Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Southbridge Election Results

Town Council
Shaun Moriarty
Denise Clemence
Kristen Auclair
School Committee
William Bishop

No Approval For Sup'ts Contract; Southbridge Teacher Arrested On Child Porn Charges

BREAKING NEWS: Last night the School Committee met with an Executive Session on the agenda, followed by a return to open session to vote on the Superintendent's contract. Following the Executive Session the meeting reconvened and voted to adjourn. As a result, as of tomorrow, July 1, there are no contracts in effect for either the Superintendent or the Assistant Superintendent.

MORE BREAKING NEWS (12:07 PM): A Worcester man who works in the Southbridge school system will face federal child pornography charges after his arrest by FBI agents Tuesday.

Scott Peeler was arrested at his home at 28 Trinity Ave. in Worcester on Tuesday, the FBI confirmed.

Peeler faces charges of attempted production of child pornography; attempted receipt of child pornography; attempted coercion and enticement of a minor; and attempted possession of child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.

Peeler will be arraigned in Worcester Federal Court on Tuesday.

Southbridge Public Schools confirmed that Peeler works for the schools. Peeler also works part-time in a non-patient care position at Adcare, a drug and alcohol rehab facility, the company confirmed.

The district's website lists him as a middle school faculty member.

Witnesses said they saw investigators carrying computer drives, bags, totes and videotapes out of the home.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

School Committee Fails To Approve Superintendent’s Contract

Ken O’Brien

Last night the existing School Committee met, presumably for the last time, prior to next Tuesday’s town election.

Following a predictably tearful farewell from the current Chair following a period of turmoil and failure unseen in recent memory, the Committee went into Executive Session.

According to the agenda for the meeting the Committee was to reconvene to vote on four items.

Southbridge School Committee Meeting - June 23, 2015

Monday, June 22, 2015

Council Kills Casella Contract Amendment

Ken O’Brien

By a vote of 7 to 2 the Southbridge Town Council voted down a proposed amendment to the contract with Casella.

I have listened with interest to the debate regarding this amendment.

After listening to tonight’s discussion I have come to the conclusion that the Council has made a serious mistake. 

Save America's Dumps

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Southbridge Resident Speaks Out On Casella Amendment

Zachary Tucker

Dear Members of the Southbridge Town Council,

My name is Zachary Tucker, and I am a proud resident of Southbridge. It has come to my attention that on June 22, 2015, The Council will be voting on the first amendment of the Casella Extension Agreement.  I firmly urge the Council to vote no. There are several facets to this contract which I feel deserve much more thorough examination, and once given I have no doubt the Council will find a NO vote is the only responsible option at this time. 

New Horizons

Southbridge School Committee Agenda - June 23, 2015

Southbridge School Committee Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

June 23, 2015

7 PM


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Contact Your Town Councilors About Casella's Amendment

Those wishing to contact Town Councilors on the Casella matter can reach them at the following phone numbers and/or email addresses.

                                                                   Phone                                     email                 .
Shaun M. Moriarty                           774-230-6870  smoriarty@southbridgemass.org
Amelia L. Peloquin                           413-695-5289  apeloquin@southbridgemass.org
Denise Clemence                               508-764-7642  dbclemence@hotmail.com
Esteban Carrasco, Jr.                       774-230-8542  carrascotowncouncil@gmail.com
Conrad L. Vandal                             508-764-4831  cvandal@charter.net
Monique S. Manna                           774-230-0156  mmanna@southbridgemass.org
George P. Steeves                              508-764-8042  councilorgus@gmail.com
Albert D. Vecchia, Jr.                       508-764-1484  vecchiaa@aol.com
Miguel Estrada                                  508-909-6943  estradacouncilor@gmail.com

Auclair Speaks Out On Casella Amendment

I am writing to the members of the Town Council as I will not be in attendance at Monday night’s meeting. 

I am writing about the final agenda item, item 34, the motion to accept the first amendment to the Casella contract.  In subcommittee there were a lot of agreed upon terms to include in the contract, and I’m confident that a lot will be added without any outside input.  However, I implore you all to take the following into consideration when voting on this item.

1.      The money allotted to the proposed pre-treatment facility:  How is this money being utilized?  What kind of facility will $2.5 million build?  Where are the designs that constitute this money and how do we know that more money will not actually be needed to complete this venture?  To my knowledge, no preliminary engineering plans have been presented to represent this estimate.  There needs to be some kind of justification for this specific amount. 

One More Time...

Friday, June 19, 2015

Councilor Steeves Speaks Out On Casella Amendment

Today’s Southbridge News carries an article by Town Councilor Gus Steeves expressing his views on the proposed amendment to the Casella contract.

A ‘First Amendment’ we should not invoke
by Gus Steeves

“The devil’s in the details” is a common cliché, but in some documents, it’s really an understatement.

Multiple demons jump out of the newly proposed “First Amendment” to the landfill site assignment, which is currently being considered by the Council. General Government talked about it Wednesday and I expect it to be on Monday’s full council agenda, but both were after this column’s deadline. 

Southbridge Town Council Candidates' Debate

Southbridge Council Of The Whole Meeting Agenda - June 22, 2015

Council Of The Whole

MacKinnon Council Chambers

June 22, 2015

6 PM


Southbridge School Committee Candidates' Debate

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What It Takes To Raise 'Good' Kids. Here Are 6 Tips.

By Maz Ali from Upworthy

A lot of parents are tired of being told how technology is screwing up their kids.
Moms and dads of the digital age are well aware of the growing competition for their children's attention, and they're bombarded at each turn of the page or click of the mouse with both cutting-edge ideas and newfound worries for 
                                                                                        raising great kids.

But beneath the madness of modernity, the basics of raising a moral child haven't really changed.
Parents want their kids to achieve their goals and find happiness, but Harvard researchers believe that doesn't have to come at the expense of kindness and empathy. They say a few tried-and-true strategies remain the best ways to mold your kids into the morally upstanding and goals-oriented humans you want them to be. Here are six practical tips:

Southbridge Unemployment Rate Ranks 15th Out Of 351

Ken O’Brien

Of the 351 cities and towns reporting, Southbridge, with an unemployment rate of 6.5%, was tied with Hinsdale for the 15th highest unemployment rate in Massachusetts for the month of April. Of course Southbridge has a labor force almost eight times the size of Hinsdale's.

Eight other communities with higher rates were either resort communities on Cape Cod or of inconsequential size. Five are dramatically larger than Southbridge. Only North Adams, with a rate of  6.6%, is comparable to our town.

If there was any good news to be found in this fact it was that from March of 2015 the rate of unemployment in Southbridge declined by 1.3 percentage points. However, this was accompained by a 1.4% decline in the available labor force. On balance, Southbridge remained firmly ensconced in the top 5 percent of pockets of unemployment in the state.

Law Led To Drop In Gun Homicides

Ken O’Brien

A 1995 Connecticut law requiring a permit or license - contingent on passing a background check - in order to purchase a handgun was associated with a 40 percent reduction in the state's firearm-related homicide rate, new research finds.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, compared Connecticut's homicide rates during the 10 years following the law's implementation to the rates that would have been expected had the law not been implemented. The large drop in homicides was found only in firearm-related killings, not in homicides by other means, as would be expected if the law drove the reduction. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Subcommittee To Review Amendment To Casella Agreement

Ken O’Brien

Tonight at 6:30 the General Government subcommittee will meet in the Rice Conference Room in the Town Hall. On the agenda is the following item:

Discuss First Amendment to the Extension Agreement for the Operation of the Barefoot Road Sanitary Landfill, and Refuse and Recyclables Collection and entertain a motion to submit to the Council for ratification.

What does this amendment contain? 

MassHealth Should Recoup $233 Million In Improper Payments


Forking over $233 million that should have been covered by insurers, MassHealth violated state and federal regulations and should seek to recoup the improper payments, according to an audit released Tuesday.

In the largest-dollar audit of Auditor Suzanne Bump's tenure, the office found another $288 million in "potentially unnecessary" fee-for-service payments that could have been avoided if the agency                                                                                           tightened procedures. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Kristin Auclair Candidate For Town Council

My name is Kristen Auclair, and I am running for Town Council. 

Nearly 30 years ago, I was born at Harrington Memorial Hospital right here in town, and have called Southbridge home ever since.  I graduated Southbridge High School at one of the arguably worst times to graduate Southbridge High School in the top 10% of my class.  My daughter is currently at West St school, and I see her graduating from Southbridge High School as well.

I have for years listened to other residents speak of a hustling and bustling Main St, where Southbridge was the place to go on a Thursday night. I have listened to stories of the American Optical glory days, the trollies in town, cinemas, The Rez, the great Sesquicentennial celebration of 1966 and so much more in our rich history. 

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - June 15, 2015

Monday, June 15, 2015

Raise Taxes Or Increase Debt?

Ken O’Brien

At tonight’s meeting the Town Council took up the capital budget. This is a long needed as well as long neglected element of the town’s finances. Its very size is an indication of the extent to which the town has neglected its capital stock.

During the discussion of this matter the Council sidetracked once again into a discussion of its prior decision not to raise taxes.

That discussion centered on whether or not it was wise to incur additional debt obligations. It was estimated that doing so would increase the cost of these projects by an additional $240,000 over the ten year life of the bond. Councilor Steeves argued that it made no sense whatsoever to finance the cost of these projects through debt when it could be done through taxation within the levy limit without the associated interest cost. 

Water/Sewer Rate Hearings vs. Candidate Debates

Ken O’Brien

Water and sewer rates have been an issue in Southbridge for some time.

Therefore it comes as a matter of some concern to find that the public hearing on the setting of rates for the next year is scheduled for 6 p.m. this coming Thursday night.

You see, the problem is that the debates for Town Council and School Committee candidates are scheduled for the same night from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

James Sottile Candidate For Town Council

When I moved my family from New York to Southbridge approximately 34 years ago I found a viable small town that had been recently awarded the title of an "all American-city". It had a vibrant economy which was starting to be plagued by a double digit inflationary national banking interest rate. On the other hand it still had a high community participation ratio by all groups religious, political, including the business community.it was a confident community that apparently worked as a team.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Southbridge Town Council Agenda - June 15, 2015

Town Council Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

June 15, 2015

7 PM


Local Newspapers And Local Blogs

Ken O’Brien

This notice appeared in today’s Southbridge News.

There was a time when the local newspaper was the go to source for information about local events. Not only was its role respected but timeliness was a treasured virtue.

That era has essentially passed.

The local paper still serves a role as the compendium of upcoming and recent events. But anything related to the reporting of breaking news has been abandoned.

The local paper was also the forum for residents to express their opinion about matters affecting the community. That function has also, in large part, disappeared.

Aside from reporting on and providing picture spreads of community activities, the local paper serves functions related more to its own survival rather than to the interests of the local citizenry. It provides an outlet for local advertisers and legal notices. It also provides what little is left as an entry point for those interested in a career in the dwindling field of print journalism. 

Planned Staff Cuts At Southbridge School Department

Ken O’Brien

On June 8th there was a Committee of the Whole meeting of the Southbridge School Committee.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the impact of the level-funded budget approved by the Town Council.

The clip below is extracted from a much longer video of the entire meeting, recorded by Bill Bishop. In it Superintendent Stanton lays out the positions that she plans to cut to accommodate the approved budget.

Those wishing to see the entire meeting video can find it HERE.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

An Invitation To Southbridge Candidates

Ken O’Brien

Candidates for public office in the upcoming Southbridge town election are invited to submit statements of their positions on issues of concern to them and Southbridge residents.

In addition to highlighting areas of policy concern, candidates should also include information on their education, prior public service, occupation and any other area that might be of interest to voters.

Please include a recent photo of yourself in JPEG or PNG format for inclusion in your article. 

Address responses to obanion@netzero.net. Articles will be reproduced in the form that they are submitted without editing other than to fit the format of this blog. All articles will be headlined [NAME] candidate for [POSITION].

Massachusetts Worst For Patients Acquiring A Preventable Infection

Massachusetts hospitals have the highest rate of preventable catheter associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) in the U.S.. According to data compiled by Becker's Hospital Review, hospitals in the Bay State have a standardized infection ratio for catheter-associated urinary tract of 1.696 - the highest in the country.

"These infections cost the system millions of dollars in wasted health care spending and are a key indicator of the quality of care in our state’s and our nation’s hospitals," said David Schildmeier in a released statement. "The specific RN to patient limits called for under the new Massachusetts ICU staffing law have been linked to dramatic reductions in these types of infections." 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Cry Me A River

Chairman's Statement On MCAS, Gardner and Magnan

The case by Amy Allen Magnan against the School Committee and former Superintendent Gardner was recently decided in Ms. Magnan's favor. Here is Chairman McLoughlin's statement on that matter.

Amy Allen Magnan's Statement Before School Committee

Abrahamson Announces Resignation - Video

Southbridge School Committee Meeting - June 9, 2015

Abrahamson Successor To Be Appointed

Ken O’Brien

The successor to School Committee member Brent Abrahamson’s seat on the School Committee will be appointed by a joint meeting of the Town Council and the School Committee.

According to the Town Charter:
3-2-1: Vacancies in the elected town boards established under this charter shall be filled by the town council in joint convention with the remaining members of the respective board within sixty days unless a regular town election shall occur within one hundred and twenty days, but only until the next town election. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Brewster Selectmen Pick Embury

The Brewster selectmen acknowledged Tuesday that they could not clone Town Administrator Charles Sumner, who will retire in the fall after 29 years on the job, and then they voted unanimously to hire North Kingstown, Rhode Island, Town Manager Michael Embury.

Other candidates on the top of their list were Christopher Clark, the town administrator of Harwich since 2013, and Ronald San Angelo, town administrator of Hanson since 2013.

Embury became the clear leader after the selectmen reported results of their interviews with colleagues of the three finalists.

Selectman Patricia Hughes said the staff in North Kingstown said Embury had good judgment and good balance in his life. The town planner there said Embury gave him the tools to do his job and that North Kingstown was innovative in planning. 

Debates Scheduled For Southbridge Posts

Ken O’Brien

Candidates for Town Council and School Committee will have an opportunity to introduce themselves and their ideas to the voters through debates scheduled for next week. This year there are six candidates running to fill three seats on the Town Council and five candidates seeking three spots on the School Committee.

According to Southbridge Republican Town Committee Secretary Bob Chernisky, "These debates have been a valuable contribution to the past several town elections and they've been very well received by the community. The debates allow voters to get a good look at the candidates before they have to go to the polls and make their choices." 

Abrahamson Announces His Resignation From School Committee

Ken O’Brien

Saying that the public should be able to choose a third person to serve on the School Committee in the next town election, School Committee member Brent Abrahamson announced that he would resign from the committee tomorrow.

His remarks came during the Members Forum segment of the meeting.

San Angelo Interviewed In Brewster

Ken O’Brien

Ronald San Angelo interviewed yesterday for the Town Administrator position in Brewster. Last week San Angelo was offered the position of Town Manager in Southbridge.

Mr. San Angelo, the former mayor of Naugatuck, Connecticut, and a former Connecticut legislator, said he called Southbridge Town Council Chairman Shaun M. Moriarty to let him know that he would be interviewing in Brewster because the process had been months in the works. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fire Department Union Seeks Audit

Ken O’Brien

Overlooked by many in the recent turmoil over the proposed restructure of Southbridge Middle/High School and the search for a new Town Manager has been a developing crisis in the Southbridge Fire Department.

The situation was highlighted at the recent regular meeting of the Town Council as the result of an appearance by union President Derek Lamica.

Appearing before the Council during citizen’s forum, Mr. Lamica inquired about launching a department audit similar to that performed on the Police Department in 2013.

Southbridge School Committee Agenda - June 9, 2015

Southbridge School Committee Meeting

MacKinnon Council Chambers

June 9, 2015

7 PM


Friday, June 5, 2015

Why An Ex-Mayor Should Not Be Town Manager

Ken O’Brien

It is no secret to regular readers of The O’Zone that I have long advocated that Southbridge adopt a strong mayor form of government.

I have argued that, given the dire straits in which the town finds itself, such a form of government would be the only means of addressing them. 

Hanson Selectman’s Facebook Postings Raise Questions About Town Manager Choice

Ken O’Brien

Our newly selected Town Manager, Ronald San Angelo, was hired as Town Administrator for Hanson, MA, in 2013. His three year contract is set to expire in 2016 if he is given notice that it will not be renewed by June 30 of this year. If he is not given notice that contract is automatically extended until June 30, 2017.

Mr. San Angelo has been actively seeking other Town Manager or Administrator positions in recent months. He has been in his current position for just under two years. He has at least one year remaining on his current contract. I sought to understand the reason for his seemingly aggressive job search.

Bruce R. Young is one of five selectmen in Hanson MA, and Chatrman of that body. On his FaceBook page Mr. Young posted a few comments over the last month that may shed some light on this conundrum. They are reproduced below unedited by me. The word "edited" in the text appears in the original.  (Those who wish can see the originals HERE.)

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Council Selects New Town Manager

The Town Council selected Ronald San Angelo to be the next Town Manager for Southbridge by a vote of 8 to 1. Councilor Monique Manna voted for candidate Daniel Knapick.

The vote came after the Council completed a series of interviews with three finalists that also included Michael Embury in addition to Mr. Knapick.

San Angelo was state representative of Connecticut’s 131st District, which covers Oxford and parts of Naugatuck and Southbury for 10 years until 2002 when he ran unsuccessfully for Secretary of the State in Connecticut. He lost to Susan Bysiewicz. San Angelo, a Republican, then ran for mayor of Naugatuck, defeating current Mayor Bob Mezzo, a Democrat, and third-party candidate Peter Jurzynski. San Angelo then defeated Democrat Curtis Bosco in 2005. 

A Question For Southbridge Cable TV

I’m sitting here tonight TRYING to watch the interviews of candidates for Southbridge Town Manager.

The whole time I am struggling to understand both the questions and the answers.

For weeks the residents of Southbridge have been subjected to inferior, distracting sound quality on our local community cable channels. 

How much longer is this going to continue?

State Tax Collections Ahead Of Benchmark

State House News Service

The latest tax-collection data appears to underscore the belief that this year's state budget problems were not due to revenue problems.

With one month left in fiscal 2015, tax collections are running $389 million above the benchmark used for budgeting purposes, thanks to $1.84 billion in May receipts that followed the state's first-ever $3 billion month in April. 

Worcester Blog Comments On Vecchia, School Committee And Southbridge

Ken O’Brien

Turtleboysports.com is a blog in Worcester that covers a wide range of issues.

Yesterday they printed an article about Councilor Albert Vecchia’s fingering of the Southbridge School Committee. Here is their take on that as well as a few other things in Southbridge.

Whenever I look at the crooks and spinsters who run Worcester’s government and think to myself, “It can’t get much worse than this,” I always read some story about Southbridge and realize it could definitely be worse. As much of a shitshow as our School Committee is, at least we don’t have city councilors showing up for SC meetings just to give them all the middle finger. 

Regarding A New Town Manager

Ken O’Brien

As the chairman of the last Town Manager Search Committee that resulted in the selection of Christopher Clark, I must compliment the work done by the newest such committee.

They have provided the town with three prospects, any one of whom would appear to be an appropriate choice.

In reviewing the candidates I have not found anything in their backgrounds that would constitute a bar to their assuming the position of our next chief executive officer. 

Cut Chiefs Before Indians

Ken O’Brien

According to The Worcester Telegram, Superintendent of Schools Sheryl Stanton observed, “With the [restructure] proposal defeated, … more money will be needed in the budget to fill gaps the district has with instructional coaching for staff, positions it needs for English Language Learners, to develop a discipline program and support for students, and to create positions around truancy and attendance problems.
She said the team would have to go back to the drawing board to reassess goals as a committee and district.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Reaction To School Committee Vote On Restructure Plan

Pim Stewart

Breaking News: School Committee Defeats Restructure Proposal

By a vote of four to two the School Committee defeated Acting Superintendent Stanton's plan to restructure the Middle/High School.

Voting against the proposal were Chairman McLoughlin, and members Raymond Page, Christopher Olivo and Jill Congdon. Voting for it were members Brent Abrahamson and Erin Quinney. Committee Vice-Chair Kara Donovan abstained.

Southbridge Town Council Meeting - June 1, 2015

Southbridge Council Of The Whole Agenda - June 4, 2015

Town Council

Council Of The Whole Meeting

MacKinnon  Council Chambers

June 4, 2015

5:30 PM


Southbridge Town Manager Candidates Named

Ken O'Brien