Needham | Community Briefing

Call to drop program

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November 25, 2007

Selectmen last week received a recommendation from the town's Human Rights Committee that Needham sever ties with the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate program. The committee's recommendation came Nov. 14 on a 6-1 vote after members decided that the national ADL had not satisfactorily recognized as genocide the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Turkish Empire from 1915 to 1920. The committee wrote to the national organization asking that it acknowledge the genocide, and voted to end ties with the No Place for Hate program when the ADL failed to issue a public statement offering such an acknowledgement, said Debbie Watters, committee chairwoman. If selectmen decide to pull out of the program, which supports efforts to combat bigotry and encourage diversity, Needham would join several Boston-area communities that have already cut ties with No Place for Hate over the Armenian genocide issue. - Laura M. Colarusso


NEW MEMBER SAYS NO CONFLICT - The new member of the Waltham Housing Authority board said she will not have a conflict of interest with her father serving as a top official in the city's Community Preservation Act program, which may provide money to the authority. Kelly Durkee-Erwin was appointed to the local board by Governor Deval Patrick. She is a former middle school teacher who has worked with special needs housing and work programs and has two relatives living in Waltham Housing Authority properties. Her father, William W. Durkee Jr., is the city's CPA program manager. He was hired by the city after Patrick's office had begun the process of appointing Durkee-Erwin to the board. Durkee-Erwin said that she had checked with state and city authorities to ensure there was no conflict of interest. The Waltham Housing Authority is applying for CPA funds for the renovation of one of its properties. Durkee-Erwin said she was told that as long as she doesn't act as a representative for the authority at CPA committee meetings, her work on the board is acceptable. The board's other members are Scott Hovsepian, Robert Hudson, Patricia McGrath, Michael O'Halloran, and outgoing tenant representative Clifford W. Adams. Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, who will appoint the new tenant representative, said she is waiting for a list of eligible replacements for Adams. The board's next meeting is set for Dec. 20. - Stephanie V. Siek


DEADLINE ON CLEANUP UPDATE - Town officials have until the middle of next month to tell a Middlesex Superior Court judge what must still be done to correct alleged health and safety violations at a home at 41 Katherine Road. Since early this fall, the property owner, Basia Dziewanowski, has been under court order to clean up large quantities of debris stored in her yard and to remedy fire and health hazards inside her house. Her attorney, Deborah L. Schreiber, said she believes most of the hazards and debris have been cleaned up. Schreiber also said the court has removed her as the property's official receiver after the town's attorney, Mark Reich, requested that a person without ties to the ongoing legal battle be assigned to oversee the cleanup instead. Schreiber said the court did not tell her why she was removed and did not appoint a new receiver. - Christina Pazzanese

RECOUNT FRIDAY - The Board of Election Commissioners will hold a recount on Friday to determine the official winner of a contested at-large seat on the Town Council. Incumbents Marilyn Petitto Devaney and John Donohue finished neck and neck for the final opening on the council, with just five votes separating the victorious Donohue from Devaney in the Nov. 6 election. Each petitioned the town clerk on Nov. 16 for a recount of all votes cast. Should Donohue prevail, Devaney's 26-year run as a councilor will end. The public recount will take place at 10 a.m. in the Watertown Free Public Library, at 123 Main St. - Christina Pazzanese


SCHOOL OPTIONS CUT TO FOUR - Just two weeks ago, the town's School Building Committee had six configurations under consideration for how to replace the 69-year-old high school building. Now it has four. Selectwoman Katherine L. Babson announced during her board's meeting last week that the School Building Committee has trimmed the options to two versions of a new building and two renovation-addition possibilities. The committee, which is to meet with constituency groups at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Town Hall, is now considering Options H and J under the new construction designs and Options C and I under the renovation-addition designs. - Lisa Keen

NAMING PANEL TO MEET - Town Clerk Kathleen Nagle is chairing a committee to look at what the town's policy should be concerning the naming of various buildings, parks, and other town properties. The idea for the committee came from Selectwoman Katherine L. Babson, who noted that some people had discussed the possibility of using naming rights as a means of raising funds for aspects of the town's upcoming high school construction or renovation. The committee will hold its first meeting Dec. 5 in Town Hall. - Lisa Keen


CALL FOR BELL-RINGERS - You know you'll be spending enough time outdoors with Jack Frost nipping at your nose during the holiday shopping season. So why not put the experience toward a good cause? The local Salvation Army Service Committee is looking for volunteer bell-ringers to staff its donation kettle in front of Omni Foods in the town center on Fridays and Saturdays next month through Christmas Eve. Volunteers will cover one-hour shifts between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. For more information, call Jean Thurston, the Salvation Army's area service representative, at 781-891-4254. - Stephanie V. Siek


CONSERVATION LAND GROWS - Longtime resident John L. Thorndike has donated 22 acres to the town to be designated as conservation land. "We've lived in this town for 55 years. We'd love to save the land from development. We get more pleasure of the rural ambience," said Thorndike. The gift was made through the Massachusetts Audubon Society. The property will continue to be owned by Thorndike, but will be managed by the town. Combined with another conservation property, from the Morss family, a total of 90 acres of conservation property has been given to the town. Another 6.5 acres to be designated as conservation land was also presented to the Board of Selectmen by Sara Molyneaux of the Dover Land Conservation and Trust. Molyneaux said the prime upland farm property is owned by a group of neighbors who want it to be preserved as a corridor for wildlife. The gift is under review by the town counsel. - Nadia Salomon


ONLINE OPTION FOR LIBRARY FEES - Holliston Public Library patrons can now pay their fines and fees with a credit card, through the online Minuteman Library Network. Patrons can access the network through the library's website,, and can log into their account with their library card and personal identification number. Those without a PIN can set one up at the library. Library director Leslie McDonnell said patrons have long asked for the ability to pay their fines with credit cards. "It's gotten to the point where they don't ask us if we take credit cards," McDonnell said. "They just pull it out of their wallet." - Calvin Hennick


CURRICULUM HEADING ONLINE - Work is underway on a website that will allow parents to see what is going on in the town's classrooms with a click of a mouse. Hopkinton teachers at every level spent more than 1,700 hours throughout the last school year and over the summer loading curriculum plans into the school district's database. The district's curriculum leadership team created the database several years ago to cover every grade level and course offered by the Hopkinton schools. The database allows teachers to update information as they fine-tune their programs. The town's Parent Teacher Association provided the bulk of the funding for the project. - David Cogger


REC DEPARTMENT SKI LESSONS - The town's Parks and Recreation Department will hold a skiing program six Sundays in January and February at Wachusett Mountain Ski Area for students in grades 3 through 12. The deadline to sign up is Dec. 6. The cost of skiing is $37, with additional charges for transportation, equipment rental, and lessons. Children in grades 3 through 5 must be accompanied by a paying adult. For more information, call the recreation department at 508-359-2715. - Calvin Hennick


CHARTER MEETING CHANGED - The final version of the proposed town charter is now posted on the town's website,, under the Government Study Commission section of the Boards and Committees heading. The date for the meeting to vote on the charter has been changed. The meeting is now Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Medway High School. - Alexandra Perloe


FOOD FOR LIBRARY FINES - Throughout next month, the Morse Institute Library will allow its patrons to pay for overdue library materials with donations to the Natick Service Council's food pantry. Patrons are asked to bring nonperishable foods, particularly canned tomatoes, meals-in-a-box, juice boxes, soups, crackers, cereal, and baby food to the circulation desk. Donations of personal-care items, such as soap, toothpaste, diapers, and shampoo, are also welcome. The offer is not valid for lost or damaged library property. For more information on Natick's Food for Fines program, call the library at 508-647-6520. - Erica Noonan


FIRST PARISH HOLIDAY FAIR - The First Parish of Sudbury will hold its annual Holly Fair on Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The church looks to open the holiday season with a day of festive shopping, table arrangements, wreaths, homemade crafts and plenty of treats, including 12 homemade soups. There will also be cookies and children's activities all day. For more information, call the church at 978-443-2043. - John M. Guilfoil


WHALING AUTHOR TO SPEAK - The Wayland Free Public Library will host author and historian Eric Jay Dolin on Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the library's Raytheon Room. Dolin will discuss his book "Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America," recently chosen by's editors as one of the Best Books of 2007, the library said in a statement. "The vivid story of whaling is one of the mightiest themes in American history," the library said. Dolin studied environmental policy and biology at Brown, Yale, and MIT, where he received his doctorate. He has written extensively about wildlife and the marine world. - John M. Guilfoil

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