February 28, 2014

WW II veteran needs help

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 3:20 pm


By Lisa Connell



PLAINFIELD– Most of us get pretty frustrated with the bureaucratic hoops we have to jump through these days– whether it’s getting a permit to dig a hole in your own back yard or applying for help from a government agency– it’s aggravating to no end. It’s hard enough to navigate the mine fields of paperwork if you are middle aged, but it’s even harder if you’re a 90 year old WW II veteran who has a number of health problems, lives alone, and who could end up losing the home that he built and raised a family in.


Most people in town (particularly town officials) probably are well acquainted with Steve Ridel of 28 Grant St.


He is a first generation immigrant– his mother was from Russia and his father from Austria. He served his country in the Philippines during WW II serving on the USS LSM-205 (Landing Ship Medium) which served in the Luzon operation (Lingayen Gulf landings), Borneo operation (Balikpapan) and the consolidation and capture of the Southern Philippines (Mindanao Island landings) in 1945. His ship was awarded three battle stars. Somehow Ridel survived despite kamikaze attacks and shelling. “I did what I could for Roosevelt,” he says.


Ridel lost part of his hearing serving on the ship (and still experiences night terrors), but came home where he worked as a quarry master and raised a family with his wife Doris. They purchased land in Plainfield in 1973 and built a very nice country home with a cool fish pond in back.


His wife has since died, he’s housebound and he’s feeling alone. He’s hard of hearing, is blind in one eye and has double vision in the other, has a bad back and has had a heart operation. He can still climb the steps to his bedroom on the second floor and can still climb the steps to his basement (but it is hard for him to do so carrying a load of laundry.)


He’s also having a hard time getting people to listen to him and get him the help he needs. He said people dismiss him as a senile old man.


What kind of help does he need? He said he would like help from a guy (some women tend to be politically correct and easily offended by a truth talking old veteran), someone who would listen to him and occasionally help him with things like getting his laundry up and down the stairs. He doesn’t have any money but he would work out a barter system (he has lumber).


He’s trying to get some help from the government, particularly with the VA but every time he calls they say they can’t help him. It’s hard for him to hear them, and it’s hard for them to understand what he’s saying.


He did call his doctor and the doctor sent nurses up– but they told him to clean up his house so he can move his walker around better (and he did offend one nurse who left in a huff). “I can’t get no help at all,” he said.


He has also been told that he should move out of his house into senior housing where he can get better services– but he doesn’t want to leave the house that he built and has lived in with his wife and family. It’s his home and he doesn’t want to leave it. He wants to have his ashes buried in the backyard with his wife’s.


He’s also having troubles dealing with the town particularly with the assessors and conservation commission. For instance, his house is built on 12 acres which he bought in 1973. Then in 1978 he bought six adjacent acres from a neighbor for $500. Everything was fine when the old town tax collector was around because she listened to him and knew how to talk to him.


However, times have change and so have way assessments are calculated. In a 2012 letter from the assessors it says, “A secondary prime site value has been added to properties that have a minimum of six acres and 600 ft. of road frontage.”


This is confusing language for a regular person to figure out. But to Ridel’s way of thinking, the town has combined his six acres with the 12 acres he lives on which has raised the original value of $500 significantly higher. And while he has the money to pay the assessment, he is refusing to do so– because he says it’s not right. He also said that he has been told that if he doesn’t pay on the six acres he could lose his house even though both have separate deeds.


He said the town has lowered the assessment a little to help him out, but to him it’s the principal of the thing.


He has another problem concerning the pond that he created years ago that used to have fish and ducks in it. The salt from the road has destroyed it to the point that not even mosquitoes can live in it. So he wants to build a dam with piping on his six acres to move the water run off away from his pond so it can flourish again. But now he has come up against the conservation commission which told him that basically he can’t do that.


Another bureaucratic headache is that even though he has had a gun permit for 40 years– the last time he got it renewed they asked to see his passport– which really annoyed him but thankfully he had one from trips to Canada.


About all these things he says, “Nobody believes me. I can’t get no help.”


If there are any guys out there who would like to help out a veteran and hear some interesting war stories, stop on by. He’d be very happy to see you.


February 23, 2014

Hearings planned for pot moratorium

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 10:05 pm


By Mike Donovan



CHESTER– A moratorium on allowing medical marijuana facilities in town will expire in June and the Planning Board will hold a public hearing to assemble a bylaw controlling any facility that might locate within the town, Planning Board Chairman Lyle Snide told the selectboard recently.


We’ll follow state public health regulations” which are very detailed, he said, noting that anyone applying for a license to grow and distribute the drug has to come up with a state certified plan. “Our bylaw will cover what we want in addition,” he said.


After a state-wide referendum endorsed legalization of medical marijuana during the 2012 election, town officials at first intended to outlaw distribution and growing facilities in the town altogether, but state Attorney General Martha Coakley ruled that communities could impose moratoriums while drafting bylaws regulating the facilities, but could not subvert the will of the voters who supported legalization by a margin of two to one.


Snide said he expects the planning board will require facilities to apply for a special permit and be restricted to commercial and industrial zones.


But Selectman John Baldasaro noted that the drug has agricultural as well as distribution operations. “What about growing it?” he asked.


Snide said there would be strict standards for growing operations, with tight security. Typically these could include fences, alarms and security cameras.


Selectboard Chairman Don Ellershaw questioned the impact of a requirement that the facilities be not-for-profit operations. “Would Chester be able to collect taxes?” he asked.


Town Administrator Joseph Kellogg noted that the facilities wouldn’t be charitable organizations, and could be subject to taxation.


Kellogg is interim town administrator filling in after the previous administrator’s resignation, and incoming Town Administrator Pat Carlino said such a facility would generate some income for the town.


The worst case scenario is payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT),” she said. Some entities that are not subject to taxation often agree to pay for town services through PILOT type arrangements. The state, which is exempt from property taxes, makes PILOT payments to the town, as does the town’s own electric light department by subsidizing the cost of street lighting.


Snide said he needed the selectboard to vote in order to instruct the planning board to begin work on the bylaw. The vote was unanimous.



February 17, 2014

DEP claims public access to pond sufficient

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 7:19 pm


By Mike Donovan


RUSSELL– The state department of environmental protection believes public access to Russell Pond is adequate under state law, according to Selectman Keith Cortis. But resident Bill Hardie said the proper agency to rule on the issue is the state department of fish and wildlife, not the DEP.


Fish and wildlife are the ones who deal with public access,” he said. “They feel people should be able to fish the pond the way they have for 43 years.”


The entire shoreline of Russell Pond is privately owned, most of it by the Boy Scouts of America, which operates the Horace A. Moses Scout Reservation there. Last year the Boy Scout Council ordered boulders put in place to close off a path to the pond that fishermen were using to launch their boats and canoes due to concern that it would be liable if anyone were injured on the property. According to Hardie, however, state law protects landowners from liability in such cases.


Some town officials have also expressed concern that the Boy Scouts, which have been said to have financial problems with the camp, might be preparing to sell off their property–about 1,600 acres–to developers.


According to state law, any pond of 10 acres or more must be accessible to the public. Russell Pond comprises about 85 acres, and Keith Cortis agreed that it is a great pond which requires public access, but said he has been unable to pin down a definition of the term. “There isn’t a clear answer,” he said. “No one could show me what ‘public access’ means.”


Another problem, he said, is that the town does not own Birch Hill Road, which people use to get to the town beach. According to Cortis, the town only has a right of way,


I don’t know if we could grant a right of way when all we have is a right of way,” he said.


Hardie has been trying to re-establish public access to the pond ever since the Boy Scouts put the boulders in place. The path crossed land previously used by the Blandford Club, which had a 99 year lease with the Boy Scouts organization. According to Cortis, when the Blandford Club stopped using the property, it reverted to the Boy Scouts.


Hardie thinks another path could be cleared through an area just west of the town beach, property included in the town’s lease.


Fish and wildlife has money to buy a small strip where people could carry their boats to the pond,” he said.


Selectboard Chair Pandora Hague said she didn’t see a problem. Although the town has no official policy, fishermen have often used the town beach as a launch area.


They can launch their boats from the beach,” she said, “and it’s nice that it’s small and attracts just local people. It’s not like the river.” She noted that the town has had problems with visitors along the Westfield River who picnic there in the summer and leave large quantities of trash that the town has to dispose of. She recalled too a time when members of a Russian church in Westfield asked for permission to hold a mass baptism at the pond. She said they parked cars across Birch Hill Road, totally blocking access to everyone else, and even parked in front of the fire station on General Knox Road, which would have prevented the fire truck from responding if there had been a fire.


Hardie said that considering the complications involved, the situation might need to be resolved legally.


The only answer could be that we’ll have to take this to court,” he said.


February 7, 2014

Downing discusses Worthington

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 3:58 pm

By Mary Kronholm

BLANDFORD– State Sen. Benjamin Downing met with the selectmen on Feb. 3 to respond to questions about Worthington’s succession from the Gateway Regional School District.


Rep. Pignatelli could not attend because his father was ill. Sen. Downing said that he would relay the evening’s conversation to Rep. Pignatelli.


The questions raised during the course of the meeting were, the appropriate use of the Home Rule process, the financial impact of Worthington’s secession, would this become an unfunded mandate, the determination and on what grounds is the quality of education for Worthington and the other towns established, and to bring the Commissioner of Education, Mitchell D. Chester, out to the towns.


Selectman Adam Dolby opened the questions by asking about the use and application of Home Rule, informal sessions, and then said he would open the meeting for any other questions.


Sen. Downing said, “The bill is currently before the senate committee on Bills in the Third Reading,” and speaking “with some authority” as chairman of that committee, the bill will not come out of committee until he and Sen. Don Humason are aware of the financial impact.


We are awaiting the financial analysis by DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) …to produce what they believe will be the financial impact of the withdrawal for the other towns….” He added that the bill would be on hold until he and Sen. Humason know how best to move forward.


He said the way he handled the awkward (he represents all but two of the Gateway towns; Sen. Humason represents Russell and Montgomery) issue thus far is to keep to his practice, “incumbent on any legislator,” to file any home rule petition submitted by any town “no matter what.”


Once the petition has been filed it has to go through the legislative process and it should not move forward until questions regarding the finances and application have been answered.


The opinion that Worthington can move forward with a Home Rule petition to withdraw, was that DESE said it could proceed and he is looking for documentation. Sen. Downing’s opinion was that there would be no forward movement until those questions were answered.


Mick Brennan, from the audience, asked about the nature of Gateway’s original agreement. “Is this a contract?” He said, “You can get out if everyone agrees,” and he wanted to know “what is the nature of the agreement?”


Sen. Downing said Worthington was looking for recourse beyond the agreement, and DESE’s answer to that was to have a town meeting vote and file a Home Rule Petition.


Sen. Downing will also seek answers from the Senate Counsel regarding the use of home rule.


School Committee member Jim Kronholm asked about precedent setting if Worthington withdraws. Downing said that it had happened before on the South Shore and this is not a question to be dismissed.


TJ Cousineau asked if Sen. Downing could ethically vote on the petition.


Downing said he is a sponsor, not the author. Worthington wrote the petition which Downing filed and as chief lead sponsor, he has no problem taking a stand on it.


He said, responding to Cousineau’s question about considering the other six towns, “ignoring the other six communities would have been pushing it through. It will not be considered by the senate as a whole until I allow it.”


Andy Montanaro wanted to know how this qualifies as a Home Rule Petition? And, if passed, would this fall under the unfunded mandate area?


Sen. Downing said he felt that he and Sen. Humason should ask Senate Counsel about the petition’s limits and how would they be determined.


On the unfunded mandate, he will ask the auditor’s office but, he added, “They might not want to issue a formal response at this point.”


George Reichert asked about any state incentives for regional school districts. Downing said there is reimbursement for regional transportation but that has only been in the 40 percent range, but he said the legislature hopes to bump it back up.


Darlene McVeigh, Huntington Finance Committee member, noted Pembroke’s withdrawal and the dissolution of the Plymouth district.


She said, “Our regional agreement requires towns to vote unanimously, there seems to be some contradictory language regarding home rule. “There is no home rule in Mass as far as education is concerned,” she said, quoting an independent study.


She added that there is nothing to prevent the other six towns from presenting an opposing point of view. “The commissioner of education can prevent this legislation,” she said, and asked that Downing’s office get involved in getting the commissioner to come out to the district.


Dolby said, “To me, the application of home rule is disingenuous, if you look at the informal session vote, in structuring the application of home rule, it is designed to facilitate the process, which is where the majority of the angst from the general public is coming from.


It almost seems like slapping the label of home rule on it was a way to get it through quickly.”


Downing said that since this has been in the senate, he has had more meetings regarding the issue than any other. “I think the concerns you bring up are valid, and you need a determination of it is the proper application…the determination should be made by counsel,” said Sen. Downing.


Sen. Downing said that he does not want to push the bill through. He wanted to consult with Sen. Humason and get an independent verification of the numbers from DESE.


We will take the time now to answer the questions” brought up Monday.


School Committee member Michele Crane said that this issue had been a very divisive and emotional issue for the committee.


We are very stymied as a group because of this issue,” she said, and added that she appreciated Sen. Downing “coming down and listening.”


January 23, 2014

Residents fear solar farm threatens rural lifestyle

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 4:01 pm



By Mike Donovan



CHESTER–More than a dozen residents complained at a planning board meeting last week that a 30 acre solar array planned for Chester Hill will destroy the rural character of the area and reduce their property values. Planning Board Chairman Lyle Snide informed them however, that neither they nor the planning board has a choice in the matter.


It can be located there as of right,” he said. “We can’t stop it, but we can put restrictions on it like setback requirements and vegetative screening to make it compatible with the area.”


To encourage renewable energy sources, state law allows certain renewable energy projects to locate in cities and towns “as of right,” meaning that zoning and other local restrictions do not apply.


The proposed solar panel array is planned for property at 556 Skyline Trail, owned by Steven Holzman, who several years ago established a water bottling facility, Chester Mountain Water, in the same area. The property lies within the right angle formed by the intersection of Skyline Trail and Johnson Hill Road. It will be bordered by a 100 foot buffer zone, will be 400 feet from a well located in the area, and will be hidden by trees planted to screen it from residential properties, according to Richard C. McCarthy, a spokesman for Innovative Engineering Solutions Inc. (IESO), which drew up the engineering plans. It will be protected by an eight foot high chain link fence around the entire perimeter of the site. There will be no buildings on the site, cabinets containing equipment will be locked, and all of the panels will have fuses to prevent fire or electrical shock.


There will be no lights, no moving parts and no noise,” McCarthy said. The only activity on the site will be visits by maintenance personnel every month or two.


Some residents questioned the possible presence of lead solder to secure electrical connections, which could contaminate ground water. Homes in the area all draw their water from wells.


That’s old technology,” he said. “There won’t be any lead or solder.” According to McCarthy, there will be no hazardous materials in the array.


At least one resident remained skeptical, however. “I want that in writing,” he said, pointing out that solar panels are typically manufactured in China, where exports have sometimes contained materials banned in the U.S.


McCarthy, however, said the site will meet all environmental requirements. “The EPA and DEP consider this an acceptable use of the land,” he said.


But a resident said she was concerned that over time, materials in the array might not prove to be as benign as they are currently believed to be. “I’m worried that in 20 or 30 years it may turn out to be toxic,” she said.


The array has a projected lifespan of 20 years, and some of the other residents were concerned that the operator of the site, identified on the engineering plans as Keersarge Renewables LLC, might abandon the array prematurely, leaving the town with the expense of removing it. McCarthy, however, said the company would be required to post a surety bond the town could use to remove the equipment if the company bowed out and left it behind or when the initial period expired.


If the company leaves early the town will have an asset,” he said, “and at the end of 20 years the bond will pay for removal.”


Some residents objected that the town would not be able to use the electricity the facility produced, even though the Chester Electric Light Department would have to install a three phase line to accommodate the output of the array. The electricity will be fed into the grid and sold by a company located in Vermont.


According to McCarthy, the company would pay CMELD for the cost of construction, which in turn would hire a contractor to install the line. He added that the town would collect taxes on the equipment, although he wasn’t sure what form the tax would take.


It could be PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes), a property tax or some other kind of tax,” he said. The company would also pay rent to CMELD for the use of its lines and poles.


Other objections included loss of property values, but McCarthy said he hasn’t seen values go down due to solar arrays.


Most of the objections, however, were due to the possible impact on the area’s scenic attractions. Commenting on the screening designed to camouflage the facility, a resident complained that it would actually interfere with the area’s natural beauty.


It’s the most beautiful place for watching the sun go down,” she said.


But Snide said that under state law, the planning board had no choice but to give its approval. “All we can do is make sure they meet all the requirements,” he said. “With a 75 foot setback and vegetative screening, we hope it won’t be an eyesore.”


McCarthy noted that the company would try to work with residents to reduce undesirable impacts. “We’re not as bad as you’re making us out to be,” he said. “We’ll be happy to work with you, but there is such a thing as a budget.”


Construction, he said, will begin in mid to late March, and be finished by the end of June.




January 1, 2014

Gateway towns wait for other shoe to drop

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 10:53 pm


By Mike Donovan

HILLTOWNS–As Worthington’s withdrawal from the Gateway Regional School District makes its way through the state government, the Gateway Towns Advisory Council (GTAC) together with officials and concerned citizens from the other six towns, continue to question the reasons the town wishes to withdraw and to look for ways to keep it in the district.
Worthington’s state representative, Steve Kulik, who is also a resident of that town; and Senator Benjamin Downing, who represents several Gateway towns, co-wrote the bill, currently known as H3515. Efforts to pin down the current state of the legislation have been difficult, presumably due to the holidays. On Dec. 16, however, an informal session of the state house of representatives approved the withdrawal and sent the bill on to the senate. Kulik said this week that the senate had not yet voted and would take up the legislation according to its own schedule. Whether the bill would be addressed during a formal or informal session is unpredictable, according to Kulik.
“It could be either one,” he said, “It all depends on the senate’s schedule.”
Assuming the senate passes the bill, it still must be signed by the governor, and may have to clear other hurdles before it can take effect.
In the meantime the Worthington selectboard has finally agreed to meet with GTAC this month after declining several of GTAC’s requests for a meeting. The group’s members wish to discuss the town’s reasons for wanting to withdraw and see if there are ways to keep it in the district. Also, the Huntington Board of Selectmen has scheduled a “Multi-Town Forum” to discuss the impact the withdrawal would have on the other Gateway towns, and to seek strategies to prevent the legislation from passing the senate. Because the withdrawal, if successful, will increase the cost of education funding for the remaining towns (Blandford, Russell, Montgomery, Huntington, Chester and Middlefield) the towns will also look for funding to mitigate the impact. Huntington’s selectboard has notified Governor Deval Patrick and state representatives and senators of the meeting, hoping that at least some of them will attend. Kulik will be unable to be there that night, but has agreed to meet with the Huntington selectboard on Wed., Jan. 22 at 6:30 p.m.
In the meantime opponents of the withdrawal expressed shock at the manner in which the bill passed the house. Derrick Mason, a member of the Russell Finance Committee as well as GTAC, complained that the legislation passed the house during an informal session, with only five representatives present. “It should have been handled in a more democratic way,” he said. “I was hoping for a full debate.”
He is also concerned that Worthington’s withdrawals might prompt towns to withdraw from other regional school districts, and he is urging hilltown residents to contact their legislators. “We need to look at every possible option to control this movement,” he said.
Gateway Regional School Committee Chair Gretchen Eliason, who is a Worthington resident, said there are several reasons for the town’s desire to withdraw from the district. Although the closing of the Russell H. Conwell Elementary School is the most prominent among them, other reasons include the subsequent need to bus very young students to the Littleville Elementary School in Huntington, and the fact that Worthington has been paying more than its fair share of the Gateway budget.
The state uses a formula that takes income and property values into account, and the district has been assessing Worthington, where both numbers are higher than in most of the other Gateway towns, at a higher rate. The governor’s budget last January allowed for the return of some of this money as a reduction for the town in this year’s assessment, but in Massachusetts the house of representatives and the senate also put forth budgets, which a conference committee then reconciles before a final budget is approved. During the process, Worthington’s reduction disappeared.
Worthington has also urged the district to add programs and generally improve its educational offerings. At a public hearing in Boston last September one of the concerns expressed by Worthington supporters was the impact on educational quality of constant reductions in the Gateway budget forced by the towns. This year the district had to present four budgets to the towns before gaining approval.
If the town is allowed to withdraw from the Gateway district, it will re-open its elementary school and bus older children to the Hampshire Regional School District. Worthington would not become a member of the Hampshire district, but would employ a method similar to school choice. Although this will cost taxpayers more than if the town stays in the Gateway district, residents appear willing to bear the additional cost.
Having an elementary school in town is an important priority for Worthington parents, Eliason said.
“After Conwell closed there was a big drop in Worthington students at Gateway,” she said. “It’s a real concern for parents.”

November 27, 2013

Residents remember J.F.K.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 7:14 pm

By Lisa Connell

WILLIAMSBURG– On Nov. 21, around 20 people reminisced about the legacy of President John F. Kennedy at Meekins library in observance of the 50th anniversary of his assassination which was Nov. 22, 1963.
Newspapers, magazines and personal articles were displayed around the conference room, as everyone sat in a solemn circle. Starting off the event, the lights were dimmed, and some closed their eyes as they listened to the voice of J.F.K. as he gave his inaugural address:
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country….whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.”
In sharing their thoughts, Library Archivist Daria D’Arienzo was a child when the assassination took place. She pointed out that people got their news primarily from newspapers, but when the assassination happened, TV took over. “People were riveted to the television set as events unfolded.”
She said that’s partly why everyone remembers where they were when he died. “The image and the horror of it is riveted in your mind because we saw it again and again.”
Mariana Connolly grew up in Germany. As a child, she remembered the festivities as her country was excited to have Kennedy visit them. “I knew he represented a new generation.” When he was shot, it was the start of her political awaking.
Library Director Lisa Wenner was a senior in a California high school when the assassination took place. A year later, she wrote a very moving editorial in her student newspaper about how his life inspired her classmates to help other people and their community. “It’s something that has carried with me through my life.”
Bill O’Riordan, who had just returned from talking to 250 Hampshire Regional students about J.F.K., grew up in Northampton, and delivered newspapers, of which he had a copy. He was 14 years old when the assassination took place, and said that day, the news was coming in late but, “they held the presses.”
In talking to the Hampshire students, who barely remember 9-11, he tried to build up the Camelot images first, then talked about the assassination so they could get a glimpse of why Kennedy’s death affected his generation so deeply.
Also, with an Irish Catholic background, he talked about how proud the Irish and Catholics were that one of their own had become president.
Jim Cahillane, who also shared an Irish/Catholic heritage and grew up in Northampton, was the only one in the group who had actually shaken hands with Kennedy. His father was also mayor of Northampton, was a good friend of Kennedy, and supported him in his run for president.
Cahillane, was a bit older than the others in the room, noting that he was 30 when Kennedy died. He was home for lunch celebrating his wife’s birthday when the bad news came cover the radio. He headed down to the church to say a prayer. On the way, he met his father who was, “beyond upset.”
Cahillane was also writing for the local newspaper, and was able to write about the event in the days that followed.
Selectman Paul Dunphy remembered that during Kennedy’s inauguration there was a huge snow storm that day. So he watched the events on his grandfather’s TV.
He hadn’t really listened to the inaugural speech since Kennedy first gave it, and was struck by how “militaristic,” “bold,” and “reckless” it seemed 50 years later.
He also finds if fascinating to read all the speculation of the things Kennedy might have done if he had lived– could he have ended the Vietnam War or would it have continued as it did?
In general discussion, it came out that most were young at the time, most were sent home from school, most spent the day and ensuing week glued to the TV, they experienced the fear of almost dying in a nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the cynicism that happened after Kennedy was shot, and the new fearful world that followed with successive assassinations (Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy), and how scary today’s world is with its constant mass shootings and general violence.
Also, Meekins Archivist D’Arienzo said that when she and Library Director Lisa Wenner were planning the event, they decided that instead of watching a video or reading something, they decided to bring people together in an informal setting–as if they were at home in the 1960’s talking to their relatives– to share their personal memories. This made for a great discussion, which was also video taped by Colin Black to be stored in the library’s archives.

November 21, 2013

Town Administrator ruffles feathers with resignation

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 6:12 pm

By Mike Donovan

CHESTER–Town Administrator Ed MacDonald has resigned, according to the selectboard, but they were concerned about making it final at last week’s selectboard meeting due to his absence. They had planned to schedule an executive session with MacDonald, but could not convene it without his presence.
MacDonald has been Chester’s town administrator for about four years, including a three month period, from October of last year to January of this year, when he was also working as town administrator for the Town of Conway. The dual employment stirred controversy in Conway when selectmen there discovered he was holding both jobs, but not in Chester, where the selectboard had been aware of his Conway employment. MacDonald later submitted his resignation as Conway Town Administrator on Jan. 7 of this year, effective Feb. 7, but the Conway selectboard accepted the resignation effective immediately and MacDonald continued as Chester’s town administrator.
At the selectboard meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12, all three selectmen expressed frustration at Mac Donald’s absence. Chairman Don Ellershaw said MacDonald had agreed to attend the meeting and discuss his resignation, but not only failed to appear, but had not included the discussion as a topic on the board’s meeting agenda.
According to the state’s open meeting law, meetings of town boards must be posted 48 hours in advance and include an agenda indicating topics to be discussed. MacDonald waived the 48 hour requirement in an email to selectmen, and said he would attend the selectboard meeting, according to Selectman John Baldasaro. A town meeting was also scheduled for 7 p.m. that evening.
“He said he would meet with us after the town meeting and discuss his resignation,” he said.
Ellershaw complained that MacDonald’s absence could interfere with correct procedure.
“He doesn’t put it on the agenda and he doesn’t show up, so we can’t discuss it,” he said.
However, MacDonald had already submitted his letter of resignation, effective in two weeks, and Ellershaw called for a vote to accept it. Selectman Frank Pero disagreed, however, saying he was concerned that without MacDonald’s presence or an entry on the agenda, they might be violating the state open meeting law and MacDonald’s rights. In fact, after resigning his position in Conway, MacDonald had filed an open meeting violation complaint against the Conway selectboard for discussing his resignation when it wasn’t listed on the agenda, according to that town’s current town administrator, Tom Hutcheson.
“We shouldn’t do anything until we speak with town counsel and get everything in writing,” Pero said.
But Ellershaw said that having MacDonald’s letter of resignation in the selectboard’s possession is sufficient, and he offered the motion to vote on the resignation. He and Baldasaro voted to accept it, but Pero voted against it.
Ellershaw noted that in the absence of the town administrator, the selectboard can appoint a town employee to perform his duties.
“There are forms to fill out and paperwork and computer work that has to be done,” he said.

November 14, 2013

Selectman seeks to bring back fireworks displays

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 3:53 pm

By Mike Donovan

HUNTINGTON–Recently elected Selectman John McVeigh hopes to re-establish fireworks displays in Huntington that were discontinued six or seven years ago. At one time they drew large crowds, and McVeigh has plans to enhance as well as re-establish the displays, perhaps turning the event into a full, two day festival next summer.
“It will be a regional festival with fire departments from Hampshire and Hampden Counties–and anywhere,” he said during a recent interview.
The reason he wants to see the fireworks return to Huntington is partly personal– “I missed them,” he said. But he also discovered during his campaign for selectman that others felt the same way, and he promised that if elected he would try to bring them back.
Proposed plans for the festival include booth space for local businesses such as arts and crafts people, firefighting and police demonstrations, carnival rides for youngsters aged four to fourteen, and possibly helicopter or balloon rides in addition to the fireworks.
McVeigh said the cost of the fireworks display will come from individual donations to a fireworks fund. His current goal is to collect $5,000 for the fireworks, after which he hopes to continue building the fund and upgrading the show.
“Five thousand dollars is the minimum but we can upgrade with a month’s notice,” he said.
Apart from providing a weekend of fun and entertainment for the public, the festival will be a fundraiser for the Huntington Firefighters Association, which raises funds and purchases equipment and supplies for the town’s fire department.
“It could help cut taxes by providing equipment for the department,” he said. Equipment and gear for firefighting is extremely expensive, according to McVeigh, and income from the festival could soften the impact on taxpayers.
“A pair of firefighters’ gloves can cost $60 or more,” he said.
No dates have been determined for the festival, but will be discussed at the next firefighters association meeting.
Current plans are to hold the festival on the Gateway Regional School District grounds on Littleville Road. Gateway Superintendent David Hopson has already agreed to allow use of the grounds, McVeigh said.

November 11, 2013

Tanzanian nurse visiting

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tim Kane @ 8:12 pm

By Mary Kronholm

BLANDFORD– Julia Stanslaus Shao, candidate for registered nurse in Tanzania, has been the guest of Linda and Tony van Werkhooven since her graduation in August from the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center Nursing Program in Moshi.
She has been performing a nursing internship at the Hilltown Community Health Center both in Huntington and Worthington, alternating weeks. She also observes at Gateway Regional High School’s school-based health center as well as the Goshen Food Pantry.
As a nursing intern, she has had the opportunity to observe how medical services are delivered here in the United States, and has had an overview of how health/medical services are provided.
Her first surprise was the notion of having to make an appointment to see a medical professional. Julia said there are no such things as appointments in her native Tanzania. “When you are sick, you go.”
The health centers in Tanzania have a shortage not just of personnel, but drugs and supplies as well.
Hilltown Community Health Center Executive Director Ed Sayer said he was a bit anxious at first to have someone shadowing the medical professionals at the centers because “we are so understaffed and busy, someone shadowing can add a complication.”
“But,” he said, “I was so pleased. Everyone fell in love with Julia, she is an amazing, warm, empathic individual.”
Sayer said Julia’s presence at home visits with both physicians and nurses was greeted warmly and patients asked for her to return. She also attended administrative sessions and, according to Sayer, “really got a good taste of how things operate” at the Hilltown centers. She even accompanied the staff to Boston to give a presentation of the results of a study.
She is waiting the results of her national examination to be certified as a registered nurse and midwife. She has to pass both a written as well as practical segments, while here, the board requirement is only a written examination.
Once she has become official, passing the examination, the government will locate her at any government hospital in Tanzania where there is the greatest shortage and need for nurses.
She will start at 400,000 Tanzanian shillings a month, which is the equivalent of $260 American dollars. One shilling is worth .00062 cents.
To put this in perspective, Julia said that rural farmers earn about a dollar a day, or about $300 a year and the salary for registered nurses and midwifes is greater than the salary of a teacher.
Julia said that perhaps the most important thing she has learned, that she will take home with her, is knowing how important it is to educate people to “have a routine medical exam.”
Education about preventive medicine is very important because, Julia said, “No one goes to the clinic until they are very, very sick.” And there are many things that can be cured if discovered early, such as cervical cancer. In Tanzania, over 70 percent of the cervical cancer patients die because they wait too long to seek medical attention.
She said that the Hilltown Health Center has been “so wonderful” and she has been given the “best possible experience in any and all areas of medicine.”
This month she will observe labor and delivery at Baystate Medical Center. She will also give a presentation at Noble Hospital for the staff and students there on women’s health issues in Tanzania. At the same time, Linda will give a presentation on the development of the Tanzania Nursing Scholarship Program, of which she is the president.
Julia is a two-year recipient of scholarship support from the Tanzania Nursing Scholarship Program.
The Blandford Fire Department presented her with a T-shirt and cap because she has been attending the department’s weekly drill as time has allowed. She found the concept of Emergency Medical Technicians unusual in that there are no such things in Tanzania. Nor are there fire departments in the smaller villages, only in larger cities such as Moshi, with a population in excess of 120,000.
Julia spent a week at Capitol Community College in Hartford, where she attended lectures on wound care, intravenous and intramuscular therapy, skin care, and rotated with different stations in the lab there to perform wound dressing, sterile glove procedure, and administering medications via all methods. Her involvement at Capitol Community was based on her presence to observe nursing education.
She has especially enjoyed shopping, likes Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, has been to Westfarms Mall, and saw her very first movie. She has visited Princeton, N. J. and will spend a short time in California. She celebrated her birthday at the Red Rose in Springfield.
When she returns to Tanzania early in December, she will make a presentation to the other students and discuss how this experience will enhance her nursing and midwifery at home.
She has “had a good time here, it has been special.” She said she is more used to noise than the quiet. As for food, she does not have a sweet tooth, “I’m not used to sweets,” she said, but she will try everything. Her favorite thing is a vanilla milkshake, preferably from the Granville Scoop. These are available in Tanzania, but because of the expense, they are revered as a very special treat. She likes Linda’s pea soup, bacon, “chips” (French fries) and will prepare her own favorite food for Linda and Tony before she departs…a dinner of banana stew.

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