The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of December 12 to December 19, 2019
What makes Winchendon what it is...How we're making Winchendon even better

Plans Moving Forward for Marijuana Cultivation Facility on Juniper Street

Wendell Orphe and Joseph Lupo from Mantis Management Group LLC appeared before the Board of Selectman on Monday, December 9 for a community outreach meeting on the proposed marijuana cultivation facility at 2 Juniper Street. This property is next door to Rite Aid/Walgreen's pharmacy and formerly housed Second Impressions and the Wine Outlet.

Mr. Orphe explained that when the initial application was filed, they had not yet registered their business name, and had filed as Curated Leaf Services, LLC. The new business name, Mantis Management Group LLC, is now registered with the Commonwealth. This community outreach meeting is mandated by the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) within six months of filing the initial application.

In a brief presentation, Mr. Orphe explained that Mantis has downscaled its plans from a 7,500 square foot cultivation facility to under 5,000 square feet in order to complete the operation and start moving product to market "sooner rather than later." They are applying for a Tier 1 Grow license which allows up to 5,000 square feet of cultivation space. They are also applying for a manufacturing license allowing them to manufacture some product on-site.

Mr. Orphe said that after a long delay, the CCC contacted them three weeks ago requesting additional information. "So they're finally looking at the application which was submitted in May, which is great, it's really good to hear from them," he said. "I thought it just went into a black hole, but it's good to see some light come our way.

"We're going to be completing additional requirements from the CCC, to secure our provisional approval. We're going to be working on the design drawings to present to the Planning Board for a special permit, and we're looking to build the facility in 2020, and prepare for the inspection and start hiring staff as well, too."

"It's about time we had some good news," Selectmen Mike Barbaro said. Mr. Barbaro pointed out to Mr. Orphe that the town had passed new rules in May which will expedite the permitting process by the Planning Board.

"You know, we did pass in May, you can move the process along faster can get all your stuff set up so you can start doing what you need to do now. That's a rules change that we made in May. Now you can go to the Planning Board ahead of time, while the process is still going," Mr. Barbaro said. "We're allowing you to jump start." He added that this change was made at May Town Meeting in order help businesses in town get started faster. Mr. Orphe said he appreciated that, and Mantis had wanted to be certain of the square footage of the space before they went further.

Selectman Barbara Anderson asked if abuttors had been notified. Board of Selectmen Chair Audrey LaBrie stated that they had been.

Ms. LaBrie asked for more details about the manufacturing element of the facility.

Mr. Orphe explained that they will be doing very small-scale production of distillates or concentrated product from the marijuana that is grown on-site. They will be using cold ethanol extraction and solvent-less extraction methods, with a machine that is a closed loop system. "It will be very safe," he assured the Selectmen. These products may be sold wholesale to retail stores, or sold to manufacturers who will use it for other products such as edible cannibis products.

Ms. LaBrie asked if there were any questions from community members in attendance at the meeting, but no questions were asked.

Town Manager Addresses Issues, Criticisms of Snowstorm Cleanup

At the Board of Selectmen meeting on Monday, December 9, Town Manager Keith Hickey asked for a few minutes to talk to the Board and the public about the previous week's snowstorm. "I know there were a lot of people who were frustrated with how the storm was handled, and just to give people some perspective on what we were addressing, and the challenges the Public Works faced," Mr. Hickey said.

Mr. Hickey pointed out that 120 miles of road have to be plowed in both directions, doubling the mileage for crews to 240 miles. DPW crews made at least eight complete passes of the roads during the two-day storm. Crew were working about seventeen hours a day. "Driving a large truck in a blinding snowstorm is even more challenging" than driving a car in a snowstorm, Mr. Hickey said.

The town has fourteen pieces of equipment for plowing, in addition to the sidewalk plow. The John Deere tractor purchased with Converse funding is mostly used for mowing but has a snowblower attachment which is mostly used for the bike path and similar areas. Sidewalks are typically plowed after the roads are done because the same crew plows the roads as the sidewalks.

The drive shaft of the sidewalk plow broke about two hours into the storm on Sunday. Dealers throughout the area were called but did not have a drive shaft in stock. A new one was rush ordered with 24-hour delivery, but UPS did not honor the 24-hour guarantee because of the weather conditions. The part took 48 hours to arrive.

A one-ton dump truck engaged in plowing went off the road and sustained significant damage, making it unusable for the rest of the storm. Another one-ton dump truck, only five years old, was found to have a bent frame. A third truck was taken out of service for about six hours to repair a broken plow piston, and then was back on the road plowing. A fourth truck needed two tires replaced due to a large rock jammed between them. DPW doesn't have the equipment needed to change these tires, so the truck was out of service for about six hours while an outside company came in to replace the tires.

Mr. Hickey spoke honestly about the equipment issues during the storm, leading to questions from the public about why the DPW hadn't proactively maintained the equipment or prepared for the storm. However, the vehicles were not out of service for long and the issues weren't ones that could be foreseen. "I can assure you that Al [Gallant, DPW Director] and his staff did everything they possibly could to prepare the vehicles for a winter snowstorm," Mr. Hickey said.

Mr. Hickey said that the two damaged trucks were inspected by the town's insurance adjustor Monday morning and he recommended that the trucks be totalled. Current book value of the old trucks should be enough to purchase a new vehicle. It can take four months to find and purchase a truck.

Mr. Hickey noted that the DPW Director's former truck was replaced with a heavier duty vehicle that can be used to plow. The mechanic's truck was also replaced with a vehicle that can be used with a plow blade. The town therefore began the winter with 16 pieces of road plowing equipment.

The DPW spread 300 tons of salt and 250 tons of sand. The projected total cost of the December 1-3 storm is just over $48,000. The snow and ice budget is $300,000, so the town spent about one sixth of its snow removal budget in two days.

"There were some really nasty phone calls that came into Public Works during that storm, there were some comments on Facebook," left anonymously, Mr. Hickey said. "I'm just pleading with people, if you have a complaint about snow removal, my direct phone number is 978-297-5404. Please call me, and yell at me. The Public Works Department does not need to be spoken to the way some of those messages were left, and comments that were left for them. I'm happy to take whatever frustration you may have."

The Board of Selectmen asked some questions about the sidewalk plowing. Mr. Gallant explained that the sidewalk plow is seven years old, and there are sixteen miles of sidewalks to plow. Central Street and around the schools are plowed first. Some of the town sidewalks are only three feet wide, while the sidewalk plows are five feet wide.

Selectman Barbara Anderson asked why Academy Street's sidewalks "are never done." Mr. Gallant said he would look into it. Mr. Hickey added that if some sidewalks have been improved recently and aren't being plowed, residents should contact the DPW, because the plow drivers might not realize the widened sidewalks should be added to their route.

Mr. Gallant stated that it takes 24 hours to plow all the sidewalks under ideal conditions. He noted that the sidewalk plow lost a chain when it hit a mattress someone had left lying on the sidewalk and was hidden by snow, and on another occasion hit a large chunk of rubber on the sidewalk which chewed up the chain again. These mishaps added ten hours to the time it took to finish the sidewalks. Mr. Gallant asked residents to make sure sidewalks are clear of objects and articles that will be hidden by snow and damage the equipment.

PSAs from the Winchendon Police Department

On Wednesday, December 11, there were several reported homes, as well as sheds on some of the properties, broken into with many items stolen. Another has been reported on Thursday. These thefts have involved homes on Gardner Rd, Ash St and Alger St. The suspect(s) seem to be targeting quiet residential roads when most residents would be gone to work, typically between 6:00am-5:00pm. Some of the homes that have been involved, a door has been left unlocked.

Please keep an eye out for any suspicious vehicles if you live in residential areas and report any suspicious activity you may see at a neighboring residence. We have received one report of a suspicious dark colored sedan in the area. If you do see a suspicious vehicle please try to get a license plate number, a description of the vehicle and a description of the occupants if possible.

This department has received several reports over the past week for a phone scam. The caller is claiming to be from the Publishers Clearing House and claims you have won a large sum of money and a new car. They will then tell you to call back a different number to claim your prize. This is a SCAM. Please do not give any personal information to these callers, don't send them money or purchase gift cards ect.

(The Courier reminds readers that Publishers Clearing House's "brand" is to surprise its winners by showing up at the door with a big fanfare. They repeatedly advise their customers that they will never call asking for information or fees.)

Selectmen Discuss Community Development Block Grant for Reconstruction of Railroad Street

At their meeting on Monday, December 9, the Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Keith Hickey discussed options for reconstructing Railroad Street and replacing its water and sewer lines in conjunction with the Central Street Reconstruction Project, if the town is awarded a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help fund the work.

Mr. Hickey pointed out that the Central Street project will reduce the number of parking spots available on Central Street itself. "We have an opportunity to make some modifications to a block or two of Railroad Street that would, if the Board so chose, increase the number of parking spots on Railroad Street," Mr. Hickey said.

Mr. Hickey presented three possible designs for the reconstruction of the street.

The first would leave the street as it currently is: two way, with no additional parking spaces. The water and sewer lines would be replaced and the street resurfaced.

The second design would make Railroad Street one-way between Central Street and Pleasant Street (one block), with traffic flowing from Central Street to Pleasant Street (northwest). This would allow the creation of thirteen new parking spaces and two handicap parking spaces to help address some of the lost parking spaces on Central Street.

The third option would make Railroad Street one-way for two blocks, up to Spruce Street. This would create twenty additional parking spaces and two additional handicap parking spaces.

"What's happening now is the Public Works Director and the Planning Director are meeting with Weston & Sampson, who are the engineers on this project. They're looking to finalize estimated costs so the CDBG can be submitted," Mr. Hickey said.

Mr. Hickey stated that the Police Chief and the DPW director recommend option two, making Railroad Street one-way for just one block. They feel that people won't want to park two blocks away from Central Street and hence wouldn't utilize the additional parking.

Railroad Street and surrounding area

Selectman Barbara Anderson asked when this project would be done. Mr. Hickey replied that the CDBG application will go in this winter, and the project would aim to be done in 2021, at the same time as the Central Street project. Ms. Anderson observed that she often goes down Railroad Street to turn onto Central Street because it's difficult to see oncoming traffic trying to turn onto Central from Grove Street. Cars frequently are parked close to the corner in front of C&S Pizza, blocking the sight line to Central Street.

Mr. Hickey affirmed that this issue with the corner of Grove and Central Streets will be eliminated when Central Street is reconstructed and the parking re-aligned.

Ms. Anderson asked what would happen if the RHI building on the corner of Central and Railroad Streets was redeveloped, and needed additional parking. In that case, it might be worthwhile to make all two blocks of Railroad Street one-way so the businesses would have that parking.

Mr. Hickey noted that should the RHI building be redeveloped, they would probably need to include a parking area to meet site requirements, although extra parking on Railroad Street could be helpful for visitors.

Mr. Hickey asked DPW Director Al Gallant what would be involved if, in future years, the RHI building was redeveloped and they wanted to make the second block of Railroad Street one-way--"would it be as easy as re-striping the road, re-striping that second block of Railroad Street to allow for additional parking," along with posting signage. Mr. Gallant indicated that this was the case.

Mr. Gallant said that it would be easier to add more parking later, because the redesign will allow for green space. He also added that the project would begin in April, 2021. The grant application is due in February, 2020.

Asked if business owners had been spoken to, Mr. Gallant said he talked to Winchendon Furniture. The owners of Winchendon Furniture were pushing for the changes, saying they'd been there for 40 years and there had been no improvements to the road.

Mr. Gallant pointed out that there is currently no legal parking on Railroad Street because it's not wide enough. Sometimes cars are parked on both sides of the street with customers going into Toy Town Pub and Winchendon Wine & Spirits, and there is barely room to pass. Technically, all those vehicles are parked illegally.

Mr. Gallant said the plans will not require any frontage-taking or eminent domain because the street and sidewalks are wide enough to allow for the reconstruction.

The Board of Selectmen voted to approve the CDBG application for option two, making Railroad Street one-way for one block.

Mr. Gallant added a final comment, saying that the Railroad Street reconstruction will also allow the DPW to separate the wastewater and storm drainage on Railroad Street "which will be a huge thing." Installing separate wastewater and storm water drainage will also be done on Central Street.

Fire Department Short Takes

The Winchendon Fire Department would like to thank Monty Tech's "Meals for Shields" for providing the crews working on Thanksgiving with a turkey and all the sides. Our fire station is staffed 24/7 including holidays and the generous donation from Monty Tech made the firehouse much more festive this holiday.

Winchendon Fire Chief Tom Smith reports: "The Baker-Politico Administration announced that the Winchendon Fire Department is one of 75 Fire Departments in Massachusetts to receive funding for a turnout gear washer/extractor to help clean structural fire-fighting gear. The total amount awarded to the Winchendon Fire Department is $6,416.72."

Winchendon Board of Selectmen Present Long-Time Resident Ruth DeAmicis with Proclamation

On Monday, December 9, the Winchendon Board of Selectmen honored long-time resident and former editor of The Winchendon Courier with a Proclamation recognizing her service to the community. Board of Selectmen Chair Audrey LaBrie read the words of the Proclamation into the record.

"Whereas Ms. Ruth DeAmicis, a long-time resident of the town of Winchendon, for the past two decades has given of her time and service on such diverse Winchendon boards and commissions as the Historical Commission, Community Policing, School Zone Safety Committee, Capital Planning Committee, Community Economic Development Steering Committee, and Communications Committee;

and whereas Ms. Ruth DeAmicis, seeking to build a strong local economy and quality of life by promoting economic, civic and social development, started the first Winchendon business group, called Toy Town Business Alliance, and also served as Winchendon's member of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce;

and whereas Ms. Ruth DeAmicis has served the community in both the Kiwanis and Lions Clubs for nineteen years, groups which are dedicated to serving the community's humanitarian needs;

and whereas Ms. Ruth DeAmicis has given of her time for six years as a member of the American Legion Women's Auxiliary in the spirit of service, honoring the sacrifice of those who served by enhancing the lives of our veterans, the military and their families;

and whereas Ms. Ruth DeAmicis, for more than a decade, was the editor and driving force behind The Winchendon Courier newspaper, until its closing in December 2018, dutifully and faithfully delivering the Winchendon news to its residents, educating the community on the important happenings of the week, and highlighting all the good this town has enjoyed.

Therefore, be it resolved that the Board of Selectmen hereby present this Proclamation to Ruth DeAmicis, with sincere appreciation for her many years of passionate service and devotion to the town, and wish her much happiness and success in her future endeavors."

Accepting the framed proclamation, Ms. DeAmicis said, "I just want to thank the town of Winchendon for all its support over the years, and I appreciate that you always supported your local newspaper."

Oddly, the Board of Selectmen appear unaware that The Winchendon Courier is still being published online every Thursday--entirely due to Ms. DeAmicis' determination that the town's newspaper would not vanish into the same dustheap that has claimed so many local newspapers. Thanks to Ms. DeAmicis, The Winchendon Courier will report local news for many years to come.

Toy Town FYIs

Effective December 1

Winter Parking Ban
Town of Winchendon Bylaw
SECTION 7.18; WINTER BAN Parking is prohibited on all public ways between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., annually from December 1st through April 15th. In addition, any vehicle, other than one acting in an emergency, parked, day or night, on any street in the Town, so as to interfere with the work of removing or plowing snow, removing ice, or sanding the street may be removed or towed away under the authority, discretion and direction of the Chief of Police or the Chief’s designee. The registered owner of a motor vehicle which is removed pursuant to this bylaw shall be fully responsible for all charges and expenses incurred for the removal and storage of said motor vehicle.

As of Thursday, December 5, the Winchendon Fire Department will no longer be performing inspections at residences with excessive amounts of snow preventing access to the property. If a residence is found to be inaccessible the inspection will not be performed and an additional re-inspection fee will be charged.

The Winchendon Fire Department urges residents to take all safety precautions with candles and generators.

  • Generators should always be used outside, never in your home, garage or basement. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible and can reach lethal levels even if you don't smell exhaust or fumes. If you have a permanent emergency generator professionally installed, make sure its ventilation is clear of snow or other obstructions.
  • Candles should never be left unattended, and must always be at least a foot away from anything else flammable--including other candles.

Clear Those Fire Hydrants!

If there's a fire hydrant near your's the fire hydrant the Fire Department will need if your house is on fire. With that in mind, help keep hydrants clear of snow and accessible this winter, for everyone's safety!

Hydrants should be completely clear of snow and ice, with an open area of three feet on all sides and clear open access from the street. It's a little extra work, but if the hydrant is needed, every second counts!

Stone-Ladeau Funeral Home

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Winchendon Subway

CAC Toy Drive CAC Toy Drive

The Winchendon Fire Department delivered donated toys to the Winchendon CAC on Monday morning for distribution to families in need this Christmas. "Operation Winchendon Kids Toy Drive" has concluded, but if you'd like to donate toys, you can bring them directly to the CAC.

CAC Toy Drive CAC Toy Drive

At left, Winchendon CAC Director Jennifer Sibley accepts a generous donation from the Gold Wing Riders Motorcycle Club. Right, Sutton Homes presents Ms. Sibley with a holiday donation for Winchendon families in need this Christmas.

The Winchendon CAC still needs donations of $10 grocery store gift cards, turkeys or hams, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, desserts, canned vegetables, juice, and ginger ale for Christmas dinner baskets.

The Winchendon CAC is located at 273 Central Street. For information on hours and times when donations can be accepted, call them at 978-297-1667.