Tuesday, March 31, 2009


I returned a while ago from the turbine hearing at City Hall.

I'm really tired so I'll just say it was well attended by very civil and polite people.

Turbine hearing

Checking my gmail and found this:

The Committee and the Committee of the Whole agenda for tonight (7 p.m.) will be the Wind Energy Conversion Ordinance.

The format for the meeting will be as follows:

* There will be a signup sheet for public comment

* Speakers will be taken in order with a time limit on each speakerspeakers should state the specific change(s) they are proposing to the ordinance or that they support leaving the ordinance as is.

* Speakers should give the reasoning behind their request

* Comments will be directed to the chair, not to other participants written comments will also be accepted and an additional meeting will be scheduled if necessary

Thank you,
Councillor Ed Cameron

mea culpa - I'm bashing myself!

I have to correct this because it's important - and now I'm really confused - but I'll sort it out in time to write a story.

This is the Declaration of Goals and Policy in the Clean Water Act:

(a) The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. In order to achieve this objective it is hereby declared that, consistent with the provisions of this Act--

(1) it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985;

(2) it is the national goal that wherever attainable, an interim goal of water quality which provides for the protection and propagation of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provides for recreation in and on the water be achieved by July 1, 1983;

(3) it is the national policy that the discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts be prohibited;

(4) it is the national policy that Federal financial assistance be provided to construct publicly owned waste treatment works;

(5) it is the national policy that areawide waste treatment management planning processes be developed and implemented to assure adequate control of sources of pollutants in each State;

and so on. To #4 I say, "HA!"

So that sewer commissioner was correct - shame on me!

How few is too few?

Squeak I tell you ...

I just read this story from the March 27 Daily News. It's about Seabrook (NH):

Funny in how many ways it relates to Newburyport: improved sewer sludge process at sewer plant (not the same as being proposed here, though), hydrogen sulfide ... neighbors complaining.

But its cost to nearby residents living along Route 286 and South Main Street — where Seabrook's wastewater treatment facility is located — is intangible, the neighbors say. It's brought horrible odors that stick to clothing, cause eyes to water, set off asthma episodes, and chase away buyers and summer renters due to the unforeseen problems getting the system to work right, they said.

Sewer treatment operator Phil Maltais and PMC BioTec President Don Rogers said the odor problem began after the December ice storm caused power outages that halted blowers, allowing hydrogen sulfide gas to build up in the vats.

I would be interested to know just how much gas was spewing from this place because NH's DEP said the plant required immediate attention. I assume it was NH's DEP ... our DEP wouldn't be messing around in Seabrook, would it?

This bit reminded me of the PI sewer system:

Rogers, Maltais and Sewer Superintendent Warner Knowles assured residents they've unclogged the diffusers and will do so again if necessary. They are also planning to install new diffusers that won't clog. All three men said they felt the smell would disappear once new diffusers were in, but residents wanted none of it Wednesday night.

I guess it's the same everywhere, except here I guess you have to have a massive neighborhood uprising in order to catch the attention of officials.

Monday, March 30, 2009

... but I get up again WARNING: this post contains humorous elements

I love the way the City Council uses the DEP.

When they're talking about the landfill, the DEP is bad and evil and untrustworthy.

Get away from our city, you DEP. You can't take over closing the landfill, you scoundrels. The only thing worse than New Ventures is YOU, DEP!

But when they're talking about the wastewater treatment facility, discharge permits and revolving state loans, the DEP is benign and all-knowing.

*Extra humor alert*

Pretty, nice DEP. Come over here and sit on my lap. Give Newburyport a hug, you silly billy. No, of course we don't want you to change.

It's hilarious when they do this all in the same meeting.

To be fair, it was a very long meeting so they may not have noticed themselves contradicting themselves.

I get knocked down ...

Bah humbug!

What a long, kind of dreary City Council meeting.

Plus I was told off by at least 2 different people: one a sewer commissioner, who only read one story I wrote for the Current about the wastewater treatment facility, apparently ... this one here, about the Clean Water Act.

I was instructed to include in my next story comments from councillors Holaday and Connell; one of them told me after the meeting that the engineer the city hired to do the feasibility study on the plant upgrades was WRONG in the letter I cited about the plant not complying with the Clean Water Act.

Did we fire this untrustworthy individual? Did we at the very least not pay him for the time he took to come up with his allegedly flawed opinion on the matter? Does anyone frickin' care but me?

Boy it's a good thing I have such a thick skin ... wait a minute, I don't have a thick skin at all ... but wow, those sewer people are as touchy as I am ...

Oh no, Mr. Bill, I'm trying to be funny again.

Lynne throws down a gauntlet (at my feet)

Wow, quite a story in today's Daily News by freelancer Lynne Hendricks about Congressman Tierney's town hall meeting last Saturday.

With no official peacemakers on hand to mitigate a potentially unruly clash of ideologies, Tierney took control of the oft times angry crowd himself, making a pitch for civility despite the outcome of the last election.
I have to say, I also was really surprised that there was no police/security presence whatsoever, inside or outside, considering the protest and all - although I did notice cruisers cruising by (but then, the police station is right next to City Hall).

There was a policeman directing traffic at the Richey turbine ribbon cutting, for example.

Perhaps Tierney asked specifically for no security. Gee whiz, Marshal Howard is usually everywhere, but I didn't even see him there ...

Oh lovely

The DN couldn't get a photo of Congressman Tierney without me being in it? I knew I shouldn't have perched in the front row ...

What's funny (to me) is, I tried to get my coat off and couldn't because I had this velvet long-sleeved top on ... I really have to do some laundry ... thank goodness Jim didn't catch me while I was struggling with my coat ....

Tongue in cheek

OK, well let's see how much more trouble I can cause for City Clerk Richard Jones ... I just called him about something else and apparently someone had just told him that I said on here that he snitched on me to the Daily News about Taffy's!

Whoa there, cowboy ... I was accusing the other guy of snitching, not Richard ... Fortunately Richard read the post himself and came to this conclusion.

And he's such a good guy, he would have forgiven me for labeling him a snitch (he forgave me for implying he wasn't enough of a dignitary to interview at Great Chefs' Night ... ooops).

As it turns out, yesterday Jim Noyes (the other guy) spontaneously told me the DN called him out of the blue so I am going to assume that Katie Farrell just has a nose for the news.

I'm beginning to think the only person that gets my humorous intent is my sister (the one that lives in Gloucester) ... oh dear.

Adding insult to injury

A reader sent me via email his observations regarding Newbury fire trucks getting stuck on the marsh and I guess breaking down, last Thursday.

We had really high tides last week, but I guess that didn't stop a brush fire from breaking out near the airport. There was one out here, too, the week before (see photo).

On Thursday as I was leaving the island, problably after 12:00, but didn't look at time, the large Volpe Tow truck was driving onto the apron at Plum Island International Airport.

With my curiosity piqued, I turned around and into the parking lot as the tow truck proceeded down the runway toward the west end. Asked a person with a camera what was happening and she said that a Newbury fire truck had driven down the runway for a brush fire and had gotten stuck (obviously after driving off the paved runway).

Upon leaving and heading east on High Road, saw the "tracked" fire truck (small one) being loaded on another flatbed tow truck.

All this at about the same time that Newbury Selectmen and woman were dismissing a fireman.

Not a good day for Newbury Fire Department.

I do wish Blogger didn't make it so difficult to format a post after you've inserted a photo ...

Monday blahs

I'm feeling very blah.

The rain aggravates my sinus condition, which I'm sure cigarettes don't ...

Think I'll stay home and write stories, which is always best anyway.

I've been having some very interesting conversations with people over what "Townie" means. Some people who consider themselves Townies don't even know what makes a Townie ...

OK, well .... according to Wikipedia, one definition is "someone who has not left the town in which they were born and raised." (The most common definition, it says, is people who live in a university town as opposed to people attending the university.)

So suck it up all you people who left - not a Townie!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

This week's landfill story

OK, it's up on line now ... right here.

PI sewer probs

Here's the story about the PI sewer, which I accidentally linked to while trying to fix the landfill link because that was the last link I had copied ... good morning!

I was hoping that nobody noticed, but no .... can't get away with anything in these parts.

My guess about the landfill story is that the site was re-arranged after the 'Tea Party' was over and someone linked to the old story rather than the new one ... doesn't explain my link, though, which should have come up as broken ... but I can't think of any other reason the old story would be so prominently displayed.

Maybe I just imagined it was there. If I didn't have the print edition, I'd worry I had never even written a story ... have to cut back on the caffeine.

I haven't got a clue

This week's landfill story is no longer on line and the link I had in the earlier post (now deleted) was going to last week's story.

Sorry, folks ...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A long day's journey into night

Another great post today by Mary Baker Eaton.

As Mary concludes:

I would urge our Newburyport City Council to rethink a long term Newburyport wind energy policy, and not be wedded to an “either-or” approach, but in future, to urge citizens and business to take a more tempered and balanced direction.

Funny that Congressman John Tierney said basically the same thing about governing: how things in the last administration were presented as "either-or" with no middle (as in no regulation of Wall Street or total regulation).

I had only seen Tierney once before, when he came to the CNC (owner of the Current) offices last year for a press conference-type meeting. I was impressed today with how he answered the questions that were sometimes hurled at him.

The consummate politician, he also deftly avoided the raised hands in the line of protesters standing in the back ...

I miss my friends in Detroit

I had a long chat on Facebook last night with a friend from Michigan that I haven't seen in years and years.

I always associate Gerald with music so it's not surprising that our chat started with him saying he'd made me another mix CD.

What's interesting to me is that I don't associate him with photography ... since, you know, he's not only a musician but a photographer.

And he's also an aspiring writer, he tells me.

Some of the best years of my life were when my sister Sarah and I lived together in Pontiac, Michigan. A lot of the memories involve Gerald, who I always picture in an olive drab army jacket.

All of us being in Big Boy at night (and being asked to leave, I might add), Gerald fixing my car, us in Detroit (where he still lives) and him making crepes during his visit to Boston oh all those years ago.

Gerald would work hard, save all his money, and then go off to Europe and stay there until he ran out of money. He'd come home and start over again ...

Now that's an interesting life.

Got the time tick-tick-tickin in my head*

Another busy day today for Brenda Starr ... well, a vastly watered down version of the comic strip heroine, at any rate.

But I used to follow her adventures, which probably explains why I'm a reporter and why I'm attracted by mysterious people (like a moth to a flame - and unlike Brenda, I always get burned). Hey, her mysterious man has the same surname I was born with ...

Anyway, I got a stop at the soon-to-be reborn Taffy's, a stop at Brown Square to check out the Repubs' "'Tea Party" (shouldn't it be on the waterfront?) and a longer stay across the street at City Hall for Congressman Tierney (a Dem).

No need to say "probably" when I say those last 2 locations are connected, which makes my question about the waterfront moot.

Speaking of Tierney ... his office complained about the brief that was in the paper connecting his visit with Earth Hour (that's tonight, people) ... good grief, soon none of them will be talking to me (Sen. Baddour still hasn't returned my calls, even after telling me at the turbine ribbon cutting to call him on Thursday).

But I wasn't done babbling about my day ... the next task on my agenda is pleasure. My friend Elizabeth and I are going to check out plants for our veggie garden behind First Parish Church.

We're trekking up to the Herb Farmacy in Salisbury, a place I highly recommend.

* Joe Jackson, Got The Time

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pres. Obama speaks on Afghanistan

The Prez is getting tough on Afghanistan insurgents in part by giving the people of Pakistan big bucks.

As in, $1.5 billion in support to Pakistani people for the next five years. And an increase in civilians on the ground.

"I don't ask for this support lightly ... downpayment on our own future ...," he's saying.

Makes sense to me - no really, it does. Opportunity trumps discontent.

What's that saying about idle hands and the devil's work?

17,000 more troops to Afghanistan; 4,000 to train Afghan police and security forces in villages, which is where the Taliban/al-Qaeda rally troops.

And the Dow plunges, which to be fair it usually does on Friday.

Have I mentioned before that I love this man?


I just read this story in the Daily News about a "familiar face gets behind Taffy's spatula."

Local restaurateur Jim Noyes is the new owner of Taffy's on State Street and hopes to reopen the eatery in April.

The funny thing is, I was introduced by City Clerk Richard Jones to this Jim Noyes just yesterday, when I was picking up the City Council agenda. We were discussing how I could write a story and what a scoop it would be.

I guess he went home and called the Daily News ... because he said at that point (3 p.m.) that they did not know.

This happens a lot and it's understandable.

As not the paper of record, the Current is at a distinct disadvantage as far as people calling in tips goes. In my experience, tips are phoned in after the Daily News has rejected the tipper.

That's what happened with the PI sewer thing. The person who tipped the Current off (hereafter known as "Tipper") had called the DN and been told it wasn't a story. Then the DN decided there was a story there, probably after Tipper called them back to say the Current was on the case.

I'm guessing here based on the fact that there eventually was a story in the DN.

Speaking of which, I attended the Sewer Commission meeting last night, as did Victor Tine. The chairman guy (David Hanlon) always announces that the press is there ...

Anyway, in the PI sewer update they discussed debris getting in the lower pit, which I found amusing. Now they want to put a pipe in the hole so debris doesn't go down the hole. Sounds like a big hole.

And they want AIRVAC to drill the holes in the test pits and run tests on how the holes would affect the integrity of the plate between the two parts of the pit (actually, they said that at the March 12 meeting).

And they're taking a field trip down to P-Town to see how they addressed their problems (the ones that Mr. Burke - their WWTF and collections manager - told me they didn't have).

Oh well.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

And finally ...

Here's something City Clerk Richard Jones told both me and Katie Farrell about one day when we were both in his office:

He is asking that the Ward 2 polling place be moved from Brown School to the Program Room at the public library.

The letter says the request for change of venue came from the Superintendent of Schools.

Apparently all that civic action in progress was too much for the tots. (That's my interpretation, not anything Richard wrote in his letter.)

Tables on State St.

Also on the City Council's agenda ...

A request from The Upper Crust to have outdoor seating, to wit (I'm going to use that a lot now): 3 30" metal tables and chairs on the sidewalk outside the store.

I'm actually surprised The Rockfish hasn't entered this outdoor seating frenzy (Oregano also is asking for outdoor seating, on Inn St., again this year).

But then ... you can't really say "no" when Agave has tables outside its door.

I don't know how I feel about this yet, but I'm sure I'll have an opinion at some point.

By the way, I went to Upper Crust (again) last night and it was pretty hoppin' in there, for 8 p.m. In fact, there were a lot of people out and about in the streets, which I was happy to see.

I also saw a policeman standing on a corner talking to a couple. I liked that, too.

It was nice to see Newburyport as what attracted me here in the first place: a relatively sleepy little place where there's a friendly cop on the street.

Just goes to show you ...

... that awards mean nothing!

I'm looking through the agenda for Monday's City Council meeting (which, if I had picked up yesterday, I would have been able to tell you then about Katie Ives' order about the landfill admin order) and I see where the city is the "proud recipient of the 2009 E-Government Ward" ... I assume it's supposed to be "Award" ... for the municipal web site.

The award was given by Common Cause of Massachusetts "In recognition of [the city's] commitment to open government by posting key government records on its website. To wit: governing body's agenda and minutes, budget, and by-laws or ordinances."

Yeah, it works fine *ahem* unless you're looking for minutes of the Plum Island Workgroup ...

The City Council strikes back (one of them, anyway)

I just got a copy of the order from Councilor Ives relating to the City Council engaging "independent counsel to review the legality of the Health Director's administrative order."

I found out some stuff yesterday about the City Council's objections, which include a weak deal the DEP and Attorney General will probably be making with Mr. Thibeault to facilitate the closing of the landfill.

They have to do that before he can resume dumping his crud here. There's still a DEP injunction in place.

Of course, I have not seen the proposed agreement (it's a secret), but I gather that there were many, many objections - and that was many moons ago. Who knows what it says now?

Which is why the mayor opted to circumvent that pesky City Council with the administrative order.

Let's all hope that the AG and DEP hold Mr. T's feet to the fire this time, because if they don't ... well, the mayor won't be able to run far enough away.

By the way, read the story in the Current tomorrow and see what Chip Nylen had to say about New Ventures breaking past agreements ... something along the lines of "let's not dwell in the past." (Of course, not dwelling in the past helps the city out, too ...)

It reminded me of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when the owner of the castle where Lancelot goes to rescue what he thinks is a damsel in distress says to wedding guests complaining about the slaughter Lancelot has wreaked, "Let's not bicker and argue about who killed who ..."

By the way, I couldn't help but notice that Thibeault has now broken his code of silence with the Newburyport press (at least the Daily News, although I believe the editor of the Current did speak with him) ... no doubt he's taking his final victory laps around the piles of stinky stuff that will soon be coming this way.

Hope he brought his clove-studded orange along ...

Landfill story in today's Daily News

Here it is. Right here.

As Health Director Jack Morris sent an administrative order to the owner and operator of the Crow Lane landfill, City Councilor Kathleen O'Connor Ives filed a measure for Monday's City Council meeting asking her fellow councilors to agree to hire their own lawyer to review the legality of the move.

O'Connor Ives, an at-large councilor, said yesterday that by hiring its own attorney, separate from the city's law firm, Kopelman and Paige, the City Council would have a better understanding of its rights in the process.

Then there's this:

Morris said Thibeault is still in negotiations with the state over the cease and desist order that was issued by DEP. Once that is resolved, likely in the coming days, the capping can begin.

There's a lot more going on here than we're being told ...

Blind vision

I was just reading (and listening) with interest this post on Newburyport's Voice.

There's a video on there with some unidentified MP (?) addressing the British prime minister at an unknown point in time.

I don't know what point is being made here, because the man's comments in my mind could have been transposed into American English and the speaker could have been addressing former President Bush.

This kind of skewed vision disturbs me, whether it comes from the left or the right.

A couple of years ago, someone looked at my Crocs (shoes) and said, "Those are Socialist shoes."

What the hell does that mean?

I don't think she knew, because I asked her to explain and she couldn't. All she said was that she was a supporter of former President Bush.

Blind vision.

I have a whole slew of family living in England. Times have been tough there and things were always more expensive for them than they were for us here. They looked at the U.S. with envy.

Now I think they see how hard it is for us, now that our bubble has burst. And I think somewhere inside, they're chuckling.

Obviously none of these theories work under extreme stress and obviously something has to change.

(I'm in favor of nationalized health care, in case you did not know that already ... you get the option to still go to a private doctor, if you can afford it ... and it scares me how much economic power Japan and China have in this global economy. It used to be really hard to find cheap crap made in China for sale in England.)

We danced the dance with Reagan, Bush et al and now it's time to pay the piper.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité - French for "liberty, equality, fraternity" and part of the French national motto (followed by "or death").

I'm not a big fan of the French government, but I think they are words worth considering.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Richey turbine on the grid

I forgot that I picked up an info sheet of green initiatives at Mark Richey Woodworking yesterday.

I only just got around to reading it, while I was writing up my story.

Here's what it says:

Did you know?

That our wind turbine provides nearly all of the electricity needed to power our building and when we're not using power, the excess electricity flows into the grid.

You don't want to know the rest of the list, do you? My fingers are tired ...

Administrative order

I now also have a copy of the administrative order, in hard copy only. It was faster for me to go in to City Hall and pick up a copy from Jack Morris than to wait for him to scan in it (or so I figured, anyway).

It's dated today, but I'm going to go out on a limb and assume it was actually signed yesterday.

This is what is ordered:

1. New Ventures shall immediately undertake closure of the Landfill in accordance with authorizations and approvals received from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

2. In undertaking such closure, New Ventures shall comply with all outstanding Orders and determinations of the Board of Health, including but not limited to the Noisome Trade Site Assignment issued with respect to the Landfill, and the existing Preliminary Injunction entered in the Essex Superior Court.

3. The Board of Health, acting by and through its Director, shall maintain oversight of the landfill in accordance with the Noisome Trade Site Assignment and the provisions of G.L. c. 111, [Sec.] 122.

Take a deep breath

Don't expect trucks from Everett to come rolling in just yet.

Although Jack Morris has signed the administrative order (he just told me), New Ventures still has to go through some (unspecified) stuff before debris from Everett hits Crow Lane.

I hate to even bring this up - but what if the AG drops the contempt complaint now?

And here's the agreement ... or covenant

Click on each page for a full view ...

Well he did it

According to this story in the Daily News, Mayor John Moak has entered into an agreement with New Ventures and has instructed Jack Morris to issue an administrative order.

ha ha ha ... the mayor left for vacation today. He told me that yesterday, at the turbine ribbon cutting. He did not, however, mention the landfill ...

Think the timing is a coincidence?

An action speaks louder than words ...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

That Ed Cameron ...

He's a hoot.

I got this email from him, titled:

Seems like you can't swing a cat in Newburyport without hitting a new blog.....

Well, you couldn't expect the Dems to let the Newburyport's Voice blog go unchallenged, could you?

Welcome to the Newburyport Dems blog.

My cat is getting all bruised up here!

New site about Everett

Someone in Everett sent me this link to a (I guess) new website called Citizens for Everett.

If you're interested, click on the Wood Waste tab and watch the videos. I especially liked the one where Everett Mayor DeMaria is campaigning and saying that the previous administration "didn't want to deal with this developer" - meaning Wood Waste.

I guess the previous administration knew what it was doing ...

Harvesting salt hay on the marsh

These guys have been at it for a couple of days now. The best shot would have been from the bridge, but of course I couldn't stop there and I was already frozen from the ribbon cutting at the turbine ...
This image will enlarge if you click on it.

As the turbine turns (final episode)

I just returned from the ribbon cutting at Mark Richey Woodworking.

Man it's cold out there!

I don't really have much to say about it, except that I thought there might be some protesters - but there weren't.

And since the turbine is now officially here to stay, the saga "As the turbine turns" has come to an end.

It's here, there's nothing to be done about it - and unless it falls over, I'm done talking about it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hold, please

Mayor John Moak reminds me of my mother.

He wants everything done, and he wants it done quickly - never mind how sloppy it is.

My mother is like that.

I remember when I was a kid, my mother always complaining about how deliberate and "slow" my dad was about doing things such as wallpapering a bathroom.

She would go in and slap the wallpaper up and he would make sure the pattern was lined up from strip to strip, the light switch plates lined integrated into the pattern ... well, you get the picture.

When my dad did the wallpapering, it looked really nice and stayed put. When my mother did it, it looked sloppy and sometimes it fell off the wall after a while.

He took several hours to wallpaper the bathroom and she took maybe one hour.

And it was the same with cleaning the stove, traditionally his duty. He would practically take it apart to clean it ... since they separated, the stove is ... well, it's not as sparkly as it used to be (it's stainless steel).

This divergence in methodology was a constant source of bickering between them (among other things).

So I can kind of understand from personal experience Moak's rush to do things - close the landfill while "dealing with the devil," so to speak, solar panels on middle schools with questionable roofs, re-configuring old school buildings ... and yeah, wrapping up the PI water/sewer project in haste because the city needed those betterments to start paying off loans.

My mother's pride in being able to do things "quickly" was/is immense, but she never looked at the consequences of her haste, and thus did not use it to make a judgment about the next task at hand.

But .... sometimes Mom's slap-dash approach worked to an advantage ... and Dad's measured deliberation was sometimes unnecessary.

You reap what you sow ... boy, could I tell you stories about planting the garden every year ... but I think perhaps the mayor needs to tamp down his nature a bit and slow the heck down.

He should become a parental unit - an amalgam of my parents, if you will.

This isn't wallpapering we're talking about here.

"Mayor Moak, what's the rush?"

Interesting editorial in the Daily News about the landfill and the administrative order.

I agree.

Port to keep video store ... I guess

I found this little piece, from today's Daily News, very interesting:

Express Video has found a new home.

Owner Peter Herman said Friday the video store will be relocating from its current location behind CVS to the Tannery at the end of April. Until then, it will stay open at the rear of the shopping plaza and will continue to rent new releases.

The store has to vacate where it is now to make room for an expansion by CVS, Herman said recently, making its future uncertain. Herman had hung "Store Closing" signs in the windows, but continued to look for a new spot.

"All of our customers are pretty excited about it," Herman said.

The store has been in Newburyport for 20 years. Herman will be moving the shop into where the Birdwatcher store used to be located.

I had heard weeks ago that something else was going into that empty storefront in The Tannery and I confirmed this last week (but the person or persons did not want me to put it in print until the deal was finalized).

Very interesting indeed ...

This just in ...

I was just told that the School Committee is holding an "emergency" meeting tonight about the superintendent position ... more as soon as I find out more ... isn't this fun?

Update 30 seconds later: Oh it's right here in the Daily News.

Am I missing something?

In a post way back here, I was talking about the sewer system on Plum Island and I invited reader Bubba, in the comments, to think some more about water freezing and how the sewer people are saying the water in the pits is freezing from the top down.

I wrote a story that kind of addresses this but it did not make it into the paper because there was so much more newsy stuff that went on last week.

I would have made the same decision.

So ... has anyone thought about it?

The people here are saying it's freezing from the top down, which is what a body of standing water does.

The guy in Michigan is saying OK, technically if you're pumping out the pits in the fall, the water freezes from the bottom up because you get an inch of water accumulation at the bottom and it freezes; and an inch or two on top of that, which then freezes - and so forth until the most recent water is freezing at the same level as the works.

If you get that much rain during the winter.

To be fair, it did rain a lot this winter. But I don't know if it rained enough before Jan. 14 or 15 to fill up a pit - and aren't roads canted slightly so rainwater runs off the road?

Not sure if that's true out here because there are no storm drains.

I don't know how much space there is between the top or the bottom of the pits and the controllers, but it seems to me if they're breaking solid ice from the top of the pit, there must have been a hell of a lot of water in them babies before the temps dropped.

I do know the sump, or bottom part of the pit, holds 10 gallons. But I also know the pits come in different sizes, and the sewer people are saying the freezing is happening mostly in the most shallow pits.

I'm assuming that by "shallow" they mean the works are closer to the top.

Which is why if you pump out the pits, the man in Mich. meant, there is never enough water accumulation in there to freeze from the top down - not meaning the actual freezing process, but that you shouldn't let that much water accumulate in the pit.

But - if you can believe it - I had a hard time believing it - the system should work, even if frozen in a block of ice, according to this guy in Provincetown (a Mr. Bill Burke, WWTF plant manager and collections manager),where they also use a vacuum sewer system.

Interesting how he recalled speaking to someone from here but did not recall recommending drilling holes between the two parts of the pit ... I do believe that the same someone from here who spoke to him said that "Provincetown" did recommend it ... told six city councillors that, a week ago last Thursday ...

But then, either one or both of these guys may have an agenda.

Mr. Burke wasn't too happy about references to Provincetown being warmer than here and that's why they don't have the same problems.

As Bubba pointed out, I believe, water freezes at the same temperature everywhere. And it's not like it's Tropical in Provincetown during the winter.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I felt the earth move, under my feet

Yesterday, prior to going to Port Plaza for lunch at Hana Japan, I was at the First Parish Church of Newbury for many, many hours, staking out my claim.

There was a whole bunch of us there, setting up our individual gardens in the community garden they have set up behind the church. My friend Elizabeth and I are sharing a plot.

Much like how things go when I'm with my sister Helen (the one who lives in Malden), it was an adventure.

Our little rectangle of earth is between 2 others to the north and south, so we helped Pat, our new neighbor to the south, measure out her 2 plots. Then we did ours.

Unfortunately, when Jane to our north was finished with hers, we had lost 3.5 feet in ours.

Oh but we were all so good at working with others that we found the problem, it was fixed and Elizabeth and I weren't squeezed out of however many square feet of garden 3.5 feet by 9 feet is.

I've never been good at math.

I'm looking forward to munching garden-fresh veggies all summer ...

News from Hana Japan

I got this in from ... well, whoever, but I assume Julius:

Hello! I've just updated our (Hana Japan) site, with menus and hours now up! Please visit every now and then as we are aiming to upload photos of our dishes and recent news. Thank you for writing such a great review of our little place!


I went there for lunch on Saturday, with my friend Elizabeth. I'm now hooked on their chirashi lunch special.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm a lovable rogue

"Nobody calls anyone a lovable rogue."

"Lovable rogues do ..."

I just returned from Great Chefs' Night at the Governor's Academy, turned on the TV and those were a couple of the first lines I heard.

Anyway ... my tummy is bulging from all the yummy food they had on offer there. I really think that chocolate/raspberry cupcake from Old Town Bread (Rowley) pushed me over the edge.

And that square of pizza from The Upper Crust.

Or perhaps it was the fourth or fifth ahi tuna tartare on crispy won ton offered up by Mission Oak Grill. That was my favorite thing.

That and the crab cakes from a catering place called Newburyport Crabcake Co. (they sell them at Market Basket).

I wasn't going to eat at all, but how can I write about it, if I don't eat it?

The only downer was the fact that it was in a gym. Ain't much you can do with a gym - something I can attest to since I used to decorate our high school gym for dances and such.

We used to make roses out of tissues ...

All in all, I think it was pretty damn good, as far as these types of events go.

Strange that the mayor wasn't there, although I spotted Ed Cameron and his wife Susanne. And the usual suspects Charlie Cullen, Mark Welch, Esther Sayer and my pals from Bob Lobster!

Message from Ed Cameron

I just got this from City Councillor Ed Cameron:

Please be advised that a Planning and Development Committee/Committee of the Whole has been posted for Tuesday, March 31 at 7pm, City Hall Auditorium.

The primary topic will be Wind Energy and the City's Wind Energy Conversion ordinance.

Thanks, Ed.

More odor complaints from the landfill

There's been a mini-flurry of odor complaints coming from neighbors of the landfill. They started last night, just hours after the BOH meeting ...

The author of the latest email asks if residents should start a tally of what the landfill is costing them - how much for a sleepless night? How much for a cookout canceled? How much for a doctor's appointment? And so on ...

I don't often smell the landfill, but I have to say that yesterday afternoon, I went to the Market Basket plaza and as soon as I got close, I started hacking and coughing. The smell in the air was more like burning tires, though ...

Maybe it was my car!

But anyway ... I don't know if Moak is being a genius or a jerk, at this point. Only time (and Mr. Thibeault) will tell.

"The Health Czar"

Way down the posts - but only a couple of days ago - I wrote about Jack Morris, our health director, and his reported duties in neighboring communities, Amesbury and Salisbury.

At the end of Thursday's Board of Health meeting, the chairman (I believe his name is Robin Blair) made an announcement to "clarify" Morris' role since Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer axed that town's health dept.

OK, his clarification needed clarification, but here's what I understand:

Morris is covering Amesbury in emergencies. I guess the health dept. being eliminated is an "emergency," but we've got one of them there inter-municipal agreements with Amesbury where we share stuff like health directors and fire engines, when necessary.

Same with Salisbury, except in this case -Morris works PT in Salisbury, doing food inspections, on his own time (as in, after 4 Mon.-Wed. and Friday afternoons; City Hall is open until 8 p.m. on Thursdays and closes at noon on Friday). Salisbury pays him for his time.

I hope I got it right!

More food for thought

I have been having some interesting back-and-forth with School Committee member Steve Cole. He brought up some points that are food for thought.

The SC recently voted to implement Kevin Lyons' vision plan for the district.

Now that Lyons is almost certainly leaving, will a new superintendent embrace that vision? Or does the district start over from scratch?

What I mean is that a vision is obviously very diffuse and not tangible, you work towards it with the hope that you can have the rubber meet the road.

However, if there is a change of leadership, you cannot expect the new leader to have the same vision as the previous leader. That's why you shouldn't vote on a vision, you should vote on vital and tangible goals.

Of course Cole is operating now with 20/20 hindsight because no one expected Lyons to leave so soon afterwards.

I think there is a lesson here to be learned and maybe that's what Gordon Bechtel meant (in part, at least) in that quote in the Daily News about learning from Lyons and retaining superintendents.

"I can say that one of the issues all School Committee members are emphatic about is that we understand things from Kevin, and we'll evaluate them, and do everything we can to improve the institution so that we can retain superintendents in the future," Bechtel said. "We'll learn from the situation as much as we can and make some changes accordingly."

Or perhaps everyone was just too used to superintendents such as Mary Murray, who was in the position for years.

I'm sure it won't be impossible to find a replacement for Lyons who embraces his vision. Maybe we should recruit from within the district ...

At this point, I would be chanting "Barry! Barry! Barry!" but I was told by someone else who knows what's what that it's unlikely Hopping would want the job.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Good thing it wasn't Earth Hour tonight ...

It was a busy night at City Hall.

All of the meetings, it seems, are scheduled for Thursday nights because that's when City Hall is open late.

There was the Board of Health meeting (I wrote about that in my last post) and the hearing on the Brown Square/burying utility lines issue.

I chose to go to the BOH meeting because I'm all landfill, all the time.

I think there was also a Planning Board meeting and a couple of other things (all the rooms were full of people).

I'd never been to a BOH meeting before - it was pretty interesting.


I went to tonight's meeting of the Board of Health and - surprise! - the board has absolutely no say in this administrative order to New Ventures.

It's strictly up to the mayor.

You know, I wondered about the wording of his letter to the City Council -

I am writing to inform you about my decision to have the Health Director move forward with an Administrative Order to close the Crow Lane Landfill.

I looked up the definition of "administrative order" and came up with this:

Enforceable order issued by a public authority (under the powers conferred to it by one or more statutes) to an individual or an organization to take certain corrective action, or to refrain from an activity.

The definition of a "public authority" is "National, state, or local government agency."

The definition of "local government agency" is "Body of people that sets and administers public policy, and exercises executive, political, and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state."

(This is all from businessdictionary.com)

Of course the landfill neighbors present - Terry Berns, David Chatfield and Ron Klodenski - had a few things to say to the board.

The lowdown is this: the BOH can only intervene if someone or some other body appeals the administrative order (in court) after it's issued. Then and only then can it amend or rescind the order.

"It's time to get him out of here, you know?"

I just got off the phone with health director Jack Morris -

He said nothing is going on with the administrative order and it's not on the agenda for tonight's meeting of the Board of Health.

A copy of the letter from the mayor to the City Council has been sent to them, but Morris said they will probably 'receive and file.'

He said he's been asked many times if the order is on the agenda, but it's not, dammit! (I added on that last bit ...)

Which does not mean that people can't go squish themselves into that little room and have their say, does it?

The BOH only meets once a month, 3rd Thursday. This could be the last chance anyone has to address the board about the landfill.

As the turbine turns (a continuing saga)

Check this out.

It may amuse some people.


I think I would recognize the swastika etched into his forehead ...

Watching NECN; they showed a photo of Charles Manson that was taken yesterday by prison officials.

The anchors commented that people probably wouldn't recognize him now, at age 74 ... heh.

Which reminds me of a snippet from "The Daily Show" last week.

Jon Stewart showed a clip of Bernard Madoff that was shown on CNN. The person reporting the news said something along the lines of "Madoff was given a 150-year sentence, which considering his age, will be a life sentence."

Stewart came back with, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure a 150-year sentence would be a life sentence for anyone ..." See a clip here, on the Huffington Post.

Changes 101

I'm reading Lynne Hendricks' piece in today's Daily News about Kevin Lyons leaving the school district. No need to read between the lines there ...

I guess that by the time Gordon Bechtel got to talking to me, perhaps he had regrets about what he'd said to her ... ? Because I asked him about the executive session and whatnot, and he said nothing even remotely like this to me:

“I can say that one of the issues all School Committee members are emphatic about is that we understand things from Kevin, and we’ll evaluate them, and do everything we can to improve the institution so that we can retain superintendents in the future,” said Bechtel. “We’ll learn from the situation as much as we can and make some changes accordingly.”

Not that it doesn't makes sense to me, because it makes perfect sense. I wonder how they could have dealt so closely with Kevin and not noticed his increasing dismay? It was right there in his face ... still, he also insisted to me that he only applied to Hudson after being advised by other superintendents that it was the ideal situation for him.

I used to cover both the Newburyport School Committee and the Amesbury School Committee, and I gotta tell you - ours could learn from theirs.

Having said all that, I agree totally with Tom Salemi's post of earlier today. We need to know what happened in that executive session and in other discussions. And I see Tom has added some more links to the Daily News.

Just go to his blog if you want more info (no need for duplication).

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

By the way

I did eventually hear from Kevin Lyons, as I expected. I will note here that in my experience, he always returns calls - even on days like today, apparently, and even if it's way after his working hours for the day have past.

I bet I can count on one hand the number of city/state officials I can be sure will call me back the same day, no matter how late it's getting.

(Originally, I listed them here and there were four ... then I deleted all the names so as not to offend anyone more than usual.)

P.S. Kevin said he had just spoken to Will Courtney (Daily News), so perhaps they took down the crawl.

Coming soon to a landfill near you

Someone in Everett sent me these photos of the Wood Waste Boston facility there. This is what will be coming here ... these are what I considered to be the 2 worst of 9 I was sent. They don't enlarge, so don't bother clicking on them.

Facebook goes kerphlooey

Facebook in its infinite wisdom decided to change its format to mimic that of Twitter.

I was just on there. Tried to type comments - none would take. This happens a lot on Twitter, too, which makes me wonder why the FB people wanted to emulate Twitter.

Sometimes, that's just as well (my comments not taking, that is).

I'm glad I don't have to pay for this useless piece of shite. (Does it make it less of a bad word if you add an "e" on the end?)

What's on your mind?

Sure and be-gone

Is it just me, or is anyone else tired of these equally tired St. Patrick's Day luncheons?

I've been waiting for 2 weeks for Sen. Baddour to return my phone calls and here I see him on the front page of the Daily News, goofing off ... oh, he's so busy ...

Popular material included the recent cuts to the Amesbury Health Department by Kezer, Kezer's purchase of iPhones for city department heads and ongoing negotiations by Moak to cap the Crow Lane landfill.

"I wanna wake up in a city that doesn't reek," Cullen sang to the tune of "New York, New York," presenting Moak with a Jolly Roger flag, a reference to the skull-and-crossbones flag hoisted at the landfill by owner New Ventures.

Poking fun at the ongoing appeals and lawsuits filed by Newburyport City Council Larry McCavitt and his waterfront preservation committee, Cullen noted the differences between McCavitt and City Council President James Shanley. Questioning what the product would be if the two were to combine talents, Cullen held up giant photographs of the councilors, transposed with the other's hair, drawing laughter from the crowd.

Gee, I'm sorry I didn't get to cover this - only because I would have paid to see McCavitt's hair superimposed on Shanley's head ...

And speaking of health departments ... I hear (haven't read it yet, although I guess it has been written) that Jack Morris does triple duty: here, in Salisbury and now in Amesbury.

Do these communities pay 2/3 of his salary, I wonder?

What the ...?

Earlier the Daily News had this yellow news ticker going across the top of its website: "Hudson picks Lyons as new superintendent" and then I believe one later that said "Lyons accepts Hudson job," or words to that effect.

Now the stories are gone, even though at least one of them had 3 comments attached.

Did they not in fact pick him? Or is it just a glitch on the DN website?

I actually spoke briefly today with Kevin Lyons (he said he would call me back but so far he has not, which doesn't mean much because sometimes he doesn't return calls until much later).

BOH meets tomorrow

The Board of Health meets tomorrow night, at 7 p.m. in the "second floor conference room."

That would be that closet-sized room outside the auditorium ...

I tried to get Jack Morris this morning, during his office hours, to see what's up with the administrative order/New Ventures.

No such luck - even though I called freakin' 4 times.

I was, however, informed that the order will not necessarily be on the meeting agenda. Morris could already have gone to the homes of the 3 members clutching said order and a pen ...

I hate all this secrecy. It really does not serve the city well.

Of course, there's always the possibility that the BOH was like, "No way, Jose!"

Mum's the word

I've been trying to get someone from the School Committee to tell me what happened in that executive session Monday night ... so far, no luck.

But I guess we can assume it was not a successful session since but for contract negotiations, Kevin Lyons is gone as of ... when? According to the MetroWest Daily News, he is expected to start in Hudson on July 1.

I did not think that if Lyons had decided to pursue this other position, after having turned down his raise, he would be open to further enticements. I even marvelled that they took the entire 45 minutes allotted for the session.

Maybe they played a hand or two of poker for 44 minutes ...

Newburyport Today

Hey, I'll be writing a weekly column for this new Newburyport-centric website, Newburyport Today. The column is called "Townie Tuesday," and it will feature one Townie per (brief) post. No politics, no controversy.

So if you know some Townie that's up to something (good), please let me know!

Read all about the site on Tom Salemi's blog.

Man, he's scooping me right and left today ... lol.

A message from Everett

This is Keith Spencer's article from March 18, 2009 Everett Independent.

Board of Health and Wood Waste sign agreement
By Keith Spencer

After months of debate and hours of negotiating, Mayor Carlo DeMaria recently announced the signing of a much anticipated consent agreement between the Everett Board of Health and Wood Waste of Boston, Inc. The agreement was signed on Monday, March 9 and was put into effect immediately according to the Mayor.

“I think we have worked out an agreement that will start to bring a real resolution to what many residents feel is a nuisance,” said Mayor DeMaria in an interview earlier this week.

According to the Mayor and members of his administration, Wood Waste has complied with the agreement since its issuance more than a week ago. According to receipts and documents provided by DeMaria’s office, Wood Waste owner William Thibeault has initiated a number of initiatives at his Boston Street facility, including the removal of C&D fines and residuals from the controversial debris piles.

The agreement includes provisions to properly maintain debris piles located at the company’s Boston Street facility. The height of the piles, which has been at the heart of the debate, is addressed with Wood Waste agreeing to remove at least 50 tons of material per week. The agreement also includes methods of deodorizing, dust control techniques, and parameters for air quality testing. It also requires that Wood Waste maintain personnel at the facility to monitor odors from 7AM to 9PM.

DeMaria indicated his approval of the agreement during the interview, noting that “other administrations had gotten nowhere” in dealing with Wood Waste. While disappointed with the load size agreed upon, DeMaria has assured that his administration will continue to monitor the situation. According to the document, the Mayor and Wood Waste will revisit the agreement eight weeks following its endorsement to evaluate the company’s progress. Both parties involved will then discuss a potential increase to the removal of debris.

“The agreement has provisions to make it possible to evaluate the conditions in the future to determine if any changes are necessary,” said DeMaria.

According to receipts provided to the Board of Health, Wood Waste made some effort in the first week to begin removing debris from the piles. On March 13th, the company removed two truckloads of “fines”, weighing in at 28.42 and 27.87 tons respectively. While the company met the amount required by the consent agreement, 50 tons minimum per week, DeMaria estimates there could be as much as “80,000 tons” of materials at the facility.“

We are going to make sure that these receipts indicate that the materials being trucked out are actually taken from the piles,” said DeMaria. “While we know that 50 tons is a little, we do believe it is a start.”

Wood Waste also submitted their initial plans to build a permanent, enclosed facility for their company’s activities at their Boston Street facility. The business was first ordered in 1995 to build a permanent, enclosed structure for its recycling operations just off Revere Beach Parkway. The company submitted the plans as part of a larger agreement between Wood Waste and the Everett Board of Health to bring the business into compliance with local and state regulations.

The plans were submitted on Friday, March 13th as required by the recently signed agreement.

The Health Department, the Building Inspector, and other city departments before being returned to Wood Waste are now analyzing the plans. According to the agreement, the company will have ten days to submit all applications and documents to the Health Department and state regulators.

DeMaria also noted that current movement by Mayor Joan Moak to resolve similar issues in Newburyport might offer a potential “light at the end of the tunnel”. Thibeault may be able to begin trucking materials from his Everett facility to the Crow Lane landfill in Newburyport, which he owns and operates through his company New Ventures. Debris piles began to build up in Everett when the City of Newburyport issued a cease and desist order against New Ventures’ capping of the landfill.

“The resolution of their issues in Newburyport could provide some relief for us here in Everett,” added Mayor DeMaria. “The owners of Wood Waste will appear in court in April, our initial eight week period will end around the same time, and we will certainly be evaluating the amount of debris being removed at that point.”

Last week, Mayor Moak informed members of his city council that he would soon issue an administrative order through Board of Health Director Jack Morris to cap the landfill according to regulations set by the Department of Environmental Protection. By issuing an administrative order, Mayor Moak will able to take action without the approval of the city council.

New Ventures will be required to maintain the site in a way that meets the city’s noisome trade agreement” in addition to capping the landfill. It would also require the company to comply with a previous injunction aimed at minimizing the smells and nuisances long associated with the Crow Lane landfill. DeMaria also expects that the result of an April hearing in Suffolk Superior Court could ultimately determine the fate of Thibeault’s landfill in Newburyport and his materials on site at Wood Waste in Everett.

“If things don’t go well for him [Wood Waste owner William Thibeault] in April, we may be looking to ask him to remove anywhere from 200 to 400 tons of materials per week,” the Mayor added.

DeMaria’s statements during the interview reiterated the views expressed in a prepared statement that was released on Monday as well. The Mayor called the agreement “the beginning of a positive relief process” noting that “residents have been through enough”.

DeMaria also acknowledged, “that there’s a lot of work still to be done, by Wood Waste and by our Board of Health to bring closure to this issue.”

When asked about the continuing inspections of the facility, Mayor DeMaria wanted to assure residents that the Everett Board of Health is going to be making daily trips to the Boston Street facility as well as collecting receipts and information about Wood Waste’s compliance with the new agreement. According to the Mayor, an inspector must check the Jerome Meter reading in person because the device does not print a receipt recording the results of the air quality testing.

“It is our intention that monitoring will be done on a daily basis by the Board of Health,” added DeMaria. “We will have someone down there to visually confirm the readings of the Jerome meter seeing as there is no print out to keep record.”

The city solicitor and the Mayor both agreed that while the specific language is not included in the agreement, a cease and desist order would ultimately be pursued if the company fails to comply with the agreement at any point. According to the terms of the agreement, Wood Waste would have seven days to rectify any violation of the agreement before the city would “ exercise its enforcement discretion and seek penalties in Middlesex Superior Court up to the fullest extent of the law”.

DeMaria once again defended his approach to the Wood Waste issue, by working with the company’s owner and various city departments to get the business into compliance with all local and state regulations. The Mayor acknowledged it will take “continued effort on his part” to assure the city has the teeth to resolve this situation no matter what the outcome is during the next eight weeks.

“I am sure we will have some reaction from members of the city council,” said DeMaria at the close of the interview. “Many of the local critics will probably not be happy with the agreement. They wanted an immediate cease and desist order and nothing else. I hope to continue working with the 98% of the city council that has been willing to open up a dialogue and get the movement we are seeing now.”

“In these financial times, we really do not have the funds to go into litigation,” said DeMaria. “I didn’t want to draw the line in the sand with the property owner, and get no movement in the end. Nothing has ever been done with this facility in past administrations. At least we are now seeing movement.”

Barry! Barry! Barry!

As Tom Salemi has already posted, Hudson picked Lyons.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hopping for Superintendent!

I know it's early - especially since we don't know if Kevin Lyons is leaving yet - but I'm starting my campaign in support of Barry Hopping for the new superintendent.

Hopping is the principal at R.A. Nock Middle School.

I have no idea if he's even interested in this position, but I've been watching Hopping and I think he's just about there. I don't know if he walks the walk but he sure talks the talk.

He's committed, he's very intelligent and he's passionate about education.

He also is - or was - on the School Committee in Ipswich (wonder if he's put in a good word for Dave Archambault?) so he's got experience dealing with ... er ... municipal boards.

Even Kevin Lyons complimented his progress, at last night's School Committee meeting. I have to wonder, was that just a coincidence?

Pretty, pretty good

Today I wandered into The Upper Crust and ordered up a pepperoni slice.

While I was waiting for the slice to heat, I chatted with the owner, Mark Tramontana. He was really pleasant and seems to be enjoying the whole experience.

I liked it ... it was thin crust, the sauce was tasty (and not overwhelming) ... it was a big slice ($3) ... but I did have to get used to the taste of all those super-fresh ingredients.

I'm serious! It was almost too much for my addled palate to bear.

But I give it a big thumbs up, for the pizza and for the pleasantry.

I could never be a food critic.

Et tu, David?

Now I read that Dave Archambault, principal at the Molin Upper Elementary, is a finalist for another job!

This time it's Ipswich.

I remember when Dave made the difficult decision to move with the reconfiguration to the upper elementary. It was really a hard decision for him because, as Lynne Hendricks reports, he prefers to be with the younger kids in a neighborhood school.

He stayed here, in part, because of Kevin Lyons ... I see this as a "bye, bye Kevin Lyons" scenario.

But I could be wrong; I often am.

Dave's a good guy and he really cares about the childen in his charge. It will be a blow if he also leaves.

But ... his heart is elsewhere and you can't fault him for wanting to play out the rest of his career in the type of school he loves.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stand in the place where you work

I was trying to gauge the reaction of the School Committee when they came out of executive session.

It was the only point in the whole 4 hours I watched that I wished I had been there.

Well ... they weren't grinning triumphantly nor were they gnashing their teeth or pulling out their hair.

I agree with Tom Salemi - it's just a shame.

Read his post, if you haven't already. I have nothing to add.

School Committe grants permission

It's good to see (or not) that things haven't changed much on the School Committee.

And having sat through several meetings now on approving bond orders for wastewater treatment facilities when the approval for the spending hasn't yet been approved, it was no surprise when Steve Cole started voicing his objections and it was revealed that the board didn't even have full information about the condition of the roof.

But they took Superintendent Kevin Lyons' recommendation and voted 8-1 (with Cole being the lone 'nay') to allow the mayor to go ahead with his solar panel deal.

For all I bitch, I believe in delegating and selecting advisors in whom you have trust. But god help the mayor if this does not work.

I wonder how many of the SC had even read the contract? We'll never know, will we? All we know is, Steve Cole did. And I'm assuming from his comments, Kevin Lyons did - or someone he trusts did.

And they still have 4-hr. meetings! I can't believe I watched the whole thing ...

Too cool for (our) school

I'm watching the School Committee ... and right away, they whisk off into executive session to discuss contract negotiations with school Superintendent Kevin Lyons.

According to School Comm. member Bruce Menin, he was stopped on the street multiple times today and told that money is no object ... well, that's not verbatim ... to keep Lyons here.

So local cable doesn't even have any music to play in these situations? Static is the best they can do?

The man (Lyons) turned down his last 2 raises. What are they going to offer him to get him to stay, do you think?

You guys (if this was Twitter): "Well, I don't know, Gillian ... what do you think they'll offer him?"

Me: Hmmmm, you guys, I don't know. A bigger budget?

You guys: "They can't do that!"

Me: Well, let's see if they can get him to stay. I have my doubts.

You guys: "Oh, Gillian, you do? You're so brilliant and special and we all love you so much!"

Me: Awwww, I love you guys, too. Send money, please.

I think that's a pretty accurate projection of our exchange, if we were all on Twitter instead of a blog.

With that I will leave you ... boy am I glad I'm here and not there (at the high school, that is).

News flash

Oh for cryin' out loud ... they never fixed the roof on the middle school prior to negotiating contracts for solar panels?

Does no one remember the MCAS tests that were destroyed a couple of years ago by the leaky roof? Yes, the roof came down and tore them to shreds ... but seriously, I thought for sure they would have fixed all that by now.

I don't know why I thought that, but I did. I haven't been to a School Committee meeting in more than a year.

Don't fall over in a dead faint, but ...

Good reporting by Lynne Hendricks of the Daily News.

And a hearty 'Huzzah!' to School Committee member Steve Cole for reading the whole contract. When were the rest of them going to read it, I wonder?

Though some were reluctant to weigh in until they'd thoroughly read through the 64-page, 20-year agreement, one clause pertaining to the age and health of a "leaking" Nock roof has caught the eye of School Committee member Steve Cole, and he says he plans to bring his concerns up for discussion tonight.

Guess I'll be watching the meeting tonight, but from home, thank-you-very-much.

The mayor strikes back

So the mayor has come out in the Daily News to say the PI sewer system does not need an "overhaul."

That's the word that was used in the headline of my story in the Current, by the way - "overhaul."

I think I kind of agree ... but probably not the same way he means it.

"I've never felt this was an extreme major problem like some other people," Moak said.

Those "other people" are the sewer department - the ones who have been running the system. And me, I guess.

"Airvac was very responsive," Moak said. "Airvac is looking at alternatives to the pits. They're committed to doing testing and giving us some suggestions."

Alternatives to the pits? So it's not an overhaul, it's a complete replacement? What can he mean?

I think he means alternatives to insulating the pits and the other things that were outlined in that 5-page memo.

But still, it's pretty funny, huh?

Moak said part of the dilemma was that the city was caught off guard when the valves started to freeze. He said Provincetown on Cape Cod had encountered similar difficulties two years ago, but no one at Airvac or CDM had alerted Newburyport to the possibility of such freeze-ups here.

Didn't Brendan O'Regan say they were assured the valves would work, even if encased in a block of ice? That almost makes it seem as if icing was at least mentioned ...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I surrender to superior mocking

Wow, I've just been catching up on my reading of the Daily News.

There are, what? 18 comments on Victor Tine's latest story about the PI sewer system ... it's all pretty interesting.

Then there's a letter to the editor from PI resident Pat Frey, with one blistering comment. Pat, I feel your pain.

Nice mocking by DDS. He even grabbed the opportunity to bash Ari Herzog for reasons beyond my comprehension. (Which is more embarrassing - having a contract not renewed at the end of its term, or going through I believe a minimum of 3 executive assistants or assistant mayors, or whatever you want to call them, in the same number of years?)

DDS has a lot in common with Mr. X ... but I digress ...

I have a car. Right now, my muffler has a hole in it and exhaust is coming into the interior of the car, if I have the heater on.

Is my car broken?

It still runs ... but is it broken?

If I don't get it fixed, I could asphyxiate - so yeah, I think it's broken.

There's a fine line here between what is or is not broken in the PI sewer system. Sure it still works, but only after $49,500 (and counting) in OT.

But that's not even the point(s).

One point: it was the sewer dept. that issued a 5-page memo describing in great detail what a nightmare the system has become. What was the press supposed to do, ignore that alarming memo and the money spent on OT?

I wish I could show you the whole memo - it was jaw-dropping ...

Another point: all this blustering is giving the impression that there is something to hide.

Out of I think 5 people I spoke with, only one city official asked me for the contact info for the guy I spoke to in Michigan, where they experienced the SAME problems (only I have to say, they put their pits off to the side of the road). The rest - well, more blustering.

I only just discovered that this ran in the Current last Friday ... I mean literally, I only just discovered it this minute ... I filed it after deadline. The place in Michigan (where trust me, it gets colder in winter than it does here) has had the AIRVAC system for five years.

Third point: I don't think the city should give the go-ahead for another multi-million dollar project that is being proposed by the same people who handled the last one until it is determined what the real problem is and who is responsible.

And I DO have project management experience.

I once had to force a contractor to go to Egypt over Christmas to fix something he was responsible for before the project left the U.S. ... he called me on Christmas Day to complain bitterly that there was no BBQ in Cairo (he was from the South) ... hey, I have international project management experience!

That's not even counting the 2 helicopters in Kuwait I was partly responsible for keeping running (with the maintenance guy on site). Do you know how many parts/year it takes to keep 2 helicopters in the air? I do - or used to - because I had to order and ship the parts.

And what to do when Lufthansa is loading a helicopter onto a cargo plane in Germany and - oops - hits the side of the plane with the tail of the helicopter?

I was responsible for shipping that sucker from Hawaii to Kuwait.

But enough about me.

Summer is coming and then everyone (except the people on the island) will forget there even were icing problems this winter. Just like everyone forgot about the icing problems last winter. And the winter before that.

You know what I was told, as a reporter for the Current, when it happened the first time? That the lines going from the pits to the houses (installed by private contractors hired by homeowners) were not dug deep enough.

It's always something someone else did wrong ... maybe or maybe not in this case.

But you deserve to know.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Really not super

Well here's a shocker (not) - Supt. of Schools Kevin Lyons is a top candidate for another job.

Here's the breaking story, from the Daily News.

According to the MetroWest Daily News Lyons will learn next Tuesday whether he has been chosen for the position over current Agawam Superintendent and Hudson candidate Mary Czajkowski.

Lyons released word of his potential departure late last night in an email to the entire public school staff.

The piece does not say where the hell Hudson is ... looks like it's north of Marlborough.

Hmmmm ... this is verrrry interesting. But as I said, not surprising. I think Lyons has aged about 20 years since he's been here.

Brown Square update

I wrote a bit for today's Current about Brown Square, but I don't see it online.

Since I raved earlier this week about the Planning Office applying for $80,000 in CPA funds ("What's this $80,000 for, a gold-plated drinking fountain?"), I thought I should point out the error of my words.

The project has been scaled back by about $150,000, to $352,000.

The dept. needs the $80,000 to secure matching funds from the state ($101,808). The city has already received $106,909 through donations and is eligible for a 56 percent matching grant on that.

The new budget will allow for upgrading the area around the statue of William Lloyd Garrison, installing a central pathway, two small plazas and brick perimeter sidewalk; and new trees and historic interpretive signage.

The current timeline includes advertising and bidding the project this summer and implementing the construction phase in late fall or early 2010.

Without the CPA funding and the state grants that can be leveraged with that funding, Vining writes that the two plazas – one of which will incorporate the monuments to veterans – may have to be eliminated from the project.

The CPC has received $1.438 million in requests for FY2009, will meet with applicants on four evenings and prepare recommendations for appropriation to the City Council in June.

As the turbine turns (a continuing saga)

I was out and about a bit ago, so I drove over to Hill St. I had turbine on the brain after reading Tom Salemi's post about it.
I had last night commented on Tom's post that when I was there before, I did not hear any noise coming from the thing.
Then I thought, "Well, maybe I did ..." so I deleted the comment.
But no noise today, only this view from the end of Hill St. near Rte. 1.
Anyway - as I turned onto Rte. 1 and looked up I saw what appeared to be a model airplane caught in the blades. I pulled onto Hill St., parked and ran back to Rte. 1 with my camera - which failed to take a good photo of the turbine and the little plane. Damn.
It was a remotely controlled model plane. Talk about a traffic hazard.
This was the view that I saw before writing my story from a couple of weeks ago, but it was night then and I couldn't get a good shot.

It's the pits

I'm still amazed this morning about the meeting last night, re: the vacuum sewer system.

Sure, I look at the piece of paper they handed out showing details of the workings in the pits and I guess maybe - maybe - I would have believed it would work while encased in a block of ice.

Of course, I'm not an engineer ...

Anyway, here's Victor Tine's piece from today's Daily News.

The bit about the candy cane vents being too close to the pits is interesting ...

The way the vents are installed appears to make them more prone to funneling cold air into the sewer valve pits, causing the valves to freeze.

The pipe leading from the vent goes to the lower part of the pit, I guess that's the sump, where the waste collects. There is a barrier between the lower and upper parts ... cuz wouldn't it be a really stinky pit if it were all one open space, with no impermeable barrier between?

Not to mention a health hazard.

Anyway ... I was told the vents only suck air in when the pit is being evacuated.

I can't speak to how often every pit evacuates, but the one outside the cottage sucks it out once a day (I think this is the only house on the pit, though, because there is no house across from me and the only one next to me is on Old Point Rd.).

So that's it. Take it for what it's worth.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Panic in Detroit ... I mean Newburyport

Tonight after the meeting I described in my last post, I was standing outside City Hall with Barry Connell, on the corner of Pleasant and Green St. (but on Green St.). It was around 9:40.

This car screeched around the corner of Water St. and Green (which of course is one way the other way), pulled over to the side of the road and stopped outside the NPD building, facing us.

Barry and I both looked.

It sat there for several seconds, then made a U-turn and went back out onto Water St. By then I had started walking towards the Green St. lot. I saw the same car pull into said lot. It parked right by my car.

I was was a little freaked out, so I tried to catch the attention of a police officer who was lurking behind an SUV parked Green St. But he was on his cell phone and scampered off when he saw me to lurk instead in the ground floor entrance to City Hall ... *ahem*

So I actually entered the police dept. to tell them of some potentially suspicious activity taking place across the street.

They mobilized into action ... no, they really did ... except that an officer in a cruiser told me that cars often turn the wrong way up Green St. and then I thought I saw the car on the road and the officer in the SUV followed where I told him that car went.

But I was wrong - the car was still parked in the Green St. lot. Neither officer had thought to actually go into the Green St. lot (probably because I said the car was driving along Water St.).

Two men were wandering around the lot and returned to the car just as I got to my car.

They followed me, you guys ... right up until I saw the police SUV pulling out of The Tannery, and I was gesturing wildly to the officer, but he didn't see me (must have missed the 'stolen' license plate on my car) ... then I pulled over and turned around, saw the cruiser coming out of the Waterfront Trust lot and tried to flag that down ... that officer also ignored me, although I was waving madly out my window this time.

Well, by then I thought perhaps I was overreacting, so I drove up Federal St. to High St. and went home that way.

I called the NPD after I got home, told the dispatcher what had happened, and gave them my contact info. Just in case the men were in fact up to no good and someone actually had apprehended them.

I don't know if it was the Michigan in me or the Boston in me that caused me to panic, but it just did not look right.

Life in Frostbite Falls

I can understand why this whole sewer system mess on PI is being kept a secret ... or not.

I incurred the wrath of the mayor and the less strident response from the sewer dept. (although I don't think I'm their favorite person) when I said I had called a place in Michigan that has the same vacuum system and this is what the guy told me ... blah blah, pump out pits every year, blah blah, calibrate pistons, blah blah, check connections on tubes that work loose ... no more problems with freezing - out there, at least.

Holy shit!

Brendan O'Regan later told me they do all that stuff, but the mayor ... well just don't be telling him how to "run our business."

Gee, silly me - I thought it was the responsibility of a reporter to verify what local officials were saying about a sketchy debacle. And they are the ones who directed me to Michigan ... them and the AIRVAC website.

The mayor, btw, does not see it as a debacle. He pointed out that you won't see him "jumping up and down" and writing 5-page memos about what a nightmare the system is. He's got more important things to worry about, like budget deficits.

Can't argue with that, Mr. Mayor.

Although ... somehow it seems that fixing this problem - whatever it is - may increase the budget deficit. Since they do all the required maintenance, it must be something expensive.

That's how it works, right? With anything mechanical, it's always something expensive.

I was assured that they can fix the problem. As soon as they find out what it is. And who is responsible, of course.

End of Part 1 of this post, which I actually wrote this morning. Now on to Part 2:

They had the big meeting with CDM (designer of the system) and AIRVAC (the manufacturer) today.

Before the joint B&F/Public Utilities meeting tonight, I asked Brendan how the meeting went and he said I should talk to the mayor, since Moak is running the show.

Of course, not 15 minutes later, he was telling the councillors all about the meeting. So I don't have to talk to the mayor about it.

Basically, as you would expect, neither company wants to take any responsibility. And they don't really have to, since all warranties have expired.

I have to give DPS Director Brendan O'Regan some credit here for getting an extension of the warranty on the AIRVAC system to May, 2008. He successfully argued against declaring the system substantially complete in Nov. 2006, which meant the warranty would have expired in 2007.

Of course, this winter was the first one where almost everyone was hooked into the system and it was so much colder this winter than last ...

Anyway - B&F voted to recommend approval of the sewer OT ($49,500 of it for PI issues) and the two committees voted on recommending approval of the bond order for the wastewater treatment facility - only Brian Derrivan, who said he wants to do a little more research, voted NO.

"A 'no' can be turned into a 'yes' much easier than turning a 'yes' into a 'no,'" he said after Donna Holaday asked him why he voted "no."


Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.

Again? The trick never works!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Stop making sense

So I'm watching last night's "Daily Show" tonight.

Honest to God, I'm thinking of boycotting NBC, the big baby network.

Hey, there's that chick from "Flight of the Conchords" ...

Jon Stewart has been mocking that idiotic Jim Cramer from CNBC (you know, the guy who screeched that Bear Stearns was safe just days before it was bought out for peanuts).

I guess that on Monday, Cramer appeared on the "Today" show (or whatever it's called now) and Joe Scarborough's morning show on MSNBC and, according to Stewart MSNBCBGB, NBC's late night club ...

This ain't no mudd club, or CBGB ... I ain't got time for that now!


Much like me, NBC just couldn't let it go, and ...

This is/was just infantile - I'm just a lowly blogger and NBC is a big network with some credibility.

And not only that - it gives Stewart the powerful position of greater capacity for mocking.

Speaking of mocking, I guess I have to stop mocking the Daily News now.

One of "them" did something nice for me today.

But then again, Stephen Tait was always doing nice stuff and it never stopped me ... oh whatever, it was an act of great integrity and I appreciated it.

Unless it was a trick - in which case, I'll get him later.

Thanks, Victor.

Message for you, Sir

I got this yesterday, from someone in Everett. The author gave me permission to post it.

We have big problems here in Everett. The City just signed a consent agreement with Wood Waste of Boston. It is EXTREMELY weak.

The word document attached is what the proposal from the Board of Alderman and the PDF file is what the city signed yesterday. (Obviously you can't see these right here. grs)

Please see part where they will discuss to increase his 50 ton limit.

There are some pretty important pieces left out, i.e., what happens when a violation occurs. Time frames, violation amounts, etc... It appears that this is nothing more than a shell game to quiet the City Council and the DEP was left out completely. This is not good for Newburyport.
Unlike our mayor, who said in today's DN story and again to me that he does not care what's going on in Everett, obviously the feeling in Everett is not mutual.

Not from some residents and not from Everett's mayor.

What goes on in Newburyport is of supreme interest to Everett and what goes on there should be of interest to us - at least as far as New Ventures and Wood Waste are concerned.

Too much information running round my brain

There is so much flying around about the landfill and the consent order in Everett, I can hardly keep up (and it's deadline day for the Current).

Here's the story about the administrative consent order, from today's Daily News. I have not seen the letter yet myself in person ... I did, however, talk to the mayor about it last evening while we were having a couple of beers at ...

Nah, wasn't me. Might not have even been the mayor!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

2 + 2 = 50 for Crow Lane

Hi there,

So let's put 2 and 2 together and see what we come up with, shall we?

I heard yesterday morning that the mayor was going to be calling and/or talking to City Councillors and landfill ad hoc advisory committee members about his decision - whatever it is - about the landfill.

Then he was going to send some kind of letter to the City Council (you know, the one that met last night in City Hall).

So yesterday came and went with apparently no letter and definitely no phone calls (at least not to the ad hoc committee).

The mayor was not at City Hall for the City Council meeting, which is unusual.

So last night I hear that yesterday, Everett and Wood Waste signed a consent agreement and today I got a copy of said agreement. It's pretty pathetic, as far as agreements go, but it does smack of "let's do this meaningless thing while we wait for Newburyport to open the landfill and 8 weeks from now we'll revisit the thing and make it way more meaningful."

So I call someone else, who told me that the letters from Moak went out to the City Council yesterday, via U.S. mail.

Maybe they are registered letters?

So in this case, 2 plus 2 equals 50. That would be tons/week of C&D debris going somewhere until more can come here ... in about 8 weeks, maybe?

I called the mayor, but so far he has not called me back.

Ummmm ... yeah

I'm at a loss for words.

Got a copy of the consent agreement signed yesterday in Everett, between the city and Wood Waste.

We're screwed if the mayor has issued the administrative order.

That's all I can say right now.


Every time I type "WWTF," I feel like I'm typing an abbreviation for a swear. Not to mention the water treatment facility ...

OK, so I was just writing up my story on last night's City Council meeting and - silly me - the part about the bonds and notes being "secured by local system revenues" of course can also refer to sewer rates.

But in any case, this debacle out here on the island is apparently scaring people into being more careful before they enter into deals to "improve" things.

Well, I do have to note that since I wrote the post about rushing headlong into projects doomed for disaster (vacuum sewer systems and capping landfills) I have obtained more information about building a whole new treatment plant.

Where the heck would one put this plant, I was asked ... well, there is a whole bunch of space in the industrial park.

Who owns that? No, really, I'm asking - who owns that?

I'm open to suggestions because, as unlikely as it may seem, before another 20 years is up, the DEP may indeed come to life and start enforcing stricter limits on levels of chlorine in the effluent being discharged into the river.

Because while in years past maybe it was a pretty safe assumption that you shouldn't make $26 million plans based on some federal law like ... let's say the Clean Water Act (because the state isn't actually enforcing it) who really knows at this point?

See, we got this new president guy now.

Enforcement of the Clean Water Act seems like something he might get around to one day in the next four years.