Post image for Baker announced special $16.1M relief package from NECC

Above: The Governor made yesterday’s Covid-19 briefing in Southborough, from one of the special education residential programs that a new relief fund package will aid. (images from Facebook)

Yesterday, I alerted readers that Governor Baker would make his daily briefing from the New England Center for Children campus. The focus was to be new relief funding for special education residential programs. The announcement made yesterday was of a $16.1M package with $1,902,742 designated for NECC.

Baker administration touring NECC with CEOPrior to the July 13th briefing, the Governor and other officials toured the center for autism education and research in Southborough.

NECC’s CEO and Founder Vincent Strully introduced the briefing. He thanked the Baker administration for providing in house testing and help sourcing “much needed protective equipment”. He credited their commitment to serving the state’s “most challenging students” for enabling the residential program to stay open through the pandemic. He followed: 

It’s important to note that our 121 residential students have no alternative to New England Center for Children and cannot live safely at home and some do not have a home. 

Strully also thanked staff for “bravely” serving students even when some had tested positive. As of yesterday’s speech, no staff or students were covid-positive. It was 7 weeks since they had a case of an infected student.

The CEO noted that the need to fund PPE, hazard pay, additional cleaning, and major facility changes wouldn’t be going away. NECC had dipped into savings to spend an unbudgeted over $3M to “succeed in containing this virus.” He thanked the administration for the help the new package would provide.

The news release from the administration noted that the package is in addition to $3M in funding provided by the Dept of Early Education and Care in April:

Together, this $19 million acknowledges the efforts of these schools to remain open on a 24/7 basis throughout the pandemic and the measures they implemented to keep their doors open and their youth and staff safe.

[click to keep reading…]

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Post image for Open discussion thread: Ask questions, share opinions

Above: A reader shared this beautiful view of a sunset from her backyard this summer. You can get a better look by clicking here for a larger, uncropped version. (photo by Jennifer Leuck)

It’s time for another open thread.

What’s on your mind this week, Southborough?

For those of you new to the blog, the open discussion thread is your place to ask questions, sound off on town issues, or share information with other readers. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Ask questions about programs in town or the town itself
  • Post a note about things that you’re selling or giving away, or things that you want
  • Share notices about upcoming events (Southborough or otherwise)
  • Register your thoughts on town issues or news stories
  • Point out interesting or helpful resources

You can add comments to the thread throughout the week. Check back often to see new comments. (If you read the blog via email or RSS, you might want to check the site from time to time for new comments.)

To view past open discussion threads, click here.

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Post image for School news: Reopening survey and update; quarantine protocol for student travelers; 8th grade DC trip cancelled

Above: School parents are being asked to complete a survey on how they would respond to reopening in the fall. The request comes in the most recent update on the school’s efforts to prepare for September. (images cropped from survey and update)

The Northborough and Southborough Public Schools is asking each family to complete a survey. This time the focus is learning how parents would handle reopening. (Would you send kids to school if it opened 100%? Would you participate in a hybrid model? Would you send kids on a bus?)

The survey closes on Thursday, July 16th, so respond soon. (You can access that here.)

The survey was shared in an update posted on the District website last Friday. In the message, Superintendent Gregory Martineau advised that under current state guidelines students can’t travel outside of New England within 2 weeks of attending school in-person:

if your child travels outside of New England (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Maine, Connecticut), New York or New Jersey, your child will need to be quarantined for 14 days prior to returning to school. These exact requirements may change over time, as per orders from the state government.

Of course, it’s still uncertain if students will be attending school in person at the start of the year. The district is still working on three versions for reopening in the fall: 100% in-person, hybrid learning models, and full remote learning.

Currently, the District is conducting a feasibility study regarding reopening for 100% in-person learning with health requirements. This study includes examining each of our ten facilities and determining whether or not all health and safety guidelines from the Commonwealth’s medical expert team can be met. This study will be submitted to DESE for a detailed review.

In addition to the feasibility study, we have a range of stakeholders working on developing specific plans for the hybrid and remote learning models.

To inform our planning, we are also seeking data from faculty, staff, and families via a survey. I’m asking that each family complete the Fall Reopening Survey. This data will help us understand families’ current intentions for the fall and will influence District plans.

The models will be shared the week of August 2nd. In the meantime, he will be posting an update each Friday.

Given that we don’t even know if we can send kids to school in person, the other news shared last Friday shouldn’t come as a big surprise. That’s when 8th grade Trottier students learned that their big annual field trip is cancelled. The kids won’t be heading to Washington D.C. this fall.  [click to keep reading…]

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Post image for Events this week: Hide & Seek, Creative Writing, Preschool Yoga and more

Above: Last week, Hide & Seek with Hodge Podge was postponed. Let’s keep fingers crossed that the weather allows it to take place tomorrow. (photos from Facebook L-R by Joseph H. Plumb Memorial Library and Mr. Vinny)

Here are highlights of what’s happening this week for Southborough.

Most of this week’s events are all online. All of the events are through the Southborough Library.

(If you’re looking for some off-line fun with kids, click here for info that includes ongoing activities/opportunities.)

Tuesday, July 13, 2020

  • Library’s Virtual Story Time (10:30 am) Facebook: Children’s Librarian “Miss Kim” will hold a story time on Facebook live, which will also be viewable after. (Note: you don’t have to have a Facebook account to watch the Library’s videos.) These will take place every Tuesday and Thursday through August.
  • Creative Writing Club (3:00 – 3:40 pm) @ : Southborough Library is hosting this weekly club for tweens and teens through mid-August. Are you looking for a new place to foster your writing? How about a welcoming environment to share writing projects? Or maybe some help practicing your writing skills in a fun way? Tuesday afternoons meet with other writers along with library associate Marianna Sorensen to brainstorm ideas and share projects.
  • Mr. Vinny presents Hodge Podge Hide & Seek (3:00 – 4:00 pm) @ somewhere in Southborough: Postponed from July 8th due to the weather forecast. The Southborough Library is putting on this special, socially distant event. Mr. Vinny will be hiding with his big puppet “Hodge Podge” somewhere in town! We need you to help find him with the clues you will receive. When you track him down, please take pictures (at a distance) and meet the puppet from afar. No registration required. For details, see dedicated post.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

  • Virtual Preschool Yoga (9:30 am – 10:30 am) @ zoom: Southborough Library program geared toward ages 3-5. Join Certified Kids’ Yoga Instructor Mandy Roberge as she takes kids on a fun-filled adventure on Zoom through basic yoga postures, using games, music and literacy activities. For details, see dedicated post.

Thursday, July 16, 2020  [click to keep reading…]

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This afternoon’s daily briefing by the Governor will take place in Southborough. The location chosen, is appropriate for the subject he plans to highlight during his address at 1:00 pm.

A representative from the New England Center for Children, alerted me that Governor Charlie Baker’s Covid-19 briefing will be from their campus. A video feed is setup for live streaming under the MassGovernor’s YouTube account. The July 13th video page includes the description:

Today, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito will join Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders to tour The New England Center for Children and make an announcement relative to relief funding for special education residential schools and provide a COVID-19 update.

You can click here or use the video below to stream live or replay after.

I expect that during or following the briefing, a new press release will be issued on the subject. You should be able to find that here.

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Post image for Town House flagpole: Why it looks “funny”; Selectmen to discuss revamped cell tower proposal

Above: The lack of a flag isn’t the only thing that looks different about the flagpole at the Town House after work conducted this summer. Selectmen will discuss a related proposal from the company leasing the cell tower this Tuesday night. (images L-R cropped from photo by Susan Fitzgerald and photo by Beth Melo)

Some of you may have been surprised to see that the flagpole at the Town House “looks a little funny”, as the Town Administrator noted. The pole now sports a large cylinder near the top. According to TA Mark Purple, changes to the appearance took Town officials by surprise as well.

In June, Purple told selectmen that they “had been sold a bill of goods” by the Crown Castle, which leases the flagpole for AT&T.

Nine years ago, the company sought to enlarge the pole to allow for a bigger antenna in the built-in cell tower. Selectmen rejected designs presented in 2011 and 2012. This spring, the company bypassed seeking the board’s approval before working on a new design. Purple alleges the company’s application for a building permit was misleading.

The company had received approval for work to structurally enhance the pole and switch out some antennas. At the June 23rd meeting, Purple asserted that before and after pictures in the application didn’t show “any discernible changes to the pole”. Once the change was apparent, Facilities Director John Parent and Building Commissioner Lori Livoli halted the work. Livoli instructed the company to return the pole to its previous appearance. 

Altered flagpole July 10, 2020 (by Beth Melo)At that time, Purple indicated the restoration would be done within a couple of weeks. As of Friday (when I took the photo right), it clearly hadn’t been. In the meantime, the company submitted a redesign proposal that selectmen are scheduled to discuss tomorrow night.

In the packet for this Tuesday’s meeting, an email from a Crown Castle representative recapped to Purple that options discussed had been constructing “a new larger diameter flagpole in the rear of the property” or “increasing the canister size for the entire pole”. He now pitched a third option that he said would be the best one for AT&T

The design calls for adding a “tapper” on the top. The packet includes the below images for that proposal.

Flagpole project proposal Flagpole project proposal

At the June meeting, Purple alerted that Crown Castle would seek approval for a new design. He said that if changes aren’t approved, the company may not extend the lease beyond the contract’s end date this fall. The company has made clear that the old design isn’t satisfying their needs for cellular service reach.

In making his pitch, Crown Castle’s Jeffrey Baradora reminded that the cell tower isn’t just about helping their business. It’s also about cellular service for the area:

ATT like other wireless providers are essential to all types of wireless services including but not limited to 911.

Over 80% of emergency calls are now made from cell phones.

The company has leased the antenna since it was built in 1999. The most recent extension to the original lease was last September. The agreement began with a first year payment of $18,001, with annual payments to increase by at least 3% year.*

2011 proposal for Town House flagpole redesignBack in 2011, Crown Castle approached selectmen about a proposal to enlarge the flagpole to 28″ to allow a 4G antenna. (The pole was 18″ at the base tapered to 9″ at the top.) Selectmen were unhappy with designs. They asked the company to talk with veterans in town to see if they could come up with a solution.  [click to keep reading…]

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The week in government: Planning Public Hearing and ANR; BOS on Town House Cell Tower; Housing Authority hearing on Annual Plan

July 13, 2020 08:46:37 AM
Thumbnail image for The week in government: Planning Public Hearing and ANR; BOS on Town House Cell Tower; Housing Authority hearing on Annual Plan

Here is a selection of the committee and board meetings for the week along with my selected highlights from the agendas.

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SBA Payroll Protection Loans received by Southborough businesses

July 10, 2020 05:31:01 PM

Under the Payroll Protection loan program, 270 loans were listed as issued to Southborough business owners.

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Food Pantry update: More generous donations and thank yous

July 10, 2020 09:42:51 AM
Thumbnail image for Food Pantry update: More generous donations and thank yous

Recently, Middlesex Savings Bank announced that it is contributing $5,000 to the Southborough Food Pantry. I decided to check in for an update on other donations to the Southborough Food Pantry.

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Virtual Preschool Yoga – Wednesday

July 10, 2020 07:30:45 AM
Thumbnail image for Virtual Preschool Yoga – Wednesday

This summer, the Southborough Library will be hosting two yoga sessions for preschoolers. Like most of the Library’s offerings these days, the events will be held online.

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Phase 3 rules for Town Re facilities: Outdoor Basketball & Volleyball reopened for limited use

July 9, 2020 02:04:32 PM
Thumbnail image for Phase 3 rules for Town Re facilities: Outdoor Basketball & Volleyball reopened for limited use

Today, Southborough Recreation posted its updated guidelines for using Town facilities.

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Tee off Mondays with the Women’s Casual League

July 9, 2020 12:26:21 PM
Thumbnail image for Tee off Mondays with the Women’s Casual League

The Southborough Golf Club Women’s Casual League asked me to issue a public invitation. The group is looking to welcome more female golfers to join them. 

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On the market this week in Southborough (Updated)

July 9, 2020 09:21:10 AM
Thumbnail image for On the market this week in Southborough (Updated)

What went on and off the market this week.

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Rec Update: Depietri Field done but off limits, playground reopenings, cancellation of concerts and more (Updated)

July 9, 2020 07:30:10 AM
Thumbnail image for Rec Update: Depietri Field done but off limits, playground reopenings, cancellation of concerts and more (Updated)

The Town Rec field in front of Neary School needs time for sod to establish well anchored roots.

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