The Winchendon Courier
Serving the community since 1878 ~ A By Light Unseen Media publication
Week of September 17 to September 24, 2020

Law Signed Makes Reserve Funds Immediately Available to Town

BOSTON- Governor Baker signed into law today S.2681, An Act Relative to Supplemental Reserves in the Town of Winchendon sponsored by Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) and Representative Jonathan Zlotnik (D-Gardner), making funds available to Winchendon saved under a 2014 law that allowed them to borrow up to $6 million in order to achieve a balanced budget for fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

“It was a pleasure to work with Rep Zlotnik to move this legislation forward,” commented Senator Gobi. “A huge thanks to Town Manager Keith Hickey, the Select Board and Finance Committee for their work to provide a high level of fiscal responsibility that benefits every taxpayer.”

Representative Zlotnik had this to say when asked about the bill’s passage, “"It's a testament to the hard work done by the town that they paid off their debt so quickly and I was pleased that we could work to amend the initial law to allow them to access these funds early. This is a timely change that will help as local officials navigate challenges posed by COVID-19."

The 2014 law, sponsored then by Gobi and Zlotnik, was successful in helping the town immediately make payments for unexpected healthcare costs that had been accrued that year, while creating a reserve fund for extraordinary and unforeseen expenses in the future. This Supplemental Reserve Fund operated continuously, allowing the town to raise funding from 2016-2020 while their bond funds remained outstanding-helping the town save while stile indebted to the state. Included in the initial law was a caveat that these funds may become available two years after the borrowed funds had been repaid, a feat the town managed in fiscal year 2019, which would have kept the funds unavailable until FY22. The law signed into law today amends the initial law, allowing the funds to become available immediately for any legal purposes once voted on at Town Meeting.

With a balanced combination of effective leadership and prudent fiscal management the town successfully paid off their initial debt while managing to save $323,000 since the initial laws’ creation.

For more information on the law signed today, please contact Senator Gobi’s office by email at, and Representative Zlotnik at

Gobi Attends Second Meeting of Agritourism Commission

BOSTON- Senator Anne Gobi (D-Spencer) attended the second meeting of the Massachusetts Agricultural Tourism Study Commission yesterday- established under a 2018 law to study opportunities that support, expand, and enhance agricultural tourism in the commonwealth.

Senator Gobi has served as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture for the last six years, a position she also held for 4 years while serving in the House. She had this to say on the commission, and the potential for more growth in this area, “It is an honor to serve on this commission and to explore additional ways we can assist and generate revenue for our local farms and businesses. With more people staying close to home they are discovering the wonderful products and experiences our farms and farmers provide. Now, more than ever, we must do all we can to support existing agritourism and assist in expanding it.”

Agritourism is defined as a form of commercial enterprise that links agricultural products and/or processing with tourism to attract visitors onto a farm or other agricultural businesses, educating and entertaining visitors while generating additional income for the farm and business owner. In Massachusetts, agritourism encompasses many activities and programming for a wide consumer audience including Pick Your Own (PYO) operations, petting zoos, hay rides, corn mazes, farm stands, retail stores with local produce and ready-made value added items for sale, hosting farm-to-table meals, weddings and birthday parties, field trips and farm stays (similar to a Bed and Breakfast). Popular events in central Massachusetts include the Asparagus Festival in West Brookfield and Hadley, and the Garlic Festival in Orange.

There are 240 farms participating in agritourism in the Commonwealth, creating $13,476,000 in income for MA residents and businesses. While Massachusetts is currently ranked 8th in the country for agritourism value per farm, at an average income of $56,150, the number of farms participating has decreased by nearly 17% since 2012. Chaired by Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources Commissioner John Lebeaux, the commission will conduct a thorough review of the state and municipal laws and regulations relative to agricultural zoning, as well as the policies and grant programs offered by the department of agricultural resources. They will also examine national best practices to implement agricultural tourism.

For more information on the agrritourism in the Commonwealth, please visit