In-Town Report 2-28-2010


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In-Town Report 2-28-2010

  1. 1. Salaries, benef its push Chelmsford to limit By Rita Savard, 02/21/2010 CHELMSFORD -- It was a record-breaking year for unemployment, housing foreclosures and homelessness across the state and the nation. By the end of 2009, Chelmsford's average single-family tax bill climbed nearly $200 while public services were slashed. But as residents pay more for less, 35 town employees earned six figure salaries and overtime wages increased by more than $60,000 last year. Despite layoffs last year, skyrocketing health-insurance premiums -- the town pays 75 percent of employees healthcare costs -- haven't enabled the town to see any kind of cost savings, said Town Manager Paul Cohen. "We don't have the funding to pay for pay increases because the cost of health care is rising so much," Cohen said. "We're spending more than $10 million to pay health insurance." In addition to the three dozen employees earning six figures, another 30 workers grossed salaries in the $90,000 range, while two dozen brought home paychecks in the neighborhood of $80,000. Superintendent Donald Yeoman was the town's top income earner, making $162,537.42 in 2009, followed by Department of Public Works foreman Larry Ferreira, who made $155,250.75. Overtime from snow and ice clean-up during the December 2008 ice storm, which Cohen called " extraordinary circumstances," bumped up pay for several DPW workers. Total overtime pay across all departments climbed from $1.1 million in fiscal 2008 to $1.6 million in fiscal 2009. The reason was that more police and firefighters were on sick leave, Cohen said. Among the six-figure earners, 19 were police officers. Paid details and Quinn Bill educational reimbursements, which the town does not pay, pushed nine of those officers over the $100,000 threshold. Police Officer Stephen Fredericks, for example, earned $72,565.49 in base pay. Details and Quinn reimbursements raised his total to $102,866. Fredericks was one of four police officers out on long-term injury leave. He was absent 137 days in 2009. Despite the size of the town's payroll, the number of employees has shrunk. The total number of full-time equivalent positions last year was reduced by 46, almost 5 percent. But rising health-insurance costs and pensions have canceled potential savings from last year's layoffs. About $1 out of every $10 for the town's operating expenses goes toward health insurance. In addition to turning down an offer to join the state's Group Insurance Commission health plan -- a move that town officials say would have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars -- union representatives rejected an alternative Blue Cross plan. Co-pays, which are currently $15 for doctor's visits, would have gone to a tiered system ranging from $10 to $25, Cohen said. Surgeries, which are now free, would have jumped to $100 for outpatient procedures and $200 for in-patient procedures at a preferred hospital. Three-month prescriptions, now ranging from $10, $20 and $30, would have also increased to $20, $40 and $90. Cohen said switching to the alternative plan would have saved Chelmsford $1.5 million. But union leaders have argued that the switch would have hurt seniors and others who are on fixed incomes and who rely on multiple medications. After the health-insurance plan was hammered out last year, president of the Chelmsford Federation of Teachers, Kathryn Chamberlain, said all of the town's unions worked hard to contain health-care costs, adding that last year the premium only went up by 2.6 percent, "which is amazing in this economy." Cohen said he's not optimistic that the town will be able to rein in health-insurance costs anytime soon. State lawmakers must first vote to give cities and towns the power to circumvent unions on deciding healthcare coverage.
  2. 2. "The governor doesn't support it," Cohen said. "We don't see any traction in the Legislature either. They don't want to interfere in the collective bargaining process." In the end, Cohen said all the town wants is the same authority that the state has when it comes to choosing more affordable health care. As town officials begin renegotiating contracts for all the town's unions this year, talks of salary freezes will most likely return to the table, he said. Since fiscal year 2002, the average single-family property tax bill has jumped from $3,711 to $5,267. Taxpayers did see a decrease on their taxes in fiscal 2009, with bills dropping from $5,105 in fiscal 2008 to $5,069. But this year taxes jumped again. In 2008, when the last Census survey was completed, the median household income in Chelmsford was $82,676. "It's a struggle to find money now to maintain jobs and services," Cohen said. "I don't know how we'd be able to afford it. There's no ability right now to fund pay increases." *********************************************************** Following are all Chelmsford employees who earned more than $100,000 (gross pay) in 2009: The Lowell Sun 02/21/2010 Town Lawrence Ferreira (DPW) $155,250.75 Paul Cooper (police) $115,597.22 James Murphy (police chief) $148,967.70 Bruce Darwin (police) $113,370.81 James Spinney (police) $147,193.30 Jim Sousa (fire) $110,726.20 Colin Spence (police) $146,810.77 Joseph Gamache (police) $110,502.24 Paul Cohen (town manager) $142,610.57 Robert Murphy (police) $109,168.66 Jack Parow (fire chief) $142,027.48 Jeffrey Bernier (police) $103,055.55 Scott Ubele (police) $140,766.18 Stephen Fredericks (police) $102,866.09 Edward Smith (police) $139,814.25 Leo David (police) $102,268.22 Joseph Eriksen (DPW) $137,749.22 Michael Curran (fire) $100,932.02 John Long (DPW) $133,092.43 James Durkin (fire) $100,858.61 Dan Ahern (police) $131,735.95 Schools Ed Quinn (police) $131,104.32 Donald Yeoman $169,537.42 Phil Dube (police) $130,472.62 Karen Mazza (retired) $137,949.96 Jim Pearson (DPW) $127,789.42 Bob Cruikshank (retired) $121,208.88 Francis Goode (police) $125,110.04 Thomas Weldon $120,242.98 Todd Ahern (police) $124,367.61 Bruce Forster $104,907.00 John Roark (police) $123,510.27 Frank Tiano $104,153.01 Gary Hannigan (police) $123,006.81 Denise Rainis $103,946.44
  3. 3. Chief presents $5.36 million police budget Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 19.FEB.10 Police Chief Jim Murphy presented a $5.36 million level service budget for fiscal 2011 to the Finance Committee Thursday night. The majority of his budget, $4.6 million, is to cover personnel costs with an additional $726,079 for expenses including money to replace the sidewalk in front of the station and to replace officers’ handguns. Personnel cost increases cover about $91,000 in step increases for about 16 employees, said Murphy. But that means the current policy of four patrol officers on duty during each shift Sundays through Wednesdays will continue. “It is at inadequate levels. I firmly believe that,” said Murphy. “But there’s no way I could maintain the budget with five officers per shift.” Murphy believes he will again receive grants, which currently allow him to bump up staffing to five officers during prime times Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, for the next year. However, with current staffing levels, Murphy’s overtime budget is already 98 percent tapped. “Overtime has been a challenge,” said Murphy. “With only four on a shift, if someone calls out, you have to re- place them with (someone on) overtime.” Of course the No. 1 issue this year is the lack of state funding for the Police Career Incentive Program – the Quinn Bill – and what it means for Chelmsford officers. “It’s a big issue,” said Murphy. “I, as someone with a master’s degree, I obviously support additional education for officers.” Under the Quinn Bill, an officer with an associate’s degree earns an additional 10 percent of base pay. A bachelor’s degree brings in an additional 20 percent and a master’s adds an additional 25 percent. On the Chelmsford force, 35 out of 49 police officers have earned a degree. In the past, the town covered 100 percent of the Quinn Bill costs, which in fiscal 2009 was $396,000, and received a 50 percent reimbursement from the state. Recent cuts in the governor’s budget, however, decreased the reimbursement rate. For fiscal 09, the town only received $35,000 in reimbursement instead of the anticipated $190,000. Language in the Chelmsford officer’s contracts provides the town the ability to recoup, from officer’s paychecks, the amount the state should have covered. “There’s some discussion if that is legal,” said Murphy. “I understand the times and I do believe it would be inherently unfair to throw this back on the town.” Murphy said he believes an educated police force is worth the extra costs. Educated officers have less civilian complaints and less departmental complaints than officers without a degree. “Has the job description moved to a point where you need a degree?” asked Finance Committee Chairman Mary Frantz. Currently, the Chelmsford Police is a civil service department, meaning applicants must have a high school diploma or GED and pass a civil service exam to be considered for the job. “If I have two candidates sitting there and one has a bachelor’s degree, he or she has dealt with di- versity issues at college and shown they can learn in a classroom,” said Murphy.
  4. 4. ON THE AIR 2/17/2010 Merrimack Valley Radio in the Morning WCAP Radio 980 Chelmsford Byam School parents Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen Cullen give an update on the progress CLICK HERE to of talks around the Byam (Holiday) gift store on the Listen morning radio show at 980 WCAP ********************* 2/20/2010 Saturday Morning Live WCAP Radio 980 Warren Shaw and Dennis Ready CLICK HERE to Slow Growth Initiative director Craig Chemaly. Listen Chelmsford residents calling in to the show were: Fran McDougall - TM REP Precinct 1 Sam Chase - Former Selectmen Philip Eliopoulos - Former Selectmen Clare Jeannotte -- Current Chairman of the Board of Selectm ********************************************************************************************** IT R 2/26/10 Talk show master Tom Christiano set up a televised debate between Chelmsford landmark Dennis Ready and Tyngsborough’s Craig Chemaly director of the Slow Growth Iniative to debate the topics of slow growth, 40Bs and housing in Chelmsford on March 10th. This week Tom received an email from Craig Chemaly cancelling his upcoming Debate Show appearance with Tom and Dennis Ready. Craig said that some people very close to him have asked him not to do the debate. Tom called Craig to discuss it with him, but he will not change his mind about it. Tom then sent Roland Van Liew (one of the founders of SGI) an email inviting him to do the show "in lieu" of Craig. But Roland declined stating: “Your most frequent guests are famous liars or self-promoters: Eliopoulos, Ready, Stansfield et al. They historically have had little regard for truthful presentation of factual information. I am not interested in helping to provide legitimacy or some sort of additional platform for their prevarications.” “Tom, you spend 51 weeks a year providing unfettered access to self-serving corrupt officials, and then offer a lay resident one "debate" format to appear on your show. Sorry, but that's absolutely sophist and disingenu - ous on your part. It's unacceptable to any reasonable person. You just keep on doing what you do, and enjoy yourself.” The chatter on the Chelmsford Face book community was in full force over the news. One of SGI’s harshest critics Town Meeting Rep Fran MacDougal wrote: I am so surprised and disappointed in the young man. Who would have guessed that along with being a spreader of non-truths that he is also chicken. Oh my, oh my! John, I am sure, is completely embarrassed by his son's shenanigans. John worked all his life to establish his good name, gave it to his son, and the little boy chose to sully it. Roland is the adult who should know better and he, in my opinion, is entirely at fault here. Good for you, Tom, for calling him out. Bravo.
  5. 5. TUBE TALK The DEBATE SHOW This Debate Show, hosted by Tom Christiano, CLICK HERE for Show features Sam Chase debating John Edward on the topic of the Chelmsford Mobile Home Property Taxes. Sam Chase is the Chairman of the Chelmsford Board of Assessors, and John Edward is an Adjunct professor of Economics at Bentley University. POLITICALLY INCORRECT * * *# # # # # * * *************** With Tom Christiano 14th ANNUAL BOARD OF SELECTMEN DEBATE Candidates: Matt Hanson Jon Kurland Pat Wojtas CLICK HERE for Show
  6. 6. SELECTMEN CANDIDATES DEBATE Hot points in Chelmsford: ambulance service, 40B Chelmsford By Rita Savard, 02/24/2010 CHELMSFORD -- In their first debate on the campaign trail, selectmen candidates clashed over in-house ambulance service and repealing the state's 40B affordable housing law. Incumbent Pat Wojtas and candidates Jon Kurland and Matt Hanson found a lot to agree on last night as they fielded questions on the set of Politcally Incorrect, a local cable access show hosted by Tom Christiano. But a few sparks flew when Kurland grilled Wojtas on a vote she took in 2008 that opposed switching Chelmsford's ambulance service from a private company to the Fire Department. "Your vote prevented it from going to Town Meeting," Kurland told Wojtas. "As a result, the firefighters had to turn back a $525,000 federal grant." Kurland, a seven-year member of the town's Finance Committee, wanted to know why Wojtas felt it was necessary to prevent some issues from reaching the floor of Town Meeting for broader discussion. "Part of the role of the Board of Selectmen is to be the voice of the community," Wojtas said. "There are situa- tions where the board should take a leadership role on some of these decisions. This was one." After reviewing the report from the town's appointed ambulance study committee -- which ultimately voted against an in-house ambulance -- and factoring start-up costs, Wojtas said she felt now was not the right time to switch service. The federal grant award would have had to be matched by the town at some point, Wojtas added, and she couldn't see when the town might be able to afford that in the current fiscal climate. Christiano asked all three candidates if they thought the controversial issue should be studied again. Kurland and Hanson both agreed it should. Wojtas said times change and there might be a need to study an in-house ambulance again, but not now considering the issue was just examined two years ago. All candidates are backing a ballot question for a $5 million debt exclusion to relocate the Department of Public Works to 9 Alpha Road, saying it's fiscally smart for Chelmsford in the long run. The plan to relocate the DPW has been scaled back to a phased-in approach for a total of about $11 million, down from $31 million last year. The contenders also agreed that implementing a local options meals tax last year of 0.75 percent was beneficial. Since the tax was implemented in October, the town earned $32,000 in the first two months and local restaurants are still attracting plenty of business. "When you think about the 9 percent sales tax in Nashua, 7 percent in Chelmsford seems like a bargain," Kur- land said. When Christiano asked how the candidates would vote on repealing the state's 40B affordable housing law, the trio was reminded they did have some differences of opinion. Wojtas said she would vote no on repealing the law. A member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Affordable Hous- ing, Wojtas said much work is being done to find ways to successfully bring control of the law back to cities and towns. Giving communities the upper hand would be better than abolishing the law, Wojtas said. Currently, the 40B law allows developers to circumvent zoning rules in communities that have less than 10 percent of affordable housing stock. Kurland said if the statue changes to benefit communities before the issue lands on the ballot, he would most likely vote against it. But if it remains the same as it is today, he will probably vote to repeal. "It's just a poor policy and a bad law; 40B doesn't create affordable housing," said Matt Hanson, adding that he supports creating a new law that really works for communities. "I do have faith that there will still be affordable housing if the 40B law is repealed." Candidates for the Board of Selectmen will debate the issues again on March 4, at a forum hosted by the Chelmsford Business Association at the Radisson Hotel.
  7. 7. Chelmsford’s Election Season Quote of the Season: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results -
  8. 8. Race is on for school board By Rita Savard, 02/17/2010 CHELMSFORD -- It's an elected office that has flown under the radar for the past four years. But after yesterday's deadline to turn in nomination papers for the town election ballot, it looks like the School Committee will have its first contest since 2006. Incumbent Evelyn Thoren and newcomers Janet Askenburg and Jack Wang are eyeing two open seats on the School Committee. Askenburg, who sits on the Chelmsford Economic Development Committee and has two children in town schools, got an early start on the campaign trail. On Jan. 11, she became the first School Committee candidate to return the list of signatures needed to qualify for the ballot. A financial and corporate tax consultant, Askenburg said she'd like to use her busi- ness experience to help Superintendent of Schools Don Yeoman draw up a five-year plan for the school district. She's also running to promote more transparency in government. "What I don't see is a lot of openness from the committee to new ideas and reaching out and hearing from the public," Askenburg said. "I'd really like to focus on that. That's a good starting point for developing a strategic plan. These are our schools, and parents should be heard." Thoren, a member of the School Committee since 1998, agrees that all parents should have a voice in how the schools are run. "It's their children we're educating," Thoren said. But when it comes to trans- parency, Thoren said as long as she's been on the School Committee it's always been a priority to make the school budget as clear to the public as possible. “All the numbers are out there," she said. "It's just a matter of how the public accesses the informa- tion." The School Committee makes documents available online and at the School Administrative offices, and provides updates on televised meetings, Thoren said. The school district's budget, she added, has grown less than 2 percent each year. "We must be doing something right in Chelmsford for the governor to visit and see what we're doing with little money so he can share that with other cities and towns," Thoren said. If re-elected, one of Thoren's top goals is working to map out a long-term financial plan for the district, as well as lobby for state and federal dollars in her role as Division One chair of the Massachusetts Associa- tion for School Committees. Wang, a graduate of Chelmsford High School who works as a financial adviser, was unable to be reached for comment yesterday. A three-way race has also shaped up for the Board of Selectman seats with incumbent Pat Wojtas and candidates Matthew Hanson and Jon Kurland vying for two open seats. The only other contest for town-wide office is on the Board of Library Trustees, where incumbents Lisa Daigle and David Braslau, as well as challenger Richard Mahoney Jr., will race for two openings. The cut-off to register to vote in the April 6 election is March 17 at 8 p.m. If a voter is not able to go to the polls they can vote by absentee ballots. Applications are available on the town's Web site or voters can send in a handwritten request. The ballot must be mailed or filled out in per- son at the Town Clerk's Office. A ballot cannot be hand-carried out of the office.
  9. 9. MEET THE CANDIDATE for SCHOOL COMMITTEE T. Jack Wang Candidate for Chelmsford School Committee As a long time resident of Chelmsford and a product of our school system (CHS ’89), I am grateful for the opportunity to give back and help at least maintain and ultimately improve our schools and community. On weekends through the Fall, Winter and Spring, you will often find me on the side- lines of a basketball court calling plays or on the little league field signaling to baserunners. I’ve often been told that it is easy to find me – I yell to the players rather loudly! On the field, I encourage my players to try hard and have fun regardless of the outcome. As a coach, win, lose or draw, I want the kids to learn and have fun. But when it comes our school system and town in general, issues do not have the innocence and simplicity of a kid’s game. After all, there are ‘wins’ and ‘losses’ aren’t there? We’re dealing with people and their livelihoods, children’s futures, and our ability to set them up for success. “Even better if…” For years, I worked for commercial banks lending money to small businesses. I would see financial statements, projec- tions, business plans, etc. and unfortunately I had to turn many loan requests down. However, before I did so, I often would work with the business to find another way. Most banks would simply say ‘No’ and that was the end of the discussion. Instead, I asked more questions. Looked closer at the numbers. Tried to come up with alternatives. But ultimately I believed that I could help in some way even if it meant that the original idea of getting a loan couldn’t work. When it comes to schools, a typical response today is ‘Cut’ or ‘No we can’t do that’ when faced with a challenge and that is the end of the discussion. I understand that there are always constraints. As a School Committee member, I will bring a new perspective and fresh voice to taking on these challenges. Ulti- mately, it is the responsibility of the Committee to find a way - to keep asking questions and try to improve our schools. The ‘even better if…’ phrase is borrowed from a friend. I like it because it if you keep asking the question on how to make things even better, then people will keep trying to find a way and simply accept the status quo. “Draw me a picture…” When I work with clients today in my own financial practice, I often ask people to envision their future and determine what they really want. What are their goals? Draw me a picture. Money is simply a tool to get there. Similarly, when thinking about how to improve schools, there are certainly a lot of opinions. And there are no short- age of measures such as standardized testing, graduation rates, and class size. But if I were a total stranger to Chelmsford, how would I know we are doing well? What are our goals? What does ‘good’ or even ‘great’ look like? How will we know when we get there? I strongly believe in developing a strategic plan. Whether it is a one year, three, or five year plan is somewhat irrele- vant. Instead, the process of asking questions, determining goals, and then having something to measure against is the key. Businesses do this. And the school system, in every sense of the word, is a business. This is also something I participated in as the Chairman of the Board at the charter school years ago. It was a great experience and of utmost importance. Otherwise, it’s like trying to drive to a new place without knowing where you are going without a map or GPS. You’ll just waste a lot of gas… For me, the bottom line is that I am a parent of two middle school children. I want a great school system. I want them – and all children – to be successful. Looking back, I appreciate the quality of education I had, so ultimately I want to give back. I believe my strength is combining my business, finance and public education board experience together. In turn, that will help me ask great questions. I know I don’t have all the answers but I also know that we can do better. And on April 6th, I hope you will join me in drawing that picture and making our schools and community even better.
  10. 10. ASK THE CANDIDATES (The School Committee) Evelyn Thoren Question 1 - In your opinion what is the School Committee's biggest weakness and what is the School Committee's biggest strength? The School Committee’s biggest weakness is the lack of adequate funding. Increased monies would provide better edu- cational programs for all children, no fees to parents, and professional opportunities for staff. The School Committee’s biggest strength is the devotion and commitment of its members to give of their time and tal- ents to work for students, parents and staff. Question 2 - What do you think about holding quarterly public input sessions devoted strictly to hearing com- ments from the public? (Much like the sessions the Board of Selectmen hold at the senior center) I would support having more meetings for public input or developing more meetings that address clearly defined issues. The School Committee holds Public Sessions on the budget each year. In the past there have been other issues raised at these meetings that were also addressed. One of the first School Committee meetings that I attended in the late ‘80’s was at South Row School on a controversial Holiday Policy. The School Committee over the years has held their meetings at different schools each month so that parents would have less travel time to our meetings. At these meetings, time was designated for any issues that parents had at their respective school besides the regular agenda items. When there was an important issue like closing Westlands, program changes at the high school, and building projects, to name a few, the School Committee had many public meetings.
  11. 11. Question 3 - There is a concern that some students have been smoking pot in the rest rooms within the Chelms- ford High School and that they have allegedly been bringing illegal drugs onto the school grounds. Should you win the election to the school committee, what actions would you recommend that the school de- partment take to tackle this problem, if it does, in fact, exist? Also, do you think drug sniffing police dogs should be brought into the high school to search for illegal drugs on school property? Illegal drugs cannot be tolerated in the Chelmsford Public School system. The School Committee has a policy on drug sniffing dogs that I helped develop. I do not have any objection to having the dogs or police presence at any school, if the situation warrants it. The School Department has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Chelmsford Police Department. The Superin- tendent works with the Police Chief and the high school principal is involved in those discussions and other issues that impact the safety and well being of our students and staff. If there are any similar issues at any other school the Superin- tendent, the Police Chief and the respective principal work together. Question 4- Do you think the superintendent of schools and a representative of the Chelmsford school commit- tee, along with a representative of the Byam PTO, should meet with the two parents of Byam school students who wish to sit down with them, at this time, to talk about the Byam School gift room policy? ( Please consider the fact that a letter was sent to the School Department, from an attorney representing the two parents, stating that they may file a law suit if this meeting with the representatives noted above does not take place in the very near future.) The School Committee is responsible for the hiring the superintendent, establishing policy within the district and establishing an annual budget. The School Committee does not have any jurisdiction over 501 (3)(c) non-profit organizations, such as the Byam PTO and, as such, is not authorized to direct individual principals on the day- to-day activities of a particular school. The first responsibility of parents that wish to offer new ideas for school activities is to work with the sponsoring group, in this case the PTO, in sufficient time to develop a program that is appropriate for everyone. Given that it is now the beginning of 2010 and discussions with the PTO for end-of-year programs are beginning to take place, this certainly allows plenty of time to evaluate new approaches. Because individuals seeking changes to the Byam gift policy have threatened litigation, it would be inappropriate for the School Committee or its members to comment further on this topic. The School Committee can easily provide their opinion on issues that recommend changes to programs and policies. The time for those discussions is not when one party takes the issue to the press and threatens a lawsuit. With regard to holiday programs and policy, now is a good time to open discussion in that area. If the Superintendent, the new principal, members of the PTO and the two parents wish to sit down and have discus- sions on the Gift Room, the School Committee should not oppose the communications and desire towards consensus, given that it is not a subject under its jurisdiction.
  12. 12. JACK WANG Question 1 - In your opinion what is the School Committee's biggest weakness and what is the School Committee's biggest strength? I believe that the biggest strength of the current School Committee is the level of institutional knowledge and memory. With members who have some perspective on the history of the school system and how and why things are the way they are (either good or not so good) is valuable. Further, I do truly believe that the current school committee members do care about the school and ultimately the children. However, I believe the Committee’s strength can also be its greatest weakness. With all of the budgetary challenges that the schools have and will continue to face, some complacency has set in. But times change. Conditions change. Values change. Today, rather than thinking creatively or asking questions about the status quo, the common answer today is akin to saying “that’s how we’ve always done it’. Committee members have to step up and ask tough questions, such as: Perhaps there is a better way? What circumstances have changed that now require a change in our process and thinking? Are the assumptions made five years ago even true today? I would like to help change the thinking to “how can we make this even better?” rather than settling for the same old thing. Question 2 - What do you think about holding quarterly public input sessions devoted strictly to hearing comments from the public? (Much like the sessions the Board of Selectmen hold at the senior center) I believe that holding a quarterly input session would be valuable. A common objection is that the Committee has an open forum during their meetings. While that is true, an opportunity to hear from the public is great. What are the public’s concerns? What questions do they have? After all, how can the members of the Committee represent the community if they don’t know what the community wants? Another common objection to these types of meetings is that no one would show up. But that isn’t the point is it? It’s giving people the opportunity to show up. If people choose not to, then that is their decision but at least the Committee gave them a chance. In addition to allowing the public to have input, these sessions would be a great opportunity to communicate successes. Publicizing our great academic results, or winning grants or anything that shows the school system is doing well would be a great idea in my opinion.
  13. 13. Question 3 - There is a concern that some students have been smoking pot in the rest rooms within the Chelms- ford High School and that they have allegedly been bringing illegal drugs onto the school grounds. Should you win the election to the school committee, what actions would you recommend that the school depart- ment take to tackle this problem, if it does, in fact, exist? Also, do you think drug sniffing police dogs should be brought into the high school to search for illegal drugs on school property? As a parent of two middle schoolers, including one who will be at the high school next year, this question takes on an extra level of importance for me. I also have heard the rumors and anecdotes of drug use at the high school. However, before we develop a solution in search of a problem, the School Committee should work with the Administration and Police Department to investigate. Is there truly a problem? If so, to what extent is it an issue? There is no question that I believe our schools should be drug free. But before we react to hearsay, let’s learn and investigate. The last thing anyone wants is to spend valuable resources and then to find out there was not a problem to begin with. As for drug sniffing dogs, I would leave the specific tactics to the Police and Administration. The bigger question is one of individual privacy versus the collective well being. For me, there is no contest. In schools, an individual’s right to privacy takes a back seat to the overall safety of the entire school. If the problem really exists outside of school (at home, for example) then as citizens we have Constitutional protections. But schools are meant as safe places to learn and grow and the Committee should do as much as it reasonably can to keep it that way. Question 4- Do you think the superintendent of schools and a representative of the Chelmsford school committee, along with a representative of the Byam PTO, should meet with the two parents of Byam school students who wish to sit down with them, at this time, to talk about the Byam School gift room policy? ( Please consider the fact that a letter was sent to the School Department, from an attorney representing the two parents, stating that they may file a law suit if this meeting with the representatives noted above does not take place in the very near future.) This was an unfortunately situation that got completely out of hand and turned Chelmsford into front page fodder for national media. Whether you agree with the policy or not, I see this as ultimately a failure to communicate and to understand each other. Given the current circumstances, I see no reason why there shouldn’t be a meeting between the parties. The School Committee should deal with strategic level issues and this issue is really between parents, the Byam PTO and Byam administration. At this point, what is there really to lose? If such a meeting doesn’t take place, isn’t that really an invitation to sue? Without meeting, isn’t that sending the message that the there is still an unwillingness to communicate and understand? Further, I am not an attorney but when people sue, the plaintiff is usually looking for something. People sue to recover damages, or to get a job back or some sort of tangible outcome. What is the goal here of the suit? The point of asking and discussing is to try to reach a common ground. Without understanding what the parents really want, then how can the Committee resolve this? Perhaps the parents simply want validation? Or they want money? Or they want to put the Administration in dunk tanks? Who knows? Instead of waiting and spending valuable time and money as a defendant in a court of law, why not spend some time communicating.
  14. 14. JANET ASKENBURG Question 1 - In your opinion what is the School Committee's biggest weakness and what is the School Committee's biggest strength? I believe the School Committee’s biggest weakness is their lack of a five year strategic business plan. Without a long term plan and strategy, they are left with no choice but to be reactive, versus proactive, to the school district’s financial challenges. The biggest strength of the School Committee is that they actively lobby to correct the inequities of Chapter 70 funding. Question 2 - What do you think about holding quarterly public input sessions devoted strictly to hearing com- ments from the public? (Much like the sessions the Board of Selectmen hold at the senior center) Proactively asking for and listening to the concerns, ideas, and feedback of the parents and the community regarding our schools is essential for a healthy partnership between the School District and the community. I have seen the positive impact of the Board of Selectmen’s public input sessions, and often wondered why the School Committee does not offer the same. When I made the decision to run for School Committee, the idea of quarterly public input sessions was an immediate priority of mine. As I mention on my website (, I would like to see each session have a particular theme, such as “enrichment programs,” while also providing an open forum for any parent concerns. Question 3 - There is a concern that some students have been smoking pot in the rest rooms within the Chelmsford High School and that they have allegedly been bringing illegal drugs onto the school grounds. Should you win the election to the school committee, what actions would you recommend that the school department take to tackle this problem, if it does, in fact, exist? Also, do you think drug sniffing police dogs should be brought into the high school to search for illegal drugs on school property? We need to ensure the safety of all children in our schools. Working in cooperation with the police department, Dr.Yeoman, and the Principal, I would recommend a lock down of the school so that drug sniffing police dogs can be brought onto school property. A review of drug awareness and education initiatives should be conducted. Question 4- Do you think the superintendent of schools and a representative of the Chelmsford school committee, along with a representative of the Byam PTO, should meet with the two parents of Byam school students who wish to sit down with them, at this time, to talk about the Byam School gift room policy? ( Please consider the fact that a letter was sent to the School Department, from an attorney representing the two parents, stating that they may file a law suit if this meeting with the representatives noted above does not take place in the very near future.) As elected town leaders, the School Committee should ensure there is good communication between the School District and community and encourage reasonable solutions to problems. Since there will be a new Byam Principal and possibly a new Byam PTO (due to normal turnover and election of officers), I recommend the two parents should wait to meet with the new Principal and PTO once they are both in place. If these parties cannot work together to find a reasonable solution, then it should be elevated to include the Superintendent.
  15. 15. Bomb threat at high school under investigation By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Feb 25, 2010 Chelmsford — Chelmsford High School went into a 15-minute lockdown on Thursday morning while officials, police officers and firefight- ers searched the building after a bomb threat was found in the boy’s bathroom the day before. According to an e-mail CHS Principal Anne O’Bryant sent parents on Wednesday afternoon, a student informed adminis- trators of a written threat on a boys bathroom wall referring to a bomb on Thursday, Feb. 25. Police were immediately called to the campus to investigate the threat. “After the police investigated and took pictures of the threat, they did not feel that it was a credible threat,” O’Bryant wrote, adding that the school went into lockdown on Wednesday to look for anything suspicious. O’Bryant sent out a ConnectEd notification to all parents on Wednesday evening about the threat. School Superintendent Dr Donald Yeoman said he was at the school on Thursday morning during the lockdown in addition to four police officers and firefighters. “Safety is always a predominant concern,” he said on Thursday afternoon. “Everything was checked and is okay. I kept call- ing back and checking [throughout the day] asking, ‘what have you learned? What do you know?” O’Bryant sent a second e-mail out on Thursday afternoon informing parents that it was business as usual at CHS and the police department and administration are looking into leads of different students who may have been involved with the threat. ******************************* Chelmsford selectmen OK billboard contract By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Feb 23, 2010 Chelmsford — A divided Board of Selectmen gave Town Manager Paul the green light Monday night to enter into a 20-year agreement with a Boston vendor for Chelmsford’s first billboards on town owned land. Despite a dissenting vote from Chairwoman Clare Jeannotte the board allowed Cohen to enter into contract with Capital Advertising and Splash Media Group for two billboards with the potential to generate $132,000 per year for the town. Capi- tal Advertising was the highest of three vendors for a billboard, which will be located near Chelmsford High School with $72,000. The Boston advertising group was also the highest bidder for the second billboard slated to be located on Route 3 north- bound near Route 40 with $60,000 per year. The contracts also provide for a 2 ½ percent increase per year. With now a known chance of $130,000 in revenue for the town, Cohen said it is in the town’s best interest to enter into the contract with the entity and move forward as soon as possible. “My sense is we do the due diligence of the town and move forward,” said Cohen, adding that the company is a credible and viable entity. “Let me remind the board that we’ve gone through this twice at Town Meeting.”
  16. 16. Affordable housing proposal for disabled veterans in the Westlands ITR 2/26/10 According to town manager Paul Cohen, David Hedison of the Chelmsford Housing Authority is seeking $400,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to help finance the conversion of existing residential dwelling located at 9 Manahan Street into housing units for disabled veterans. The Community Preservation Committee will be holding a public hearing on this article and other requests for Community Preservation funds on Wednesday evening, March 17. ----------- The house at 9 Manahan Street currently owned by Charlie Wojtas (brother of current Selectman Pat Wojtas) suffered fire damage in May of last year. According to Hank Houle, fire & explosion investigator for the town of Chelmsford, the fire was ruled accidental. The house was in the process of being renovated at the time and the fire was probably caused by spontaneous combustion after the sawdust and vapors from the floor finishing materials mixed. The house at the time sustained about $40,000 worth of damage, said Houle. At spring Town Meeting on April 26th an article relating to this project will be voted on, ARTICLE 21. To see if the Town will vote to appropriate a certain sum of money from the Community Preservation Fund Community Housing Reserve, and from the Community Preservation Fund General Reserve, to the Chelmsford Housing Authority for the creation of Community Housing on a 17,600square-foot parcel of land that is located at 9 Manahan Street and is identified as Lot 4 on Assessors Map 52, Block 243; or act in relation thereto. David Hedison, Executive Director Chelmsford Housing Authority when asked to comment for the In-Town Report wrote - ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ We are planning on constructing a duplex that will pretty much mirror the front of the existing build- ing but extend further back. The duplex would be for veterans that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. We would not exclude veterans if they were from other wars. We have seen a number of veterans seeking assistance through the Bedford VA and in partnership with the Bedford VA --- we would work to make this a reality. About 10% of the Chelmsford population are veterans. We had hoped to do something at the North Town Hall for the veterans. Manahan Street backs up to a whole neighborhood of duplexes, there is a large multifamily and commercial. We felt that this location would be a benefit to the veterans that need access to grocery stores, bus line etc. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ When asked if this project will meet local zoning laws or have to be brought in using the Chapter 40B law to skirt local zoning regulations, David Hedison wrote that at least for now the project should be in line with Chelmsford’s zoning.
  17. 17. From a flyer that went out in the mail to the residents of the neighborhood : Please support our proposal to help serve the veterans that have served our country. The Chelmsford Housing Authority in partnership with the Chelmsford Housing Opportunities for Intergenerational and Community Endeavors, Inc. is proposing an up and down duplex residence at 9 Manahan Street. Each unit will be four bedrooms and provide housing to the veterans that have served our coun- try. The unit on the first floor will be handicapped accessible. These veterans could have brain injuries from war or even have lost limbs. The one common factor is that they have all served our country and currently need affordable housing. The $400,000 from the Community Preservation Committee will be matched by almost $1 million of State and Federal Funding to make this project a reality. In addition, the CHA will be providing almost $500,000 of rental assistance over the life of the project. Based upon the 2000 Census, there are about 3,000 civilian veterans in Chelmsford. This represents about 10 percent of the total population. This project will provide a local preference. It is our hope that you will help us make a difference and provide affordable housing to veterans that have served our country. We need $400,000 to make this happen. This project is in its early stages. As we move forward, we would like to keep you informed. Please feel free in emailing our office at You may also contact our office at Chelmsford Housing Authority 10 Wilson Street Chelmsford, MA 01824 (978) 256-7425 x16 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- David Hedison and the Chelmsford Housing Authority are also seeking $75,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to help with 5 units of family affordable housing on Highland Ave. in North Chelmsford. CHA is seeking a total of $475,000 form the Community Preservation Fund for the two community housing projects. The Community Preservation Committee needs to make a positive recommendation for it to be on the warrant for the April 26 Town Meeting. The Community Preservation Committee will be holding a public hearing on this article and other requests for Community Preservation funds on Wednesday evening, March 17.
  18. 18. Rehab costs: $5.3 million By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Feb 19, 2010 Chelmsford — The price to rehabilitate the town’s two historic town halls will cost upward of $5.2 million, according to a report recently compiled by Kang Associates and the town’s Permanent Building Committee. The committee revealed the results of its six-week-long study to the Community Preservation Commission and Historic District Commission at its meeting last week. The report calculated total construction and proj- ect costs of cost of $2.85 million for the North Town Hall and $2.56 million for the Center Town Hall. Permanent Building Committee Chairman Dave Dwayne said while the price tag is large, it includes the costs for both buildings. “The numbers are rather large, obviously,” he said. “[But] based on the amount of time we had and all the consultants with six weeks you can’t really look too deep. I felt the numbers were reflective of six weeks of work.” “The costs at first blush appear higher than I had hoped or anticipated for, but the architect did explain that the proposals are comprehensive and address many needs which are going to face us in the future maintenance of the Center Town Hall,” Selectmen Chairwoman Clare Jeannotte said in an e-mail. Dwayne said the consulting architect Kang Associates indicated the town could save in the ballpark of $137,000 if it undertakes both projects simultaneously. The goal in rehabilitating the North Town Hall will be to provide a location to foster a community center with space for volunteer tutors from Chelmsford High School and University of Massachusetts at Lowell, games, after-school programs for middle school students and rental space for community organizations. According to the building committee presentation, the work required for the North Town Hall requires struc- tural repairs, structural upgrades including handicap access, installation of toilet facilities and restoration of windows and the auditorium. The goal for the Center Town Hall developed by the Town Hall Utilization Committee is for a performing arts center similar to the Bedford Center for the Arts. The center would hold events such as plays, comedy nights, music recitals, gallery openings and dances. The Town Hall Utilization Committee revealed its rec- ommendations for the two town halls on Oct. 5. Affordable housing option These recommendations are a sharp turnaround from the Chelmsford Housing Authority’s proposal in January 2009 to turn both town halls into affordable housing. CHA Director David Hedison proposed turn- ing the Old Town Hall into 10 one-bedroom apartments and four studio units. Under the proposal the build-
  19. 19. ing would have included between 1,200 and 1,500 square feet of public space open to the community. Hedison proposed that North Town Hall be converted into 17 studio apartments with preferred placement for veterans. Hedison emphasized the town’s need for more affordable housing – citing a 7- to 10-year wait for the 1,387 names on the Chelmsford list at the time. But residents sharply objected to the affordable housing proposal and sought to keep the buildings com- munity-accessiblee. Both North Chelmsford residents and those living in the area near the Old Town Hall each formed movements in February 2009 against the push for affordable housing in the historic buildings. The CHA suspended its effort to redevelop the town Halls in March 2009. After the protests, Town Manager Paul Cohen requested the Board of Selectmen approve a Town Hall Uti- lization Committee to develop a vision from groups interested in using the buildings. The board formed a five-person committee in March 2009 to study how the buildings can best be used. What’s next The Community Preservation Commission will now examine the proposals over the next month. CPC Chairman Bob Morse said the commission will look closely at how well the projects meet the historic preservation goals. “[We now need to] discuss the impact the projects will have on the ability of the CPC to support fu- ture open space, affordable housing and historic preservation aspects,” said Morse. “I was impressed with the scope and detail of the cost estimates and preliminary design work needed to arrive at the estimates,” he said. Cohen said the commission will not make any decisions until its public hearing on all the Town Meeting warrant articles on March 17. But the commission needs to make a positive recommendation for it to be on the warrant for the April 26 Town Meeting, he said.
  20. 20. Officials: 'Crisis' if voters ax DPW plan By Rita Savard, 02/23/2010 CHELMSFORD -- If voters reject a new and cheaper plan to relocate the Department of Public Works, town officials say it could place Chelmsford in a "crisis situation." "You can't keep putting off, putting off and putting off," Town Manager Paul Cohen told selectmen last night. "There comes a point where it will become such a (debt) hole, it'll just be taxing the town to try and get out of it." Presenting a breakdown of the scaled-down DPW facility to town officials last night, Cohen said the phased-in approach - - now totaling about $11 million, down from $31 million -- won't have much of an impact on residents' tax bills. The first phase of a proposal to relocate the DPW to a larger building at 9 Alpha Road, formerly the site of the Old Mother Hubbard dog-food plant, is slated to cost $5 million. In order to pay for the project, residents will head to the polls for the second time in six months to vote on a debt exclusion -- a temporary tax increase to cover payments for borrowed money. If voters approve spending $5 million for the first phase of relocation, it will enable the town to buy the building on Alpha Road and pay for renovation costs, including the addition of administrative offices, an access road, a new salt shed, a ve- hicle wash bay and storage area and roof repairs. Phase I will also involve some cleanup of the current Richardson Road site, including demolishing two metal sheds and a ramshackle trailer that now houses thedepartment's administrative offices. DPW Director Jim Pearson said topping his list of reasons for relocating the department is that the town's public-works fa- cility now rests on a groundwater recharge area. To date, the town has spent more than $50,000 fighting lawsuits brought forward by the North Chelmsford Water District. In 2007, chemical analysis of North Chelmsford's water supply had detected traces of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids, such as the petroleum products and automotive fluids found on site at the DPW. No VOCs found in wells had exceeded safe drinking-water standards, but according to the North Chelmsford Water Dis- trict Ad Hoc Advisory Committee, sodium had. Chloride and maganese were also high. Town officials said last night that all three of the town's water districts support relocating the DPW. Besides eliminating hefty legal bills, relocation would also save an additional $73,000 per year that it now pays to rent of- fice space for the sewer division on Kidder Road. If voters reject this proposal, town officials stressed that the need for site improvements to the Richardson Road building, built in 1959, would add up $29.5 million during the next 10 years. Cohen said passing the DPW plan will not impact the excluded debt portion of the tax levy. Current debt exclusions include money borrowed for school building projects and the town sewer project, and cost the typical single family about $460, which is included in their annual tax bill. With the school and sewer projects almost paid off, excluded debt continues to decline. Ttown officials said approving the DPW first phase would increase the current debt exclusion only by about $28 during the next couple of years before dropping back down below the current level. The second phase of the DPW project is estimated at $6 million. Selectman Eric Dahlberg asked Pearson what the plan is if DPW hears another "no" from voters. "We would continue limping along and basically hope a catastrophe doesn't happen," Pearson said. A public input session will be held Monday March 1st at 7 p.m. at the Chelmsford Senior Center. CLICK HERE FOR ALPHA ROAD PRESENTATION
  21. 21. ON THE BORDER Over neighbors' objections, Westford asphalt operation's permit renewed By Rachel R. Briere, 02/25/2010 WESTFORD -- The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously last night to renew a special permit for an asphalt operation at 540 Groton Road, ignoring the pleas and objections of vocal residents from Westford and nearby Chelmsford. The ZBA granted the permit for Newport Materials LLC after two hours of listening to concerns from abutters and board members about increased traffic, unsafe road conditions and air pollution from deliv- ery trucks. The renewal came with some changes, including reducing the hours of operation during the week by an hour and limiting the number of trucks from entering the property daily to a maximum of 75. The board granted the original permit on Feb. 11, 2009, giving permission to bring asphalt onto the property for the purpose of crushing and recycling it. Last night, the board extended the permit with the stipulation that there be a maximum of 7,500 trucks over a period of 250 working days -- a typical con- struction season -- with an average of 30 trucks a day and a maximum of 75. Hours of operation will be 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Newport Materials will also have to provide the board with truck-visit logs on a monthly basis. The per- mit is valid for two years, but will be reviewed by the board yearly. "I run a clean operation. There's never been an accident or incident," said Richard DeFelice, the site man- ager. "Whatever I do is going to be looked at with some contempt. Sometimes I feel I'm falsely accused of things. I'm not the only operation on that property." ZBA Chairman Robert Herrman opened the meeting up to the nearly 50 people in the packed room, but made it clear the permit before the board has "nothing to do with the asphalt plant or chemicals." Newport Materials and 540 Groton Road LLC are proposing to construct an asphalt-manufacturing plant next to an existing sand-and-gravel operation at the same address, off Route 40 near the Westford- Chelmsford line. The proposal has drawn criticism from residents from both towns who live in the area. The Route 40 Clean Air Coalition was formed to oppose the asphalt plant. The area is zoned for "light industry," which Herrman stressed abutters were well aware of when they purchased their property. "I bought my home in 1990 and have been traveling Route 40 going from Shirley to Lowell visiting rela- tives since," said Richard Gagnon of Westford. "I knew very well of what I was buying next to -- Fletcher Quarry and a concrete business. I didn't buy my house knowing more heavy machinery is going next to my home. You can't say any operation that requires 60 to 70 trucks a day is light." Chelmsford resident Maria Burnham is one of the closest abutters to the site. She asked why the board never notified her of the original permit. "Your money is going to have to go to fix that road," she said. "The trucks are ruining the road. People who have lived in their homes for five decades have had their foundations crack." Newport Materials attorney Douglas Deschenes said the company conducted its own traffic study of Route 40, which was reviewed by the town. He said 400 trucks a day pass by the 540 Groton Road en- trance that are unrelated to the business. "To put it all in context," he said. "There's a lot of trucks out there. There's a lot of vehicles on that road."
  22. 22. ON THE BORDER Court: Billerica ZBA must reopen housing review By Chris Camire, 02/25/2010 BILLERICA -- A controversial eight-building housing development proposed near the Chelmsford line has hit a roadblock. A state Land Court judge is forcing the town's Zoning Board of Appeals to take another look at Aspen Apartments, a large affordable-housing complex proposed on Rangeway Road. Attorney Dan Hill, who represents a group of Chelmsford residents opposed to the development, said the ZBA must reopen its public hearing on the project. The court ruled the ZBA was wrong to approve the project without reviewing a revised plan after it was reduced from 672 to 384 units, said Hill. "It's great that they were reducing the density, but you can't just issue a decision without reviewing a re- vised plan," Hill said. "The Land Court agreed with us, based on volumes of precedent on this issue." If approved, Aspen Apartments could significantly increase Billerica's affordable-housing stock. Last July the ZBA granted a comprehensive permit to the project's builder, K&K Developers Inc., believing it would give the town breathing room with its affordable-housing goals. The final vote was 4-1, with Ralph McKenna opposed. Chairwoman Doris Pearson and members Joseph Shaw, Patricia Flemming and Ellen Sargent voted in favor. Shortly after the vote, Hill, of Boston, requested that a Middlesex Superior Court annul the board's deci- sion to grant a comprehensive permit to K&K Developers. As part of the appeal, Hill claimed the board hastily closed its public hearing despite advice from its own peer-review engineer that talks should con- tinue until the developer tested the soil for drainage issues. K&K Developers is scheduled to appear before the town's Conservation Commission on March 24, seek- ing a wetlands permit. Throughout the proceedings, concerns were raised about the technical feasibility of the project based on drainage. Hill contends that unless the project is clustered on the east side of the 38-acre parcel, lots in a nearby Chelmsford neighborhood will suffer flooding. The town's Zoning Board of Appeals office declined to comment on the project, citing the fact that it is in the appeals process. Chapter 40B enables developers to obtain comprehensive permits that bypass zoning bylaws in towns where less than 10 percent of the housing stock qualifies as affordable. Developers must then set aside 25 percent of housing units in the development as affordable. In the case of Aspen Apartments, that means at least 96 units must be affordable. In explaining her vote when the project was first approved, Pearson noted that Billerica has a goal of put- ting 95 units of affordable housing on the market each year. "This will give us some breathing room," she said, a sentiment echoed by Sargent.
  23. 23. Reject Senate bill on CORI reform The Lowell Sun 02/24/2010 By Laurie Myers It has been three years since Deval Patrick became the governor of Massachusetts, and one of the items that topped his agenda was "reforming" Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). He claimed the existence of criminal records prevented criminals from obtaining jobs and housing, but those of us who are involved in sup- porting victims of violent crime argue that sealing criminal records at all would provide the secrecy that only per- petuates more crimes. In 2008 and throughout his campaign, the governor announced that sex offender records would not be eligible for sealing. This was something we had hoped for and with which CORI activists agreed. The governor stayed true to his word during his first two years in office, but the bill died during the last legislative cycle. Along with it died the governor's word that he would not give a free pass to those convicted of crimes against the most vulnerable. In the governor's second filing of his CORI reform bill, he decided to allow sex offenders who have been relieved of their obligation to register with the Sex Offender Registry to have their records sealed. What he failed to ad- dress is the loophole in our law that allows judges to waive the sex-offender registration requirement. According to Kevin Burke, former secretary of public safety and security, the change was the result of the governor wanting to be "fair." Let's talk about what's fair. Every court from the U.S. Supreme Court to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has agreed that the pub- lic has the right to know if a person convicted of a sex crime lives or works in their community, but the governor would rather err on the side of secrecy and create a new set of "privacy" rights to those who choose to commit a crime than honor the decisions handed down by the courts. The CORI "reform" legislation goes even one step further and exempts the government and businesses from lia- bility if a person hired under the new veil of secrecy commits a crime. "No employer or person relying on volun- teers shall be liable for negligent hiring practices by reason of relying solely on criminal offender record information received from the department and not performing additional criminal history background checks." So who suffers? You! And it gets better. If this law passes and you happen to be lucky enough to obtain criminal information and decide to not hire someone based on what you've learned, you could be brought before "the com- missioner" or his designee whose new job it will be to "investigate" complaints pertaining to misuse of the public safety information and issue sanctions and penalties for "misuse," including fines up to $5,000 for each violation." The new commissioner would also have the power to forward information for criminal prosecution if he interpreted its use to "cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress" and if found guilty, the person "shall be pun- ished by a fine of not more than $5,000 or imprisoned in a jail or house of correction for not more than one year, or both." This new law would create a new group of criminals in Massachusetts -- the law abiding -- along with the final stage of moral bankruptcy, an all new low for even the state of Massachusetts. This bill passed the Massachusetts Senate in November, currently awaits action by the House of Representatives and is close to becoming law. We all agree that people deserve second chances, but at what cost? More than 20 other states make all criminal conviction information public and CORI, as it stands now, limits the public's access to criminal information. We should eliminate CORI all together and dedicate the resources to making sure all information is correct. If a citizen makes a request for criminal information it should be accurate and up to date, not hidden because the governor thinks he knows what's best. Sorry, governor, ignorance is not bliss, and the way to stop the pattern of abuse is not to wave a magic wand and make the records disappear. Just ask the fam- ily members of the victims of Amy Bishop. Contact your legislators and let them know that S2220 is misguided and should not be acted on. Laurie Myers is the president of Community VOICES, a victims' rights organization, a former rape crisis counselor and a resident of Chelmsford. Laurie Myers
  24. 24. Lasagna ... "They're not normal It's what's for dinner neighbors," - Frank O’Brien Businessman files suit against ZBA By Rita Savard, 02/19/2010 CHELMSFORD -- A local business owner has filed a lawsuit against the Zoning Board of Appeals, saying a ruling that de- nied him the necessary permits to run his home business was a "miscarriage of justice." Frank O'Brien, owner of O'Brien Compliance Management, began operating a medical-device testing laboratory from his 12 Stedman St. home a year ago but failed to obtain the necessary permits. When a neighborhood watchdog group learned that O'Brien was running a business in the residentially zoned area, calls poured into Town Offices. O'Brien was issued a cease-and-desist order in October for violating the town's home-occupation bylaw, which allows a resident to operate a small office from the home under certain limitations. Specifically, home businesses cannot occupy more than 25 percent of the home's total floor space, and anyone who doesn't live in the house can't be employed at the home business. Building Inspector Scott Hammond found that O'Brien initially used more than 25 percent of his home for the business and employed four workers, including himself. Two employees did not live in the home. After scaling back the amount of floor space to comply with the local mandate, O'Brien said he was surprised when the ZBA denied his request for a special permit. The permit would have allowed O'Brien one non-household employee and customer visits. The ZBA voted 4-1 last month to deny the request, deciding the operation, even with a special permit, would exceed the capacity of a home business. "I don't know if I can make a connection between a medical-supply business and a home," board member Len Richards had said. Board member Joel Luna, who voted in favor of granting a special permit, had said he thought a permit with extra condi- tions may have been a fair solution. O'Brien said the ZBA's findings of fact were wrong, and that the board's final vote was more about satisfying O'Brien's neighbors. "They're not normal neighbors," O'Brien said. "They're organized. They're a watchdog group that makes their lives about putting down bad things -- power plants... and now me. They think I'm going to ruin the neighborhood but I don't see my business hurting anyone at all. In fact, we help people." The neighbors, also known as the Westlands Watchdogs, said O'Brien should have to uphold the law, just as any other Chelmsford resident. Watchdog member Roy Earley said O'Brien seems to think he knows the town's law better than the town. O'Brien was fined $100 by the Chelmsford building inspector on Feb. 9 after a neighbor complained about a non-house- hold car being parked in O'Brien's parking lot. O'Brien said he plans to contest it, saying that although the car belongs to his employee, the employee rents a room from him. That makes her "a household" employee, in accordance with the bylaw, he said. O'Brien is also leasing office space at 225 Steadman St. in Lowell, where he's seeing clients and conducting his labora- tory tests while his appeal goes through the state Land Court. O'Brien told The Sun he knew he wasn't in compliance when he moved into 12 Stedman St., but had every intention of obtaining a special permit. "I didn't want it to get to this level," O'Brien said. "I'd love to have a big lasagna dinner with my neigh - bors and work this out tomorrow, but I guess right now there's only willingness from one side."
  25. 25. Extra Extras: Submitted by Mike Rigney The U.S. Census is coming to Chelmsford. Mailings will arrive in mid-March and enumerators will be going door to door to follow up with households that didn't return the forms from May until July. Chelmsford has formed a Census committee to act as a liason between the federal officials and local residents. The committee consists of Pat Wojtas, Tim McIlvenna, and Mike Rigney. Why is it important? Well the Census is required by the Constitution and the results are used to distribute over $400 billion in federal and state revenue as well as apportion elected representatives at both the national and state level. Here in Massachusetts, on the national level we're looking at losing a seat in the House of Representatives but if we can exceed our expected count by about 150,000 people or so (out of about 6.5 million), we might hang on to that 10th seat. Within the state, the results are just as important. As many in town are aware, we currently have 4 state reps. A lot of people would like to have just one, but state reps typically represent 38,000-40,000 people. So as a town we're a little small for one town/one rep. Chelmsford has about 33,000 right now, so as a town we're a little small for one town/one rep because if we got a single rep, another town would have to be split. The better a count we can get, the stronger a position we'll have when it comes time for redistricting. Even if we can't get to that magic 38,000 and wind up being split, the more people we have in each district, the more they will be Chelmsford districts instead of Lowell or Westford or Concord districts. T om Golden once said to me "You run scared or you run unopposed" and I want to make sure we wind up being the scariest part of every district. If anyone has questions about what to expect from the Census or concerns about privacy, please don't hesi - tate to contact one of us. Our emails are for Pat, for Tim, and for me. ************************************************************** MORPHING PAPER A Paper Workshop for ages Kindergarten through Adult, Your chance to learn how to make a paper kite, learn origami paper folding, and create a collage. Sat, March 20, 9:30am – 3:00pm Chelmsford Center for the Arts at Town Hall 1A North Road Your chance to learn how to make a paper kite with master kite maker and flyer Glenn Davison, learn origami paper folding with Gustavo Garcia Barragan, and create a collage with artist Jennifer Heater. $20 for the day, including materials. No charge for adult helping a child. Bring your own paper bag lunch or pre-purchase bag lunch for $10 (choice of roast beef/turkey/ham sandwich, Cape Cod Low Fat Chips, Fruit, Cookie, and Bottled Water). For more information or a Registration Form, send an e-mail
  27. 27. ********************************************* The Rotary Club of Chelmsford will bring back both Beantown and Syncopation for a concert on Friday, March 19 at 8 p.m. at the Chelmsford High School Performing Arts Center. Beantown is best known as the premier wedding band in New England. But last March, local concert fans saw why they have played for New England Patriot Super Bowl celebrations, Kraft family events and as a lead act for numerous top line entertainers. The band consists of 10 tal- ented and dedicated musician/performers who feature Classic Rock, R&B, and Motown tunes. Syncopation "is a hot and spunky jazzy vocal group" that won the 2008 Annual Boston Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival. Recently, they performed with The Boston Pops and Neil Diamond at The Hatch Shell in Boston last Fourth of July. Emcee of the event was Craig Fer- guson of CBS's "The Late Late Show". The nationally televised event has propelled the group to new heights. The concert will benefit the Rotary so they can support projects with The Paul Center, the town of Chelmsford and CHS Alumni Association Scholarships, troops sta- tioned at home and abroad, the Merrimack Valley Food Bank, The Salvation Army, The Lowell Wish Project and more. Tickets are $25 and are available from club members or by contacting John Taylor at 978-256-1834 and or Allen Thomas at 978-256-8772 and ********************************************
  28. 28. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I Know Not-ting” - SGT. Schultz
  29. 29. In-Town Report NEWS LINKS Lowell Sun Chelmsford Independent Kevin Zimmerman’s Chelmsford Mass News WCAP Radio Lowell Click here for the In-Town Report on Facebook Click here for the ITR archives ********************* CHRISTIANO PRODUCTIONS: POLITICAL JUNKIES SHOW: Thurs 7:30 PM Sundays 8:30 AM & Mondays 8:30 PM. POLITICALLY INCORRECT: Tues & Weds 8:30 PM; Thurs 7:00 AM; Sundays 11:00 AM Chelmsford Cable TV Channel 8 ********************* ROY EARLEY TOM CHRISTIANO Town Meeting Representative Precinct 6 Town Meeting Representative Precinct 9