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|2003: The Year in Review|
|Written by Administrator|
|Tuesday, 30 December 2003 17:00|
In 2003, Duxbury citizens definitely let their voices be heard and made their presence felt both inside and out of town.
In 2003, Duxbury citizens definitely let their voices be heard and made their presence felt both inside and out of town.
During the first half of the year alone, from rejecting a full-day kindergarten program and accepting new zoning bylaws, to electing some new faces on the school committee, residents were busy showing how democracy works.
Meanwhile, as our soldiers looked to spread the same belief overseas in Iraq, a pair of Duxburyites did their part to serve their country and make their hometown proud.
The first six months of the year also saw some wild weather hit town while a storm of controversy brewed over disciplinary actions in the town’s school department.
Town residents also got an education in 40Bs, what CPZBIC means as well as how much sleep students need to get the most out of their daily education.
No matter the topic, 2003 was a year full of happenings in Duxbury.
The town filed for mediation in an effort to come to contract terms with members of the new library union after 14 months of negotiations. After picketing outside both entrances of the Duxbury Free Library, union members showed up at a selectmen’s meeting to try and let their voices be heard. Selectmen denied the union’s request to get on the agenda, saying it regarded collective bargaining and their focus should be the town manager. Circulation Manager Carol Jankowski, speaking on behalf of the union members, said her comments would be strictly informational in nature and voiced the group’s frustration over the lack of progress in negotiations.
School committee members and selectmen approved the appointment of Anne Ward to fill a school committee seat left vacant by Kathy Kazanowski, who resigned citing health reasons. Ken Fortini and Patricia Bourne-Van Alstyne were also interviewed by the group for the position. Ward would run for re-election in March to keep her seat on the committee.
The School Committee also decided to address allegations against DHS administrators claiming they mishandled disciplinary procedures regarding students. The allegations were brought up by parent Fran Doran, whose son was suspended nine months in April 2001 for allegedly bringing marijuana onto school property. Doran claimed that letters supporting his son’s character and a tape of a disciplinary hearing were missing from his son’s file. While the tape resurfaced, Doran told committee members he wanted to know where it had been and what became of the letters. The school committee said they would seek the help of their law firm, Stoneman, Chandler and Miller, regarding the allegations against school administrators and their handling of expulsions and withdrawals from the school system regarding students in possession of drugs and/or alcohol.
Elsewhere around town, nearly one hundred people turned out for the Duxbury Interfaith Council’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast, where guest speaker Cynthia Alyce Neely gave a “spiritual perspective” on Dr. King and his work.
After 22 years with the First Parish Church, Rev. Robert Walsh announced he was retiring from his ministry, due in part to his impending marriage in June and subsequent move to Hingham to be with his new bride.
Another departure of sorts brought spectators and a film crew from the Discovery Channel to the Snug Harbor Yachts dock. They were all there to watch the launching of the Turtle, a replica of the first-ever built American submarine. The Turtle was originally built in the late 1700s by inventor David Bushnell and made of wood.
New to the town, however, was the new “checker shed” at the Transfer Station to house someone to check stickers at the front gate. Made of recycled materials, the shed cost the town a couple hundred dollars to build.
Meanwhile, selectmen were busy in February with two suitors for the Wright building, the former home of the town library. Both the South Shore Conservatory and the Duxbury Art Association as well as a newly formed group of parents and students sought use of the building. The conservatory and art association wanted more space for classes while a teen center was being proposed by parents and students.
After hearing from both groups, selectmen voted their preference to keep the building available for town use rather than turn the building over to a private organization.
Proponents for the student union came back before selectmen later, revising their request for $171,220 to $79,600 since they anticipated the first floor of the building would not be ready for use until the second half of the fiscal year.
Later in the month, selectmen approved a FY 04 budget for $47.8 million, a 5.37 percent increase over the last fiscal year’s budget. Included in the budget were cuts in every department as well as a large elimination of capital requests to balance the budget. No layoffs were included in the budget, although Town Manager Rocco Longo said several positions would remain unstaffed and others lost through attrition.
Both committees studying Duxbury Bay also came before selectmen. The Duxbury Bay Management Study Committee received approval for $21,000 to hire professional consultants to create the first of three phases it felt were necessary to develop a bay management plan. Members of the Pier Access Shoreline Study Committee also appeared before selectmen, requesting more time to develop pier design criteria, issues surrounding shared piers, whether to institute buffers at landings and ways to protect scenic views.
A mid-February snow storm made many residents forget about the beach and instead grab their shovels to dig their way out of their homes. The storm brought upwards of 18 inches of snow to Duxbury, with snow drifts on Duxbury Beach over six and a half feet high, according to Assistant Harbormaster Dennis Pearse. Residents who weren’t shoveling out their driveways were busy flagging down plows and trying to free their cars from the A&P parking lot as local business owners did their best to clear walkways for customers.
On the local arts scene, husband and wife Hilary Hutchinson and David Sigel took top honors at the Duxbury Art Association’s Winter Juried Show. Hutchinson’s sculpture “Suspended Growth” topped its category and took home Best in Show, while Sigel’s oil painting “Pacific Exit” won its category.
Towards the end of the month, plans for a nine-hole, par three golf course and training school for inner city kids at Camp Wing were cancelled as the Massachusetts Golf Association instead decided to use land closer to its Norton-based headquarters. The MGA planned to lease 35 acres of the land owned by Crossroads for Kids for the project in Duxbury.
This year’s Annual Town Meeting was a busy one, with residents speaking out on a number of issues. By a five-vote margin, voters approved resident Nick Pagliarulo’s article increasing the town’s board of selectmen from three members to five. Voters also approved a $45.9 million operating budget for the town, with health insurance costs for town employees, the new performing arts center and a town septic system generating the most discussion.
After two days of heavy public debate, voters approved the majority of the new zoning revisions recommended by the Comprehensive Plan Zoning Bylaw Implementation Committee (CPZBIC). The group presented three major changes to the bylaw: a reduction in density for new lots in the aquifier protection district, allowance of clustered housing units in Residential Conservation Clusters to preserve open space, and inclusionary zoning. While all three of these changes passed, a buy-out option for developers to pay $200,000 rather than include “affordable” units got deleted through amendment.
Voters also chose not to give selectmen the authority to negotiate the Merry Village 40B project on Lincoln St. The project called for four-and-a-half acres of land owned by local cranberry farmer Stan Merry to be added to four separate town-owned parcels for a 40-unit, over-55 townhouse complex.
On the last night of town meeting, voters surprised many officials by pulling the plug on a full-day kindergarten program by rejecting a revolving fund to operate a planned tuition-based, full day kindergarten program. Mickey McGonagle, the school department’s business manager, said that there would be no way to operate the program without the fund to collect tuition for salaries and supplies. One week after town meeting, a group of parents collected enough signatures to call for a special town meeting to bring the issue before voters again. Selectmen would later set a May 5 date for the town to discuss the issue.
Annual Town Meeting voters also bonded $75,000 for a new animal shelter, but eliminated $26,400 for a new car for the deputy fire chief in the proposed capital budget, which was approved at $432,843.
In two separate articles, voters approved an allocation of $125,000 to the conservation fund: $25,000 for use in maintaining current open space and $100,000 for use in future land acquisitions. Voters also approved using $76,000 of CPA funds to purchase 11.2 acres of open space off Franklin Street from owner Paul Swanson.
March also saw a shakeup on the school committee with the election of two new members ñ John Heinstadt and John Magnarelli ñ as incumbents Sarah Madigan and newly appointed Anne Ward both lost their seats on the committee. Incumbents were victorious in the board of selectmen and planning board elections, as Andre Martecchini received nearly 80 percent of the votes for a third term as selectman and Robert Wilson and Angela Scieszka remained on the planning board.
Meanwhile, the attorney general’s office rejected the town’s bylaw to increase the number of selectmen from three to five, saying the action to do so was procedurally flawed. In a written opinion to the town, the AG’s office said that an increase to the number of selectmen has to be done under procedures outlined in the state’s law governing charters, even though Duxbury has never adopted a town charter. Under the decision, Duxbury could make the change either by appointing a charter commission or through a special act of the legislature.
Stemming from a great deal of discussion regarding the affordable housing committee at Annual Town Meeting, selectmen asked the committee for a report detailing their progress and future moves. At their April 7 meeting, selectmen accepted part of the blame for confusion by citizens over what exactly the board does. The board eventually disbanded the committee and created a new Community Development Committee to take its place to accomplish goals outlined by a $30,000 state grant.
The Substance Abuse Advisory Committee (SAAC) presented a number of recommendations to the school committee they hoped would be used to re-write the drug and alcohol policy in Duxbury’s Student Handbook. The group gathered their data from interviews with 20 South Shore schools regarding their drug and alcohol education and disciplinary programs. Before the group’s presentation, Superintendent Eileen Williams announced that social probation for students involved in a number of drug and alcohol violations over the past year would be lifted immediately, a move applauded by many at the meeting.
The Bay Farm Montessori Academy’s “Dumbledores” took home their second straight spelling bee title, beating out five other teams and raising $11,000 for the Duxbury Education Foundation.
Meanwhile, students from DHS’ Best Buddies program spent the day in Rockport, on the set of the new Farrelly Brothers movie Stuck on You. Look for appearances by some of the buddies as extras in the movie now in theaters.
On the other side of the world, Duxbury resident Colonel Ronald Johnson was part of a U.S. Marine unit that seized an Iraqi hospital, discovering 3,000 chemical suits, 200 weapons and stockpiles of weapons. Johnson was quoted on CNN as well as by U.S. Central Command on the raid that also resulted in the capture of the 170 Iraqi soldiers.
Johnson was not the only local soldier to make national news. Marine Lt. Col. Paul Roche III was also featured on Fox News for his work in bringing humanitarian aid to citizens of Nasiriyah, the scene of heavy fighting in central Iraq.
From overseas land to land in our own backyard, the Zoning Board of Appeals gave conditional approval to the Webster Point Village, a Chapter 40B housing project. The board issued a 45-page decision on Delphic Associates’ application for a special permit that limits the number of Duxbury units to 20, five of which must be designated as “affordable.” The proposed development sits on the Marshfield line, creating a debate over who should provide water to the homes: the town of Duxbury or Marshfield.
Nearly two weeks after issuing their approval, eleven Duck Hill Road residents filed a lawsuit to annul the decision, alleging the ZBA did not have, nor seek, the information necessary to allow it to conduct the balancing test required by Chapter 40B when considering a request for a comprehensive permit. Delphic Associates also appealed the ZBA’s decision to the Housing Appeals Committee.
Around the same time, Planning Board member Amy MacNab spoke before the state’s Chapter 40B Task Force in Boston, calling the “anti-snob” housing statute “anarchy.” MacNab spoke on behalf of the planning board, which has been a vocal proponent to reforming the law.
The end of the month came with Town Manger Rocco Longo presenting bad fiscal news to selectmen on both the state and local level. In addition to announcing a $1.3 million deficit in the town’s health claims trust, Longo said the state estimated a 16-21 percent cut in local aid.
By a resounding 656 to 244 vote, Duxbury citizens rejected an article at Special Town Meeting to establish the program. A record 1,021 voters turned out for the meeting, which started late to accommodate the long lines of those checking in to voice their opinion on the matter. Proponents of the measure cited convenience for parents while opponents cited a tough fiscal atmosphere that could not support a new endeavor like this.
With sides both for and against the measure speaking at length, they forced the other articles at the meeting to be postponed until the next night.
On that night, voters approved a previously rejected article supporting dry cask storage at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant and approved nearly $427,000 for salary increases for teachers, clerks, fire and police as a result of union contract negotiations with the town manager’s office.
A month after the attorney general’s office rejected Duxbury’s vote to increase the Board of Selectmen from three members to five, resident Nicholas Pagliarulo said he was considering asking for another special town meeting to address the matter. Chairwoman Betsy Sullivan recommended the formation of a town government study committee, something she had already discussed with Town Moderator Allen Bornheimer.
Duxbury resident Chuck Foster became the 27th president of the U.S. Figure Skating Association, months after his nomination to the USFSA’s Hall of Fame.
The Sleep Needs Committee presented their findings on changing school start times in Duxbury. The committee recommended a later start time at DHS and DMS by a half an hour, but this recommendation required changes at the Alden and Chandler schools to accommodate the bus schedule without additional cost. The recommendation to begin classes at Alden at 9:25 a.m., an hour later, raised concern both with parents and school committee members, who ultimately said they would take the committee’s recommendations in mind for the future.
The school committee also got results from the $29,000 investigation it conducted into whether or not school administrators violated disciplinary procedures regarding expulsions/withdrawals from school. Committee members received a 40-page report compiled by the group’s legal representation, Stoneman, Chandler and Miller, indicating that the administrators’ actions “were consistent with all legal requirements.”
Soon after this meeting, DHS focused on drug and alcohol issues regarding its students, making changes to the student handbook that called for escalating short-term suspensions and varied items of social probation for first and subsequent offenses.
A pair of residents voiced their concerns over the newly formed Fiscal Oversight Committee, indicating that selectmen and department heads should instead be working together to get a handle on the town’s “big picture” finances. Chairwoman Betsy Sullivan said that looking at the big picture is indeed the goal of the committee and that Town Manager Rocco Longo already meets with department heads to share information.
May also saw selectmen announce the formation of a Youth Commission, whose charge is to work on the opportunities, challenges and problems of Duxbury’s youth. Sullivan said that the youth-oriented group would be developing programs, including those addressing drug and alcohol issues.
Selectmen also moved to shut out window shoppers at the “Duxbury Mall” ñ better known as the Transfer Station. The group voted to approve a recommendation by DPW director Tom Daley, restricting parking on both sides of Mayflower Street to avoid non-residents accessing prizes from the town’s transfer station exchange area.
First, a threatening message claiming “you will all die Thursday” prompted school officials to take extra precautions at Duxbury High School, sending home a letter to parents assuring safety, but leaving discretion to them on their child’s attendance at school that day. The message, scrawled on a pair of stall doors in the girls’ locker room, led to an increased police presence at the school and an ongoing investigation into the author’s identity. About half of the high school’s 950 students attended school on the day violence was threatened.
One week later, a 14-year-old DMS student was taken into custody for threatening violence against her classmates in a note left in a girls’ bathroom. The note listed specific names of those the girl intended to harm and promised Friday the 13th as the date of violence against them. The threat set off an instant investigation by Duxbury Police as well as safety precautions for those named in the note.
On a more positive school note, Newsweek ranked DHS the 78th best school in the country. Of the 750 public high schools ranked, Duxbury and Weston High School (35th) were the only ones in the top 100 in Massachusetts. The rankings were accumulated by a school’s “Challenge Index” ñ the number of Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students divided by the number of graduating seniors.
Lady luck paid a visit to Duxbury’s David Balboni, who won $4 million on a “30th Anniversary Spectacular” scratch ticket at Osborn’s General Store. Balboni, a retired firefighter and town resident for 63 years, said his lifestyle would not change much because of the financial windfall, with the exception of buying a new truck.
The debate over the Fiscal Oversight Committee continued for another month, this time pitting former and current selectmen against each other. Chairwoman Betsy Sullivan said the committee’s intent was to speed up communication between town committees and the town manager while former selectman John Leonard said another committee in town was not the solution.
The group had their first meeting on Monday, June 16 to discuss the 2005 town budget and has met monthly since then.
The plovers began to move into Duxbury in June, causing restrictions in Duxbury Beach’s first and second crossovers for over-sand access. The restrictions continued over the summer as both state and federal laws require restricting access to the plover’s habitat to protect the endangered species. In addition to beach restrictions, several “plover pens” were constructed to protect the species whose eggs are quite small and easily missed.
Officer Scott Myers was dismissed from the Duxbury Police Department by Town Manager Rocco Longo. Claiming he sustained a back injury on the job, Myers refused to report for light duty at the department yet was caught on camera working at a pizzeria owned by his family in Pembroke.
An eight-year-old resident of Phillip’s Brook Circle was attacked by a dog belonging to her mother’s boyfriend. While the girl’s injuries were not life-threatening, she underwent surgery and stayed at Boston Medical Center overnight before returning home the next day. Duxbury police issued citations on two dogs at the residence because they were running free when officers arrived. The chocolate Labrador that attacked the girl was taken to the Duxbury animal shelter and quarantined for 10 days.
The school committee voted not to report claims of misconduct by school administrators to state or federal authorities, one month after a $29,000 investigation showed no wrongdoing on their part. Attorneys Robert Fraser and Scott Merrill were on hand to answer school committee members’ questions regarding the investigation and said that their work on the report was completely unbiased.
This would not be the end of the debate, however, as discussion would continue when the committee resumed its meetings in September.
Next week, the Clipper will present Part II of the Year in Review, covering July through December.