Friday, June 25, 2010
News from surrounding towns
The following news items were extracted from material available online.
Bruce Freeman Rail Trail
• Bike race. A new youth bicycle race to be held Sunday, June 27, on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail will raise money to fight cancer. The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge Chelmsford – Westford Kids Ride will be one of 35 youth competitions including roughly 6,000 cyclists ages 2 – 15. The kids rides are associated with the 190-mile adult Pan-Mass Challenge, which has raised funds since 1980 for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Registration for the PMC Chelmsford-Westford Kids Ride will start at 8 a.m. at the Byam School at 25 Maple Street in Chelmsford. Walk-ins are welcome. The 10-mile bike race will begin at 9 a.m. For more information, see http://kids.pmc.org/Chelmsford or call 800-WE-CYCLE. (“Kids Pan-Mass on Bruce Freeman Trail in Chelmsford, Westford,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 12).
• Phase 2. State funding will support the design of Phase 2 of the Bruce-Freeman Rail Trail. The five-mile section will link Westford, Carlisle, Acton and Concord, extending the already-completed 6.8-mile Phase 1 section that runs from Lowell to Westford. Construction of Phase 2, forecast to cost $29 million, is not expected for another decade. Phase 2 is to include pedestrian bridge crossings over Routes 2A and 119. (“State adds funding for Bruce Freeman path,” www.lowellsun.com, June 19).
Wildlife and conservation
• Bobolinks. Boxborough Selectmen were asked to balance the needs of bobolinks against human visitors to the town’s Steele Farm. As at Carlisle’s Towle Field, a portion of the Steele Farm hayfields are closed off in the spring until the young of the ground-nesting birds have fledged. A Boxborough resident has complained about the restriction and asked the board to draw up a policy regarding town-land use changes. (“Boxborough officials wrestle with bobolinks bird concerns,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 2).
• Fish story. David Patterson of Billerica and his son Matt of Billerica have combined their talents to produce a new book, Freshwater Fish of the Northeast, published by University Press of New England. Matt Patterson draws wildlife, while his father has a background teaching high school biology. Both are long-time fishermen. Their book includes over 60 fish that frequent the region’s rivers and lakes. (“Billerica fishermen catalogue catfish, carp and much more in new book,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 18).
• Special Olympics. About 170 athletes from the LABBB (Lexington, Arlington, Burlington, Bedford and Belmont) Collaborative participated in the Special Olympics held at the Lexington High School last month. The special education collaborative serves 350 students from 60 school districts. Each athlete was paired with a teen volunteer and competed in heats, matched against others with similar abilities. Arlington special education teacher Kim Green says, “The kids love it.” (“LABBB students compete at games,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 3).
• Building project delay requested. A group of Billerica residents has written to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) asking for a re-examination of the design before construction of the new Parker Elementary School is allowed to begin. Plans call for the new building to be 52 feet high, while the local zoning has a height limit of 35 feet. Construction of the $33.6 million building is scheduled get underway by the end of the summer. Billerica is to receive a 51.7% reimbursement from the MSBA. Once the new 500-student facility is finished, the old Parker Elementary School will be torn down. (“In Billerica, group looks to block new school,” www.wickedlocal, June 12).
• METCO cutback. The METCO programs at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School and Sudbury School Districts are to be merged, eliminating one program director position and possible support staff for an expected expense reduction of $95,000 - $135,000. The Lincoln School District’s METCO program is not participating in the merger. A 5% or greater cut in state funding is forecast for METCO. In the past two years, the two towns have seen a 15% drop in METCO funding. (“METCO students, parents upset by school cutbacks,” www.bostonglobe.com, June 13).
• Health costs. Acton School Superintendent Stephen Mills has suggested the Acton and Acton– Boxborough regional school districts can cut costs by asking 172 non-union employees to shoulder more of their health insurance cost, up from 15% to 25% of the cost. There would be a one-year payment to employees to offset the change. Last year the employee health plan contributions were increased for school administrators. (“Acton-Boxborough schools to raise health costs for employees,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 7).
• Teachers contract. Teachers and staff picketed the Chelmsford School Committee meeting on June 8 to protest going over a year without a contract. According to union president Kathryn Chamberlain the teachers would like to reopen negotiations with hopes of reaching agreement by the fall. (“Updated: Chelmsford teachers protest lack of contract,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 9).
• 40B. Forty years after the advent of the state’s Chapter 40B “anti-snob zoning” law, area towns differ widely on the proportion of housing stock which meets state affordability requirements. Until 10% of housing stock is affordable, a town is vulnerable to high-density developments under the state’s 40B comprehensive permit process. Bedford currently has about 18% affordable housing, Lexington has 10%, while Belmont has roughly 3% and Dover about 1%. A petition drive is underway to place a referendum to repeal 40B on the state ballot in the fall. (“For many towns, housing goal remains elusive,” www.bostonglobe.com, June 13).
• Acton plans 40B. Acton Selectmen have spoken generally in favor of plans for a new 40B development. An extension of the Acton Housing Authority’s Sachem Way development, the new plan calls for 12 affordable units – three three-bedroom units and nine two-bedroom units in six buildings on 2.5 acres. One unit would be handicapped-accessible. Acton Town Meeting in April voted $250,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to support the project. (“Acton Selectmen talk plans for Sachem Way 40B,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 8).
Police and fire
• Theft. Bedford police were searching for a white male in his 50s who was knocking on doors talking to residents regarding tree work. While he was in conversation with the resident at one house, another person allegedly entered the house and stole money and jewelry. (“Police searching for white male,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 9).
• Canine rescue. The life of a seven-month-old dachshund puppy was saved this month when Concord K9 Officer Sylvia Toumayan administered emergency CPR. The officer was working outside the 99 Restaurant when the dog’s owners asked for help for their dog, which had stopped breathing. After giving CPR, Toumayan took the dog to Concord Animal Hospital, where it was treated by Dr. Bradford Hardie. (“Concord K9 officer saves puppy’s life,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 9).
• Firefighters contract. After years of negotiation and mediation through the Joint Labor Management Committee, the town of Acton has approved a new five-year contract with firefighters that has little or no added cost to the town. Raises and larger stipends were offset by a less expensive health insurance plan and tighter sick leave policy. The firefighters’ contract includes 1% retroactive raises, awarded for FY09 and FY10, and raises of 2.75% in FY11, 1.5% in FY12 and 4.5% in FY13. (“Acton Town Meeting approves net-zero firefighter contracts,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 15).
• Lights out. In a move to save roughly $35,000 a year, Concord plans to remove 43% of its street lights, beginning at the end of June. Two-week notice will be given before lights in a neighborhood are removed. Residents have the option to “adopt” a streetlight slated for removal, by agreeing to pay $17 per month, with a two-year commitment. The municipal light plant is also looking at more energy-efficient lighting options.
• New museum. Thoreau Farm, the birthplace of Henry David Thoreau, is opening to the public on June 26. The property, located at 341 Virginia Road, will include an heirloom garden and exhibits in the two rooms, the parlor and birth room, which will be open to the public. Additional educational programming is planned for next year. For more information, see www.thoreaufarm.org. (“Thoreau birth house in Concord to open to the public,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 17).
• Asphalt plant denied. A permit for a proposed asphalt plant on Groton Road near the Chelmsford border was turned down by the Westford Planning Board and the landowner, Newport Materials, wants the town to either change the decision, or purchase the 116-acre property. One issue is whether the plant qualifies as “light manufacturing.” Newport Materials contends that a 30-year-old agreement between the town and a previous owner requires the town to purchase the property if such development is denied. (“Newport appeals Westford asphalt plant decision,” www.wickedlocal.com, June 8). ∆
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