Groundwater Pumped - Nichewaug Work Resumes

Selectmen Nov. 14 said  Nichewaug Property asbestos removal work has resumed now that groundwater has been pumped from the furnace room and auditorium. Vice-chair Henry Woolsey said he hopes the contractor will finish in time to meeet the Nov. 30 contract extension.farmers coop

. A requests for redevelopment proposals  has been posted in the state central registry and a contractors' walk through is set for Monday, Nov. 27. Deadline for responding to Selectmen with development proposals is January 19 at 11 .m.

The board agreed to a single property tax classification and Assessor Dana Kennan said the FY 2018 tax rate will be $16.37 per thousand of assessed valuation up from $16.19 last tax  year because properties are increasingly being sold to non-profits or being put into Chapter 61 (forest lands).quabbin retreat

The board approved the Cemetery Commission's request to spend $2,800 to repair six headstones in the central cemetery.

Chair Nancy Allen said Matrix Design could begin building the proposed broadband network in February or March depending on when Verizon and National Grid approve applications for new cabling on local utility poles which they own. She did not offer any update on when or whether the state might or might not approve a proposed $880,000witty reimbursement for the project which is now being funded with local and borrowed money.

The board agreed to remind homeowners that house numbers are required on all dwellings.

Overdose Deaths: Who Is Counting?

The state Department of Public Health reported Nov. 13 that deaths from opiate overdoses have declined 10 percent this year. The numbers are often cited as
the state announces one initiative after another to deal with the problem .


But a chronic staff shortage and the rising number of deaths from opiates continues to slow the speed at which the state Medical Examiner determines the cause of deaths inberemco Massachusetts. That means the statistics rely on other sources of information. about fatalities to estimate the impact of opiates. It can also delay reporting cause of death for up to a year and prevent families from finalizing their affairs.

In its newest report to the legislature, the office reports that the medical examiner's office may lose its voluntary national accreditation in January 2018 because it is not meeting standards for completing autopsies within prescribed periods.

Felix Browne, a spokesman for the office said, "National Association of Medical Examiners accreditation is a voluntary step ME offices can take to show they are meeting general performance metrics. the state is "... nearing the end of its three-year provisional accreditation, which it does not expect to be renewed owing to the increased number of accepted cases and the great difficulty hiring additional medical examiners."caledonia

Across the state, city and town clerks report that death certificates are often filed with the cause of death listed as "pending" until the medical examiner finishes work
and updates the records. Hundreds of families cannot close out the affairs of the deceased until a final death certificate is presented. For one thing, insurance companies demand a determination of the cause of death before they will pay off on life insurance policies.


The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner investigates the cause and manner of death in unexpected, violent or suspicious deaths. earthlandsThe report says in part, "The
consistently high volume of cases per medical examiner has a cumulative effect creating delays in finalizing death certificates and autopsy reports on cases that required additional studies, medical records, or investigative reports. These delays have adversely impacted families who need a final death certificate and autopsy
report to settle life
insurance claims or probate matters or to simply explain why their family member or loved one died."

Browne said, "The ME’s office conducts just under 6,000 death investigations per year and works to close out death certificates and autopsy reports as expeditiously as possible. In late 2015 the office reorganized certain functions to make sure ME’s were not spending valuable time on back office duties but rather on examining bodies. Additional support staff was hired to carry out the non-medical-related tasks and this approach yielded some results, although an increase in cases has caused the performance metrics to dip."

Chronic delays in processing autopsies have existed since 2007, when the system was "strained to the breaking point" according to Dr. Henry Nields, who recently
stepped down as chief medical examiner. A special management review was convened and suggested a $11.5 million budget could help ease the backlog.


Prior to the implementation of that plan, 56% of the death certificates and 25% of the autopsy reports were completed in 90 days. The rest took longer.

The impact is being felt all across the state. A random telephone survey of city clerks shows that, at the end of October 2017, the Gardner city clerk's office had 11 unfinished death certificates. Fitchburg had 24 on file; Marlboro 14; Pittsfield 14. Greenfield had 4, Fall River 33, Waltham 13, Medford 15, Somerville 15, Cambridge 16 and Milton had 6. New Bedford led the list of cities contacted with 37 "pending" death certificates in its records.

The high volume of cases creates delays in finalizing death certificates on cases that required additional studies, medical records, or
investigative reports. These delays have adversely impacted families who need a final death certificate and autopsy report to settle life insurance claims or probate
matters or to simply explain why their family member or loved one died.


One local family signed over a life insurance policy to a funeral home to settle its bill. That funeral director is waiting for a final death certificate before it can collect on the $10,000 obligation. He may wait up to a year for the final death certificate that will clear the way. Another local family found it could not deposit their son's last paycheck without a final death certificate. Matters in the probate court like real estate ownership changes also require final death certificates before they can be made final.

What the recent report does not do is to lay out any plan to address the backlog so that families can get the information they need to close out the affairs of family
members.

Dr. Mindy Hull, a 10-year veteran of the ME's office was recently named to the top job. "As one of the primary challenges the office faces due to the lack of medical examiners available to hire, finding ways to mitigate and reduce the case backlog is indeed something Dr. Hull is focusing on. Having just begun as CME
there are no new initiatives to announce at this time. I will be sure to inform you of any changes," Browne said.


The ME’s office conducts just under 6,000 death investigations per year and works to close out death certificates and autopsy reports as expeditiously as possible. In late 2015 the office reorganized certain functions to make sure ME’s were not spending valuable time on back office duties but rather on examining bodies.

Additional support staff was hired to carry out the non-medical-related tasks and this approach yielded some results, although an increase in cases has caused the
performance metrics to dip."

Pesky Pigs, a Few Loose Dogs, Cows

01 October@8a Ware ACO request for backup. Met ACO on River Street.

01 October@4p,6p Report of loose cows on South Street. Owner identified, neighbor aided in moving

02 October@4:30p Motorcyclist call to report loose dogs on New Athol Rd. Caller states dogs were running in street and he was concerned he might hit them. Operator pulled to side of road, dogs went into woods

04 October@11a Cat in shelter adopted to local resident

04 October@4p Cat that had been roaming an area for 2 months contained and transported to shelter. Alerts for this cat were previously posted.

05 October@7a/4p Transport of a cat in shelter to and from Second Chance Animal Shelter

07 October Calls regarding loose dogs on New Athol Road

11 October@6-10p Annual ACO and Animal Inspector meeting at Tufts, North Grafton

14 October@7:30a Caller request for assistance getting cat out of tree on Monson Turnpike. Neighbor in area contacted and 40’ ladder placed, cat safely removed by owner

18 October@7:30p Report of dog running on North Main, no contact when area searched

20 October@5p Motorcyclist call regarding loose dogs in road, New Athol Road

21 October@11:45a PPD officer call regarding Labrador like dog running at 122 and West St. Owner of dog, hiking at Harvard Pond, was identified and officer returned dog

22 October@11a PPD officer brought 2 dogs found running on 122 near South St to ACO. Dogs identified. Officer agreed to drive dogs to owner.

25 October Several phone conversations with New Athol Road resident regarding what caller feels is a neglect of a cat issue. Discussed options

26 October@8:30p Complaint about loose dogs on New Athol Road

27 October Discussions with owner of frequently loose dogs on New Athol Road. Proof of rabies and complete vaccination history requested and provided. Reviewed licensing requirements. Owner given 3 business days to license dogs. Containment of dogs discussed and inspection to follow within 3 days for construction of secure outdoor enclosure when dogs not under leash control.

29 October@2p Loose pigs reported in the Nichewaug area. Upon arrival, owner had situation under control.

30 October@1p Cat residing in shelter re-homed to qualified home

Selectboard Sign Broadband Contract

After a week of working out the fine points, the Broadband committee and Selectboard are ready to sign a contract with Matrix Design of New Jersey to build and operate a high-speed broadband network in town.

Town meeting voters agreed to borrow and use town funds to build the system.

Asked if the plan now meets state requirements for an expected $880,000 state reimbursement, Nancy Allen, Selectboard chair and Broadband committee member said, "They can't not give us our funding. It is 100 percent assured that we will be getting our funding." The state presently requires towns to build, own and operate their own systems. The network will be built in stages and could reach all homes in town by 2019.

Plans for 'Aging in Place'

The Petersham Committee, a local non-profit, met Oct 16 with local seniors to discuss plans to provide services in town aimed at helping residents "age in place."

The Petersham Committee, headed by Jim Regan of Hardwick Road was formed as a non-profit in 2015. The group has received a grant of $20,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development to develop an aging-in-place model of housing supports for the town. Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury also have grants to develop similar plans, Regan said.

Regan said plans for affordable senior housing are not being considered at this time but could be added in the future.

Who Owned the Tree in the Stone Wall?

Decades ago, two saplings took root in a stone wall on Old Hardwick Road. Over time, the two grew together into one large tree - 7 feet in diameter - with branches overhanging power lines.

Earlier this year, the top of the tree fell, taking down power lines and causing a brownout and finally an outage for Dennis and Linda Duguay's home.

The Duguays say they contacted the power company well before the tree fell , hoping to have it removed, but were told it was a "town tree." and the company could not cut it. They reached out to Melissa Levangie, tree warden, and were told the tree was a "private tree" even though more than half the trunk was outside their stone wall and in the town right of way. She told the board she marked several other trees a long the road for removal.

Dennis Duguay said if the tree in the wall was a town tree, he was not allowed to cut the tree himself and could be fined for doing so.

After the tree fell, the Duguays said, their homeowners' insurance company refused to pay for damaged appliances and electronics in the home because the tree was a town tree.stone harvest farm

Selectboard chair Nancy Allen told the couple that board members will revisit the site and will ask the town's insurance company whether the town can pay for the damaged appliances.

eddies wheels


Town Hall Access Committee Report