Fields Are Fine, Employees Oppose TM Article

“I’d like to put any rumors to rest about the ball fields,” said David Hughes of the Rochester Parks Commission. “These ball fields right now are running top notch.”

Hughes attended the Rochester Board of Selectmen meeting May 18 to dispel the previously discussed notion that the ball fields of Rochester are overcrowded this season and logistically unprepared for the vast use of the fields.

There was a late start to this year’s game season due to the snow and ensuing mud that encumbered the beginning first week or two. But as it stands now, Hughes said, the fields are busy hosting a number of different leagues in addition to the Little League, but there is room for everybody.

“We had a rough start,” said Hughes, but schedules have been worked out to avoid conflicts, including the use of the baseball diamond outfield for lacrosse games when there are no baseball games. “We’re also working with the schools,” said Hughes, hoping to access the soccer field behind Rochester Memorial School for a practice field. “It’s not the best field, but it is a field that they can practice on.”

Hughes had some ideas on future expansion, such as converting the parking area next to the skate park into a lacrosse and soccer field, which Hughes said is currently not used very much. He also tossed around the idea of taking land behind the Senior Center, which would increase the area of the Dexter Lane fields.

But with a limited budget of $15,000 for parks and recreation, money is tight, he said.

“If you’re looking to spend money,” said Hughes, “we don’t have it.” Hughes said the commission manages any shortfalls with private donations. “It’s a viable piece of property.

Hughes stuck around after his informal talk to present his Town Meeting warrant article to purchase a new water pump for field irrigation, which both the selectmen and the finance committee – present that night to make their recommendations – voted to support.

Also during discussion of the articles, things got heated between selectmen and members of the Rochester Emergency Management Services over an article proposing to space out the Personnel Plan Employee Step Rate Increases from a period of one year to two and three years in between steps.

Currently, non-union, non-contract employees are reviewed annually, and those rated highly proceed to the next step, which cuts off at step ten. The average salary increase per step advancement is three percent, plus any other cost of living and longevity increases. Board of Selectmen Chairman Richard Nunes said that averages to about a 4 to 5 percent pay raise every year an employee moves up a step.

“The whole idea of increasing the amount of years … is so, if you don’t max out in ten years, the town will save money,” said Nunes. “The whole idea was basically to save money.”

If adopted, the article to amend the Personnel Bylaws would affect four out of the 15 employees covered under the Personnel Bylaws.

“I don’t think it’s right we single out those four people,” said Volunteer Fire Department Captain Jeff Eldridge. He suggested amending the article to specify “new hires” only, and not current employees. “That would be a little more user friendly to those four employees.”

Town Administrator Michael McCue said the board has discussed the proposed article with the Personnel Board, which voted in favor of the article, and the group all agreed to apply the bylaw change to all employees rather than only new hires.

Chief Dispatcher Tracy Eldridge said, looking at the steps as presented, current employees “already committed to the town and stuck around would lose.”

“Wouldn’t it make more sense to flip it?” said Tracy Eldridge.

Nunes said the proposed change in the article reflects the federal employee step system, allowing for annual step increases until step four is reached, 104 weeks in-between steps up till step seven, and then 156 in-between steps up to step ten, the maximum step.

Tracy Eldridge and Captain Eldridge both made comments on amending the article on the Town Meeting floor to change the language to affect only new hires.

“A quick Band-Aid was thrown together in three weeks,” said Captain Eldridge. “…If we just adjust this Band-Aid a little bit, it will stop all this indecisiveness … at Town Meeting.

The Town budget already reflects the step increases for employees affected next year. Captain Eldridge said it was like “the rug being pulled out” beneath those four employees.

Also during the meeting, an article that selectmen removed from the warrant, which would allow members of the Board of Assessors to serve as appointed positions that report to the Assessors Office, was added back on after Assessor Diana Knapp presented a petition of 12 signatures.

The article was initially prompted by the recent election of Debra Lalli to the Board of Assessors. Lalli is currently a clerk that reports to the Board of Assessors. Selectmen voted to approve the request.

The next meeting of the Rochester Board of Selectmen is scheduled for June 1 at 6:30 pm at the Rochester Town Hall.

By Jean Perry

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Elks Student of the Month

The Elks of Wareham Lodge No. 1548 sponsors the Elks Student of the Month and Student of the Year Awards for students enrolled in local area high schools. The criteria used in nominating a student includes a student who excels in scholarship, citizenship, performing arts, fine arts, hobbies, athletics, church, school, club and community service, industry and farming.

We congratulate Senior Ryan Noonan of Marion for being selected by the Old Rochester Regional High School faculty and staff. Ryan has volunteered for the last two years with special needs students at Old Rochester Regional High School, helping them with academic and social skills. Additionally, since junior high Ryan has worked as a volunteer firefighter in Marion, eventually culminating in a paid position and newsworthy “Promposal.” His school spirit and exuberance have made him a fixture at the school and a constant source of school pride. Next year, Ryan will continue his fire studies at the University of New Haven. He will be missed dearly at Old Rochester.

Honoring Local Environmental Leaders

The Buzzards Bay Coalition invites its members and the public to learn about the organization’s past year of accomplishments to improve and protect the health of Buzzards Bay during its 27th annual meeting on Thursday, May 21 at Shining Tides at Camp Massasoit in Mattapoisett.

The meeting, which will run from 5:30 – 7:30 pm, is free and open to the public. At 5:30 pm, meeting attendees will enjoy a reception with fellow members and coalition board and staff. The formal part of the meeting, beginning at 6:30 pm, will include a brief discussion of the organization’s 2014 accomplishments, election of board members, and a presentation of the 2015 Buzzards Bay Guardian Awards and Volunteers of the Year awards.

The Buzzards Bay Guardian Award is the highest honor bestowed by the Buzzards Bay Coalition. Buzzards Bay Guardians must have demonstrated outstanding service in the cleanup, restoration or protection of Buzzards Bay. Their work may be as a citizen volunteer, an organization, or a public official or employee. Most importantly, a Buzzards Bay Guardian is an unsung hero or heroine who deserves public recognition, not only for what they have achieved but also for inspiring others to make a difference.

This year, the Coalition will present four Guardian awards that recognize leadership in addressing nitrogen pollution, conserving land, and protecting Buzzards Bay from oil spills. Recipients include:

Paul Niedzwiecki, Executive Director of the Cape Cod Commission, for his outstanding leadership in producing the Cape Cod 208 Water Quality Plan that charts a path for addressing the Cape’s nitrogen pollution crisis.

Jennifer Howard, Director of Land Protection at Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation, whose leadership on behalf of the Commonwealth supported the completion of the Nasketucket Bay Land Conservation Project that helped double the size of the Nasketucket Bay State Reservation.

Seth Scofield & Pierce Cray, Massachusetts’ Assistant Attorneys General, for a decade of excellent defense of the Massachusetts Oil Spill Prevention Act.

Joe Costa, Executive Director of the Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program, for a lifetime of outstanding service to the health of the Bay, including starting the Baywatchers water quality monitoring program.

The meeting is free and open to the public. Camp Massasoit is located at the Mattapoisett YMCA at 38 Reservation Road in Mattapoisett. For more information and directions to the annual meeting, contact the Buzzards Bay Coalition at 508-999-6363 or visit www.savebuzzardsbay.org/events.

Award-winning Children’s Author

Children’s author Loree Griffin Burns will visit Old Hammondtown School, Rochester Memorial School, and Old Rochester Regional Junior High School May 27, 28, 29 and June 1 to speak to students in Grades 5 through 7. Old Hammondtown School students will enjoy a program based on Ms. Burns’ book, Tracking Trash, Rochester Memorial School will focus on Citizen Scientists, and 7th graders will hear a program based on Ms. Burns’ latest book, Beetle Busters, about the Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation in the Worcester area.

The public is invited to a MOBY (My Own BackYard) event on Saturday, May 30 at 1:00 pm, when Loree Burns will present a citizen science program based on the Lost Ladybug Project. The program will begin at the Plumb Memorial Library in Rochester and move to a nearby field on Dexter Lane. Ms. Burns will teach children and their families to collect ladybugs, photograph them, and then upload their data to the Lost Ladybug Project website (http://lostladybug.org/) where their data will be used by scientists keeping track of North American ladybug species.

The Saturday program is part of the Tri-Town libraries project, My Own BackYard (MOBY) federally funded with LSTA funds through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. MOBY is a year-long science and nature exploration program for students in grades three through eight and their families.

To register for the library Citizen Science program on Saturday, May 30 at 1:00 pm, please call Rochester Library at 508-763-8600.

Boat Race Ham & Bean Supper

The Rochester Memorial Day Boat Race (RMDBR) Ham & Bean Supper will be held Saturday, May 23 at the Rochester Memorial School, 16 Pine Street in Rochester. The supper will be served from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, and tickets can be purchased at the door. Adults cost $10 and children under 12 are only $5. Beans baked by the best bean bakers in town, coleslaw and potato salad prepared by the Culinary Arts Department at Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School, rolls and brown bread. To top it all off, apple crisp prepared by Meredith of The Artisan Bake Shop will be served for dessert. Proceeds from the supper help offset the expenses of the race. This is the 81st anniversary of the race, and it remains one of the few racing events with no entry fees as it was in 1934 when it was started. Enjoy a great meal at one of the important social events of the year in our area. The more the merrier. Parking at the rear of the school, enter at the rear door. For additional information, please contact Arthur Benner, Chairman, RMDBR, 508-763-2024.

Two Fatalities in Mattapoisett Crash

Monday May 25, at 10:34pm Mattapoisett Police responded to a reported car crash on Fairhaven Road (Route 6) in Mattapoisett.   On arrival officers found a vehicle with severe damage. It appears that a 2002 Saturn owned and operated by Brooklyn Cody Rodrigues age 21, of 85 Middle Street Fairhaven, was traveling westbound on Route 6 (Fairhaven Road) when it appears the operator lost control of the vehicle, striking the curb. After striking the curb it appears the car rolled over and came to rest in the front yard of 83 Fairhaven Road.

Ms. Rodrigues and her passenger Meghan Sargent age 18, of 11 Jarvis Avenue Fairhaven were pounced dead at the scene.

Mattapoisett Fire Department and the Massachusetts State Police Accident Reconstruction team assisted the Mattapoisett Police at the accident scene.

Mattapoisett Police Department Press Release

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The Flora Foundation

On Sunday, May 17, Rachel McCoog’s senior project came to an exciting close as she planned and hosted a variety of events to raise money for her recently established Flora Foundation.

After attending a Learning Through Service trip with Tabor Academy classmates, McCoog was inspired to create her own foundation. The goal of the Flora Foundation is to assist single mothers in transitional homes with sending their children to day care and summer programs so that they can work and make a living.

McCoog’s foundation has developed over the past year as the number of families she has raised money for increases and she promotes awareness in the local and Tabor communities. For her senior project, McCoog focused on planning a variety of events to raise money for her cause.

McCoog is also co-head of the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), and this group has put on events that raise money for the foundation while promoting awareness for the GSA as well.

The weekend of activities kicked off with a Tabor fire during which bonfires were located around campus with different themes such as live music, s’mores, and games. Donation boxes were located at the fire in order to raise money for the Flora Foundation.

A paint dance was the next event on Saturday night. Money was raised through ticket sales and attendees were sprayed with paint upon entry. Lots of students came out for the event and about $600 was raised from the dance alone.

The biggest event of the weekend was the Lap-A-Thon on Sunday. Lots of student and faculty teams participated, and a dozen student volunteers assisted McCoog in running the event.

Local restaurants and businesses donated raffle prizes to the cause, and a large amount of the money raised came from raffle entries. McCoog found the support of the Tri-Town incredibly important in her efforts.

The Lap-A-Thon had a variety of themes. For the first half hour, there was live music and Emily Dineen performed for the crowd. Next was a color run in which powder was splattered on runners in lots of colors. Then there was a passport relay competition, and for each lap that a team completed, they received a stamp. The winning team earned free raffle tickets.

Perhaps most importantly, a family that the Flora Foundation is assisting was able to attend the event and meet the participants. The kids will be attending camp this summer as a result of the money that McCoog has raised and their mother will be able to have a chance to work.

Senior Abi Taber had a great time at the event and especially enjoyed meeting the children. Taber found it refreshing to participate in this unique cause and finds it exciting “to make a difference in their childhood.”

McCoog was pleased with her event and the money that she raised throughout her project, which totaled over $7000.

“I think that the Lap-A-Thon and my senior project were great successes and I couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support I have gotten from our whole community,” says McCoog.

Visit www.theflorafoundation.org for more information.

By Julia O’Rourke

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Town Optimistic about NPDES Progress

Town Administrator Paul Dawson told the Marion Board of Selectmen on May 19 that after a recent meeting with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, he felt that the Town’s concerns over the EPA’s draft National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit were “truly listened to” by DEP staff.

“All of the agencies represented at that meeting … came thoroughly prepared and asked a lot of good, thoughtful questions,” Dawson said. “I got the sense that they understood completely our point.”

Selectman Jonathan Henry accompanied Dawson to the meeting in Boston, and said he was impressed with the staff’s knowledge of Marion’s current situation, including the history of the creation of the town’s three wastewater lagoons the new NPDES permit no longer allows for use.

“I felt gratified that they paid attention to us and didn’t just say, ‘yeah, okay,’” said Henry.

Town Meeting on May 11 approved the appropriation of $455,000 towards engineering and legal research to assist the Town in convincing the EPA to reconsider the permit and allow Marion to devise alternative plans for meeting the pollutant standards of the NPDES.

“The DEP will assist the Town in working with the EPA and facilitating the meeting and try to get some of the larger concerns addressed,” said Dawson.

Dawson said it was a “fruitful” meeting.

“It sounds encouraging,” said newly appointed Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Stephen Cushing.

Also during the meeting, the board handed over responsibility of Goldovitz Bog to the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission after MOSAC member John Rockwell approached the board expressing the commission’s desire to maintain it.

Rockwell said the commission, in conjunction with other groups such as the Sippican Lands Trust, wishes to maintain the existing trails that interconnect with other lands trust properties. Rockwell said, without the authority to allow the trail maintenance, he cannot grant permission to alter the property unless selectmen grant that authority to MOSAC.

“That’s fine,” said Henry. “I think in most instances it’s been our desire to get it (the property) into the hands of the people who do this because we don’t.” Cushing said the property maintenance was “low on the radar screen” for the board.

Conservation Commission Chairman Norman Hills only cautioned the board and Rockwell that phragmites are taking over the site and, unless some kind of maintenance plan is established, they will choke out the wetlands.

“It’s going to be overrun in a short time if we don’t do something,” said Hills. “They’ll just fill up the bogs…. If we don’t do something, that stuff is going to get ahead of us.”

But with a budget of zero dollars, MOSAC does not have the money or the personpower to undertake a phragmite removal and maintenance project. Cushing asked aloud if this were a matter the selectmen would want to “throw money at.”

Hills warned that the longer it takes the Town to act, the more money it would cost.

The board decided to wait and see and granted overseeing authority to MOSAC.

In other matters, the board voted to accept the one single bid submitted for the Fourth of July fireworks display.

Selectmen awarded the contract to Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group for $32,750. The company also provided the fireworks display for the City of Boston over the Esplanade, and the board said the Town should expect a lot of “oohs and ahhs” on July 4.

The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for June 2 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Town House.

By Jean Perry

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Upper Cape Tech Graduation

The Upper Cape Tech graduation ceremony will take place Sunday, June 7 at 1:00 pm on the Upper Cape Tech campus. If inclement weather, the ceremony will be held inside the gymnasium at 3:00 pm.

Adult Literacy Tutoring at the Mattapoisett Library

A new program at the Mattapoisett Free Public Library offers the opportunity for adults and out-of-school youth over 16 to prepare for a high school equivalency diploma with the help of a tutor – for free. The new Hi-Set exam, which has replaced the GED test, is challenging for many, and this program will help students prepare at their own pace. Anyone is welcome to participate.

Tutoring is also available for those whose first language is not English but who would like to improve their English reading, writing, and conversational skills. “The cultural exchange is very enjoyable,” stated one tutor. “We love to have conversations about all sorts of topics and get to know one another.”

“It’s never too late to improve one’s reading skills,” offered library director Susan Pizzolato. “Adults sometimes come in for reading assistance who already have high school diplomas but want to read more fluently. Sometimes their motivation is wishing to read more confidently to their grandchildren. There are many reasons why someone doesn’t read at the level he wishes he could. This is a wonderful, discreet way to work with a caring adult who can help.”

The program also offers basic computer assistance and basic money management. These important skills can sometimes need brushing up, especially for older adults or those who never learned to manage a check book.

Volunteer tutors are paired with adult learners, depending on the educational goals of the learner and convenient times for both. Tutoring sessions are typically once a week at the library. All materials are provided by the library.

Anyone wishing to tutor is encouraged to contact Deena Kinsky by leaving a message at the library 508-758-4171 or emailing her at 2learn2read@gmail.com. No previous teaching or tutoring experience is necessary. Each tutor will receive training and an orientation to the program.

This one-on-one, confidential tutoring program has been funded with a grant from The Marianne J. H. Witherby Foundation. Brochures describing the program are available at the Mattapoisett Library, located at 7 Barstow Street.