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Year in Review 2010 – Part 2

January 6, 2011

Fin Com Five

Town Moderator Jon Rockwood generated a stir when he announced that he would not be re-appointing five members of the Finance Committee. Rockwood cited a need for change, but many town residents expressed outrage over the decision. Walpole Selectman Cliff Snuffer called the move “draconian,” and Rockwood was lambasted in Walpole Times letters to the editor and on the infamous WalpoleWords forum. Many saw Rockwood’s decision as politically-motivated, based on his failed 2008 State Senate campaign. Soon after the five members were not re-appointed, four other members resigned, giving Rockwood the power to appoint a total of nine new members to the Board – out of 15 in all.

Let there be light
Capping off years of ambitious fundraising and a community-driven project to revitalize Turco Field at the high school, new lights were installed at Turco, allowing night games to be held at Walpole High.

Nancy Mackenzie in hot water
The new Chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen Nancy Mackenzie was featured in an article in The Boston Globe over her role in the Deputy Chief hiring process and an email that she wrote endorsing two other candidates for the Board in the June election. Mackenzie has a husband on the police force, and many, including Selectman Chris Timson, felt that her relation to a police officer should have prevented her from being Chairwoman of the most powerful board in town. Furthermore, Mackenzie had written an email a month earlier that generated attention because she strongly endorsed Eric Kraus and Mike Berry in the race for selectmen, while slamming fellow Board member David Sullivan, running for re-election, and the rest of the Board. Kraus and Berry were the only two members, besides Mackenzie, who voted to elevate her to the role of Chairwoman following the election, causing many to feel there was favoritism involved.

Szymanski steps down
Just months after helping to persuade the union to make concessions to save teachers jobs in the 2011 fiscal year, Walpole High Social Studies teacher Jeff Szymanski ended his eventful four year tenure as president of the Walpole Teachers Association. He handed the office over to Bird Middle School teacher David Cuzzi. “It was time for a break,” Mr. Szymanski told a reporter, on his decision to leave after such a long time at the helm. But most teachers agreed that Szymanski had led the teachers union well. “Walpole teachers are in a better position than we were five years ago,” English teacher Lauren Culliton said.

Guilbert represents region in lacrosse
Walpole High School lacrosse star Kyle Guilbert was chosen as an Adidas All American to represent the Northeast Region in the 2010 Adidas National Lacrosse Classic in Germantown, Maryland. He was one of only three people chosen from the immediate area to be an Adidas All-American.

Farmer’s Market finally kicks off
The brainchild of Bill Norwood, the owner of Dick and Jane’s, and Economic Development Officer Stephanie Mercandetti, the Walpole Farmer’s Market finally kicked off to rave reviews in the municipal parking lot next to Stone Field. Mercandetti and other town officials saw it as a positive step towards bringing more economic development to Walpole Center. It has continued to be held on a regular basis, and during the winter is being held at the VFW on Robbins Road.

Longview Farm safety measures implemented
Following intense public pressure and strong opposition from the Walpole Police Department, officials at the Home for Little Wanderers, which runs Longview Farm on Lincoln Road, agreed to implement new safety measures to curtail major problems at their facility. The new safety measures came after Walpole Police Chief Richard Stillman, representing the police department, publicly opposed the organization’s proposal to expand the facility, citing the out-of-control public safety problems there. Longview Farm does not pay property taxes.

Library finally breaks ground
At a rainy event attended by many local dignitaries, town officials broke ground on the new Walpole Public Library next to Town Hall. “I can assure you that what you’re about to build here in Walpole is more than just bricks and mortar, more than books and shelves,” State Library Commissioner George Comeau told attendees.

MBTA Expansion Proposal Not Well-Received by Selectmen
The Board of Selectmen cried foul over a feasibility study released by the MBTA proposing a number of different ways in which the MBTA commuter rail could be expanded to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, passing through Walpole. Selectman Cliff Snuffer, whose property directly abuts the train tracks that would be used by the new rail service, called the proposal “beyond all comprehension.” Among the proposals offered in the report was for a new layover facility at Bird Machine in South Walpole, where trains would be idling throughout the night. The Board voted unanimously to send a letter to MBTA officials asking for more involvement in the process.

Snuffer announces he is done
Approaching the end of his term on the Board of Selectmen, Cliff Snuffer announced early on The Sam Obar Show that he was not intending to run for re-election in June 2011. His announcement clears the way for a wide open field of candidates to run for the one open selectmen’s seat in 2011.

Jack Coffey visits Walpole
Needham attorney Jack Coffey, an independent candidate for District Attorney, toured downtown Walpole to campaign. Coffey ended up not winning the seat in the November 2 election, but he came up with nearly 100,000 votes in a surprisingly strong showing for a first-time independent candidate.

New Veterans Agent hired
Following the retirement of John Spillane, the town was left without a Veterans Agent for some time before Jon Cogan was hired. Although town officials had hoped earlier this year to set up a Veteran’s District with Foxboro, the plan ended up not working out over concerns that veterans would not have as much attention and not enough money would be saved. Cogan immediately began preparing for the town’s annual Veteran’s Day Ceremony, held in November. “You’re getting someone who really loves his job,” Cogan told The Walpole Times.

Deval Patrick re-elected
On November 2, Deval Patrick was re-elected governor and Democrats swept all state constitutional offices and most legislative races. Charlie Baker won the Walpole vote, and Baker also carried many of the suburbs around Greater Boston that have been hit hard by Patrick’s assault on local aid. In the wake of Patrick’s victory, Walpole officials braced for a continued assault on municipal aid in the years to come.

Cigarettes banned in pharmacies
The Board of Health voted to ban local pharmacies from selling cigarettes, becoming one of the first towns in Massachusetts to do so. The plan was met mostly with indifference from local pharmacy owners, and no local pharmacy owners attended the public hearing on the plan. Soon after, however, Selectmen Cliff Snuffer and Mike Berry criticized the decision and even suggested they wanted to overturn the new regulations.

Selectmen announce they have magical powers
Members of the Board of Selectmen and Town Administrator Michael Boynton showed off their magical powers for the first time when they announced that they had found $62,000 in the town budget to make town buildings more energy efficient. The magic trick came after months of complaining about massive cuts to local aid that have crippled the Walpole school system.

Route 1A reconstruction approved
Selectmen approved a massive reconstruction project of Route 1A from Walpole Center to the Norwood town line. The project has been several years in the making, and the state would be responsible for funding the construction. As a state road, the town has been off the hook for maintenance of the thoroughfare, but will have to step in and take over all maintenance costs of the road after it has been completed. The road would also have new traffic lights and sidewalks.

New Deputy Police Chief
After months of controversy, Selectmen finally appointed Detective Sergeant John Carmichael as Walpole’s new Deputy Police Chief. “I think John Carmichael is a good choice and he’ll do an outstanding job for the town,” Police Chief Richard Stillman said. Carmichael took over for Walpole police veteran Scott Bushway, who had retired in April. The Chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, Nancy Mackenzie, who had been dogged by criticism over her role in the hiring process while her husband was a police officer, voluntarily opted not to attend the meeting when Carmichael was appointed. An outside firm, Public Safety Consultants, had been contracted to evaluate the four candidates for the job and make recommendations as to who was best suited for the job.

School Committee Changes
Andrew Zitoli, citing work restraints, resigned from his seat on the School Committee and was quickly replaced by former School Committee member Ed Thomas. Zitoli is the principal of Millis Middle School and had not attended a Committee meeting since June, according to The Walpole Times. Zitoli told the Times that when he was elected in 2008 he had not realized how much commitment being a School Committee member would require.

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