ITR 04-24-10


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IN-TOWN REPORT April 24th 2010

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ITR 04-24-10

  1. 1. Hanson, Kurland top Wojtas for Chelmsford selectmen Askenburg joins Thoren on School Committee By Rita Savard, 04/07/2010 CHELMSFORD -- It was an election night to remember for the new kids on the block as political hopefuls Matt Hanson and Janet Askenburg topped the ticket in each of the town's nine precincts to win seats on the Board of Se- lectmen and School Committee. In his second bid for selectman, Hanson cruised to victory with 3,221 votes. And Jon Kurland ousted incumbent Pat Wojtas, earning 2,651 votes to Wojtas' 2,309. Askenburg swept up the popular vote in the School Com- mittee's first contested race in six years, leading the field with 3,269 votes. Incumbent Evelyn Thoren was re- elected to her fifth term with 2,483 votes and candidate Jack Wang trailed with 2,105 votes. History was also made last night as Hanson, 21, became the youngest member to serve on the town's governing body. "My cheeks are sore from smiling," Hanson said. "I'm so smiling, honored that the voters put their faith in me. My cam - paign was really about listening to their concerns and ideas. Now I'm going to work hard for them to help keep our town moving forward." forward. Hanson's mother, Margaret, said her son worked hard to earn every vote. "He knocked on a lot of doors and met a lot of people," people, she said. "Meeting Matt in person really helps. Once you have a conversation with him, you know you can put your confidence in him." him. On the campaign trail, Hanson, who works as a full-time substitute teacher in Chelmsford and is finishing his master's degree at UMass Lowell, has said what he lacks in years, he makes up for in drive and commitment to serving the town he grew up in. All three selectmen candidates live in Precinct 5. When Wojtas' supporters discovered she came in last in her own precinct, hopes of a victory began to fade. "It's a surprise, but the voters have spoken," said Wojtas, who was seeking a spoken, second term. "I'll have to accept the results." results. Wojtas came under fire from challenger Kurland during the earliest debates for a vote she took that prevented an in-house ambulance discussion from going to Town Meeting. But a gracious Wojtas last night said she felt the campaign was a civil one, and that she has no regrets. "I'd answer every one of the questions the same way," she said. "In hind - way, sight, you could always work harder, but I'm proud of the work I did and I will continue to serve the town in every way I can." can.
  2. 2. For Kurland, who started his campaign by asking selectmen to send a Department of Public Works debt exclusion to voters, it was a double win as he and the DPW ballot question earned voters' approval. Walking into Town Offices with his wife, Sara, Kurland was welcomed with a round of applause. "I'm very humbled, just grateful really, that the voters in Chelmsford are giving me the opportunity to serve them," he said. "I feel badly that all three them, of us couldn't win. Pat really has the best interest of the town at heart, and I'm sure she'll continue to serve the residents in every way she can.” can. A newcomer to local politics, Askenburg thanked her supporters for the push to victory in the school race. Her husband, Bill, she added, led the way. "It was kind of like that Verizon commercial," Askenburg joked. "You see that one commercial guy and then there's 50 people behind him. Well, that was my husband in this election." election. Askenburg, who campaigned on creating a five-year plan for the school district, as well as transparency in government and pay for performance, said her lead in the three-way race for two seats showed that people responded to her message. "I got a lot of hugs from strangers today," she said. "I knew that was a good today, sign. I look forward to working for the voters and being held accountable for my promises." promises Thoren, a 12-year-veteran when it comes to serving Chelmsford schools, said it takes a team to win, and thanked her supporters for propelling her to another term. She said one of her first orders of business will be deal- ing with the district's unfunded mandates at the state level. "During the campaign I told voters I'm not done yet, and I'm not," Thoren said. "I'm honored to be chosen to serve Chelmsford schools." schools. Jack Wang, a financial adviser, admitted that he might have made a couple of mistakes during his campaign. "I won't ever be allowed on the campaign trail again until I take a course on how to order lawn signs," said Wang, whose name during the election was signs, barely visible around town. Yesterday, Wang spent some time standing at the Westlands School polls holding a homemade sign that simply read "WANG" in red letters. Still, he trailed Thoren by about 378 votes. "At the end of the day, I can hold my head high," he said. "I got into the high, race late, but it was a good race. The issues affecting our schools got aired and that's a good thing." thing. Both incumbents David Braslau and Lisa Daigle were re-elected to the Board of Library Trustees, with Rick Mahoney trailing just 90 votes behind Braslau in a tight race. Photos by Tom Christiano and Roy Earley
  3. 3. Reversal of fortunes for DPW Chelmsford voters approve plan to repair facility, prepare for move By Rita Savard, 04/07/2010 CHELMSFORD -- The second time proved to be a charm for the Department of Public Works in yesterday's election, as voters passed a $5 million debt exclusion to fix the aging facility. After a $13 million proposal to relocate the DPW was shot down by voters last October, a less-expensive and scaled-down version sailed through last night, with 2,460 in favor and 1,806 opposing. The measure will put the first phase of the project into motion, including the $3.5 million purchase of a building at 9 Alpha Road and another $1.5 million in renovations. By approving the first phase, the average tax bill is expected to rise by $28 in fiscal 2011. But with declining debt service on the town's sewer and school construction projects, officials say taxpayers will see a net increase of $14 in fiscal 2011 and $7 in fiscal 2012, and will see the debt decline in 2014. "I didn't support it last year, but the town downsized the cost," said Larry Ellis, who voted in favor last night. "I don't like to in - cost, crease taxes, but this is something we need." need Town officials said moving to a larger facility will also save the town $70,000 a year that the Sewer Department now pays to rent space in a separate building. In addition, it will cancel the possibility of another lawsuit with the North Chelmsford Water District. The town has already spent about $100,000 in legal fees over the DPW's proximity to North Chelmsford's drinking-water supply. While candidates running for School Committee and the Board of Selectmen campaigned to set themselves apart in the 2010 election, all had voiced their support for the DPW project. "I'm very happy this passed," said Jon Kurland, who won a seat on the Board of Selectmen last night along with candidate Matt Hanson . passed, "It's such a major win for the town." town. Despite cheers at Town Offices over the DPW victory, some voters who exited the polls yesterday felt differently. "We can't afford it," Laurie Corbett said. "I'd rather put the money toward our schools." it, Jeff Apostollakes said he would have supported the project but had to cast a "no" vote on the grounds that some in town aren't picking up their fair share of the tab. "No matter how you look at it, it's a tax increase," he said. "I know we need this, but it's tough to keep forking over money increase when some of the town's unions won't help out by making some sacrifices of their own. We're paying a lot of money for town employee health insurance and benefits. It doesn't seem fair for the rest of us to pay more money until everybody is pitching in." in. Former Selectman Clare Jeannotte, whose first term came to an end last night, called the project a "good deal." deal. "I think the second time around, voters felt this was a good, frugal solution to solve the problem of an antiquated facility," she said. facility Planning Board member Colleen Stansfield echoed the sentiment. "This vote is a huge investment in the future," Stansfield said. "It's an opportunity taken, not lost." future lost. The DPW's current Richardson Road facility will remain open until the second phase, which Town Manager Paul Cohen estimated would begin in 2015. The total project is expected to cost $11 million.
  4. 4. Town manager: Mailings 'purely propaganda' Chelmsford resident hopes missives will affect election By Rita Savard, 04/06/2010 CHELMSFORD -- Another letter blasting town officials landed in mailboxes Saturday, three days before today's town election. This time, there's no mistaking who the author is. Asking residents to "vote no to every incumbent on the ballot Tuesday," Chelmsford resident Roland Tuesday Van Liew announced he's launching a campaign called "Better Not Bigger" in a mailing marked with his pho- Bigger tograph. Roland His goal, Van Liew said, is to promote good government by eliminating what he calls "corruption and crony - Van Liew ism" in Town Hall. ism Van Liew, who also co-founded and pumped about $500,000 into the anti-40B group Slow Growth Initiative, said this new endeavor is his own -- separate from SGI, which is led by Craig Chemaly. During the past couple of years, SGI has sent out its own mailings alleging that town officials are destroying Chelmsford's character. Van Liew has been called out by several people for writing those letters but has denied the allegations. A couple of weeks ago, Chemaly publicly offered an olive branch to the town, adding that SGI would cease its negative mailings nam- ing town officials but he couldn't be responsible for what Van Liew might do on his own. In his 10-page letter, Van Liew targets Town Manager Paul Cohen and several people serving on town boards and committees, includ- ing Philip Eliopoulos, members of the Planning Board and Selectman Pat Wojtas. Van Liew states that Chelmsford officials have supported a "knee-jerk growthist mentality" for decades. Wojtas declined to com- mentality ment on the letter yesterday, only to say that she received it but hadn't read it. Paul Cohen Cohen called the mailing "just sad." sad. "By now, I think voters have seen enough of these mailings to read between the lines," Cohen lines, said. "It stretches the realm of credibility when you accuse everybody serving on town boards and committees of being corrupt. It's purely propaganda, and I believe people will see it for what it is." is. Chemaly said yesterday that the mailing should prove Van Liew is a man who acts on his own accord. "We appreciate his support, but we've decided to take a different approach in working with the town," Chemaly said. "SGI can't be held responsible for the actions of a donor." town, donor. Last month, Attorney General Martha Coakley issued SGI a cease-and-desist order to stop taking donations because the organization had failed to register with the state as a nonprofit organization. Chemaly said the group has gathered all of its financial records for Coakley's office and hopes to be soliciting donations again soon. Eliopoulos, whose family was highlighted in the letter as being the "dominant clan" of the town's "oligarchy," said yesterday that a clan oligarchy public debate would be the best way to settle this issue. "It's just unsubstantiated personal attacks against people who donate their time to the community," he said. "I think community, a debate, with an impartial moderator, would show the community what the truths are." are. Van Liew told The Sun yesterday that he will not debate Eliopoulos. Van Liew, who owns and operates Hands On Technology Transfer Inc. at 1 Village Square, declined to say how many of the missives were sent to Chelmsford homes. "It's a small test mailing to help me gauge what kind of effect it will have on election results," he said. "I've already results gotten some positive feedback, and just one letter asking me to move away. So I'll take that as a positive." positive.
  5. 5. Another election season, another mailing By Chloe Gotsis, Staff Writer GateHouse News Service Apr 09, 2010 Chelmsford — Chelmsford residents can set their calendar by the political mailings: Each year they arrive a few days before the election, each one designed to reassure decided voters and entice the undecided. If they happen to change a few minds, so much the better for the author. Last Saturday, the latest installment began arriving. The author calls on residents to “vote to eliminate corruption and cronyism in Town Hall.” Hall. The author is Roland Van Liew, a Chelmsford resident whose name has been mentioned frequently by critics of the earlier mailings, sent by the Slow Growth Initiative. In his letter, bearing the name of a 1998 book by Eben Fodor, “Better not Bigger,” Van Liew calls on residents to “Vote ‘no’ every incumbent Bigger on the ballot on Tuesday and help make Chelmsford better, not bigger.” While previous mailings sent out by the Slow Growth Initiative have not mentioned Selectman Pat Wojtas, who lost her re-election bid this week, Van Liew’s mailing is critical of Wojtas for being pro Chapter 40B. “She continues to defend the Town Manager’s incompetent performance, contending problems are not his fault because the issues are complex,” said Van Liew in the mailing. “Indeed, they are complex. That is precisely why we need a competent complex, Town Manager. The Board of Selectmen with Wojtas as chief apologist, refuses to hold Town Manager Cohen account - able for multiple acts of malfeasance and obviously corrupt decision-making.” decision-making. On Monday afternoon, Wojtas said she could not comment because she had not yet read the mailing and didn’t expect she would have time to before election day. Van Liew had no qualms about identifying his motive behind sending the mailings out last weekend. “One objective is to let residents of Chelmsford know that it’s important to continue to send a message at the ballot box,” box he said in an e-mail. If we don’t like cronyism, the only alternative is to ‘vote the bums out,’ as they say.” say Van Liew said he was also provoked by the idea that the mailings may incite some residents to run in the next election and to let other officials, who are not up for re-election know that they are being monitored. The mailing largely focuses around the proposed two-story office building on North Road put forth by the Eliopoulos family. Van Liew charges that the Eliopoulos family, whom he calls “the dominant clan,” in the town’s “oligarchy,” have steered the proposal for clan oligarchy the development through local town boards illegally. He calls the recent Planning Board approval, “breathtaking in its combination of audacity and ignorance.” Van Liew charges that the proposed development will interfere with the town’s open space and greenery on Center Park. In a recent interview he said officials have no consideration for the town’s greenery. But former Selectman Philip Eliopoulos, who is representing his father’s company and the building’s owner Epsilon Group LLC, said these statements are blatant lies. “Roland has put himself out there now as someone who is willing to spread lies about people who do a lot of good things for the town,” said Eliopoulos. “What Roland has put in that letter is nothing but out and out lies. It’s almost laugh - town able to some extent. ” Eliopoulos’ answer to exposing what he calls are Van Liew’s lies is to organize a debate between with Van Liew and Slow Growth Director Craig Chemaly against town officials. Van Liew attributes the fact that the Eliopoulos’ proposed office building is still tied up in town boards and in court to the vocal opposition of the Slow Growth Initiative. “If it wasn’t for the Slow Growth Initiative, the shovels would be in the ground for that thing,” he said at a recent interview at thing his Village Square office. Van Liew contends that since he began sending the mailings last weekend he has received favorable feedback from town residents. “Longtime residents whom I don’t know personally are contacting me by phone and by e-mail and letting me know they think ‘it’s about time’ that the cronyism is challenged,” he said, yet he admitted receiving one message from an unidentifiable sender challenged, telling him to feel free to move away. Town Manager Paul Cohen, whom Van Liew repeatedly calls incompetent, said he wasn’t surprised when he heard about the weekend mailing. “The pattern has always been to do a mailing last minute before the election so no one has the ability to respond to the misinformation,” he said. “Clearly, given the content and the tone it is the same as what was in the Slow Growth mailings misinformation, and it sort of belies the fact that he has nothing to do with the Slow Growth Mailings.” Mailings. Cohen said he doubts that the mailing will have an impact on the outcome of Tuesday’s election. “I respect the intelligence of the voters in town,” he said, adding that he is concerned that the mailings will sway residents against vol- town, unteering on town boards. Cohen said Van Liew enjoys the spotlight. Note: Since the letter was sent out last weekend, incumbent Pat Wojtas lost her bid for re-election and Philip Eliopolous came in last in his race town meeting representative. However, there were six candidates for six open seats in Precinct 5 and Eliopolous maintained his seat.
  6. 6. SGI fights bill collectors in court By Rita Savard, 04/14/2010 LOWELL -- After collecting thousands of signatures for an effort to abolish the state's 40B affordable-housing law, a professional signa- ture-gathering firm is suing the Chelmsford-based Slow Growth Initiative, Craig Chemaly, Roland Van Liew and John Belskis of the Coali- tion to Repeal 40B for allegedly failing to pay nearly $80,000 for services rendered. Rob and Dianne Wilkinson, owners of Worcester-based Freedom Petition Management, filed suit in Woburn District Court on April 6, claiming the defendants violated a contractual agreement. The Wilkinsons' attorney and a lawyer representing the defendants argued their cases before Lowell Superior Court Judge Christine McEvoy yesterday. The lawsuit seeks to stop SGI, the Coalition to Repeal 40B and the New Hampshire-based New England Coalition for Sustainable Popu- lation from gathering any further signatures for their ballot initiative until Freedom Petition management is paid. The suit also seeks to put an injunction on the bank accounts of Van Liew, Chemaly, Belskis SGI, NECSP and Repeal 40B, to prevent any transferring of assets until the signature gatherers are paid. "In an e-mail Roland Van Liew writes that he's taking personal responsibility for the debt owed ... but payments have fallen through every time," said Anthony McGuinness, who represents the Wilkinsons. time John Gallant, who represents the defendants, argued that his clients were making regular payments before the Wilkinsons asked for more than what the nonprofit agencies could pay at once. "The clients don't deny that there is some debt but we don't know how much that is," Gallant told the judge. "My clients is, have paid over $220,000 over the past year. We haven't received an account of how (the Wilkinsons) arrived at an - other $79,000." $79,000. Rob Wilkinson confirmed that SGI has paid more than $200,000, but alleges that the defendants owed nearly $300,000 for about 91,000 signatures collected last year, as well for consulting services on how to gather signatures. The Wilkinsons' lawyer also told McEvoy that Craig Chemaly signed the contractual agreements and a series of payments was sporadic, coming in by wire transfer and by check. One payment was made by Van Liew directly, another by NECSP and SGI, and another was signed by Chemaly from the Coalition to Repeal 40B. Although an agreement was made to make payments of about $20,000 a week, the defendants were not able to meet that, McGuinness said. Gallant argued that payments made are based on fundraising activities, and the high lump sum that the plaintiffs were seeking would pre- vent SGI from paying its five employees. McGuinness said his clients were also worried about getting paid due to a cease-and-desist order issued by Attorney General Martha Coakley last month that blocked SGI and NECSP from soliciting donations in Massachusetts because each organization failed to register with the state as a nonprofit. Gallant said SGI has submitted the necessary documents to the state and should be able to take donations again soon. SGI hired Freedom Petition Management last year to help gather signatures with the goal of placing a question to repeal 40B on this fall's state election ballot. Similar efforts, led by Belskis and the Repeal 40B Ballot Question Committee, were derailed in 2008 when the com- mittee was unable to gather enough signatures. Chemaly said the support to take 40B off state law books was there, but that Massachusetts makes it very tough to get a question on the ballot. Before an initiative appears on the Massachusetts ballot, applicants must receive approval from the attorney general and secretary of state and collect more than 75,000 supporting signatures. If the state Legislature does not approve the 2010 40B ballot initiative in May, proponents will have little more than a month to collect 11,000 additional signatures. The Wilkinsons said they'd like to receive the rest of their money before SGI, Repeal 40B or NECSP can col- lect any more signatures on their own. "They were supposed to pay us in full in December," Rob Wilkinson said. "They didn't, so then we made an agreement to December, receive payments of $20,000 a week based on what Roland Van Liew said he could do. They didn't make one of those payments until they received a demand letter from an attorney." attorney. Freedom Petition Management has been gathering signatures for ballot questions in Massachusetts since 1999. The company obtained signatures for all three questions that appeared on the 2008 state election ballot. Last year marks the first time they've had a problem with a client, Dianne Wilkinson said. "We've done all the work and invested our own money to pay our people and get (the defendants) exactly what they asked for," Dianne Wilkinson said. "Now we're in the hole and we just want to get paid." for, paid. McEvoy told both attorneys, "if you don't resolve it by noon (today), I'll resolve it." it. RELATED STORY:   “No set plans for SGI Still working on payment deal ” CLICK HERE
  7. 7. Photos by Tom Christiano
  8. 8. Photos by Tom Christiano
  9. 9. LOWELL SUN POLITICAL COLUMN SUNDAY 04/11/10 By Rita Savard ASKenburg and you shall receive. Less than 24 hours after Janet Askenburg was elected to the Chelmsford School Committee with the high- est number of votes in all the town’s contested races, she was already breaking “tradition”. During the Wednesday meeting to reorganize the committee, Askenburg asked for a copy of the school district’s budget, which Superintendent Donald Yeoman said traditionally goes out the Friday before a meeting. But since the budget was ready on Wednesday, Askenburg said, why wait? When Yeoman said he’d need to see who was available to make a copy. Askenburg said she would be happy to make her own copy if necessary. Within an hour, copies of the budget were presented to all members of the School Committee two days ahead of schedule. Tuesday’s election also brought a reorganization of the Board of Selectmen with George Dixon becoming chair, Eric Dahlberg taking over the vice-chair seat and newly elected Matt Hanson sliding into the role of clerk. Hanson did not make Thursday’s reorganiza- tion meeting , but wrote a letter expressing his interest in becoming clerk. Hanson, 21 , will also be absent for the board’s first meeting Monday night , while visiting New Zealand where his girlfriend , Town Meeting Representative , Anna Graves ,who is studying abroad. The ousting of former Selectmen Pat Wojtas came as a surprise to some who thought the incumbent would be re-elected without a hitch. Wojtas did take some heat during her campaign from challenger Jon Kurland, who was elected to the board. Kurland asked Wojtas more than once about a vote she took that prevented an in-house ambulance discussion from reaching the floor of town meeting in 2008. Kurland said the issue should have been debated by the townspeople. Before the election, some also questioned Wojtas’ role as the board’s liaison to the Chelmsford Housing Authority. Her brother, Charlie Wojtas, owns the land at 9 Manahan St., which the Housing Authority is trying to purchase for $200,000 with community preservation funding to build affordable housing for veterans. However, Pat Wojtas has said she contacted the state Ethics Commission and was told there would be no conflict as long as she did not vote on the proposal at Town Meeting. Another question that surfaced during the race was, what on Earth happened to Jack Wang? The School Committee candidate, who seemed to start out strong, failed to show up to campaign. Yet he only trailed incumbent Evelyn Thoren by 378 votes. Wang who was spotted at the polls with one homemade sign that simply read, WANG, ad- mitted Tuesday night that he could have campaigned harder. He joked that he wouldn’t be allowed back trail until he takes a course on ordering signs. Former Selectman Philip Eliopoulos earned the least number of votes among the six candidates running for Town Meeting rep seats in Precinct 5. Eliopoulos, whose family plans to construct an office building on North Road, said he didn’t think the controversy surrounding the project had anything to do with his sixth- place finish in the non-contested race. Because he faced no competition, Eliopoulos said he put his efforts into campaigning for the town’s only ballot question instead – a $5 million DPW debt exclusion – which the voters passed Tuesday
  10. 10. Tom TV CLICK HERE for Show * Politically Incorrect with Tom Christiano The panelists on the APRIL 13, 2010 "Politically Incorrect" Annual Post Election Analysis Show (l to r) Sam Chase, Colleen Stansfield, Bob Joyce, Tom Christiano, Chloe Gotsis & Alex Buck. Political Junkies with Tom Christiano Chelmsford Selectman & current State Senate Candidate Eric Dahlberg was recently a guest on the "Po- litical Junkies Show with Tom Christiano." Eric's wife, Suzanne Dahlberg, was also on the show to speak about the charity walk/run she is organizing. This 5K walk/run will take place on Sunday, Septem- ber 26, 2010, in Chelmsford, and will benefit the National Lung Cancer Partnership. Should you wish to participate in this fundraiser, either as a walker, or to make a pledge, please check out the website at please contact either Suzanne Dahlberg or Tom Christiano, who will be doing the charity walk on September 26th. The topics discussed with CLICK HERE Eric on the Show included the following: for Show Why Eric decided to run for the State Senate this year...his most significant accomplishments, thus far, as a Selectmen ..the State Income and Sales Tax Rates ...Health Insurance reform... the 40B Law... Casinos in MA... why repeal the Pacheco Law... Gay Marriage... Eric's term limit pledge.
  11. 11. SPRING  TOWN  MEETING 2010 CLICK  HERE for Spring Town Meeting Warrant book It’s your town and it’s your Town Meeting You do not need to be a Town Meeting Representative to have a say at Town Meeting! If you have questions about the Town and School budgets, the two Town Hall restoration projects or the Veteran’s housing proposal in the Westlands or any other matter that comes up at Town Meeting, come and get involved. April 26th 7:30 pm Chelmsford Senior Center 75 Groton Road, North Chelmsford Be Heard! Let The People Speak!
  12. 12. Battle lines form on vets housing By Rita Savard, 04/10/2010 CHELMSFORD -- A proposal to build veterans housing near the Chelmsford Mall has stirred concerns over the project's size and scale. Neighbor Neal Lerer, who lives at 4 Manahan St., across the road from the proposed site, said the 17,000-square foot lot seems too small for a duplex. "There used to be a single-family home on that lot," Lerer said. lot, "I suggested that they build another single-family home instead for a veteran and his family." family. Resident Laurie Myers, who also lives in the Westlands neighborhood on Pine Hill Avenue, said she supports having veterans housing in the area, but doesn't want to see it turned into a "rooming house." house. Chelmsford Housing Authority Director Executive David Hedison, who's seeking $400,000 in Community Preservation funds to make the proposal at 9 Manahan St. a reality, said the site remains a blank canvas. "This is a project that we want the community to help design," Hedison said. "It's going to be part of the community so it design won't be planned without public input." input. Hedison mailed information about the proposal -- which seeks to house some of the 18 Chelmsford veterans now on a waiting list for affordable housing -- to Town Meeting representatives yesterday. Hedison said some residents might have gotten the wrong impression that a building was already designed due to rough sketches the CHA had to provide the Community Preservation Committee at a recent meeting. Plans that showed three different buildings on the site were pre- sented to give the committee an idea of what a building on the parcel might look like. Hedison said CHA just brought on Boston-based architects, Mostue and Associates. "We don't have anything designed yet," Hedison stressed, but added that yet, the CHA will be holding public meetings for input from residents to make sure the building's aesthetics fit in with the neighborhood. In the meantime, the CHA wanted to get more information out to Town Meeting representatives and abutters. There are 150 local veterans on a waiting list for affordable housing. Eighteen are single individuals from Chelmsford. And as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan con- tinue, more veterans will surely be added to the list, Hedison said. The Manahan Street site was chosen for its proximity to community services, in- cluding bus transportation, grocery and department stores. The proposed project would create a first- and second-floor unit, each with four bedrooms and a shared living space. The first floor would be handicapped accessible. Some veterans that live in the housing units could have physical disabilities, in- cluding missing limbs from the war, but other than that, all residents of the house would "be living independently just like you and me," Hedison said. me, "People have had concerns about the type of people that might be liv - ing there," Hedison said. "These will be people that served our country. They're not going to be hanging around outside there, pushing shopping carts." carts. The residents moving into the development will look like the ones Chelmsford has been housing for three decades inside the town's three affordable housing developments -- McFarland Manor, Delaney Terrace and Chelmsford Arms. There are about 12 to 20 affordable units that open up in Chelmsford each year, Hedison explained. More than half have gone out to local vet- erans. Creating housing specifically for veterans will free up more of the existing units for other residents in need, including the elderly. The CHA will ask Town Meeting representatives to appropriate $400,000 in Community Preservation funds to help build the duplex at Town Meeting on April 26. If approved, the CPA money would be matched by nearly $1 million in state and federal funding to make the project a reality. Jeff Hardy, a Town Meeting representative who lives in the Westlands neigh- borhood, said he understands some of his neighbors' concerns, but has faith in the CHA proposal. "It's hard to sit there and say you don't want to help our veter - ans," Hardy said. ans, "If the (CHA) makes a mistake with this proposal, they'll have a hard time working with the town again so they're going to work hard to get it right. I see more of an upside than a down side here." here.
  13. 13. Taken from the mailing that went out to the Town Meeting Representatives Manahan Street This site is in a great location for residents to access an array of community services, such as bus trans- portation, grocery stores and department stores. These amenities are easily reached by walking or a short drive. The neighborhood is rich in diversity and features duplexes, a multifamily dwelling with over 30 units, a shopping mall across the way and commercial businesses next door. This neighborhood is currently zoned for commercial use. Some have raised concerns that if this project moves forward their own home may be torn down for the same purpose. You may rest assured that this will not be the case. This site was selected for its unique location within a commercial zone, the acquisition price of $200,000, and the commitment of the seller to see this built as Veteran’s Housing. The seller, Charlie Wojtas, and his two siblings are all veterans and he agreed to sell the land if we focused on helping veterans. The residents moving into this development will look like the ones we have been housing for three decades at our existing buildings. We are proposing long-term housing and NOT a shelter. The building will be two stories and look like a home. There will be a front and side doors and each floor will have four bedrooms. As there will be a mix of ages, we anticipate that on-site service delivery similar to the ones we provide in our existing buildings will support our frail elderly veterans or those who may have mobility issues and are using wheelchairs. We are committed to helping our veterans live independently and be part of our community. As such, this will not be a site that has support staff living there or providing 24-hour care. It will be like a regular home where people may receive a variety of supportive services, such as transportation to doctor’s appointments, home health care and home-making. We will reach out to local service agencies to provide these services on an as-needed basis. We have hired an architect that will be designing the Chelmsford Manahan Street site along with the West- ford Carlisle Road site. Both buildings are being designed to provide housing opportunities to the veterans that have served our country. The Carlisle Road Project was well-received at the Westford Town Meeting, where they unanimously voted to support $400,000 for their Veteran’s Project. We are kindly asking for your support at Town Meeting for the Chelmsford Veteran’s Project. There will be a local process to accept input from neighbors, various boards, veterans and other interested parties. We will be using CHA funds currently on hand to purchase the land and hope that you will join us in support of this valuable project. The $400,000 will be more than matched with State funds. We will have a public process to solicit input on the design of the building to make sure that it fits within the scale and look of the neighborhood. If you have specific questions, please email me at I welcome your input and the opportunity to address any future concerns that may arise. For more info Click Here ----------------------------------------------------------------- Also for questions concerning veterans specificly contact Regina Jackson●Veterans Agent phone # 978-250-5238
  14. 14. ●ITR● April 22, 2010 Letter to the Editor Please allow me the privilege of including this letter to the editor in your in town report. Notwithstanding the Lowell Sun Article, many individuals are unaware of the warrant and issue concerning housing on 9 Manahan Street. I have lived at 4 Manahan Street virtually all my life. My family is in favor of the concept of Veterans’ housing. I have a nephew presently serving in Afghanistan. The issue that I and many neighbors on Manahan Street have is that the proposed project is too big for the space and overly congested. The lot is undersized at 17,600 square feet and historically had a one-family house. The present proposal, which I hope will change, provides for a doubling of the housing area and eight unrelated people living together, not a single family. It is my hope and that of many of my neighbors that the project be limited to four or, at the most, six people. After the addition of a driveway and parking, precious little open space will be left for the prospective tenants to garden, have a barbecue, or set up a hammock if housing is provided for eight unrelated adults. I understand that there is some marginal economic advantage in economies of scale, but eight is too many and congested for this lot. In my view, value to the neighborhood as opposed to cost should be paramount. If the cost of the project is the most important factor, then Town Meeting should not support using public money to pay for private land. The CHA or its affiliate is paying $200,000 for land without a house on it. Based on the assessor’s record, it was purchased for $179,000 with a house on it in November 2008. The house alone, which was appraised at between $146,000 and over $151,000, was declared a total loss after a fire and presumably some fire insurance recovery was obtained by the owner. The land only appraised value is now $177,100, although $201,500 is the total appraised parcel value; so $200,000 is not a bargain price based on the parcel’s original sale value if cost is the main factor in this project. Consequently, absent some firm agreement to limit the congestion and size of the group home project to preferably four or, at most, six individuals, I request that the warrant be defeated. Neal Lerer 9 Manahan Street
  15. 15. LETTER TO THE EDITOR North Town Hall (NTH) was built in 1853 to serve the Chelmsford community. It is Chelmsford’s first Town Hall. NTH is the cornerstone of the largest collection of mill related buildings in Massachusetts. Many residents worked hard this year developing a proposal that will enhance our community and not pose a financial burden to the town. The Town Halls Utilization Study Committee (THUSC) was formed in the spring to recommend long term viable uses for Chelmsford’s Town Halls. THUSC presented their rec- ommendations in October and the Permanent Building Committee (PBC) proceeded with cost-estimations for the renovations. There will be no additional costs to taxpayers to renovate the Town Halls. Ten years ago residents voted to approve the Massachusetts Community Preservation Act. This act created a fund which can only be used for historical preservation, open space or affordable housing. Only 8% of the account has been spent on historical preservation. The Community Preservation Committee (CPC) has funds available to renovate both Town Halls. Importantly, the PBC developed a “not to exceed” cost estimate; there are many ways the cost can be decreased and anticipated excess funds will be returned to CPC. THUSC determined the proposed use for NTH will cover the operating expenses of the building. The proposed use, a Community Center, will provide a welcoming space with events meeting the needs of all ages. It will provide much needed meeting space for local organizations, contain historical displays and be available for private function rental. It will also host an after school program for middle school students, meeting an important need for this at-risk population. For more than 150 years, NTH has served Chelmsford well as a Town Hall, a community center, school administrative offices and more. It is important that we preserve this historical treasure for future genera- tions. Laura Lee 9 Washington St. 978-996-8490 ************************************* History of North Town Hall History of North Town Hall Chelmsford began as a bustling rural community in the colonial times. The village of North Chelmsford hosted travelers along the Middlesex Turnpike before the Revolutionary War. The mill buildings were built at the start of the industrial revo- lution and created a vibrant economic village in North Chelmsford. Food and goods were shipped to Boston via the Mid- dlesex Canal and the village served as a popular stop for passengers and freight during the railroad years. In 1853, the townspeople recognized the need for a gathering place dedicated solely to civic purposes. As a result, North Town Hall was constructed to serve as the town's first civic building. The land was generously donated by two local resi- dents, Benjamin and Thomas Adams. Remarkably, this mill community still stands today: the mills, the canals, the mill owners’ houses, the row houses, the shops, the forge, the common, the park, the churches, the library and the town hall. Chelmsford’s North Town Hall is the cornerstone of the largest collection of mill related buildings in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In its 156 years, this Chelmsford gem has served its people well. During the early years, Town Meetings alternated be- tween the Center and North Town Halls. In later years, North Town Hall functioned as the gathering place for numerous municipal events including High School graduations and receptions, proms, classroom space, school administration offices, and a polling place among other things. It has also strengthened the community’s bond by providing countless public events like plays, stage shows, movies, social outings and scout troop meetings to name a few. Dancing and elocution les- sons were available to residents. For a time, the American Legion gave out Halloween candy from this historic building. And another notable fact to take pride in, Spaldings' Light Calvary, a very well respected and decorated Civil War unit chose our North Town Hall as its home. Clearly, this Chelmsford gem has served its people well over its lifetime. This historic masterpiece ought to be brought back to its original splendor and, once again, serve the residents of Chelmsford. The vision of the 1997 North Town Hall Committee to re-establish North Town Hall as a welcoming and vibrant Community Center after its brief period of vacancy should move forward. The top floor boasts a 40 foot stage, a gallery and beautiful birch wood floors. The ground floor, in traditional New England style, features meeting rooms’ space, a dining hall and a kitchen area. Townspeople could once again gather for social events including potluck dinners, dances, movie nights, small and large group events, seasonal festivities and much more determined by the needs of our residents. Local organizations and clubs could once again schedule their events or meetings at North Town Hall. Just as our forefathers understood, so much would be gained by a town building dedicated for municipal and civic pur- poses. Current residents of Chelmsford would benefit from the use of a local community center and the legacy of our his- toric North Town Hall would carry on into future generations.
  16. 16. Milestones in the life of Two New England Town Halls Chelmsford Center Town Hall 1873 – The Town voted not to build a “Town House” in the “Cen- tre Village” primarily due to objections from North Chelmsford residents who already had a Town Hall facility. 1879 – The Town votes to build a Town Hall to replace the Uni- tarian Church basement which had been used for Town business since 1842, sometimes alternating with North Town Hall. 1880 – The Town voted not to lay a concrete floor and build horse stalls in the basement. A horse shed was authorized and built out back in 1881. 1888 – Two toilet rooms were constructed in the basement along with access stairs from the vestibule. 1893 to 1895 – The Chelmsford Free Public Library operated on the first floor. 1908 to 1923 – Volunteer fire department apparatus was housed in the rear. 1921 – The Town Accountant, first of many officials to follow, moved his office into Town Hall. 1923 – The Village Improvement Association donated the first fire whistle mounted atop the tower. 1937 to 1938 – The building underwent a major reconditioning as a WPA project, with offices temporarily moved to North Town Hall. A part of this project was to lower the basement floor by two feet so the kitchen and dining room could be moved there from the first floor. 1956 – An addition was built on the rear of Town Hall to provide three rooms for the Police Department, with offices for the Highway Department in the basement. There was no lock-up or investigation room. 1959 – A new garage was constructed in back of Town Hall for the Highway Department. Their old garage was converted by volun- teers for use by the Auxiliary Police in 1960. 1960 – The rear entrance hall was relocated to create space for the Assessor’s office. 1961 – The second floor stage was removed to make room for two more offices. 1964 – The back stairway to the upper hall was removed to make room for the Town Clerk’s office. 1965 – The Police Department moved out of Town Hall to a new facility on North Road. 1966 – Additional fire proof vault space was built for important Town records. 1977 – A “Town-wide Cultural Council” was appointed to find appropriate uses for Town Hall in the event a move of Town offices to the vacant McFarlin School was approved. 1980 – A State grant was approved to fund both the office move to McFarlin and Town Hall restoration. 1985 – A Preservation Restriction was placed on the now completed restoration work to insure the future architectural and historical integrity of Town Hall. 2008 – After a relatively stable period of community use by the Cultural Council and Recreation Commission, the changing economy left Town Hall nearly abandoned. 2009 – A plan by the Chelmsford Housing Authority to convert the building to affordable housing focused the Town’s attention on this endangered historical treasure. A pilot program to restart the building as the “Chelmsford Center for the Arts” has succeeded beyond expectations. 2010 – At Spring Annual Town Meeting next week the TM Representatives have an opportunity to review and approve a Warrant Arti- cle to set in motion a restoration program to bring Town Hall into the twenty first century as an accessible and functional public facility that would make the original planners, builders and residents proud. Funding for this Town Hall project is to be drawn from the Mas- sachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund and the local Community Preservation Fund at the discretion of the Chelmsford Community Preservation Committee, and will not affect local real estate taxes in any way.
  17. 17. North Chelmsford Town Hall 1851 – North Chelmsford businessmen petitioned the State legislature for a division of the North and Centre sections of Chelmsford, due to the inconvenience of travel to the Centre. The petition failed. 1852 – The Town voted to build a “Town House” in the North section not to exceed the cost of the present town house. 1853 – The Town House is completed as a large one story meeting hall. Annual Town Meetings are held alternately at the Centre and North villages for a number of years. 1871 – The Town agrees to hold all intermediate or special meetings alternately at Centre and North. 1884 – Town Meeting votes to enlarge the building. 1885 to 1886 – North Town Hall is lifted 10 feet and the foundation dropped 1 foot, and a new first floor is inserted. The front of the building is extended by 20 feet and the interior is refinished. 1921 to 1965 – North Town Hall is used as a polling place for Precinct 2. 1967 to 1981 – The Chelmsford School Department was granted full use of the building, and a number of historically incompatible changes were made to create serviceable office space. The School Department moved their administrative offices to Parker School in 1981. 1981 – The Chelmsford Pop Warner organization hires North Town Hall for seasonal equipment storage. 1986 – The Board of Selectmen granted the Chelmsford Housing Authority ownership of the building. 1987 – The Executive Office of Communities and Development, and the Chelmsford Housing Authority decided to withdraw a plan to reduce the size of the building and convert it to four units of housing because state grant requirements were not met. The deed to the property was returned to the Board of Selectmen. The Massachusetts Historical Commission recommends that any re-use scheme should preserve the historic building’s character defining features. 1988 – The Masons made an unsolicited offer to purchase the building for $1, do a $40,000 to $50,000 renovation and allow Town use of the building. This offer stood for five years. 1990 – A Town Meeting vote authorized the Selectmen to sell North Town Hall, leaving the minimum bid up to the discretion of the Selectmen. Initial thinking was a sale price of $100,000. 1992 – The building was offered for sale at $75,000. The Boston Globe accidentally ran their ad with a photo of Center Town Hall, which generated some confusion and amusement, but there was still no interest. 1993 – The Mason’s withdrew their $1 offer. The building was offered for sale with a minimum bid of $50,000. There were no bids. 1996 – A feasibility study was prepared by Belanger and Foley, Inc. to estimate the minimum cost required to re-open the now unin- habitable North Town Hall. There were no construction funds available. 1997 – The North Town Hall Committee was formed to renovate the building with the intention of returning it to use for the community. The Committee gutted the building at no cost to the town and prepared it for renovation. 2004 - $50,000 appropriated from the Community Preservation Fund to stabilize the North Town Hall building in preparation for a future restoration. The roof was replaced in 2004 and windows repaired. The total expended was substantially less than the original estimate and the balance (approx $22,000) has been returned to the originating account. 2009 – A second plan by the Chelmsford Housing Authority to convert this building to affordable housing focused the Town’s attention on a forgotten community treasure. Investigations into its utilization as the “Chelmsford Community Center” have shown solid promise. 2010 – At Spring Annual Town Meeting next week the TM Representatives have an opportunity to review and approve a Warrant Ar- ticle to set in motion the resurrection of North Town Hall as an accessible and functional twentieth century public facility with ample new parking constructed on the other side of the Fire Station. This facility was lost to Chelmsford residents in 1967, but now has a chance of becoming a crown jewel in historic Vinal Square. Funding for this Town Hall project is also to be drawn from the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund and the local Community Preservation Fund, and will not affect local real estate taxes in any way. These “milestones” were compiled from Chelmsford Historical Commission files by Fred Merriam to raise public aware- ness of the Town Halls. The restoration project was initiated by Town Manager Paul Cohen and the Board of Selectmen, and is a joint effort of the Town Halls Utilization Study Committee, the Permanent Building Committee, and the Community Preservation Committee with help from very active Town Halls citizen interest groups.
  18. 18. An IN-TOWN REPORT Note to our Fellow Town Meeting Representatives. We will all be asked to vote on two very important Warrant Articles at our upcoming Town Meeting. Those two articles concern the Restoration of our Old Town Halls…one in the center of Chelmsford, and one in the center of North Chelmsford. Both of these buildings are important historical structures. The North Town Hall is 157 years old and the Old Center Town Hall is approximately 130 years old. We have financial resources in our town’s Community Preservation Fund which are supposed to be used for historical preservation projects such as these two old town halls. They both are an important part of our town’s history and charac- ter. They are the iconic images of our town, which artists and photographers have been using to depict our town for decades. Tom Christiano has personally created many pieces of art depicting the Old Town Hall, and they hang throughout his home. I’m sure many of you have similar types of pictures. These old Town Halls should be preserved for future generations. Rest assured, however, that they will not just be two pretty buildings that we can look at and admire once they are fully restored. The Old Center Town Hall will continue to be a vibrant part of our arts community and an important gathering place for town events, celebrations and shows. During the past year, the community came out and packed this venue on many oc- casions. We will be able to do that even more often once the building is completely restored and handicapped accessible. The Old North Town Hall will be used as a community center for the entire town to enjoy. Some of the activities which are planned for the refurbished Old North Town Hall are as follows, as expressed in a recent preservation committee mailing: “The emphasis will be to provide a location to foster town, community and family relationships as the “Chelmsford Com- munity Center”. Activities would include but not be limited to: Afterschool program for Middle School students Volunteer tutors, WiFi capabilities, games, arts & crafts, music, etc. Rental space for community based organizations Rental space for private functions Rental space for small business owners Space available for arts & crafts, fitness and hobby groups North Chelmsford Historical Exhibits Lecture Series Family Movie & Game Nights Community Holiday Events Children’s Theme Parties MacKay Library Programs and Concerts Fitness Programs Men’s & Women’s Clubs Community Dinners Historical Programs and Displays Dances for All Ages Recycling Events Girl Scout and Boy Scout Events Lego Tournaments Hobby Clubs and Classes “ As you can clearly see upon reading the above list, there are many uses for the Old North Town Hall which will enrich the lives of all of our citizens. It is well worth the investment of our Community “Preservation” Funds to actually “PRESERVE” both of these historic town buildings. “Let the Children Guard what the Sires have Won” should not be an empty slogan. Let’s all vote next week to do exactly that….preserve what previous generations have won for us…so that we can do the same for those who follow in our footsteps. Sincerely, Tom Christiano Roy Earley Town Meeting Representative Town Meeting Representaive
  19. 19. Rev. Ventura arrested By Chloe Gotsis, Staff Writer GateHouse News Service Apr 14, 2010 Chelmsford — A Chelmsford priest was among eight people arrested in association with a prostitution sting at a New Hampshire hotel last week. The Boston Archdiocese announced yesterday that Rev. William Venutra, who was serving as the parochial vicar at St. John’s The Evangelist Church in Chelmsford, has voluntarily accepted a leave of absence from public ministry as a result of his arrest. The leave of absence will remain in effect while the case is investi- gated. Nashua police conducted the sting on Friday, April 9, after learning the suspects had responded to a post- ing on Craigslist. "They all paid money, and the cash was exchanged before the arrest were made," Nashua made, Police Department Capt. Scott Lowe said to the Boston Channel. Ventura is charged with one count of prostitution. The church said Ventura's leave of absence will remain in effect while the case is investigated. "He is absolutely one of the best people, the kindest, most giving people I have ever met, and that is all I have to say," one parishioner said. say, George Dixon, the chairman of Selectmen and a parishioner at St John’s, said he is very surprised by the news, but he considers the priest a friend. Dixon recalls that he and Ventura have talked about numerous topics including Frank Sinatra since they met after Ventura arrived at St John’s straight after the seminary. “I’ve never heard one person say a bad thing about him,” said Dixon, who is an altar server at the him, church. “He is just a wonderful person. Everyone makes mistakes and I hope that this is an isolated incident.” incident. A long-time member of St. John’s, Dixon said Ventura was doing commendable work with his programs at the parish. “I would feel comfortable inviting him over to my house,” he said. “He loved his line of house, work.” work. On it’s Web site, St John’s has posted an announcement about Ventura’s leave of absence and says that it “prays for all who are impacted by this matter.” matter. Ventura writes a twice-monthly column for the Independent. His last column appeared April 8. Efforts to reach him via phone and e-mail were unsuccess- ful by press time. Ventura was released on bail and is scheduled to be arraigned on April 22. The Boston Channel contributed to this story. WBZ REPORTS : Chelmsford Priest Charged In An official photo of Rev. William Ventura, left and his mug shot (right) Craigslist Sex Sting CLICK HERE FOR NEWS CLIP Priest pleads not guilty in Nashua sting By Lisa Redmond, 04/23/2010 NASHUA -- A Chelmsford priest allegedly nabbed in a Craigslist prostitution sting by Nashua police waived his appearance in district court yesterday, pleading innocent to one count of prostitution. READ MORE CLICK HERE
  20. 20. Billboard site tests performed Capital Advertising LLC sent a balloon 60 feet up into the air at CHS. (Courtesy photo) Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter • Fri, Apr 09, 2010 Capital Advertising LLC sent a red balloon into the air Thursday morning at Chelmsford High School and Oak Hill to deter- mine how high billboards at those locations need to be in order to be visible to motorists. "This was the billboard company doing a test to develop an accurate submission to the Planning Board," said Town Man- ager Paul Cohen. At CHS, the balloon was sent up 42 feet and then 60 feet. The goal is to ensure a sign is above the tree line but not higher than it needs to be. Capital Advertising was the high bidder for both town-owned sites. It agreed to pay the town $72,000 a year for the CHS parcel and $60,000 annually for the Oak Hill land. It was also the high bidder for another sign at Oak Hill on land owned by the Congregational Church in North Chelmsford. The Planning Board would need to approve all three signs. It can also require Capital Advertising to perform another bal- loon test, said Cohen. Sewer rate hike on tap for July 1 Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter • Wed, Apr 14, 2010 Beginning July 1 every time you flush, you'll pay a little bit more. The Department of Public Works plans to raise sewer rates 25 cents per 1,000 gallons, which will be the single-largest in- crease in the system’s history. As the sewer construction project nears completion, more houses are added to the system, requiring additional pump sta- tions. The additional customers also mean more waste is being shipped to the Lowell system. "Our percentage of the flow is getting larger," said DPW Director Jim Pearson. "Nine to 10 cents of that 25 larger, cents is going to go to Lowell." Lowell. Other factors driving the costs include an increase in leaking pipes and illegal hookups, which Pearson said accounts for 42 million gallons lost to the system. Because the system is operated through an enterprise fund, it needs to charge customers enough to cover all its expenses. Currently there is about $1 million in the sewer's reserve fund, which Pearson plans to dip into for the first time this year. He needs to purchase a truck designed specifically for cleaning the hundreds of miles of pipe beneath the town's streets. The truck comes with a price tag between $300,000 and $375,000. Also this year the sewer budget incorporates a full-time employee who collects sewer payments in the tax collector's office. Previously, that person was included in the collector's personnel budget. Although Sewer Commission Chairman Barry Balan expects Pearson to appear before the commission with his budget re- quest, the rate hike does not need the commissioners OK. "Town Meeting votes on the Sewer Enterprise Fund and that's what sets the sewer rates," rates, said Town Manager Paul Cohen.
  21. 21. School presents level-service budget By Chloe Gotsis/Staff Writer GateHouse News Service budget Apr 19, 2010 Chelmsford — In a fiscal year when many school districts across the Bay State are making cuts to staffing and programs, Chelmsford is presenting a level-service budget for fiscal 2011. At the April 13 School Committee budget hearing, School Business Manager Kathy McWilliams presented a level-service budget of $45 million, which will provide no new cuts to services or programs and no salary increases outside of step increases. The next fiscal year’s budget in- cludes $2 million in additional spending over the fiscal 2010 budget that covers increases in five fixed costs, including special education tuition, most of which are related to special educa- tion. “I’m so happy we’re able to have a level-serviced budget,” said School Committee budget, Chairwoman Kathy Duffett. “It sounds funny to say that’s a good place to be, but it is.” is. The budget includes a $588,000 shortfall based on the past five-year budget forecast. The fiscal 2010 budget shows a base projection of $43.5 million for fiscal 2011. McWilliams said if the school department followed through with its forecasted budget it would’ve increased more. But with the current economy, the department is lucky to have a small shortfall based on the projections. In August 2009 the town was forced to reduce the fiscal 2010 budget by $397,000 at a special Town Meeting due to mid-year state aid cuts. The fiscal 2011 budget allots for 639.5 full time equivalent employees, or FTEs. The breakdown of full-time equivalent employees allows for the fact that not all employees in schools work a full 40-hour work week. While the school district has lost a total of 51.2 full-time-equivalent employ- ees, McWilliams pointed out that over the past 10 fiscal years the rate has flat lined. The district saw a drop of 124 students in fiscal 2010 and is expected to drop by 37 more in fiscal 20011. In fact, Chelmsford’s declining enrollment could serve as a benefit to its state aid, Williams said. “A lot of districts like Westford had significant enrollment increases in enrollment and their Chapter 70 aid went up. But Chelmsford’s is flat, but that’s good because your Chapter 70 stays the same,” she said. same, In comparison with the state average Chelmsford schools fall below spending levels in all categories including administration, retirement, opera- tions, maintenance and pupil spending, except for special education. The district spends about 138 percent above the state average on special education, according to information from the district. Williams said that while special education costs are rising in the district, it is not a significant increase. In fiscal 2009, 25 percent of the budget was spent on special education and in fiscal 2010 27 percent was devoted to special education costs and in fiscal 2011 28 percent of the budget will go to special education costs. Chelmsford resident Brian Latina, a parent of five children, including a 26-year-old with special needs, commended the School Committee for its presentation of special education funding. “I was happy to see it tonight not be used in an adversarial way,” he said. way, But School Superintendent Don Yeoman and McWilliams have consistently said that Chelmsford tests far above the state average and is ranked among the top school districts in the commonwealth for its Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing or MCAS re- sults. “Considering how much you are spending you get you get a great value for your dollar,” said McWilliams. “You are number dollar, two on MCAS. You even beat Brookline.” Brookline. School Committee Angie Taranto said its evident in the classrooms how hard teachers and staff are working with so little money. “We’re getting a lot of bang for our buck,” he said. “You just can’t fathom what’s taking place in the classroom with what buck little funding we have.” have The town’s mandated costs and contractual obligations, which are growing at a rate faster than Proposition 2 ½ allots for, will eventually cause the district problems, Committee Member Nick DiSilvio pointed out. Municipalities can’t raise their property taxes by more than 2.5 percent per year, which only allows budgets to grow by the confined amount. Declining state reimbursement and increasing special education tuitions will also eventually cause problems for the district officials predicted. “One of the issues we’re going to be running into very quickly is our fixed costs are going to be running into our Propo - sition 2 ½ constraints,” said DiSilvio. “When that happens the only way we’re going to sustain it is reduce staff.” staff. McWilliams cautioned that the district must begin to plan for long term stability and prepare for declining state aid, increasing special education tuitions, diminishing reserves and the upcoming end of stimulus funding. But she said it is continuing to work on negotiating with its employee unions on health insurance and looking at ways to cut utility costs. Duffet also said she is concerned about the declining number of guidance staff available at the schools with rise in bullying at schools in the Bay State. But Yeoman said he is hoping to put more guidance counselors back at the elementary schools. But Finance Committee Chairwoman Mary Frantz reminded that while the School Budget is level-serviced, it allows for very little wiggle room for employees and services. "Let’s face it, we’ve been negotiating and our employees have a 0 percent costs of living increase for at least two years now,” she said. “It contains no increases for inflation in paper costs. In that sense, it surprises me it’s only $500,000…we now, can be glad we’re balanced but there are constraints.” constraints.
  22. 22. New Byam Principal: continually impressed with town By By Chloe Gotsis, Staff Writer GateHouse News Service Apr 15, 2010 Chelmsford — On Sept. 7 the some 500 students of the Byam Elementary School will have a new face welcoming to school in the morning. Kara Saranich, currently the assistant principal of Tynsborough Elementary School, will take the reins from retiring school principal Jane Gilmore July 1. Now after officially being hired by the school district last month to replace the school’s 19-year leader, Saranich is eager to learn more about the school’s history and its students. The Independent talked with Saranich this week to learn more about her background as a teacher in a bilingual special education classroom, her hobbies and her favorite age to work with children. Courtesy Q What led you to apply for the position as the principal of the Byam? Kara Saranich will take over as the principal of the Byam School on July 1. She is the current A: I became familiar with Chelmsford over the past four years. I got to know assistant principal of Tyngsboro Elementary some of the parents, teachers and administrators and it just seemed like School. they were so committed to working for children and doing what’s best for children. I’ve just been continually impressed with what I saw. Q: What are you looking forward to with the new job? A: Well, I’m really looking forward to meeting more parents and students. Since I accepted the position, I’ve met a num- ber of people who went to Byam years ago and are educating their children there now. So I’m just really interested in learning more about the school and getting to know more of the students. Q Now, I’ve heard you mention that you have experience working in a bilingual inclusion classroom, how do you think that will benefit you? A I think my experience working in an inclusion classroom has been helpful because I’ve worked with students in a vari- ety of settings and I’m committed to working with parents to find the most appropriate placement for students. It’s defi- nitely something that I love about education because every year we meet new students that have new unique needs that have to be addressed. I think that’s what’s exciting is that every child has unique needs that have to be supported. I think it’s important to continually assess what we’re doing with students because what was working in September may not be working in January. Q As an educator in a neighboring town, you must’ve heard about the controversy surrounding the PTO fundraiser last year, the Byam Gift Room. What do you think about the situation and how are you prepared to address it? A: To be honest, I think there’s issues at every school that are dealing with parents, who are passionate about their chil- dren. This issues was one that escalated to national concern and that’s what’s unusual. My understanding is that the PTO decided not to hold it again. I plan to meet with the PTO regularly over the course of the school year to talk about what programs they want to put in place throughout the school year. I want to make sure we can continue to make it a positive place for children and the staff. I’ve heard overwhelmingly positive things about the Byam. I think this is a small brief episode in a long history of commitment to children. Q Do you plan to meet with Dr. Gilmore and shadow her at school? A We are starting by meeting this week and we are going to figure out the transition period and go from there. Certainly, she has a long history there and I would love to hear more from her about the school. Q What is your favorite age range to work with children at? A I definitely love children at the elementary school age, whether it’s young children or children in upper elementary. I love working with children learning their letters or working with children who are able to manipulate fractions. Q What led you to become an educator? A I've always loved working with children. Even as a young child I enjoyed teaching. I taught dance in high school. It was just a natural fit for me. I think it’s the most rewarding career because we are able to have an impact on their future.
  23. 23. Chelmsford nonprofit aims to feed the masses By Chloe Gotsis/staff writer GateHouse News Service Apr 16, 2010 Chelmsford — Chelmsford resident Maureen McKeown says her personal mantra has always been, “if you feed the body, you will feed the soul or the spirit.” spirit Now after a long career in charitable work, McKeown is hoping to feed the hungry in Chelmford and other neighboring towns with the Chelmsford’s first community supper, Table of Plenty. Spearheaded by McKeowan and 12 others from Chelms- ford and New Hampshire, Table of Plenty is expected to begin serving weekly din- ners to those in need at the First Parish Church in May. Modeled after Concord’s 20-year-old community dinner program, Open Table, the new nonprofit will seek to help both the hungry and residents who feel socially iso- lated. McKeown, who has volunteered for numerous charitable organizations throughout her lifetime, including delivering Meals on Wheels for AIDS patients, said she was inspired by the camaraderie she saw when she volunteered at Open Table with her grand- mother. “I was just inspired by the genuine caring bond that exists between the volunteers and the guests,” she said. guests, “Many of the volunteers have been doing it year after year. It’s clear that the volunteers know all the guests by name.” name. Looking around her own town, McKeown realized Chelmsford lacked a similar program in spite of a real need. According to the North Middlesex Council of Government in Lowell, 1,502 workers were jobless in December. In 2007, some 621 households were living below the federal poverty line and nearly 180 families were receiving food stamps. McKeown found that almost 3,500 Chelmsford residents are collecting Social Security checks. Since developing the idea several months ago, McKeown has been meeting weekly with the directors to get the organization off the ground and plan the first supper. With the help of the Chelmsford attorneys John Carroll and Kevin Sullivan as well as accountant Jerry Paolilli, the directors have successfully filed their 501-c3 forms and achieved nonprofit status. McKeown and her friend Debby Kendrick, a Chelmsford resident and member of the organization’s board of directors, have worked together on numerous charitable organizations over the years including serving as youth ministers at St. Mary’s Church in Chelms- ford. “At Christmas there’s a group of us who adopt a family in town or surrounding neighborhoods,” said Kendrick. neighborhoods, “Mostly they are families with single moms.”’ moms. With a wide array of talents on the board of directors including teachers in the Concord Public Schools, contractors and computer programs, the women are predicting success. “Maureen has a real talent for putting together groups of people,” said Kendrick, who is a dental hygienist. people, The two women have been working with their 10 colleagues on the board to meet with the clergy in Chelmsford to secure a home for the new community super. While they said all the clergy in town were overwhelmingly supportive they settled on the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church as the venue for Table of Plenty. Rev. Ellen Spero said the congregation is elated to participate. “Being the ‘home kitchen’ for Table of Plenty provides us an opportunity to show our gratitude for people help - ing one another and to offer hospitality for both the volunteers and the guests,” she said in an e-mail. “It is a way guests, to put our faith into action, and we are honored to have the chance.” chance. As a house or worship, First Parish sees a strong connection between food and spirituality, Spero said. “I believe there is something at the heart of our human species that realizes that not only do we need to eat to survive, but we need to eat together and share the food we have with one another to make those crucial social and spiritual relationships that ensure we can not only survive but thrive,” she said. thrive, Meals at the Table of Plenty in Chelmsford will be open to all, said Kendrick and McKeown. “There are no requirements,” said Kendrick. “It’s not for people who are strictly financially in need. They may requirements need social interaction. And no one will be questioned or turned away.” With a projected yearly budget of $10,000, the directors are still looking for volunteers for food shopping and donors.
  24. 24. Changes in trash pickup on the way Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Reporter • Fri, Apr 16, 2010 When it comes to the new recycling regulations, Jennifer Almeida wants residents to know if their current system isn’t broken don't fix it. If, however, it is broken she wants them to know they don’t need to separate the paper, metal, glass and plastic parts anymore. Single-stream recycling – which means no more sorting paper from other material – Jennifer Almeida is just one of the changes coming to Chelmsford beginning July 1. "You don't have to change anything you're doing now," now, said Almeida, recycling/solid waste coordinator. "You can keep doing what you’re doing." doing. The move to single-stream recycling comes alongside drastic cuts in the amount of trash residents will be allowed to put out each week. Beginning July 1, residents will be limited to two 32-gallon barrels. That is down for the current four barrels now allowed. Anything over the two-barrel maximum will have to be placed in a town bag that comes with a $2-per-bag price tag. The purpose behind the changes is to get more residents to recycle everything they can. "A lot of people think it is too complicated and there are too many rules," said Almeida. rules "Single-stream is the carrot." carrot Chelmsford pays a tipping fee – what the hauler charges to take trash to the incinerator – of $74.50 per ton. The more residents recycle the less trash the hauler has to transport. Almeida realizes most residents are not going to match the level of recycling in her four-person household. Between composting, recycling and not purchasing items with non-recyclable packaging, the Almeida family puts out one 13-gallon trash bag a week. That is really the exception and Almeida realizes some residents – like those with household medical waste – will not be able to adhere to the limits every week. "We are going to have people with issues and we have sympathy," said Almeida. sympathy, "We want to make it work for everybody." everybody. Town officials won't make exceptions to the rules when the new policies kick in, but Almeida encourages residents to try and make it work before calling her office to try to seek relief. Many residents may balk at the new system, but Almeida believes after it becomes their regular routine it will become a non-issue. "Once you make the change you’re going to forget what you used to do," she said. do,
  25. 25. TRAIL DEDICATED TO BILL TUCKER by Tom Christiano A walking trail at the George B.B. Wright Conservation Land was dedicated to Bill Tucker on April 11, 2010. Mr. Tucker was one of the original four founders of the Chelmsford Open Space Stewardship program in 2005. He spent many hours creat- ing and grooming the trails at the Wright Conservation Land, which is located off of Parker Road, in the Center/South section of Chelmsford. Mr. Tucker's wife attended the trail dedication, along with many of their nine chil- dren and grand children. The lead Open Space Steward, Phil Stanway, was the main speaker at the ceremony, along with Stewards Scott & Amy Venier. After the dedication, we took a walk along the perfectly groomed trails as we talked about Bill Tucker and all the outdoor volunteer work he performed here in Chelmsford. Photos by Tom Christiano