Helen A. Arthur Scholarship

The Sippican Lands Trust is seeking applicants for its “Helen A. Arthur Scholarship.” A monetary award of up to $1000 is available to a Marion resident who is a graduating senior from any secondary school by June 2016 and is preferably pursing an education in environmental studies or a related field. Please postmark a completed application by May 15, 2016 and mail to Sippican Lands Trust, Attn: Scholarship Committee, 354 Front Street, Marion, MA 02738.

The scholarship is made available through the Sippican Lands Trust Scholarship Fund. This fund was created and named after Helen Adams Arthur (1940-2008). Helen was a beloved resident of Marion who had a deep interest in the preservation of the beautiful open spaces in town, reflecting the mission of the lands trust.

Those interested in applying should visit the Sippican Lands Trust website www.sippicanlandstrust.org to download the application. Applications will also be available at the SLT office located at 354 Front Street, Marion next to Uncle Jon’s Coffee. Call 508-748-3080 or email info@sippicanlandstrust.org for more information.

ORR Looks to Keep Narcan On Premises

The two Old Rochester Regional school nurses and school doctor Dr. Jason Reynolds asked the Old Rochester School Committee on April 13 to allow the school to keep a supply of Naloxone, known as Narcan, in the nurses’ offices in the case of a drug overdose at the school.

“We can’t go a day without hearing something on the news,” said junior high school nurse Linda Deveau. Looking at the statistics, she said, “You can easily see this upward trend … the alarming trend continues.”

It is a health crisis, said Deveau.

Drug overdoses have surpassed traffic deaths in 31 of the United States, “and unfortunately, New England is in that area,” said Deveau. New England is in fact, she said, higher in drug overdose deaths than the national average.

“Unfortunately, we’re living in an area that really got hit hard with this,” she said.

High school nurse Kim Corazzinni added, “We are seeing way too many of these overdoses.” She added that the governor has declared a state of emergency and new laws are being crafted to address the issue, in particular allowing the possession of Narcan at schools.

“It’s really continuing, it’s increasing, and it’s becoming an everyday topic,” said Corazzinni.

In Massachusetts, Corazzinni said 133 high schools already have Narcan available on the premises, and she is hoping ORR will be the next.

Narcan, she said, works by “kicking out” the opiate drug from the body and cannot be abused because there is no other use for the drug and one cannot overdose on Narcan.

Corazzinni said there is a program that grants free Narcan to schools, and a two-dose kit usually costs $40.

“You have someone who’s stopped breathing … the sooner you give it, the better,” said Dr. Reynolds. “From a physician’s standpoint, this is like a no-brainer.” He continued, “We don’t want to wait until someone dies at one of our schools at a dance, at a football game, at a basketball game….”

The school nurses would be the ones at the school to administer Narcan in the event of an overdose.

“Teachers, family, deliverymen, substitute teachers, students, I mean, there’s just so many people coming through our doors and there’s just so many people in our area,” said Deveau.

The first step would be to devise a policy and protocol to follow before allowing Narcan to be kept at the school.

“We have to stop thinking about opiates being a problem of the socioeconomic class because … it’s not something that’s confined to the inner city or a poorer town,” said Reynolds. “It’s (heroin) cheap, it’s easy to get … and we see it all the time.”

The school committee expressed support for the request, yet took no action until a policy could be brought to them first.

“The best practice right now is for the doctor to work with the nurses,” said Superintendent Doug White.

“This is just one of the tools in our toolboxes,” said Corazzinni.

The next meeting of the Old Rochester Regional School Committee is scheduled for May 11 at 6:30 pm at the junior high school media center.

By Jean Perry


Selectmen, Not Town Meeting, Approve New Debt

In a 2-1 vote, the Rochester Board of Selectmen took the advice of the Finance Committee and approved acquiring $224,000 in debt to fund the Old Rochester Regional five-year capital plan instead of holding a special town meeting to allow voters to approve the bond. The board held a special meeting on Thursday, April 14, to address the matter.

According to Finance Committee Chairman Kristian Stoltenberg, next fiscal year the town’s debt burden will decrease by $68,000 annually. With a drop in the town’s debt service of $68,000 next year, it will accrue $59,000 for the town’s assessment of the ORR capital plan.

“So we [still] have another $17,000,” said Stoltenberg. “There’s that room to plug in another capital item.”

Chairman Naida Parker and Selectman Brad Morse both agreed with Stoltenberg’s opinion that the move made sense from a budget point of view.

“I don’t see … the need to hold a town meeting for something that we can do … within our budgetary constraints and cost the town money,” said Stoltenberg, adding that it would be fiscally prudent because the new debt remains within the levy.

Selectmen in Mattapoisett recently approved the new debt without town meeting approval, but Marion has placed the item on its May 9 town meeting warrant. Town Administrator Michael McCue explained that Rochester faced a 60-day limit to take action on the capital plan debt and the town’s June 6 Town Meeting was past the deadline. Selectmen could either unilaterally approve the debt, hold a special town meeting ahead of the annual that would cost the town extra money, said Stoltenberg, or take no action and accrue the debt by default.

Nonetheless, Selectman Richard Nunes was uncomfortable circumventing a town meeting vote in Rochester.

“If we did have time for this, do what [Stoltenberg] said, but still be a vote, I would just like the voters to have some input on it and not simply swap out … old debt,” said Nunes. “The voters could very well say that they approve of the entire capital plan, but in the end, it’s not my money, it’s the taxpayers’ money.”

McCue explained that Massachusetts General Law allows selectmen to vote to accept the new debt without town meeting approval.

“It allows for this sort of expenditure in this sort of a setting to just go through,” said McCue. “Town meeting doesn’t have to vote … they’d just be voting to allow the process to move forward.”

If the matter did go through town meeting, and the voters rejected the debt, said McCue, then the ORR School Committee could move forward with the call for a ballot vote for the three towns. The outcome would be based on the majority vote from all three towns put together, not by whether the voters of each town pass it.

“It’s very odd … we can do it without input from taxpayers, it being such a large expenditure of public money,” Nunes said.

Stoltenberg assured Nunes that the FinCom does not make these decisions lightly.

“I think we’re doing a service to the town … and hopefully they understand this,” Stoltenberg said.

Nunes emphasized that he was simply expressing his desire to have taxpayers weigh in on the decision. He voiced concern over voter backlash at town meeting.

“This debt will be approved by the town of Rochester today,” said Stoltenberg. “It’s not going to the annual town meeting where it’s going to be shot down.”

Nunes still wanted voter input.

Morse made the motion to approve the debt then turned to Nunes and said, “As much as I understand what you’re saying … I think that, given the situation and the two other towns … it makes more sense to do this now so we don’t have ORR turning around … and adding it back in to the operating budget and making a bigger problem for us.”

Parker seconded the motion.

“I would really hate to see it go back into the operating budget,” Parker said. “I have a feeling that’s exactly what would happen.

The selectmen scheduled their next meeting for Tuesday, April 19, due to the Monday holiday.

By Jean Perry


William J. Purtell

William J. Purtell, 51, of Marion passed away Wednesday April 20, 2016 due to complications from a spinal cord injury.

Born in Sumter, South Carolina, he lived in Mattapoisett and Marion for most of his life.
Bill was a fishing boat captain and boat owner in the New Bedford commercial fishing fleet, and the owner of M.E. Fisheries. He formerly managed Ketcham Traps in New Bedford.

He enjoyed motorcycles, motorsports, hockey, and NASCAR.

He is survived by his children, Emma Bea Purtell and Louis Maxwell Purtell and their mother Ruah Mendes of Marion; his mother, Patricia A. (Burton) Purtell and her companion Dennis Costa of New Bedford; his father, William B. Purtell of Bristol, RI; his brothers, Scott Purtell of Mansfield, Timothy Purtell and his wife Kristin of Melbourne, FL, and James Purtell and his wife Colleen of Somerset; his companion, Elizabeth Haskell; and seven nieces and nephews.

His Memorial Service will be held on Saturday April 30, 2016 at 10 AM at the Wickenden Chapel at Tabor Academy, Spring St., Marion. Visiting hours are omitted. Memorial donations may be made to the Travis Roy Foundation, c/o Hemenway & Barnes, LLP, 75 State St. 16th Floor, Boston, MA 02109. Arrangements are by the Saunders-Dwyer Mattapoisett Home for Funerals, 50 County Rd., Mattapoisett. For online condolence book, please visit www.saundersdwyer.com.

Lacrosse, Track, Baseball Off to Big Starts

By Thursday, all sports teams had started their season, but bad weather continued to haunt the 2016 season. All games on Tuesday were postponed to rain, though most were made up on Thursday. So far, the baseball team has outscored opponents 22-3 and Girls’ Lacrosse is off to a 3-0 start, making both teams the favorites to win SCC titles. Boys’ Lacrosse, Boys’ Tennis, and both track teams are off to strong starts as well.

            Baseball: The Bulldogs had two games early this week, starting out against Fairhaven High at Pope Park in Acushnet on Monday. Junior ace Sam Henrie picked up where he left off, striking out five against two walks and giving up one hit and one run in a 12-1 win. Sophomore Jake Asiaf and juniors Will Hopkins and John Breault had two hits apiece, making for 11 on the day. Hopkins’ triple and Henrie’s two-run single were the key offensive plays of the game, and senior Hunter Parker helped Henrie out with some spectacular defense at second base. On Tuesday, they were scheduled to play Seekonk at home, but the game was pushed back to Thursday. The delay didn’t have much effect on the Bulldogs, as they stormed over the Warriors 10-2. Hopkins pitched five scoreless innings with two strikeouts to get the win. Parker supported him with a big game, reaching base and scoring three times and adding a steal. Senior DH Bryant Salkind drove in two runs on three hits and a sac fly. This week, the boys are on the road to face the Dighton-Rehoboth Falcons on Monday morning. They follow that up with a pair of morning home games: against Wareham on Wednesday and non-conference Coyle-Cassidy on Friday.

            Softball: To start the week, the Lady Bulldogs faced Fairhaven High. They wound up losing 9-8 in an intense season opener. The girls planned to play an away game versus Seekonk on Tuesday afternoon, but rain pushed it back to Thursday, where they lost 7-2. They came right back to play non-conference Diman Voc. on Friday afternoon, but unfortunately lost 8-6. This week, they’ll be home to play Dighton-Rehoboth on Monday before traveling to Wareham to play the Lady Vikings on Wednesday.

Boys’ Lacrosse: The Bulldogs were scheduled to start their week with a game against Apponequet at home on Tuesday, but it was pushed back to Wednesday due to rain. Junior Landon Gougen was clearly ready for the first conference game of the season, as he contributed five goals in a 10-8 victory. The game was a seesaw battle, and Gougen turned the tide with three straight goals to bring the game from 6-6 to 9-6. Junior Charlie Tirrell and sophomore Pat Kiernan both scored two goals and added an assist apiece in the victory. Freshman goalie Nathaniel King was a key cog in helping the ‘Dogs hold on for their win. The boys were on the road to play Bourne on Friday afternoon. Gougen scored five goals and surpassed 100 for his career, a remarkable feat considering he is only a junior. Terrell scored three goals and added an assist, while junior Pat Saltmarsh and sophomore Alex Lorenz each scored two. The boys have a pair of home games this week, as they prepare to take on Fairhaven on Wednesday and Dighton-Rehoboth on Friday.

            Girls’ Lacrosse: The Lady Bulldogs were on the road to play Apponequet on Tuesday, but rain moved the game to Thursday, and later Saturday. They took on Bourne at home on Friday, winning easily in a 14-4 romp. Junior Emily Hiller and sophomore Kat Tracy were the standouts, scoring three goals and contributing four assists and a goal, respectively. Sophomores Madison Cooney and Alexandra Hulsebosch, as well as senior Sarah Ryan, all scored two goals in the win. Against Apponequet, the girls had to fend off a late surge from the Lady Lakers, but still won 12-8. Cooney had another big game, with four goals and four assists, while Hiller had her second straight three-goal game and Ryan once again scored two. Both Hulsebosch and sophomore Ava Ciffolillo had a goal and an assist. This week, the Lady Bulldogs are on the road to face Fairhaven (Wednesday) and D-R (Friday).

            Boys’ Track: The Bulldogs took on non-conference Durfee on Thursday, winning 100-36. Juniors Danny Renwick and Eli Spevack carried over their success from winter and were double winners in their opening meet. Renwick won the 100m hurdles (15.6) and high jump (6-0) while Spevack won the 400m hurdles (61.3) and triple jump (39-2). Senior Will Santos debuted with a win in the 400m, running 54.8, while his brother Evan Santos won his race, the 200m, with a time of 23.7. Most of the team’s runners went to Seekonk to take part in the SCC Relays on Saturday, where despite many absences due to vacation, they ran well, finishing 2nd to D-R. This week, the boys will play host to the Freshman-Sophomore meet on Friday morning and will also participate in a few invitationals.

            Girls’ Track: The girls started off the week at Durfee on Thursday. The Lady Bulldogs waltzed to a 97-33 victory behind a trio of state-qualifying performers. Senior Zoe Smith won the triple jump (32-10) and the 100m hurdles (16.1); sophomore Madisen Martin won the 800m (2:34); and senior Maddie Meyer won the 2-mile (12:08). They also brought most of their squad to the SCC Relays at Seekonk on Saturday, where they put together several strong relay teams to win the meet. The girls will be at home for the anticipated Freshman-Sophomore meet on Friday morning, in addition to a few invitational meets.

            Boys’ Tennis: The boys were supposed to be home against Bourne on Tuesday, but the game was moved up to Monday to avoid rain, and the Bulldogs responded with a clean sweep of the Canalmen. Singles players Alex Bilodeau, Maxxon Wolski, and Caleb Jagoda all won their sets, while both doubles tandems took (6-1, 6-0) victories. Those teams were made up of junior Josh Lerman and sophomore Jahn Pothier, and juniors Colin O’Malley and Max Asker, respectively. On Thursday, the boys faced off against Fairhaven High at Hastings Middle School. Singles wins from Jagoda, Bilodeau, and sophomore Sam Pasquill led the ‘Dogs to a 5-0 win. The doubles pairings of Pothier/Lerman and Wolski plus freshman Geoffrey Noonan represented the other two wins. The Bulldogs will be home to take on the Seekonk Warriors on Tuesday before traveling to play non-conference Dartmouth High Saturday morning.

            Girls’ Tennis: The Lady Bulldogs aimed to begin the week at Bourne on Tuesday afternoon; however, rain postponed the game to Monday, April 25. Their game against Fairhaven, originally scheduled for Thursday, was pushed back unexpectedly to April 22, so the team wound up with an off week. The team also has games against Seekonk on the road on Tuesday morning and non-conference Dartmouth High on Saturday.

            Below are the overall spring team records, followed by the conference records in wins, losses, and ties as of April 17.

Baseball: (2-0-0)(2-0-0); Softball: (0-3-0)(0-2-0); Boys’ Track: (1-0-0)(0-0-0); Girls’ Track: (1-0-0)(0-0-0); Boys’ Lacrosse: (2-1-0)(2-0-0); Girls’ Lacrosse: (3-0-0)(1-0-0); Boys’ Tennis: (2-0-0)(2-0-0); Girls’ Tennis: (1-0-0)(0-0-0).

By Patrick Briand


Silent for a Cause

On Thursday, April 21, Tabor Academy’s Gay Straight Alliance hosts the annual Day of Silence. The Day of Silence is a national event started by GLSEN (the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) that is designed to show support for members of the LGBT community who feel they need to keep part of their identity hidden in order to be accepted by the community.

Throughout the day, students and teachers can choose to wear a red ribbon, signifying that they will be silent. This silence mimics the feeling of suppressing how you feel or what you really want to say in order to be accepted by those around you. They can also opt to wear a white ribbon if they support the cause but do not wish to be silent.

The current leaders of the GSA, Olivia Kaszanek and Lulu Ward, are working with Grace Douvos and Emily Dineen, who plan to take over the club next year. The four of them have planned and organized the day together.

To raise awareness for the day and the cause, the GSA organized a “NOH8” (or “No Hate”) video. NOH8 is another national campaign against bullying and LGBT discrimination.

Tabor’s NOH8 video, following the model of the campaign, had volunteers get NOH8 painted on their cheeks and place duct tape over their mouths. Students and teachers took pictures, both individually and in groups, which will be used in a video shown at an All School Meeting to promote the day.

“To me,” said Douvos, a future GSA leader, “the Day of Silence is really about raising awareness of the silencing effect of anti-LGBT discrimination and supporting the LGBT community.” Her biggest hope is that after participating in the day, “People will more thoroughly understand what some LGBT people have to go through every single day,” and will want to be more involved in the GSA.

Kaszanek agreed, saying that it’s a “powerful day” in the Tabor community. She hopes it makes Tabor “a more open and accepting community” as they become aware of the many people who “struggle to stay silent about their sexuality, a huge part of their identity.”

In the past, many students and faculty members have chosen to stay silent or wear white ribbons to support the cause.

WARD, co-head of the GSA, says that this is one of her favorite events that the GSA hosts. The day is not about flashy fundraising or fun celebrations, which of course have their place. Rather, it is about the community coming together for a cause.

By Madeleine Gregory

Oceanic Eddies and the Monsoon

Tabor Academy will host a Science at Work Lecture Series Event entitled “Oceanic Eddies and the Monsoon” on April 28 at 6:30 pm at the Tabor Academy Stroud Academic Center, 232 Front Street, Marion.

Dr. Amit Tandon is the next Science at Work Lecturer at Tabor Academy.

Dr. Tandon, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the College of Engineering and the School of Marine Science and Technology at UMass Dartmouth, is also a physical oceanographer. Tandon studies mixing of the upper ocean at multiple ranges from millimeters to hundreds of kilometers in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

The study of ocean mixing and its interaction with the lower atmosphere is critical for the prediction of tropical weather systems like the monsoons. Monsoons and tropical cyclones impact the safety of ships at sea in the Indian Ocean, as well as the economy and life of billions in Asia. Monsoons also have a direct impact on the global weather, and therefore also affect us. However, predicting monsoons remains an unsolved challenge.

Tandon is one of the chief scientists of the U.S.-India collaboration called ASIRI-OMM (Air Sea Interactions in the Northern Indian Ocean-Regional Initiative – Ocean Mixing and Monsoons) with ten oceanographic institutions in the U.S. and eight institutions in India. He is leading over 50 scientists who are collectively trying to unlock the oceanic mysteries in the northern Indian Ocean and its connection to the monsoon in this international effort.

The evening lecture on “Oceanic Eddies and the Monsoon” will include a tank demonstration of ocean circulation driven by density contrast in the ocean, combined with some results from Tandon’s recent research in the Northern Indian Ocean.

Tandon is a Fulbright specialist scholar awardee and enjoys tabletop “weather in a tank” experiments. His research is funded by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the U.S. National Science Foundation. For more information, see http://www.umassd.edu/engineering/mne/people/facultyandstaff/amittandon/.

He has been published in Journal of Physical Oceanography, Ocean Modeling, Science (Online), Deep Sea Research, Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans, Journal of Fluid Mechanics and Physica-D.

This lecture is free and open to the public.

Tour de Crème

Enthusiasm is building for the Tour de Crème. Riders from six states and 35 Massachusetts towns will join Mattapoisett residents on Sunday, May 22 to ride bikes, sample ice cream and fundraise for Friends of the Bike Path and Mattapoisett Land Trust. While the two shorter rides have already sold out, slots are still available on the 48 mile ride and there is plenty of opportunity to join the fun by volunteering or fundraising. Go to www.Tourdecreme.org to help one of your friends earn a fundraising prize. Or better yet, start a fundraising effort and win the prize yourself! Friends of the Bike Path and Mattapoisett Land Trust are truly grateful for the enthusiastic response and we look forward to the day: Rain or Shine!

Autism is a Wanderer

When I watch my boy walk away down the path to school, it feels like my heart is outside of my body and wandering off into the world, away from my ability to protect, vulnerable to pain, potential suffering, and to annihilation.

I imagine every mother feels that way as she watches her heart walk away or board the bus every day. We wave good-bye to our heart and sigh and hope our heart makes its way back home at the end of the day, back safely where it belongs.

Just like my feet are pulled to the ground by the forces of gravity, my has-been-broken, breakable, will-be-broken-again actual heart is governed by another invisible force in my world: autism. Autism is at the center of it. I revolve around it like a clumsy satellite in a topsy-turvy trajectory. It defines my chaotic order; I am governed by its natural law.

The autism mom’s heart does wander. It wanders sometimes to the forbidden land of ‘what-if’. It wanders through the darkness of night and it fumbles back towards the light of day. But what no one ever told me when I first entered this place was that my figurative heart could one day literally wander away from me, it could bolt at any second, for autism is a wanderer and not the metaphorical kind.

Over half of autistic children have an inherent inclination to wander off. In the autism community, it’s formally known as elopement. My little one was a “bolter,” meaning one second I’d be searching through the diaper bag for a sippy cup and some goldfish crackers and three seconds later he’d be halfway across the playground running towards the street. He, like many kids with autism, has almost no sense of danger, compared to my own overwhelming sense of it.

One time while living in Ottawa, Ontario, the doorbell awakened me at 6:30 in the morning.

A strange woman was holding my non-verbal two-and-a-half year old. She picked him up in the middle of the street, running wild and free in his pajamas and bare feet at the end of the street. She just happened to notice my wide-open front door as she drove by and then pulled over to catch my little wanderer and bring him back to me.

Last night, while scrolling through my Facebook feed, my heart skipped a beat and sank – again. Another mother’s heart went wandering and this was an alert for the public to help find her heart and bring him home again. I said the same thing I always say. “Please, God, not another one…”

Unless you are like me, immersed in autism and receiving email alerts and Facebook posts related to all news autistic, you may hardly ever hear of such incidents. There were six that came to my attention just in April alone, and thankfully none turned tragic.

If you have heard of this phenomenon happening before, I would bet it was one particular incident a few years ago when another mom’s heart wandered off on his own and never came home.

Back on October 4, 2013, a 14-year-old non-verbal autistic boy named Avonte Oquendo went missing after walking away from his school in Queens, New York in the middle of the day. Avonte would never return to school again, never return to his family, and never leave the collective consciousness of an expansive community of parents and loved ones whose biggest fear came true for one of their own.

For months, authorities searched for Avonte who was prone to wandering. Despite his mother’s warnings to the school, Avonte was able to escape, and 15 minutes went by before teachers realized that he was not in class. It took a half hour for the school administration to find out, and an hour before public safety officials were made aware.

A city, a country prayed for his safe return but as time went by, most lost hope – except Avonte’s mother.

Even on January 13, 2014, when police reported that an arm, legs, underwear, size 16 jeans, and size 5½ Air Jordan sneakers washed up in the East River, Avonte’s mother still maintained, “It’s not Avonte until it’s Avonte.” They identified the remains as belonging to Avonte some five days later. A mother’s heart was broken.

Autistic children are drawn to the water. Accidental drowning is the No. 1 leading cause of death of children with autism. When an autistic child goes missing, the first place family and first responders will search is any nearby water sources.

Most elopements occur during family gatherings, outdoor events and activities, times of transition such as moving to a new home or starting at a new school, or during times of stress when an autistic child might bolt or escape on his or her own.

Parents are often blamed when this happens, but the sobering truth is that elopement has been reported as a major stressor in the families affected by autism and families already often feel unsupported and isolated in their autism journey. They avoid outside activities and outings because of it. They lose sleep over it.

In a 2011 survey conducted by the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Interactive Autism Network (IAN), parents reported that only one in seven families received advice from a pediatrician or other pediatric specialist on the concerns of autism-related elopement. Two out of three families reported a close call with traffic and about a third of the families reported a near drowning.

Elopement is a major concern in the autism community. As a result of the tragic loss of Avonte’s life, new legislation has been introduced to help further the safety of children with autism who wander, through awareness and monitoring technology used to track an autistic child’s whereabouts should they go missing.

Kevin and Avonte’s Law of 2016 addresses autism-related elopement as well as Alzheimer’s-related wandering. This legislation provides grants to law enforcement agencies and non-profits to provide training to prevent wandering and implement lifesaving technology programs to find individuals who have wandered.

Many of us in the autism community have been stunned by a recent report that shows people on the autism spectrum live shorter lives, on average 18 years less than neurotypical peers. Not because autism itself shortens the lifespan of people with ASD per se, but because of correlating health conditions and the higher risks the diagnosis poses.

The leading causes of death for young adults and adults with autism are epilepsy and suicide, according to a recent study in Sweden.

According to the study conducted by Autistica and published in The British Journal of Psychology, compared to the global average age of death of 70.2 years for those without ASD, the average age of death among people with ASD and no intellectual disability was 53.87 years, while for people with ASD and intellectual disability it was 39.5 years.

Those are some pretty tough statistics to process for a parent like me whose heart that wanders might have a shorter journey than someone else’s.

I believe, in my unabashed and almost fatalistic acceptance of autism in the Divine Plan of all things here on earth and in the human experience, autism can do two things for humanity – parents, family, friends, teachers, strangers on the street. It can bring out the worst, the cruelest, the most apathetic, the darkest pieces of a person or the absolute best, the highest form of kindness, the purest levels of love in existence.

Sometimes I say out loud, “I’m so lucky to be an autism mom.” You might ask, “How?” since that concept of ‘lucky’ is far from society’s concept of lucky. But the truth is, being touched by autism has made me a better person, a better mother, a better me. It’s given me strength and compassion for others, not to mention lightening-fast reflexes.

My little wanderer has led me towards a deeper meaning of what it means to be alive. If you’re lucky enough to know someone with autism, you realize they can show us what it truly means to love and the meaning of truth, of purity. Autism can even teach us about what it really means to be human. It could make us kinder, more open, more accepting of everyone. It could even save the world.

By Jean Perry


Chairman Overrules BOH Interference

A special permit request to build a two-story house on an Old Indian Trail property, which abutters claim is the source of problematic neighborhood flooding, appeared further in jeopardy after a letter from the Board of Health asked the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals to table the application until a recently noted alleged BOH matter at the site could first be resolved.

ZBA member Betsy Dunn, who is also a member of the Board of Health, read a statement and letter dated April 13 from the BOH to the ZBA regarding fill that was placed at the property, which the letter states “is in direct conflict with the requirements of Title 5 of the State Environmental Code.”

Written by Health Director Karen Walega, it states, “[The Board of Health members] are recommending that you table a decision regarding the ZBA special permit until the area is reconstructed to the satisfaction of the Board.”

The fill, which came up during the last public hearing for 20 Old Indian Trail, was purportedly placed near the septic system right up against an existing stone wall, a source of flooding water onto neighboring properties, neighbors allege. The septic system was deemed functioning in accordance with the plan, but subsequent fill to the specific location was not part of the original Board of Health approved plan.

The additional fill directs stormwater off the site, said Dunn, “So the Board of Health has sent a letter stating that … they did not follow the as-built plans.”

“They need to remediate that,” said Dunn. “Until it’s remediated, it does not seem as though we (the ZBA) can make a decision.”

Engineering representative for property owner OIT Realty Trust c/o Jacqueline Gaffey, Dana Nilson, asserted the ZBA special permit was an entirely separate matter and, furthermore, the plans to build a stormwater retention system, of which there currently is none, would mitigate the neighborhood’s concern of water runoff, regardless of the alleged fill issue with the Board of Health.

“Ironically,” Nilson continued, “the Town paid for the installation of the septic system and was responsible for the engineering of it … the construction, the approval … so it didn’t follow a plan, it’s not the Gaffeys.”

The board discussed the matter at length, with some members expressing concern over Dunn’s position on the septic fill and how the ZBA application would add a secondary problem into the mix.

Neighbors in attendance also clung to the fill theory as a source of the flooding on their yards, while Nilson struggled to convince them that the proposed stormwater retention system is what was needed to solve the flooding issue, saying, “It’s a tactic to delay this…”

Nilson asked Dunn, if the grading by the septic system and the stone wall was addressed, would that satisfy the board?

“…I don’t know, I’m only one member of the board [of health],” said Dunn.

ZBA Chairman Eric Pierce said trying to mitigate the flooding with a roof run-off system in the special permit plan was “a good step … that would show a reduction (in run-off).” He pointed out that the Gaffeys’ engineer and the town’s engineer have gone back and forth and come to an agreement on the effectiveness of the proposed stormwater retention system.

“We are correcting the problem,” said Nilson. “You have to have some faith here. If we do nothing, then the situation is not improved…. Anything with the septic system has nothing to do with whether this solves the problem.” Nilson continued, “It’s a bad problem. This is going to be the solution.” His visible frustration was mounting.

Dunn replied, “I, for one, can’t say. I can’t give the go-ahead until I know the engineers have looked and remediated the problem that’s causing the flooding.” She said the next step would be the BOH meeting with the engineer.

“It’s a separate issue,” asserted Nilson.

Pierce agreed with Nilson, saying he found the two matters to be separate issues.

“We’re making a huge difference,” argued Nilson. “No one in the neighborhood seems to grasp that.”

Nilson turned to Dunn and brought up her position on both the BOH and the ZBA and asked her if she should even be voting on the matter after bringing the BOH into it.

“I don’t know,” said Dunn after a period of silence. “I will not vote if that’s what you want…. It’s never been a problem.”

ZBA member Bob Alves said, “They’re two separate issues. Can we address this issue first because he’s provided everything that he’s supposed to?”

“Typically, the other issue isn’t our problem right now,” said ZBA member Marc LeBlanc.

The debate went in circles for a while, with the same oppositions and same defenses until Dunn said, “We could do this all night.”

Pierce suggested closing the hearing to take the matter under advisement.

It’s conjecture at this point,” he said of the septic fill matter with which the BOH was concerned. “All we can deal with is this.”

The board voted 4-0 to take the matter under advisement. Dunn did not vote.

In other matters, a special permit request for Garrett Bradley of 8 Park Street was withdrawn.

The next meeting of the Marion Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled for April 28 at 7:30 pm at the Marion Town House.

By Jean Perry