Needham | Community Briefing

A night without meetings

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December 16, 2007

The Board of Selectmen has designated March 13 a day of no after-work meetings to help celebrate Needham Unplugged month. The entire town will take the night off, said Jon Mattleman, director of the Needham Youth Commission. There will be no town-related, religious or community group meetings being held, according to Mattleman, and Needham public school students will not be assigned homework. Needham Unplugged is designed to encourage residents to engage in activities that do not require electricity and emphasize person-to-person interaction. - Laura Colarusso


AUTOMATED TRASH SYSTEM? - During its meeting tomorrow, the Board of Aldermen is to discuss whether Newton will switch to an automated trash collection system, which was recommended by the board's Public Facilities Committee but rejected by its Finance Committee. The proposed system would provide each household with a single 32- or 64-gallon trash container that would be collected each week by a truck with a single driver and automated arm. Currently, there is no limit on the amount of trash residents can dispose of each week, and two employees are required to collect it. The Finance Committee voted, 4 to 1, with two abstentions, last week against the proposed trash collection contract with Waste Management Inc. Alderman Ken Parker, a member of the Finance Committee who voted against the proposal, said it would inconvenience residents by requiring them to call to have bulk items picked up, and it might discourage recycling. The Public Facilities Committee had endorsed the contract, with officials saying it could save the city $2.5 million over the next five years. - Rachana Rathi


WAITING FOR PERFORMANCE REVIEWS - Susan R. Burstein, vice chairwoman of the School Committee, said last week that she is waiting for fellow committee members to return their performance evaluations on Superintendent Susan I. Parella. The committee's last meeting of the year - and Burstein's last as a committee member, after being defeated in her reelection bid last month - is Wednesday. The superintendent's evaluations should have been finished prior to the start of the school year, she said, but members said they have been too busy with staff and faculty contract negotiations. Parella's contract expires in August and it is unclear whether it will be renewed. At the committee's Dec. 5 meeting, the members decided not to use an outside search firm to find the next superintendent. Burstein was the only dissenting vote on the motion. Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, who also serves as chairwoman of the School Committee, said in an e-mail that she was in favor of having an outside firm search for Parella's successor, but she does not vote unless there's a tie. - Stephanie V. Siek


SEND-OFF FOR COUNCILOR - Longtime District C Councilor Stephen Romanelli got a big send-off from town leaders Tuesday at his final Town Council meeting. Romanelli, 44, whose term ends this month, was honored by council, school, police, fire and library officials for his leadership during his 12 years as a town councilor. Council president Clyde L. Younger said Romanelli deserved much of the credit for overseeing the new public works building project. School Committee chairman Anthony Paolillo said that behind the scenes, Romanelli was always supportive of the school district and a fixture at school athletic events. Romanelli said while it's been an honor to serve the community, he decided against running for reelection in order to spend more time with family. He advised fellow councilors to put their children's activities before politics. "I think I made the right choice," he said. - Christina Pazzanese

REVIEW OF ELECTION, RECOUNT - The Town Council plans to investigate what happened during the Nov. 6 election and the Nov. 30 recount that led Councilor John Donohue to file a lawsuit against local election officials. Council president Clyde L. Younger said Tuesday night that once litigation over the recount has concluded, the council will look at "every aspect" of the election and recount, as well as related events in their aftermath, including Donohue's legal challenge. Town personnel, volunteers and witnesses to the election and recount may be called before the council to answer questions under oath, he said. The thorough examination is necessary to ensure that all future elections and vote recounts are conducted fairly and accurately and preserve the integrity of the voting process, said Younger. - Christina Pazzanese

CALL TO WIDEN ADL REBUKE - Town officials intend to urge the Massachusetts Municipal Association to withdraw from its cosponsorship of the Anti-Defamation League's No Place for Hate program. Last week, the Town Council voted, 7 to 2, to send the association a resolution urging its immediate withdrawal from the program and to inform all cities and towns statewide of its withdrawal. Council members said it was important the association take this step after the ADL's national leaders met Nov. 2 and determined they would take no further steps to recognize the Armenian genocide. The resolution is a compromise crafted by Councilors Mark Sideris and Jonathan Hecht after another document, first offered by Councilor Marilyn Petitto Devaney two weeks ago, was improperly drafted as a proclamation and contained anti-ADL remarks that not all councilors felt comfortable with, said Sideris. - Christina Pazzanese


SAVE THE CLUBHOUSE - The Wellesley Historical Commission asked selectmen last week to work with it to save the original Wellesley Country Club building for possible use as an auxiliary town hall, a senior center, or affordable housing. Selectwoman Katherine L. Babson Jr. noted there was recently a discussion about moving the 1828 building, which in 1881 hosted the vote leading to Wellesley's secession from Needham, to the nearby Babson College campus. But, she said, there were many questions about how to pay for the expensive undertaking. Spokeswoman Deborah Bates said the commission will ask contractors in the next several weeks to prepare estimates on the cost of moving and renovating the building. Bates said the commission has only until next fall to save the building, which the country club has used since 1910 and is replacing with a new building. Commission member Helen Robertson said the wood-clad structure on Wellesley Avenue is "one of the largest Colonial buildings remaining in existence," among "possibly one or two of those in New England." - Lisa Keen

STEPS TOWARD GOING GREEN - The Board of Selectmen has decided to ask next year's annual Town Meeting to establish a committee to examine how town buildings can become more "green," or environmentally friendly and energy and water efficient. At its regular meeting last week, the board heard from an ad hoc "green ribbon" committee. Committee chairwoman Pamela Posey reviewed some ideas that the group believes deserve further study, such as introducing public transportation, making the town more "walkable," improving storm-water management, and promoting clean energy sources. Selectwoman Katherine L. Babson Jr., who had proposed the ad hoc committee's creation, said the board would discuss the scope of the proposed study commission at a future meeting. - Lisa Keen


REVISING PLANS FOR DPW BUILDING - The Department of Public Works and the Permanent Building Committee will reduce the scope of the planned public works facility by 15 percent in accordance with a goal set by the Board of Selectmen. The board set the goal after last month's Special Town Meeting denied a request for $995,000 to cover engineering and architectural costs. The DPW's director of operations, Robert Hoffman, said the selectmen's guidelines will reduce the original $18 million cost for the facility to around $15 million. "It seemed like the overwhelming conversation at the Town Meeting was that we didn't need a garage to house all the vehicles that the town has, so that will probably be the first place we'll think of cutting," said Hoffman. He said the town has to try to provide shelter for its more expensive and important vehicles, such as the sanders, front-end loaders and street sweepers, but other vehicles, such as small pickup trucks, might be parked outside. Keeping vehicles outside increases wear and tear and can reduce efficiency in cold weather, as workers have to wait for the engines to warm up before they can get going, Hoffman said. Hoffman said that longtime DPW workers were disappointed that upon completion of the facility, they would still be starting up some of their public works vehicles in the cold. - Stephanie V. Siek



AID FOR WILDLIFE HABITATS - Private landowners could receive state grants to duplicate the wildlife-promoting landscaping work of the Berlin Conservation Commission, which is clearing brush on a 15-acre parcel of former orchards on Pleasant Street to encourage more animals to inhabit the area. In a bid to create habitats for declining species of wildlife throughout the state, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is offering to reimburse private landowners for as much as 75 percent of their cost for maintaining grasslands and young tree and shrub habitats. For more information, go to and click on "Habitat Funding Applications Available." Friday is the deadline for applications - John Dyer


GOODBYE TO BINGO - The Boys & Girls Clubs of MetroWest is preparing to hold its final bingo game at the Cellucci Clubhouse on Church Street. Hundreds of people used to attend the bingo games, held on Saturdays at 5:25 p.m. and Sundays at 5:55 p.m., said clubhouse director Dennis Zilembo, but now the organization feels lucky to draw 150 people. Declining revenues led to the decision to shut the games down, he said, with the final session Dec. 30. - John Dyer


NAME THAT SUBDIVISION - Should a new subdivision be named after a movie star or a local veteran? The decision is on the Planning Board's agenda at its meeting tomorrow night at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall. The subdivision, which is off Farm Road, includes an old farmhouse that was owned by the family of screen queen Bette Davis. The neighborhood cannot use her full name because of licensing issues, according to the city's planning office. So, the debate now is whether to name it Davis Estates or to name the subdivision after a local veteran. - Lisa Kocian


CHEERLEADERS SHINE ON NATIONAL STAGE - Two local cheerleading teams did well last week in national competitions sponsored by the American Youth Cheer organization. Both teams cheer for Milford Hawks youth football squads. According to Milford Hawks coach Bob Garber, the local cheerleaders in the Senior Midgets championship took first place, while the Junior Midgets girls took third place. The national cheering competition, held in Kissimmee, Fla., drew 80 teams from across the country, Garber said. Junior Midget cheerleaders are in grades 5 and 6; seniors are in grades 7 and 8. Garber said both teams had won their state competitions and then the New England regional championships. "We then had one week to raise $40,000 to send the coaches and girls down there," he said. Garber said the girls exceeded their goal with the help of donations from local businesses and their parents, and by hosting socials and bake sales, and by selling raffle tickets. - Nadia Salomon


IN MARKET FOR TOWN ACCOUNTANT - Northborough is accepting applications for a new town accountant to oversee the town's finances. Applicants should have a college degree and five to seven years of related work experience. The position pays between $60,000 and $79,000, according to an advertisement posted by the town. Interested applicants should send a cover letter and resume to Town Administrator, 63 Main St., Northborough 01532. The deadline for submission is Friday. - John Dyer

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