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Mixed-use development planned for former Kendall Mill

November 12, 2015

A mixed-use residential and retail development is planned for a portion of the former Kendall Mill property in downtown Walpole, near the MBTA train station on West Street.

The proposed development involves a parking garage, almost 6,000 square feet of retail space along West Street, and about 200 apartment units that will be leased at or near the market rate. Most of the space that the development will occupy is currently taken up by a parking lot.

The apartments are intended to attract higher-income and younger demographics.

The development will adjoin the existing office space occupied by Mortgage Master and other tenants.

See an information packet here, with floor plans and renderings of the building. UPDATE: This has been removed.

Thanks for reading 180.

Proposed rendering of mixed-use development on West Street, Walpole.

Proposed rendering of mixed-use development on West Street, Walpole.

A farewell to Keith Ferguson

October 26, 2015

When I started this blog in December 2008, my very first blog post included a flagrant violation of the standards in the AP Stylebook, which I am ashamed of now.

I used two spaces after every period.

For about 3 years after that, I continued to routinely use two spaces after a period in every blog post, believing, as I had understood it through years of schooling, that two spaces go after every period.

It wasn’t until Keith Ferguson set me straight, sometime in late 2011, that I finally broke the habit, and I have never used two spaces after a period again.

Ferguson announced last week that he will leave The Walpole Times as editor, and move to a higher paid job in public relations.

The one space after a period rule was just one of the many lessons and practical skills I learned from Ferguson over more than five years of knowing him. He was a great friend, mentor, and, oftentimes, a surprising and unlikely partner in what can sometimes be a challenging environment for journalists at Walpole Town Hall.

People may not realize it today, but Ferguson’s departure will undoubtedly reconfigure the media landscape in Walpole. That’s because, having come to know and observe him over many years, I have realized that he is probably the single most important reason that the Times, unlike many other community newspapers owned by GateHouse Media, has managed to sustain relative success even as GateHouse and the journalism industry in general has struggled.

Ferguson, a Walpole native, who started as a reporter before working his way up to Editor, took tremendous pride in the Times, and poured his heart and soul into it. He had very high journalism standards, and took his role as Editor of the town’s only major newspaper seriously. Even when he faced criticism for his work, he never backed down and always stood up for his newspaper and for the reporters working under him.

The Times’ readership and revenue remained steady under his leadership, and it remains one of GateHouse Media’s strongest newspapers in this area of the state. I also wouldn’t be kidding if I said that Ferguson’s strong hand on the Times’ tiller has been the reason why this blog has had such difficulty competing. Now that Ferguson has left, 180 might actually have a shot at siphoning away some readers permanently, assuming the Times chooses to replace Ferguson with a lower-tier editor who knows nothing about our town and will turn the paper into junk mail.

Ferguson was also fiercely independent, even though I am sure many 180 readers might disagree. I can honestly say, after many conversations with him both on the record and off the record, and having read many of his articles, that Ferguson always told it like it was, and always straight down the middle. One of his favorite pieces of wisdom, that can be applied not only to journalism but also to life in general, is that a reporter knows they are being non-biased when they get criticism for their coverage from all sides of the political spectrum. After all, if no one is happy with the story you have written, that means you did a pretty good job writing it. A reporter’s job is not to make anyone look good, it is to report the truth and let the readers draw the conclusions. At one time or another, Ferguson has been criticized by just about every politician at Town Hall, and by a number of opinionated readers. Ferguson always took that as a compliment, and as a validation of hard work.

At the Times, Ferguson had to contend with continual budget cuts by GateHouse Media, which essentially gutted the newspaper’s once-vaunted editorial staff. Ferguson also had to take on additional demands on his time, becoming editor of the Medfield and Westwood Press in 2014, with minimal additional compensation to show for it. He took all of the challenges in stride, still making every effort to keep the Times strong, even as he never had the ability to hire more than one reporter, or even keep a local Sports Editor on the staff.

Ferguson also won several awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association, a representation of his attention to quality even under pressure.

On a personal note, Ferguson also afforded me a huge favor when he allowed me to write a column in The Walpole Times for two years, right out of high school. It was a big risk, given that my reputation at the time was not particularly positive in some political quarters. Ferguson faced a lot of criticism for not only the decision to give me precious editorial space on a regular basis, but also for many of my opinions. He took all the blame and shielded me from some of the most intense criticism, and he backed me up 100 percent and never terminated the column, even when he probably should have. It was through that experience that he taught me a lot about how to write a good article (such as never starting a sentence with “so,” “and” or “but,” never using “over” when you should use “more than,” etc.), how to see issues from both sides (unrelentingly insisting that I personally telephone every person who I planned to criticize to obtain a response from them to include in the article), and when to tone down the rhetoric (he occasionally stayed up in late hours close to deadline simply to rewrite my columns and make me look less like a grouch.) I have probably learned more from that experience than I have from any English teacher I ever had in 16 years of school. My own personal writings and the articles on this blog have changed considerably from that experience.

Even before the column, I also have to thank Ferguson for his willingness to come on to my radio show on WDIS-AM 1170 in Norfolk between 2009 and 2011. Spending a Saturday afternoon with me, some young kid, talking about local issues probably wasn’t high on his list of priorities, but it definitely meant a lot to me, not only at that time but also still today.

So, thanks, Keith, for everything you have done to support me, my endeavors, this blog, and thanks for your hard work at The Walpole Times. Best wishes to you.

Guest Column: Support Town Meeting Article 34

October 16, 2015

The following was written by Precinct 5 Town Meeting Rep. Bill Hamilton. An abridged version of this letter to the editor appeared in the October 15 edition of The Walpole Times:

Several months ago, Walpole residents successfully fought off a substantial threat to our water supply, in the form of a cemetery on top of our aquifer.

But the fight to protect our water supply is not over. Town Meeting must make sure that cemeteries can no longer be built in areas that would endanger our aquifer.

As we saw with the now-defeated cemetery proposal, the town is vulnerable when our aquifer zones are not consistent with the state’s aquifer zones. The Mass. Department of Environmental Protection had declared that the cemetery in our aquifer would not endanger our water supply, because they misunderstood where our aquifer zones lie.

In order to address this inconsistency, Town Meeting must act on Article 34, which brings our Water Resource Protection Overlay District in to conformity with state law. Only aquifers that supply portable water to public wells can be designated Zone 2, and be protected by state law. However, Walpole’s aquifer is designated Area 2 and Area 3, and provides water to our public wells, but is not designated Zone 2 and thus is not protected by state law.

It was not clear to the DEP that Walpole’s aquifer Area 3 was actually a Zone 2, and they approved a cemetery in our public water supply aquifer. State law restricts cemetery use in Zone 2, and the DEP should not have approved it without evidence it would not contaminate our public water supply.

By simply renaming our town’s Area 2 to “Zone 2 > 40 feet” and Area 3 to “Zone 2 < 40 feet” our WRPOD will gain the added protection of state law. If Article 34 fails, Walpole could have to bear the cost of defending any legal challenge to our WRPOD in a court of law without the benefit of state law.

Article 34 also changes Area 4 to Zone 3.

No regulations or boundaries are affected by Article 34, as it only changes the aquifer zone label names to conform to state definitions. All the science and hydrology used to document our WRPDD stands unchanged. Our aquifer qualifies as a Zone 2 and should be so designated, as Article 34 proposes to do.

Another important example of the need for consistency between our aquifer zones and state statutes is seen in Spectra Energy’s proposal to route a third gas pipeline through Walpole, paralleling the two other oil and gas pipelines. This type of activity in our sole source drinking water supply can be disruptive to our water supply. We need Article 34 to ensure the EPA and DEP act on Walpole’s behalf to apply state and federal law to protect our drinking water to the full extent of the law.

Thank you to lead petitioner John O’Leary, and the other citizens who signed the petition to put Article 34 on the Town Meeting Warrant, for the opportunity to help save our drinking water. Please encourage your RTMs to vote “yes” to this important measure on October 19.

William T. Hamilton
Eldor Drive
South Walpole

Jarvis Farm gate will be opened

September 29, 2015

Updated and corrected 9/29/15 at 9:09 AM:

The Walpole Sewer and Water Department announced that it has agreed to keep the Jarvis Farm gate open during the day on weekdays and weekends. The gate will remain closed at night, to prevent vandalism.

180 would like to thank the great people at the Sewer and Water Department, and on the Sewer and Water Commission, for agreeing to this plan, in response to the public reaction from previous publicity on this issue.

Your money bought a locked gate

September 22, 2015

Your water rates paid for the purchase of a $4.5 million recreational property near the Sharon town line, now known as Jarvis Farm (formerly the Sharon Country Day Camp.)

But, as shown by the picture below, taken on a recent beautiful Saturday morning, ratepayers apparently aren’t supposed to be using it.

The gate to Jarvis Farm remains shut and padlocked most days. It is only opened for special events, such as the recent Town Employee Appreciation Day that was held there.

Sewer and Water Commission Chairman John Spillane said residents are still permitted to use the property but the gate is normally locked to prevent vandalism, like what has occurred there earlier this year. But with no convenient parking located nearby, where exactly are residents supposed to park to use it? What about all of the other recreational properties around town, that remain unlocked and accessible with few issues?

“Ratepayers are not paying for the use of the Jarvis Farm property, it was purchased to protect the water supply,” Spillane clarified.

But it has been well documented that one of Town Meeting’s rationale for purchasing the property was to allow it to be used for recreational use. Town Meeting would not have purchased it if they knew the intention was to keep the gate shut forever. Even though it was ostensibly purchased to protect the aquifer, the Mass. Department of Environmental Protection gave the Sewer and Water Commission permission to allow passive recreation at the property, including youth sports.

The gate has been closed and shut during the entire 2015 summer season that ends today.

The Jarvis Farm Committee, a subcommittee formed with appointees of both the Board of Selectmen and Sewer and Water Commission, is expected to appear before Selectmen within the next month to make recommendations for the property’s use. One of the leading possibilities for its use is for it to be rented out as a summer camp, like the Sharon Country Day Camp. Preliminarily, it appears that swimming will not be permitted next summer at the property’s spring fed pond, because of extensive government regulations that make it cost-prohibitive.


Jarvis Farm Gate

Mackenzie promoted to Deputy

September 16, 2015

Walpole Police Lieutenant Christopher Mackenzie was promoted to Deputy Chief by a vote of 4-0-1 at last night’s Selectmen meeting.

Mackenzie received the promotion with the strong support of Chief John Carmichael and the department’s other lieutenant, Fred Leland. Selectmen interviewed Mackenzie, along with Sergeant Joseph Zanghetti, and Detective Sergeant James O’Connell, for the position.

Selectmen chairman Cliff Snuffer stunned the political establishment by making the motion to promote Mackenzie to the post. Selectman Eric Kraus seconded it.

Selectman David Salvatore was the lone abstention, saying that while he had nothing against Mackenzie, he had lingering reservations about filling the position in the first place. He noted that the Selectmen’s meeting minutes from their August 4 workshop noted that they planned to have further discussion on the need for the Deputy position, but Selectmen never actually continued that discussion. Salvatore pointed out that all three of the applicants for the position said during their interviews that they think the department should focus on more officers on the front-lines, a point that he said seemed to contradict the logic of hiring another department administrator rather than an officer on the street.

Salvatore also pointed out that Selectmen are civilian police commissioners by law, and shouldn’t necessarily automatically accede to the police chief’s recommendation for hirings and promotions. He cited a recent scandal, involving the Cranston, R.I. Police Department, in which the city’s Mayor was among those blasted in an explosive State Police report for being too closely involved with police department decisions, as evidence of the need for strong civilian oversight that doesn’t give too much free reign to police administrators.

(see full statement from Selectman Salvatore below)

Mackenzie’s promotion opens up a Lieutenant position that either O’Connell or Zanghetti could potentially be appointed to fill.

As Deputy, Mackenzie will serve as the department’s chief media spokesperson, which could pose problems for The Walpole Times, which Mackenzie’s wife, former Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie, has had a long-running vendetta against.

Full statement released to 180 from Selectman Salvatore below:

On August 4, 2015, the Board of Selectmen had a non-televised “workshop” meeting to discuss police department structure. At issue was whether to fill the position of Deputy Chief. The approved minutes of the meeting state that, “There was a consensus among the Board to continue the discussion on this matter.” There was no further discussion by the Board at any subsequent meetings. The next act was to schedule interviews. Those interviews took place on September 15, 2015.

I respect and considered Chief Carmichael’s support for filling the position of Deputy Chief. However, to end the Board’s discussion without any further discussion was a disservice to the Town of Walpole, the taxpayers of Walpole, the citizens of Walpole and the Walpole Police Department. The Board of Selectmen sits collectively as Police Commissioner. We are to be the civilian oversight of the Walpole Police Department. We owed a duty to inquire further. And therefore, I respectfully abstained from filling the position.

I struggled with this decision and did not sleep last night. I have a strong sense that our appointees should almost invariably have our unanimous support. And I do support the decision of the Board and the selection. I am sure that Deputy Chief Mackenzie will continue to serve Walpole with distinction and be an honor to his fine family.

Selectmen to interview Deputy candidates

September 14, 2015

The Walpole Board of Selectmen will interview three candidates for Deputy Police Chief at a special meeting tomorrow night.

The three candidates for the job are Lieutenant Christopher Mackenzie, Sergeant Joseph Zanghetti, and Detective Sergeant James O’Connell.

In addition to being a current detective, O’Connell served as a Selectman in Walpole from 1992 to 1994.

Mackenzie is the husband of former Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie.

Chief John Carmichael is recommending that Mackenzie be given the job, but the ultimate decision will be left in the hands of Selectmen.

The Deputy position was left open by the promotion of Carmichael, when former chief Richard Stillman departed to relocate to Maine.

The last time a Deputy was hired, when Deputy Chief Scott Bushway left the department in 2010, the hiring process dissolved into an unnecessary political imbroglio. Selectmen found themselves in the middle of a nasty political fight that divided the police department, and the community, over who should succeed Bushway.

Selectmen now must attempt to avoid provoking a similar hornet’s nest in tomorrow’s meeting.

Selectmen David Salvatore and Cliff Snuffer had previously questioned whether the department needed to fill the Deputy position at all, but the other three Selectmen, Jim Stanton, Mark Gallivan, and Eric Kraus, supported Carmichael’s recommendation to fill the position immediately. The Deputy position was created in 2004.

One area that O’Connell has already told Selectmen he would potentially want to explore if promoted to Deputy is using the former East Walpole Library, now used by the Recreation Department, as a police department substation.


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