The state will begin feasibility studies for local school projects about a month earlier than anticipated, potentially allowing some projects to be ready for Town Meeting votes next spring, staff writer James Vaznis of the reports in the Globe's City & Region Section today.
On Nov. 2, the state School Building Authority will decide which school districts' proposed projects to study first. Other districts will be selected on a rolling basis after that.
Being selected for a feasibility study doesn't automatically guarantee construction funding, but it is a prerequisite. More than a dozen school districts west of Boston are among 161 districts statewide competing for about $500 million in construction funds this year, the first time in four years the state is doling out school construction money.
In choosing which feasibility studies to pursue first, the state has been dispatching inspection teams to analyze building conditions and enrollment trends, visiting 90 districts so far. Those districts include Berlin-Boylston, Franklin, Hopkinton, Hudson, Marlborough, Maynard, Nashoba, Natick, Needham, Norfolk, Shrewsbury, Wayland, and Wellesley.
The resulting studies, which should be completed this winter, will give the state the first glimpse of how much it could potentially cost to do all the projects. In all, 161 districts have expressed interest in 422 school projects.
Rob Collins, 33, is the chief pilot for the Stow-based Collings Foundation.
(Photo by Aram Boghosian for the Boston Globe_
To get to the Collings Foundation, a visitor must follow directions that seem more likely to lead to an underground rave party than one of the world's foremost private collections of vintage aircraft and automobiles.
Drive down the one-lane lakeside road until you reach the little yellow house on the left with the chain link fence. Turn right up the tree-lined driveway that seems to go nowhere. Continue 50 yards past the battered black "No Trespassing" sign nailed to a tree and you're there.
There are no other signs, not even a mailbox. In short, there's nothing that would alert a casual passerby to the presence of 65 historic cars and trucks,10 aircraft in their own enormous hanger, a private airstrip, and the busy corporate headquarters of the "Wings of Freedom" program, which is arguably the most popular attraction on the US airshow circuit.
And that's by design. Bob Collings, his wife Caroline, and their son Rob have spent as much time polishing their neighborly image in tiny Stow (population 6,218) as they have burnishing the 1944 Grumman Avenger torpedo bomber that many consider the best-restored aircraft of its type in existence.
In past years, as the New England airshow season began in September, the nonprofit, educational foundation's Stow headquarters would have been quiet even as its stars -- three WWII bombers fully restored to flying condition -- were the featured attractions at shows in New Bedford, Plymouth, and Beverly.
In fact, the family has opened their 70-acre facility to the public just once each year, for an open house on Father's Day weekend. But in a sign that the foundation is carefully raising its low local profile, it has now added a second public event in Stow to their annual calendar, a "Living History Weekend," on Oct. 6 and 7.
Read more about the Collings Foundation in the online edition of today's Globe West.
Could the UFOs spotted by the Mexican air force in March have just been a golf tournament at the Campeche Country Club?
If you see glowing orbs whizzing around the sky in Stow next Friday night, don't panic or rush to the phone to call the nice US Air Force folks at Area 51.
Golfers will be using special glow-in-the-dark balls as part of a night time tournament to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis. The MS GlowBall tornament at the Stow Acres Country Club is being organized by Southborough woman whose sister is afflicted with the disease.
Michelle Labich also organized a town-wide yard sale to raise money for MS research and will soon participate in four separate bike rides to raise funds. The tournament will kick off at 5:30 p.m. with dinner, music and a cash bar and continue with a silent auction, raffle and dancing. Golf will begin at 7 p.m.
Tickets cost $100 for golfers and $50 for party-goers. All proceeds will go to the Central New England chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Anyone seeking more information is urged to contact the organizers by e-mail or call 508-460-1204.
-- Jennifer Rosinski
Vacationers from Stow were greeted by a 'closed' sign following a storm that clogged the beach they visit yearly, the Kaua'i Garden Island News of Hawaii reports.
Maureen O'Keefe and her husband were planning on going snorkeling at Lydgate Park, but heavy rains last Friday left natural debris all over the beach.
The O'Keefes say they visit the beach every year, and it had never been so badly washed out that it was unusable.
-- Adam Sell
A snowmobiler riding on a frozen lake in Stow died late Friday after crashing into a partly submerged dock.
Matthew Brennan, 26, of Stow, was thrown from the vehicle, which became airborne and landed under the porch of a nearby house, erupting into flames, according to Fire Chief David Soar.
Brennan was found unconscious on the ice just before midnight and was transported to Marlborough Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. The fire caused significant damage to the porch and area around the house, Soar said.
-- Globe City & Region staff
Janet Wheeler resigned from her role as chairman of the selectmen Tuesday night, citing "personal attacks" as her reason for stepping down.
Selectman Stephen Dungan will become the interim chair, while the board considers Wheeler's replacement, said Town Administrator William Wrigley. Wheeler has not stepped down as selectman, he said.
At a meeting Tuesday night, Wheeler read aloud a prepared statement, saying she had become a target of constant public undermining as chair.
"It is such an unreceptive environment that just about any request from me is fodder for grievances, petitions, attacks in the local paper, and behind-the-scenes wrangling," Wheeler said in the statement.
-- Matt Gunderson
Town officials are mulling some amendments to the town’s light pollution bylaw, an ordinance dating back to the 1970's aimed at curbing the town’s output of artificial light, said Karen Kelleher, planning coordinator.
The amendments, expected to be up for a vote next spring, are mainly technical in nature and are geared at tightening up the existing bylaw, said Kelleher. One of the amendment asks for more downward-facing street lights in town, she said.
-- Matt Gunderson
(Waiting for the Great Pumpkin in a "Peanuts" Halloween special)
Those who were looking forward to carving pumpkins for Halloween, beware: crops this year were not so great for many local farmers.
Ray Mong's farm in Stow has shipped in pumpkins from Vermont, because the crop got washed out by heavy rains this spring, CBS News reports.
Since farmers have had to ship in pumpkins from as far away as Canada, customers will bear the brunt of the cost, and the average cost of a big pumpkin has gone up by about $2.
Some folks are skeptical about the pumpkin panic. Silvio Laccetti, a professor of social sciences at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, recently wrote a piece on how his experiences have contradicted the supposed shortage.
Laccetti looked at the pumpkin shortage stories popping up all over the country, tracing them back to a Sept. 15 story in the Globe. (Westword also posted a blog item on the topic on Sept. 22.)
Laccetti says in his McClatchy-Tribune column, "The great pumpkin shortage stories had more holes in them than your ghost costume, Charlie Brown."
-- Erica Tochin
With surging interest in organic and locally grown food, many of us are stealing a few minutes to pull over at stands operated by local growers such as Land's Sake in Weston, Hanson's Farm in Framingham, the Natick Community Organic Farm in South Natick, Applefield Farm in Stow, Blue Heron Organic Farm, and Drumlin Farm in Lincoln.
The western suburbs also host more than a dozen weekly farmers' markets, which are rapidly growing in popularity.
Find out why, and learn how to get fresh produce close to home in Sunday's Globe West
-- Erica Noonan
The Nashoba Regional school district is placing a greater emphasis on its sports program, as evidenced by its recent decision to hire 33-year-old Tom O'Brien as a full-time athletic director.
O'Brien comes to Nashoba from Merrimack College, where he's served as an assistant athletic director.
In past years, Nashoba's athletic director focused solely on the high school program, in addition to holding other responsibilities as a vice principal.
But O'Brien will be responsible for athletics only. He'll also be responsible for the entire district, overseeing the pre-high school athletic programs as well.
That's a change for the district that includes the towns of Berlin, Bolton, Lancaster and Stow.
"The biggest thing for me is that I'm looking forward to dealing with the student-athlete at a different point in their development," said O'Brien, who resides in Methuen. "I've worked in college athletics for the last 11 years and loved the experience. But I'm ready for a change, working with student-athletes at a younger age."
It's been an eventful three weeks for O'Brien, a native of upstate New York. In addition to landing the new job, he was married three weeks ago.
"I've been on a personal whirlwind," he said. "It's been an exciting time in my life."