significant training in municipal government and management skills. Gagne asked Sullivan to make recommendations as to which specific courses the next town clerk should take.
"I strongly recommend they take as many classes as possible," said Sullivan.
Aside from a slight increase to the postage and computer software line items, the Fiscal Year 2015 budget Sullivan presented was relatively level-funded.
Several areas of the Water budget increased significantly from last year, including the Mattapoisett River Valley District Assessment that is up $58,000. Water and Sewer Superintendent Nick Nicholson compared Mattapoisett's assessment increase with those of the surrounding towns, with Fairhaven's assessment up by almost $136,000, while Marion's assessment decreased by $46,000.
Nicholson said Marion is pumping less water than ever - down to 135 gallons per hour from an average of 200 to 250 gallons per hour - while Fairhaven has increased its water consumption significantly.
Other substantial increases in the Water budget are the electricity line item, up about $50,000, and the maintenance line item, up by $25,000. Capital planning increased by $75,000.
The Sewer budget did not change much, aside from a couple minor increases in areas like supplies.
Nicholson mentioned that water consumption in Mattapoisett is going down, evidenced by the latest billing cycle compared to the billing cycle six months ago. Accompanied by members of the Water and Sewer Commission, Nicholson discussed with FinCom that decreasing water consumption could eventually have undesirable consequences, such as increasing water rates to cover the costs of providing water to consumers.
Nicholson also touched on the possibility of a future Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection requirement that could restrict outdoor water use to just one day per week state-wide, further decreasing water consumption.
Also present to engage in budget talks, Health Agent Dale Barrows asked the committee to consider allowing a $1,000 increase in his budget to provide for a stand-in for Barrows while he goes on vacations, most notably during the summer.
"But who are you going to pay?" asked Donoghue. Committee members wondered how hard it would be to find someone qualified or someone trainable.
"People like me ... we're not hanging from trees," stated Barrows, acknowledging the difficulty of finding someone to fill his shoes while he is away.
Barrows said he had someone in mind, but the committee was not convinced $1,000 would be enough to interest someone to accept such a responsibility.
"I certainly believe you need a back-up," said FinCom Member Paul Amoruso. He said he found the request reasonable, but indicated that Barrows needs to develop a more formal proposal for the committee to consider.
"Well, if I have your support, I'd be happy to put it together," said Barrows.
Also presenting his two budgets to the committee, Veteran's Agent and Highway Surveyor Barry Denham stated that there would be no significant changes to the Veteran's Services budget saying, "We're in pretty good shape right now with what we got."
As for the Highway budget, Denham told the committee that he needs $10,881 to buy a new snow plow and repair the pistons on the new loader that were damaged by repeatedly connecting the old plow that is not compatible.
Gagne said the money could be taken from the Reserve Fund for now to cover the cost of the repairs and the $8,500 plow. In May, he said the funding could be transferred from free cash back into the Reserve Fund. Donoghue made the motion, and the committee approved the funding.
The next Mattapoisett Finance Committee meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 6 at 6:30 pm at Town Hall.
Medical Marijuana By-law Discussed
Marion Planning Board
By Joan Hartnett-Barry
A full board attended Monday's meeting of the Marion Planning Board to discuss the issue of where a medical marijuana facility might be located. The Planning Board also solicited the advice of Town Counsel Jon Whitten on the issue.
"We agreed to limit the area to eligible locations," said Chairman Pat McArdle. "Also, the issue of the 500 foot clearance should be discussed," said McArdle.
Since the town has such a mixed area of commercial and residential zoning along Route 6, the board agreed to go along with Whitten's recommendation to not have any marijuana dispensary located within 300 feet of a residentially-zoned area or within 500 feet of a school or playground. The board also agreed that the zoning area for a marijuana dispensary would be considered 'light industrial' use.
The board will make a recommendation and hold a public hearing where town residents can weigh in on the discussion.
Next up, the board reviewed and discussed the ongoing revised zoning map of the town presented by John Rockwell, a former Planning Board member.
"This is a draft copy," said Rockwell. As Rockwell spread out the map, he noted that there were a few issues that required more detail. "The Sippican Overlay District needs to be corrected and a few other details, so I am asking for input on this," said Rockwell.
The plan is to finalize the map, have it approved at town meeting in the spring, and submit it to the state as the official map of the town. The map includes flood zoning for the town.
"You've done an excellent job, and we'd like to move this forward," said board member Ted North.
The hiring of a part-time Town Planner was next on the agenda. Since the board works with a fiscal year running from July 1 to June 30, the issue of a publicized contract amount was discussed. "We don't want to discourage someone who can help us, but might be put off by our fiscal year budget payment," said Steve Kokkins.
The board agreed that a sub-committee should review applicants for the position and make recommendations. One board member asked about the applicants who applied for the position in Rochester, but it was noted that due to privacy issues, information on applicants for that position was not available.
Next, the board discussed a solar installation that came before the board prior to the enactment of the Solar By-Law in 2013. At issue were comments, requested by the Zoning Board of Appeals, on the case of Dale and Laura Briggs of Lot 17, Map 21 in Marion. The plot is located in a residential area. The applicants applied for approval for a solar farm in 2012, prior to the town meeting of 2013 that enacted a Solar By-Law with conditions.
In the end, the Marion Planning Board - as a result of efforts with the Land Court - voted to note in their comments to the Zoning Board of Appeals that they do not agree that a commercial enterprise (i.e., solar energy generation) be located in a residential area and that a solar generation operation be considered 'light manufacturing'.
Lastly, the board approved minutes of prior meetings. The next meeting of the Marion Planning Board will be held on March 17. The public is invited and welcome to attend. Citizenship is an invitation.
More Solar Power for Rochester
Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals
By Nick Walecka
Rochester might be in for more solar power in the near future.
According to Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Richard Cutler, the Board recently received correspondence from Building Commissioner Jim Buckles notifying them of the potential for a 250-kilowatt solar array on Theodore Brillon's property at 287 Snipatuit Road.
"My guess is he's going to build it where the cranberry bog is, or was," said Board member Kirby Gilmore.
Cutler said that the potential project, which is still only in its preliminary phases, was entitled the "Crimson Cranberry Bog Solar Project," and would be on 1.1 acres of property.
"[Brillon] either has been or will be doing a significant amount of excavation there," said Cutler, noting that this type of project is classified as an "Accessory Structure for Profit."
In other Zoning Board news, a motion was approved to remove stipulation #2 as shown on an old special permit for Janet Dugan's property at 124 High Street. That stipulation stated that the property is non-transferable.
Dugan hopes to sell her home, which is a two-tenement, but said she could not do so because of the preexisting stipulation.
"I can't sell it because of that," said Dugas.
The Board unanimously approved the motion to lift the stipulation, and any appeals must be filed within 20 days of the filing for this decision in the town clerk's office.
The next meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for March 13.
Capital Planning Work Begins
Mattapoisett Capital Planning Committee
By Marilou Newell
The hard work of trying to give the town's departments all the items on their 'wish lists' and coming in at a figure that voters will accept has begun. The Capital Planning Committee, chaired by Chuck McCullough, meets between February and May each year to craft financial requests in excess of $10,000 that will be part of the town meeting warrant. These expenses are then prioritized by the Capital Planning Committee and sent to the Finance Committee for their review. Once the Finance Committee has determined if the request is viable, the voters will then either approve or deny the requested sum during May's town meeting.
Working from a spreadsheet that spans 2014 through 2023, the committee members met with Police Chief Mary Lyons and Highway Surveyor Barry Denham on February 26. Chief Lyons discussed the need for two new cruisers and a new ambulance. She noted that the trauma unit to which her department transports victims is located in Rhode Island. The plan asks for $32,500 for each cruiser and $200,000 for an ambulance.
Next up was Highway Surveyor Barry Denham. He told the committee that his department has completed a number of road sign upgrades that are part of his five-year plan. Due to Federal regulations, the town is required to replace all street signs before 2018. He said that of the 782 signs in question 374 have been replaced, concentrating on roads that have speed limits greater than 25 miles per hour. The importance of moving the remaining costs associated with this project from departmental budget to capital expenditures was suggested by Town Administrator Mike Gagne, who felt that the new signage was critical for public safety. He said that many roads in town are in very discrete locations, making it difficult to locate streets and intersections if the street sign is of poor quality. This project needs $22,500 for completion. The committee agreed that it should be included in capital planning as a lump sum.
Denham went on to discuss repairs to the town barn and shed structures and what remains to be done. The plan has $40,000 plugged in for 2015. Roads and drains will continue to be funded at $400,000 - a figure that has remained static since 2014 and that is proposed to remain static into the foreseeable future. Although not part of the 2015 capital plan, Denham once again advocated for a three- to five-ton roller and a road grader. He said that his department oversees the maintenance of four miles of town roads and eight miles of private gravel roads.
Gagne told the committee that he is looking for some funding through the Community Preservation Committee for the bath house at town beach that needs repairs and retrofitting for limited mobility access, as well as repairs to town wharves.
When the committee meets again on March 12, they are scheduled to review requests from the Fire, Water/Sewer, and Recreation Departments.
Confusion Waxes, then Wanes
During ConCom Meeting
Marion Conservation Commission
By Jean Perry
Chairman Lawrence Dorman admitted that the commission was probably responsible for the confusion, albeit unintentional, over who is required to inspect and report on the progress of a wetlands restoration project at 114 Allens Point Road.
Homeowner Matthew Baltz requested clarification from the Conservation Committee on the Order of Conditions which states that Baltz is required to submit a report confirming that the restored wetlands are firmly established after two growing seasons before the commission grants Baltz a Certificate of Compliance.
The issue was whether the inspection could be performed by a civil engineer rather than a botanist or wetlands specialist.
"Nobody wants to spend more money than they have to," said ConCom Member Stephen Gonsalves, "but this is just part of the process to bring it to completion."
ConCom was not certain if a certifiable specialist had to send in the report, but Dorman commented that the commission rarely makes decisions based solely on what the applicant reports to the commission.
Baltz stated that the confusion began when Engineer David Davignon of Schneider& Associates suggested Baltz needed an expert botanist to certify the wetlands.
"I was told [by ConCom] that we didn't need a certified botanist to inspect the wetlands at that time," said Baltz, referring back to an informal field visit attended by members of ConCom. Baltz added that Davignon said he did not feel he was qualified to determine whether the species growing inside the restoration area were in fact wetlands plant species.
"That's the sticking point, I guess," said Baltz. He said he asked other civil engineers about the issue, and they all told him they never hire any wetlands expert to do the report. "It was very surprising to me...that [Davignon] decided to draw a line in the sand," said Baltz.
"There's something else going on here," said Dorman. "There is confusion."
"It's not us," said Gonsalves. "It's Schneider and Associates who have thrown in the monkey wrench."
The commission determined that a botanist, per se, does not have to complete the report, and drafted a formal letter to send to Baltz to make it official.
In other matters, in response to a request for comment from the Zoning Board of Appeals, the commission voted to issue no specific comments regarding the conversion of an accessory building into a guest house at 16 Pitcher Street owned by Hawley Bigelow. ConCom members agreed, however, to send Member Joel Hartley to inspect the property to see if there are any other wetlands, in addition to the stream that abuts the property, outside of the 100-foot buffer zone.
"The concern is, we know there's a wetland back there someplace," stated Vice Chairman Norman Hills.
"I don't really want to make a determination based on paper," said Hartley. "There could be other wetlands there..."
The commission also voted to forward a letter to the town administrator recommending that the Town purchase a conservation restriction for a portion of Lot 23 Ridgewood Lane.
The conservation restriction will appear on the Town Meeting Warrant for Town Meeting approval.
Hills described the property as low-lying, marshy wetlands.
The next Conservation Commission meeting is scheduled for 7:00 pm on March 12 at the Marion Town House.
Community Preservation Approves Seven
Mattapoisett Community Preservation Committee
By Marilou Newell
The Community Preservation Committee has spent the last year working on updating procedural documents, site visits to proposed projects, and developing improved application forms with a new scoring system. But nothing is more important to the residents of the town than the projects that their tax dollars help to support.
In past years the CPC, with the Selectmen's agreement, has asked voters to approve funds for the preservation of historic records and maps housed at town hall, the bike path project, study of affordable senior housing, repair of antique fencing at Cushing Cemetery, and most noticeably new tennis courts at Center School.
This year, the CPC will ask the Selectmen to include in the May town meeting warrant all seven projects that have applied for funding. These projects are: Barlow Cemetery, $3,627 for fencing repairs and general maintenance; Mattapoisett Historical Society/Museum, $16,000 for new cataloging system of historical documents; Buzzards Bay Coalition, $96,000 for land acquisition at Nasketucket Bay; town wharf, $49,000 for masonry repairs; Bike Path Committee, $39,000 in engineering fees for Phase 1B; town beach bath house, $50,000 for repairs including handicap accessibility structural improvements; and Recreation Department, $55,000 for a tot lot adjacent to the tennis courts at Center School.
Each project that receives final approval at town meeting will be required to install signage at the project site stating that the project is being funded by the CPC. Applicants will also be required to provide an annual financial report detailing how the money has been used until the full fund has been discharged.
The CPC will now request a meeting with the Selectmen to give their annual report that will include the seven applications they wish to have placed in the warrant. Once the meeting has concluded, the CPC members will suspend meetings until the fall when their work will resume for the 2016 budget season.
Debate Team Makes ORR History
By Renae Reints
Last Wednesday, students of the Old Rochester Regional debate team completed their undefeated season with an incredible win at the Eastern Massachusetts Debate League championships.
The tenth and final debate of the season, consisting of the top two teams in the league, was ORR negative team John Hewitt and Justin Smilan against ORR affirmative team Ruhi Raje and Emily Audet. This is only the second time in the Eastern Massachusetts Debate League history that the top two teams were from the same school. While each side put in their best efforts, affirmative team Raje and Audet came out victorious.
The top two teams also made ORR debate history by being the first undefeated four-person team. A four-person team is defined as the affirmatives and negatives that comprise a debate. Audet and Raje also won best affirmative two-person team, while Hewitt and Smilan won best negative two-person team. Other members of debate also placed in regards to speaking points. The trophies are on display in ORRHS's library.
"Old Rochester debate has always been one of the strong teams in the Eastern Massachusetts Debate League," said debate team coach Colin Everett, "I was satisfied with their performance. They did well; they worked hard. As an advisor, or perhaps as a coach, that's what you work toward, so there was a sense of fulfillment that they reached that goal."
The students were also immensely proud to have had such a successful season. "We really swept the top, which is amazing," said Raje.
Each spring, the debate team receives the next year's resolution, or topic of debate. The topic can be regarding international engagement, science and technology, or social and domestic affairs.
"This year it was resolve 'the United States federal government will establish a policy that substantially increases its economic engagement in one or more of the following countries: Venezuela, Mexico, or Cuba.' So we had to learn about what existing policies existed in Venezuela, Mexico, and Cuba, what had been tried, what worked and what didn't work," said Everett. "That's a lot of policy to digest."
The debate team spends its time during weekly meetings reading about these policies and discussing them. Then, at the beginning of the next year, the students split themselves into two-person teams that stay together for the entirety of the year. They can choose to be affirmative (arguing for the resolution), or negative (arguing against the resolution). The affirmatives have to create one big plan regarding the resolution, while the negatives have to consider all possible plans and create arguments against each.
"The negative team has more of a 'thinking on your feet' type of role," explained Audet.
Along with this, there are five stock issues, or items you have to account for in the debate. The first is "topicality": Does your plan address the resolve? The second is "inherency": If your plan is effective, why hasn't it already been put into action? The third is "need for change": Why is there a problem with the present circumstances? The fourth is "solvency": How does your plan solve the problem? The fifth and final stock issue is "disadvantages": How do you address the flaws in your plan?
"There's a joke in debate that if your plan, or if your disadvantage, doesn't directly link to nuclear war in three steps or less, you're doing it wrong," laughed Raje. This base rule leads to some strong and interesting arguments. In all seriousness though, the debaters must consider all of the stock issues in order to have a solid foundation.
"The affirmatives have to win every single stock issue, so your plan has to be foolproof, and what the negatives have to do is they have to poke at least one hole in your plan," said Raje. "As an affirmative, you have more time to plan, but you also have more of the burden of proof."
When the debate team is given the next year's resolution, they are also given affirmative booklets outlining five possible plans and negative booklets containing the disadvantages to these plans. Raje and Audet, however, chose to ignore these outlines.
"What we did this year is we completely wrote our plan from scratch. Every single piece of evidence we had to find by ourselves," said Raje, "It really paid off in the long run because it wasn't something that people were expecting, and we knew the topic very well because we did all the work."
Raje and Audet also had an advantage because they chose to argue for economic engagement in Venezuela, while the majority of the plans in the booklet regarded Mexico and Cuba.
"When we got to debates, most of them didn't have all that much [evidence] on Venezuela and didn't know much about it," recalled Audet.
Raje and Audet definitely earned their undefeated run this year. They began researching in the summer, and after months of collecting evidence and creating a plan, they were well-prepared for their first debate in December.
Even so, Raje made it clear that writing a plan is an ongoing process. After each of the year's nine debates, they noted their weaknesses and collected more evidence to strengthen their argument. Raje and Audet were working hard right up to their debate last Wednesday.
"Tuesday night we were emailing evidence to each other, and on Wednesday we were printing it," said Audet.
Nerves were high when the day of the final debate finally arrived, but once the debating started, Raje said she fell into a focused mindset. "You get quite the adrenaline rush actually, during the debate," said Audet.
In the end, their endless hours of research and preparation paid off. They faced strong opponents along the way, but they remained undefeated. "One of the strongest teams in the league is Hingham," said Raje. "That was challenging."
Finally, in the last round, it came down to Hewitt and Smilan versus Raje and Audet. The top two teams are decided by who has the most wins, but if this statistic is tied, the top team is chosen by speaker points. These speaker points are awarded every match - the number depending on how convincing and charismatic the student was.
Raje and Audet were the only undefeated affirmative team in the league, so they were automatically first for affirmatives. For the negatives, however, there were three undefeated teams. Hewitt and Smilan were ranked number one because they had the largest number of speaking points by a sizable margin.
For the final debate, the ORR teams had the option to let one side step down - due to the fact they're from the same school and the negatives knew most of the affirmatives' plan - but each decided to stay.
"It was really, really hard to get cross-examined by John and Justin," recalled Raje.
Each team was there to win, managing to maintain a professional attitude despite the fact they're all friends. Still, it was Raje and Audet who were named champions of the Eastern Massachusetts Debate League.
"The affirmatives and the negatives put in a tremendous amount of work learning about the policy, and in addition to that they've had a tremendous amount of experience speaking," said Everett of his top debaters, "You can know all the policy in the world, but if you can't communicate concisely and effectively, then you're not going to go far."
Luckily the top teams have had plenty of practice - Raje, Audet, and Smilan have all been on the debate team for four years now. With such a successful high school career, Raje and Audet are both hoping to continue debate in college next year. They also look forward to the opportunity of being volunteer judges for some of next year's high school debates.
So what's next for ORR's debate team? "This year, we've gotten a lot of freshmen, which is very, very encouraging," said Raje, "I think some of the freshmen are doing better than we did freshman year."
"Come a few years, they're going to be way up there I'm sure," agreed Audet.
Everett was also very proud of his younger students. He said, "I was particularly impressed with our freshmen debaters, most notably James Goulart, who is the number one ranked novice affirmative speaker in the entire league, and Sahil Raje, who is the number five ranked novice affirmative speaker in the league. We have other promising freshmen, and we have some juniors who will be becoming seniors next year who have a good future ahead of them as well."
In other news, ORR's mock trial team had a tie-breaker trial last Wednesday, but unfortunately did not continue their undefeated season. The tie-breaker was against Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School's mock trial team at the Fall River courthouse. Due to their loss, ORR's team will not be moving onto regionals this year.
Mock trial will be having a debriefing meeting to end their season and discuss how to improve in future years. Michael Linane, one of the advisors for ORR's mock trial club, said he feels the team struggled with knowing when to call objections.
Mock trial team also had an issue with attendance for this final trial. Many of the most experienced students had conflicting obligations due to the fact that the news of the tie-breaker came on Monday, just two days before the trial. Students had to switch around roles in the trial in order to cover for the absent students.
Next year, mock trial is looking to have an even more successful season. They are considering scheduling scrimmages with other schools before their first trial in order to gain experience for their younger members.
As for upcoming events, the student versus teacher basketball game is tomorrow, Friday, March 7 at 7:00 pm. Proceeds benefit the junior and senior classes.
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