In-Town Report 12 04 09


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In-Town Report 12 04 09

  1. 1. Ban stands at Byam Committee: Decision to ban holiday items rests with PTO By Rita Savard, 11/25/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Some wore Santa hats. Others sang the praises of Byam Elementary School Principal Jane Gilmore. But following last night's debate over whether the holidays should be put back into the Byam's holiday gift shop, the final message was clear: The ban still stands. More than 100 people, many parents of schoolchildren, packed the Chelmsford Performing Arts Center to voice concerns on both sides of the issue. As they wrangled over whether Santa Claus, candy canes, Christmas, Hanukkah and other traditional holiday items should be allowed at the annual PTO fundraiser, the Chelmsford School Committee said that if anything is to change at the annual gift shop, it will ultimately be under the direction of the PTO. "This is a building-based decision in the hands of the PTO, a nonprofit organization that has worked very hard to benefit the public schools," said attorney Regina Tate, representing the Chelmsford School Department. "The School Committee is not required to take a vote on any action." PTO President Joanne Hayes told school officials last night that the Byam School association stands by the school's 27-year pol- icy to ban traditional holiday items from the annual holiday gift room. Hayes said that planning, as well as several parent discussions and meetings for the popular event, began in September, and "at no time did anyone come forward and suggest such a strong passion for change." By the time two Byam moms, Kathryn McMillan and Kathleen Cullen, contacted Gilmore and the PTO about the issue in mid- October, she added, the event had already been planned, adver- tised and marketed. She said switching from a winter-themed gift room to an event that allows traditional holiday items was a move that would have required input from the entire Byam community. McMillan and Cullen told school officials last night they would each donate $100 worth of traditional holiday items, which might include a tree ornament engraved with the phrase "Byam 2009," as well as donate their time to helping set the items up at the gift room if the school would incorporate the changes. "Diversity means acknowledging our differences rather than hiding them," McMillan said. "To pretend the context (of the holidays) does them not exist does not serve our children." children. The issue created a tug-of-war between parents who sounded off on the side of the two moms, and others who sided with the school officials. "This is an example of political correctness going way too far," said Andy Stewart, decked out in a Grinch T-shirt and a Santa Claus hat. "The solution can't be to make the world so antiseptic as to offend no one. Maybe if you're offended by Santa Claus, you're not as tolerant as you think you are." Others criticized Superintendent of Schools Donald Yeoman for repeatedly referring to McMillan and Cullen as the "the two critics" instead of calling them by name. critics During the meeting, Yeoman talked about the school district having to beef up security because of threatening calls and e-mails pouring in from around the country.
  2. 2. "All because two critics couldn't wait, this has been a trav- esty, a travesty that should not have occurred." Yeoman said last night. "We don't expect our superintendent to formally criticize those who oppose this abhorrent policy, and vilify those who support their position as extremists," said Tom Gilroy. "But that is easier than solving the problem." Many parents stood in support of Gilmore, the principal, who they say has been treated unfairly as a result of the widespread media attention. "The media has made Jane Gilmore look like a nutcase, and we all should be very concerned about that," said Carol Kelly-Suleski, who stressed that Gilmore embodies the spirit of the season. Gilmore is a principal who knows all 548 students by name and which families are struggling and have no Thanksgiving turkey on the table, Kelly-Suleski said. Parent Deborah Nagan-Lee added, "I think Santa Claus is al- ready at the Byam School, and I don't think we need his face to prove it." After a half-hour of debate, McMillan and Cullen said they had hoped for a different outcome this year, but will consider com- ing back to volunteer next year. "We fought the good fight," McMillan said. "We live in America, and we have a right to our opinion. If we don't speak up, we lose that right." PHOTOS BY: TOM CHRISTIANO
  3. 3. National presence in Byam School controversy By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Dec 03, 2009 Chelmsford — Despite all of the controversy surrounding the Byam Gift Room, the school fundraiser went off without a hitch Tuesday morning, ac- cording to Byam School Association President Joanne Hayes. But just a week earlier, Hayes found herself defending the school’s 27-year-old policy banning any religiously affiliated items. The ban includes items often associated with Christmas such as candy canes and stockings. According to Hayes, Byam PTO members were working diligently on organizing donations for the fundraiser, when, at the eleventh hour, when two women approached them expressing concern about the policy. The debate turned into a national media firestorm due in part to the involvement of a conservative Christian legal firm, the Alliance Defense Fund. A representative from the fund sat with the two mothers’ leading the debate, Kathy McMillan and Kathy Cullen, at last week’s School Committee meeting. “I’m simply advising the parents and they are leading the charge in this to change this extreme policy,” said Jordan Lorence, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. “If the board would’ve let me speak, I would’ve said there is no court decision that I’m aware of that requires the level of suppression that the Byam has had.” Lorence said the policy promotes a philosophy of silencing anything that makes a person uncomfortable. “What they are saying is if you are offended by something that happens you are allowed to silence other people and basically sani- tize anything that offends you,” said Lorence. According to Lorence, he has been involved in a number of other situations involving what he called Christmas censorship in public places. The Alliance Defense Fund works to educate government officials about a “widespread myth that there are court decisions that re- quire them to censor Christmas in the public schools,” Lorence said. Both McMillan and Cullen refused to comment on their connection to Lorence after the meeting. They refused to provide further comment on their stance on the Gift Room. Prior to the meeting last week, the two women told the Independent practices outlined in the school’s policy should be changed im- mediately. During the meeting last week, both Cullen and McMillan said the media frenzy arose organically after they wrote a letter to the local newspapers. The media firestorm caused school officials to heighten security, according to School Superintendent Dr. Don Yeoman. “Since then, the district has received many phone calls, e-mails and letters filled with misinformation and accusations directed to- ward the P.T.O., staff members, various religions and races and filled with ridicule, anger, and hatred,” he said. “We have had to quickly update our security and crisis plans for buildings as a result of this unwarranted animosity.” School Committee members did not make any formal ruling surrounding the Gift Room and its lawyer told them that the matter was out of its jurisdiction and belonged in the hands of the PTO. While most Committee members stood by the PTO’s decision, committee member Nick DiSilvio said he supports Cullen and McMil- lan. “I support their stance from a standpoint of total inclusion,” said DiSilvio. “I’ve always been a big proponent of including all. I want my children to have all the best experiences they possibly can. I’m not trying to make this one religion versus another.” DiSilvio said he was disappointed the school administration did not take more of a leadership role in resolving the issue. While DiSilvio said his support comes from a standpoint of inclusion, not religion, Hayes said Cullen and McMillan made it clear dur- ing several meetings that their argument came from a subtext surrounding religion. She said it required more time and input from the Byam community to change the policy. “Obviously there was a lot of passion behind there beliefs,” said Hayes. “It seemed to be more on the side of religion and that was something that we needed to look into. It was definitely not something you could look at quickly.” Yeoman said any input from people outside the town and state just further blows the debate out of proportion. “It’s unfortunate that people from outside the state have attempted to involve themselves,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s not about two ladies who couldn’t accept no for an answer when they came in after the fact. These people had eight to 10 chances to have input and after the fact they wanted to make it a national story, come on.”
  4. 4. School budget in line with expectations By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Dec 02, 2009 Chelmsford — The Chelmsford school district will end the 2009-2010 school year on a positive note, according to School Business Manager Bob Cruikshank. Cruikshank told the School Committee at its meeting last week that after crunching this year’s budget num- bers with what was used already this year, he is confident that the school district will end the year with a balanced budget. “The expenses are in line,” he said. “We are in good shape here.” According to numbers provided by the School Department, the department has spent about 29 percent or $3.9 million of its $31.4 million in the general fund leaving it with about $22.2 million for the remainder of the fiscal year. Despite concerns of several board members about unpredictable special education costs, Cruikshank said he thinks the district’s budget is equipped to handle any unforeseen costs incurred by the federal and state mandated special education laws. “As your business manager I spend a great deal of time on special education,” said Cruikshank. “We have the coverage in our budget.” The School Department has spent about $4.1 million or 59 percent of its $11.7 million for special education allocated in the budget. Cruikshank said that the district has applied for federal stimulus money to save 15 positions in the school budget. **************************************************************************** Conservation Commission OKs 9 North Road wetlands' plan Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 02.DEC.09 The Conservation Commission granted an Order of Conditions to Epsilon Group LLC allowing construction in a wetlands buffer zone at 9 North Road. Commission members unanimously approved the plan Tuesday night. Under the order, Epsilon agrees not to build within 50 feet of the pond. It will also not place any parking areas within 50 feet of the pond. And it agrees not to have any impervious material within 30 feet of the pond. According to Conservation Agent/Planner Thad Soule, Epsilon will also remove invasive plants on the site including multiflora rose and Oriental bittersweet. All storm water runoff from the building and parking area will be infiltrated on site. Epsilon still needs approval from the Planning Board and the Historic District. The Planning Board will continue its public hearing on the proposed office building next Wednesday, Dec. 9.
  5. 5. Westlands owner files for permits By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Nov 17, 2009 Chelmsford — The owner of a controversial Westlands neighborhood home business submitted his much-anticipated special permit request this week to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Frank O’Brien, owner of O’Brien Compliance Management, is seeking the town’s approval to legally operate his medical equipment testing business with two nonresident employees and more than 25 percent of his Stedman Street residence directed toward his business. O’Brien told the Independent he filed his application this week and is awaiting a hearing before the ZBA. “I had a draft reviewed on Thursday,” said O’Brien in an e-mail. “I got it in on Thursday, Monday. I'm told the public meeting before Board of Appeals will be Dec. 17.” 17. O’Brien moved into the home in February and ran the business with four employees and has since been running the business with two nonresident employees until neighbors in- formed town officials of the situation. A recent open house with signs and increased cars at the residence sent a red flag to Westland area neighbors about the operations occur- ring at 12 Stedman St. According to the town’s zoning bylaws, residents can operate a business from their home in residentially zoned areas. However they require a special permit to use more than 25 percent of the area’s floor space or have more than one non- resident employee. *** November 2nd On signage on the property Over the past month, Westlands neighborhood residents and the was found to be out of town have been engaged in a back and forth correspondence with complance with the by- O’Brien. O’Brien told the Independent in a phone interview earlier laws and was removed per request of the this month that he has made accommodations to his business prac- building inspector tices as to operate under the zoning bylaw until his hearing. He said that he has limited his business, which he previously said was just under half of his floor space, to 25 percent of his home’s floor space and two of his employees are working from home. *** Manager Paul Cohen said as of the most recent home Town inspection on Nov. 2, O’Brien was not in violation of any zoning by- laws. But he said Building Inspector Scott Hammond did not enter the residence. “There is no reason to go in,” said Cohen. “We have no evidence at this point that [the floor space] is more than 25 percent. If there’s an extra bedroom in the house, is that related to the business? The presumption is innocence. We don’t want to get to the point of ha - rassment.” rassment Cohen previously said that a special permit will not remedy O’Brien’s floor space and employee problems. O’Brien said he does not expect his Westlands neighbors are any more open to his business than before. “I’m sure all my neighbors will show up [at the public hearing] and share their views, but that’s one thing,” he said in a phone interview. thing, O’Brien said he will post an electronic version of his special permit application to his Web site for his business in the next several days. CLICK HERE TO SEE APPLICATION FOR SPECIAL PERMIT
  6. 6. MASTER PLAN on Zoning : What Say You? Chelmsford Master Plan Committee Chelmsford Master Plan Committee Draft MINUTES Draft MINUTES October 29, 2009 November 12, 2009 ... 2) Open Session Roy Earley, 184 Chelmsford St. asked the Committee how the 7) Scott Hammond/Building Inspector Town deals with enforcing their bylaws, in light of the zoning en- forcement order recently issued to the property owner of 12 Sted- Mr. Hammond explained that he is still learning man St. many zoning issues. His biggest concern was that he needs more manpower to keep up with all the depart - Mr. Belansky explained that in this situation, the residents are the ment’s requirements. eyes and ears of the town. Complaints of this type are handled by the Building Inspector, who performs site visits and sends letters. Mr. Cohen explained the difficulty in enforcing the home business bylaw, and he suggested that Mr. Belansky felt this is an isolated case, and is no reflection on the bylaw may need to be updated to accommo - the bylaw. Mr.Earley reported that a cease and desist has been date today’s standards. issued, but the business has not closed. Another complaint involves having large commercial vehi- Mr. McLachlan stated the Master Plan can state it supports en- cles in a residential driveway. The Committee and Mr. Ham- forcement and funding for enforcement. mond agreed there is no reason to not allow people to bring home company vehicles if they are less than 15,000 pounds. Mr. Lane explained pro-active enforcement is not within the purview of this committee. No permit is required for a dumpster; the thing to monitor is where the debris is being dumped. Mr. Hammond ex- Mr. Eliopoulos suggested that the bylaws may need to address plained the difficulties in monitoring work being done without additional sanctions. a permit. Mr. Belansky explained that the Building inspector must prioritize Exterior work is easier to find than interior work. Most his work, as he has no staff to assist him. times it is the neighbors that are reporting the situations. No complaints have been received in regard to the length of time to obtain a variance. The department is looking into online applications and FLASHBACK: tracking software, at present there is no computer in Mr. Hammond’s office. LOWELL SUN 11/02/2009 If the town were to experience a surge of commercial development, another person would need to be hired. Devel- Group to advise Town Meeting of zoning changes opers file weekly reports, fees would be higher, and more eyes would be needed. “ Other issues the new Master Plan Mr. Hammond noted that the current sign bylaw id techni- Philip cally not enforceable. Mr. Hammond agreed to report back to shall cover: What types of economic Eliopolous development the town should attempt the Committee with any areas of concern he could think of, to attract, what types of housing it as well as “grey” areas of the current bylaws for the future should be able to provide and in which Bylaw Review Committee. locations, Eliopolous said. It should include legislation to protect the quiet character of The Westlands, for example, and other neighborhoods in town, in part by preventing so-called "creep" zoning. "We don't want to have things too dense," Eliopoulos said. “ Tom Christiano's Politically Incorrect 12-01-09 12 Stedman Street zoning topic. With Philip Eliopoulos Former Selectmen and Vice-Chair of the Master Plan) CLICK HERE FOR CLIP
  7. 7. Chelmsford earns federal stimulus grant By Staff reports GateHouse News Service Nov 23, 2009 Chelmsford — The Patrick administration and Chelmsford’s legislative delegation announced Monday that Chelmsford will receive nearly $173,000 in funds to rehire or retain fire fighters. $11.6 million will be shared among only 85 fire departments across the Commonwealth. The money is intended to help stave off budget cuts that have resulted in lower public safety staffing levels. “When we think of vital public services that we all want, protecting our safety is at the pinnacle of the list,” said Chelmsford’s state Sen. Susan Fargo. “$173,000 can go a long way in putting people back to work for the good of all of us.” Representative Thomas Golden noted the significance of the federal assistance. “This is just another example of how federal stimulus funds are working to preserve public safety.” The announcement marks the second round to fire departments from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Because the ARRA program does not include staffing grants for fire departments, the Governor set aside funds specifically to retain and rehire fire fighters “I am thankful the administration has selected the town of Chelmsford to receive these stimulus funds, which will undoubtedly prevent further layoffs and ensure the Department continues to provide the highest quality of care and safety to the residents of Chelmsford,” state Rep. Dave David Nangle said. “Hiring firefighters will keep our families safer and keep people employed. I would like to thank my col- leagues in state and federal government for securing this funding,” said Rep. Cory Atkins. “It is great news for the Chelmsford Fire Department that they will be able to hire three new firefighters for the department. The much need funds will relieve some of the budgetary and personnel pressure on the department, and by extension the entire town. Every extra dollar makes a difference in these tough eco- nomic times.” said state Rep. James Arciero who represents three precincts in the western and northern sections of Chelmsford. Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen expressed gratitude for the award. “The town is pleased to receive these funds for additional fire fighters during these difficult times so that we can improve public safety in the community,” said Cohen.
  8. 8. 3rd ANNUAL DAY BEFORE THANKSGIVING WALK By Tom Christiano They gathered ...they walked...they listened....they enjoyed hot chocolate & cookies! The drizzle and overcast sky couldn't keep the adventurous Chelmsfordians away from the 3rd Annual "Day before Thanksgiving Walk" at Thanksgiving Forest. Over 150 people (and quite a few dogs) showed up to hike about a mile to the big Rocks at Thanksgiving Forest, on Wednesday, November 25th. As we all gathered around the campfire at the Big Rocks Phil Stanway...Tom Christiano....and Becky Warren said a few words about our Thanksgiving Traditions and all that we have to be thankful for as a community this year. Our Town Manager, Paul Cohen, accompanied us on the walk, along with Selectmen Clare Jeannotte, Pat Wojtas and Sean Scanlon. Many of the Open Space Stewards were there as well, in addition to coordinating the event and preparing the site for the temporary visitors. Cook- ies, Hot Choco- late and Coffee were graciously provided by the Guaetta & Ben- son Law Firm. PHOTOS BY: TOM CHRISTIANO
  9. 9. C C A h o s t i n g H o l i d ay P r e l u d e GateHouse News Service Nov 29, 2009 Chelmsford — The Chelmsford Center for the Arts (“CCA”) is partnering with The Gingerbread Village to Ben- efit Habitat for Humanity at All Saints’ Episcopal Church and the Chelmsford Holiday Prelude to provide an afternoon of activities in Chelmsford Center on Dec. 6. The holiday season in Chelmsford will officially begin with the Christkindlmarkt Artisans’ Holi- day Market at the CCA. Entrance is free and open to the public. The market is based on Euro- pean holiday markets and will be open from noon to 6 p.m. Local artisans will be selling fine art jewelry, handmade wood pens and peppermills, cards, dolls, ceramics, ornaments, seasonal treats and other fine art gift items. Origami artist Gustavo Garcia Barragan will teach children and adults to fold cranes to deco- rate the Peace Tree in Gallery I, sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Everyone who folds a crane for the tree will be able to enter a drawing for a themed gift basket. Passports to Holiday Fun will be available at the CCA, and all of the participating locations: All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Aldersgate United Methodist, Trinity Lutheran Church, West Chelms- ford United Methodist, and First Parish Unitarian Church. Anyone who has their “Passport” stamped at the venues will be entered in a special holiday drawing. Passports can be obtained at any of the locations. Stamped passports should be turned in to the CCA by 5pm on Sunday by 5 p.m. and the draw- ing will be at 5:30 p.m. The CCA is Chelmsford’s public arts organization located in the Town Hall on the Common, 1A North Road. All Saints’ Episcopal church is at 10 Billerica Road. S a n t a C l a u s coming to Chelmsford Dec. 6 GateHouse News Service Posted Nov 30, 2009 @ 09:14 AM Chelmsford — Santa will make his grand entrance at the Chelmsford Common on Sunday, Dec. 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Annual Holiday Prelude. The Community Band will be playing upstairs in the Old Town Hall and the Center for the Arts will hold a craft fair also in the Old Town Hall. DJ Ellen, will be providing music and entertain- ment as well as dance and Hula Hoop contests in the town center. This year’s Prelude will include musical groups scattered throughout the center, popcorn, “chowda”, hot chocolate and cookies, face painting, Italian sausages and horse drawn hayrides for the entire family. Besides visiting with Old Saint Nick, the children will want to spend some time with Piney, the talking tree. The merchants in the center of town will welcome the revelers with goodies of all kinds.
  10. 10. OLD GARRISON HOUSE ASSOCIATION 50TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION by Tom Christiano The Old Garrison House Association celebrated its 50th Anniversary on Sunday, November 29th at the Garrison's "Hill Jock" House, which was moved, in 2004, to the site on Garrison Road. The President of the Association, Deborah Taverna, introduced Selectman Pat Wojtas, who read a 50th Anniversary Proclamation from the Board of Select- men. A few of the other people who stopped by to participate in the Celebration were: George & Betty Ripsom (Board Members), Selectman Eric Dahlberg, Paul Windt (Past President), and Janet Askenberg. Linda Carney baked a delicious cake which everyone enjoyed. PHOTOS BY: TOM CHRISTIANO
  11. 11. ON THE AIR POLITICALLY INCORRECT with Tom Christiano The topics we discussed on the December 1st 2009 Politically Incorrect TV Show this week were: New Center Office Building... New Agriculture Commission... local real estate... 12 Stedman Street home business... Tax Classification... War in Afghanistan... U.S. Senate Primary Candidates... Upcoming Holiday Events. The panelists are Town Meeting REPS Charlie Wojtas, Pam Armstrong & Philip Eliopoulos, along with Billy Martin. CLICK HERE FOR SHOW The panelists on this NOV 17, 2009 P.I. Show are: Paul Cohen, Kathy Duffett, Jodi O'Neill & Sean Scanlon. Topics discussed: Byam Gift Room prohibitions... Fire Station...DPW Facility..12 Stedman Street...Local Option Taxes...Cameras at Traffic Lights...Billboards...Texting while Driving....& Upcoming town events. CLICK HERE FOR SHOW
  12. 12. Selectmen to vote on trash changes next week Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 01.DEC.09 After a half dozen presentations on the subject, the Board of Selectmen is expected to vote on changes to the town’s trash collection system next Monday. At a work session yesterday, Town Manager Paul Cohen recommended the board approve an RFP (Request For Proposals) for trash haulers to enter into a three-year contract with the town for manual solid waste collection. The RFP would also require implementation of a limit of two 32-gallon barrels per household per week – half of what is cur- rently allowed -- and continuation of biweekly recycling. Some members of the board suggested the town look at weekly recycling, but that comes with an additional $115,000 cost. “I don’t see weekly recycling as a priority where to put our resources,” said Board of Selectman Chairman Clare Jeannotte. Jeannotte also worried about reactions to the new two-barrel cap on solid waste. Residents who exceed the two barrel limit would be required to purchase 33-gallon bags for their additional waste. However, the current policy of allowing households to exceed their trash limit one time a year would stay in effect, said Re- cycling/Solid Waste Coordinator Jennifer Almeida. **************************************************************************** Chelmsford already facing $2 million deficit for FY11 Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter 01.DEC.09 Seven months before fiscal 2011 begins, Chelmsford officials have started to figure out how to plug an anticipated $2 million shortfall. Treasurer John Sousa presented a budget forecast to the Board of Selectmen Monday night that includes additional revenue of $1.7 million allowed as part of the 2.5 percent property tax increases, $600,000 in new growth and $523,922 in local receipts. Sousa’s estimates also include a 10 percent reduction in state aid – which works out to about $1.5 million. Under operating expenses, Sousa has factored in a 0 percent cost-of-living increase for town employees, but included step raises for union workers. Other increases include a 2.9 percent increase, $605,777, in the general government line item; a 3.6 percent increase, $1.6 million, f or the school system and a 6.1 percent bump, $109,709, for Nashoba Technical High School’s assessment and out-of-district tuitions. In total, the level service expenditure increases add up to $3.2 million. “This is just a first look at it,” said Sousa. “It will be fine-tuned.” Unknown factors, such as what state aid will be forthcoming, prevent officials from presenting an actual budget number. For example, said Sousa, if state aid is level funded, the town’s deficit drops from $2 million to $500,000. However, said Town Manager Paul Cohen, most officials expect a drop in state aid as the commonwealth continues to struggle with its own deficits. “Ten percent seems reasonable,” said Cohen. “You have to have contingencies. But where do you come up with $2 million? Those numbers will be painful no matter how you split it between government and the schools.” Selectmen offered some suggestions for cutting costs. Chairman Clare Jeannotte wondered if the town could look at eliminating step increases for union members. “If you do away with them, that’s half you’re problem,” she said. Cohen said that would have to be something union negotiators agreed to before implementing. Selectman Sean Scanlon said he would rather the town focus its resources on what he calls “core services,” – schools and public safety – and the expense of other smaller budget items. “Would you want to close the Senior Center?” asked Cohen. “No, not close it, but just look at it,” said Scanlon. “What are our skeleton services? If it comes down to a van driver or a police offi- cer, what are the services the town should supply?” “It’s a matter of bad choices or worse ones,” said Jeannotte.
  13. 13. Insurance looms as budget buster in Chelmsford By Rita Savard, 12/03/2009 CHELMSFORD -- As town officials take their first glimpse into fiscal 2011, the debate over municipal health care begins. Finance Director John Souza said rising costs for employees' health insurance -- about $625,000 -- will take the largest bite out of a budget projecting a $2 million deficit. "The biggest factor is that cities and towns are dependent on state aid, and next year we're planning for a 10 percent decrease in that aid," Souza said. "We're doing what we can to make cuts, but we're already at the very basic level for operating town services. So we're taking another look at health insurance." Last year, a proposal to strip unions of bargaining power in municipal health-insurance decisions stirred controversy as union lead- ers locked horns with local and state officials to keep their muscle. The measure would have required legislative action, but was scrapped. Instead, state lawmakers offered other options for cities and towns to bring in more revenue, including the authority to hike local meal and hotel-room taxes, as well as closing a telecom- munications tax loophole that previously prevented communities from collecting property taxes on utility poles and wires. But one major dilemma remains, Souza said. Less aid is coming in while the town's fixed costs, including health insurance, pen- sions and special-education tuition, continue to rise. Selectman Eric Dahlberg, who is also running a campaign to challenge state Sen. Susan Fargo for her 3rd Middlesex District seat, said the issue is in the state's hands now. "The Legislature needs to step up and give cities and towns the unilateral authority to make changes to our health care," Dahlberg said. "There are fewer municipal employees, but benefits aren't adjusting. They're still going up, and it's a shame. What's going to happen is, we're going to have to cut more positions as a result. Local budgets are in a freefall so legislators need to stop worrying about pleasing their union buddies and just get the job done." In 2007, the Legislature passed a law allowing cities and towns to join the Group Insurance Commission -- the same lower-cost health plan that state employees enjoy -- as a way to save millions of dollars. The law requires that 70 percent of the town's bargaining-union members approve the plan, an obstacle that has kept several com- munities, including Chelmsford, from participating. To date, about 22 municipalities, including regional school districts and planning councils, have joined the GIC out of the 480 enti- ties eligible. Among those are the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District and the Lowell Community Charter School. From 2001 to 2006, the premiums for employees participating in the GIC increased on average by 9 percent a year. Over the same period in Chelmsford, the cost of insuring town employees rose an average of 19 percent, Souza said. Town Manager Paul Cohen has said the town would have joined GIC to save about $700,000 last year if union approval was not re- quired. Negotiations broke down when the town and the unions could not reach an agreement on how to split the cost of premi- ums. Union leaders in Chelmsford said that when they explored one insurance alternative, separate from GIC, switching would have prompted an unreasonably steep increase in retirees' prescription-drug costs. Don Siriani, Fargo's chief of staff, said there is no question that Fargo and other legislators will look at more ways to save munici- palities money on health insurance, and that the GIC option was "a critical first step to opening the door." In some communities across the state, Siriani added, there were unions willing to make the change, but town officials neglected to invite them to the negotiating table. Earlier this year, midyear budget cuts led to layoffs of 11 municipal workers and 45 school employees. Souza said. Initially, the Chelmsford School Department was expected to cut 65 positions, but 15 were saved as a result of stimulus funds. All together, projected increases in employee health insurance and benefits are just under $900,000, Souza said, along with a 3 percent increase in the Middlesex pension assessment, or about $167,000. Souza said the most current projections for next year's budget do not include cost-of-living raises for town employees. Figures will continue to change as budget talks move closer to the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. In a statement e-mailed to The Sun, Fargo said, "Something that few people seem to know about is that at the start of this fiscal year, Chelmsford's share of state local aid was at an all time record high. The state has sent more than $16 million to the town in the last year for school buildings, energy efficiency, road repairs, housing construction and other projects."
  14. 14. Board ponders next move for DPW, fire station By Chloe Gotsis/ staff writer GateHouse News Service Dec 02, 2009 Chelmsford — With the next town election a mere five months away, town officials discussing whether to ask voters a debt exclusion to replace the public works building on Alpha Road and the fire station on North Road. But officials say they learned from results of the October election when voters shot down the two proposals and are returning with two cheaper plans.. “The problems haven’t gone away,” said Town Manager Paul Cohen. During a Nov. 30 working session, Permanent Building Committee members including Gary Persichetti, the town’s director of public facilities, presented selectmen with a number of options for the two facilities. But Persichetti and Cohen told the board the best long-term investment is asking voters for a $4.5 million debt exclusion to build a 13,000-square foot, pre-engineered, three-bay fire station at Wilson and Chelms- ford streets; and a $5 million debt exclusion to purchase the Alpha Road building and relocate the DPW in a phased in approach. At $9.5 million, the two options are $15.5 million cheaper than the combination of the $13 million DPW facil- ity on Alpha Road and a $12 million fire station at the corner of Wilson and Chelmsford streets officials asked voters to approve in October. Cohen and Persichetti said the preferred options give the town the strongest long-term investment of capital funds, rather than fixing the facilities structural deficiencies piecemeal. The fire station, for example, will be designed to expand as the department grows. “The way the [fire station] will be constructed it’s ready for additions,” said Persichetti. “These are the only options that give us 40 years.” The preferred $4.5 million debt exclusion option for the fire station allows for a future expansion of additional fire bays and office space. It will also allow the town to use the current North Road fire station site for an- other municipal purpose or sell it to a private developer. Cohen said by approving a $5 million debt exclusion to purchase the Alpha Road building for the DPW facil- ity, the town will avoid litigation with the North Chelmsford Water District. The option will allow DPW mechan- ics to remain at the Richardson Road facility, while the DPW gradually transfers other operations to the Alpha Road facility through future capital appropriations of $6.6 million over a seven-year period. Cohen said the option will solve problems of deteriorating equipment by housing it indoors during the mov- ing period. But the board said they need more time to review the options before they turn to voters. “I would not be in favor of asking for another debt exclusion,” said Selectman Pat Wojtas. But Selectman George Dixon said he supports putting the question to the voters again. “I’m in favor of it, to be honest,” he said. “For that not to have passed [in October] was shocking to me.” Chairman Clare Jeanotte said she needs more time to examine the options. “They want us to put things in front of them that we really believe in,” she said. “They are saying, ‘Don’t you realize a lot of us are hurting?’”
  15. 15. EXTRA EXTRAS
  16. 16. TOWN OF CHELMSFORD PUBLIC HEARING NOTICE The Community Development Department will conduct a Public Hearing on Monday, December 7, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. at the Town Hall, 50 Billerica Road in Room 204. The purpose of the hearing will be to discuss The Community Development Strategy required as part of a grant application to the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community De- velopment for a Community Development Block Grant for purposes of seeking funding to es- tablish a Housing Rehabilitation Program. The hearing will present projects and activities identified in various planning documents, an implementation plan including a priority list, specific goals and annual timelines for accom- plishing its goals and geographic target areas. This Public Hearing will allow individuals or organizations to offer suggestions and seek addi- tional information. Public comments will be accepted prior to and during the Public Hearings. Copies of a Draft Community Development Strategy will be available at the hearing. The meeting room is fully accessible and accommodations will be made for individuals with special needs. ******************************* D a i s y Tr o o p c o l l e c t i n g t o y s Courtesy photo Members for Daisy Troop 63113 are Shannon Kempner, Lily Boilard, Caitie Heise, Katie Quinn, Brynn Murray and Abigail Moore. GateHouse News Service Nov 30, 2009 Chelmsford — Girl Scout Daisy Troop 63113 is doing a Service Project for the Lowell Wish Project, collecting new, unwrapped toys, games and books for the 1- to 3-year-old set along with gifts appropriate for teenagers. The Lowell Wish project does have people donate to specific families, but they indicated that there are many, many families that don't get picked and therefore they fill their wish list through the general donation items. And there are times when the general donations are very needed - as sometimes things happen where a family was picked and then something fell through on the donation end. More info on the Lowell Wish program can be found at All donated goods will need to be brought to 9 Chestnut Ave. in Chelmsford by Thursday, Dec. 10. Troop 63113 thanks you for helping us help those in need.
  17. 17. " Holiday Mail for Heroes " campaign operated by the American Red Cross . Holiday Mail for Heroes is back! In this season of hope and giving the American Red Cross and Pitney Bowes, Inc. have joined forces to invite Ameri- cans to “send a touch of home” to United States service members and veterans across the country and abroad. In its third year, the Holiday Mail for Heroes program is an opportunity to share joy and thanks with our service members throughout the holiday season by way of a greeting card. Today over 1.4 million men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces and over 24 million veterans have served in the past. The holiday season is the perfect time to honor and extend a warm holiday greeting to those who’ve served and continue to do so. How Holiday Mail works We have established an extensive process to ensure all cards sent to our service members are safe and arrive in time for the holidays. Holiday cards will be collected through a unique P.O. Box address from Monday, November 2 through Monday, December 7*. First, cards from across the nation must be sent to this address: Holiday Mail for Heroes P.O. Box 5456 Capitol Heights, MD. 20791-5456 All cards must be postmarked no later than Dec. 10. Please don’t forget to follow these guidelines while preparing your holiday greetings! CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO Do... Sign all cards Entitle cards “Dear Service Member, Family or Veteran” Limit cards to 15 per person or 50 for school class or business group Bundle groups of cards in single, large envelopes (there is no need to include individual envelopes and postage for cards) Don’t... Send letters Include personal information such as home or email addresses Use glitter – excessive amounts can aggravate health issues of wounded recipients Include inserts of any kind as they must be removed in the screening process CLICK Welcome to this year’s Holiday Mail for HERE Heroes celebrity spokesperson - pop FOR singer and songwriter Amy Grant! MESSAGE “I am honored and thrilled to be part of this program. The service that our military men and women provide this country year-round is invaluable and I feel it especially important to give thanks for their sacrifices during the holiday season.” - Amy Grant
  18. 18. DAVID TOUSIGNANT MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP FUNDRAISER WRESTLING MAT DEDICATION We are all saddened by the recent loss of our friend and a wonderful man, Dave Tousignant who lost his 2 ½ year battle with Multiple Myeloma Cancer. For those of us who were fortunate enough to have known and shared friendship with Dave throughout his life and for those who became acquainted with him after his diagnosis, share in our admiration of him and the courage he exhibited every day in his struggle to beat this disease. The “Friends of Dave” are excited to announce that in Dave’s memory as an outstanding Chelmsford High School athlete and life long resident of Chelmsford, two Scholarship Awards will be established in his name, one for male and one for female student athletes of the year. The awards will be known as “The Dave Tousignant, Heart of a Lion” Memorial Scholarship Award. Along with these awards there will be a special ceremony unveiling a new Chelmsford High School wrestling mat honoring Dave as one of Chelmsford’s all time outstanding wrestlers. With the generosity of many friends and businesses, we were able to help Dave and his family financially while he was unable to work. We are all very thankful for this. On Friday, December 11, 2009 at 7:30PM, “The Friends of Dave” Committee will be presenting The Dave Tousignant Memorial Scholarship Fundraising Concert at the Chelmsford High School Performing Arts Center entitled: “A Jazzy Snazzy Christmas” Featuring: Twenty five piece orchestra Outstanding vocalist Guest Speakers Video Presentation Raffles and Prizes We ask that you join with us with your generosity and become a sponsor for this memorial fundraiser. The individuals and/or Company names will be listed in the evening program, as well as prominently displayed on a large donation sponsorship board. These tax-deductable donations can be made out to “CHSAA Dave Tousignant. Send checks to CHS Alumni Assoc. Chelmsford HS 200 Richardson Rd Chelmsford MA 01863 ************************************************************************* 8 Crazy Nights CLICK HERE
  19. 19. QU OTE OF T HE WE E K : Strange , isn ' t it ? E ch man ' s lif e to uch es so m any o th er lives . a Wh en h e isn ' t ar o und h e leave s an awf ul hole , do esn ' t h e ? Re memb e r , G e orge : no man is a f ailure wh o h as f riends . - Clarence Gaurdian Angel 2nd Class It's a Wonderful L (1946) ife CLICK ME
  20. 20. In-Town Report NEWS LINKS Lowell Sun Chelmsford Independent Kevin Zimmerman’s Chelmsford Mass News ROY EARLEY TOM CHRISTIANO Town Meeting Representative Precinct 6 Town Meeting Representative Precinct 9