The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of March 12 to March 19, 2020
What makes Winchendon what it is...How we're making Winchendon even better

Three Winchendon Families Displaced As Fire Destroys Maple Street Home

overhead photo of fire scene
Photo credit: Jeff Sylvia

A massive fire destroyed the back wing of a multi-family home at 212 Maple Street on Tuesday afternoon, March 10, displacing three families who lost all of their possessions. Everyone got out of the building safely. Firefighters rescued a pet cat which was taken to a local veterinarian for care.

The fire was called in at 3:41 p.m. As fire engulfed the entire back wing of the building, Fire Captain Bryan Vaine called a second alarm. Firefighters from Gardner, Ashburnham, Royalston, Templeton, Rindge NH and Fitzwilliam NH responded to the scene to assist the Winchendon Fire Department, Police Department and water department. Jaffrey NH Fire Department provided station coverage for Winchendon.

Maple Street, which is also Route 202, was blocked for several hours by emergency vehicles, causing increased traffic through various side streets and alternate routes as there was no time to indicate detours.

Representatives from the Red Cross and Salvation Army quickly arrived at the scene to support and assist the displaced residents. As word rapidly spread on social media, the Winchendon CAC and Working Wonders in Winchendon organized to collect donations and funds for the families.

At this time, the families need clothing and donations of gift cards or funds, as they have nowhere to store household items. Donations have also been suggested to help with the medical care of the injured cat. To assist the displaced families, contact the Winchendon CAC at 978-297-1667 or see the Facebook group, Working Wonders in Winchendon.

Winchendon Police Chief Reports Crime, Overdoses down, Police Calls Up in 2019

Winchendon Police Chief David Walsh came before the Board of Selectman on March 9 to present his annual report for 2019. He introduced a new officer, summarized the department's expenses and activities and gave a presentation on police calls compared to the last two years. The number of police calls has increased; crime against persons and property has decreased; drug-related and mental health issue calls have increased.

Chief Walsh explained that the department has entered into a lease program for new tasers, replacing the five-year-old tasers which were at the end of their recommended term of use. A grant from Robinson Broadhurst funded the replacement of the mobile data terminals (MDTs), both in police vehicles and body-worn models. A 2012 Ford Expedition marked cruiser was replaced with a 2018 Explorer, and the department is purchasing a new 2020 K9 vehicle. The sally port at the police station was completed in November, on time and within budget.

The department will be requesting Robinson Broadhurst funding for five cruiser cameras for the five primary patrol vehicles. The purchase of five shotguns will complete the update of the department's firearms which began last year.

The department held two multi-week Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) self-defense classes for women this year which were well-attended. Sgt. Daniel Wolski is leading the new POST program which does outreach and follow-up to persons who have overdosed. Sgt. Wolski will be leading a new initiative, the Critical Instant Management System (CIMS), started by the Central Massachusetts Police and the District Attorney's office in Worcester. This program identifies persons with substance abuse disorders and overdose histories, and connects them with a non-uniformed police officer and a recovery coach offering education and treatment.

The department continues to offer the elderly education and training on fraud and safety each year, raising awareness of fraudulent robocalls purporting to be from Social Security or sweepstakes, targeting seniors.

K9 Clyde has been very useful assisting the North Worcester Drug Task Force in drug searches in Winchendon and surrounding towns. This year, Clyde was involved with 18 narcotics searches, 15 tracks and 15 demonstrations in addition to his regular duties. Clyde tracked a mentally unstable man who was at risk for self-harm through several miles of woods on a track that was hours old, and was able to guide officers to the man. Clyde continued working while receiving chemotherapy for an aggressive form of cancer; he has now had his last chemo treatment and is considered in complete remission.

Chief Walsh introduced Brandon Lucier, the newest officer on the Winchendon force. Officer Lucier is a life-long resident of Winchendon, is attending Mount Wachusett Community College and graduated from the Reading Police Academy last fall. He works the overnight shifts. The addition of Officer Lucier brings the number of full time officers on the force to 15, the first increase in that number in ten years. The department will also be hiring more part-time reserve officers and per diem dispatchers to help fill in during busy times.

Detective Alan Ross accounted for 29 drug-related arrests and complaints. To address a serious concern about prompt and thorough investigation of sexual assaults, the department has certified four more officers in sexual assault investigation, bringing the total number of certified officers to seven.

In his presentation, Chief Walsh showed that the department responded to 16,689 calls in 2019, including 253 accidents, and resulting in 358 arrests and 904 citations. This is an increase of 12 percent from 2018.

Crimes against property (theft, larceny and fraud) have decreased slightly, except for an increase in burglary/breaking & entering. The most common incident is simple "stolen property." Crimes against persons (assault and sexual assault--homicide has been an inactive category in Winchendon for several years) have decreased, with simple assault being the most commonly reported. All categories of crimes together decreased 16 percent from 2018. One of the largest increases in calls has been Section 12 Mental Health responses in which police must take a person at risk to themselves into custody and transport them to a hospital. These calls increased 181 percent from 2018 to 2019.

Drug overdoses decreased from 2018. But there were more fatal overdoses in 2019 than 2018, despite more total doses of Narcan administered by police and EMS. Heroin has almost doubled, to 67 percent, as the cause of overdoses, because so much heroin is now adulterated with Fentanyl, a far more powerful narcotic. Winchendon still has a higher rate of drug overdose calls overall than most towns in the area.

Chief Walsh concluded his presentation by saying that there were "positives" for 2019 in the decrease in crime overall, but the increase in call volume requires an added response from the department. Accident and domestic calls require at least two officers to respond; some Section 12 calls also require two officers, and those officers must stay at the hospital with the person until they are seen.

Selectman Barbara Anderson and Town Manager Keith Hickey expressed concerns about the number of drug overdoses, both narcotics and legal drugs. Chief Walsh emphasized that outreach and education were key tools in mitigating these numbers, and he expects the POST and CIMS programs to help with that.

Superintendant Landers Cancels School As Precautionary Measure

On Wednesday, March 11, Superintendant Landers notified all parents that the Winchendon Public Schools would be closed for several days for intensive cleaning and sanitizing. A staff member at Murdock Middle High School reported that they had been in contact with a person known to have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. All school-related activities were also cancelled.

On March 12, Ms. Landers informed the school community that the staff person had not been exposed to COVID-19. School classes and activities will return to their usual schedules on Monday, March 16.

COVID-19 is a new virus that no one has natural immunity to, and it is highly contagious. A high level of caution is recommended by the CDC; Governor Charles Baker has proclaimed a state of emergency in Massachusetts as part of widespread efforts to contain the virus. The school department will not have to make up any days missed due to COVID-19 preventive actions.

Representative Zlotnik Votes Against Raising ‘Gas Tax’

Cites Disproportionate Effect on Rural Residents

BOSTON, MA – State Representative Jonathan D. Zlotnik (D-Gardner) voted against raising the gas and diesel taxes in Massachusetts on Wednesday, during a full formal session of the House of Representatives. For roughly eight hours, the House debated H.4508 An Act Relative to Transportation Finance, a revenue bill to increase taxes by approximately half a billion dollars.

Representative Zlotnik voted against the bill and against increasing the gas tax, citing the disproportionate effect on his constituents, as rural communities that have limited or no access to public transportation options.

“People in this area have to drive and there are not many viable alternatives in rural areas so an increase in the gas tax will impact those people most, who have the least options in terms of avoiding it,” stated Rep. Zlotnik. “I did not feel the benefits of the increased infrastructure spending outweighed the burden being placed on them to pay for it, for people in my district."

Low Turnout for Presidential Primaries in Winchendon

1,690, or 24 percent, of Winchendon's 7,045 registered voters cast ballots in the Presidential Primary Elections which concluded on Tuesday, March 3. 281 ballots were cast during the early voting period from February 24 through February 27.

513 voters cast a ballot in the Republican primary. Incumbent President Donald J. Trump received 464 votes, William F. Weld 37 votes and Joe Walsh 6 votes. Other candidates received 3 or fewer votes, including write-in Dan Burman with one vote.

No names appeared on the ballot for the Republican Town Committee. Write-ins included Steven Haddad, David Connor, Thomas Connor, Alissa Campbell, Burt Gould, Rick Morin, Patti Jackson, Kevin Gauthier, Seth Nelson David and Lorenzo Sordoni III with one vote each.

1,165 ballots were cast in the Democratic primary. Winchendon voters most strongly supported Joseph R. Biden with 388 votes and Bernie Sanders with 383 votes. Elizabeth Warren received 142 votes, Michael R. Bloomberg 135 votes, Pete Buttigieg 35 votes, Amy Klobuchar 25 votes, Tom Steyer 17 votes, and all others fewer than 10 votes (including 9 votes for No Preference). Write-ins Charlie Baker and William Weld got one vote apiece.

The full slate of Democratic Town Committee candidates was elected in a landslide, along with write-ins Tina Santos, Peggy Corbosiero, Steven Thompson, Craig Johnson, Robert Courtemache, Sandra Foster and Douglas Foster with one vote each.

Four ballots were cast in the Green Rainbow Party primary. Dario Hunter carried Winchendon with two votes, beating out write-in Donald Trump with one vote.

Eight ballots were cast in the Libertarian Party primary. Winchendon voters went with Vermin Love Supreme who received two votes. All other candidates got no votes or one, including write-ins Mike Bloomberg and Bernie Sanders with one vote each.

Stone Ladeau Funeral Home

Town Manager Presents Draft Budgets for FY2021 to BoS and FinCom

At the joint meeting of the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee on March 9, Town Manager Keith Hickey presented his Recommended Fiscal Year 2021 Budget for the General Fund, Water Department, Sewer Department and the Transfer Station, and the recommended funding amount for the School Department. All budgets are balanced, with no one-time revenues necessary, based on conservative estimates of revenues and reasonable appropriations of funds to the various departments.

Mr. Hickey explained that the budget is planned not only to be balanced while meeting the needs of the departments, but with a long view toward balanced budgets in future years.

There will be fewer articles on the Town Meeting warrant related to the FY 2021 budget. There are no planning or zoning articles, and there are fewer appropriations requests this year.

Mr. Hickey explained that 90 percent of the town's revenues come from state aid and local property taxes. The remainder comes from local fees, including permitting and license fees, PILOT revenue from solar installations and the anticipated transaction fees from marijuana retail stores. The more revenue derives from these sources, the more they reduce reliance on property taxes.

The overall proposed expenses budget for FY 2021 shows a net reduction of $416,061 from the final revised budget for FY 2020.

The General Fund budget shows a net reduction from the FY 2020 budget. The Winchendon Public Schools budget has increased by $5,967, largely because of indirect costs including health insurance. The assessment for Monty Tech is decreasing because fewer Winchendon students are attending.

No water rate increase is necessary to balance the Water Department's FY 2021 budget. However, a sewer rate increase will be needed, due to the costs of beginning to bring drains into compliance with EPA regulations. Wastewater and storm run-off water must be channeled into separate drains, and communities that do not address this issue can be levied steep fines by the EPA. Separating storm water drainage from wastewater will be a part of the Central Street Reconstruction Project, but all older streets with both sewer lines and storm drains will need to be reconstructed.

The transfer station budget is increasing but is covered by user fees. The transfer station will make a small profit in 2019 and is expected to do the same in 2020. More people in Winchendon and Templeton are bringing their trash and recycling to the transfer station instead of paying for private haulers.

All details on the Town Manager's Budgets may be found on the town website, at this page: Town Manager's Budget.

The warrant for May Town Meeting closes on April 7, so anyone who wants to include a warrant article must have it in by then. The Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the budget on April 29. Annual Town Meeting will be held on Monday, May 18.

Central Mass Tree

Do You Have a Garden in Winchendon?

You can help the Winchendon HEAL Project bring affordable, whole food back to town by telling us about your garden! Fill out this online survey:

What is the HEAL Winchendon Food Project?

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

There is still time to take out nomination papers for the town elections!
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.

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)

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.

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.

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