By Sue Ellen Woodcock
Winthrop was not the little town without some turmoil last year. First there was the abrupt resignation of Robert Driscoll Jr. as Town Council President. Then Town Manager James McKenna announces he will step down and the one-year remaining on his contract will be fulfilled with consultant work for the town. An attempt at a pilot traffic study plan in the Center Business District including Hagman Road failed miserably and rose the ire of many residents. Election season saw a call for a recount between Council President-elect Ron Vecchia, Peter Turco and Rich Boyijian — Vecchia prevailed.
The best note of the past year was the opening of Miller Field on Thanksgiving Day! Some were skeptical but the Miller Field Committee knew better and pulled it off.
The following are snippets of news stories that ran in the Winthrop Sun-Transcript in 2017. The stories are in chronological order.
Rental of gym
The Finance Committee continues to work on a long-term plan for the rental of the gym on Pauline Street at the old middle/high school. In the meantime the Town Council has approved a revolving fund to operate the gym.
Councilor and Finance Committee member Nick DelVento said the discussion of fees is still in the Finance Committee and they are working on a long-term plan regarding future fees. Currently, the fee to use the gym is $50 an hour.
DelVento explained that the revolving fund will be funded by rental fees and the maximum allowed in the fund is $75,000. Any balance at the end of the year will remain in the fund.
New voting machines
- Town Clerk Carla Vitale has asked the Town Council to fund the purchase of new voting machines for the Town. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the council set a date for a public hearing on the machines for January 17. Vitale is seeking a transfer of $57,600 from the stabilization fund to the town clerk’s budget to purchase new voting machines.
The purchase will consist of eight voting tabulators and eight electronic poll pads. The new equipment will bring the Town up to date. Workers at the polls will find the $1,500 poll pads handy as they will be able to search for voters names remotely and access state information. In addition the machines will be able to back up data and they are self-contained. About 30 communities have the poll pads.
Plans for the center
- Town officials met with members of the Center Business district last Thursday night to discuss plans for the center and dispel any misinformation that may be going around.
Town Council President Robert Driscoll said the issues boil down to three things, the MassWorks grant application, the Master Plan for the Center Business District and the Infrastructure Engineering Plan.
“There was a rumor that we were denied the MassWorks grant,” Driscoll told the 20 residents gathered at the meeting in the E.B. Newton Building on Pauline Street. “We were not denied.”
Two weeks ago the town got feedback on the application and found that MassWorks was not ready to grant the $2.7 million grant. One reason was that the Town did not have a master plan yet, although a draft of one should be finalized by the end of January. The second piece is an economic development program, or proof of the project. Officials are hoping for this grant money to fund an intensive water and sewer infrastructure project in the town center.
DeLeo working hard
- Speaker of the House Robert A. DeLeo, also the State Representative of Winthrop too, was sworn in as speaker for the 9th time in his 27-year career last week.
DeLeo (D-Winthrop) has represented the Town of the Winthrop and a portion of the City of Revere, the 19th Suffolk District, in the Massachusetts House of Representatives since 1991.
This coming year DeLeo plans on working on hard for the Commonwealth and the area he represents.
“I always make sure I balance myself as Speaker and State Representative,” DeLeo said in a telephone interview. “I never forget my home district.”
Back on the boats
- People are back living on their boats again and Town officials are concerned about the pumping of sewage into the water.
Director of Inspectional Services Al LeGee said is looks like people are back living on their boats and he’s questioning how they get rid of their sewage.
LeGee said currently there are five houseboats at Captain Jack’s on Pleasant Street and two at the Winthrop Yacht Club.
Last year the Town passed regulations for living on a boat, including obtaining a permit and having either a hard pump connected to the Town sewer system or they have a pump out service on a regular basis.
The regulations were implemented after it was discovered a boat was running a bed and breakfast, and other boats came to Winthrop after being squeezed out of their docks in Charlestown.
The regulations first require that houseboat owners who want to dock in Winthrop must obtain a Houseboat Marina Permit from the Town Manager.
- For the past 10 months the Town Manager, Town officials and the Economic Development Citizen’s Advisory Committee have been working on what is called a “master plan” for the Center Business District. Others have called the document a ‘vision”. But no matter what its called it shows what could be possible in the center.
Working along side them has been MassDevelopment and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The draft of the plan was prepared by a company call Form + Place, Inc.
It is still a couple of months away from being voted on by the Town Council, but the final version should serve as a guide to refreshing the Center Business District. So far the committee has gather 75 comments about the document and they are working through them.
“It’s a living document,” said EDCAC member Michael Lucerto, and will be used in helping to obtain grants for any project.
The first part of the document covers some of the history of Winthrop such as the old hotels. Some other challenges the town faces includes housing, urban design, transportation, infrastructure, climate change and seasonal fluctuations.
Macero seeks new job• After narrowing down a pool of 47 applicants, the Stoneham School Committee announced four finalists, and Winthrop School Superintendent John Macero is one of them.
Along with Macero, the four other candidates who will vie for the prestigious position are: Superintendent of Holliston Public Schools, Dr. Brad Jackson; Lexington’s Fiske Elementary School Principal, Thomas Martellone; and Superintendent of Wareham Public School, Dr. Kimberly Shaver-Hood.
Over the next few weeks, candidates will undergo intensive interviews and the selected candidate will be appointed on March 2.
- The FY’18 budget year looks good at this point, but there will be some challenges still to overcome such as union contracts, insurance costs and snow removal.
Monday night the Finance Commission, Town Manager, the Chief Financial Officer and others met to discuss the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
If the governor’s version the FY’18 budget passes on Beacon Hill, Winthrop is slated to receive $6,450,815 in Chapter 70 funds, used for schools, and $4,395,922 for unrestricted government aid.
In FY’17, Winthrop received $6,384,735 in Chapter 70 funds and $4,053,454 in unrestricted government aid.
Winthrop’s total budget for FY17, which ends June 30, is $46.6 million.
“The uptick in local aid comes out to about $20 per student,” said Town Manager James McKenna. “Overall revenue collections are strong and on track.”
Real estate prices
- The real estate market showed median home sale prices go up anywhere from 8 to 21 percent in the Winthrop, Revere, Chelsea, East Boston, Everett and Lynn markets.
According to the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, Winthrop single family home sales price comparing 2015 to 2016 is up 10.7 percent, or $375,000 to $415,000. There were 89 sales in 2015 and 79 sales in 2016.
Winthrop condominium prices were up 3.5 percent from $285,000 in 2015 to 295,000 in 2016. There were 85 sales in 2015 and 89 in 2016.
Jim Polino of Highland Real Estate in Winthrop said young people are being pushed out of other markets and into communities like Winthrop, East Boston, Chelsea and Revere.
“Buyers are coming from all over Boston, the South Shore and the North Shore,” Polino said. He noted that a drive from Winthrop to South Boston took him just 15 minutes.
The market is seeing the number of days on the market being reduced and there are multiple bids on properties. The is also low inventory and very much a seller’s market.
Bella Bond justice
- A Dorchester woman admitted helping to cover up the murder of her daughter, two-year-old Bella Bond, in 2015 and will be sentenced after the child’s alleged killer goes to trial, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said. Last week, Rachelle D. Bond, 41, plead guilty to the indicted charges of being an accessory after the fact to murder and larceny over $250 by false pretense. She was not accused of any involvement in Bella’s death: rather, she had been charged with aiding the man who allegedly killed her in the aftermath and continuing to receive state benefits intended to support the girl’s care. Bond will be sentenced after the trial of Michael Patrick McCarthy, 36, her former boyfriend, on a first-degree murder charge stemming from Bella Bond’s homicide in late May or early June 2015
Overdoses are up
- Winthrop’s overdose rate is up 129 percent when comparing 2015 and 2016.
Police Chief Terence Delehanty said not all the overdose incidences are related to heroin and other opiates. The overdoses may revolve around other drugs but do not include those related to alcohol use.
“The numbers are up significantly,” Delehanty said.
In 2015 there were a total of 34 overdoses responded to by the Winthrop Police Department. In 2016 there were 78 overdoses. Due to the reporting system and the length of time for toxicology reports, it is unclear if there were deaths related to overdose.
Delehanty said the information was obtained from medical aid calls. Each community in Massachusetts tracks its own data and at times it seems like no two are the same.
Town’s in good shape
- Northeastern Professor Barry Bluestone, of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, presented the results of a study from 220-question survey filled out by the members of the Economic Development Committee.
The overall finding is that the Town is relatively in very good shape.
The report, prompted by the desire to improve Winthrop Center and find something to do with the old middle/high school on Pauline Street, said communities like Winthrop will prosper only if they are successful in finding new sources of revenue.
- Town Manager James McKenna said officials are working with the Elks Club on concerns that a build up of sediment around the boat slips is causing problems.
“The Elks are loosing capacity due to sediment around the docks,” McKenna said at last week’s Town Council meeting. He added that some test borings have been taken and they are trying to determine if any sediment is coming from the Lewis Lake area.
The Winthrop Lodge of Elks has 100 boats slips in the William “Salty” Frazier Marina and some boats are not able to use the docks due to sediment.
There had been some concern as to who’s responsible for dredging what. Last year the Cottage Park Yacht Club did its own dredging.
- Each year the Transcript runs the earnings of the top 200 employees in the town of Winthrop based on the previous year’s W2 tax forms.
The amounts are not just salaries but the earnings of the individual, including overtime, longevity, benefit buyouts, cell phone reimbursements, and travel allowances.
This year’s top earner is police Lt. David Lessard, with earnings of $179,042. Followed by police Lt. Frank Scarpa Jr. with earnings of $154,860 and Detective Robert Jaworski with $151,927.
Town Manager James McKenna is fourth on the list with earnings of $151,272.
Fifth on the list is police Lt. Richard Swartz with $149,515; police Sgt. Stephen Rogers with $149,254; K9 officer David Brown earned $147,819.
Superintendent of Schools John Macero earned $145,615. Followed by Police Chief Terence Delehanty at $144,570 and Fire Chief Paul Flanagan earning $137,072 during calendar year 2016.
Council removes tenniscourts from project
- After four meetings regarding the future of the tennis courts at the new high school on Main Street, the Town Council voted to save them for now until further study of the parking situation can be done.
Technically, the Town Council voted to remove the tennis court project from the Miller Field override project. The Miller Field override vote approved the spending of $9.8 million for a new football/multi-sport field, bleachers, track and other related projects.
- Five years ago there were two pairs of piping plovers on Winthrop Beach and last summer there were eight pairs. Now, the Department of Conservation and Recreation wants to increase the tiny bird’s nesting area on Winthrop Beach.
The Conservation Commission approved plans to enhance priority nest habits for shore birds such as piping plovers, killdeer and turins. The bird’s nesting areas are protected from April 1 to August 31.
According to Jorge Ayub, a coastal ecologist with DCR, the worksite will be about 1.9 acres. The work will take place on the beach between Ocean Avenue and Sturgis Street down near the shoreline.
School budget increases
- The School Committee is asking for $19,412,701 for the operating budget for fiscal year 2018, which begins July 1. This is a 6.7 percent increase from what they were allotted last year.
Ultimately the final budget decision is up to the Town Council. There are also mandated expenditures that need to be taken into consideration, such as ELL (English Language Learners) Services, out of district tuitions and transportation. The school budget makes up for 49.2 percent of the $46.7 million total town budget. Out of the $19,412,701 requested for the 2017-2018 school year, $14,743,509 will be dedicated to salaries.
Infrastructure work in the center
- Crews will begin work in the town center on Monday, March 27 as part of an infrastructure project to upgrade the French Square water, sewer, gas and electric.
The first utility involved will be National Grid, which will replace aged gas mains during the next four months. All gas lines and mains will be installed before service is switched over.
All of this is part of an estimated $3 million project. The Town is applying to the state for a grant that should cover much of the work. Town officials met twice in the past week with business owners to discuss the impact on the area.
- A working smoke detector would have made all the difference early Sunday morning when a well-known attorney perished in a smokey fire at 162 Winthrop Shore Drive.
Attorney Charles Balliro, 68, was trapped in a second floor bedroom where he was found unconscious on the floor. He was taken by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital where he passed away, apparently from smoke inhalation.
Second fire in town
- The second major fire in less than a week was sparked by a plumbers torch at 1000 Governors Park, according to Winthrop Fire Chief Paul Flanagan.
The chief said calls for fire in the building started coming in at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday. He explained that plumbers were doing work and ignited a partition and fire was introduced to the inside of the walls. It traveled to two condominiums and 25 people had to be immediately evacuated. Members of the Winthrop police started the evacuations but were called out of the building when the more got too thick. Firefighters with air masks took over.
The fire displaced a total of 51 people who were then assisted by the American Red Cross and the town’s Medical Reserve Corp.
New bus contract reached
- The MBTA has finalized a four-year contract with Paul Revere Bus Lines to continue service to the community of Winthrop.
Paul Revere Bus Lines have served Winthrop for several years and their current contract was set to expire June 30. Under the new contract, buses will be equipped with GPS tracking. Riders will be able to use their Charlie Card in town and anywhere in the regional system.
“We’re excited about our new buses,” said Brian Shortsleeve, general manager of the MBTA. “As of July 1, Winthrop will have six new buses on routes 712 and 713.”
Each bus cost the MBTA $750,000. The buses include GPS tracking so riders will be able to use the “Where’s My Bus” app to see where the bus is. The data collected will also be used by the MBTA for analysis.
The 712 bus runs between Point Shirley and Orients Heights in East Boston. The 713 bus runs on a shorter loop from Veterans Road to Orient Heights.
CBD master plan
- The Winthrop Town Council will hold a public hearing on the Center Business District Master Plan this coming Tuesday during its meeting at 7 p.m. With an accepted plan the town will be able to pursue a MassWorks grant to pay for the infrastructure work being done in the center.
For the past 10 months the town manager, town officials and the Economic Development Citizen’s Advisory Committee have been working on what is called a “master plan” for the Center Business District. Others have called the document a ‘vision.” But no matter what its called it shows what could be possible in the center.
Some of the challenges the town faces includes housing, urban design, transportation, infrastructure, climate change and seasonal fluctuations.
Four schemes for the area were presented and are available on the town’s website.
Master plan accepted
- For the first time in decades the Town now has a master plan for the center business district that will serve as a road map for the center’s future.
Before the unanimous vote, the council heard from two professionals who worked on the plan with the town, Mike Wang of Form + Place and Amanda Maher, vice president of real estate at Mass. Development. Playing another huge roll in the creation of the plan was the Town Council’s Economic Development Committee and the Economic Development Citizens Advisory Committee. Members of the committee, as well as members of the Planning Board, Board of Health, the Transportation Committee and School Committee were also there the support the plan.
“It was a good collaborative process,” said Town Council President Robert Driscoll Jr.
“We focused on the assets of the Center Business District, “ Wang said. “There is a tremendous opportunity to revitalize French Square.”
The master plan for the Center Business District and the old Middle School on Pauline Street contains suggestions on how to proceed. With the accepted master plan the Town will be able to pursue a MassWorks grant to pay for the infrastructure work currently being done in the center.
- The Board of Health has asked for a Deer Island representative to come to its April meeting to discuss plans for parking and a fish pier.
Fire Chief Paul Flanagan, who is the Town’s liaison to the MWRA, said plans for the fishing pier have been put on hold by the Massachusetts Fish and Game because funding has been pulled.
“And I don’t see it coming up this year,” Flanagan said.
He explained that the fishing at Deer Island is known as some of the best around for striped bass. The proposed 42-space parking lot would not be paved and only be open during fishing season from mid-May to mid-October. There are currently 28 public spaces at Deer Island.
Searching for a Super
- As of the April 7 deadline, there have been two internal applicants for the school superintendent position. On a mission to speed up the process and get qualified candidates, the School Committee has consulted with the MASC (Massachusetts Association of School Committees) and they have posted an interim candidate search that will include both internal and external candidates. The application deadline is May 3.
Executive Director of MASC, Glen Koocher, will be conducting group interviews during the first week of May and the community is encouraged to attend and participate.
MassPort working on runways
- MassPort is working on its runway and facilities and for a period of time the runway will be shut down, forcing airplanes to use alternative runways.
At Tuesday night’s town council meeting Flavio Leo, director of aviation planning for MassPort, said they are undergoing a construction project for safety reasons and from May 15 to the end of June there may be some disruption in air traffic patterns. This will cause more flights to go over the Point Shirley area of town. Two runways will operate during this time with the other route going over South Boston.
“We are rehabilitation a runway and replacing the pier at the end of another runway,” Leo said, adding that there are cranes being used on the pier construction. During this time the runway will not be in use due to the height of the cranes. MassPort is hopeful to have all construction at Logan Airport completed in September.
Leo said the work would be done during daylight hours and there will be dedicated truck routes to lessen any traffic impact. The flight patterns will also vary depending on wind and weather.
Councilor Phil Boncore asked about MassPorts soundproofing program. Leo said there are no plans now but in the past, over 25 years ago, they did do soundproofing by replacing windows.
“We were the first airport to do soundproofing,” Leo said.
MassPort shared its telephone number for complaints if anything should arise. The number is 617-568-3711.
Moving some docks
- The Conservation Commission has approved a notice of intent from the Pleasant Park Yacht Club, 562 Pleasant St., to move around some docking areas at its marina.
Jim Prendergast, president of the Board of Directors for the club, said since the club’s expansion eight years ago the opening for boats coming into the boat slip area is not wide enough and moving the slips will create more space for the boaters to maneuver. The club will also be removing a fueling dock, freeing up a 120 feet once used for tying up. The club will also add three “finger” floats and an 8 feet by 8 feet float. The work will also entail moving 17 existing pilings, made of 12-inch pressure treated pilings. Once completed the new area will be able to accommodate 25 boats.
- Lt. Frank Scarpa wishes he could serve a few more years with the Winthrop Police Department but state law mandates that he retire at the age of 65.
Scarpa retires officially after Sunday from the Winthrop Police Department after 40 years on the force. He started as a reserve officer in July 1977 patrolling Point Shirley. Within months he was evacuating people with the National Guard during the Blizzard of ’78.
“I don’t want to retire but I have to,” Scarpa said, adding that he hopes to stay involved doing a detail or two around town.
Annual town budget increases by 4.8 percent
- Town Manager James McKenna presented the FY18 town budget of $59.45 million to the Town Council at the annual Spring Forum on Tuesday night, a 4.8 percent increase over the FY17 budget of $56.71 million.
The manager presented a balanced budget as required by law. The council has 45 days to vote on whether or not to accept the budget and will hold a public hearing on the budget at its May 23 meeting.
“The Winthrop economy is improving but we can’t expect to see results as in past years,” said CFO Michael Perez, adding that the Town took more from free cash this year. “The school budget requests also exceeded our recommendation.”
The School Department has a $4.9 percent increase over the FY17 budget.
Superintendent of Schools John Macero acknowledged the schools received a $1million more in the FY18 budget but it is needed. There are increased costs in special education, mainly due to transportation costs, and the school district must offer competitive salaries for its teachers to stay in Winthrop Public Schools.
Miller Field demo begins
- Crews began last week demolishing the old Miller Field and this week onlookers could see the field house come down and a section of the home-side bleachers.
James Letterie, co-chair of the Miller Field Committee along with Vin Crossman, said everything is on target for Thanksgiving Day game against Revere on a new Miller Field. All the demolition is expected to be completed by May 16. The demolition of the track will be done in the middle of June.
“I’m still confident about the Thanksgiving Day game, but there will not be a field house by then,” Letterie said.
Letterie said turf will be put down on the field in late September or early October. The blue and gold colors have been selected for the end zones. One end zone will say, “Winthrop” and the other “Vikings.”
The $9.8 million project promises a multi-use field, a regulation size track, bleachers, press box and field house.
- The School Committee began interviewing candidates for the Interim Superintendent post to fill in between the time Superintendent of Schools John Macero leaves in June and a new superintendent who will be selected begins in 2018.
The School Committee on Monday night interviewed internal candidates, Curriculum Director Frank Woods and Cummings School Principal Ryan Heraty, and the committee will interview outside candidates on May 15 and May 22.
Both candidates answered mostly the same questions about budgets, bargaining, working relationships, special education, class size and curriculum.
- Town Council President Robert Driscoll Jr. shocked the council and more than 30 people attending the Tuesday night Town Council meeting at the senior center when he announced he was resigning.
Driscoll calmly relayed what had happened. He attended a School Committee meeting where an interim Superintendent of Schools was selected with a 4-3 vote. He was home between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. the next morning. As he drove to work his car felt “wobbly” and he almost stuck a parked car. He then discovered he had a flat tire. At the mechanics, it was discovered that a screw had been twisted into the tire.
“An actual screw in my tire,” he said. “The car could have been driven by any of my family members. I have a line I draw. I will not have my family threatened.”
He talked about the process to select an interim Superintendent of School and the items posted on social media regarding process, one, written by School Committee chair Dawn Sullivan, which slammed members of the committee. She signed it #fedup and #exhausted.
“Tonight I’m resigning from this position immediately,” Driscoll said. “I apologize to everyone who has supported me, but there’s an element in the town that is negative and violent. We volunteer to do this and to put up with that kind of crap is ridiculous.”
He then gathered his belongings and headed out the door with an escort to his car from Police Chief Terence Delehanty.
Councilor Russ Sanford immediately became the council president and Councilor Phil Boncore was selected as vice president.
McKenna steps down
- Town Manager James McKenna has one year left in his contract and he has announced that he will not seek a renewal in an interview with The Sun Transcript on Tuesday night.
The announcement was made last week at a department heads meeting. McKenna said he makes the announcement with a heavy heart. He has been the Town Manager since 2009.
“I’m invested in the community and have gained tremendous professional experience here,” McKenna said. “It’s time for me to pursue a profession I have often thought about – teaching.”
Although he has no firm teaching plans he said it is something he wants to pursue.
“I want to move into that space for the next phase of my life,” he said. “I feel I have given my all and the community is far better off than when I arrived in 2009.”
McKenna, who pulls a $150,000 salary has enjoyed his time getting to know residents.
Sanford becomes Council President
- Russ Sanford had little time to prepare when he found out he would be the next Town Council President over a week ago, but he’s taken the reigns and plans on making sure the business of the council moves forward.
“We had no idea. It was quite a shock to everyone,” Sanford said.
The former Precinct 5 Councilor has moved forward and taken out nomination papers for Town Council President election on Nov. 7. Councillor Rich Boyagian has also taken out nomination papers.
Sanford is one of the original people to collect signatures and served on the Charter Commission when the current form of government was put into place in 2005.
Belle Isle March project breaks ground
- Last Friday afternoon Lt. Governor Karyn Polito joined Town Manager Jim McKenna, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, Town Council President Russ Sanford and Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Commissioner Leo Roy in a celebratory gathering of the groundbreaking at the Belle Isle Marsh.
The Seaport Economic Council has given the Town of Winthrop a total investment of $1.2 million since 2015, which will be dedicated to constructing a pier supported walkway and a marine ecology park that will border the marsh.
Upon completion, which is scheduled for October 2018, the park and walking path will have viewing stations along the Belle Isle Marsh, at the northern edge of Winthrop. In 2016, DCR and the Town of Winthrop launched a license that would allow the town’s use of the land, and the plans will align with the 2014 Strategic Economic Development Plan and the Open Space and Recreation Plan. The hope is to identify the marsh as a location for recreational and educational enhancements, which will benefit the community.
WHS graduates 108 students
- Being the first to host their graduation in the new high school/middle school gym was one of the many things that the class of 2017 had to brag about and they were quite deserving of the sophisticated event. Not only did the 108 graduates have to change school buildings three times in four years of their education, but also they did so with remarkable patience and few complaints.
Facebook posts causes a stir in town
- Due to the controversy that has resulted from a Facebook post, many town residents and School Committee members have requested that Dawn Sullivan, chair of the School Committee, be removed from her position.
Sullivan lashed out on her fellow committee members in a Facebook post that some are deeming as “cyber bullying,” several have come forward stating that she is not fit to be on a committee whose main purpose is to set an example for students.
“Dawn has failed as a leader and I for one do not want her to speak for me,” said resident Sheryl Howard.
Several residents have agreed that Sullivan’s behavior should not be tolerated and that if this type of social media outburst goes unpunished, it is not setting a good example for students.
Sullivan did not attend Friday night’s high school graduation.
Tall Ships are coming
- The Sail Boston event takes place June 17-22 but the big event, the Parade of Sails, will be June 17 with 49 boats from around the world and a U.S. Navy vessel. There will also be a U.S. Navy flyover. Ships are expected the be in full sail and then drop their sails after Deer Island as they head in to Boston Harbor. The stage is set for Sail Boston’s Parade of Sail this Saturday and security measures are being put in place to make sure everyone has a good time.
The best bet for seeing the ships is by parking on Veterans Road, around the new middle/high school, or at Ingleside Park where there will be shuttle buses to go to the viewing area. Access to Deer Island, the premiere site for viewing will be limited to foot traffic and bicycles only. From the point of Deer Island spectators will be 1,200 feet away from the ships. It’s advised to bring a pair of binoculars or a really good camera.
Tafts Street will be closed off at Elliot Street. All Fourth of July protocols will be in place. Residents have a special sticker for the event to move in and out of the neighborhood. Anyone without a sticker will just have to show identification.
There will be closures of roads as-needed.
Christopher appointed to council
- For the next six months Peter Christopher will have a secure seat on the Town Council, and then he’ll have to face an election race for to keep it.
Tuesday night the council voted 6-2 for Christopher to fill the vacant Precinct 5 seat. Also considered for the seat was Steve Koutalakis from Bartlett Road. Both men have taken out nomination papers for the November election.
The seat was once held by Russ Sanford, who had also been the council vice president. When Robert Driscoll Jr. stepped down Sanford became president of the Council, leaving the opening in Precinct 5.
Christopher lives on Cottage Park Road and his family is known for Christopher’s Flowers in the town center.
Idea for a community center
- A self-appointed committee of Winthrop residents have come forward to pitch the conceptual idea of the Eruzione Community Center, complete with a new ice rink and housing on the site of the old middle school on Pauline Street.
Tuesday might Mike Eruzione and Joe Aiello gave a presentation to the Town Council to introduce the idea. Eruzione said the plan would be to take down the old school and the Larsen Rink, build a community center, a new rink and four-story housing and retail space on the Walden Street side. There would also be townhouse type housing on the Wheelock/Brookfield side of the property.
Inside the community center would be a lap size swimming pool, a gymnasium and offices.
“Kids will have a place to go,” Eruzione said, adding that his daughter works with CASA and having a place to hang out is something young people would like.
“Nothing is cast in concrete,” Aiello said. He suggested that the council appoint a committee to work on this.
Eruzione said he was approached by Council President Russ Sanford about the idea and he is honored to have his name associated with the project.
“Right now no one has come forward with an idea for the property,” Sanford said.
Project to start on Winthrop Shore Drive
- Construction crews are ready to start on a $10 million project to improve areas around Winthrop Beach on Shore Drive.
While the Department of Recreation and Conservation (DCR) has made a presentation on this project in the past, DCR came back last Wednesday night to show people once again the work that will be done along Winthrop Beach for the next two years.
The DCR already previously spent $25,000 on the re-nourishment of Winthrop Beach, including the addition of cobbles to fend off damage from waves.
“We’ve been balancing recreation and protecting birds,” said DCR Commissioner Leo Roy, who came to help ease residents into this next project.
Work during the project will include sidewalks, roadway, drainage and storm water management. MDR Construction will be doing the work. The project will also improve accessibility making everything ADA compliant, oceanside lighting will be installed and a Winthrop Shore gateway at the north end of the beach will be built. Work will also include the replacement of a troublesome water main.
Old Fashioned day at the beach
- There is nothing like a day at the beach, especially when its right in your town. Beachgoers will gather at Yirrell Beach on July 15 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for an Old Fashioned Beach Day, organized by the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce and the Winthrop Market Place.
Betsy Shane, executive director of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, said there will be games and fun for all including frisbee, football and corn hole toss. There will also be two water slides (the most popular event, raffles and food supplied by the Winthrop Market place. For Kids Only will also provide some games. There will also be an adult spelling bee.
Get ready for water balloons and the famed slip and slide.
Tear it down
- The Economic Development Citizens Advisory Committee has voted to advise the Town Council to go ahead and tear down the old middle school on Pauline Street and move forward with a proposal to redevelop the site.
A few weeks ago an unofficial citizens group presented the Town Council with a plan to develop a community center and ice rink on the spot where the old middle school stands.
Olympic hockey great Mike Eruzione and Joe Aiello gave the presentation to the Town Council a couple weeks ago to introduce the idea.
Moratorium on courts
- The Save Our Courts Committee filed a memorandum of understanding with the Town Council regarding the tennis courts at the new high school.
The council acknowledged receipt of the MoU and said there was no urgency on the matter. The MoU asks for a two-year moratorium on any changes to the tennis courts at the high school so that traffic, parking and safety issues can be worked on.
In February the council voted for a one-year moratorium on the tennis court/parking issue, opting to wait a year so the parking patterns can be observed throughout the entire year. This will allow for parking patterns to be established when baseball is played, Miller Field is in use and high school parking.
Howard take over as interim super
- Interim School Superintendent Lisa Howard shared her plans for the future of the district at last Monday night’s School Committee meeting. One of her many goals is to evaluate the loss of the Curriculum Director position. “I think it’s critical to compare the impact and losses of the position,” said Howard, who will have the responsibility of designating the past director’s responsibilities amongst the principals, herself and other staff from the central office.
Howard plans on looking deeper into the various subjects and evaluate what has been done in the past and what can benefit the district going forward. In addition to this challenging task, Howard is on a mission to develop an understanding of the district’s school culture, establish her presence in the community, identify critical procedural needs and open up conversations with people. One of the ways that she is immersing herself into the district is by scheduling meetings with both individuals and groups in the community.
Governor visits center
- It was more than appropriate to stand in French Square Friday at high noon for the announcement of a $2.38 million MassWorks grant for the town’s center business district infrastructure work.
Joining Gov. Charlie Baker in making the announcement was Winthrop resident and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo, State Sen. Joseph Boncore and Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash.
“Today is the beginning of the Winthrop renaissance,” said Town Council President Russ Sanford.
“We want a vital, vibrant center,” said Town Manager James McKenna. “The Town Council has worked hard for this for years. In time the center will have a whole new look.”
Ash said the grant was part of the Commonwealth’s Economic Development bill. He added that the agency supports good local efforts and are willing to work with the town to work through a plan for development. The development of the center has long been in the works and holding it back was needed infrastructure work on water, sewer and gas lines. The center had a change in zoning three years ago for mixed use development with retail on the bottom and residential on top. The MassWorks grant is the result of the work done on the master plan for the Center Business District.
Town loses a rock
- Winthrop has lost the rock of senior activities at the Robert DeLeo Senior Center.
Nancy Williams, 68, died of cancer on July 26. She had been involved in the senior center community as its director for 25 years that was first located in an old church on the site if the current Cummings School.
She was instrumental for raising funds for the new senior center on Harvard Street.
“I am devastated by the passing of Nancy Williams,” said Speaker of the House and Winthrop resident Robert DeLeo. “She was not only a dear friend of mine, but a friend to all of Winthrop. She challenged all of us to be better to one and other, give more of ourselves, and approach our work with generosity and empathy. In short, Nancy was an inspiration both to me and to many in our community.”
Williams was known for her smile and her humor. She was courageous and funneled her personal experiences into supporting others. She was a breast cancer survivor and spoke at the local Women’s Health Forum about her experience. Williams was also a member of Survivors By The Sea, a local cancer support network. Williams had also served on the Board of Directors for CASA as president.
Traffic study gearing up
- Business owners and residents are getting ready for a traffic study that’s going to test the traffic flow with a few changes to the French Square and center in general.
The study will run from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 and will close Hagman Road, reverse the direction on Adams Street, make Jefferson Street extension a one-way towards Putnam and allow a left hand turn at the end of Woodside by Cervizzis, to allow vehicles to go up Bartlett Road. The egress at Citizens Bank on Putnam Road will be flipped and jersey barriers will be placed in areas for pedestrian traffic. The Hagman Road parking lot will be redesigned, losing 12 parking spaces along Hagman Road. There are 643 parking spaces in Winthrop Center, which covers an extensive area around the center. The study never saw the light of day when residents opposed.
Raise tobacco buying age
- Winthrop’s Board of Health (BOH) is looking into the idea of raising the tobacco buying age to 21 in Winthrop. But, the beginnings of the discussion hit a rocky road with differing opinions at its July meeting two weeks ago. At this week’s Tuesday night’s meeting, there was a noted absence of the chairman of the board, Nick LoConte, although no one seemed to know why.
According to the minutes of the July 24 meeting, the board had invited Bonny Carroll, director of the Six City Tobacco Initiative to talk about tobacco cessation and tobacco policies in town. She introduced the town officials to the Tobacco 21 program, which is a town by town statewide effort to raise the age of purchasing tobacco to 21. Revere is one of the 151communities that have raised the tobacco buying age to 21.
Health department restructured
- Residents seeking the town’s health department will soon find it restructured and renamed the Office of Public Health and Social Services.
Tuesday night Town Manager James McKenna told the town council that is was time to reorganize the health department due to the expanse of what it has to cover. Health related licensing and enforcement will be with the Office of Commission of Inspectional Services.
Under the new administration there will be a new director of public health to oversee the department.
Included in this reorganization are the town’s recovery coaches for the CLEAR program. The new office will oversee this program. The new person will oversee the Substance Use Disorder Program, the public health nurse, coordinate the annual flu clinic and other health clinics, disease monitoring and control services, mental health disorder monitoring and services, and collaborate with the town’s public safety team as needed. Also work with the new director of the Regional Health Initiative with Revere and Chelsea.
McKenna becomes consultant
- At the end of the month Town Manager James McKenna will step down from his leadership position and become a consultant to the town until his contract expires in May, 2018.
McKenna made the announcement at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting.
McKenna said this begins the transition process. After he steps aside as town manager, the council is tasked with appointing a temporary, 90-day interim town manager. Then the task for the town council will be to hire a permanent town manager.
CASA kicks off awareness event
- September is Recovery Awareness month and to kick it off CASA will hold a special event to raise awareness.
Thursday night August 31 a rally will be held on the town hall lawn from 6-8 pm.
Last year CASA held a similar event called the Fed Up rally. This year’s event grows from that and is called a Stepped Up Rally. Proving the fact that last year people were Fed Up and this year it’ll be shown how the town of Winthrop has stepped up to the challenge of combatting opioid use and addiction.
“We stepped up with a positive message and give hope,” said LeighAnn Eruzione of CASA. “We are the only city or town in Massachusetts that has signed on with the National fed Up organization.”
The rally will include speakers in recovery and families who have lost loved ones. Across the town hall steps will be numerous pairs of new sneakers. The sneakers will later be donated to people in local recovery homes. Inside the sneakers will be a note of encouragement.
“There is still time to donate new sneakers or lightly worn ones,” Eruzione said.
In honor of Nancy Williams, who was a board member with CASA, there will also be a release of hundreds of butterflies at sunset.
Blighter properties no more
- Nobody wants to live next to a blighted property or one that has been taken over by a bank and left to fester. To combat the problem, Al Legee, head of the Inspectional Services Department and his staff have been working together with police and fire to get a grip on these properties.
Police Chief Terence Delehanty is credited with starting the receivership program with a property on Moore Street being the first on the list. Since then there have been 49 cases in Winthrop with the first one being a house with a hoarding problem. The program was able to help the elderly woman and get her into a nursing home.
In the three years since the formation of the Task Force, Delehanty and Fire Chief Paul Flanagan have investigated numerous property. Working through this program reduces the number of calls to the police and fire departments, as well as children partying in a vacant home and using candles.
Top cop becomes manager
- In a very supportive atmosphere, Police Chief Terence Delehanty has been appointed to serve as the Interim Town Manager for a three-month period.
Tuesday night, the Town Council held an executive session meeting for the purposes of discussing personnel issues. When they emerged into public session they announced that Delehanty will fill in with the Town Manager duties, at the same time he will remain the chief of police.
“It’s a good choice. Terry will do a great job,” said Councilor Paul Varone.
Deputy Chief John Goodwin, who left the Revere Police Department a few months ago to join the Winthrop police, will continue in his position and help manage the department. Part of his job description states that he will step up in the absence of the police chief.
Delehanty takes over for former Town Manager James McKenna, whose last day was on Tuesday, and will stay on as a consultant to the town until May when his contract runs out. He has served as town manager for the past nine years.
Delehanty will keep his $160,000 salary with no increase for dual duty.
Residents peeved about Hagman Road
- Winthrop business owners and residents have submitted a petition to the town council regarding to potential closing of Hagman Road in the town center.
Petitioners are asking for Hagman Road not to be closed because it would impact their businesses and associated parking. Petitioners state that “citizens continue to be unaware of the factual details surrounding the closing of Hagman Road.”
The petition cites its main reason for opposition is the loss of approximately 42 parking spaces.
James Murray, of Andiamo’s New Image at 92 Jefferson St., was amongst the small group which submitted a 200-signature petition to the council during a quick meeting last week.
Remembering World War II Soldier Andrew Biggio
- Private first class Andrew Giovanni Biggio was like a lot of young men during World War II, eager to serve his country, but sadly he did not make it back to continue on with life in Winthrop.
Biggio was killed in action in Italy on Sept. 17, 1944.
This weekend the loss of Pfc. Biggio will be marked by the dedication of a memorial square at the intersection of Main Street and Herman Street at 10 a.m. Speaking at the dedication will be special guest Brigadier General Jon A. Jensen, Commander, “Red Bull Division” of the 34th Infantry Division Saint Paul, Minnesota. Joining him will be Gov. Charlie Baker, state Sen. Joseph Boncore, Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and director of Winthrop veterans service Roseann Mazzuchelli.
Work toward raising tobacco age continues
- The Board of Health continues to discuss steps toward raising the tobacco buying age to 21 and Tuesday night they went over the regulations that would have to be changed to adopt the Tobacco 21 program being considered and passed by numerous cities and towns in the Commonwealth.
Bonny Carroll, director of the Six City Tobacco Initiative, is working on draft regulations for the Board of Health.
Tobacco 21 program, a town by town statewide effort to raise the age of purchasing tobacco to 21. Revere is one of the communities that has raised the tobacco buying age to 21.
“One of the issues of raising the age to 21 is that you can be 18 to enter the military, but you are not able to buy tobacco,” Carroll said. “These regulations are the ones implemented when smoking in the workplace was banned.”
If adopted the regulation would contain 22 regulations, 14 that the town of Winthrop already has. In considering a tobacco policy, Winthrop would need to adopt new regulations, such as raising the buying age to 21; not renewing tobacco sale permits if there have been three illegal sales to minors; tobacco permits could not be issued to any business within 500 feet of a school; no permits within 500 feet of another tobacco retailer; limit flavored tobacco products to adult only retail tobacco stores; ban the sale of blunt wraps (often used by marijuana users); and no sales of tobacco in health-care institutions, including pharmacies. There was also discussion about pricing for cigar sales.
Freeman rescues girl
- The Department of Children and Families, along with the Winthrop police, are investigating how a three-year-old girl wandered from her nearby home to Winthrop Beach where she fell in and was saved from drowning by a Winthrop police officer.
Officer James Freeman, who has been with the Winthrop Police Department for 15 years, was working a detail on Winthrop Shore Drive near Dolphin Avenue when one of the workers alerted him to the little girl walking alone at the water’s edge with her dog. At 10:31 a.m. Freeman radioed for assistance.
Freeman was a little cautious at first since the girl was with a protective pit bull. As he approached the girl followed the dog into the water. She fell over before going further into the water. Freeman jumped in and pulled her to safety.
Parking expert visits
- Parking is a hot topic these days, and not only in Winthrop, but all across the area cities and towns are adapting to increase parking issues.
Jason Schrieber, a parking and transportation expert with Nelson/Nygaard, was invited to speak by Julia Wallerace of the town’s Transportation Committee.
Schrieber’s talk called, “Downtown Parking Successes and Failures: Examples from New England Communities” focused on other communities, but did share a few observances on Winthrop.
Those in attendance were told the Thursday evening event was not a public hearing about parking in the center, and more about looking at parking and the solutions some communities have come up with.
Clerk finalizes nominations
Town Clerk Carla Vitale has finalized the nominations for the Nov. 7 ballot. The following candidates are running for office.
Running for Council President are Richard N. Boyajian, Jeffrey Rosario Turco and Ronald V. Vecchia.
For Councilor at Large: Michael P. Lucerto and Robert A. DeMarco are running.
For Councilor in Precinct 1 Michael McDuffee will run unopposed, as will Nick LoConte who will run unopposed in Precinct 3.
There is a race for Councilor in Precinct 5 between Peter Christopher and Steve Koutalakis.
Running for Housing Authority are Frederick Silck III, Peter Gill, Maria Matarazzo, Peter Burke Jr. and Vincent Wisniewski Jr.
Candidates for School Committee are James Fabiano, Jennifer Powell, John Lyons and Brian Perrin.
Running for Library Trustee are Virginia Wallace, Gillian Teixeira and Betty Peabody.
Search for the next town manager
- The Town Council has chosen UMass-Boston Collins Center to be the search firm for the next Town Manager.
The council received two proposals for the search firm, the other one being from Ryan Strategies which had a bid of $23,000, well over the $10,000 bid from UMass-Boston. The town had budgeted $24,500 for the job.
Now that the firm is in place, the town is going ahead with creating a Search Committee. The public is encouraged to apply to be on the committee through the Town Clerk’s office, and Town Clerk Carla Vitale said several people have come forward so far.
Council President Russ Sanford said price was not the only factor in choosing UMass-Boston. The fact that the Collins Center has worked before with the town also helped. Sanford added he would prefer a seven-member committee instead of five.
Weather one-two punch
- Winthrop got hit with a one-two punch this past weekend, with torrential rain that caused epic flooding on Saturday and a massive power outage most of Sunday.
The deluge began Saturday morning around 8 a.m. Just as a higher than usual high tide was settling in, Mother Nature unleashed up to four inches of rain in just over an hour. The result was the creation of a few deep ponds in the Winthrop Center area. At Putnam and Jefferson Streets the water was up to four feet deep and actually floated a couple of cars down the street. Firefighters and police made their ways to seemingly abandoned vehicles but in some found waterlogged drivers.
Some of the flooded streets were Walden, Putnam, Jefferson, Bartlett, Crest Avenue. Residents all around low lying areas found themselves pumping out basements, and seeing if submerged cars still worked.
Motor vehicles were stuck on Putnam Street, Walden Street and Crest Avenue. The basement was flooded at Governor’s Park resulting in a shutdown of electricity.
At 8:03 a.m. there was a report of vehicle and the driver being trapped in the flood waters of Crest Avenue. Firefighters, DPW and police went to the corner of Winthrop Street and Madison Avenue for an electrical issue. Several cars trapped in water were towed when the waters receded
Fire injures man
- A 66-year old Winthrop man remains in the hospital with serious injuries he received in a devastating 2-alarm fire early Sunday morning at 455 Pleasant St.
Winthrop Fire Chief Paul Flanagan said the alarm came in around 12:30 a.m. after several calls from the neighborhood complaining of the smell of smoke in the area.
- Winthrop residents may get a chance to vote on a potential ban of recreational marijuana shops, its just a matter of when.
At Tuesday nights meeting of the Town Council, discussions were held about recreational marijuana. Councillor Nick DelVento proposed a one-year moratorium on pot shops in Winthrop. He thinks that there should be a moratorium on zoning, licensing, permitting or opening a facility in Winthrop until Oct. 2, 2018.
DelVento said a moratorium gives lots of options and doors to a lot of options while regulations in the Commonwealth and locally are being written. In Revere, officials have not completed their work yet and state regulations are due in April 2018.
Town Manager/Police Chief Terence Delehanty said a year is reasonable, the town can’t go much beyond a year.
Public Safety Building Needed
- Fire Chief Paul Flanagan could not stress enough the need for a public safety building that could house the police and fire departments at the Fall Forum on Tuesday night.
The town manager and the town council held the annual Fall Forum with topics ranging from the Fire Department to changes in the health department to human resources and problem properties. Town employees had the opportunity to explain the work that they have been doing for the past year, including research into the possibility of building either a new fire station or public safety building.
Over the years, feasibility studies have been done and money spent to study the need for a new station but none have come to fruition. Two of the more recent studies took place in 1993 and 1997.The Pauline Street fire station was built in 1889, and the Winthrop Beach fire station on Shirley Street was built in 1904. The police station was the old town Post Office that was acquired in 1993.
Police Chief Terence Delehanty said his new deputy chief has an office in a conference room, the detective unit is not handicap accessible.
Ferry report released
- The annual ferry report is also out, and showing a roller coaster of ticket sales from 2,295 in FY16 and ticket sales income of $19,306. In FY 17 12,652 tickets were sold with an income of $104,455 and 8,015 tickets were sold so far in FY18 with an income of $56,671.
“I, as well as the prior Town Manager feel a ferry service is not practical without subsidies,” Town Manager Terence Delehanty wrote in the report. “We have heard a lot of discussion about ferry services and subsidies at the State House as well as references in the nautical periodicals that show a growing interest to subsidize ferry services.”
Delehanty added that he believes instead of using town resources to fund the ferry operations that the town should look to state or private subsidizes. in the first year of operation the town kicked in a subsidy of of $50,000. In FY17 the town kicked in $100,000 in subsidies and a $100,000 subsidy from the town and $150,000 from the state department of revenue.
The FY17 budget for the ferry was $392,350 and in FY18 the ferry budget was $419,000.
- Board of Health chairman Nick LoConte abruptly resigned Tuesday night stating he wants to focus on his potentially upcoming seat on the Town Council.
LoConte has been a Board of Health for the better part of three years and is running unopposed for Precinct 3 on the Town Council.
In the past few months there has been some friction on the board. Much of it began in July after a heated discussion with a doctor from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
At Tuesday’s meeting, in a prepared statement, LoConte thanked those he had worked with in the past, including Heather Engman, Tracey Honan, Al LeGee, Meredith Hurley and Deanna Faretra and Peter Gill, who appointed LoConte to the Board of Health.
LoConte noted that he was proud to have led a successful campaign to end styrofoam to-go containers.
Before he left the meeting, LoConte urged current board members to “exercise restraint as they contemplate one of the most restrictive municipal tobacco regulations in all of Massachusetts that would raise the tobacco buying age to 21 and other restrictions that will make it more difficult for small businesses to thrive in Winthrop.”
Teaming up with neighboring cities
- Health officials and other stakeholders from Winthrop, Revere and Chelsea gathered Wednesday morning at the E. B. Newton Center to share ideas on the three communities working in collaboration on health issues.
This was the first meeting of the newly formed North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative, headed up by Jeff Stone, who’s been on the job for a few months. The goal of the collaborative is to pool the resources of the three communities to tackle health issues such as childhood obesity and substance abuse.
Representatives from MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital), EBNHC (East Boston Neighborhood Health Center), NSMHA (North Suffolk Mental Health Associates), Cambridge Health Alliance and CAPIC shared their insights as did the creators of the collaborative, former Winthrop Town Manager James McKenna and Chelsea Mayor Tom Ambrosino. Mayor Brian Arrigo also attended and embraces the idea of working together.
Others in attendance included Revere Cares, the Winthrop and Chelsea boards of health, public health nurses, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Revere on the Move, and the Winthrop and Revere chambers of commerce, the department of public health, police and other officials.
Stone shared information about upcoming programs on various issues including, workshops for school food providers, a breakfast with the chambers of commerce from all three communities focusing on the opioid crisis and the impact on businesses and employees, a training program for the building trades and more.
Council President race goes to recount
It looks like the race for Town Council President will go to to a recount with an 11-vote difference between the two candidates.
Attorney Jeff Turco earned 1,980 votes and School Committee member and apparent winner Ron Vecchia gained 1,991 votes in one of the closest Winthrop elections in recent memory. A third candidate for council president, Councilor Rich Boyajian tallied 584 votes definitely adding to the closeness of the race.
Turco has to file a petition with 10 signatures from each precinct with the town clerk by 5 p.m. next Friday, Nov. 17. The there are several procedures until a date is set for the recount.
In the School Committee race for three seats, incumbent Brian Perrin topped the ticket with 2,721 votes. Newcomer James Fabiano had 2,686 votes. Newcomer Jen Powell earned 2,527 votes. Newcomer John Lyons took 2,054 votes but fell short of making the cut.
In the councilor at large race, Mike Lucerto earned 2,379 votes over candidate Rob DeMarco who earned 1,799 votes.
In the library trustee race for three seats, Gillian Teixeira topped the ticket with 3,222 votes. Virginia Wallace earned 3,093 and Betty Peabody drew 3,042 votes.
In the race for Winthrop Housing Authority, voters were asked to fill two seats. Peter Gill topped the ticket with 2,595 votes, Fred Silck garnered 2,045. Candidates who also showed well were Marie Matarazzo with 1,173 votes; Peter Burke Jr. with 1,095 votes and Vincent Wisniewski Jr. with 357 votes.
In the council precinct races, Precinct 1 newcomer Michael McDuffee ran uncontested and earned 665 votes.
In Precinct 3, former Board of Health Chairman Nick LoConte also ran unopposed and earned 466 votes.
In the contested Precinct 5 race, rookie council member Peter Christopher kept his seat with 667 votes over challenger Stephen Koutalakis who earned 248 votes.
Town Clerk Carla Vitale said voter turnout before the polls closed seemed to be higher than the local election of 2015. She noted that 4,596 people came out to vote on Tuesday out of 12,318 registered voters in Winthrop, or roughly 37 percent.
Results of the election are posted on the town website and there is a link on the Town Clerk’s Facebook entry.
Turbo calls for recount
- Council President candidate Jeff Turco has filed papers with the Town Clerk Carla Vitale to call for a recount in the council president race between him, Ron Vecchia and Rich Boyajian. But the date for the recount has not been chosen yet.
The results of the election held last week showed Vecchia finishing with 1,991 votes, Turco garnering 1,980 votes and Boyajian with 584 votes.
Vitale said the Board of Registrars has not yet set a date for the recount. Vitale said she believes they are hoping for a day in the last week of November.
- School Committee member Laura Callis recently resigned from her position on the Committee, and the board is searching for a qualified candidate to fill her spot for the remaining two years of the term. For nearly two years, Callis dedicated her time as a committee member and was assigned to several subcommittees including budget, curriculum, and policy.
Ballots counted, recount begins
The recount in the race for Town Council President will commence Monday, Nov. 27 at 10 a.m. in the Harvey Hearing Room, lower level of Town Hall, where the ballots will be counted and stacked in groups of 50.
The real fun begins Tuesday, Nov. 28 at the Winthrop Elks Club when roughly 20 people in teams of two get down to counting each ballot by hand and inspecting each vote.
The recount is being conducted by the Board of Registrar of Voters for the Town Council President race between Ron Vecchia, Jeff Turco and Rich Boyajian held on Nov. 7.
Turco called for the recount when election day results showed Vecchia finishing with 1,991 votes, Turco garnering 1,980 votes and Boyajian with 584 votes.
Boards meet but don’t decide on filling school vacancy
- In a joint meeting Monday evening, the Town Council and School Committee were expected to chose a candidate to fill a vacancy on the School Committee, but decided to hold off until the Dec. 19 meeting.
The vacancy comes after the resignation of School Committee member Laura Callis, who is moving out of Winthrop. Her term expires in 2020 and an election to fill the seat will be in November 2019.
Six candidates have applied for the position, which will go into effect as soon as the final decision is made. The candidates include past committee member, Gus Martucci, Ronald Vitale Jr., Suzanne Swope, Gary Schoales, Shauna Hodge-Barnett and recent ballot candidate, John Lyons.
- After hours of recounting the ballots one by one, the Town Board of Registrars has declared Ron Vecchia the Town Council President elect, still by 11 votes. He will be sworn in in January.
A recount of the Nov. 7 election was called for by candidate Jeff Turco after results showed just an 11 vote difference between him and Vecchia. In the election Vecchia finished with 1,991 votes, Turco with 1,980 votes and Rich Boyajian earned 584 votes.
The results of the recount showed Vecchia with picking up seven of his 1,998 votes; Turco also picked up seven with 1,987 votes and Boyajian picked up one of his 585 votes.
On Monday, a crew of workers and observers packed the Harvey Hearing Room to watch ballots counted out in batches of 50. Tuesday the action moved to the Winthrop Elks Hall where the counting of votes truly began.
Assessed values on the rise
- In the new year, property owners can look look forward to a 8.6 percent increase in the assessed value of their home.
The average single family home in fiscal year 2017 was valued at $386,429 and for FY18 it is valued at $419,931. The average residential tax bill will increase by $378.
Deputy Assessor Stephen Roche presented a report to the Town Council Tuesday night. He said the town did go through a revaluation during the last three years. Due to a change in state law the next revaluation is five years away. During the revaluation over 4,000 parcels of property were looked at.
The Board of Assessors must determine the classification of all real property as of Jan. 1, 2018. There are five classes of property: residential, open space, commercial, industrial and personal property.
The tax rate for FY17 was $14.41 and, with Department of Revenue approval, the FY18 tax rate will be $14.16, a 1.7 percent decrease.
Voices heard on development
- In the last few months, anytime there is a Town Council meeting the residents and business owners in the central business district stand up and voice their concerns about their neighborhood.
Resident Mary Alice Sharkey said that she is “pro” development within reason, but her concerns are for the whole community and she believes it is time to hire a planner.
So far the center has endured infrastructure construction, a failed traffic study, discussion over parking and rumors of big development coming the center, and a lack of communication about what was happening in the center.
There is a master plan for the district but there are no plans from a developer at this time. Infrastructure work has happened during the summer, and more will happen with the rehabbing of French Square in the spring.
Resident Ana Bakos gave an impassioned speech about the neighborhood her family has been in since the 1920s. She likened the last few months to being in front of a steam roller, or acting out a scene between David and Goliath.
“Our trust has been abused, misguided and misplaced,” Bakos said. “You have to earn back my trust.”
Vecchia wins recount
- Town Council President-elect Ron Vecchia has held several elected offices in town, a member of the Board of Selectmen, the School Committee, the Conservation Commission, a member of the Board of Health and a former town meeting member.
But now, he is in a true position to guide the town of Winthrop and he wants to start with a different approach. When he and other elected office holders are sworn in on Jan. 2, he wants it to be a community event, one that it open and transparent.
- The Board of Health has approved draft copy of new regulations for the sale of tobacco products and plans to hold a public hearing on them on Jan. 24.
The first regulation calls to raise the age of purchasing tobacco from 18 to 21 in Winthrop. There is currently a push statewide to raise the age to 21.
Whole lot of vaping going on at WHS
- Board of Health member Susan Maguire is concerned about the vaping going on at the high school, after attending a parents’ meeting last week.
“The vape problem at the high school was more than I knew. Apparently vaping is happening,” she said after attending the PTO meeting last week with Bonny Carroll, of the Six City Tobacco Collaborative, She said Winthrop currently has 19 businesses with tobacco sales permits and 13 of them sell vaping devices and supplies.
Dr. Lester Hartman, of Westwood, who has been working on the statewide campaign to raise the tobacco purchasing age to 21, said before Tuesday night’s Board of Health meeting he stopped at a local store, and purchased a Juul device for smoking nicotine salts for $34 without a cartridge.
One Juul “pod” can contain the same mount of nicotine as a pack of regular tobacco cigarettes. Winthrop Public Nurse Deanna Faretra said that “super” pods can also be found.
Majority goes with Martucci for School Committee
- Former School Committee member Gus Martucci was selected at a joint meeting of the Town Council and the School Committee on Tuesday night to fill a seat left vacant by resigning member Laura Callis. In January, the two committees will meet again to fill another vacant seat held by Ron Vecchia.
Town Council President Elect Vecchia is currently an elected member of the School Committee. It is expected he will resign when he is sworn in Jan. 2. In another twist, as council president he will have a seat on the School Committee.
Search continues for Town Manager
- The Town Manager Search Committee will be putting out a second advertisement in January to increase the pool of Town Manager candidates.
The first advertisement for the position drew 11 applicants, with two coming from out of state. One candidate flew in from Minnesota to be interviewed recently. Some candidates asked for confidentiality. The Collins Center at Umass/Boston has been working with town officials to review candidates.