Friday, May 30, 2014

Peloquin Will Return To Council

Amelia Peloquin

On January 22nd of this year, I experienced an extreme adverse reaction to the medication Adderall. This medication had been prescribed to me by my doctor and I was taking it as directed. This medication made me very ill, to the point of experiencing a psychiatric emergency.

My family, out of concern for my well-being, called 911 in an effort to get me to the hospital. Instead of medical personnel, police officers were sent to my home, and I was subsequently arrested. Because I was not well, the charges against me were ultimately dismissed. 

Gardner Appointment As Southbridge Schools Superintendent – Video

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Are You Qualified To Be A Southbridge School Administrator?

Ken O’Brien

Recent developments have created another opening in the administration of the Southbridge Public School district.

This comes atop other vacancies, both voluntary and enforced, that have arisen in recent months. There is also the prospect of unexpected departures that may coincide with the end of the current school year.

With all these factors at play those at the top are confronted with the daunting task of winnowing a large body of potential applicants down to a manageable pool of viable candidates. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Gardner Appointed Superintendent Of Southbridge Schools

Ken O’Brien

Patricia Gardner
At an unusual Wednesday night meeting of the Southbridge School Committee Patricia E. Gardner was appointed Superintendent of the Southbridge School District. She will succeed Basan Nembirkow who had previously announced that he would leave the position at the end of June. He cited health and age as reasons for his departure. Gardner’s appointment is for a one year term, from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015.

Ms. Gardner has served as the District’s Director of Teaching and Learning since August of 2013. Prior to that she had served as principal of Turners Falls High School in the Gill-Montague Regional School District. 

Hearing On Patrick's Economic Development Bill Tomorrow

Would Eliminate Local Limits On Liquor Licenses

Ken O’Brien

The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, chaired by Sen. Gale Candaras, D-Wilbraham, and Rep. Joseph Wagner, D-Chicopee, meets Thursday at 1 p.m. Lawmakers will hear the $100 million economic development bill that Gov. Deval Patrick filed in April.

The bill provides municipalities with the power to grant liquor licenses without quota limits, eliminates "non-compete" agreements, adopts the Uniform Trade Secrets Act, and seeks to expand the state's international marketing efforts to boost tourism. The bill also overhauls a research and development tax credit program, and extends the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative's internship and mentoring program.

Southbridge Police Nab Home Invasion Suspects

...With Assist From Charlton Police

NEWS RELEASE - May 27, 2014

On Monday, May 26, 2014 at approximately 11:45 pm, Officers from the Southbridge Police Department responded to 38 Foster Street in Southbridge, Ma. Officers were responding to investigate a report of several subjects attempting to break into home armed with firearms. Upon the arrival of Officers they were able to identify the victims of the crime and obtain information and descriptions of the subject involved. A description was obtained of the subjects and getaway vehicle and sent to area departments. A short time later Officer Derek Gaylord of the Charlton Police Department observed a vehicle matching the description on Rte. 169. Officer Gaylord stopped the vehicle and joined by Officers of the Southbridge Police Department. As a result of the traffic stop, 4 men were identified as being involved in the incident and arrested. Taj JOHNSON, Jesse FULLER, David DOLAN, and Timothy BARNES. Located within the vehicle were two handguns, a bullet proof vest, latex gloves, several cell phones, 2 pairs of brass knuckles, several knives, and an expandable baton. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Promises, Promises

Ken O’Brien

Kara Donovan
“Noting the ‘most important’ School Committee role is choosing the superintendent in a process that’s ‘as open, transparent and effective as possible,’ she said she feels the committee needs to be able to let the person chosen do the job.”

Those were the words of current School Committee Vice-Chairman Kara Donovan in The Southbridge News 11 days before the 2012 election. That election placed her on the committee, presumably in part because of pledges like that above.

Such a commitment flies directly in the face of Wednesday night’s agenda item calling for the appointment of Patricia Gardner as Superintendent of Southbridge schools. Where was the “openness and transparency”? No public posting of the position, no search committee, no competitive interviews. What became of the much-hyped precedent of the principal search committee which garnered so much fawning praise from partisans only a few weeks ago? 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Judge Dismisses Charges Against Peloquin

Ken O’Brien

The Worcester Telegram reports that Judge Timothy M. Bibaud dismissed assault charges against Southbridge Town Councilor Amelia Peloquin on Wednesday. Judge Bibaud said that the arresting officer's probable-cause narrative indicates the defendant was suffering an emotional breakdown and, therefore, there was no criminal intent in her actions.

Ms. Peloquin, 33, of 275 Marcy St., Southbridge, had been charged with resisting arrest and two counts of assault and battery on a police officer after a January 22nd incident at her home. 

It remains an open question at this time as to when, and if, Ms. Peloquin will return to her duties as a Town Councilor. She has been on extended medical leave from the position since the incident.

Second or Third Best Practices

Ken O’Brien

Bent Abrahamson
At the last meeting of the Southbridge School Committee on May 13, Southbridge School Committee candidate Brent Abrahamson praised the current administration.

He waxed poetic about the wonders of the Principal Search Committee. The extent to which the public’s input was sought and heeded was, one had to be convinced, a marvel of inclusiveness and populist democracy.

And the constant critics and naysayers, he was quick to remind all, were nowhere to be seen.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Prominent Southbridge Resident Speaks Truth To a Vacuum (Video)

Ken O’Brien

Former Superintendent of Southbridge Schools and current town delegate to the Central Mass Regional Planning Commission, Arnold Lanni, appeared at Monday night’s Town Council meeting.

Mr. Lanni spoke during the public hearing on the fiscal year 2015 town budget. He addressed the fundamental failings of the Council and the town government in general to deal realistically with the basic problems of the community.

Flight Academy Relocates To Southbridge From Worcester (Video)

Ken O’Brien

George Charles Allen
Writing in today’s Worcester Business Journal, Emily Micucci elaborates upon news made at Monday night’s Southbridge Town Council Meeting.

AeroVenture Insitute (AVI) has moved from the Worcester Regional Airport to the Southbridge Municipal Airport changing its name from Worcester Regional Flight Academy (WRFA).

The move to Southbridge was effective May 19. The flight school opened at Worcester Regional Airport in May 2010, and has achieved numerous recognitions, including being named one of the country's top 10 flight schools by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, an aviation advocacy organization. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Referendum Proposal Is Just Plain Sloppy

Ken O’Brien

Proponents of the referendum question that would return Southbridge to a town meeting/selectmen form of government are indeed outspoken in their support of the proposal.

However, their shrill proclamations on behalf of the petition shy away from dealing with the specifics of their proposal.

Rather, they resort to two forms of response to those who provide specific criticisms of their plan. Either they provide generic tracts extolling the virtues of town meetings in general or they engage in personal attacks denigrating their critics.

Unfortunately, they cannot escape the reality that voters will be confronted with a specific proposal on the June 24th ballot. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Does Southbridge Council Agenda Indicate A Property Tax Reduction?

Ken O’Brien

After years of having the highest local property tax rate, are Southbridge residents about to see a reduction in that tax rate?


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Southbridge Town Council Meeting Agenda - May 19, 2014



May 19, 2014 –immediately following 6:30 Public Hearing


1. Pledge of Allegiance

2. Roll Call

3. Consider and accept Town Council Meeting Minutes of Monday, May 5, 2014. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Superintendent Updates Southbridge Principal Searches - Video

Mass DOT Announces Meetings On Fee Increases

Ken O’Brien

On Tuesday the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Registry of Motor Vehicles Division announced a series of public meetings on the proposed changes to three RMV fees. The changes will allow MassDOT to close a projected $55 million budget gap in Fiscal Year 2015, make customer improvements, and invest in the Commonwealth’s transportation system.

Transportation finance legislation passed by the Legislature last year required MassDOT to generate its own additional revenue to help fund future budgets. Under a plan approved by the MassDOT Board in March, non-commercial vehicle registration fees for motor vehicles will increase from $50 to $60. There will be no change to commercial registration fees. Annual motor vehicle inspections will increase to $35, up from $29. The road test fee, a one-time fee for the majority of drivers, will increase to $35, up from $20. Portions of the road test revenue will help support improved customer service for first time drivers. 

Gardner Presents Southbridge Accelerated Improvement Plan – Video

Ken O’Brien

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MassDEP Cites Casella For April Soil Slide

Ken O’Brien

Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued an Administrative Order to Casella Waste Systems regarding a series of soil slides at the Southbridge Recycling and Disposal Park (SRDP) last month.

The letter of transmittal notes, “If you fail to take any action the Department now wants you to take by the prescribed deadline, or if you otherwise fail to comply in the future with the requirements applicable to you, you could be subject to legal action. Such action could include criminal prosecution, court-imposed civil penalties, or civil administrative penalties, which may be assessed for every day from now on that you are in noncompliance with the requirements referred to above.”

According to the documents presented, on April 24, 2014, SRDP notified the Department that an area of soil had slid down a steep slope in area referred to as "the 710 Plateau", in the northwest  corner of the Facility, adjacent to an area subject to protection under the Wetlands Protection Act. 

Mayors Excited About Proposed Liquor License Cap Lift

Matt Murphy/State House News Service

Gov. Deval Patrick
Gov. Deval Patrick has proposed to eliminate the cap on liquor licenses in communities around the state, and local leaders couldn’t be drunker with delight.

Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini said his border city faces competition from New Hampshire retailers, and lifting the limits on licenses for liquor stores will be a “great help.”

“We have to compete with those damn conservative Republican socialist liquor stores up in New Hampshire,” Fiorentini said during a meeting of the Local Government Advisory Commission. “It always struck me as ironic that a conservative Republican state had state-run liquor stores.” 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Pentagon Plan For The Zombie Apocalypse - Seriously

Ken O’Brien

Foreign Policy magazine is not a tabloid publication given to bizarre flights of fancy. It is not “The Onion”, reveling in shaking things up with outrageous imagined headlines.

As noted on Wikipedia, “Contributors for Foreign Policy include former US diplomat Peter Galbraith, Pulitzer Prize-winning military reporter Tom Ricks, international bestseller Stephen Walt, blogger Daniel Drezner, former Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks, Condoleezza Rice's longtime chief speechwriter Christian Brose, 9/11 Commission director Philip Zelikow, ex-senior White House aide Peter Feaver, top Pentagon official Dov Zakheim, John McCain's foreign policy adviser Steve Biegun, award-winning journalist David Bosco, and Washington journalist Josh Rogin (who specializes in investigative reports on national security and foreign policy).” 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Breaking News: Southbridge School Superintendent Announces Departure

Ken O'Brien

Basan Nembirkow
Southbridge Superintendent of Schools Basan "Buzz" Nembirkow announced at tonight's meeting of the Southbridge School Committee that he will be leaving the position when his contract expires at the end of June.

Citing age and recent health issues, the announcement by Mr. Nembirkow was not unexpected. He had just returned from an extended medical leave which followed his presentation of the proposed FY 2015 school department budget.

That budget had drawn sharp criticism from Southbridge's interim Town Manager Robert T. Reed. Mr. Reed was especially critical of costs in the area of unemployment insurance for terminated personnel and tuition expenses incurred by students leaving the district under the aegis of school choice.

A Sixties Ditty For John McCain (Good For All Occasions)

Monday, May 12, 2014

Southbridge Airport Among 2015 MassDOT Facility Upgrades

Ken O’Brien

Southbridge Municipal Airport
Southbridge Municipal Airport is among four airports targeted by the MassDOT Aeronautics Division for construction in 2015. The Agency announced plans to build or renovate general aviation airport administrative facilities in 15 communities during the next five years.

The 15 general aviation airports were chosen as part of a comprehensive, statewide Airport Administration Building Master Plan that identified projects based upon several factors including public safety needs and the amount of activity at the airport. 

Governor Announces Funding For Innovation Center At QCC In Southbridge

Ken O’Brien

Speaking today at Incom, Inc. in Charlton, Governor Deval Patrick announced $2 million in advanced manufacturing equipment grants to the Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) to support the creation of a new Innovation Technology Assistance Center (ITAC) that will prepare the school's students with the skills for careers in advanced manufacturing.

“We are committed to choosing growth and enhancing the competitiveness of the state’s advanced manufacturing industry, for today and the future,” said Governor Patrick. “By providing our students with proper skills and training, we are supporting opportunities in this critical industry and ensuring a strong economic future for our Commonwealth.”

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Southbridge Town Meeting Petition Is A Fraud

Ken O’Brien

One of the sponsors of the petition to reinstate the town meeting form of government in Southbridge has recently demonstrated on his blog an affection for using common-world definitions in a legal context to support an opinion.

With that in mind, I’d like to invoke the Merriam-Webster definition of fraud as it applies to my opinion of the petition and its sponsors. “Fraud: a: deceit, trickery; specifically:  intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right b: an act of deceiving or misrepresenting:  trick”. 

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The School Budget And the Tax Rate

Ken O’Brien

The agenda for Tuesday’s meeting of the Southbridge School Committee seems to add to the tax woes of Southbridge residents.

This analysis is being prepared on the basis of only partial information. As such, it seeks to provide questions to which we need answers in anticipation of the upcoming Town Council vote on the FY 2015 budget.

The original school budget as proposed by the Superintendent was for $26,282,197.00. The budget to be voted upon is for $25,273,485.00, a reduction of $1,008,712.00 or 3.8%. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Southbridge School Committee Meeting Agenda - May 13, 2014


LOCATION: Robert G. MacKinnon Council Chambers, 41 Elm Street

DATE: Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TIME: 7:00 PM


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Southbridge Chiefs Comment On Arson Epidemic - Video

Ken O’Brien

Over the last month Southbridge has been struck by eight fires determined to be the result of arson.

On Monday, May 5, the Fire Chief and Chief of Police appeared before the Southbridge Town Council to provide information about the situation.

Below is a video of their statements and their response to inquiries from Town Councilors.

Southbridge Town Election Candidates 2014

Below is a list of candidates for contested positions in the June 2014 Southbridge Annual Town Election who had submitted papers with a sufficient number of signatures as of yesterday’s deadline and who have not withdrawn previously submitted forms.

            Town Council                        School Committee
              (3 openings)                             (3 openings)
            Miguel Estrada                        Brent Abrahamson
            James Marino                          Scott Lazo
            John Pulawski                         Christopher Olivo
            Gus Steeves                            Raymond Page
            Albert Vecchia, Jr.                  LeAnn Pate
            Paul Zotos

Charter Schools – Havens For Waste, Fraud And Abuse?

Ken O’Brien

May 4th through the 10th is National Teacher Appreciation Week. It is also National Charter School Week.

In what may be regarded as a poke in the eye to that latter occasion, a new study has been issued that focuses on what it maintains is a culture of criminal behavior that infects charter schools around the country.  Titled “Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and Abuse,” the report focused on 15 states representing large charter markets, out of the 42 states that have charter schools.

The report, co-authored by the Center for Popular Democracy and Integrity in Education, makes the point that the problem of charter school waste, fraud and abuse, which it focuses on, is just one symptom of the underlying problem: inadequate regulation of charter schools.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

NRA “You Can’t Have That Gun”

Armatix iP1
As a teenager, Omer Kiyani was shot in the face with an unsecured firearm. He still struggles with the trauma. But the Detroit engineer now believes he has created a device that would have saved him and may save thousands of others.

He calls it "Identilock," and while it still needs final adjustments to the prototype and further investment, Kiyani expects to launch his smart gun technology in U.S. stores within a year, retailing for around $300. 

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day

Monday, May 5, 2014

Southbridge Town Council Meeting Agenda - May 5, 2014




May 5, 2014 –7:00 PM


1. Pledge of Allegiance

2. Roll Call

3. Consider and accept Town Council Meeting Minutes of Monday, April 28, 2014. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Three More Suspected Arson Fires In Southbridge

From Fox News 25 in Boston

Tell Council “Take Control Of Budget And Tax Rate”

Ken O’Brien

In February of last year The New York Times reported, “Since the official recovery began after the recession’s June 2009 trough, labor market weakness has been most pronounced in the public sector (and particularly among state and local employment): 5 million jobs have been added in the private sector (a disappointingly low number), while the public sector has shed 721,000 jobs.” 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Steeves Takes Scalpel To Marino “Plan”

Ken O’Brien

Gus Steeves
Local commentator, former Evening News reporter and prospective candidate for Southbridge Town Council Gus Steeves has published a new installment of his column “Earthborn” in the May 2 edition of the Southbridge News.

Titled “Red flags fly over petition” he examines what he terms “…a disturbing and potentially dangerous conflict”  in the petition designed to return Southbridge to a town meeting form of government.

Mr. Steeves elaborates on this assessment as follows: