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Why Groundhog Day?

By Jean Perry

We at The Wanderer celebrate Groundhog Day every year - we even throw a party and give out gifts to all our advertisers and associates. But why the big deal over a silly tale of a groundhog that will supposedly predict the next six weeks of weather?

First and foremost, it is a chance to celebrate having made it through the first bitter half of winter, with February 2 being the midway point between the official start of winter and the official start of spring - the equinox of the equinox, if you will.

Groundhog Day symbolizes an act of defiance of sorts, in the face of the second bitter half of winter still to come. Every February 2, we stand around a magical groundhog, who even defies death by drinking a secret elixir every summer during the Groundhog Picnic that adds seven years to his life, and we hope for winter's hasty death.

We watch to see if Punxsutawney Phil will see his shadow and retreat back into the earth to spend six more weeks in a winter coma, or if he will stay above ground as we melt our way into March over the next six weeks.

Before it was ever called Groundhog Day in the 1800s, the early German settlers of Pennsylvania brought with them the tradition of Candlemas Day, with its age-old saying, "For as the sun shines on Candlemas Day, so far will the snow swirl in May..."

The tradition of trekking to Gobbler's Knob on February 2 began in 1887 and has remained a tradition ever since.

Just last year, Phil, named so after King Phillip and formerly referred to as Br'er Groundhog, indeed saw his shadow, which was followed by subsequent hell to pay in the form of two massive back-to-back winter storms in February and a miserably cold March that wouldn't quit.

Some believers say Phil is always right. Whenever he doesn't see his shadow, we hope he is.

Groundhog Day does, for us, symbolize hope, however fleeting that hope may be. We maintain the perpetual optimism that the dark days of freezing cold and impromptu blizzards will end and the warmer, sunnier days of spring will push those daffodils through softer ground and hurry up and get here.

And even if winter lingers longer than it takes a sloth to round up a herd of snails, we get to enjoy that one day when a short, furry, groggy groundhog crawls out of his hole and says, "Bite me, winter!"

If that isn't something to celebrate, then we don't know what is.

Happy Groundhog Day, everybody!

Snow Daze

This Mattapoisett Life

By Marilou Newell

Dateline: Midnight, January 27 - wind is howling, the flying snow frosts windows and collects in the sills and exterior doorways. No one is out on the roadways. Earlier in the evening, as I headed to Town Hall to cover a Conservation Commission meeting, the eeriness of closed businesses and people-less sidewalks caused me to question my wisdom in leaving the cozy confines of my home to sit in a meeting. I would learn later why the meeting had not been re-scheduled, but that is information for another page.

Back home now and hunkered in for the night, even the dog knows not to expect much and has curled himself into a tight ball of fluff. Hibernation - dogs do it.

As the hours float by on snowflakes, my thoughts return again and again to my childhood when ample snowfalls simply meant fun.

We didn't have all the fancy sub-zero clothing and boots available today. We rarely stayed home from school because of snow. Snow was nothing to fear. Our dads all had chains on their car tires. No siree, Bob! We were tough back in the day. You've heard the stories, right? We walked for miles to school in blizzards then forged our way back home again through hip-deep snow and never complained. (Okay, so the school was only a short walk from the house).

And insulated boots? Nope. We had rubber boots or galoshes. If you are of a certain age, you'll remember the agony of trying to pull on a rubber boot over your shoes. My mother's method was to place my father's long argyle socks over our shoes then up over the quilted snow pants and then slip the foot into the toe of the rubber boot. With lots of yanking and grunting on her part, the rubber would finally be snugged into place. After closing up the unforgiving metal buckles on the front of the rubbers, we were finally ready to head into the winter wonderland.

Mittens knitted by our mothers were frequently exchanged on the doorstep for a dry pair. We weren't about to let wet mittens stop the fun. But oftentimes, it was the feet that failed us long before our frozen fingertips did.

The lack of insulation around the foot, the feeble ability of the galoshes to protect our toes from cold, and the intrusion of snow inside the boot itself put the double whammy on us. Begrudgingly, we eventually dragged our tiny bodies into the house.

The process of dismantling our carefully attired forms was nearly as tiresome for a small child as the process of gearing up to go out. But then we were stuck inside the house until all that wet wool could dry and that took hours. Every cast iron radiator was decorated in wet coats, hats, scarves, socks, and mittens.

Years later, when our grandchildren came along, I'd return to the joy of playing in the snow with a small army of little girls in the backyard making snowmen or slinging snowballs at one another. By then, though, we could stay outside much longer and more comfortably with new types of fabric and insulation materials. Though I often run nostalgically over many of my childhood memories, I readily admit that I love today's modern coats and boots and proudly own my fair share. ("You bought another coat, Marilou!" That would be my husband talking).

Today, I still go outside in the snow, but I am now aided by snowshoes and poles, coats with artic temperature ratings, and boots for all seasons and weather conditions. Oh yeah, I forgot - I also stick on one or more of those self-adhesive heating pads for good measure.

The hours have sailed by and the gales are still blowing this midday Tuesday, January 27. Here's hoping I can find a few kids outside, cavorting as I once did - and if I do, I sure hope they let me try out their sleds.

MLT Donors' Names Carved in Stone

By Jean Perry

Those who frequent the Mattapoisett Bike Rail may have noticed a new stone monument placed near the wooded wetlands where the bike path crosses Brandt Island Road.

The new marker was placed at the site last week to mark the seven acres donated by Jeanette Mello of Mattapoisett who inherited the parcel from her parents, Captain Jack and Bridgette Murray.

Mello donated the conservation land to the Mattapoisett Land Trust back in December 2011, and the monument is now being placed to honor the Murrays and raise awareness of the MLT's acquisition of the land.

During a January 23 phone interview, Mattapoisett Land Trust President Gary Johnson said there had not been funds for the stone monument until recently, after years of saving funding for the marker.

Johnson said that although there is no public access to the site, the location of Murray Preserve alongside the bike path abuts hundreds of acres of land in the Nasketucket Bay area protected by the Buzzards Bay Coalition.

"The Mattapoisett Land Trust would not usually accept an isolated seven-acre parcel of land like this one," said Johnson. "But knowing a larger conservation project [with the BBC] was in the works, we accepted the conservation land in an area that is important, especially along the bike path."

Johnson said because the land is too wet to traverse and there aren't any hiking trails, the stone monument will serve to make the public aware of properties acquired and protected by the Mattapoisett Land Trust.

For more information about the Mattapoisett Land Trust and its properties, visit www.mattlandtrust.org.

Mattapoisett Offers Free Cat Registry

By Jean Perry

When a cat is missing, it can be difficult to track it down without a registry and tag system like there is for dogs. The Town of Mattapoisett is now offering a free online cat registry so Mattapoisett cat owners can sign up their cats and provide relevant information in case the cat goes missing.

The Town will store the cat's information, including the owner's name and address, cat's name, color, age, gender, and markings, and cat owners can upload a photo of their cat to further help identify it.

If a cat is reported found, the Town can use its GIS (geographic information system) database to inform residents in a certain area of town where the cat was found that the cat is missing. The cat's description could also be used to match it with the registry and the owner can be contacted.

The service is offered to Mattapoisett residents only.

You can sign your cat up for the program by visiting the Town's website at www.mattapoisett.net, and scrolling down on the homepage to the cat icon saying "Online Cat Identification Program Sign-up."

If you cannot upload a photo of the cat, you may bring one into Town Hall and someone will help you.

For more information, call 508-758-4100.

DaRosa Pier Appeal Upheld by DEP

Mattapoisett Conservation Commission

By Marilou Newell

It was soon clear why the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission did not let the blizzard stop its January 26 meeting from taking place.

Chairman Bob Rogers told the commission and the three people in attendance that the impetus for conducting the scheduled meeting was due to a Wednesday, January 28 deadline to appeal a Department of Environmental Protection upholding of the Daniel DaRosa appeal for the construction of a massive residential pier on Goodspeed Island.

Rogers and Conservation Agent Elizabeth Leidhold were both surprised at the speed in which the DEP announced their uploading of DaRosa's appeal - a mere six weeks.

On Friday, January 23 the Town received the DEP's verdict. The town has only until Wednesday, January 28 to respond with an appeal.

Saying that he felt 'rushed' during the last public hearing, Rogers said that by appealing, the commission could provide a better elaboration of their issues concerning the construction of the pier.

"This will give us an opportunity to expand upon our reasons for denying the application," Rogers stated.

A vocal opponent to DaRosa's personal pier, Michael Huguenin, also braved the elements to make his case to the commission that they should step forward.

"We have done research and raised money.... We will participate in an appeal," Huguenin said.

He explained that a Town appeal and any appeal by private parties would be heard by the DEP's Dispute Resolution Department, not the DEP staff in Lakeville.

Huguenin continued, "...the Town is an abutter to this project ... we hope the Town will appeal this..."

He shared that in the beginning, the citizen group he had spearheaded had approximately 100 signatures against the DaRosa plan. That number now stands at 204. He said there is wide interest around town.

"People come up to me in the post office, in the grocery store. They want to know what is going on..." Huguenin was surprised at the amount of concern expressed to him about DaRosa's plan even in "the dead of winter."

He said that the citizen's group has collected financial backing and more engineering information that will be used to mount a defense against the project moving forward.

Huguenin said that, had DaRosa been willing to sit down and discuss a more conservative private pier, something could have been worked out. In the absence of that type of compromise, he said, "We are willing to spend our own money."

As for the Conservation Commission members, the board is split. Rogers and members Marylou Kelliher and Peter Newton have spoken to deny the project from the beginning, and on this night supported appealing the DEP's upholding of the appeal in favor of DaRosa.

Commission member Tom Coops said he had questions and needed to abstain from voting.

"I felt it was a permittable project under the Wetlands Protection Act," said ConCom member Michael King. "...It's going to be appealed by private citizens ... so it's a waste of [the Town's] time and money to appeal now."

With Coops abstaining and King opposing, the commission moved to ask the selectmen to support an appeal of the DEP ruling and to fund legal counsel moving forward.

In other business, the commission approved a Notice of Intent filed by Robert Brack of 18 Water Street to construct a replacement residential pier.

Also approved with conditions was an application by Frank Linhares of 16 Holly Lane for the construction of a 28- foot by 32-foot barn, paved driveway, and in-ground pool on a 27-acre site that was formally a gravel pit. The new home was touted by King as "a nice improvement over the gravel pit."

Also approved was an application by William Durbin, 21 Bay Road, for the construction of a stand-alone workshop on property that had previously suffered a severe fire.

Over the objections of abutters located at 20 Highland Avenue and 25 Bay Road (via letters read in part at the meeting), the commission felt the project was not in violation of the Wetlands Protection Act.

The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission will be held on February 9 at 6:30 pm in the Mattapoisett Town Hall meeting room.

ZBA: 'Common Sense Over Bureaucracy'

Marion Zoning Board of Appeals

By Jean Perry

The Marion Planning Board majority wanted the building permit for the Briggs' solar farm on County Road revoked so the board could conduct a site plan review of the project it claims it is entitled to. But on January 22, the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals decided it would uphold the building permit, citing "common sense over bureaucracy."

ZBA Chairman Eric Peirce acknowledged Planning Board member Robert Lane's argument that Chapter 9 of the Zoning Bylaws requires a site plan review was "really well put together." Lane emphasized that the Planning Board did not seek to thwart the project any further, but to simply avoid setting a dangerous precedent for future projects similar in nature.

"It is not about the variance ... and it is not about the solar farm," said Lane. "What it's about is the Planning Board's authority to conduct a site plan review in the bylaws."

Lane and fellow board members Chairman Stephen Kokkins and Rico Ferrari, both in attendance, maintained that the building permit should be revoked until the Planning Board exercised its right to a site plan review. Lane cited various reasons such as ambiguity in the bylaws relative to the definition of "structure" and "gross floor area," as well as the part of Section 9 that mentions triggering a site plan review before the Planning Board.

"I'm sure the entire Planning Board would expedite any sort of approval," said Lane, "... and a precedent would be placed."

Peirce said the ZBA has to be especially careful to stay away from establishing any sort of precedent, and the board looks at each application on a case-by-case basis, saying otherwise the board would face a slippery slope.

Dale and Laura Briggs sat quietly and made no comments when invited to speak.

Building Commissioner Scott Shippey, who issued the building permit subsequent to the ZBA granting the variance, also declined comment, but later told the board he had "broad shoulders" and could handle it should the board not uphold the permit.

After the public hearing was closed and Planning Board members left, Peirce told Shippey, "You were doing what we told you to do."

With all due respect, stated Peirce, "We've seen [the project before us] so many times we respectively have done the site plan review."

Peirce questioned the Planning Board's right to challenge the building permit addressing some key issues.

"Are they aggrieved?" asked Peirce. "Other than philosophically, they aren't pained."

Although the Planning Board could virtually streamline the site plan review approval process and follow "the letter of the law," Peirce said he felt the intent of the bylaw was more important in this case.

"My opinion is not to overturn the building inspector," said Peirce. "I don't think we're doing the Town a disservice." He added that the ZBA does not make a practice of "competing with other boards."

"And I don't intend to," said Peirce. "But there's common sense, and there's bureaucracy."

The ZBA will wait to take a formal vote until its next meeting, but the board voiced its support for upholding the building permit. Peirce said he would run the issue by town counsel before taking action.

"It's meant with no disrespect, but let's move on," Peirce said.

Also during the meeting, the board approved the special permit application for Jon Delli Priscoli of 91 Water Street to build an addition onto the historic cottage.

The next meeting of the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for February 26 at 7:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

Capital Assessment Rating Begin

Marion Capital Improvement Planning Committee

By Marilou Newell

It's that time of the year again when towns begin the evaluation and review process for departmental capital needs. It is no small job and one that the Marion Capital Improvement Planning Committee has now begun in earnest.

On January 23, the committee headed by Norman Hills with members Paul Naiman, Casey Barros, Carol Sanz, Ted North, Dick Gilberti, and Stephen Cushing reviewed the project list and discussed the scoring process.

The multi-million dollar list contains: Pumping station repairs - $14,195; Atlantis Drive Fire Safety system - $17,775; Washburn Park restroom repairs - $11,395; Sippican School floor renovations - $50,000; Sippican School EMS communications (as required by new state testing procedures) - $18,000; Marine/Harbormaster new trucks - $63,000; Highway Department one-ton diesel pick-up - $56,000; Highway Department FY14 pavement plan - $273,000; Highway Department general road repairs - $60,000; Water Department one-ton 4x4 pick-up - $56,000; Sewer Department generator replacement - $35,000; and for the Fire Department, a new pumper - $540,000; new ambulance - $237,000; engine 2 repairs - $20,000; two Lucas CPR devices - $28,000; and computer software - $27,000.

Another Highway Department line item titled 'NPDES Permit Analysis' was kept on the list but the price tag is an evolving number. As a placeholder, the committee used $450,000 but a firmer number will be needed before it can be sent to the Finance Committee for their review.

NPDES stands for National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. The Environmental Protection Agency oversees the wastewater discharge of municipal and industrial wastewater facilities, regulating the levels of pollutants discharged and issuing a permit with strict requirements. Marion is appealing the EPA's findings that call for lower levels of nitrogen discharged and threaten the elimination of the Town's three sewage lagoons.

Calling for "...further review ... but may return," Hills dropped the following Highway Department projects totaling just over $5 million from the list: MS4 permit assessment; isolated flood area study; Phase 1B construction; and Phase 2 design. Also on hold indefinitely were two Water Department projects. Those projects are well field explore tagged at $50,000 and Mill Street Water Main design at $150,000.

The majority of the capital needs identified by the Town's departments will be funded through general funds, although enterprise funds may be eyed on several. All requests will require voter approval at Town Meeting in the spring.

In an effort to employ a rating or scoring system from one to 10 for the projects, the committee received a rating sheet that asks critical questions. Those questions are:

1) Is the capital item a matter of regulatory state, federal or local compliance?

2) Is the capital item a matter of public safety?

3) What is the department's priority for the requested item?

4) Is the capital item request a replacement, upgrade or new item or service?

5) What is the impact of the capital item on the overall operation and maintenance for the department to provide service?

6) How will this capital item be financed?

7) What is the capital item's lifespan?

Hills counseled the committee to use the same method or thinking process for each request. Their hope is that this part of their work can be wrapped up by the end of February.

The next meeting of the Marion Capital Improvement Committee is scheduled for January 29 at 7:00 pm in the Police Station community meeting room.

What is Google Docs?

ORR Update

By Patrick Briand

Technology integration in education has been a big topic for over a decade now.

School administrators are always looking for new ways to make schoolwork accessible to students via the Internet and to encourage Internet usage for the purpose of educational improvement.

Google Docs, along with its accompanying services like Google Drive and Google Slides, is one of the programs that Old Rochester Regional uses to get kids involved with online learning. Every ORR Junior High and High School student has an account, and a few high school students gave their opinions on the online service.

Senior Matthew Bourgeois has been using Google Docs for several years now and has a great understanding of the program. He had nothing but praise for the way Google Docs makes working online an easy task.

"Accessibility and instant saving are the best features of Google Docs," said Bourgeois. "I use it anytime I have a project with partners, especially in my history-based electives."

Bourgeois wishes that all teachers would use Google Docs, and he wishes that those who use it currently would utilize it even more.

"It's easier for us to use most of the time. You can easily look up teachers' assignment directions when you're connected, so it takes guessing out of the equation," he said.

Sophomore Ari Dias also thought the automatic saving was a good idea on Google Docs' part; however, she wasn't crazy about the program as a whole.

"[It's] slow and kind of complicated. Sometimes seeing a real-life example (in place of what is seen on Google Docs) would help students more," said Dias.

Dias and junior Jacob Lawrence agreed that English was the class where Google Docs is most commonly used. Lawrence added that he uses it for "every typed assignment."

In contrast, junior Teagan Walsh said Math and Spanish were the classes she was most likely to use it in, even though her teachers seem to use the website sparingly.

Many students differ greatly on how many days they log in per week and how much time they spend on the website.

Usage time depends greatly on what classes are taken and what teachers a student has, as teachers range from never incorporating the program to making it a part of everyday class life.

For senior Luke Gauvin, it's closer to the latter.

"I use it five days a week," Gauvin said, mentioning that Google Docs was prominent in a multitude of his classes.

It's safe to say Google Docs isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Since the service can apply to so many classes, many teachers feel it is a great tool to utilize. For many students, Google Docs has become part of an everyday educational regimen that also includes services like PowerSchool and other technology-based platforms designed for education.

Tabor Adds New Dorm

Tabor Academy News

By Julia O'Rourke

Tabor Academy has just begun construction on its newest building - a larger, greener dormitory for students. The dorm will be named Matsumura House, in honor of a family who has donated to the funding of the project.

Tabor has 19 dorms that are scattered throughout campus, the largest of which houses 32 students. The smallest dorm is home to five students. At least four faculty members are "dormparents" who supervise the students and plan activities. Some of these dormparents live in houses or apartments that are attached to the dormitories. There are 55 faculty houses on campus where dormparents and their families reside.

The new dorm is being constructed behind Baxter House - a girls' dormitory located on Front Street - on the plot of land across from the Spring Street Fire Station. This location is accessible to students given its proximity to the main campus and is directly next to the Braitmayer Art Center and the Charles Hayden Library.

This dorm was designed by Saltonstall Architects and will be built with local materials, given Tabor's emphasis on the importance of sustainability. The math and science wing of Tabor Academy, which was re-done in 2005, was also designed by Saltonstall Architects and was LEED Gold Certified by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Although all dorms vary in age and layout, this dorm will not necessarily follow the layout pattern of old dorms and is designed to feel more like a home.

The dorm is not meant to accommodate an expanding student body, but will relocate current Tabor students.

Three smaller dorms, which are less efficient than Matsumura House, will house a few students. This house will be home to over 20 male students and their dormparents.

Tabor believes that "dormitories form the foundation of [their] boarding community," so the addition of an updated dorm will be a positive change to Tabor's campus and community.

The project, which began this January, will hopefully be ready to house students by this coming school year.

The groundbreaking of this new dorm can be viewed in a short video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiKOfO90pxQ&feature=youtu.be.

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