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Week of November 11 to November 18, 2021
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Barely at Quorum, Fall Town Meeting Voters Approve All Articles on Warrant

The 2021 Fall Special Town Meeting convened in the Murdock Middle High School Auditorium on Monday, November 8 at 7:15 p.m., after nearly being forced to postpone for lack of the required quorum of 75 voters in attendance. Although Warrant articles about the Water and Wastewater Enterprise Funds evoked some discussion, all 17 of the articles on the Warrant passed.

At 7:00 p.m., with 21 more voters needed, Town Moderator Coral Grout urged those present to "get out your phones" and convince friends and family to attend. The count topped 75 within fifteen minutes, and Moderator Grout called the meeting to order.

Skipping the traditional Pledge of Allegiance, Moderator Grout went straight to Article 1, Committee Reports, as Finance Committee Chair Thomas Kane rose to give the Finance Committee's report. Mr. Kane explained that the town had $2,018,206 in certified Free Cash as of July 1, 2021 (the beginning of Fiscal Year 2022). Warrant articles 2 through 12, if approved, would expend $914,226.35 from Free Cash, leaving a balance of $1,103,979.65. (This is $1.90 higher than the Courier's calculation from the figures in the Warrant articles.)

Mr. Kane went on to explain the three articles placed in the Warrant by the Finance Committee: Article 10, to transfer $50,000 from Free Cash into the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund, Article 11, to transfer $50,000 from Free Cash into a Reserve Account for Contractual Separation Pay-outs, and Article 12, to transfer $130,000 from Free Cash to the Stabilization Fund.

Article 2, to pay outstanding bills from past fiscal years in the total amount of $1,621.25 from Free Cash, evoked no discussion and passed with 99 percent in favor, 1 percent opposed. This article required a 9/10 majority to pass.

Article 3, to expend $65,000 from Free Cash to construct a municipal parking lot on Pleasant Street, evoked no discussion and passed with 86 percent in favor, 14 percent opposed.

Article 4, to expend $66,735.27 from Free Cash to purchase a one-ton truck for the Department of Public Works, evoked no discussion and passed with 96 percent in favor, 4 percent opposed.

Article 5 asked voters to approve expending $81,562.65 from Free Cash to cover the deficit in the FY21 (the previous fiscal year) operating budget for the Water Department. A voter rose to ask whether the deficit was due to uncollected bills or operating costs. Town Manager Justin Sultzbach replied that it was a combination of the two factors. The article passed with 85 percent in favor, 15 percent opposed.

Article 6 asked voters to approve expending $154,131.98 from Free Cash to cover the deficit in the FY21 operating budget for the Wastewater Department. The same question was asked as for Article 6, and Mr. Sultzbach said the answers were the same. Another voter rose to ask how much was owed in uncollected bills, and Mr. Sultzbach explained that it was about $150,000, which was reflected in the amount requested in the article. Asked if liens were being placed on the delinquent accounts, and whether people exempted from shut-offs or liens during COVID would never have to pay, Mr. Sultzbach assured voters that the amounts owed would have to be paid, they were not waived.

With this clarification, the article passed with 81 percent in favor, 19 percent opposed.

Article 7 was amended in the motion from the version printed in the Warrant, which is a legal proceeding; the motion, not the printed article, is what Town Meeting votes on. Board of Selectmen Chair Audrey LaBrie read the motion: "I move that the town vote to transfer from the American Rescue Plan Act (also known as ARPA) the sum of $51,664.02 to fund the projected FY22 operating deficit for the Water Department, and to decrease the FY22 Water Budget as voted under Article 7 of the May 17, 2021 Annual Town Meeting by $70,000, from $1,113,978 to $1,043,978." This motion substantially reduced the burden on Free Cash accounted for by the FinCom in their opening report, both by reducing the amount requested in the original Warrant article by more than half, and by taking the funds from federal ARPA monies rather than Free Cash.

Despite this change, the FinCom did not change their recommendation, stating that they still voted uanimously, 6-0, not to recommend the article. The Board of Selectmen, whose vote to recommend was split, 3-2, also did not change their recommendation.

Asked why they had voted not to recommend, Selectmen Rick Ward and Amy Salter explained that Enterprise Funds are intended to be self-supporting, and the town shouldn't use funds from Free Cash (or elsewhere) to shore them up.

Mr. Kane said, "the Finance Committee objected to this article because it doesn't resolve the issue." He compared using Free Cash to make up for shortfalls in the Enterprise Funds to using a savings account to pay bills that exceed income--eventually the savings are gone. Also, he said, "we're voting money to cover a deficit that we'll realize [next] June, we have seven or eight months to find other ways to close that gap, including increasing the rates." He called the request "a stopgap solution."

FinCom member Dr. Maureen Ward said, "just a couple of numbers, the residents that use water are 61 percent, so 39 percent are paying for the 61 percent who use the water. Wastewater, 66 percent of the residents are subsidizing 34 percent that use it."

Voter Tina Santos rose to point out that everyone in town uses "and wastes" town water indirectly even if they're not paying for water and wastewater in their own homes or businesses. Town buildings, Firefighters' musters, cemeteries, large events like Solstice Fair, watering lawns and flower beds on town property, town parks, events at the American Legion, and so on, all use the town water. The former golf course paid a very large amount for water use which the town lost when the golf course closed. "My husband works a lot, a lot of overtime, to be able to pay these bills. We keep trying to say, to raise these rates, and we need to fall on these town water users. Well, you guys who are not town water users, also use this water. Everybody in town uses that water," Ms. Santos said.

In response to more voter questions, Mr. Sultzbach explained that the ARPA funding can be used exclusively for major infrastructure, which include municipal water and sewer. The funding lasts for eight years, but the town has a lot of heavy capital expenses ahead and will need the ARPA funds for as much of those as possible. The ARPA funds come to about $4 million, while just repairing or replacing the main water line from Ashburnham would have an estimated cost of over $6 million.

Selectman Danielle LaPointe said that water users have already seen a 44 percent increase in their rates, and she felt that the town needed to look for better solutions.

Several voters rose to ask questions about the situation which have been addressed over the past several weeks in Courier articles. Ms. Santos asked if ARPA funds could be used to replace the water meters as was proposed and defeated at a past Town Meeting. Another voter asked if some of the $12 billion for infrastructure awarded to Massachusetts by the Biden administration could be used for repairing the water main from Ashburnham. She was told that it could, but just how much of that $12 billion will come to Winchendon is still unknown.

Ms. LaBrie pointed out, "before we can set our tax rate for the next fiscal year, and our Tax Classification hearing is in two weeks, November 22nd, so between now and the 22nd" the Board has to decide how to meet the anticipated deficit or the state will not certify the town's tax rate for FY23. The two options available are to increase the water and wastewater rates, or increase the overall property tax rate.

"Mrs. Santos and others have made a point," Ms. LaBrie said. "Having town water and sewer benefits everyone in town, not just the direct users. It's an economic necessity, for people in businesses to come into town [such as Bull Spit Brewery]'s an economic advantage to every person in town to have a working infrastructure. How we get there, I don't know."

In response to a question, Mr. Sultzbach said that the chronic deficit in the funds is a "multifaceted issue" and took decades to develop. 28 percent of all the water that leaves the plant never gets to a meter.

Voter David Watkins asked if the town was auditing Veolia, the vendor that manages the water and wastewater plants. Mr. Sultzbach explained that the town needs to collect solid data about the system town-wide so that a fully independent third party service with no connection to Veolia can do a complete study of the services the town is getting. (The prior study, available on the town website, was done by a company selected by Veolia itself.)

After 32 minutes of debate, a voter called to move the question. Moderator Grout called the vote. The article passed with 70 percent in favor, 30 percent opposed.

Article 8, like Article 7, was amended in the motion from the version printed in the Warrant. Ms. LaBrie read, "I move that the town vote to transfer from ARPA funds the sum of $26,127.33 to fund the projected FY22 operating deficit for the Wastewater Department, and to decrease the FY22 Wastewater budget as voted in Article 8 of the May 17, 2021 Annual Town Meeting by $100,000, from 1,512,166 to $1,412,166." As with Article 7, this substantially reduced the burden on Free Cash by taking funds from ARPA monies instead, while reducing the amount requested by 87 percent.

As with Article 7, neither the FinCom nor the BOS changed their recommendations, for the same reasons. Ms. LaBrie pointed out that the BOS had to decide what to do in the next two weeks; they did not have until next June to find a solution as the FinCom suggested. Mr. Kane said, "we need to raise the rates."

Debate on the water and wastewater deficits having been exhausted on Article 7, Article 8 was voted on and passed, with 71 percent in favor, 29 percent opposed.

Article 9 asked voters to approve expending $1,553.30 from Free Cash for the Veterans Service Director Personnel Account, increasing the total amount budgeted in that account to $18,928.30. The FinCom changed their recommendation from the vote printed in the Warrant, stating that they now voted not to recommend this article unanimously, 6-0. Mr. Kane stated that funds are routinely moved between accounts at the end of the fiscal year and it wasn't necessary to put this small amount into a Warrant article. Ms. LaPointe asked why the Town Manager had submitted the article.

Mr. Sultzbach explained that when he arrived in May, the town had lost its Veterans Agent, and there was a backlog in services, with benefit checks not going out. He was hearing from veterans and their families about the issues. The new Veterans Agent has been working hard to bring everything up to muster. Yes, the funds could just be moved at the end of the fiscal year, but this article "is a gesture to show veterans that they're supported" and that the town has a plan in place. There were no questions from voters. The article passed with 81 percent in favor, 19 percent opposed.

Article 10 asked voters to approve transferring $50,000 from Free Cash into the Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust Fund. There was no discussion, and the article passed with 92 percent in favor, 8 percent opposed.

Article 11 asked voters to approve transferring $50,000 from Free Cash into a Reserve Account for Contractual Separation Pay-outs. There was no discussion, and the article passed with 93 percent in favor, 7 percent opposed.

Article 12 asked voters to approve transferring $130,000 from Free Cash to the Stabilization Fund. There was no discussion, and the article passed with 99 percent in favor, 1 percent opposed.

Village School Open House
Article 13 asked voters to approve the town entering into a lease agreement to purchase a cracksealer for the Department of Public Works. This required a two-thirds majority to pass. Mr. Sultzbach explained that the town is currently paying about $90,000 per year to outsource cracksealing to a third-party vendor, so a three-year lease at a total of $93,000 cuts the cracksealing costs to about one-third. There was no discussion, and the article passed with 99 percent in favor, 1 percent opposed.

Article 14 asked voters to approve the town's receiving a transfer of property in lieu of foreclosure, for the adjacent properties at 3 Beech Street and 11 Beech Street. Mr. Sultzbach gave a brief recap of the situation. There were no questions, and the article passed with 87 percent in favor, 13 percent opposed.

Article 15 asked voters to approve conveying the properties at 3 Beech Street and 11 Beech Street to the Winchendon Redevelopment Authority, which would take responsibility for handling the rehab of the properties at no cost to taxpayers. The words "Winchendon Redevelopment Authority" were included in the motion by an amendment made by the FinCom (the amendment was voted on and passed with 97 percent in favor, 3 percent opposed). A voter asked if the duplex at 11 Beech Street would be sold at auction or for market rate. Mr. Sultzbach replied that the property will be sold for full market rate. The amended article passed with 97 percent in favor, 3 percent opposed.

Article 16, a minor "housekeeping" item when nonetheless was required to go before Town Meeting, asked voters to approve conveying a tiny parcel of land at 4 Summer Drive to Bull Spit Brewing Company as part of their installation. As with Article 15, the FinCom moved to amend the article as printed in the Warrant by adding the specific words, "to Bull Spit Brewing Company." The amendment was voted on and passed with 97 percent in favor, 3 percent opposed. There were no questions, and the amended article passed with 95 percent in favor, 5 percent opposed.

Article 17 asked voters to approve accepting Madison Avenue as a public way. A voter asked what the road would cost the town to bring up to standards, apparently recalling the situation with Mellen Road last year. Mr. Sultzbach assured voters that Madison Avenue was a brand new development and required no work. The article passed with 97 percent in favor, 3 percent opposed.

Although an opening projector slide displayed the basic protocols and procedures for Town Meeting, procedures were relaxed considerably during the evening. Voters who rose with questions for the most part did not go to a microphone to speak, or give their names and addresses as requested. They simply stood up and called out their questions toward the stage and were not prompted to go to a microphone or introduce themselves by Moderator Grout.

Town Meeting was also plagued with technical glitches, as wireless microphones used by members of the Board of Selectman, the Finance Committee and the Town Manager repeatedly failed to operate and had to be swapped for another microphone by the technician handling the audio, projection and voting systems.

After the vote on Article 17 at 8:45 p.m., Moderator Grout announced that Town Meeting was adjourned, without calling for a motion to adjourn or taking a vote.

Moderator Grout thanked the 79 voters who had attended for their participation.

Veterans Day at American Legion
Veterans Day ceremonies were held on Thursday, November 11 at the Massachusetts State Veterans Cemetery and at American Legion Post 193. Seen here is the American Legion hall filled to capacity with members of the community who gathered at the Post after an absence of two years.
Photo by Coral Grout

Be sure to check out our Classified and Employment Ads on the Events Page!

The Beals Memorial Library to Host Local Author Visit

Are you a fan of historical fiction? Are you interested in learning some of the ins and outs of writing a historical novel? Then head over to the Beals Memorial Library this month, when they'll be hosting local author, Catherine Zebrowski!

On Wednesday, November 17, at 6 p.m., Catherine Zebrowski will be visiting the Beals Memorial Library in Winchendon to talk about her latest novel, Through a Bakery Window, which is "based loosely on a true crime story from the turn of the nineteenth century in New England." Ms. Zebrowski will also talk about the process of researching and writing historical fiction and will read an excerpt from her book. Finally, for anyone who would like to take home a copy of her book after the talk, Ms. Zebrowski will be signing and selling copies at the end of the event.

The Beals Memorial Library is located at 50 Pleasant Street in Winchendon. Masks are required for anyone entering the library. For more information, call the library at 978-297-0300 or visit their website at

Author Catherine Zebrowski
Local author Catherine Zebrowski will make an appearance at the Winchendon library on November 17th to talk about her latest novel, Through a Bakery Window.
Photo courtesy of Beals Memorial Library

Subway October 2021 Sub of the Day

Blair Square banners
Seen in this photo taken on Thursday, November 11, John and Gaynor Goan of Winchendon volunteer their time at Blair Square placing festive winter holiday style banners on municipal light poles for seasonal down town beautification. The Goans, who also previously placed festive fall banners in the same locations as volunteers, can be seen sharing the duties with John installing a new festive snowman banner while Gaynor both spots the ladder and watches out for passing pedestrians.
Photo by Keith Kent
Standing heron
As seen in this photo, a large Heron stalks the marshy area between the beach and picnic area of the Lake Dennison State Park looking for food on Sunday, November 7. The Heron which used its surrounding natural canopy, went unseen by most passing by as many enjoyed 50 degree temps and lots of sunshine.
Photo by Keith Kent

Central Mass Tree

Stone Ladeau Funeral Home

Click Here for Community Directory

Winchendon Businesses, Organizations, Services, and Government

Theme for 2021 Toy Town Tree Festival is "Stories in the Trees"

Registration is open for the third annual Toy Town Tree Festival at the Beals Memorial Library. This year's theme is "Stories in the Trees."

Individuals, businesses and organizations can contribute a tree decorated in any way that represents their personal message or interests--base it on your favorite story or book, or tell your own story.

Trees will be on display to the public in the Beals Memorial Auditorium between November 29 and December 11, at the following times:

Mondays-Thursdays, 1:00-8:00 p.m.
Fridays, 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Holiday Open House on Saturday, December 11, 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

Visitors will vote on their favorite tree. Trees donated for auction will be listed in a silent auction for bids. Entrants will be responsible for picking up their tree if there are no auction bids, or they choose not to auction their tree.

All proceeds will go toward funding the new Children's Room at the library.

Click here to download the Tree Festival Guidelines (PDF)

Click here to download the Sign-Up Form (PDF)

Applications Available for Senior Tax Work-off Program

The Senior Work-Off Abatement Program is a program allowing the Town of Winchendon the opportunity to utilize the knowledge and skills of its senior residents in exchange for credit toward the resident's property tax bill. The purpose of this program is:

  • To employ qualified senior citizens who will apply their earnings toward payment of a portion of their property taxes;
  • To increase senior citizen involvement in local government; and
  • To enhance municipal service by using the skills of resident senior citizens.
Qualified and income-eligible residents will accrue the Commonwealth's minimum wage per hour ($13.50/hr) toward a maximum credit of $1,100.00 per household during the fiscal year. The criteria for this program is:
  • You must be 60 years old or older
  • Homeowner in Winchendon and occupy property
  • Annual income below $40,150 if single; or below $45,900 if married.
Applications for the program are now available in the Town Manager's office or on the town website, and will be accepted until the eight slots are filled. There are different types of positions that are available depending on the preference and qualifications of the resident and the needs of each department. Types of past and current positions have been: Custodial services, clerical help for both School & Town, library aides, Senior Center aids, cable station operator, Bike Path clean up, painting, light outdoor work and classroom volunteers. Click here for more information and a downloadable application.

STILL Seeking Volunteers to Serve on Master Plan Implementation Committee (MPIC)

At their February 22, 2021 meeting, the Board of Selectmen unanimously voted to adopt the Master Plan presented to them, and to establish a Master Plan Implementation Committee (MPIC) for the purpose of overseeing the execution of the Master Plan as outlined.

The Winchendon Master Plan describes the will of the people of Winchendon. All town boards, commissions, committees, staff and citizens should use this Plan to guide their work in creating the future everyone seeks. The Master Plan Implementation Committee (MPIC) is charged with overseeing its execution and will work with the Town Manager and Responsible Leads. Members of the MPIC have a demonstrated interest in and knowledge of the Master Plan, are a Winchendon resident or have vested interest in the community, are a demonstrated team player, are reliable and have at least one of these qualifications:

  • Project management
  • Communications
  • Town history
  • Knowledge of "how things work"
MPIC specific responsibilities include:
  • Coordinate and monitor implementation
  • Collaborate with players to develop and track execution goals
  • Assist with goals that require additional resources
  • Encourage ongoing citizen engagement
  • Assess status of specific actions, evaluate priorities, and suggest new implementation techniques where appropriate
  • Identify successful strategies and barriers to progress
  • Periodically evaluate the plan
  • Create a mechanism to provide updates and progress reports to the Board of Selectmen
To see the full Master Plan, click here.

The Board of Selectmen is currently accepting letters of interest to serve on this committee. If you are interested, please send your letter of interest to the Town Manager's Office, 109 Front Street, Winchendon MA 01475 or to Taylor at

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Residential Water and Sewer Assistance Program Opens For Winchendon Residents

The Town of Winchendon is offering a one time grant of $100.00 (water user only) or $250.00 (water and sewer user) toward your current water and sewer bill. (Commercial properties are not eligible under this program.)

Eligibility: Households who are under 80% (LMI) of the FY2021 Income Limits as determined by HUD qualify for assistance. The Income limits used to determine qualification can be found here.

Proof of income is required.

Program will run from October 4, 2021 through December 30, 2021. Applications received after that date will not be accepted.

The applicant MUST live in the residence and be the/a responsible party named on the account.

All awards will be credited to current bills. Users remain responsible for any past due payments and associated fees due to the town.

All information will be kept confidential to the extent allowed by M.G.L. Chapter 66.

Applications are available here (PDF). Questions? Contact Nicole at or by calling 1-978-297-3537

Funding provided by The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) Details of this program can be found here (PDF).

HEAL Winchendon Offering Financial Coaching Workshops

HEAL Winchendon, in conjunction with the Winchendon CAC, is offering a free financial coaching program to any residents who are interested. The program runs for eight weeks with a flexible schedule and is available in both English and Spanish. Coaching will be scheduled at the Winchendon CAC, 273 Central St. To enroll, fill out the form at HEAL Financial Coaching Sign-Up (Google form) or call 978-621-4524.

If You Call for Emergency Services...

...the Winchendon Fire Department asks that you let the dispatcher know if you have flu-like symptoms, are quarantined or are under self-quarantine. This will allow the first responders to take all necessary precautions to avoiding spreading COVID-19 and to protect themselves and you.

Toy Town FYIs

The 2021 Town Street List is now available at Town Hall and on the town website. You can download a PDF copy at You may purchase the hard copy of the book for $8.00 or $5.00 for seniors. Please call Town Clerk's office at 978-297-2766 to arrange pick up/payment.

The 2020 Annual Town Report is now available at Town Hall and on the town website. You can download a PDF copy at 2020 Town Report PDF. Hard copies are available, free of charge, and can be picked up at the Town Manager's Office during regular business hours (Monday 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. and Tuesday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.). To request a copy, call the Town Manager's Office at 978-297-0085, extension 5, or email

Sign up for Code Red Emergency Alerts
Sign up for our emergency notification program today! Receive up-to-date information before, during and after an emergency in your neighborhood. You can choose to be notified via voice, text and email notifications of emergency and inclement weather alerts.

Is Your House Number Clearly Visible from the Street?
The Winchendon Fire Department reminds all residents to make sure their house number is clearly visible for first responders who may need to find you. Numbers should be at least four inches high and facing the street, with lighting if possible. Put numbers on a contrasting background so they will stand out. If your driveway is long, put the number on a mailbox or pole on the street or at the end of driveway, facing in both directions. (Reflective numbers are helpful.) Check your house numbers to make sure foliage has not grown up in front of them without your being aware of it.

Town Committee Vacancies
as of October 25, 2021

If you'd like to be an active participant in decision-making and management for your community, consider joining a town committee or board. There are a number of vacancies currently open.

Communications Committee - 1 vacancy
Cultural Council - 11 vacancies
Fence Viewer and Field Driver - 1 vacancy
Historical Commission/Historic District - 1 Alternate vacancy
Master Plan Implementation Committee - 7 vacancies
Open Space Preservation Appraisal and Survey Revolving Fund Advisory Committee - 1 vacancy
Planning Board - 1 Alternate vacancy
Recreation Commission - 1 student vacancy
Zoning Board of Appeals - 2 Alternate vacancies

If you'd like more information about any of these positions or are interested in being considered for an appointment, contact the Town Manager's office at 978-297-0085, or send a letter to Town Manager, 109 Front Street Dept. 1, Winchendon MA 01475.

Complete description of each committee's responsibilities, updated for May 10, 2021 (PDF).

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