The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of February 13 to February 20, 2020
What makes Winchendon what it is...How we're making Winchendon even better

Railroad Street Business Owners Express Concerns about Reconstruction Project

At a public hearing before the Board of Selectmen on Monday, February 10, regarding the FY 2020 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application for the town, several Railroad Street business owners shared concerns and comments about the proposed reconstruction of Railroad Street.

The 2020 CDBG proposal includes the reconstruction of Railroad Street (to be done in conjunction with the Central Street Reconstruction Project), and a supplemental fuel assistance program to be available to income eligible Winchendon households on a town-wide basis. The CDBG application can request up to $800,000 and also includes delivery and general administration expenses.

Tracy Murphy, Director of Planning and Development for Winchendon, and Linda Overring of Breezeway Farm Consulting who is the town's CDBG consultant, presented the details of the CDBG application. The town will request a total of $715,510. $649,800 will cover the Railroad Street reconstruction. This does not include replacing the water lines under the street, in order to keep the amount below the maximum limit. The town is paying roughly $52,000 for design and construction administration through Chapter 90, so the grant will cover $633,600 of the project costs.

The town is asking for $25,000 for fuel assistance, almost double what it requested last year. Ms. Murphy stated that this amount is expected to be entirely disbursed to citizens. Winchendon is partnering with the New England Farm Worker's Council, which administers the LIHEAP federal fuel assistance program for north Worcester County. Residents who apply and qualify for LIHEAP will automatically qualify for the Winchendon program. Last year some 300 households in Winchendon qualified for LIHEAP. Ms. Murphy stated that the Winchendon program accepts a higher income for applicants than the federal program, and will pay for one tank of fuel, up to $500. Residents whose income exceeds LIHEAP's cap are encouraged to apply for the Winchendon program separately.

Vanthan Un, owner of Winchendon Wine & Spirits at 18 Railroad Street, rose to speak against the proposed plan to make one block of Railroad Street one-way (so that traffic could only turn in from Central Street, not exit onto Central). Mr. Un asserted that this would hurt his business by eliminating the through traffic passing down Railroad Street to get to other businesses such as Belletetes, Rite Aid and CVS. He noted that his store has a lot of competition in town, and he wants to support the town. He asked if additional parking spaces could be created without making the street one-way.

Selectman Barbara Anderson asked whether changing Railroad Street to one way would force people to make dangerous turns onto Central Street at Grove and Summer Streets, which they now use Railroad Street to avoid. Ms. Murphy explained that both the Grove Street and Summer Street intersections will be completely re-designed with the Central Street Reconstruction to make them much safer, and eliminate the parking spaces in front of C&S Pizza which block the view of drivers at that intersection. Ms. Anderson asked whether Railroad Street could be made one way in the other direction.

John Ladeau, owner of Winchendon Furniture at 13 Railroad Street, rose to argue that "ninety percent of the traffic comes off of Central Street" onto Railroad and would not be stopped by the proposed change to one way. He admitted that his business has its own parking lot and doesn't need parking on Railroad Street. "My business won't be affected by what you're doing," he said.

Mr. Ladeau asked about the drainage on Railroad Street, saying that has been a big problem in the past. He also noted that when his business connected to the water main, they had to run a diagonal line to Pleasant Street.

Mr. Un stated that his customers "come and go" continuously and that his customers have commented that they're used to exiting Railroad Street onto Central and are unhappy that they won't be able to do this. He also stated that he gets regular deliveries which will be more difficult for the supplier, since the truck pulls up in front of the store facing toward Central Street.

DPW Director Al Gallant stated that the town has already spent $52,000 on the design for the Railroad Street project. To change it now would involve at least another $20,000 in design costs, and the town would lose most of the planned additional parking. The grant application is due by March 6. Mr. Gallant also assured Mr. Ladeau that the drainage issues will be corrected.

Several other potential issues were discussed. It was noted that diagonal parking spaces on Railroad Street could make it hard for delivery trucks to unload without blocking the street entirely, as they have nowhere else to stop except at the curb in front of the businesses. It was also noted that customers and large trucks for Brooks Automotive are often parked along Pleasant Street and Grove Street adjacent to Brooks' facility, and the additional traffic around that block could become a problem.

Board Chair Audrey LaBrie said, "To be honest, to my mind this has exposed a flaw in the process of coming to the Board, making a presentation to us, and then at a later date, getting the public input. This gentleman [Mr. Un] I feel has a valid concern...would I have voted differently had I had input from those who might be most affected by it--perhaps." She said that this topic should be discussed further at a later time. Town Manager Keith Hickey agreed that he understood her concerns and the town can modify the process so that public comments are available earlier.

Ms. LaBrie asked what would happen if the Board of Selectmen did not approve the CDBG application. Ms. Murphy said the application would not be submitted, and Mr. Gallant said, "we'd have wasted fifty two thousand dollars."

Mr. Hickey said he understood the concerns of the business owners, but he emphasized that the current situation on Railroad Street is a major safety issue, and the reconstruction plans will address that. "There really isn't a lot of other options," he said.

The Board of Selectmen approved the application 4-1, with the Chair voting no.

(For previous coverage of the Railroad Street project, see "Selectmen Discuss Community Development Block Grant for Reconstruction of Railroad Street" in the December 12-19 edition of the Winchendon Courier online.)

Toy Town Community Partnership Proposes "Big Toy" Display for downtown Winchendon

At the Board of Selectmen meeting on February 10, Cindy Boucher and Elaine Mroz of the Economic Development Committee, a sub-committee of the Toy Town Community Partnership, presented their proposal for a "Big Toy" installation in Winchendon.

Ms. Boucher explained that in 1993, the town received $28,000 from the state for a consultant to do a full economic development study of the town and make recommendations. The consultant, John Whiteman, suggested a Large Toy Project as a way of enhancing economic development. The project entails installing large toys on the Central Street corridor. "This isn't going to be junky, this will be first-class, this will be nice," Ms. Boucher stated. Some 7000 cars pass through town on Route 12 going up to New Hampshire and Vermont, year round--vacations in summer and skiing in the winter. "We would like to have a lot of those people stop in town and see what we have to offer," Ms. Boucher said. "We also would like Winchendon to be a day destination for the people of Boston, and the metro Boston area."

Ms. Boucher said that the installations could expand out to other areas besides Central Street, such as the bike path. The committee met with representatives from Robinson Broadhurst, who like the idea and invited them to apply for funding. The committee has applied for a $40,000 grant, with the plan of asking for funds each year to continue adding pieces to the project. Ms. Boucher had pictures of some toys already installed in other places, including an eight-foot-tall baseball glove that children can sit in, and a giant bicycle. She said that ideally, kids can play on the toys and have pictures taken, and they'll be an attraction for families.

The committee met with a welder in Westminster who has created an eight-foot-tall shopping cart that stands in front of the grocery store. He will give the committee an estimate on how much it would cost to make a giant bicycle.

Ms. Boucher said that they had spoken with Town Manager Keith Hickey and DPW Director Al Gallant, and both were firm that the installations could not be on sidewalks. They would need to be on private property. The town's liabiliy insurance would cover the installations. A portion of the grant money would be set aside for ongoing maintenance. The toys will be either metal or fiberglass and would need painting and repairs about every ten years.

The committee would like to send a letter to all Central Street property owners and businesses about the proposal.

Ms. Boucher said that they'd like to move forward with the project so that the toys will be in place by the time the Central Street Reconstruction project is finished. Since they'll be going onto private property, the toys won't be in the way of the construction work on the street and sidewalks.

Toys could be themed to their location--for example, a piggy bank in front of Athol Savings Bank. They'd also focus on Converse toys, which is what the town is most famous for.

The Board of Selectmen voted to support the Big Toy project and approve the letter to local businesses on town letterhead.

Early Voting for Presidential Primary Scheduled in Winchendon

The Massachusetts Presidential Primary election will be held on Tuesday, March 3, 2020. Early voting for Winchendon residents who wish to participate will be conducted at the Winchendon Town Hall, 109 Front Street, 4th floor conference room at the following times:

Monday, February 24 - 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Tuesday, February 25 - 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday, February 26 - 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, February 27 - 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Stone Ladeau Funeral Home

A Great 2019 and Big Future Plans for Beals Memorial Library

Beals Memorial Library Director Manuel King presented the library's annual report to the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on February 10.

"The library has a long tradition of serving the town as a resource for the informational, cultural and educational needs of its residents, through our collections of books, DVDs, audiobooks, e-resources, streaming video, databases, museum passes, magazines and newspapers, as well as through our programs, events and activities," Mr. King told the Selectmen. "We also have public computers and internet access free to all. Last year we held 147 programs for participants of all ages. We had several talks throughout the year covering diverse topics from vampires and flash fiction to The Handmaid's Tale and the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock concert. This past winter we also hosted the Springfield Symphony's Musical Petting Zoo and we also had a four-hour non-stop readathon of Dr. Suess' children's books. In the spring we held an Easter Egg Hunt, which was fortuitous because the town wasn't able to pull theirs off, we had a great turnout for that. We also had Animal Adventures come...we had over 300 people pack this hall."

Other events presented by the library in 2019 included the annual Summer Reading Club, third Thursday Movies on the Library Lawn and a Spooky Halloween Party. The first Toy Town Tree Festival, a two-week holiday exhibit, raised over $1100 toward construction of a new children's library in the existing basement space of the library.

Ongoing programs running throughout the year included Toddler Time, Lego Club, an adult Book Discussion Group, Yoga for adults and teens, a Dungeons & Dragons group for teens, monthly movies for all ages, and Doc and Talk, a documentary film and discussion series.

Last year 1,826 people of all ages participated in programs and events, and the library logged 20,507 patron visits.

The library is currently planning, in collaboration with Toy Town Elementary School, Beals Con--Winchendon's own mini-comic con, which will be held Saturday, May 16 at Toy Town Elementary. This event will celebrate all things geek, with vendors, costumes, games, demonstrations, food and fun for people of all ages, and all proceeds will go to the new children's library.

Mr. King explained that the library is embarking on an ambitious project to create a new children's library in the underutilized basement space which will meet the 21st Century needs of Winchendon's children and their families. Working with Abacus Architects, the library has developed a schematic design cost estimate. The estimate includes the costs of transforming the existing children's area upstairs into a space for Winchendon's underserved teen population. Also included in the estimate are a fire suppression system, upgrading the fire detection and alarm systems, and bringing the electrical system up to code. Currently the building has outdated knob-and-tube wiring. Plaster surfaces disturbed by the new construction will be repaired and painted. If construction begins in the spring of 2021, the total cost will be $2,019,717.

$900,293 of this is for children's room itself, which does not include "soft costs" such as the engineering and architect fees--if only the children's room was created, without the area for teens, the total project cost would be $1,411,222. Some construction costs can be reduced by utilizing student labor from Monty Tech.

Mr. King pointed out that improving the fire and electrical systems makes good sense for the town, because it will save money in the long run, and protect the $1.3 million investment the town has already made in making the librray building fully accessible.

Town Manager Keith Hickey noted that since Mr. King came on as Library Director, the library "has really taken off" in the number of services and programs that it offers, and has become an important resource for the town. Other members of the Board of Selectmen praised the library and Mr. King for their contributions to the town both in the past and currently.

Cheese Chase and Holstein Hustle ready to run

At their meeting on February 10, the Winchendon Board of Selectmen approved the permit applications from Smith's Country Cheese for their 3rd Annual 5K Cheese Chase and Kid's Holstein Hustle, followed by their 4th Annual Cheese Festival, to be held on Sunday, May 17. This includes the entertainment permit, road race permit and a special one-day Beer and Wine license. Noting how much Smith Country Cheese has given back to the town, including the police department and the Clark Memorial YMCA, Selectman Barbara Anderson moved that the permit fees be waived. The motion passed unanimously.

Around 30 kids signed up for last year's Holstein Hustle, a quarter-mile race through the barns and farm.

Proceeds from the races will go to support the Murdock Blue Devils Athletics program.

Toy Town FYIs

Be sure to complete, sign, and return your Town Census form in the enclosed envelope to the Town Clerk's office as soon as possible. Keeping your census up-to-date ensures your voter status remains active. If you don't receive a census form, you may request a form from the Town Clerk's office, located in Town Hall at 109 Front St.

Outdoor burning season begins on January 15 and runs until May 1. A permit for outdoor burning is required; you can purchase your permit online following the instructions in the link below:
2020 Burn Permit Application Made Easy (Google Doc)

Town of Winchendon
Office of the Town Clerk
Nomination Papers for Annual Town Election
May 4, 2020

Nomination papers will be available Monday, January 13 2020 at 8:00 a.m.
Nomination papers must be obtained and turned in on or before Monday, March 16, 2020 by 6:00 p.m.
Available terms:
ONE 3-year term for the Board of Selectmen
TWO 3-year terms for the School Committee
ONE 2-year unexpired term for the School Committee
TWO 2-year terms for the Board of Health.

2020 dog licenses are now available in the Town Clerk's office (in Town Hall, 109 Front Street), online (click here), or by mail. You must provide a valid, up-to-date rabies certificate.

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.

CENSUS 2020 is coming, we need your participation!

CENSUS 2020 is coming! Your participation is important because your answers make a vital difference. When you respond to a survey or census, you are helping your community and the nation. Your answers, combined with others, become the statistics that businesses, governments and people like you use to make informed decisions about education, emergency preparedness, employment, international trade, health, housing, and other important topics.

More information can be found at:

The US Census Bureau is hiring thousands of people for the 2020 Survey. For more information go to:

Narcan Training at the Winchendon CAC

Beginning in January, the first Tuesday of the month the Winchendon CAC will be offering Narcan Training in affiliation with the Worcester Aids Project. You will learn to administer Narcan and receive a Narcan dispenser. Class space is limited--pre-registration is required. Please come into the office or call 978-297-1667 to register. The first class will be held on Tuesday, January 7. The Winchendon CAC is located at 273 Central St., Winchendon.

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!

Enjoying the new Winchendon Courier Online? We're just getting started! But wow, is this a lot of work. The best work in the world, but still a lot of it! Please consider supporting us with a small donation. We'd so appreciate it. Thanks!