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News December 2005
 
Gilmore Promoted to Police Lieutenant
 

On November 15, 2005, Chief Atstupenas announced the promotion of Officer Gregory Gilmore to the position of Lieutenant. Gilmore is in his 6th year with the department. He is promoted from within the detective division of the department. An extensive testing and interview process lead to his appointment. Gilmore received his bachelor's degree in Criminology from Suffolk University in Boston and has a Master's degree in Criminal Justice Administration. He is a member of the Blackstone Valley Drug Task Force and sits on the Board of Director's for the New England Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association. He has received numerous awards and recognition while serving with the department.

The chief also announced the appointment of two new police officers. Officer Christopher Cowan and Officer Adam Rollins were appointed full time officers to replace two open positions within the department.

Cowan is fully trained and has two years of police experience with another local agency. He is married with one child and anticipates working on the second shift for the department. He is a certified firearms and rifle instructor. He has a bachelor's degree from Western New England .

Rollins is a resident of Blackstone, and he is currently in the police academy full time and will graduate from the academy in March of 2006. He will immediately begin serving the town upon his graduation. He has a bachelor's degree from Bridgewater State College. The chief is excited to have a homegrown officer joining the ranks of his department.

 
Eric's a Big Hit in Blackstone!
By Mary Jane Lee

Whats new in Blackstone?

Everyone's talking about Eric's Main Street Café. Why its just the biggest thing to hit Blackstone since slice bread. I had the pleasure of having lunch there last Thursday. I must say, I was quite impressed by the cozy atmosphere. Eric and Kathleen have transformed the Old Town Chef Restaurant into a warm and comfortable place with great food. Whether your interested in a quick cup of coffee and one of Eric's massive homemade muffins - they come in four delicious flavors: corn, cranberry walnut, rasin bran and blueberry. I've had the blueberry and I can tell you they are quite delicious. For a quick breakfast, you couldn't ask for more. Upon my second visit I was greeted by co-owners Eric and Kathleen. They are extremely warm, friendly and courteous people. I ordered the Taco Salad which was filled with delicious chili with served in a flaky taco shell. Itwas the best I've ever tasted. It literally melted in my mouth. People in the next booth had the turkey and roast beef dinner and the turkey pot pie. By the smiles on their faces and the compliments offered, they were mouth watering delights. Eric's offers a full breakfast and lunch menu and dinners on Friday nights. They serve everything from pumpkin pancakes and eggs benedict caesar wraps and roast beef dinners. Eric's also caters home parties and weddings.

On December 10, from 8-11AM please join Santa for breakfast, get your picture taken with Santa for free. I feel that we're quite fortunate that Eric and Kathleen chose our little town and we welcome them with open arms. The food sells itself, like any good restaurant. The restaurant was filled with townspeople, good conversation and great food!

 
Assessors Report to Taxpayers
By Jim Watson, Asst. Assessor Franscena Schandelmayer Davis, B.O.A. chairperson

At what percentage of value should Real Estate in Blackstone be assessed at? This is the question of the day. The Town Administrator and other town officials have been asking various state officials and receiving various answers. After freely admitting they do not fully understand the answers, the question was then raised in both the Woonsocket Call and on cable television. Unfortunately no one has addressed the question either to officials at the Bureau of Local Assessment in the state Department of Revenue or to local officials in the assessor's office in Blackstone. The hope is that by assessing the real estate at say 70% of value the town will appear to be poorer than it actually is. Then when state aid is dispersed the Town of Blackstone will receive greater amounts of state aid. However the Bureau of Local Assessment has received as part of its basic mandate the duty to insure that such schemes do not succeed. The State Constitution says that Real Estate is to be assessed at full and fair value. This means 100% of value as of the assessment date. Administrative directives from the state expand this somewhat to allow valuations between 90% and 110% of value. The state enforces this regulation and requires the submission of sale prices and assessment valuations to insure compliance. Individual towns variations on the 90% to 110% percent range are adjusted to 100% in the Equalization Study conducted very two years. The enforcement mechanism is simple: if the towns do not comply, the Bureau of Local Assessment will not approve the town's tax rate. The tax bills cannot be sent out and the town will not receive revenue to pay its bills. If the towns do comply: no long legal fights required. For technical reasons, Blackstone has valued residential home as a class in the high 90% of value for the last several years. This is done so that with normal dispersion homes are not assessed for more than 100% of value. BUT ONE WORD OF CAUTION; In a rising market the latest official assessed values on say November 16, 2005 do not reflect actual real estate values on that date. The latest finalized values are for Fiscal Year 2005. The valuation date for these numbers is January 1st 2004. The sales prices that were analyzed to set the valuation were from calendar year 2003. When the market is rising at 15% plus per year a 30% valuation gap can easily develop. We suspect this is what state officials were trying to convey to town officials.

 

 
Unibank Supports Blackstone Historical
By Charlene Leite

UniBank donated $2,500 to fully sponsor the Blackstone Historical Commission's "Town of Blackstone" multi-colored throw that is being sold as the commission's major fundraiser. The throw depicts the Quaker Meeting House, the Gorge and Daniels Farmstead, among other historical attractions in the town of Blackstone, Massachusetts.

Proceeds from the sale of throws will be used to maintain and make improvements to the Blackstone Historical Museum. According to Carolyn Powers, Blackstone Historical Commission chairperson, nearly one-third of the 100 blankets have already been pre-purchased, while the remaining blankets are expected to be sold within the coming months. She added, "We couldn't have purchased these throws for our fundraiser if it weren't for UniBank."

Throws can be purchased for $50 each beginning in December on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month from 10 AM - 4 PM at the Blackstone Historical Museum, 23 Main Street, Blackstone. They will also be available for sale at the Blackstone Historical Museum's Christmas Open House on Sunday, December 11, 2005, from 12 Noon to 4 PM Additionally, throws can be purchased is at The Tole Booth, 129 Main Street. For more information, please call Carolyn Powers at 508-883-4821.

UniBank serves the Blackstone Valley with seven offices in Whitinsville, Blackstone, Douglas, Sutton, Upton, Uxbridge and the Whitinsville Plaza. A full-service, mutual community savings bank, it is a member of the FDIC, DIF and SUMsm Program. Its website is www.unibank.com.

 
Valley Tech LEGO Competition Attracts Biggest Field
 

Hundreds of students from across Massachusetts and some from New York demonstrated their engineering skills, as wells as their tremendous sportsmanship, while competing in the annual FIRST LEGO League competition held recently at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School.

Sixty teams comprised of middle school age children made the all-day event at Valley Tech one of the largest FLL competitions in the country. The competition was sponsored and coordinated by the highly successful Valley Tech Robotics team. In a close final match, the Lincoln (Mass.) Blue team squeezed by the ERK3 squad from Northbridge.

"We love coming to this event because we do it for fun," said Ann Hutchinson, one of the advisors for the Lincoln Blue team. "We don't have the time to complete the project to compete in all the formal events, but we love coming here because it is such a great event and the students have such a good time." Each year students design, build and program a Lego robot that performs a certain set of tasks (missions) specific to FIRST's national theme. This year's theme was "Ocean Odyssey" and each team was guaranteed five matches in seeding rounds in the morning and at least one match in the afternoon single-elimination finals rounds. The Northbridge team advanced to the final with victories over Lincoln Green in the semifinals and Mountview B of Holden in the quarterfinals. Lincoln Blue advanced to the final with a semifinal win over the Funky Monkeys of Worcester and a quarterfinal triumph over Team Stealth 3 of Franklin. Teams from Monson, Boylston, Northborough and Sharon also made the final eight. "This has been a lot of fun," said Patrick Mahoney, a fifth grade student who was a member of another team from Northbridge and the nephew of former Valley Tech Principal William Mahoney.

"We had some troubles in the morning when our robot broke apart, but we've been able to fix most of it. We've learned a lot." Patrick Mahoney's teammate Carter Roche said their programming strategy worked the way they planned. "We concentrated on freeing the dolphin first and then went in order for the closest missions from there on," said Roche, also a fifth-grader. "We were able to get more points that way.

The Valley Tech Robotics team hosts the competition to finance its efforts in FIRST regional and state competitions. The Valley Tech Team 61 is gearing up for its competitions, including a new regional event in Boston, later this school year. Any individual or company interested in supporting the Valley Tech team is urged to contact Mr. Michael Norton at 508-529-7758, Ext. 2310. All donations are welcome and most appreciate. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national organization that designs programs and competitions in hopes of inspiring young people to pursue opportunities and careers in engineering, science, and technology. The regional and national competitions provide students with hands-on experience in engineering and computer programming principles.

 
A MATTER OF ETHICS Self-Dealing and Financial Interests
By Carol Carlson

The conflict of interest law, G. L. c. 268A, is intended to prevent, among other things, self-dealing. Section 19 of the conflict law generally prohibits a municipal employee (paid or unpaid, appointed or elected, full-time or part-time) from participating in any particular matter in which the municipal employee, an immediate family member or partner, or a business organization in which he or she has certain affiliations, has a financial interest. Immediate Family A municipal employee generally may not act on matters affecting the financial interest of the municipal employee him or herself, his or her spouse and/or the parents, siblings and children of both the municipal employee and the spouse. In-laws who marry into the "immediate family" are not considered to be members of the immediate family. For example, a town clerk's sister-in-law, who married the town clerk's brother, is not a member of the clerk's immediate family while the clerk's sister-in-law, who is his spouse's sister, is a member of the immediate family. Similarly, nieces, nephews, cousins and grandchildren are not members of the employee's immediate family. (They are, however, kin and acting on matters involving kin may give rise to the appearance of a conflict of interest. Section 23 of G.L. c. 268A addresses this.) In determining if a public employee may act in matters involving a family member's employee, it is the family member's financial interest that must be considered. For example, a particular matter before a board of health might affect the financial interest of the business organization that employs a board of health member's mother. That financial interest alone won't disqualify the member from acting, however, unless the particular matter also affect's the mother's financial interests. Business Organization A municipal employee who is an officer, partner, director, trustee, or employee of an organization or who is negotiating for prospective employment with an organization, in general, may not participate in matters affecting the financial interest of that organization. It does not matter if the business organization is a private, for-profit business or a non-profit organization. The business organization also may be county government or a municipality other than one's own. For instance, a municipal employee may not participate in a decision that affects another municipality's financial interest if he is an "officer" or "employee" of the other municipality. Participating and voting Participation includes not only voting on a matter but also formal and informal lobbying of colleagues, reviewing, discussing, giving advice and/or making recommendations on particular matters. Therefore, a municipal employee will be deemed to have participated in the particular matter if he discusses the matter but abstains from the vote of his or her board. Often, discussing, providing advice or making recommendations about a particular matter may have more of an effect than the employee's single vote. It does not follow, however, that if a municipal employee votes without participating in any discussion or otherwise acting regarding the matter in question, that vote will not amount to participation. Regardless of whether the vote tally is unanimous or split, voting constitutes participation. Finally, many actions, such as signing payroll warrants, which may seem to be routine or ministerial, in fact, constitute participation in the particular matter. Signing payroll warrants, for example, is making a decision to approve the payroll. Such a decision is a particular matter. The decision to delegate a matter to a co-worker or to a subordinate also constitutes participation in the particular matter. Exemptions The law includes three exemptions from the general prohibition. Often, exemptions of the conflict law require the municipal employee to make written disclosures to the municipal clerk and/or to the municipal employee's appointing authority. A municipal employee's appointing authority is not necessarily his or her immediate supervisor; the appointing authority is the official or board responsible for the municipal employee's appointment to his or her position. Making an oral disclosure or making a written disclosure to an immediate supervisor who is not an appointing authority, a co-worker or a subordinate who is also involved in a matter may not be deemed sufficient disclosure. A municipal employee can always comply with §19 by simply not participating in the relevant particular matter. The law does not require a municipal official to disclose the reasons why he or she has decided not to participate. 1. The exemption most often available for appointed municipal employees is §19(b)(1). A municipal employee who first advises his or her appointing authority of the nature and circumstances of the particular matter, makes full disclosure of the financial interest, and then receives in advance a written determination made by the appointing authority may act in matters in which he or she would otherwise be prohibited from participating. This exemption is not available to elected municipal employees because they do not have an appointing authority. The determination made by the appointing authority is that "the interest is not so substantial as to be deemed likely to affect the integrity of the services which the municipality may expect" from the employee. Whether the municipal official receives the written determination rests solely with the appointing authority. The Ethics Commission has no role in making the determination. 2. Section 19(b)(2) allows an elected municipal official to make "demand bank deposits of municipal funds" if he or she first files with the municipal clerk a statement making full disclosure of the financial interest. Thus, the elected town treasurer may use this exemption if she intends to make a demand bank deposit of municipal funds in a bank in which she serves, for example, as an officer, director, trustee or employee. 3. Finally, section 19(b)(3) allows any municipal employee to participate in a particular matter involving "a determination of general policy"and in which "the interest of the municipal employee or members of his immediate family is shared with a substantial segment of the population of the municipality." Generally, this exemption applies to particular matters such as real estate tax rates or municipal utility rates. What is a financial interest? Although the conflict of interest law does not define the term financial interest, the Commission has a long-standing practice of interpreting the phrase. The restrictions of the conflict law apply in any instance when the private financial interests are directly and immediately affected or when it is reasonably foreseeable that the financial interests would be affected. Example: A selectman who owns a restaurant in town may have a financial interest in awarding a liquor license to a business competitor if it would be reasonably foreseeable that the granting of the liquor license to a competitor's restaurant would affect the selectman's restaurant sales. Example: A planning board member who is a trustee of a private non-profit organization which opposes a project before the board will be prohibited from voting on that project if she knows that the private organization will spend financial resources to oppose the project if it is approved by the board. In contrast, if the organization has no intent to spend resources based on the decision, then the organization does not have a financial interest and the board member's participation would not violate this section of the conflict law. The conflict law generally prohibits any type of official action regardless of whether the financial interest is large or small and regardless of whether the proposed action would positively or negatively affect the private financial interest. Example: A public official responsible for hiring summer employees generally may not participate in the hiring process if an immediate family member is an applicant, even if it is clear that the immediate family member will not be hired and thus has a negative financial interest.

 
Callahan Announces 40B Hearing
By Jennifer Kearns

State Representative Jennifer M. Callahan is notifying local residents in advance that a public hearing on Chapter 40B is being held Tuesday, January, 24th at 10:00 am in the Gardner Auditorium at the State House. Hundreds of people are expected to attend this statewide hearing, and she is encouraging constituents to testify so their voices can be heard by other legislators who serve on the Joint Committee on Public Housing.

"Reforming Chapter 40B laws continues to be a top priority for my district," said Callahan. "I am committed to helping residents' voices be heard on this important issue, that is why I want to encourage testimony from as many residents as possible."

Callahan, a strong advocate of reforming the Chapter 40B law, has been working closely with communities she represents to keep them apprised of legislative proposals that would correct problems with the current law. During last year's legislative session, she hosted a well attended regional public forum on the subject with the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Public Housing, Representative Kevin Honan and Senator Harriette Chandler attending. Blackstone was one of only 17 towns to be visited by the Chairmen as they considered proposals to reform Chapter 40B. Residents of Blackstone and other towns met with the Chairmen and many of their suggestions for improving the 40B laws were directly incorporated into a comprehensive reform of the 40B laws voted on by the House last session. Unfortunately, the 40B reform was not taken up by the Senate.

The Representative would like to assist anyone who would like to testify at the public hearing. Residents can contact her at (617) 722-2130 for additional information about the hearing. Residents who cannot testify in Boston can submit written testimony directly to the Representative, who will personally deliver it to the committee. Written testimony may be submitted in advance to Representative Jennifer Callahan at the State House in Boston.

 

 
Medicare Prescription

What you need to know any of you have been hearing or receiving information about Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage (Medicare Part D). Beginning January 1, 2006, this new program will help many seniors pay less for prescription drugs. Starting November 15, 2005, people with Medicare will be able to enroll in a plan that covers prescription drugs. These plans will be offered by private insurance companies and may vary in coverage. Generally, standard coverage works like this: Medicare beneficiaries will : 1. Choose a prescription drug plan and pay a premium of about $32.00 a month. 2. Pay the first $250.00 (called a "deductible"). 3. Pay 25% of costs between $250.00 and $2,250.00. (Medicare will pay 75%). 4. Pay 100% of the drug costs above $2,250.00 until approximately $3,600.00 in out-of-pocket spending is reached. 5. Pay 5% of any costs over $5,100.00 - Medicare will pay 95%. Over the summer, limited-income seniors were able to take steps to apply for "extra-help". If you think you might qualify and/or if you are a Prescription Advantage member who does not currently pay a premium, you MUST complete the application from the Social Se curity Administration (SSA) for "extra-help" as soon as possible. This letter must be sent to Prescription Advantage as soon as possible. Three or four weeks later, you will receive a letter of determination. Prescription Advantage members who apply for the "extra-help" MUST ALSO SEND A COPY of the SSA's determination letter to Prescription Advantage as soon as they receive it. Applications for "extra-help" are available at the Social Security Administration and at the Blackstone Senior Center, ask for Karen Albright, Outreach Program Manager, office number (508) 883-1500 ext. 134. People with Medicare who have income and resources below a certain limit will not have to pay the premiums and deductibles associated with Medicare prescription drug coverage. They will only have to pay a small co-payment for each prescription. If your income is higher, you may still qualify and pay a reduced deductible and lower co-payments. The Blackstone Council on Aging will be scheduling focus groups with S.H.I.N.E. to assist with the Medicare Part D Prescription Plan enrollments. Please call the Senior Center at (508) 883-1500 ext. 125 for further information. We will have to know your current health insurance provider and also any additional prescription coverage. Summary of key dates: Information about available Medicare Prescription Drug Plans will be sent out in the "Medicare and YOU 2006 Handbook". Enrollment is November 15, 2005 through May 15, 2006. Coverage becomes effective, January 1st, 2006. You can get help understanding your options by calling the SHINE Office at 1-800-AGE-INFO (1-800-243-4636). The SHINE Program Changes are coming!! EVERYONE NOW ON MEDICARE WILL BE AFFECTED BY THESE NEW CHANGES!!! The Medicare and You 2006 handbook is being mailed to all Medicare beneficiaries and contains important information about the changes that are coming. One big change is that as of 1/1/2006 the Medicare Part B deductible will be $124 annually from $110 and the Medicare Part B premium will be $88.50 from $78.20 monthly. The Medicare handbook will include information about the Medicare Prescription Drug Plans that will go into effect 1/1/2006. Some things to consider in the upcoming weeks : o All current members of Prescription Advantage must choose a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan to continue their prescription coverage. Prescription Advantage will be sending out a mailing to all of their members very soon to explain the details of the changes to their program. ˇ Medicare Beneficiaries on a Medicare Advantage Plan (Blue Cross, Fallon, First Seniority and Tufts) will be receiving information from these plans soon. If you were looking to add a prescription benefit you must pick a prescription plan offered by your present company . ˇ All Health Insurance carriers and Retiree plans will be sending letters to their members within the next few weeks outlining any changes they are making with regard to Medicare Prescription Drug coverage. The new rates that will be effective January 1, 2006 will be included in these letters. ˇ Keep a list of all current medications, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies. ˇ Please keep a copy of all the information that is sent to you and try to read it. There will be educational forums in your area to help members understand what changes their health plans are making. We encourage everyone to try to attend these meetings. ˇ Always protect your private information. Do not give out credit card or bank information over the phone. If you are speaking with someone on the phone have them send your information in writing so you can read everything over before signing up for something you may not want. SHINE counselors will be available to help with any questions with all these new changes. To reach a SHINE counselor call your local senior center or call (800) 243-4636 and you will be connected with someone who can help you.The SHINE Program will be having a training session this spring. Please let us know if you are interested in learning more about Health Insurance benefits to help yourself and others by becoming a certified SHINE counselor. How Do I Choose A Medicare Prescription Drug Plan? The new Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage begins January 1, 2006. Everyone who already has (or is eligible for) Medicare Part A or B is eligible for this new prescription drug coverage. Enrollment into a Medicare Prescription Drug began on November 15, 2005, your coverage will begin January 1, 2006. There are numerous Medicare Prescription Drug Plans available in Massachusetts. Information about available plans are contained in a special regional version of the 2006 Medicare and You Handbook; call 1-800-MEDICARE and ask for publication #CMS-10050-36. On the web, see the new plan comparison tool at www.medicare.gov. Plans vary by premium and other costs, pharmacies you can use, and drugs covered so take your time and shop carefully to find the plan best for you. If you are in a Medicare Advantage plan (Medicare HMO), you must get your prescription drug coverage from your HMO. If you enroll in a prescription drug plan outside your HMO, you will be dis-enrolled from the HMO (even if you did not intend to do so). Contact your HMO and ask about their prescription drug options for 2006. All other Medicare beneficiaries should evaluate their existing drug coverage (keeping in mind it may change in 2006). All Medicare beneficiaries who do not have current prescription drug coverage at least as good as what Medicare offers must enroll in a Medicare Prescription Drug plan by May 15, 2006, to avoid a late enrollment penalty. If you have prescription coverage through a current or past employer or union, they should be sending you a notice telling you if your coverage is as good as Medicare prescription coverage. If you have not received this information in writing, call your benefits administrator.Telephone help is available at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). Local help is available by calling the SHINE (Serving Health Information Needs of Elders) Program at 1-800-243-4636 and pressing 2. The SHINE Program will be holding information meetings, doing individual counseling, and holding large enrollment events. Call to find out when help is available in your community. Before going to see a SHINE Counselor or going to SHINE enrollment event, fill out a Medicare Drug Plan Pre-Enrollment Information form and take it with you. To complete the form you will need to know the names of the prescriptions you are currently taking (see the label on your prescriptions). .

 
 
Remove Snow for Letter Carriers
By Bob Boisell
 

Postmaster John Gonya is asking for the cooperation of postal customers to keep walkways and curbside mailboxes clear of snow and ice to ensure the safe and efficient delivery of mail this winter.

"The Postal Service treats safety and service with equal priority," the postal official said, "and we are seeking your help to ensure that you get the kind of service you need and expect and our letter carriers are safe from the perils they face during the winter."

Letter carriers are especially vulnerable to slips, trips and falls during the winter months, he said, adding: "It is extremely important that you keep your walkways free and clear of snow and ice to help reduce the danger of a letter carrier suffering serious injury in a slipping accident. "Your help in this regard is deeply appreciated by your letter carrier and all the many men and women who work together to make sure you receive the best possible mail delivery."

Gonya ask that residents who receive mail delivery to rural or curbside boxes to keep the approach to and exit from their mailbox clear of snow, ice, vehicles, trash cans and other objects. "This will permit the carrier to drive up to your mailbox and deposit or collect mail without leaving the vehicle. The approach to and exit from the mailbox should be cleared sufficiently on both sides to allow the carrier to drive ahead and not be required to back up after delivery," he said.

 
Winter Parking Ban
By Chief Atstupenas
 

Effective December 01, 2005 through March 31, 2006, the winter all night parking ban will be in effect. Parking will be prohibited on all streets for a period no longer than one hour between the hours of 1:00 am and 6:00 am, with the exceptions of the following streets listed below. Parking will be allowed on the odd number side of Prospect Street, First Avenue, County Street and Old Mendon Street.

Parking will be allowed on the even numbered side of Raynor Street, Washington Street, Howard Street and Ives Street.

However, if it snows during the night or there is a warning that we are expecting snow, all vehicle owners must make arrangements to move their vehicles off the roadways so they will not interfere with snow removal operations. If it snows and vehicles are not moved, vehicles will be ticketed and towed at the owners expense. If you have any questions do not hesitate to call the station at 508.883.1212.

 

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