The year in review: What happened in Southborough in 2012

Above: Police held a community meeting to talk about the home break-ins that had us all
locking our doors in 2012

As we reflect back on 2012 on this the final day of the year, there are stories that stand out for all of us, from ones that rocked our small town to ones that rocked our nation. This year I asked for your help in picking out the events of the past year that stand out to you. Here’s the list.

Break-ins leave residents on edge
Southborough residents were checking the locks on their windows and doors this year after a string of home burglaries had us on edge. The crime wave began with five break-ins in early August, and continued through the fall. Police held a community meeting to discuss the crimes and share tips on how to keep safe. As far as I know, no arrests have been made in the break ins.

Registered sex offender allowed to live near a preschool
In the history of the blog, this story was without doubt one of the most commented upon. In October it was revealed that a registered sex offender was allowed to live just a few doors down from Southborough Village Preschool, despite a town bylaw prohibiting such a thing. Judging by the comments on this blog, residents were outraged, and Southborough Police admitted it was a “terrible mistake.” They vowed to update their practices to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. The story made news statewide.

Above: A busy Saturday at the Swap Shop (photo by Eric Tapper)

Swap Shop remains open
A much-criticized proposal to close the Swap Shop was easily the biggest story of 2011. In early 2012, the beloved shed at the Transfer Station got a reprieve when DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan shelved the plan to close it despite concerns about traffic and rude behavior by patrons. Expect this story to continue in 2013 as a new Swap Shop – currently under construction at the Transfer Station by Assabet students – is expected to open.

Southborough mourns residents young and old
This year both started and ended with heartbreak, as Southborough lost two precious residents who were far too young. In January Trottier seventh grader Eric Green passed away suddenly. In December, 23-year-old Eagle Scout and aspiring photojournalist Christopher Weigl was killed in a bicycle accident while attending Boston University. Southborough also mourned the loss of Dick Curran and Dick Upjohn, who over the course of their long lifetimes influenced many of us in town. As I look back on 2012, it is the loss of these residents, both young and old, that stays with me most. I suspect I’m not alone.

Above: A tree knocked down by Hurricane Sandy (photo via Twitter:@gotpolitics)

Hurricane Sandy hits Southborough
New England was spared a direct hit, but Hurricane Sandy still blew through town and did its share of damage. Trees and limbs fell, and power was knocked out to much of the town. Thankfully for most, the power outages did not last as long as during Tropical Storm Irene the previous year. Our town also did not suffer nearly the damage seen by towns in New Jersey and New York. The devastation to our south inspired a group of Southborough mothers to rally together to collect and deliver supplies to one hard-hit New Jersey town. It was a heartwarming community effort.

Mosquitoes take a bite out of summer
The pesky mosquito was the center of attention across much of Massachusetts this summer, and Southborough was no exception. Mosquitoes infected with West Nile were found in the area of Newton Street late in the summer. That, combined with EEE and West Nile infected mosquitoes in neighboring towns, led the Board of Health to cancel evening and early morning activities at town fields and playgrounds. The activity ban impacted youth sports and even the annual Heritage Day pumpkin viewing.

Sandy Hook massacre shocks a nation
Southborough residents joined the nation in mourning the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary School earlier this month. Our churches opened their doors to grieving residents in need of refuge and reflection, while our schools sought to reassure parents that they are safe.

Above: Voters at Town Meeting in April rejected a plan to change Southborough’s government

Proposal to change our town government fails, barely
After two hours of discussion on the floor of Town Meeting in April, a proposal to change the structure of our town government, one that was years in the making, failed by only eleven votes. One committee member said the proposal was harpooned by scare tactics and a vocal minority. Despite the vote, selectmen continued their efforts to improve the way our government functions. In August they hired Mark Purple to a town administrator position with expanded responsibilities. Their efforts are likely to continue in 2013 when they hope to ask residents to expand the size of the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.

Zoning brouhaha over Gulbankian property continues
A number of residents this year criticized the Zoning Board of Appeal’s 2011 ruling ordering the Gulbankian family to make upgrades to its Mt. Vickery Road property. The Gulbankians appealed the board’s decision, which came after complaints from neighbors, but the ruling was upheld by a Worcester court in June. ZBA Chairman Matt Hurley defended the board’s decision, saying it was intended to balance the needs of the long-standing family business with those of its neighbors. In November, the ZBA voted to allow the Gulbankians more time to implement the ordered improvements.

Concerns raised about school MCAS performance
School budgets are a perennial topic of discussion among residents, and this year was no exception. In 2012 the discussion focused on whether we are getting enough bang for our buck. Selectman John Rooney first posed the question of whether spending more money necessarily results in a better education for students at a School Committee meeting late in 2011. The question was not well received. The debate continued in 2012 as Rooney and others pointed to state data that suggests Southborough’s performance lags behind other area schools, while Superintended Charles Gobron defended the district’s performance. Complicating the discussion were charges that the School Committee was not forthcoming with budget data. In the end, voters at Town Meeting in April approved the school budget without a speck of debate.

Which of these happenings resonates most with you? What other stories do you remember from 2012? Any predictions for 2013? Share your thoughts on the year that has passed and the one that lies ahead in the comments below.


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