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Orange, MA Food Pantry
118 East Main Street (across from the Armory)
Open Thursdays 10-3
Evan Manning - coordinator
Salvation Army Athol
Food Pantry 107 Ridge Ave.
Open Tuesday, Friday | 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
This food pantry is available twice a month or on an emergency basis.
Please call 978.249.8111 for details.
Take out meal program Tuesday nights.
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If only the river were this blue...
Selectboard Signs Nichewaug Demolition Loan
Selectboard members inked a $621,000 loan agreement. Town Treasurer Dana Robinson said the loan will cost the town some $776,589 over 10 years. That brings the cost of demolishing the Nichewaug property to $976,000 when $200,000 of Covid money that was allocated to the project is taken into account.
Robinson declined to estimate the impact of recent Federal Reserve Board interest rate hikes that likely more than doubled the interest rate on the borrowing to 4 5/8 percent after the town's first attempt at borrowing last January was denied because chair Nancy Allen failed to seek required approval from the Capital Improvement Committee as required by town bylaws.
At its September 22 meeting, the board appointed Deb Poodry of South Main Street as an alternate member of the Zoning Board of Appeals and named Sara Deponte and Jeanette Martin to the Cultural Council.
How Shall We Honor the Flag?
You can find Bill Berry on the common each day around dusk. He is there to lower the American flag that graces our town common as he has done almost every day for the past 34 years. Unless a flag is illuminated, the rules say it should be raised at the start and lowered at the end of each day.
Now Berry and Bill Purple, a long-serving former selectman, are proposing to light the flagpole with a solar lighting system. They presented their proposal to the Selectboard on Oct. 22.
Board member Becky Legare asked whether the proposed system would change the amount of light in the center of town at night. Chair Nancy Allen suggested that forming a volunteer group to take care of raising and lowering the flag might be a better solution and said the board members would spend the next several days informally seeking public opinion and possibly visiting some lit-up flagpole sites in other towns. "I like the ritual of raising and lowering the flag," she said.
Purple said the lighting
would be beautiful. "This is not going to be a blast of light at the
top of the flagpole. Lights would be pointed downward, he said.
"This is not going to cost the town anything. I am going to pay for
it. It will allow the flag to fly 24 hours a day." he said.
How Petersham Is Spending Its Covid Aid Money
When President Biden announced the $4.3 trillion federal Covid assistance plan, he said the money would "... put food on people's tables." Guidelines directed assistance to "disadvantaged families, small businesses and non-profits" with subordinate beneficiaries. The same guidelines then offered cities and towns "broad discretion" in allocating the money.
Permitted uses include "Health and safety of the public and town staff... Upgrades improving remote access to Town business and Upgrades and support for recreational activities for healthy living." The guidelines then offered cities and towns "broad discretion" in dispersing those funds.
Like many other communities, the Petersham Selectboard is taking full advantage of that additional language.
The town has so far received $376.632 in Covid relief according to an official review of its own ARPA spending plan. It has not announced the availability of any funds for families, small businesses or non-profits. There is no mention of aid to families, businesses or local charities in the end of July overview. Only one 501c3 charity has directly applied for funds and that application has not been discussed by the board.
Several of the first-promised allocations are being reworked to provide a second round of Covid money for the Nichewaug demolition. The largest appropriation from the Covid funds ( now $200,000) will pay part of the cost of demolishing the Nichewaug complex. Other spending is being reduced as a result, including a planed $63,500 for the fire department including a commercial drying system for protective gear, $35,638 for police department equipment, $18,000 for new elementary school playground equipment, $32,000 for fire department building painting and upgrades. $13,000 to upgrade assessors' software, $11,000 for a walk-in freezer at the school, $6,000 for a nature program at the school $9,500 for a transfer station roll off container and $5,000 for the Memorial Library.
Occasional Area News
200 Tanks of Oil for Athol Residents
By GREG VINE For The Athol Daily News
Published: 9/16/2022 1:22:35 PM
ATHOL — Rebecca Bialecki, vice chair of the Athol Selectboard, announced at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 13, that the committee that oversees the use of ARPA (American Recovery Plan Act) funds was recommending the use of those federal funds to help Athol residents heat their homes this coming winter. The advisory committee consists of Bialecki, board member Stephen Raymond, Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee Chair Ken Duffy, and several department heads.
“We had a substantial amount of money still available that was unused in our ARPA monies, which is federal dollars that came to the town that had to meet specific criteria, and we have two recommendations for the board’s consideration this evening,” Bialecki began. “One is to support the local fuel assistance program for $200,000. That would allow for a one time, up to $1,000 for fuel oil or propane to low- and moderate-income families. That would include seniors, for the most part.
“The program,” she continued, “would be run through the Salvation Army...
At current prices, the program could deliver 200 full tanks of heating oil.
Quabbin Retreat Property Changes Hands
The Worcester Business Journal reports that the Petersham location of Gardner-based Heywood Healthcare’s addiction treatment facility The Quabbin Retreat has been sold to development company, Waterstone Properties Group, Inc. of Needham for $3.3 million, according to the Worcester District Registry of Deeds.
A hospital spokesperson said, "... monetizing Quabbin Retreat helps us to fund the (new) surgical pavilion work. ... we remain the managing tenant. No services will change and we have partnered with GAAMHA who is building sober housing for women and young children on the right hand side of the building. To the patient and community, no changes should be felt."
Opened in 2017, the facility houses multiple programs including Heywood’s Dana Day Treatment Center and Belmont-based McLean Hospital’s Addiction Treatment Center at Naukeag.
Nichewaug Complex Falls to Demolition Crew
Nichewaug Demolition Costs Rising Past Budget Amount
Demolition machinery toppled the cupola and large cross atop the former Maria Assumpta school building Aug. 4, smashing a large copper-clad cross that once graced the former school. Nearly a dozen residents looked on and recorded the event as the cross tumbled to the ground and broke into pieces. See Curtis Upshaw's video. And Jim Dowd's North Side video.
Equipment and a crew from Stamford Wrecking are nearly done demolishing buildings on the site and will begin removing rubble in the next several days. The state Department of Environmental Protection said it will continue observation to make certain that proper disposal rules are followed.
Originally planned to cost $721,000, the total actual cost will not be known until loan interest rates are announced, A first attempt to borrow for the project was rejected by the town's bank as paperwork procedures were not followed. The delay in re-filing will be impacted by recent federal interest rate hikes. Select board chair Nancy Allen said because paperwork rules were not followed, the town's bankers declined to issue a loan. "In March, we had to retake the vote. Unfortunately (by then) Russia had invaded Ukraine setting off a worldwide financial crisis." and higher interest rates, Allen said the final loan has not issued yet so the impact of newly higher loan rates is not known.
Also, the cost of hauling away refuse has climbed during the delay partly due to higher fuel costs. "We don't have the leverage to fight (the contractor) on that." The increase could run up and was left open ended in the contract and could be affected by new and inflated fuel prices. A portion of the cost is to be paid using $100,000 of Covid relief money. Allen said even without calculating higher interest, the $721,000 project is now projected to come in at $851,000. "We are in a $100,000 hole," she said as she asked the board to approve taking a second $100,000 bite from Covid relief funds to cover the shortfall.
Cultural Council Funds Area Arts Projects
A Bat in the House, a Bear on the
Porch and Two Turtles
6/1 @2p Motorist call for 2 loose dogs running south on Hardwick Road, to area, dogs picked up, owner notified
6/2 @3:30p Call from resident regarding a bite cat received while outdoors, contacted veterinary facility that rendered services for paperwork, cat placed on quarantine
6/4 @6p Resident call regarding HBC large snapping turtle, to area, found to be deceased, removed
6/5 @8a Motorist call for HBC turtle at Harvard Pond, to area, transported to rehabber
6/6 @11:15a Resident call regarding how to file an official barking dog noise compliant, information given
@1:45p Resident call regarding goats and noise concern from large equipment operating near farm, information given
6/7 @9:30a Resident call for 2 loose dogs in yard that don’t look familiar, to area, while dogs being loaded to transport to shelter owner arrived looking for dogs
@8:30p Resident call regarding bear seen repeatedly in yard, advice given
6/11 @10a Barking dog compliant and general loud noise compliant
@3p Resident call for HBC turtle, to area to pick up, Tufts Wildlife unable to admit until next morning, advice given for care
@3:15p Discussion with resident regarding dog under foster care at home, contact made with rescue organization regarding the need for pickup and relocation of the dog currently under foster care in town
6/12 @7-11a Round trip-Tufts Wildlife Clinic, above turtle dropped with staff member
@12:30p Follow up meeting with resident of foster dog from above
6/13 @8:30p Follow up with North Quabbin Regional AC regarding possible dog bite situation and the location of owner and dog
@9:15p Barking dog compliant
6/17 @11a Resident call regarding lost elderly dog, suggested starting a gas grilling and cooking something with BBQ sauce, dog back in the yard 20 minutes later
@8:15-10:45p To home with foster dog from above, regarding an additional incident, rescue called to come pick up the dog immediately, option given for long term quarantine, rescue to area @10:30p
6/19 @2:30p Call for loose cows, to area, owner called
@3:30p Dispatch call for porcupine on the walkway of a home, homeowner states the animal has been there for an extended period and seems unable to move, to area, PPD also on way, animal appears healthy, with the assistance of PPD officer animal gently escorted into the woods
@4:30p Resident call for loose dog, to area, no contact
6/20 @9a Follow up with previous loose dog issue
@11a Resident call regarding bat in house (not in a sleeping area), advice given to encourage bat to exit, homeowner to call if additional suggestions needed (bat did exit home later in evening)
@11:30a Resident call for juvenile bear that is on porch, to area, loud noises made, bear left the area, owner advised to take in all bird feeders, discussed the danger of bears crossing busy roads
@12p Conference call with Tufts Wildlife Clinic
6/21 @9a Call to MA Wildlife for follow up on several previous bat situations
@12-2p MDAR/ACO Zoom meeting; changes and clarifications for kennel inspections and licenses, update on avian flu in MA, additional information regarding wildlife calls
6/22 To Charlton to transfer dog to ACO for quarantine
6/24 Met with homeowner regarding issues in neighborhood and various dog complaints
6/25 @9a Call with VESH (Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Hospital) regarding dog bite case, requested paperwork sent, information forwarded to ACO in another townNichewaug Demolition Project Update
The Capital Improvement Planning Committee April 21 approved sending a $721,0000 Nichewaug property demolition proposal to town meeting. The committee is the last stop to review large spending items on the way to town meeting.
The committee took no action on a request for funds to replace wooden rain gutters at the center school and a police department request to purchase one or two new police cruisers and will get more information on those items in a week. One cruiser could cost $59,500 -- two $119,
Committee member Jim Dowd asked Police Chief Peter Buck if the department could get along without one or two new vehicles this year since the upcoming budget could force a $200,000 Proposition 2 1/2 override due to increased regional and local school appropriations. Buck said the department could make due if necessary.
Town Treasurer Dana Robinson told the Selectboard April 13 that an error and an oversight will prevent the town from borrowing for Nichewaug demolition until the loan is approved at our next town meeting. He said bond counsel noticed that voters were not informed about the Dec. 6 meeting as required by local bylaws and the proposal was never sent to the Capital Improvement Planning Committee - also a bylaw requirement.
Committee chair Nancy Allen said she would inform the contractor about the problem on April 13. Robinson also said any delay could raise borrowing costs as the Federal Reserve will be raising interest rates again soon.
Should Petersham Take Online Payment for Taxes?
More than 300 small and large communities across the state have easy systems to accept online payments for town fees (dog licenses and dump permits, etc.) and for tax payments (excise and property taxes). Should Petersham offer this convenient service to residents? Tell us what you think.
Send an email to email@example.com with a subject line "E-Payments" stating simply Yes or No or include more thoughts.
Covid Updates from the State Dept. of Public Health
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