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Globe Northwest Community briefing

New Emerson Hospital board member

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March 16, 2008

ACTON
Acton resident Amaresh Mahapatra has been elected to Emerson Hospital's board of directors. Mahapatra is cofounder and president of Linden Photonics, a Westford company that manufactures optical fiber cables for defense contractors. "Having lived in Acton for 22 years, I and my family have benefited many times from the quality services provided by Emerson Hospital," said Mahapatra. "I am delighted to be able to serve and contribute on Emerson's board." - Jennifer Fenn Lefferts

ARLINGTON
PARENTS TO DISCUSS EDUCATION - Stand for Children, an education advocacy group, will host a parent-to-parent discussion tomorrow about public education in Arlington. The conversation is slated to begin at 6:30 p.m. and last about two hours. The event, "Everything you always wanted to know about Arlington schools (but didn't know who to ask)," will be held at the Pleasant Street Congregational Church. For more information, e-mail Ren Johns at ren@stand.org or call 617-547-3800. - Brenda J. Buote

AYER
SMALLER HEALTH SHARE MULLED - Officials are considering reducing the town's health insurance contributions for all nonunion employees from 90 to 75 percent. Town Administrator Shaun Suhoski proposed that the town reduce the payments to 75 percent starting July 1. Selectmen likely will take action on the proposal at their meeting Tuesday. Officials recently settled a collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 1703, that reduced the town's contribution toward public works employees' health insurance premiums from 90 to 75 percent. Suhoski said health insurance costs have swelled from 3.9 percent of the municipal budget 10 years ago to 13.5 percent this year. - Taryn Plumb

BEDFORD
LOW VOTER TURNOUT - Only 301 of Bedford's roughly 8,000 voters cast ballots in this month's town election. The March 8 election did not feature any contested races, so officials had expected a low turnout. Then rain poured down most of the day. Michael Rosenberg and incumbent Mark Siegenthaler won spots as selectmen. Three other newcomers also were elected: Robert B. Murphy won a seat on the Board of Assessors; Jane Puffer won a Housing Authority spot; and Rachel Field will be a library trustee. - Kytja Weir

BELMONT
PERSONAL CONNECTIONS - The Belmont Youth Commission is urging residents to unplug their electronic gadgets for the month. The commission is sponsoring a series of activities in March with the hopes that families will disconnect from computers, MP3 players, cellphones, and video games, and reconnect with each other. The commission has put together a calendar of activities and local events that families can participate in that do not involve electronics. The calendar is on the town's website, town.belmont.ma.us/youth/unplugged. - Jennifer Fenn Lefferts

BILLERICA
6 PERCENT BUDGET HIKE SOUGHT - Town accountant Paul Watson presented the Board of Selectmen with a fiscal 2009 budget of $121 million on March 3. The increase is about 6 percent higher than the current year's budget. Included in next fiscal year's total is the School Department's allotment of $50.4 million - about a 3 percent increase over the current budget. Town Meeting will vote on those amounts in May. The new fiscal year starts July 1. - Joyce Pellino Crane

BOXBOROUGH
FREE WELLNESS SCREENINGS - A well-adult clinic will be held from 11 a.m. to noon on April 9 at the United Church on Massachusetts Avenue. Residents can drop in for free blood pressure and pulse screenings, medication review, and nutrition information. No appointment is necessary. The clinic is sponsored by the Nashoba Associated Boards of Health and the Boxborough Board of Health. Contact Nashoba Nursing Service and Hospice at 978-425-6675 or at nashoba.org. - Jennifer Fenn Lefferts

BURLINGTON
SCHOLARSHIP DEADLINE TOMORROW - Applications are due tomorrow for this year's round of Burlington Community Scholarship Foundation grants and scholarships. More than 30 scholarships of $1,000 or more are available to high school students. Last year, the foundation awarded more than $85,000 to 25 high school students and six adults. Students can download the application at burlington.org or pick them up at Burlington High School, Shawsheen Technical High School, and Town Hall. - Adam Sell

CARLISLE
FORUM ON ENERGY LEGISLATION - Residents are invited to attend the forum "Green Energy Legislation - What's New on Beacon Hill" tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. at the First Religious Society, 27 School St. State Representative Cory Atkins and Massachusetts Climate Action Network executive director Rob Garrity will lead a discussion on the landmark energy bill being debated in the Legislature. Initiatives would include a program supporting local communities that want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save money through energy efficiency, use of renewable resources, and other sustainable practices. There also would be new environmentally friendly public construction standards that will affect the proposed school building project. The event is sponsored by Carlisle Climate Action and the Environmental Action Committee of the First Religious Society. - Nancy Shohet West

CONCORD
PARENTING WORKSHOP - The Center for Parents and Teachers in Concord is offering a four-part workshop for parents of children up to age 9. From Cartwheels to Car Wheels will cover techniques parents can use to help their children build character and coping skills during adolescence. The workshop runs from 9:30 to 11 a.m. on Thursdays, March 20 and 27 and April 3 and 10 at the Ripley Building. The fee is $60 and the workshop is limited to 12 participants. To register, contact Angela at the center at amartinez@colonial.net or 978-202-1146. - Jennifer Fenn Lefferts

HARVARD
TOWN SEPTIC, SEWER SYSTEM PROPOSAL - Selectmen have approved an annual Town Meeting warrant article that will allow officials to use $40,000 to investigate setting up a septic or sewer system in town. If approved by residents on March 29, the funds would allow selectmen to, among other things, contract for the design and feasibility and cost analysis studies related to constructing a town sewer or septic system. Selectmen formed a six-member task force in December that has been charged with analyzing septic and sewer options for the town. - Taryn Plumb

FORUM ON BRANCH LIBRARY BUILDING - The Trustees of Cary Memorial Library today are holding a community conversation regarding the future of the Stone Building, which dates to the 1830s and has been a library branch serving East Lexington for more than a century. Presentations by Town Manager Carl Valente, library director Connie Rawson, and HKT Architects Inc. will be followed by an open forum. The building has been closed since August because of substantial water damage caused by a burst water pipe. The architects are conducting a comprehensive structural analysis of the building, Rawson said. "This meeting is an opportunity for people in the community to express their concerns and hopes for the uses of the building in the future," Rawson said, noting that while the trustees are responsible for programming at the branch library, the town is the caretaker of the building and may decide there is a better use for it. The discussion is slated to take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Follen Church sanctuary at 755 Massachusetts Ave. Residents who cannot attend the meeting may e-mail their comments to lexlib@ci.lexington.ma.us or call 781 862-6288, ext. 316. - Brenda J. Buote

LITTLETON
FREE TAX RETURN ASSISTANCE - The Council on Aging, in conjunction with the American Association of Retired Persons, is offering free professional assistance with tax preparation to seniors and low-income residents. Call the Senior Center at 978-952-2362 to schedule an appointment and to find out what paperwork to bring. - Nancy Shohet West

MEDFORD
NEW SERVICES TO HELP SENIORS LIVE AT HOME - The Greater Medford Visiting Nursing Association recently created a new division, Additional Care, to help senior citizens remain in their homes. The division offers between two and 24 hours a day of an assortment of services - including nursing, personal care, homemaking, meal preparation, and medication management - paid for through private payment, long-term care insurance, or veterans benefits. More information is available at gmvna.com or at 781-396-2633. - Eric Moskowitz

NORTH READING
CIULLA NAMED TO DISABILITIES COMMISSION - The Board of Selectmen has appointed Steven Ciulla to the town's Commission on Disabilities. Ciulla was appointed to a term that will expire Dec 31. 2010, according to officials. The commission advises selectmen on issues relating to the Americans with Disabilities Act and handicapped access in North Reading. - Laura M. Colarusso

READING
CULTURAL PROGRAMS GET BOOST - The Massachusetts Cultural Council has awarded nine grants totaling $5,590 to the town to support the arts in the community, said Liz Whitelam, chairwoman of the Reading Cultural Council. The council will distribute the funds to nine organizations, including the Reading Antiquarian Society for its Colonial Day at Parker Tavern program, the Reading Symphony Orchestra to support its 75th anniversary celebration, and Creative Arts for Kids for its Cultural Connection website. - Laura M. Colarusso

SHIRLEY
SELECTMEN OBSERVE ST. PATRICK'S DAY - The Board of Selectmen is moving its weekly Monday night meeting to Tuesday this week to avoid working on St. Patrick's Day. "This isn't really a celebrated holiday, but the selectmen in Shirley take it seriously," said board chairman Lee "Chip" Guercio, whose mother was Irish. "People have plans for that kind of a day, me in particular because I own a restaurant." Town Administrator Kyle Keady, who wrote the schedule for the meetings, is also Irish. Selectmen will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to continue discussions on the budget deficit. - Julie Masis

STONEHAM
SENIOR CENTER CHANGE - The town could soon hand over management of its senior center to a nonprofit group. The town plans to ask voters during the annual Town Meeting in May to let Community Service Network Inc. take over management of the Elm Street center. The nonprofit has offices in the center and helps low-income residents of Burlington, Lexington, Melrose, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham, Wakefield, Wilmington, Winchester, and Woburn. The town is seeking the switch to help save money during what town officials are calling another tight budget year. The town spends about $150,000 a year on the center. The town would continue to own the building and lease it to the nonprofit for a nominal fee. Jane Lavender, the Council on Aging director, said the change would help the center because nonprofits can apply for grants not available to municipalities. She also said the center would be open more hours. - Kytja Weir

WILMINGTON
REGIONAL SCHOOL COSTS COME IN LOWER - Wilmington's share of the costs to operate Shawsheen Valley Technical High School, a regional vocational school, is approximately $3.1 million for fiscal 2009. The town had allocated about $3.2 million for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, said Town Manager Michael Caira. That will leave the town roughly $100,000 worth of leeway in case the town incurs unforeseen expenses such as an unplanned spike in the cost of fuel, he added. In fiscal 2008, Wilmington paid more than $3.4 million to fund Shawsheen, according to Caira. - Laura M. Colarusso

WINCHESTER
SCHOOL EXPANSION APPROVED - Town Meeting recently overwhelmingly approved spending $7.2 million to add classrooms to McCall Middle School but rejected a property tax increase to pay for the project. The article requesting the addition passed, 115 to 14, at the March 6 gathering, according to Town Clerk Mary Ellen Lannon. Board of Selectmen chairman Jim Johnson had asked Town Meeting representatives to consider a Proposition 2 1/2 debt-exclusion override to pay for the 12-classroom expansion. But instead Town Meeting chose to have the town pay for the project through its building stabilization fund, though Town Manager Mel Kleckner has said officials may need to seek an override in 2009 to replenish that fund for future projects. The classroom expansion was sought because middle school enrollment is expected to surge in 2009, putting the building some 200 students over capacity. - Kytja Weir

WOBURN
MAYOR TAKES PART IN SUBPRIME, FORECLOSURE FORUM - Mayor Thomas L. McLaughlin recently met with Attorney General Martha Coakley, Tina Brooks, the state's undersecretary for housing and community development, and Andrew O'Brien, state director for US Senator John F. Kerry, at a forum for Massachusetts mayors to discuss the growing impact that the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crisis is having on cities and their residents. The mayors and the state and federal representatives discussed ways to increase state and federal aid for local affordable-housing and economic-development initiatives, stop predatory lending, protect homeowners, and address abandoned and vacant properties, through methods such as community development block grants and action grants. "It is imperative that local, state, and federal governments work together as partners to respond to the growing housing crisis, and put in place strong programs that support our local efforts to protect home values and build a stronger economy," McLaughlin said in a prepared statement. - Eric Moskowitz

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