News from surrounding towns, March 16 

The following news items were extracted from information available online: 

Natural resources 

• Don Shobry is preparing a citizen’s petition for Concord’s Town Meeting seeking a two-year moratorium on the new regulations passed by the Natural Resources Commission related to dogs on town conservation land. The non-binding Warrant Article is for the purpose of allowing a “cooling off” period during which the Select Board, commission and dog owners can continue to discuss the issues. The group Concord Unleashed is also against the regulations. The regulations require dogs be kept leashed when on roughly a third of the town’s 1,400 acres of conservation land. (“Seeking a halt on dog rules,” www. wickedlocal.com, March 8.) 

• The legal fight between Acton and Concord over Nagog Pond water rights may soon have a solution if the two sides agree to a new proposal. Concord purchased the water rights in 1884 and has been drawing water from the pond since 1909. However, in recent years Concord sought to renovate and expand its water treatment plant, but wound up challenging Acton permit conditions in court. Under the new proposal, Acton would agree not to seek to limit Concord’s water rights for 20 to 25 years, if Concord agrees to continue supplying water to Acton property owners along Great Road. (“Water deal with Acton could be near,” www.wickedlocal.com, March 8.) 

Legal issues 

• The Attorney General’s Office has notified Concord that its Comprehensive Long Range Planning Committee violated the Open Meeting Law when it created a subcommittee that did not keep minutes. Reportedly, the Committee said it only asked for a volunteer to help a consultant, with another person volunteering to help later. However, after reviewing minutes and audio recordings, the Attorney General’s Office concluded that the formation of a subcommittee with multiple volunteers had been discussed. Subcommittees of a public body are required to comply with the Open Meeting Law. (“AG finds committee violated state Open Meeting Law,” www. wickedlocal.com, March 8.) 

• When is it OK to use Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds toward preservation projects for an old church building? The state’s Supreme Judicial Court is weighing in on the question, after 12 Acton residents sued when the town voted to use $100K in CPA funds to fix up an old church in the town center. On March 9 the Court halted the use of the funds to repair stained glass windows until a lower court decides if the CPA grant is legal. Under state law public funds are not to be used for “maintaining or aiding any church.” The dissenting residents are being represented by the group Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The American Civil Liberties Union has joined the legal action against the town. (“Acton church at heart of controversy over use of public funds for historic preservation,” www. wbur.org, March 12.) 

Sports 

• The New England Patriots football team held its first training camp at Emerson Field and the Concord Armory in 1960. At that time they were called the Boston Patriots. “They were the most gigantic guys I’ve ever seen in my life,” remembers Concord resident Dooley Thorpe, who watched the early team practices. (“From Concord to Foxboro, Patriots had local roots,” www. wickedlocal.com, March 8.) 

Schools 

• Last week Westford school custodian James Healy, 21, was arrested for allegedly having a loaded handgun with a high capacity magazine in his car parked on the grounds of the John A. Crisafulli Elementary School. He was arraigned and released on bail under house arrest. He has been fired from his job at the school. On March 12 Superintendent Bill Olsen spoke to the public during a forum on school safety. He described modifications to the buildings to improve safety, such as classroom panic buttons and laminate installed on windows to prevent glass shattering in the event of a being pierced by a bullet. The school practices how to respond in active shooter incidents and the police plan to familiarize all officers with the school layout. (“Westford officials try to reassure parents on school safety,” www.lowellsun.com, March 13.) 

• The state has agreed to let the proposed Lowell High School building project include a gym larger than normally permitted for projects receiving funding from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA). The current facility is 28K square feet, but MSBA would cap a gym for the expected enrollment of about 3,500 students at 18K sq. ft. Under the newly approved plan, the school building will include an 18K sq. ft. gym connected by a retracting wall to a 9K sq. ft. auxiliary gym. The Concord-Carlisle High School designers ran into a similar restriction and the auxiliary gym was ineligible for state funding. (“Lowell wins waiver for bigger gym in high school plan,” www. lowellsun.com, March 9.) Δ