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Mattapoisett Woman Lives Her Dream

By Marilou Newell

As a little girl, Katie asked her parents for horseback riding lessons. Being good parents and wishing to make their child happy, the girl was enrolled in a horseback riding camp in Tiverton, Rhode Island. Her parents never thought for a moment back then that this love of horses was anything more than a passing fancy. That was 21 years ago. That little girl is now a woman, a professional trainer and coach who made a career out of her passion for horses.

Katherine Bobola is a 2005 ORRHS graduate and Mattapoisett resident who, by the age of 18, had become a professional equestrian and coach with a client base of her own.

"I fell in love with riding at that summer camp ... I begged my mother to drop me off at the barn!" The excitement she feels about the profession that she has chosen, or seemingly the fates chose for her, electrifies her speech.

Katie knew at an early age that all she wanted in life was to be around horses and to help others. Between the ages of 10 and 13, she honed her training skills as a junior counselor helping new riders at the summer camp program.

Roseland Acres in Tiverton was her first home away from home where riding coach Debbie Hoyt Banfield conducted those camps. That experience so galvanized Katie's love for riding and all aspects of equine sciences that when Banfield moved to another stable, Katie followed.

"She was my mentor," Katie recalled.

When she was 13, Katie had been working for Banfield getting horses ready for competitions and making sure that their clients, the humans, had everything they needed for the shows.

After graduating from high school, Katie enrolled in Johnson & Wales University and selected a very specific course of study - equestrian business management and equine studies - her passions in academic form.

"I thought it was important to learn the technical science aspects and the business end as well," she said, adding, "It's a high stakes, high rewards business. You can go broke quickly."

"As the years went by, I became more affirmed that this was what I wanted to do as a career," Katie shared. She said she enjoyed coaching others, helping them achieve their personal best in the saddle. It all came very naturally to her, but it was also hard work.

Throughout her young riding career, Katie said that she did not own her own horse; instead, she rode just about any horse that was available regardless of the horse's temperament or capabilities. She credits those horses with helping her grow in her understanding and ability to handle any horse, while growing in her wisdom of horses and how to develop the animals' skills.

"You are dealing with a living, thinking, breathing being with individual talents and needs," she said of the horses.

Several years ago, Katie met another coach, Dani White of Holliston, who invited Katie to join her in partnership at her stables and riding school. This was the pivotal opportunity that has allowed Katie to become an independent businesswoman in the equestrian world.

Often times getting up as early as 3:00 am to drive to Holliston and prepare for a day of competition, Katie thinks nothing of that, and even on days when everything might go wrong she believes, "I am so blessed to wake up and do what I love everyday and be able to make a living!"

Katie's clients, again, the human ones, range in age from 8 to 60 and are primarily female.

"In the U.S., the majority of people involved in riding are women. It is completely the other way round internationally." Although she has seen an increase in the number of males joining the ranks, it is still predominately girls and women.

And the work isn't easy and isn't for the faint of heart. It requires a full commitment, said Katie, of body and soul. For Katie, her hard work has earned her the esteemed position of being the coach for the Brandeis Equestrian Team. The team consists of 15 to 20 students in any given year. Into that mix, add her private clients and you have what, for Katie, is the culmination of all her efforts.

"My focus is ensuring that the horses and my clients are successful in the ring," she said, adding, "It can be emotional when a client wins."

Yet, for Katie, she knows it's the small victories that also matter.

"Whether my clients show or not, helping them achieve their best with their horse is what's important." Katie knows she is in the right place doing the work she was meant to do.

"I can't imagine doing anything else."

The Caregiver

This Mattapoisett Life

By Marilou Newell

Among us lives a population of people who find themselves providing care to a loved one, either directly as in hands-on, or obliquely as in managing services, or, a combination of both. They are called 'caregivers.'

Caregivers may feel as if they have been dropped into an alternate universe, one in which they cannot escape, not even for an hour. There isn't a roadmap to guide them. There are few rules. But ever present is the driving need that requires them to provide care, whatever form it takes.

The vast majority of these caregivers will be women - women who are also breadwinners, mothers of young children, wives, sisters - who are pulled in various directions all day long every day, sometimes for years. Most won't seek help and, if they do, it may be hard to come by. Their journey is a lonely, exhausting one fraught with pitfalls. Yet they will try their best not to let any of their many jobs suffer, even to the exclusion of their own needs.

There has been much written and the media has jumped on the Alzheimer's bandwagon telling the stories of caregiving. I'm here to say it isn't enough.

The variations on the theme of caregiving are as different as the humans walking the planet. No two stories will be the same. There will be some common side notes, similarities, experiences, but how those are managed or mismanaged won't be the same.

Local councils on aging may provide some outreach services to families dealing with specific pathologies such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia. COAs may be able to network caregivers with service providers, support groups, therapists and the like. But not every COA functions in the same manner, and not every caregiver's situation is easily remedied.

One thing caregivers don't have is time to waste sourcing help. What oftentimes ends up happening is the caregiver continues to plug along, alone or with very little assistance, or completely unaware that some help is available.

Maybe a caregiver is a younger person whose familiarity with services for elderly persons is non-existent. Maybe the caregiver can't recognize the fact that they are actually caregivers. They may believe they are simply performing tasks that aren't truly related to an illness, thinking "Its just old age problems," or, "This is my mother; she needs me to do this," without questioning, are there alternative choices or others who might be able to help? It may be that only when a caregiver is in crisis himself or herself that intervention happens. Generally by then, years may have passed.

And what happens to the caregiver once that job ends, when the loved one dies? Does the caregiver just go back to where they left off before they began taking care of a family member? That answer is absolutely not. The caregiver more times than not will be left in an emotional morass not unlike PTSD.

How do I know these things, you might wonder. Simply put, I am still recovering from taking care of my father.

Dad has been gone three years. I oversaw his care for over a decade. It's actually a blur to me in many ways. Why I ended up in that role isn't really important now. It's behind me, not in front of me, but the impact remains. There were so many things I didn't know, so much that could have been handled differently. The snapshots of taking care of Dad affect me all day, everyday.

In the beginning of those final years, he functioned fairly well with daily visits from my husband or me. CNAs provided meals and baths, some housekeeping, and company. But overall, the person managing his care was me.

There were many days that went by in a wonderfully unremarkable way. Those were the days we had some fun either going to the grocery store or out to eat, or family visits in my home. I'd take him to visit his wife in the nursing home, trying to mediate between my deaf to semi-deaf parents whose natural way of interacting is best described as contentious. Still, we enjoyed each other's company a great deal of the time, in spite of my level of high alert in all things related to Dad.

As his disease progressed, as he began to try and find his lost boat that had a million dollars stashed in it, as he sought his new wife and small children who were waiting for him in their new home, it quickly became apparent that even his smallest grasp on reality was gone. The thing about dementia or Alzheimer's disease is that there might not be a component that requires skilled nursing care. In that situation, health insurance - either private or government issued - doesn't cover nursing home care. Such cases are considered "custodial" and most nursing homes won't accept a patient unless, of course, you can pay cash. This leaves families coping with increasing levels of mental health dependency at home. For many years that was my reality. Dad's body was perfect for a man his age; it was his mind that was sick.

At the every end, he was admitted into the hospital with pneumonia that then allowed him to be placed in skilled nursing care for about 100 days. I had no idea what would happen after that. I was just trying to stay afloat, navigating this new unknown ocean - the nursing home.

During those 100 days, Dad's mind crumbled and fell away in great chucks until he no longer was aware of anything. He didn't speak, eat, drink, move, nothing. It was over. On a beautiful May afternoon with a gentle breeze outside his darkened room, Dad slipped away peacefully. For that I am eternally grateful. He didn't fight. He let go. That is something I am still trying to do.

Regardless of the comfort I get in knowing that I did every single thing I could possibly do for my father when he needed me the most, it is still hard. I haven't returned fully to where my life ended before overseeing Dad's care. I wonder if I will.

More needs to be done to address the varied emotional as well as practical problems that arise for caregivers. As the numbers grow of people identified with Alzheimer's disease, more caregivers will be needed. The demand on these caregivers will be great. I ask, what can we do as a society to support them? We need to think about this now. Societies are comprised of people, many of who will become caregivers trying to go it alone, and many who will one day be the care-given.

No Noise from CVS Developers or Reps

Marion Conservation Commission

By Jean Perry

Since last year, the Marion Conservation Commission has been granting proposed CVS developers' representatives one continuation after another for the project's Request for Determination of Applicability public hearing. The last time the ConCom met with LEC Environmental Consultants, reps for developer Mark Investment, was back in October 2014. Since then, the commission has continued the hearing at the applicant's request for about 10 months - but not anymore.

Before the summer, Conservation Commission Chairman Norman Hills suggested the commission deny any further requests for continuation after the August meeting. And with the unanimous support of the other commission members, they sent LEC Environmental Consultants a letter advising them that if they did not appear before the commission at the next continued public hearing, the hearing would be closed and a positive determination rendered. A positive determination simply means that the project would alter or affect surrounding wetlands, so a Notice of Intent would be required, followed by ConCom approval.

"We have not heard anything from them in respect to continuing any further," said Hills on August 26. "I recommend we close the hearing and proceed based on that information."

The commission voted in favor of the positive determination and stated that the wetlands boundary lines were not certified or confirmed by the Conservation Commission.

"So if this project is still alive, they would have to come back to us," said Hills.

Mark Investment developer Dean Holt did not respond to a request for comment before press time.

Also during the meeting, the commission pondered the identity of a plant species growing on the property of Robert Kaplan at 42 West Avenue. Kaplan filed for a RDA to remove an invasive species from the 100-foot buffer zone to the wetlands, but after a site visit, commission members were scratching their heads over the 2-foot by 2-foot area of a plant that was not a phragmite or any other invasive species they could recognize. Thus began the mystery of the non-phragmite.

Commission members passed around the iPhone of commission member Jeffrey Doubrava, and each took turns staring at the photo Doubrava snapped while at the site visit. No one could tell what the plant was, but the 4-square feet of it did not appear as though it were a concern of the ConCom.

"A shovel will remove it right now," said Hills. "It's a weed as far as I can tell."

The commission continued the public hearing for Clean Energy Collective for the solar farm on Tucker Lane, and for Shea Doonan to establish an aquaculture project off Ram Island.

The next meeting of the Marion Conservation Commission is scheduled for September 9 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

Bay Club Sewer Use To Be Reviewed

Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Commission

By Marilou Newell

The Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Commission met on September 1 with Ted Gowdy of AERIE Homes, one of the newer operating and construction entities building inside the Bay Club cluster subdivision. Gowdy, who has been making the rounds of various town boards and commissions, had previously met with Water and Sewer Superintendent Nick Nicholson to discuss sewer connections on lots that are in the process of being redefined.

Gowdy said that the Bay Club had been allotted 189 sewer connections, but not all of those had been used since some lots were combined. He questioned whether he could have unused connections for AERIE lots that may have duplex units constructed on them.

The commission's legal counsel, Blair Bailey, asked how the calculations had been made for the original permit, and he wondered if the number of total bedroom units in the original Phase One build out of the Bay Club had been part of the consideration. Commission Chairman Dan Chase remembered that bedrooms had, in fact, been considered, but in the absence of the original permit no one could confirm that point.

Standing in for Nicholson who could not attend the evening's meeting was Water and Sewer staff member Henri Renauld. Renauld said they needed to review the original agreement before any decisions could be made on how to handle Gowdy's request.

The sewer permit for the Bay Club was crafted based on units and possibly bedrooms, the commissioners believed, and not on flowage since no mechanism is in place to actually measure sewer outflow at this location.

Gowdy said it was his understanding that household units had been capped at 189, but nothing had addressed restrictions on the number of bedrooms for each unit. Bailey wanted to make sure there would not be any confusion in the future, and he asked Gowdy to return to the next meeting of the Water and Sewer Commission with a letter from the Bay Club establishing that the club will relinquish unused sewer connections to AERIE Homes. He also agreed with Renauld, saying a review of the original permit was necessary. Gowdy was asked to return with documentation for commission review and consideration.

In other business, Bailey presented a final copy of the updated Abatement and Leak Policy. He said he edited the text to include language that would allow for fair and consistent abatements, regardless of the size of a leak. The new document will allow the commission to calculate an average three-year bill and the leakage and then divide that number in half to reach the abatement figure.

Another significant language change allows the commission to impose full costs on a consumer if that consumer has been notified of a leak, or declares a leak but fails to make the necessary repairs within 30 days of discovery.

Letters from Alice McGarth, president of the Angelica Point Improvement Association, were read into the minutes. Her letters applauded the fine work recently completed on Cove Street by the water and sewer team and by the Town's subcontractors. Adding to those acknowledgements, Chase congratulated the Water and Sewer Department employees and Nicholson on a job well done.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Commission is scheduled for September 15 at 6:00 pm in the Mattapoisett Water Department Offices on County Road.

Board Approves In-law Apartment, Bed and Breakfast

Marion Zoning Board of Appeals

By Jean Perry

The Marion Zoning Board of Appeals on August 27 approved a number of application requests, including an in-law apartment, a bed and breakfast, and a change of use for the former Jenney Garage on Point Road.

First, Donna Tobin was granted a special permit to construct a studio-style in-law apartment above the existing garage at 490 Point Road. Tobin told the board that the space would be used only a few times each year exclusively by her sister, who lives in another part of the country. The ZBA placed the condition on the special permit that the in-law apartment could only be used by family and guests of Tobin and could not be rented out to tenants.

Also during the meeting, the board granted the special permit requested by applicant Kathleen Marie Hill allowing her to conduct a bed and breakfast operation at her residence of 460 Front Street. Hill recently purchased the property and will be allowed a maximum of three guest bedrooms. Food service is strictly limited to breakfast only. At this time, Hill only plans to operate a two-bedroom bed and breakfast. The business is subject to approval by other town boards, such as the Board of Health.

In other matters, several concerned abutters of 828 Point Road appeared for the hearing for a change of use for the former Jenney Garage. Owners Dena Xifaras and Michael Papadakis, owners of Papa's Fuels and Lawn Care based in Mattapoisett, plan to utilize the site to store and maintain their business vehicles. Abutters were concerned about other materials being stored at the location, as well as noise from the operation early in the morning and later at night. The board placed conditions on its approval, including, but not limited to, restricting storage to business vehicles only and no other materials, and hours of operation that shall not begin before 8:00 am. Abutters were satisfied with the conditions.

Also, the board continued the hearing for Christian Loranger of Sippican Preservation, LLC, who plans to withdraw his request for a parking variance after the parking matter was addressed in the board's prior approval of a special permit for the site plan. The hearing was continued because Loranger failed to present a letter formally withdrawing his request for the variance, which the board required in order to proceed.

"We know that he is going to withdraw," said ZBA Administrative Assistant Donna Hemphill in a follow-up interview. "They just didn't bring in the letter."

The next meeting of the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for September 24 at 7:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

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