The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of January 26 to February 2, 2023
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The calm between the storms...

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scenes from snow storm, 1/24/2023
After the first snow storm ending on Saturday, January 21, River Street glows a brilliant frosty white after sleet and snow mixed multiple times, loading tree branches to their limits. During the storm, Winchendon DPW employees were forced to clear multiple roads of trees felled by the weight of nature's beauty just so they could plow the roads.
Photo by Keith Kent
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scenes from snow storm, 1/24/2023
Looking downstream along the Millers River, water gently flowing under the River Street Bridge reflects large evergreens, while newly fallen snow clings to the surrounding landscape. The scene gives those passing by a glimpse back in time, as protected woodlands and wetlands flourish in nature's artistic beauty.
Photo by Keith Kent

All Winter in a Week...Winchendon Hit by Three Storms in Seven Days

After weeks of unusually mild and rainy weather for a New England winter, Winchendon and regions to the north and west were socked by three snow, ice and rain storms in unusually rapid succession in the seven days from Thursday night, January 19 to Thursday morning, January 26.

Except for the brief "arctic blast" right around Christmas, temperatures have been above average, with the month of January running 7 degrees warmer than normal so far. Many local lakes and ponds which typically are frozen solid enough for recreational activities like skating and ice fishing still have large areas of open water. What snow has fallen has melted or been rained away. The ground was mostly bare on Thursday, January 19.

With a forecast of 3 to 6 inches of mixed snow, sleet and freezing rain, the first storm started with snow in the early afternoon on Thursday the 19th and continued throughout the day on Friday the 20th, finally ending around 10:00 p.m. Measuring at 5.5 inches outside the Courier's offices, the sloppy precipitation and temperature around the freezing mark glued snow and ice to every twig, branch, wire and evergreen needle, bowing branches down toward the ground with its weight. The heavy wet mix was laborious to shovel and challenged plows and snow blowers. It turned the town into a classic New England snowscape of frosted forests, but accidents and scattered power outages were reported. Winchendon Public Schools cancelled class on Friday, as did numerous school districts in the north central Massachusetts and Monadnock regions.

The sun failed to appear over the next two days and the temperature remained below freezing, going down to 20 degrees or lower at night. The ice and snow couldn't be shaken or knocked off, it was frozen in place so securely. An identical storm, mixing snow, sleet and ice, was forecast to arrive on Sunday afternoon, with clean-up from Storm One barely done.

Storm Two began with snow on Sunday at about 5:00 p.m. Local residents must have guessed that this would not be a typical event, because Hannaford supermarket in Rindge was exceptionally busy. People in this area are generally immune to the pre-storm panic shopping of our city friends. But Winchendon Public Schools and other local districts cancelled school again for Monday.

By Monday morning, with about 3 inches of heavy wet new precipitation, the power outages and traffic accidents started happening all over town. A combination of falling trees and tree limbs, and transformers blowing out on utility poles created a complicated situation. National Grid responded with multiple crews which remained in town for the next two days. (See "Multiple Snow and Ice Storms Tax Winchendon DPW Employees to Their Limits," below, for more details!) The Courier's office on Lake Monomonac was without power from 1:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., while many other residents never got power back on Monday at all. At 6:23 p.m., the town sent out a message to stressed out residents: "This is Public Works Director Brian Croteau calling to update you on the storm. Currently crews are working to clear the roads from snow and falling trees. National Grid has both power and tree crews in town working through the night to clear trees and restore power. Due to the heavy weight of the snow on the trees, the trees continue to break causing power lines to short out and or break. Please work with us while we continue to work on this ongoing situation. This is estimated to be a multi day operation."

The snow stopped falling on Monday evening, but Winchendon had a long way to go. Another 6 inches of dense, heavy snow and sleet had fallen outside the Courier's office. Trees were bent down so far they obstructed roads with a curtain of hanging branches in some wooded areas. Dozens of trees came down completely, blocking roads. Large tree limbs broke off and crashed to the ground in a hissing cascade of ice without warning, reminding some residents of the big ice storm in December, 2008.

Tuesday the 24th dawned with thousands of Winchendon homes still without power (the Courier's office went out again for a while). Winchendon Public Schools cancelled for a third consecutive day. Winchendon Fire Chief Tom Smith sent out an alert saying, "Good afternoon. The Town of Winchendon currently has two warming centers open. One is at the Senior Center at 52 Murdock Ave and will be open until 2 PM. The second is at the Clark Memorial YMCA at 155 Central Street which will be open until 9 PM. If you are using a portable generator for power we would like to remind you to keep them outside and away from any door or window opening. In the event of any emergency please contact nine one one immediately for service."

Hardy Winchendon folks seemed to tough out the situation, firing up generators, woodstoves and fireplaces or going to public buildings or family and friends' houses to warm up (and charge up devices). The warming center at the Clark was visited by a handful of residents, according to Director Mike Quinn. The Senior Center reported another "couple of people" coming in besides their regular group. The Winchendon CAC offered free hot meals to families without power. The Harbour restaurant on Maple Street opened for regular business several hours early so people would have a place to warm up. The Carriage House Restaurant on Spring Street only lost power briefly on Monday. On Tuesday they offered free food and a warm space to anyone who needed it. Elizabeth at the Carriage House told the Courier that some folks did take up the offer, including a family of four and a family of six. "It's important to help people in need, especially in times like these," Elizabeth said.

With most electrical power restored on Wednesday the 25th, the region braced for yet a third storm beginning midday on Wednesday with another 3 to 6 inches of heavy snow forecast and lasting until Thursday morning. While this storm was predicted to end with temperatures in the 40s and heavy rain, none of the snow and ice weighing down trees and wires had budged, so more power outages seemed likely. Winchendon Public Schools opened, but announced early dismissal on Wednesday.

Storm Three, however, fell far short of predictions, which even the most avid snow-lovers could hardly be sorry about. Only a half inch of snow and sleet accumulated before precipitation turned to rain. By Thursday morning the rain had stopped, and the trees and wires were almost entirely clear of their beautiful but dangerous burden of frozen snow and ice. National Grid was out repairing more power outages around town (the Courier's office lost power for another 10 hours, making three days in a row).

The Courier reached out to Michael Dalo, Lead Program Manager for National Grid's US Communications--Massachusetts office, for more information about what dealing with the storm damage involved. Mr. Dalo said, "National Grid employees worked throughout the week responding to multiple winter storm events that featured wet, heavy snow, high winds, and fallen branches. Over the past several days, over 300 field-based crews and 1,500 personnel worked around the clock in exceedingly difficult conditions to restore service to nearly 60,000 customers throughout Massachusetts. National Grid is proud to partner with the town of Winchendon, and thanks its employees, elected officials and other community members for their patience and support during the multi-day restoration effort."

Although Mr. Dalo couldn't isolate the specific number of crews who worked in Winchendon, he said, "we did allocate crews to more heavily impacted areas when needed throughout the week." Asked how much difficulty downed trees and branches caused to restoration efforts, he added, "Wet heavy snow caused significant damage to trees, downed wires, and poles. Navigating these hazards in a safe manner in the wintry conditions these storms brought made restoration efforts challenging for our crews."

Over 5,000 Winchendon customers reported outages and had their power restored throughout the week of the triple storm event, Mr. Dalo said.

Central Massachusetts folks shrug and say, "it's winter in New England," but three and half straight days of cancelled school and three straight days of continuous new power outages are definitely memorable.

Weather forecasters are now promising a stretch of milder days and clear skies. Toy Town will be relieved to see its first day of full sun since Tuesday, January 17!

Multiple Snow and Ice Storms Tax Winchendon DPW Employees to Their Limits

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scenes from snow storm, 1/24/2023
On Elmwood Road not far from Glenallen Street, like many roads throughout Winchendon, both hardwood and evergreen trees are weighted down and ready to snap at any minute under the stressful combination of ice and snow.
Photo by Keith Kent
Click image to see larger view
scenes from snow storm, 1/24/2023
As many homes near and around Lake Monomonac lost power midday on Monday and then bounced in and out of power multiple times during the second ice and snow storm, these trees along Lakeview Drive are currently "No Friends" of existing power lines. Weighted down to their very limits, any additional weight or high winds could cause more outages if serious melting does not come soon.
Photo by Keith Kent

Back, to back, to back is the simplest way to sum it all up. Over seven days, Winchendon, its residents, and municipal employees were pummeled with a trifecta of several winter storms bringing a knockout combination of snow, rain, sleet, and ice. The result was downed power lines and trees, many road blockages and closures, and a 24 hour relentless barrage of calls for service through Winchendon Police Department Dispatch to all Toy Town branches of public service.

Beginning with the first of three snow and ice storms, Winchendon Department of Public Works employees worked tirelessly for residents, punching the clock on Thursday, January 19 and not ending their shift until Saturday, January 21. Snow, rain and ice fell, followed by nature throwing rain back on the road salt washing it away, then more snow needing to be plowed. Once the storm was finally over, DPW employees had been behind the wheel, and cutting fallen trees and tree limbs on the roads, for 43 hours straight. Finally sent home to rest up, they would not have a long break.

The second storm arrived Sunday afternoon, striking another harsh blow to Winchendon, much of Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. DPW employees were called back to work, clocking in Sunday, January 22, at 5:00 p.m. still exhausted from their last efforts. The relentless pounding icing, freezing rain, and then snow, became just too much for many trees, tree limbs, and power lines to handle, and the additional weight on the trees pushed many past their limits. Calls began to come in one after another to WPD Dispatch, as residents reported hearing transformers on utility poles exploding at sites all over town. Not only streets were going down without power, but entire sections of town. Traffic lights at the intersection of Routes 12 and 140, homes, businesses and more, were down and out.

The DPW itself lost all power, as one of the transformers which blew was on Glenallen Street not far from the DPW yard. National Grid crews were asked to prioritize that repair as the DPW does not have a backup power source, and needed electricity to be available at all times to repair its fleet as needed and continue to service the town though the extreme weather event.

The second weather event lasted well into Monday, January 23. Exhausted DPW crews finally were able to punch out and go home at 10:00 p.m. on Monday, having worked nearly 30 hours straight, shortly after having worked some 43 hours straight. Many residents don't realize that even after being out and working all night, DPW employees are not allowed to go home to go to bed. They are expected to complete their regular shift at their normal start times following any storm cleanup, no matter how long its duration.

WPD Dispatch verified that on Monday, they received over 100 calls for Police, Fire, DPW, and other non-storm-related issues. At any given time on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, there were no less than 25 bucket trucks working around Winchendon, including National Grid working on downed lines and replacing utility poles, tree cutting companies from a host of states, including New Hampshire and Rhode Island, Comcast/Xfinity repair trucks and others.

As many residents had lost power, on Tuesday, January 24, Winchendon Fire Chief Tom Smith sent out a Code Red Emergency Alert message which was also posted on the Town of Winchendon website stating, "The Town of Winchendon will have warming centers open today at the Old Murdock Senior Center, 52 Murdock Ave. until 2:00pm today, January 24th, 2023 and until 9:00pm at the Clark Memorial/YMCA, 155 Central St." The town made a reverse-911 call with the same message. (Click here for information about Code Red Emergency Alerts and how to sign up for them.)

Just after noon on Tuesday, January 24, while many in Winchendon were still waiting for electrical power to be restored, the Carriage House Restaurant of Winchendon made the following invitation on its Facebook page: "If you know anyone struggling without food or heat we will feed them free of charge and keep you warm here at Carriage House." In a strong show of support, the business received over 533 likes for its offering of good will and hospitality by 10:00 p.m. that night.

DPW employees are responsible for all town services, not limited to the pre-treating, plowing, and sanding of some 130 miles of town roads and roughly 30 miles of sidewalks. The Courier spoke with DPW Superintendent Brian Croteau on Wednesday, January 25, just before the third winter storm in less than seven days arrived, asking how hard town road supplies have been taxed, and more importantly, the DPW crews themselves. Croteau replied, "So far this winter, we have had ten storms and seven of the ten storms were ice related, and we have already used roughly 2,200 tons of salt, so this is the newer trend with the changing weather. The old days of just plowing and salting at the end are the easy ones, those are few and far between at this point."

"Are you finding as a DPW that the winter season is providing much more rain than the old days of past, washing away the salt you put down, causing your department to have to send crews out to reapply more road salt time and time again?" the Courier asked.

Croteau replied, "Correct, and it drains the budget and affects public safety. Again, we have some 130 miles of roads, and many of the towns around us have between 85 to 95 miles of roads to service. We have considerably more roads to cover, with a smaller budget than some of those municipalities. Another thing that takes time and money is clearing our sidewalks. It takes six hours to plow them all with our town Sidewalk Tractor. However if you get ten inches of snow or more, you then have to attach the snow blower to clear the sidewalks and it then takes 12 to 15 hours of labor time to clear the town sidewalks."

Croteau spoke very highly of the National Grid crews, with examples of their rapid deployment to specifically targeted areas. "When transformers continuously blew all over town, their deployment and communications were both excellent and spot on. It's a little slower when your house drops, but in terms of generalized power it's been really good. I wouldn't be surprised if twenty transformers blew around town.

"They took focus on Broadview Assisted Living when the line went down out front to make sure the elderly in the nursing home were taken care of, a priority they handled in just a few hours, and then when there was a development just up the street from there along Elmwood Road at the public schools, they immediately took care of that in case we needed [the school buildings] for emergency sheltering. I can't say enough about their crews and their subs working for us to get everything restored," Croteau said.

As of Wednesday evening January 25, Massachusetts weather forecasts predicted an additional 3-6 inches of snow with 30 mph winds in our area. While that snow amount thankfully did not materialize, with precipitation mostly rain and freezing rain during the night, DPW employees reported continually finding newly downed tree limbs while clearing and treating roads around town, while some sections of town again found themselves without power.

Regarding the recent extremely long hours worked by DPW employees, Croteau would like Winchendon residents to know, "Our DPW employees are not only trying to fight snow and ice, but they have also been fighting downed trees and branches and much more. This is very physically and mentally draining. This causes them to physically break down quicker than just sitting in the truck plowing snow and throwing salt. Please know that their physical demand has been ten times harder, because the reset period has not been restored."

Click image to see larger view
scenes from snow storm, 1/24/2023
Created by a mother and daughter who were sledding along sections of the local bike bath on Sunday, January 22, some outdoor pre-sledding creativity lead to the building of small snow people along the path near a local restaurant. Just 2 feet and 1 foot in height, leaves and twigs worked nicely for decorations as multiple walkers smiling as they passed by commented with words like "cute" and "adorable."
Photo by Keith Kent
Click image to see larger view
scenes from snow storm, 1/24/2023
This branch which barely missed the Courier's office on Tuesday morning, January 24 is typical of the size and weight of limbs falling all over town. An oak tree, this bare branch held far less weight than the bowed down evergreens with their thick needles. It is about 14 inches in diameter at its thickest end.
Photo by Inanna Arthen

Draft Warrant for March 13 Special Town Meeting Includes 6 Articles

The Special Town Meeting scheduled for March 13 to allow the Community Preservation Act to be placed on the annual town election ballot (if approved by Town Meeting) will also place five more articles before voters, giving Winchendon citizens five more reasons to attend and exercise their right and responsibility to vote. Town Manager Justin Sultzbach presented the draft warrant to the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Monday, January 23.

Being a draft warrant, it is subject to changes before the warrant is finalized. Community input is welcome and encouraged; contact the Town Manager's office with any feedback or questions.

Article 1, as is usual and customary for the Town Meeting warrant, is accepting reports of town Boards and Committees. It may be passed over, or the Finance Committee may have a few words.

Article 2 asks for funds to cover prior year's bills, also a customary warrant article. "I put in a placeholder of $25,000, I don't anticipate it's going to be that high, but I just wanted a number I could walk back from," Mr. Sultzbach explained.

Article 3 asks for $40,000 for upgrading broadcasting equipment for recording and broadcasting Board and committee meetings. Mr. Sultzbach said that again, this was a high estimate and the final number will probably be "a bit under that."

Mr. Sultzbach also explained that the money will be appropriated from Free Cash, but will be covered by funds coming from the town's contract with Comcast, which will go into Free Cash when received. He promised to make this more clear for the final warrant.

Article 4 asks voters to approve amending the Town Bylaws, Article 24, Recreation Commission, to bring it up to date with recent changes and expansions of the Recreation Commission and its functions. These changes were bundled with several other proposed changes to the Bylaws in Article 18 of the warrant for the 2022 Annual Town Meeting held on May 16, 2022. At Town Meeting, this article was passed over with no explanation given on Town Meeting floor. The Town Manager told the Courier that these changes were tied to amendments to the Charter and Bylaws made by Town Meeting in 2021 that had never gone to the required ballot vote, so those changes need to be voted on again.

Up to now, however, none of those Bylaw changes have been brought before voters again. Article 4 of the March 13 warrant will bring only the changes to the Recreation Commission. These changes are not significant. They would increase the number of Commission members from 7 to 9; re-define the two student member seats to be either middle or high school students in good standing who reside in Winchendon (changed from specifying one each middle school and high school), and add the rule that "No more than two members of the same household shall hold concurrent seats" on the Commission.

Mr. Sultzbach explained, "We have a carryover Town Bylaw amendment from the Recreation Commission and it was lumped into that larger change that ended up not passing at the last meeting. This piece had no controversy attached to it and it's really kind of holding them up from their business."

Rcreation Coordinator Tiffany Newton rose to explain that this article reflects the merger of the existing Recreation Commission and Winchendon Community Park Committee, which will all become Parks and Recreation. Both committees are currently doing very similar things. "With the amphitheater and the [Winchendon Community Park] opening back up, it's really important that we get this together to just to be more cohesive and make things work as efficiently as possible," Ms. Newton said.

Article 5 is why we're all here: the Community Preservation Act. It must be approved by a Town Meeting vote before it can be placed on the ballot for the annual town election, which will be May 1, 2023. For the complete background of this article, see:

"BOS Vote to Hold Special Town Meeting for Community Preservation Act" in the January 12-19, 2023 edition of The Winchendon Courier

"Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee Gives Recommendations" in the
January 5-12, 2023 edition of The Winchendon Courier

"Seven Citizen-at-Large Members Appointed to Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee" in the March 3-10, 2022 edition of The Winchendon Courier.

"Town Manager Calls for Volunteers for Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee" in the February 10-17, 2022 edition of The Winchendon Courier

For complete information about the Community Preservation Act, see the website of the Community Preservation Coalition

Article 6 is a non-binding referendum regarding the future of the Whitney Pond Dam, and is tentatively stated as, "To see if the Town will vote to provide direction on the future of Whitney Pond Dam, specifically two options, with the first being more cost effective but keeping the water level drawn down, and the second being more expensive but allowing the ability to increase water levels." This wording will be clarified and reworked for the final warrant.

Mr. Sultzbach explained, "Essentially, there was a large sum of money set aside as a bond bill several years ago that hasn't been accessible. Mr. Croteau put the work in with the state and got them to release several hundred thousand dollars to at least start the design phase on that, running in the same theme of trying to get designs in hand so we have something shovel ready to help us get grants.

"So as part of that process, the engineers have kind of hit a snag and they're at a crossroads. Basically, there's a more cost effective way that they could repair the dam that would keep it as is in terms of the existing water levels today. There's a more expensive option that has a little more risk, where you could build the dam back up and increase the water levels again, back to where they were historically. And so I wasn't really comfortable making that decision. Mr. Croteau wasn't. That's why I brought it to the Chair, the Chair encouraged me to bring it to a larger body."

Mr. Sultzbach went on that this was, "putting the word out to the community if they would like to participate in that conversation, that's going to be coming up at future meetings as well. So please, we'd love to hear from our residents and we would really appreciate their direction on this particular item."

Mr. Sultzbach concluded the warrant discussion with, "So those are the six [articles] that we're looking at. If anybody has any questions or anybody from public, please do reach out and we'll have a final draft at [the Board of Selectmen's] upcoming meeting."

Town Manager Updates BOS on White's Mill Dam and Mill Site

At their meeting on Monday, January 23, Town Manager Justin Sultzbach gave the Board some updates on movement forward on the Whites Mill property located at the junction of Glenallen and Maple Streets on Mill Circle. The Whites Mill dam was breached a few weeks ago, and the former Whites Mill Pond has receded to a shallow expanse of earth with the original stream meandering through it. The former pond is still going through its transitional phase. The stream, which flows out of Lake Monomonac, becomes part of the North Branch Millers River.

"Just as a reminder," Mr. Sultzbach said, "this was a court ordered determination that was made prior to my arrival in town. I highlight that because I had heard through the grapevine that it was me that forced that through, and it was about a year before I worked here so, not me." He added that the dam removal is nearing completion.

"We want to start planning for the future of what that property looks like," Mr. Sultzbach went on. "It is privately owned. So we have limited control. But the owners of the property as well as consultants from the property have been receptive to my requests that they come to the town early and provide an opportunity for residents of the community to give them some input and kind of shape what this project may ultimately look like. It's a significant property. It's significant in terms of the town's history, but also significant in terms of size, and significant in terms of the impact, positive, negative or otherwise it could potentially have on the community when it's developed in the future."

A "visioning session" will be on the Board's agenda for their Monday, February 13 meeting. Representatives for the property owners will be attending. "I would just encourage members of the public, if they would like to participate in that conversation, they are welcome as well," Mr. Sultzbach said. "You know, it's early on, but now's the time to have those conversations about what the expectation is on the town side. And at least from what I've seen, to date, the owners of the property have been really receptive in terms of being good partners with the community moving forward and trying to find something that works for that property, but also works for the community as well."

The property is currently for sale, Mr. Sultzbach confirmed. The visioning, he said, would focus on "what the new owner would potentially do with the property. And I think for the current owners, the benefit in having that conversation is that when they're shopping this parcel around they can communicate clearly to whoever a potential developer is, what the expectation is from the community." For example, does the town want mixed use commercial residential, affordable housing, blended affordable housing with market rate and so on. "I think as a community, being able to communicate that clearly upfront, helps better shape expectations for future owners," Mr. Sultzbach added.

Board Vice Chair Rick Ward said, "There is a history with this. And some of us on the Board have been through this for many years. My question right out of the box is always going to be, are the taxes on this property paid and current as of today?"

Mr. Sultzbach replied "Presently, they are not." He went on, "For the record, that is something that with the sale of the property would be cleared up, that would be carved out of any proceeds, we would get paid in full."

Clark Memorial Jan 2023

Stone Ladeau Funeral Home


Last week's Courier erroneously identified Glenn LaRochelle as a part time employee at the transfer station. He is a full time employee of the Highway Department.

Is your New Year's Resolution to get a new job? Be sure to check out our Classified and Employment Ads on the Events Page!

Subway November 2022 Catering deals

Central Mass Tree

Click Here for Community Directory

Winchendon Businesses, Organizations, Services, and Government

Interested in Learning to Live Off the Land?

The Winchendon Recreation Commission is running a survey to gauge interest in classes about wilderness survival and living off the land. Fill out the survey to let them know what you'd like to see offered for classes!

Click here to take survey

Tax Classification Informational Packet

For those who watched the tax classification hearing and would like to review the informational packet about the proposed tax rates, the packet is available on the town website at this link: (PDF).

Winchendon Recreation Commission Asks You...

What musicians and bands would you like to see play at the Winchendon Community Park amphitheater in 2023? Fill out the Google Form or call the office at 978-297-5410 and let them know!

Click here for Google Form

Letter to the Editor

Winchendon increases to 16 percent viral positivity

The Town of Winchendon with 10,500 residents per the newest released Massachusetts Department of Public Health report dated Thursday, January 26, documents Toy Town increasing 32 percent over the previous weeks report period, increasing from 12.42 to 15.95 percent SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 viral positivity.

Locally on a positive trend, our Ten Town Area traveling two towns in any direction south of the State of New Hampshire while have municipalities which are still testing high in viral positivity, has lowered in the last 3 weeks from 16.20%, to 12.23%, to this weeks local 10.03% viral positivity average. In addition, the Mass DPH documents the Commonwealth 351 City & Town 14 day average lowering from 12.05 to 10.50% positivity, and the Massachusetts 7 day average lowered from 10.86 to 9.35% positivity, both trends in the right direction for the Commonwealth.

Joining Winchendon in our area on the viral increase side where Ashby located two towns to its east increasing from 13.04 to 15.56% positivity, and Templeton to Winchendon's south, which just 2 weeks ago registered a high 15.44%, and last week lowering to 7.38%, this week now trending back up to 11.11% viral positivity. Of interesting note in the area, Templeton's school district partner in the Narragansett Regional School District, the Town of Phillipston, which just last week registered slightly over 11%, this week registered flat at 0.00%. Also joining Phillipston at zero percent this week was the Town of Royalston to Winchendon's west, which in one week lowered from a high 15.38 down to a complete 0.00 testing rate this week with a strong and welcome drop.

Joining as other towns lowering in our area this week were Athol with some 12,000 residents dropping from 7.16 to 5.38% positivity on the areas highest 412 molecular tests. In the City of Gardner also to Winchendon's south, the Chair City with over 21,000 residents lower just slightly from 14.67 to 14.11% positivity based on 326 molecular tests. Hubbardston to the south of Gardner realized a slight decline dropping from 11.29 to 10.42%. In the two towns of the Ashburnham-Westminster Regional School District, Ashburnham lowered slightly from a high 17.00 to a still high 16.47% viral positivity, and its partnering Town of Westminster, lowered from 12.84 to 10.87, just still slightly inside double digits.

Other local and larger municipalities to our east place the Twin Cities of Fitchburg with 42,000 residents lowering from 13.21% to this weeks 12.30% based on 732 molecular tests, and Leominster with nearly 44,000 residents increasing slightly from 10.97 to 11.44% based on just over 800 tests. In our largest Commonwealth Cities, Boston checks in dropping from 12.32 to 10.71%, Worcester lowering from 11.4 to 9.77%, and Springfield lowering from 12.86 to 11.96% viral positivity. To our immediate west in the smaller town of the North Quabbin Region, many have finally trended downward, with only New Salem very high at 27.77%, and Wendell at over 14%.

In closing, the Board of Health continues to offer free I-Health Labs COVID-19 home antigen test kits, free of charge to Winchendon residents at its Board of Health Town Office during normal hours of business operation, to both promote public health and save residents money. The Board of Health continues to recommend vaccinations, only for those who are healthy enough to do so, especially if one is either immunocompromised, or has pre-existing conditions. If considering vaccinations, please have that conversation with either your primary medical physician, or a qualified medical professional.

To view the latest Commonwealth of Mass COVID-19 Dashboard, click on the following link below:

To read and review stories about the current Triple-demic now on the decline, please click on the links below:

Keith Kent
Chair, Board of Health

FY 23 Senior Tax Work-Off Applications Now Available!

Once again this year, we are pleased to announce the Senior Work-Off program was approved at our Annual Town Meeting. 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 aides, cable station operator, Bike Path clean up, painting, light outdoor work and classroom volunteers. Click here for more information and a downloadable application.

Senior Center Seeking Food Donations

We've been so successful we need your help. We love helping our seniors, so now our Food Pantry is running low. If you can do it, we'd love your help replenishing it with such commodities as: Hormel 'Compleats' meals; Chef Boyardee ravioli, spaghetti & meatballs, etc; applesauce; canned vegetables; juice boxes; Ensure; spaghetti sauce; Cookies; Crackers; small (individual) packages of cereal, etc. And anything you think would help. Thank you very much! Bring donations to the Old Murdock Senior Center, 52 Murdock Ave., Winchendon.

Town Committee Vacancies
as of January 9, 2023

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
Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee - 1 citizen vacancy
Cultural Council - 13 vacancies
Fence Viewer and Field Driver - 1 vacancy
Master Plan Implementation Committee - 1 vacancy
Open Space Preservation Appraisal and Survey Revolving Fund Advisory Committee - 1 vacancy
Recreation Commission - 2 vacancies
Zoning Board of Appeals - 2 alternate member 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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Nomination Papers for Annual Town Election Available January 9

Nomination papers for the annual Town Election, to be held May 1, 2023, will be available at the Town Clerk's office in Town Hall starting at 8:00 a.m. on Monday, January 9. Nomination papers must be turned in to the Town Clerk by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 13. At least 35 signatures of registered Winchendon voters must be validated for the nomination papers to be certified. Prospective candidates are advised to get more than 35 signatures in case any signatures cannot be confirmed.

The following seats are available:

One 3-year term for the Board of Selectmen
Two 3-year terms for the School Committee
Two 3-year terms for the Board of Health
One 5-year term for the Housing Authority

Special Town Meeting, Monday, March 13, 2023
7:00 p.m.
Murdock Middle High School Auditorium, 3 Memorial Drive, Winchendon

The Special Town Meeting is being called primarily to review and act on any citizen findings on the Community Preservation Act Exploratory Committee (CPAEC).

From the CPAEC:
"The CPAEC recommends the town locally adopt the CPA at the 3% threshold, ensuring the greatest return on our investment. While the match from the state varies from year to year, this would represent a 100% match under current determining metrics and anticipated governing body decisions. We believe that the Town can greatly benefit from this resource in meeting our various community goals. If the Board would be kind enough to accommodate, we ask that the residents of Winchendon be given the opportunity to decide whether to capitalize on this resource via a Special Town Meeting in March of 2023. If the vote passes, the matter will be placed on the Spring 2023 Ballot at the Annual Elections on May 1st."

Child care will be made available if requested. Call 978-297-5431 to reserve a spot.

The Board of Selectmen will be presented with the draft warrant on January 23, 2023 and the Finance Committee will hold the Public Hearing on the Special Town Meeting Warrant on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

Beals Memorial Library Operations Moved to Ground Floor

Library operations at Beals Memorial Library have been moved to the ground floor for the duration of the Infrastucture Project. It's the room to the right as you enter, across from the elevator, which formerly held the Friends' Book Sale (on hiatus until the Infrastructure Project is complete). For more information, see

The library announced, "Library operations have been moved to the ground floor until further notice. We have most of our collection, a public computer, printing/copying, and comfy seating. We are open during normal library hours, and we can't wait to see everyone!"

Click here to read the Fact Sheet (PDF) about the Phase 2 Infrastructure Project.

Beals library ground floor setupPhoto copyright © Beals Memorial Library

Winchendon Community Park Committee Has Vacant Seats to Fill

The Winchendon Community Park Committee is seeking volunteers to serve on the committee. Meetings are held on the first Monday of each month for about an hour. This committee merges the former Winchendon Community Park Infrastructure committee and Winchendon Community Park Program committee, and discusses everything from ongoing projects and maintenance to program ideas and upcoming events. Anyone interested in joining should email a letter of interest to Tiffany Newton at

The Winchendon Community Park is located on Ingleside Drive, off of Maple Street, and is the location of the Winchendon Community Park Performing Arts Amphitheater now under construction and due to open in June, 2023. The park includes walking trails, a soccer field and recreational opportunities, to which a Disc Golf course will be added soon, and is open to the public at no charge.

Toy Town FYIs

The final, official results of Winchendon's Midterm Election on November 8, 2022 may be viewed at: State Election 11.8.2022 OFFICIAL RESULTS.

Transfer Station Winter Hours

The Transfer Station has returned to its regular hours:
Thursday 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Friday 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Saturday 8:00 a.m. 4:00 p.m.

653 River Street
Sticker price: $70
Pay-As-You-Throw bags required

2022 Street Lists Available

The 2022 Town of Winchendon Street List of Residents is now available at the Town Clerk's office in Town Hall, 109 Front Street. Cost is $8.00 each, $5.00 for seniors.

2023 Dog Licenses Now Available

2023 Dog licenses are now available on-line, in person, mail, or dropbox. Spayed and Neutered are $10, Non-spayed and Non-Neutered are $20. Please provide a valid rabies certificate with payment. If purchasing on-line, please email rabies certificate to
After May 1, a $20 late fee will be assessed.
After June 1, an additional $50 failure to license fee will be assessed.

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. Click the link below for information and sign-up.

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.

Report a Pothole to the DPW

You can report potholes directly to the DPW using this form on the town website:

Winchendon Town Hall & Transfer Station Now Accepting Credit/Debit Payments

We are excited to announce that the DPW, Treasurer/Collector's Office and the Transfer Station can all now accept in-person credit and debit card payments. This means next time you need to purchase or pay for:

Trash bags
Transfer station stickers
Excise bills
Tax bills
Water & Sewer bills
And more

You can pay with a credit or debit card! (subject to a convenience fee).

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.