In-Town Report  7-26-09
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In-Town Report 7-26-09

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the latest IN TOWN REPORT, as prepared and edited by Roy Earley, a Town Meeting Representative from Precinct Six. ...

the latest IN TOWN REPORT, as prepared and edited by Roy Earley, a Town Meeting Representative from Precinct Six.
It contains a great deal of information about current issues facing our town, many townwide photos, and video links to local TV shows and meetings, all contained in one convenient publication. This IN TOWN REPORT should be useful to anyone interested in the town of Chelmsford.

In this issue of the IN TOWN REPORT the focus is primarily on the following:

* PHOTOS OF FIRST FARMER'S MARKET
* SCHOOL DEPARTMENT BUDGET
* TOWN MANAGER'S EVALUATION
* SLOW GROWTH INITIATIVE (SGI) PETITION about PAUL COHEN
* ASK THE TOWN MANAGER
* NEW $25 MILLION BUILDING PROJECTS - VIDEOS
* POTENTIAL HOTEL & MEALS TAX INCREASES - VIDEOS
* PROPOSED NATIONAL GRID RATE INCREASE
* MASTER PLAN UPDATE
* PROPOSED NEW ASPHALT PLANT ON GROTON ROAD
* SEX OFFENDER UPDATE
* NEARBY 348 APARTMENT 40B DEVELOPMENT (PROPOSED)
* SELECTMAN CANDIDATE ANNOUNCES
* BRUCE FREEMAN RAIL TRAIL
* MANY MORE TOPICS OF LOCAL INTEREST...PHOTOS & VIDEOS

Reminder: The Bruce Freeman Rail Trail (also known as the Bike Path) will have a Grand Opening ribbon cutting ceremony & other celebrations on August 29th, at 10:00 AM in Chelmsford Center!

Thanks to all of you who help make Chelmsford such a great community.

Tom Christiano
TM Representative, Precinct 9
CHRISTIANO PRODUCTIONS:
POLITICALLY INCORRECT: Tues & Weds 8:30 PM;
Thurs 7:00 AM; Sundays 11:00 AM
Chelmsford Cable TV Channel 8

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     In-Town Report  7-26-09 In-Town Report 7-26-09 Document Transcript

    • Farm Stand Opening Day Photos by Tom Christiano We’re growing community
    • Chelmsford board votes to reinstall 12 teachers http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_12808479 By Michael Wurm, Sun Correspondent 07/10/2009 CHELMSFORD -- The School Committee voted last night to use more than $840,000 in federal stimulus funds to restore the equivalent of at least 12 teachers in the district. The district is receiving $916,914 in federal stimulus funds, and agreed last night to spend $840,470 of it, with $76,444 to be "held in abeyance" for unmet needs later on. Seven middle-school teachers, two learning-center teachers, two fine-arts teachers and three high-school teach- ers were restored, but last night's action also included the elimination of 1.8 language teachers and a part-time kindergarten teacher. Not everybody was quick to endorse the restorations, given the still-shaky economy. "We're in what I call a minimalist position as is," said committee member Kathy Duffett. "We need to talk about where to make more cuts rather than adding." Including administrative and other staff positions, the original number of full-time equivalent Kathy Duffett . cuts approved by the School Committee this spring was 56.2. As the economy continued to deteriorate, four more teacher positions were later cut, so the system had been facing 60.2 cuts. With the stimulus-funded restorations, the current total of cuts is 48.3. The $76,000 being put aside for later may go to one of the following unmet needs, as proposed by Superintendent of Schools Donald Yeoman: Donald Yeoman * One additional teacher for the high school; * One elementary counselor (two had been cut); * Computer softwareand/or hardware. Yeoman said Chelmsford High School has 282 students without a full schedule due to course cuts caused by teacher reductions. An additional teacher would help curtail that problem. Regarding the need for computer hardware, Yeoman pointed out that 54 percent of classroom computers are more than seven years old and an additional 41 percent are at least four years old. Over the past two years, the system has lost 433 computers due to wear and tear, but has not been able to fund replacement. Yeoman said the overall cost of upgrading computers would be $560,000, so funds would target only the most se- vere computer needs. Duffett, for her part, said she wanted the high-school teacher position restored if the $76,000 is protected from new cuts. Other committee members agreed they would like to fund the high-school teacher position and the other items, but they said they are worried that they will instead have to make more cuts. They cited the continuing economic problems affecting the state budget, most recently a $180 million revenue shortfall announced for June. In other business, the School Committee decided that the "drop-dead" deadline for registration and payment of the $200 fee for students riding buses this year is next Wednesday. Robert Business Manager Robert Cruickshank agreed to put out word that if people have not paid by Cruickshank then, they will not be registered and will not have bus transportation for their children. "We're going to have more children walking, riding bikes and more car traffic," Yeoman warned, creating safety problems around the schools this year.
    • Chelmsford selectmen laud town manager's performance http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_12832355 By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com 07/14/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Stimulus funds. Shovel-ready. Recessionista. Besides adding some new words to the English language, the recession also added high stress in the office of the town manager. As Chelmsford residents grew poorer in a year that prompted layoffs and some of the deepest cuts to town serv- ices to date, the Board of Selectmen gave Town Manager Paul Cohen a rich review for keeping Chelmsford's budget out of the red. "In times of fiscal uncertainty, loyalty is a strong suit," Selectman Pat Wojtas said. "I see it from department heads and from the people you work with. It's important in times like these to maintain morale." From budget cuts that came midway through fiscal 2009 to an unprecedented ice storm that caused more than $300,000 in damages, selectmen agreed that Cohen not only rose to the challenge, but managed to find ways to bring in more revenue. When parts of Middlesex County were denied aid for one of the worst ice storms in history, Cohen led the charge to persuade the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider. After working with Westford officials to or- ganize a special meeting between FEMA and the towns hardest hit by the storm, the government decided to grant communities up to 75 percent in reimbursement costs. Cohen, Wojtas added, worked with town unions to successfully negotiate contract agreements that included one- year wage freezes, saving the town thousands of dollars, as well as preventing more job cuts. Cohen also earned praise for his knowledge of and commitment to managing local government, presenting a positive public image, and preparing a timely and realistic budget. "His strengths far outweigh things to work on," Selectman Eric Dahlberg said. "I'm always impressed and surprised by how quickly you get back to us. I never question the accuracy of what you have to say." Noting that Cohen works well over 40 hours a week, town officials did say they are worried he is at risk of burnout. And echoing his review for the previous year, selectmen said Cohen can let his passion get the best of him. "When asked a question that takes you off-guard, sometimes you seem to get defensive or take it personally," Dahlberg said. During his 2 1/2 years in Chelmsford, Cohen said the merciless recession has made his time a "period of great change." "At some point, when we look back, we should all be proud of what we did," he said. "I'm astounded by how well everybody's pulled together." Town Account Darlene Lussier also received a positive review from selectmen last night, with the board unanimously agree- ing that she is easy to work with and has managed to run a smooth operation despite trying fiscal times. Although town employees forfeited pay raises this year, Cohen urged the board to grant Lussier an annual step increase of 2.25 percent, the same increase all other department heads and town employees will receive per their contracts.
    • 'FUMING' OVER PETITION: Some call Chelmsford recall petition misleading http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_12905925 By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com 07/24/2009 CHELMSFORD -- A group working to throw out the state's Chapter 40B affordable-housing law has a new agenda: Throw out Town Manager Paul Cohen. The Chelmsford Slow Growth Initiative has a petition campaign under way to get rid of Cohen, but some residents say they were misled into signing. "If I had known it was something related to Paul Cohen, I never would have signed it," said Joanne Anderson, a Town Meeting representative and resident of Evergreen Road. "I thought it was a petition to repeal 40B, not recall the town manager." On Wednesday, Anderson said she received a visit from two teenaged girls who said they were from the Slow Growth Initiative and asked if she would sign a petition against Chapter 40B. Anderson, who opposes the afford- able-housing law, said she had a lengthy conversation with the girls about bad 40B projects in town, signed the document, titled "Affidavit Requesting A Recall Petition," and asked the girls to leave a copy behind for her hus- band and neighbor to sign. "They never mentioned Paul Cohen's name once," Anderson said. "Then I read the petition and I was fuming." Anderson, who said she saw nearly 10 other names attached to the petition, contacted a neighbor who told her that she also thought she had signed a petition to repeal 40B. Using the online social-networking site Facebook, Anderson sent out an alert to warn her friends and neighbors. Craig Chemaly, executive director of the Slow Growth Initiative, said he doesn't believe the group's volunteers would willfully lie, and that "there is no way for anyone to have read this and not understand what they signed." The document clearly states a request for a recall petition for the town manager, and that the undersigned believe Cohen has pursed an agenda against the will of the residents, ignored the town's master plan and has "lowered the quality of life for all Chelmsford residents." Chemaly said the effort to place a question on the town election ballot for Cohen's removal goes beyond the issue of affordable housing. "This was a petition meant to get rid of a town official who acts in almost every case in diametric opposition to what the residents want," Chemaly said. Cohen, who summed up the issue as "sad," wondered yesterday if the group's volunteers actually understood what they were asking residents to sign. Only elected officials can be recalled from office. The removal of the town manager -- who is appointed by the Board of Selectmen -- is under the authority of the selectmen, according to Section 4-7 of the Town Charter. The process the Slow Growth Initiative was using to recall Cohen is correct procedure under Section 3-12, but ap- plies to elected officials only. The charter states that a recall petition may be initiated by filing an affidavit contain- ing the name of the officer sought to be recalled and a statement of the grounds for recall. The affidavit must be signed by at least 25 voters from each of the town's nine precincts. After signatures are validated by the town clerk, a petition is issued, which requires 10 percent of voter signatures in order to have the recall placed as a question on the election ballot. The Slow Growth Initiative made headlines earlier in the year when they launched a mass-mailing campaign, again blasting town officials for disregarding the will of the voters on 40B projects and bringing multifamily, high- density projects into Chelmsford. Chemaly said "it would be disappointing" if a recall petition can't be issued. There is no denying that many people in town are angry with Cohen's performance and would like to see him re- moved, he said. Other residents posting on Facebook said attacking the town manager was not the most productive way to rally against big developers. "Lying is not the way to bring people into the cause," wrote Town Meeting Representative Roy Early. "Don't create a firestorm that wreaks havoc on the whole Repeal 40B petition drive just because of personal vendettas against your town management."
    • ASK THE MANAGER: In-Town Report 7- 15 - 09 In-Town Report : Could you explain the difference between a"debt exclusion"override and a override like the voters voted on in the town's 2008 election? Town Manager Paul Cohen: An override is a permanent increase in taxing authority. It in- creases the Town’s property tax levy limit and becomes part of the base for calculating future years’ levy limits. A debt exclusion increases the amount of property tax that the Town may raise for a temporary period of time in order to fund specific projects. It does not become part of the base for calculating future years’ levy limits. In-Town Report : Why a "special election"? Why can't the question be added on to the ballot in the November election? Town Manager Paul Cohen: There is no regularly scheduled November election this year. The state and federal November elec- tions only occur in even-numbered years. In-Town Report : In the last issue of In-Town Report you wrote that a special election would cost the town approximately $18,000. Given the history of previous debt exclusion overrides in town, do you believe that the debt exclusion ques- tion for a Fire Station and Department of Public works building has a chance and is worth the gamble and cost of a special election. Town Manager Paul Cohen: Yes. The special election cost of $18,000 will pale in comparison to the hundreds of thousands of dollars that can be saved annually if these projects are constructed simultaneously during this pe- riod of a favorable construction bidding climate and low interest rates. In-Town Report : If Town Meeting turns down the proposal or if it goes to the voters and is voted down, what happens next? How do you address the problem then? Town Manager Paul Cohen: If the DPW proposal is defeated, then I anticipate that the Town will be asked over the next several years to consider a piecemeal approach to the renovation and/or construction of the buildings at the Richardson Road site. Such a solution could be up to three times more expensive that than the unique opportunity presented by the existing commercial building located off of Alpha Road.
    • If the Fire Department Headquarters proposal is defeated, then I anticipate that the Town would re- visit the decision within a couple of years as to what action to take when the floor of the fire station needs to be replaced. Replacing the floor of the center fire station does not address the inadequate space, fire training facilities, administrative offices, locker facilities, male and female living quarters, ADA issues and other deficiencies of the current fire headquarters. The center station was built over 50 years ago when the town had a much smaller population with less commercial development. I can not justify a significant investment into the current land-locked location. Therefore, the Town may once again be confronted with the need to pay considerably more at a future date to provide an adequate fire headquarters facility. In-Town Report : Does the town have any idea what the center fire station property is worth on the open market if it should be sold off in the near future? Town Manager Paul Cohen: An appraisal of the center fire station is in process. I expect to have the results in advance of the special town meeting. In-Town Report : And how much would it cost to replace the center station's floor? Town Manager Paul Cohen: The estimated cost to replace the center fire station's floor is $590,000. In-Town Report : Concerning the additional hotel & meal tax that Town Meeting will be voting on next month, has the revenue from that tax already been figured into the 2010 budget? Town Manager Paul Cohen: Yes. I have included the $287,715 in additional meals and hotel taxes in the adjustments to balance the Town’s current (FY10) operating budget. If the Town Meeting does not approve the local option taxes, then I will propose that the School Department’s budget be reduced by an additional $200,000 and the Town’s public safety personnel budget (police and fire) be reduced by $87,715. In-Town Report : Isn't that plan kind of like Deval Patrick figuring in his Casinos revenue plan into the State's budget before it came up for a vote? Town Manager Paul Cohen: My responsibility is to submit a balanced budget to the Town Meeting. I am requesting that the Town Meeting adopt the local option taxes. If the revenue is not available from the local option taxes, then the budget will be reduced. I am providing specific details on how the budget will be reduced. This is no different than the recent action by the State legislature to consider new revenue sources as part of its balanced state budget. In-Town Report : How does the town figure out projected revenue from a tax that is not on the books yet? Town Manager Paul Cohen: The projected revenues from the local option meals tax is provided to the Town by the Massachu- setts Department of Revenue. The State has access to corporate income and sales/meals tax filings by food establishments to develop its estimates.
    • Chelmsford Town Meeting to decide funding for new station, DPW move http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_12821476 By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com 07/12/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Mulling over $25 million in municipal building projects, several Town Meeting representa- tives say the time to spend the money is now. On Aug. 17, voters will have their say on an issue town department heads have been pushing for years -- building a new fire-station headquarters and relocating the Department of Public Works. While a sputtering economy has taxpayers counting every penny, proponents of the building projects say the nation's financial crisis can present long-term cost savings for Chelmsford residents. "It's never a good time to spend a lot of money," said Matthew Cilento, Town Meeting representative for Precinct 6. "But this is the best time to get a good price on construction costs and low-interest loans. There are rumblings in the financial markets of long-term debt rates doubling down the road, so if we delay the projects they'll only cost us more in the future." After reviewing the issue for more than a year, a study committee gave town officials its top recommenda- tions for the dilapidated buildings: Build a new Center Fire Station on the corner of Wilson and Chelmsford streets, and move the DPW on Richardson Road to the former Old Mother Hubbard dog-food plant on Alpha Road. Pat Maloney, chairman of the study committee, said structural conditions in both town buildings failed to meet safety stan- dards. Temporary wooden support beams hold up the fire station floor and netting has been fastened in the base- ment to catch crumbling concrete, Maloney said. While the town was also presented with the option of repairing the fire station floor for about $600,000, Town Manager Paul Cohen said the building is not large enough to outfit the departments operations into the future. Firefighters now park in the neighboring bank's parking lot due to a lack of space behind Center Station. Instead of building a new DPW facility, Maloney said the town could also save millions by moving that de- partment to Alpha Road. Relocating will cost about $12.8 million versus $31.2 million. According to DPW Director Jim Pearson, other cost savings would follow. Chelmsford currently pays Lowell about $70,000 a year for space to store equipment. "That's money that could be used for operating costs," Pearson said. Also, Pearson said the DPW's multimillion-dollar vehicles would last longer and require less maintenance if they were kept indoors. More than half of the new facility would provide space for vehicle storage. "This is a necessity that we've been putting off for years," said Fran McDougall, a Town Meeting repre- sentative for Precinct 1. "The fire station is a disaster and the DPW are like the orphans of the town. They do everything from plowing to street paving to keep the town ticking, but they always get put on the back burner." Laure Lee, a Town Meeting representative for Precinct 9, said it's a tough time to ask cash-strapped families for a tax increase. "But because it's a tough time, the town will get the cheapest deal on construction costs," Lee said. "I support the projects." Not all Town Meeting reps are keen on raising taxes now. "For all these decades the Fire Department has been crying about the cellar falling in," said Bernie Ready, a Town Meeting representative for Precinct 7. "If they're not using the cellar now anyway, fill it in with cement. It's a garage. It doesn't need to be Taj Majal." Ready said he's talked with other residents who don't feel comfortable with losing a town ballfield to a build-
    • ing if a new fire station is built. "I can't see a better gateway to Chelmsford than a baseball field where kids are playing and having fun," he added. Cohen said taxpayers wouldn't feel the brunt of either project until 2013, by which time the economy is ex- pected to have rebounded. Both projects would increase the average single-family tax bill by about $76.50 at its highest rate, which Cohen estimates would be in 2014. After that, the amount would continue to decline until 2020, when the debt service is expected to drop back to its current level. Former Selectman Philip Eliopoulos, also a Town Meeting representative for Precinct 5, said he still wants to know what additional services are getting cut before raising taxes for capital projects. "There's no denying that both town buildings need repairs," Eliopoulos said. "But I'd like more infor- mation on the operational costs we're sacrificing first. The question is, which do we need more?" A clip of the Town Manager,Selectmen discussion with Pat Maloney, and Fire Chief Jack Parow regarding the DPW/FD Facilities report and recommendations. Board of Selectmen meeting 6-29-09 CLICK HERE
    • Mixed feelings on DPW, fire work http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_12897460 By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com 07/23/2009 CHELMSFORD -- A $25 million price tag for revamping two municipal departments drew a mixed response from taxpay- ers last night at a townwide public forum. When weighing whether the town should build a new fire headquarters at Wilson and Chelmsford streets, and relocate the Department of Public Works to another building on Alpha Road, supporters said a crippled economy offers the low- est rates on project costs. Opponents argued that they are feeling the squeeze. With the state sales tax, restaurant meals tax, hotel room tax and alcohol tax all slated to increase Aug. 1, many resi- dents confronting town officials at the Chelmsford Senior Center said there is nothing left in their wallets to give. "No one's giving raises, everything's gone up, there's fees on everything, so personally I don't know how I can vote to raise my own taxes," resident Debbie Daddario said. "I just feel we're being taxed out." Others said there will never again be a time like the present for big savings on construction costs and loan interest rates. After reviewing the issue for more than a year, a study committee gave town officials its recommendations for the dilapi- dated buildings: Build a new Center Fire Station for $11.9 million, and move the DPW from Richardson Road to the for- mer Old Mother Hubbard dog-food plant on Alpha Road, off Route 129. Relocating the DPW will cost about $12.8 million versus $31.2 million for building a brand-new facility, the committee said, with other cost savings to follow. "These costs aren't going to go down again, they're only going to go up," resident Marie Burnham said. "If we wait five years out, it may cost us three or four times more than it would now." Town Mananger Paul Cohen also said the bidding climate on the building projects is now in the town's favor. "We don't want this opportunity to slip through our hands," Cohen said. Resident James Pinder said he still isn't finding a lot of support in town for $25 million in capital building projects. "Those of us who have jobs are on thin ice," Pinder said. "This is a horrendous time to be coming out with these proj- ects." Both projects would increase the average single-family tax bill by about $76.50 at its highest rate, which Cohen esti- mates would be in 2014. After that, the amount would continue to decline until 2020, when the debt service is expected to return to its current level. When Town Meeting representatives tackle the issues at a Special Town Meeting on Aug. 17, they'll also be voting on whether to increase the town's hotel-occupancy tax from 4 percent to 6 percent, and tack an additional 0.75 percent onto the state's 6.25 percent tax for restaurant meals. Cohen said if voters pass the tax increase, it could generate about $290,000 in additional revenue for Chelmsford, to help fill the budget gap from cuts to state aid. If the local-option taxes are rejected, Cohen said $200,000 would have to be cut from the School Department's budget, and an $87,000 reduction would come through elimination of public-safety personnel, which he hopes to achieve through attrition. Resident Rick Mahoney said he believes adding more taxes to meals and hotels will further hurt the local economy. Pat Magnell said the town has built a new library, a police station and a performing-arts center, and it's time for Chelms- ford to "show our commitment to public safety." When asked how many residents in town are behind on their taxes due to a sluggish economy, Cohen said Chelmsford has a 98 percent collection rate. CLICK HERE for two points of view on the 25 million dollar debt exclusion overide from Pat Magnell Precinct 3 Town Meeting Representative and Paul Gleason Precinct 7 Town Meeting Representative
    • From www.chelmsfordmassnews.com Fire Station's Plan B By Kevin Zimmerman Although it said the Wilson Street site remains the focus for a new Center Fire Station, the Permanent Building Committee continues to work on a backup plan involving a North Road parcel across from St. Mary’s Church. At its meeting Tuesday night, Permanent Building Committee Chairman Pat Maloney said some residents continue to balk at the idea of giving up the girl’s softball fields currently located at Wilson and Chelmsford streets. Those fields could be moved to town-owned land on Wotton Lane near Southwell Park, said Town Engineer Jim Pearson. However, in addition to ball field discussions, Maloney said with ongoing talks about revamping the Chelmsford Street cor- ridor from I-495 to Central Square, some people question whether a fire station fits into that plan. “We’re looking at one other site that meets the requirements,” said Maloney. “The potential is there that that site could work. It meets the criteria for the location.” Maloney said the parcel has posted a “For Sale” sign on it “for at least 10 years.” Weston & Sampson Engineer Jeff Alberti presented committee members will a conceptual plan of a new North Road sta- tion. The 25,000-square-foot facility would sit on a roughly 43,000-square-foot parcel zoned CD. As drawn, the building would meet the minimal 40-foot front setback and 30-foot rear setback. However the plan lacks minimal side setbacks on at least one side. Another special permit would be required because of height restrictions, said Alberti. Permanent Building Committee member Doug Wright asked if Alberti had a conceptual plan for the Wilson Street site.“Not yet,” said Alberti. Maloney asked Alberti to create one before the committee’s next meet- ing, Wednesday, July 29. The committee also voted to accept Belmont-based The Appraisers Group bid of $2,500 to appraise the 9 Alpha Road site eyed for a new Department of Public Works facility and the sites associated with the fire station plan. “I’d like to get a quick look at the fire station and see what it is worth,” said Maloney. “And the Wilson Street site. To see what that site is worth and what are we giving up.” Maloney is scheduled to present the DPW and Center Fire Station plans to the Finance Committee on Thursday, July 30. His committee has also planned two informational sessions for Town Meeting representatives. On Thursday, Aug. 6, Town Meeting reps can hear about the plans during a forum at the Police Station at 7 p.m. Then on Aug. 12, reps are invited to an open house from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Center Fire Station and DPW facility. *************** Looking for Old Town Hall funds By Kevin Zimmerman The Permanent Building Committee may try to amend a spring 2009 Town Meeting vote that appropriated funds to paint the Old Town Hall in Chelmsford Center.Town Meeting OK’d $45,000 from the 2010 Capital Budget, which can be used only to paint the outside of the building. Permanent Building Committee Chairman Pat Maloney questioned whether paint- ing the structure now makes sense especially if the building’s exterior needs additional work. Rather than paint then rip out windows and boards, Maloney’s committee thought it makes more sense to use the $45,000 on other building needs, such as restoring windows, and then paint the building later. Maloney invited Community Preservation Committee member Linda Prescott to Tuesday night’s meeting to explore the possibility of applying for grant money to complete all the renovations that are needed. Those include installing an elevator to make the building American with Disabilities Act compliant and adding a full-service catering kitchen to the basement. “Is there a way to incorporate CPC funds to work on the complete building?” asked Mal- oney.Although the deadline to apply for funds to be given out at the October Town Meeting is in about three weeks, Prescott encouraged the board to pursue a grant. “It meets the qualifications,” said Prescott. “And this project is not a surprise. I’ll let the committee know this is coming.” Because the Massachusetts Historical Commission holds a preservation restriction for both the inside and outside of the Old Town Hall, the building committee would need to adhere to strict regulations. “Windows would have to be restored and not replaced,” said Prescott. The building committee would also need to get three bids for each of the contractors who would focus on carpentry work, painting and window restoration.Although it may be too late for the fall Town Meeting, the building committee could meet the CPC’s Dec. 15 deadline for inclusion in the spring 2010 meeting. And in the meantime, if it is able to amend this year’s Capital Budget, it would use that money to begin preliminary work over the winter.
    • Chelm $ ford banking on hotel, meal tax hikes http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_12850003 By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com 07/16/2009 CHELMSFORD -- The budget ax will cut deep this year, but just how deep re- mains up in the air as voters consider new taxes on hotel rooms and restaurant meals. Local-option taxes, enabled under the new state budget signed by Gov. Deval Patrick, were created as a means for cash-strapped cities and towns to bring in additional revenue in the wake of state cutbacks. While town officials say the new taxes provide an opportunity to recoup some of the lost revenue, some business advocates argue that the increase will devastate the local economy. On Aug. 17, Chelmsford voters will decide whether to increase the town's hotel occupancy tax from 4 percent to 6 percent, and tack an additional 0.75 percent onto the state's 6.25 percent tax for restaurant meals. If voters pass the tax increase, Town Manager Paul Cohen said figures from the Department of Revenue show it could generate about $290,000 in addi- tional revenue for Chelmsford. "If we don't get it, we'll have to reduce budgets further, cutting $200,000 more out of the school budget and another $87,000 out of public safety," Cohen said. Even with the tax hike, Cohen points out that driving over the border to New Hampshire for dinner would still cost more, with the Granite State's 8 percent meal tax. But opponents of the tax measures argue that an increase will hurt local busi- nesses by giving consumers one more reason to shop and dine across the border. John Harrington, owner of Harrington Wine & Liquors, is facing a separate tax hike on Aug. 1, when the state ends the sales-tax exemption on alcohol, subjecting beer, wine and liquor to the state's sales tax, which lawmakers also voted to raise to 6.25 percent from 5 percent. Harrington said passing the local-option taxes will leave people feeling overtaxed in a time when personal budgets are tighter than ever. "If people are going over the border to shop and to buy alcohol and wine, they're going to grab a bite to eat, too," he said. "In these times especially, most people are going to shop and eat wherever they can save as much money as possible." Kathy Kelley, owner of the Best Western Chelmsford Inn, reports a 20 percent decrease in guests at the 115-room hotel from a year ago. Considering the economy, Kelley said the hotel is doing well, but that could change if taxes increase. The current room tax is 9.7 percent, of which 4 percent goes to the town, Kelley said. In New Hampshire, the room tax is 8 percent. "There's no other way around it," Kelley has said. "If there's even a 1 percent in- crease, hotels will have to lower their rates to offset it." But in the current climate, Cohen said the local-option taxes might be one of the few lifelines the town can cling to. With cuts to state aid and a growth in retiree enrollment on the town's health-insurance plan, Chelmsford officials are al- ready projecting a $1.2 million shortfall for fiscal 2011. Cohen said if voters approve the 0.75 percent meal-tax hike, it would translate to 75 cents on a $100 dinner bill. "There's not a lot of places where money is coming in from," Cohen said. "In times like these, every cent helps." The Town Manager discusses the projected 2010 budget CLICK HERE with the BOS 7/13/09
    • Chelmsford business owners: Meals tax a killer http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_12871165 By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com 07/19/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Plucking away at a calculator, restaurant owner Scott Plath does the math. The state's 25 percent increase on sales tax will raise his household expenses by about $300 a year. The 6.25 percent tax on alcohol, about $30 a year. Then Plath pounds in estimates for his two local restaurants -- Moonstones in Chelmsford and Cobblestones in Lowell. More zeroes appear. He sucks in some air and, Woooshhh, out comes a long sigh. "This one hurts the most." Plath said. "As a restaurant owner, it blows my mind that the state would raise taxes even higher on an industry that's already fragile." The tax on going out to dinner, or just grabbing a slice of pizza, is about to go up 25 percent in Massachu- setts. And, for the first time, cities and towns can add a local tax on a restaurant tab. Battered by cuts in local aid, town officials say they don't see a way around it. On Monday, Aug. 17, Spe- cial Town Meeting will decide whether to tack another 0.75 percent onto the state's new meals tax, and boost the local hotel room tax from 4 percent to 6 percent. With all eyes on Chelmsford -- one of the first communities in Greater Lowell to tackle the tax options -- the issue is providing voters some food for thought. Plath said raising taxes on businesses in a fiscal crisis is the same as if businesses raised prices on con- sumers. "It's bad practice in this economy, you just don't do it," Plath said. "We are outraged at a proposal that would single out restaurants, target our customers and our revenue stream when we can least afford it. Restaurants contribute over $640 million to the general fund already. At a time when sales are down and operators are struggling, we should be assisted, not further burdened." But since the spring, Chelmsford has lost about $1.7 million in state funding, according to Town Manager Paul Cohen. The added taxes would help the town recoup an estimated $290,000. "It's unfortunate, we don't like it, but money isn't coming in from anywhere else," Cohen said. With tabs going up everything from electronics to meals and liquor, some say a general feeling of being "taxed out" will push customers over the border to New Hampshire. At Harrington Liquors in Chelmsford, owner John Harrington sits at his desk. Above him, a sign reads: A salesman is only as good as his last deal. Harrington worries the local economy will get a raw deal if the local options taxes pass. On Aug. 1, Harrington will get hit with his own tax hike, which sub- jects beer, wine and liquor to the 6.25 percent state sales tax. "As a consumer, when you're feeling squeezed to death, you're going to go where there's less pressure," he said.
    • Kathy Kelley, owner of Best Western Chelmsford Inn, said many businesses in the current economy will not survive a tax hike. Infusions Bistro. The Village Grill. Bainbridges. All closed now, Kelley said, adding that the tax hike was most likely the "nail in the coffin" for Bain- bridges, which sat in North Chelmsford for 21 years. Michael Carter, a professor of economics at UMass Lowell, said the psychological aspect is actually worse than the direct hit to the pocketbook. "The basic necessities, food and clothing, are untouched, so what people are actually paying out for sales tax is actually less than 1 percent of their income," Carter said. "But people are still resentful because from rising property taxes to utility bills, we're getting hit from every angle." Enjoying lunch at Moonstones on Friday, Pam McGovern, of Nashua, said the tax hikes in Massachusetts definitely won't hurt her home state. "The more people spend in Nashua, the more there is getting pumped back into our local economy," she said. "We'll take it." Plath said many communities will be waiting to see what Chelmsford votes on Aug. 17, because whatever happens could "create a domino effect across the state," with other communities following suit. But as town officials warn the alternative to a tax increase is cutting more off already stripped education and public safety budgets, Paul Lewis of Chelmsford said he'd rather pay a couple dollars more for eating out. "What else is left?" he asks. Chelmsford Business Association members John Harrington,Kathy Kelley and Scott Plath speak on the local tax option CLICK HERE for Video
    • Chelmsford fighting National Grid's plans for rate hike By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_12841019 07/15/2009 CHELMSFORD -- With the economy already taking a big bite out of personal expenses, town officials say the last thing taxpayers need is another shock to the wallet in their electric bills. Slamming National Grid's plan to impose a 16 percent electrical rate hike starting Jan. 1, the Board of Se- lectmen sent a letter yesterday urging the state Department of Public Utilities to reject the request. National Grid, the state's largest electric utility with 1.2 million customers, wants to increase rates and use the $111 million in additional revenue to upgrade its electrical distribution system and cover other ex- penses, including millions of dollars in unpaid customers' bills. The company said a higher rate would in- crease bills by about 5.5 percent or $4.25 a month for a typical household that uses around 500 kilowatt hours of electricity. Calling a 16 percent hike too steep for ratepayers already struggling to meet monthly expenses, selectmen voted unanimously Monday night to join Attorney General Martha Coakley in fighting the move. Members of the board also blasted the utility giant for proposing to issue an 11 percent return rate for company share- holders. "They should be ashamed of themselves," said Selectman Eric Dahlberg. "They're living in their own world, because in the world I'm living in nobody else is seeing an 11 percent return on anything, in- cluding their paychecks." Coakley, who testified against the rate hike, argued that such an increase would be "excessive and harmful," to ratepayers. But representatives for National Grid say the rate hike is the first significant one in 14 years. "This filing is absolutely critical to our ability to continue to upgrade and replace aging infrastructure and provide safe, reliable service while simultaneously responding to and supporting the progressive energy policies outlines in the Commonwealth's Green Communities Act," President Tom King said in a written statement. As part of the proposed increase, National Grid would institute a separate charge to pay for pensions and other post retirement costs, and the company would recoup $30 million in expenses related to restoring service after the December ice storm. National Grid's parent company, National Grid PLC, in London reported that operating profits in its U.S. electricity distribution and generating arm fell 20 percent to $403 million last fiscal year, largely due to fixing damage and outages created by storms, including the ice storm that left many New England towns and cities paralyzed for days last December. Over the past week, DPU has hosted a series of public hearings on the issue. But turnout has been very low, said Tim Shelvin, executive director of DPU. Residents have until July 30 to send comments to DPU on the issue. To date, the DPU has received just 13 letters or e-mails from residential consumers, seven from legislators, and five from municipal boards includ- ing Chelmsford. "Our taxpayers have seen significant increases in all their bills at a time when money is tight for everyone," said Selectmen Chairwoman Clare Jeannotte. "To look for an 11 percent return on equity is excessive for a utility company in this day and age." Comments to DPU may be submitted by mail to 1 South Station, Boston, MA 02108, or by e-mail to dpu.efiling@state.ma.us, or, carol.pieper@state.ma.us.
    • Submitted by Jim Lane - Master Plan Committee Chairman / Planning Board / Town Meeting Repersentative Precinct 7 Master Plan Update PLANNING CHELMSFORD FUTURE ~JULY 2009~ The town of Chelmsford has a long history of Master Planning which spans more than forty years. Our first Mas- ter Plan was written in 1963 followed by updates in 1975, 1986 and 1996. Under Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 41, Section 81D, the Planning Board is required to prepare a Master Plan and must have a majority vote of the Planning Board approving the completed document before implementation. A Master Plan will help to manage growth and change, provide for orderly and predictable development, protect environmental resources, strengthen local identity, create a framework for future policy decisions and provide guidance to residents, local boards, permitting authorities, and the business community. The 2009 Master Plan Committee is made up of nine members and in partnership with Northern Middlesex Council of Government (NMCOG) is approaching the halfway point of the Master Plan update process. In Febru- ary 2009 the committee finalized details of the Master Plan consultant’s contract with NMCOG and planning for the initial public input and visions for Chelmsford’s future. During the past six months, the committee has under- taken an extensive public input process in which hundreds of Chelmsford residents have participated. The input sessions have been entitled Vision Quest 2020 and have been geared toward specific elements of the plan which cover economic development, housing, transportation, land use and zoning, open space and recreation, infra- structure and facilities, and cultural, historical and natural resource issues. The first session held in March at the Chelmsford Senior Center received public input on what the town residents’ vision of the Master Plan should be. The evening consisted of an exercise which provided the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, a “SWOT” analysis, for the town. Two additional public input sessions followed, one in May for the business commu- nity in town, again conducted in SWOT format and another in June which focused on the land use/zoning, eco- nomic development and housing sections. Additionally in June, the committee completed the Draft Vision Statement and Initial Goal Statements which will continue as a working document throughout the remainder of the process. The committee has also conducted joint meetings with the Chelmsford Water District, Chelmsford Housing Au- thority, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Board of Selectmen and Town Manager to seek additional comment and input for the Master Plan. In the months ahead we will continue to meet with various boards, com- mittees, department heads and organizations to seek their input and expertise. These joint meetings in conjunc- tion with the remaining public input sessions scheduled for Thursday, September 17th(Infrastructure,Transportation, Service & Facilities) and Wednesday, October 7th(Historical, Cultural, Natural Resources) and draft Master Plan Document review session in January 2010 will be essential to the successful development of the document. Your continued support and participation in this process is critical and the Committee continues to seek your input via the following options: Committee meetings are open to the public on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month at the Town Of- fices. Each meeting begins with open session. Committee has created a blog- http://chelmsfordmasterplanprocess.blogspot.com Input and Recommendation form found on the Town’s website – http://www.townofchelmsford.us/ Thank you to all of the Committee Members and NMCOG for all your hard work and dedication the past six months and a Special Thanks to the residents of Chelmsford for allowing us participate in this important part of your future. Respectfully, Jim Lane Chairman, Master Plan Committee
    • Attorney for proposed asphalt plant seeks land split http://www.lowellsun.com/local/ci_12767590 By Prudence Brighton, Sun Correspondent 07/07/2009 WESTFORD -- The attorney representing Newport Materials LLC's pitch to build an asphalt plant on its property on Groton Road asked the Planning Board last night to approve a subdivision of the land, but was coy about why. Doug Deschenes, attorney for Newport Materials, introduced Chris Lorraine of Landtech Consultants as the applicant for a request to subdivide 126.5 acres of land at 540 Groton Road. The proposal drew questions from a representative of the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition regarding the pur- pose of subdividing the land. The coalition was formed in opposition to the proposed asphalt plant. Deschenes said the intent is to create two parcels of land, with the largest 115 acres facing Groton Road and a second, 11.5-acre piece that wraps around to the back of the property, extending partially into Chelmsford and around the Fletcher granite quarry. Lorraine's company, Landtech, provides engineering and design services for construction projects, and has done design work for the proposed asphalt plant. In site plans presented to the board last night, Lorraine pointed to Commerce Way, a new industrial road- way that shifts an existing dirt road to accommodate concerns about wetlands. The new roadway, he said, would meet requirements for an industrial roadway. He also said that electrical, telephone and gas lines would all be underground, but that there is a plan to run water to the property. "No water?" asked board member Andrea Peraner-Sweet. "There will be individual wells," Lorraine replied. When the public hearing was opened to the audience, Scott Leedberg a resident of Groton Road in Chelmsford, asked, "What is your purpose in subdividing the property into two lots." Deschenes, with his back to the audience and facing the Planning Board, simply replied, "To subdi- vide the property into two lots." Leedberg repeated the question. Peraner-Sweet interjected that Deschenes was not trying to be flip with his answer. "When I subdivided my land, I had purpose -- to build my house," Leedberg pressed. "So there must be a purpose." But Deschenes responded, "There is no purpose at this time." He also said there is no intent to re- zone the land later on. It is zoned for light industry. Town Planner Ross Altobelli said selectmen have been asked for input on the project regarding ease- ments and the intersection of the new road with Groton Road. Se- lectmen have referred issues regarding the wetlands to the Conservation Commission. The public hearing on the subdivision proposal has been continued until July 22, immediately preceding the public hearing on the as- phalt plant. The board is looking for an alternate location for this meeting to ac- commodate the numbers of people who have attended any meeting involving the asphalt plant.
    • Debate continues on asphalt plant proposal http://www.wickedlocal.com/westford/news/business/x863180476/Debate-continues-on-asphalt-plant-proposal By Stephen Vittorioso/Staff Writer Thu Jul 09, 2009 WESTFORD - Residential concerns about a proposed asphalt manu- facturing plant are still swirling while a coalition circu- lates petitions and project representatives continue to address questions. Westford and Chelmsford residents in the recently formed Route 40 Clean Air Coalition have been voicing health and traffic concerns about Newport Materi- als LLC’s proposed 4-acre asphalt manufacturing facility on Commerce Way, off 540 Groton Road and near the Westford and Chelmsford town lines. The Planning Board has opened its public hearing process, with the next hearing slated for Monday, July 20, as peer reviewers have been studying submitted sound, dispersion and traffic reports. “This is more than a one or two neighborhood issue and the level of grassroots collaboration be- tween Westford and Chelmsford residents working together on behalf of the coalition makes that clear,” said coalition member Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg in an e-mail to the Eagle. “Our group is advo- cating for clean air and a safe environment for all – children, elders and everyone in between.” Nakashian-Holsberg said more than 30 volunteers have been circulating petitions and encouraging con- cerned residents to sign them. As of July 2, Nakashian-Holsberg has not estimated the total number of signatures. The coalition has been advocating for clean air, alleging that the proposed plant, which is slated to pro- duce about 1,000 tons of asphalt per day, will emit pollutants that could cause respiratory problems. The group is also concerned about the plant’s closeness to the Rita Edwards Miller School on Mitchell Way, which is about one mile from the Groton Road site, because the Massachusetts Bureau of Environmental Health has said Miller students have significantly higher asthma cases as compared to the state. “The facility and diesel trucks will emit fine particles, which cannot be seen by the human eye, but are dangerous because they remain airborne, travel long distances, penetrate deeper into the lungs and cause more damage,” Nakashian-Holsberg said. Vowing efficiency Newport Materials officials continue to say the plant will be 99.9 percent particulate free, offering clean and efficient production. Project spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne said representatives are willing to meet with residents as much as possible to help explain project details. Project officials have also met with Chelmsford residents at the Scotty Hollow Condominiums, which is the closest Chelmsford abutter. “We continue to move forward and we continue to answer questions from residents … and be as trans- parent and open as we can be,” Tranchemontagne said. While residents are concerned about increased truck traffic, most spilling into Chelmsford as vehicles are only permitted to turn left out of 540 Groton Road heading toward Route 3, Tranchemontagne said the about 60 total Newport Materials trucks would slightly increase Route 40 traffic. Currently, about 13,200 vehicles pass the site daily. “We’re really going to be a small drop in the bucket and you’re not going to be able to measure the im- pact,” Tranchemontagne said. Health and noise findings According to a June 16 presentation from an independent environmental consultant, Principal Scientist
    • David MacIntosh of Needham-based Environmental Health and Engineering, Inc. claims plant emissions from the vehicles would not pose major health hazards. “Incremental increase of pollutants due to higher traffic volume associated with the proposed asphalt plant facility is small compared to background levels and health-based benchmarks,” MacIntosh’s presen- tation says. “Results of traffic air pollution studies in Boston indicate that plant-related traffic on Groton Road is unlikely to be a meaningful contributor to local air pollution.” Some Planning Board members, town officials and project representatives toured June 15 Portsmouth, N.H.-based Pike Industries’ asphalt plant, a similar operation to Newport Materials’ proposal. In a letter from Planning Board members Kevin Borselli and Fred Palmer, they observed no odors, dust or major noise and spoke with abutters who did not express concerns or issues. “When a truck was being loaded via a silo, we heard noise while standing about 150 feet or so away,” the letter says. “Other than that, we heard only low conveyor belt noises, which were less than the sound of the truck pulling out of the loading bay.” “We did not notice any smell except when passed by a truck loaded with asphalt on the way out of the fa- cility and that smell only lasted for a brief few moments.” The Planning Board is scheduled to continue discussing the proposal Monday, July 20, at 7:50 p.m. in the Millennium School, 23 Depot St. For more project information, visit www.newportmaterials.com or www.westfordma.gov. To join the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition’s e-mail list, e-mail route40cleanaircoalition@gmail.com. Staff Writer Stephen Vittorioso can be reached at 978-371-5727 or at svittori@cnc.com. CLICK HERE to visit the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition website
    • Emissions concerns cloud asphalt plan By Staff reports/Chelmsford Indepemdent http://www.wickedlocal.com/chelmsford/news/x931233920/Emissions-concerns-cloud-asphalt-plan Wed Jul 15, 2009 CHELMSFORD - More concerns about a proposed asphalt manufacturing plant are circulating as experts and residents say officials must closely monitor emissions while project proponents continue to assert the plant will be safe. Massachusetts Department of Public Health representatives at the July 14 Board of Health meeting said officials must examine “fugitive” and “near-source” emissions from Newport Materials LLC’s plant so that they do not create major health hazards. Emission control is especially important because students at the Rita Edwards Miller School have significantly higher asthma cases as compared to the state. According to officials, fugitive emissions are from sources not directly related to the plant, such as dust, while near-source emissions include the environmental impact of diesel trucks navigating in and out of the site. “I think that everybody has a lot of concerns,” said Board of Health member Susan Hanly in a telephone interview. “Our job is to make sure there aren’t any health concerns for those living around there and at the school.” Newport Materials is proposing to develop a 4-acre facility on Com- merce Way, off Groton Road and near the Westford and Chelmsford town line, that would produce about 1,000 tons of asphalt per day and would be constructed using what representatives say is next-genera- tion technology. Westford and Chelmsford residents – some joining the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition – have expressed nu- merous concerns, alleging that the proposed plant will emit pollutants that could cause respiratory prob- lems. The group is also concerned about the plant’s closeness to the Rita Edwards Miller School on Mitchell Way, which is about one mile from the Commerce Way site, because the school asthma rate is well above the overall town rate of 10.5 percent. “I’m encouraged that the Board of Health is taking the alarmingly elevated level of asthma among Miller School children very seriously,” said coalition member Alisa Nakashian-Holsberg. Hanly said concerns have been raised about how the plant would affect the surrounding area, including if Fletcher Granite quarry would work more be- cause Newport Materials has plans to use its products. “There are just a lot of those considerations that need to be addressed be- fore it moves forward,” Hanly said. “You can’t put a dollar on peoples’ lives.” Project representatives, however, continue to say the plant will be 99.9 per- cent particulate free, offering clean and efficient production. “We have conducted an emissions study and our emission study shows conclusively that our facility will not have an adverse impact on the school or any of the residents of Westford or Chelmsford,” said project spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne. “It’s very important for people to understand that we have a dust sup- pression plan and equipment that are going to limit fugitive emissions greatly.” The project is slated for more discussion at the Monday, July 20, Planning Board meeting, at 7:50 p.m. in the Millennium School, 23 Depot St. Staff Writer Stephen Vittorioso can be reached at 978-371-5727 or at svittori@cnc.com.
    • Asphalt Jungle Large crowd peppers board with concerns on plant By Prudence Brighton, Sun Correspondent http://www.lowellsun.com/todaysheadlines/ci_12881927?FORM=ZZNR 07/21/2009 WESTFORD -- Focusing on reports from traffic analysts, the Planning Board last night continued its review of the proposed asphalt manufacturing plant on Groton Road, with concerns about travel speed, enforce- ment of weight limitations on trucks, traffic noise, and night-time trucking surfacing as key issues to be ad- dressed. More than 100 people attended the public hearing, held at the Abbot School to accommodate the numbers of Westford and Chelmsford residents who have turned out for previous meetings. As temperatures within the gym grew warmer, though, the crowd thinned out. Most of those attending oppose the asphalt plant and many sported "Westford -- Not Wheezeford" decals on their shirts. Last week, about 50 people attended a Board of Health meeting to express concerns about high rates of asthma in the vicinity of the site. Newport Materials LLC is seeking site-plan approval and a special permit to construct an asphalt manufac- turing plan at 540 Groton Road. The plant would be adjacent to Fletcher's Quarry. Stone-crushing opera- tions and other quarries operate in the area, which is zoned industrial but near residential neighborhoods, a school and a child-care center. The Planning Board heard preliminary traffic findings from MDM Traffic Consultants, which was hired to perform an independent review for the town, that pointed to many of the potential traffic issues on Groton Road. Representing MDM, Robert Michaud described what the study analyzed, and listed areas where he has requested supplemental information from Newport Materials. "One of our primary concerns is travel speed on Route 40," Michaud said. Although that section of Groton Road, also known as Route 40, has a posted speed limit of 40 mph, traffic regularly moves at 50 mph, he said. Michaud has asked for more details, including a study of the Oak Hill Road intersection, traffic-accident data, and a seasonal traffic-volume analysis. He said he already received some of the material from the applicant's expert but has not yet reviewed it. Westford Police Chief Thomas McEnaney echoed Michaud's concerns about speed on Groton Road. He has met with Doug Deschenes, attorney for Newport Materials, to share his concerns about the speed issue and his department's ability to enforce weight restrictions on the trucks. The town does not have the equipment needed to weigh trucks carrying asphalt as they leave the facility, and it's expensive to buy. The state police are limited in their ability to provide this service also, he said. Planning Board members honed in on questions about hours of trucking operations. For Fred Palmer, "the biggest issue has to do with what truck traffic would be like on a night like tonight." On a night during July or August, he said, he would find truck traffic disruptive. He asked Deschenes about a report that the facility would not operate during the summer months. For the Complete Story CLICK HERE
    • Residents voice asphalt concerns http://www.wickedlocal.com/chelmsford/news/x1641095884/Residents-voice-asphalt-concerns By Stephanie Seeliger/Chelmsford Indepemdent Fri Jul 24, 2009 CHELMSFORD - Some Chelmsford residents who fear the growth of a Newport Materials LLC asphalt manufacturing facility at 540 Groton Road in Westford voiced their concerns about the proposed 4-acre fa- cility at a public input session last Wednesday. Residents spoke to the possibilities of increased traffic, noise pollution and harmful emissions. “I think it’s going to ruin that neighborhood,” said Selectman Eric Dahlberg. “I’m with the residents 100 per- cent. It’s frustrating.” The section of Groton Road in question is not state maintained, but is the responsibility of the town. Many residents fear that the plant will mirror the current Aggregate Industries asphalt facility on Littleton Road. Dawn Belleville pointed out how muddy the road can get as a result of the trucks using its dirt driveway. The upkeep of the roads may prove to be a daunting task for the town. A particular safety concern facing the new plant is the intersection of Groton Road and Oak Hill Road. It is expected to put 75 extra trucks on the road each day. Newport Materials argues that the intersection al- ready sees 13,200 cars daily. Marie M. Burnham pleaded with the board, stating that Littleton Road is no longer safe for children to cross due to traffic from Aggregate Industries. She feels that the quality of life in the area has already di- minished. Numerous constituents were nervous about the level of noise pollution that the plant may generate. Some suggested that the hours of operation be limited, worrying that there may be a health risk to residents that are kept awake all night. One resident proposed operating between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m. However, Town Manager Paul Cohen pointed out that there is no power under the law for the Board of Se- lectmen to tell a business when they can operate. Newport Materials insists that its “silent-type” burners will meet state and local sound regulations. Scotty Hollow Condominiums lie only 1,500 feet away from the site. The Rita Miller Elementary School is within one mile. It has significantly higher asthma cases as compared to the rest of the state. Newport Ma- terials cites figures claiming that two dust control systems will remove 99.9 percent of particulates. These areas of concern prompted the formation of the Route 40 Clean Air Coalition. The coalition has gathered facts against the project on its Web site, route40cleanair.info. On June 8, the Chelmsford board sent a letter to Westford outlining the concerns of residents. The list in- cluded increases in traffic, noise pollution, emissions, odors and concerns about 24 hour operations. The requests put forth in this letter included speed control, emission control, that all roads in use be paved and swept accordingly, nighttime noise control, and the establishment of a telephone hotline for com- plaints, among others. On July 16, the Westford Planning Board issued a response stating that it agreed to the proposals. “I don’t think there’s a person on the board that doesn’t wish we could help you better on this issue,” said Board Chairwoman Clare Jeannotte. Ultimately, the decision is up to the Westford Planning Board. There have been no final conclusions made, and the issue is still open for discussion. The next planning Board meeting will take place on Aug. 3, at 8:30 p.m. in the Abbot School gymnasium.
    • Backlog on offender registry dwindling By Bridget Scrimenti, bscrimenti@lowellsun.com 07/19/2009 He lived in a neighborhood filled with families. But police weren't allowed to notify neighbors that there was a sex offender next door. "I have a family calling me up with kids playing in the street, and here in the house in front of them is a sex offender -- who in this case was a pedophile," said Billerica Police Sgt. Gerald Roche. In this situation, the sex offender wasn't classified yet and was considered a Level 0. Although police knew where he was living, state law prohibits telling the public unless the sex offender is classified as a Level 2 -- a moderate risk to reoffend -- or as a Level 3 -- considered highly likely to reoffend. "It was the atypical fox-in-the-hen-house type of thing, and it was really a shame," Roche said. In 2006, changes made to the Sex Offender Registry Law aimed to prevent a lag in classification, and mandated that all sex offenders be classified before they're released from incarceration. "We work tirelessly to prioritize the cases of offenders who are the most dangerous and the most likely to reoffend -- be- fore they are released from incarceration," said Charles McDonald, spokesman for SORB. Local law-enforcement officials say they've seen a decrease in unclassified offenders, or Level 0's. Roche said, "I think the state has really stepped up and is aggressively working to take care of the issue." Police in Tewksbury, Chelmsford and Dracut have also seen a decrease in Level 0's in recent years. Both SORB and the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which governs the board, do not have statistics to show how many unclassified sex offenders were released during the past five years. "We (SORB) have no statutory authority to analyze," McDonald said. Information about all sex offenders was public until 1998, when the state Supreme Judicial Court found that it violated the rights of sex offenders. Following the SJC ruling, lawmakers set up the Sex Offender Registry Board, responsible for classifying sex offenders. Under that law, only the identities of Level 3 sex offenders are disseminated to the public. The identities of Level 2 sex of- fenders can be requested in person at the police station. Because Level 0 sex offenders already have been convicted, victim advocates question why the law prohibits information from being released. "Once you rape a child your information should be out there," said Laurie Myers, a child-protection advocate from Chelmsford, and founder of Community Voices, an advocacy group that raises awareness about sexual assault. The Committee for Public Counsel Services, which frequently represents sex offenders, agrees with the SJC ruling, stat- ing that all sex offenders have to be treated individually. A sex offender could be a teenager who was having consensual sex with their girlfriend, said Larni Levy, director of the committee's Alternative Commitment and Registration Support Unit. "It's very important that we look at each person individually to make a fair assessment about whether the individual actu- ally poses a risk of reoffense or an actual danger to the public -- they may not," Levy said. The classification process begins when a sex offender receives a letter with a recommended classification, and then has 20 days to either accept the classification or request a hearing. The seven-member Sex Offender Registry Board then listens to sex offenders pleading their case to determine whether the sex offender will be classified as a Level 1, 2, or 3, with Level 1 considered the least likely to reoffend. A hearing ex- aminer, another full-time state employee, makes the final classification decision, McDonald said. Levy said about 30 percent of sex offenders ask for a hearing. About 40 percent of those who request hearings are placed in a lower classification. The sex offender also may appeal their final classification in Superior Court. Myers said sex offenders often try to drag out appeals to manipulate the system. However, Levy said the system isn't fair to the sex offender, because there is no scientific formula to predict if the sex of- fender will reoffend. "It's a crystal-ball prediction," Levy said. While SORB looks at a variety of factors, including whether the sex offender has undergone treatment, McDonald said the board follows due process. "The courts have ruled that you cannot classify someone on the basis of the crimes (they) committed," McDonald said.
    • Myers says she'll keep pushing for legislation that will make information about sex offenders widely available, including the posting of Level 2 sex offenders online. "We're too willing as a state to forgive these people," Myers said. "Are we protecting sex offenders from the public or are we protecting the public from sex offenders?" Myers said. CLICK HERE for Community Voices website Melissa’s Bill will pass, supporters say By Chloe Gotsis/Staff Writer http://www.wickedlocal.com/billerica/news/x540129622/Melissa-s-Bill-will-pass-supporters-say Fri Jul 24, 2009 Laurie BILLERICA, MASS. - A proposal to tighten state sex offender laws could help keep repeat offenders Myers off the street, both local and state officials say.The family of Melissa Gosule, a 27-year-old Ran- dolph teacher killed in 1999, have been advocating for harsher penalties for repeat sex offenders for over 10 years on Beacon Hill. But this time around, the Gosule family feels the legislation, known as Melissa’s Bill, has the right wording and support from enough state lawmakers to pass. “We are hoping this year is different,” said Melissa’s father, Leslie Gosule. “It’s one step at a time.” Detractors say the bill wouldn't be as effective as supporters argue, saying it would increase overcrowding in state pris- ons. But the bill is already generating support on a local level. Billerica Police Chief Dan Rosa said he supports the legislation, which would impose the maximum sentence for either a defendant’s third Superior Court conviction or a third conviction of a felony punishable by more than 10 years in prison. “These types of crimes have a high recidivism rate and this bill addresses that issue by keeping repeat offenders away from the public,” said Rosa. On the 10th anniversary of Gosule’s death, the family’s story caught the ear of an important ally— Middlesex District At- torney Gerry Leone, who has been working with other politicians to urge passage of the revised bill. Gosule’s sister Heidi is a prosecutor in Leone’s office. Leone’s office says the bill will impose harsher sentencing for repeat sex offenders in towns all over the commonwealth, including Billerica. “At a time when we are discussing the possibility of reducing mandatory minimums for drug crimes, we should also be talking about assuring mandatory maximums for our most dangerous repeat offenders,” said Leone in a statement. “It is those offenders who are the greatest threat to public safety and to victims like Melissa Gosule.” Melissa Gosule On July 11, 1999, Gosule was driving on a Cape Cod road when her car broke down. She accepted a ride from a stranger. But the man offering to help her was a repeat sex offender, Michael Gentile, who had served less than two years in jail for a combined 27 criminal convictions. Eight days later, Gosule’s body was found later in a shallow grave near Pembroke. Gentile is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder without the possibility for parole. Corey Welford, a spokesman from Leone’s office, said Gentile committed a number of felonies that would have fallen under the bill. Life after release After criminals convicted of sexual offenses are released from jail, they must register as a sex offender with both the po- lice and the Sex Offender Registry Board. The board rates the offender’s level from one to three based on their likeliness to re-offend and the degree of dangerousness posed to the public. According to the Sex Offender Registry Web site, Bil- lerica has eight Level 3 and 31 Level 2 sex offenders either working or living in the town. According to the Center for Sex Offender Management, about 12 to 24 percent of sex offenders will re-offend. But the statistics could be higher because sex offenses are often unreported, the center says. While current legislation already imposes the mandatory maximum sentences for a third conviction where the defendant was previously sentenced to three or more years in state prison, Leone’s office said Melissa’s Bill would base the defen- dant’s eligibility on the crime committed, not the discretionary sentence imposed. The bill also removes parole eligibility for repeat offenders and considers federal convictions in the habitual offender statute. Under the bill, if a judge finds that a defendant committed a felony while on probation, the suspended sentence is imposed. Currently there is no such requirement. Opposition to the bill While the bill has strong support from Leone and Attorney General Martha Coakley, others like Joel Pentlarge of the Criminal Justice Policy Coalition, a non-profit organization working for an effective and humane criminal justice policy, said imposing mandatory minimum sentences is a major factor in causing prison overcrowding and does not solve the problem of repeat offenders. “Typically the way people who are subject to mandatory maximum sentences, they end up being released directly to the street with no probation or parole and 97 percent of all prisoners eventually get released,” said Pentlarge. “There are tons of evidence out there on what reduces crime and ‘feel-good bills’ are not what’s out there.” Pentlarge added that evidence has shown that shorter sentences are more effective.
    • Aspen's impact still unclear By Chloe Gotsis/Chelmsford Indepemdent http://www.wickedlocal.com/chelmsford/news/x135742842/Aspens-impact-still-unclear Jul 07, 2009 In an effort to bring revenue to the town and help fill a state quota for affordable housing, a divided Billerica Zon- ing Board of Appeals voted last week to approve permits for a sprawling apartment complex on Rangeway Road — which will abut Chelmsford. After more than six months of hearings filled with criti- cism for the project from town boards and abutters, the zoning board voted Tuesday, June 30, to allow a scaled- down version of the plan. Four of the five members ap- proved 348 units in eight buildings at Aspen Apartments, slimmed down from 672 units and 14 buildings. The de- velopment will have an emergency access on State Street in Chelmsford, but the primary access is a 35-foot driveway near Curriculum Associates on Rangeway Road. Throughout the public hearing process, town departments and committees raised concerns with the level of traf- fic, sewer and drainage and cost the development would bring to the town. Attorneys for K and K Developers Inc. said they are pleased with the board’s decision and understand the re- duced unit number. “We think the approval and review process was done in a very thorough and professional manner,” said Meredith West, lawyer for the Freeman and Davis law firm representing K and K. “The board acted responsibly with their roles to create housing. We are very comfortable with the 384 units.” But Dan Hill, a lawyer for more than 50 Chelmsford abutters, said while he is pleased with the reduction in units, he is disappointed the board chose to ignore the advice and warning signs from their consultants. “The biggest disappointment is the way the builder left it up to the developer to chose where those build- ings are going to be,” said Hill. “There won’t be any further opportunity for them to comment on the re- design. Therefore the impact to the residents of Chelmsford still remains unresolved.” Hill added that while the board is convinced it could bring revenue to the town, he thinks there is a chance it could be an expense. ZBA member Ralph McKenna opposed the permit. He said throughout the process the board was looking at a permit for 672 units and it was only 20 minutes before the last hearing, on June 17, that the lower number was suggested. McKenna said he is not convinced the location is the right place for the development. “Everything I saw was that this was a very poor place to put this project and why with all the warnings from con- sultants we went along with this just baffles me,” said McKenna. The state’s controversial affordable housing law, Chapter 40B, allows new developments to bypass local planning and zoning laws if the 25 percent of the project is deemed affordable for families earning 70 to 80 percent of the town’s median income. Towns with more than 10 percent of their housing stock deemed affordable are exempt. The new development, 96 of the units will be affordable, but evenly dispersed and with no substantial difference in appearance. The board’s lengthy decision came with 49 conditions of approval and 22 waivers of town and state bylaws, in- cluding alterations to the planned size, draining, noise management and traffic management plans. The decision also alleviates the burden from the town of trash removal, on site parking and snow plowing. The board also waived zoning bylaws for construction in an industrial zone because the project is residential. The developer is also responsible for installing traffic lights, estimated to cost about $1 million, at the intersection of Rangeway Road and Route 129. “We really tried to spread out the impact,” said ZBA Chairwoman Doris Pearson. “We think we’ve made a good decision.” The board has 14 days to file the decision with the town clerk’s office. The applicant or abutters have 20 days to appeal the decision if they wish to do so, before the applicant begins filing for construction.
    • EXTRA! EXTRA! ************************* From the If At First You Don’t Succeed Department... M a t t H a n s o n is once again throwing his hat into the ring for the Board of Selectmen race for 2010 Submitted by Matt Hanson: Support Matt Hanson BBQ When: August 15th 1:00pm-5:00pm Where: 16 Wedgewood Drive Chelmsford, MA 01824 Matt Hanson will be running for Selectman. This is a casual meet and greet for anyone interested in showing their support, learning more about him or just having a good time. We hope to see you there! Committee to elect Matt Hanson Rain date- Saturday August 22, 2009. ************************* Bruce Freeman Trail http://www.brucefreemanrailtrail.org/ The Bruce Freeman Trail is a proposed rail trail through the communities of Lowell, Chelmsford, Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, Sudbury, and Framingham in Mas- sachusetts -- following the 25-mile route of the old New Haven Railroad Framing- ham & Lowell line. P h a s e 1 ( 6 . 8 m i l e s i n L o w e l l , C h e l m s f o r d , and We stf or d) i s und er c o nst ru ct i on, th e R ib bo n C ut ti ng i s Sat u rday , A u gu st 2 9 , 20 0 9 9 am to 2 p m . Phase 2 in Westford, Carlisle, Acton, Concord, and Sudbury (13.1 miles) and Phase 3 in Sudbury and Framingham (4.6 miles) are proposed extensions. The Bruce Freeman Trail will be open to non-motorized uses such as cy- cling, jogging, walking, and skiing. Other uses such as rollerblading and equestrian use may also be possible depending on the design. Back to the Future: Submitted by Tom Christiano The photo of some members of the Chelmsford Bike Path Committee back in 1993. This photo was published in the July 22, 1993 issue of the Chelmsford Newsweekly. In the photo, from left to right are: Tom Christiano, Stuart Sargent, Randy Rice, Jack Briggs, Don Caless, Jane Keirstead, Mary Tevlin, Catherine Brown and Frazier Rice.
    • Eric Dahlberg's Blog http://ericdahlberg.blogspot.com/ TUESDAY, JULY 21, 2009 Letter to the editor in Waltham Daily News Tribune: Legislators should wait their turn I submitted a letter to the editor of the Waltham Daily News Tribune in agreement with that paper's recent editorial on the deplorable manner in which some of our legislative leaders conduct public hearings on Beacon Hill. It appears in today's online edition. Here it is: Chelmsford — Thank you for the editorial on the manner in which some of our legislative leaders conduct public hear- ings on Beacon Hill ("Disrespect from the Legislature," July 17). Their practice of permitting other legislators to cut ahead of taxpaying citizens in line in order to testify at these hearings is an affront to good government. Imagine you'd like to testify at a public hearing. You spend hours preparing your testimony. You take valuable time off from work. You spend a good portion of your day in transit to and from the State House. You arrive early to get your name on the list of speakers. Then, when the hearing gets underway, you learn you'll need to wait because some legislators feel they are entitled to cut ahead of you, a citizen whose tax dollars fund their salaries. The wait could be a few minutes... it could be hours on end. Our legislators should play by the same rules as the rest of us. Beacon Hill should adopt a "no cutting in line" policy for all public hearings. Eric Dahlberg Chelmsford ************************************ From www.chelmsfordmassnews.com North water treatment plant approved By Kevin Zimmerman By a vote of 4-to-1, the Planning Board gave site plan approval to the North Chelmsford Water District’s new treatment facility on Richardson Road. Planning Board members Sue Carter, Ann McGuigan, Jim Lane and George Zaharoolis cast positive votes Wednesday night. Member Bob Joyce was the lone dissenter. New members Colleen Stansfield and Ed Roux were not part of the original hearings so did not vote. The board gave approval to the 10,964-square-foot plant at 55 Richardson Road subject to “facts, find- ings and conditions” in its draft decision. As part of the agreement, the water district will be required to install an orange construction fence be- tween the work site and its neighbors. The district will also need to inform the abutters when construction is scheduled to begin. Notices to resi- dents will be sent by regular and not registered mail. Other conditions include allowing deliveries to the site only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Mon- day through Friday. Approximately 30-days worth of chemicals will be the most allowed on site at any time. And all chemicals must be stored inside the building. The water district still needs approvals from the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Conservation Commis- sion before building permits could be issued.
    • Triangle Service receives first OK in move to sell vehicles By Kevin Zimmerman Despite continued objections from residents, the Planning Board granted Triangle Service a special per- mit to sell used vehicles at its 177 Boston Road site. Rosemary Lane resident Chun Sun, who lives across the street from Triangle, told the board the business has not been a good neighbor. Often at night, said Sun, a tow truck with flashing lights and a curse word-spouting driver awaken him and his family. Sun also claimed more than 60 people signed a petition against allowing Triangle Service owner David McAllister to sell cars. If there was such a petition it was not presented to the board nor made part of the public hearing. Boston Road resident Brad Dillman echoed Sun’s sentiments. “I think it trashes the neighborhood,” said Dillman. “It’s a betrayal of Rosemary Lane residents. I think it lowers their property values. To ignore all the abutters and their input for one person doesn’t seem fair to me.” McAllister’s lawyer Doug Hausler previously presented a signed petition urging the board to grant the spe cial permit. He discounted claims that Triangle Service has a negative impact on the neighborhood. “Quite frankly, cars are there now and cars will be there later,” said Hausler. Planning Board member Jim Lane asked if McAllister would agree to limit the total number of vehicles, both for sale and in for servicing, on the property. “The number of cars fluctuates,” said Hausler. “And, it’s in my client’s interest not to have the site overbur- dened. I hope the board uses its discretion and grants the permit.” Board members agreed to the special permit on the conditions that there would be no changes to the on- site lighting, no new sign would be erected and wooden planters placed along the property’s edge to bet- ter define curb cuts would not hinder sightlines. Wednesday’s meeting was a continued hearing on McAllister’s application for a special permit for exten- sion of a non-conforming use. It provides McAllister the right to keep up to six vehicles for sale on his property at any one time. He would still need Board of Selectmen approval for the motor vehicle vendor’s license. ************************************ From the TAKE A GOOD LONG LOOK Department The BOS discuss the Town Manager’s and Housing Authority’s contract award to Connery Associates of Melrose to perform a fiscal impact study on three 40B projects located in Chelmsford. CLICK HERE f or vide o
    • Photos by Tom Christiano
    • QUOTE OF THE WEEK: The taxpayer - that's someone who works for the federal government but doesn't have to take the civil service examination. ~Ronald Reagan SUMMER MEMORIES Where were you the summer of 1975? At the beach? CLICK HERE TO RELIVE THAT MEMORY This one goes out to Hal from the Farside of Chelmsford If you have friends, family or neighbors who you think would like to be added to this news update list just have them drop us a line at intownreport@gmail.com In-Town Report is on Facebook CLICK HERE : http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=68800427919&ref=ts For Back Issues of the In-Town Report CLICK HERE : http://www.slideshare.net/re007hq/documents