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Legislators say compromise reached in flood insurance bill

February 28, 2014 04:32 PM

Members of the US House of Representatives on Friday reached a tentative compromise on a flood-insurance bill that would benefit thousands of South Shore homeowners, and floor vote is expected in early March, two Massachusetts legislators said.

“We made great progress this week,” said US Representative Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat. “It’s how Congress is supposed to work. We had a proposal on the Republican side that had some gaps in it, we felt, but we went back to them with a counter proposal and a request for some time.”

“The plan should be coming out soon and floor action could be as early as next Tuesday,” US Representative William Keating, a Bourne Democrat, said in a statement.

Lawmakers had planned to vote on Wednesday or Thursday of this week, but the vote was postponed as Democratic groups worked through several amendments.

Though the House version looks very different than the one approved in the Senate in late January, Lynch said he is acting in lock step with US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

“We would not be signing off on something that we felt our Senate colleagues would be opposed to or offended by,” Lynch said.

The bill looks to augment the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which imposed high flood-insurance premiums for anyone in a flood zone. Legislators said the act was intended to better reflect the cost of coastal flooding and to make the National Flood Insurance Program solvent.

Biggert-Waters was coupled with new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps that expanded the flood zone and raised projected flood levels. The result sharply increased insurance rates for thousands of coastal homeowners in Massachusetts.
Even the owners of some homes miles from the coast saw steep increases in their premiums.

State and federal legislators have since taken up the mantle to effect changes to the law.

Though House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, initially said he would not take up a relief bill, an augmented proposal was brought to the floor in late February.

Lynch didn’t have all the specifics of the revised proposal, but said gaps that excluded some homeowners or business owners has been closed.

The structuring of rate increases was also revised.

Previously, legislators sought to have FEMA take the average of rate increases for a group of homes believed to be at the same risk. That average increase could be no lower than 5 percent, and no higher than 15 percent.

“That was very difficult for us to envision,” Lynch said. “We couldn’t predict what the increases would be, and that’s one of the problems. We proposed a per-policy or per-home increase when we’re trying to gauge what the increases might be.”

Increase limits were kept at a maximum of 15 percent annually; however, the five percent floor limit is still under discussion, Lynch said.

One of the larger changes also includes a provision requiring notification to Congress of potential map changes 60 days before maps are made public.

Lynch said that would allow representatives to walk constituents through changes and also give residents an opportunity for a meaningful appeal of maps.

“In some of my cases, they redrew the maps before they indicated there would be any increase,” Lynch said. “People were sitting back. There was no impetus to file an appeal. It didn’t indicate that rates were going up dramatically. When they did the rate piece, their opportunity for appeal had expired. We have to be better at this in terms of giving people their full rights under the statute.”

Such a problem occurred in Hingham, which voted to file a map appeal Thursday night though the town already voted the new maps into effect two years ago.

Keating added in a phone interview that draft language seeks to give communities a time period where they can check the accuracy of the maps without going through an appeal.

"The major part of the problem was the mapping process. [The bill] will allow the communities to have a period where they can look at the maps and have a period to react to that," Keating said. "They won't have to go through an expensive appeals process unnecessarily."

Grandfathering would also be added back in, Keating said.

Keating noted that the draft language could change even overnight, and nothing was solidified until the bill was in a complete form.

If the full House approves a bill that differs from the Senate’s, the two bills would go to conference committee to iron out the differences. Both chambers would then vote the bill up or down to be sent to the president.

Hingham woman accused of leading high-speed chase through 3 towns

February 28, 2014 02:43 PM

By Jessica Bartlett, Boston.com Staff

Hiigh-speed chase through three towns
A 55-year-old woman from Hingham was arrested on Feb. 21 after allegedly driving under the influence and leading police on a high-speed chase through Scituate, Cohasset and Hingham.

Police said an officer was doing a routine patrol of Scituate streets when he saw a light-colored Subaru in the middle of the Route 3A rotary with its hazard lights flashing.

The officer approached the driver’s side door and asked if the car was broken down or if the woman needed help. Police said the driver, Kimberly S. Davis, did not respond to the officer, and instead put the vehicle into "drive" and drove off.

“I then jumped backwards to avoid being run over by the motor vehicle,” Officer Taylor Billings said in his report. “I then observed Davis run over the traffic island and then bounce over to the other side of the road and drive over the sidewalk (which is elevated very high) and proceed onto Route 3A northbound.”

The officer said he tried to catch up with the vehicle but couldn’t. He radioed to dispatch the vehicle description and a license plate number.

An officer in the area said he had spotted the vehicle and tried to pull the car over, but the driver wouldn’t stop.

Scituate Police notified Cohasset police as the vehicle continued north on Route 3A, followed by several police cars.

“Several motor vehicle violations were committed in our town as well as speeds in excess of 100+ mph/posted 50 mph,” officers said in the report.

Once the suspect crossed into Cohasset, two Cohasset cruisers were waiting at the town line. Police said more violations occurred in Cohasset and kept going into Hingham.

The car was eventually stopped in Hingham, with Hingham Police deploying “spike strips” to flatten the vehicle’s front tires. The vehicle ultimately came to a stop in the middle of the roadway at the intersection of Fottler Road and Beal Street.

Hingham police took the suspect into custody. One Hingham officer said there was an open, half-empty bottle of Malbec wine on the center console.

Scituate police gained custody of the suspect and had a tow truck bring the suspect’s car back to Scituate.

Police said the suspect failed sobriety tests at Scituate Police Station.

Davis was charged with a marked lanes violation, speeding, operating under the influence of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, driving with an open container of alcohol, failure to stop for police, and assault with a dangerous weapon (motor vehicle).

She will face charges in Cohasset and Hingham, police said.

Man arrested for alleged assault with gun
A 37-year-old Scituate man was charged with assault after allegedly attacking his roommate with a gun.

Police said a man walked into the Scituate Police Department lobby at 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 21 bleeding from his face and arms.

The victim said his roommate and he had been drinking heavily, and eventually the victim went to bed. At some point, the victim heard the suspect calling his wife names and screaming at her.

According to police, the victim said he went downstairs to ask the suspect to be quiet and discovered the suspect holding a knife in a threatening manner.

The victim told police he feared for his life so he retrieved a Mossberg Pump Action Shotgun from his room and went down the stairs.

The victim and suspect started to struggle and the suspect was able to overpower the victim and grab hold of the shotgun. Police said the victim reported he was then struck in the head with the butt end of the shotgun.

The victim said he ran away from the suspect and to his car, driving to the Scituate Police Department.

The victim said though the gun wasn’t loaded, the suspect might know where the ammunition was.

Several officers subsequently went to the Clifton Avenue house, with one officer calling the house telephone to speak with the woman. Police said the suspect answered and would not put the woman on the phone.

Police said they forced their way into the house with guns drawn as they feared for the second victim’s safety.

The suspect was arrested and taken into custody. Police found the shotgun under several pillows on a couch.

According to police, the suspect was uncooperative and combative. He was later transported to South Shore Hospital after screaming that he was ill and needed medical assistance, police said.

Adam J. Coty, 37, from Scituate was charged with assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on someone over the age of 60, and two counts of carrying a dangerous weapon (the knife and the gun).

Scituate's Quarterdeck to close after 45 years

February 28, 2014 01:34 PM

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Jessica Bartlett

After 45 years of business, the Quarterdeck will close its doors.

The Quarterdeck, a beloved Scituate landmark hovering over the harbor on Front Street, will close its doors mid-March after 45 years of business.

Owner Joan Noble said she will open a more traditional antique store on Country Way, but the iconic two-story cottage will no longer be the home to antiques and trinkets. The Lucky Fin Schooner will man the sea-worn dock out back and offer day trips.

A ticket office and possibly a coffee shop will be put on the first floor.

“It’s an extremely difficult building to take care of…sometimes we’re almost in the water,” Noble said of her decision to sell the building two years ago, and close up shop next month. “…Today everything is so complex and difficult and expensive. I couldn’t do it anymore.”

The decision was further prompted as Noble’s suppliers dwindled, with people either moving on to other careers, retiring, or passing away.

“It means I have to get out to L.A. or New York and start all over again, and find new sources. I just decided it was time to move on,” Noble said.

The town’s reaction to the closing has been overwhelming. A large sign in the window drew customers in spurts on an early Friday morning.

Many carried lists of things their loved ones wanted, with hundreds of vacationers near and far eager to get a piece of the shop while it still sat on the harbor.

“One woman, I forget how much she spent, she brought lists from everybody,” Noble said.

Mary Griffin said had been in the store repeatedly in the past few days, buying future gifts and picked up requested items her granddaughter requested.

Beverly Westerveld roamed the shop’s small corridors with a nostalgic grin, recounting how the store was the second place she ever shopped in by herself.

She’s brought every person who’s ever visited town to the locale.

“[I’m] very sad. It’s been a part of my life for so many years,” Westerveld said.

As sad as townspeople are to see the shop go, Noble said her time with the building has reached an end.

“It’s been a love affair. A wonderful love affair,” she said.

SPS Fine Arts announces The Boston Globe's 2014 Scholastic Art Award recipients

February 26, 2014 05:23 PM

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Courtesy of Dawn Benski, department chair of Fine Arts at Scituate Public Schools

Katherine Irish's entry titled "School Landscape." Irish, of Scituate High School, was awarded the Honorable Mention award in mixed media for this work.

February 13, 2014

Scituate, MA- Each year, the Boston Globe hosts an annual competition for the regional chapter of the National Scholastic Art and Writing Competition. This year, middle and high schools throughout Massachusetts have submitted thousands of works of art. Art of various media are represented, including painting, drawing, digital arts, photography and sculpture. A panel of art professionals, artists, and art educators assigned awards based on technical proficiency, creative expression, and personal vision.

15 awards were designated for Scituate High School students: 5 Gold Keys, 1 Silver Key, and 9 Honorable Mentions. Three students from Gates Intermediate School also received awards: 2 Honorable Mentions and one Silver Key. Gold Key winners will go on to compete on the National level.

For some pictures of the winners, check out the gallery here.

There will be an award ceremony for all Honorable Mention, Silver and Gold Key recipients held at the Blackman Auditorium at Northeastern University, Boston on Saturday March 8, 2014.

Artwork from all Gold Key recipients will be on exhibit from March 7-March 30 at Boston City Hall in Government Plaza. Visiting hours will be Monday-Friday, 9:00am-5:00pm. It will also be open on March 8 for special hours to accommodate visitors attending the award ceremony.

From Scituate High School:
First Name: Last Name: Medium: Title: Award:

Lydia Crowley; Sculpture; Baby Head; Honorable Mention
Bryanna Drew; Drawing; Self-Portrait ; Honorable Mention
Katherine Irish; Mixed Media; School Landscape; Honorable Mention
Katherine Irish; Painting; Lake At Dusk; Gold Key
Katherine Irish; Painting; Strong Tree; Honorable Mention
Anna Maguire; Drawing; Point of View; Gold Key
Claire McAteer; Painting; Kost; Silver Key
Claire McAteer; Painting; Same Thing; Honorable Mention
Bridget McCarthy; Sculpture; Bates Motel; Honorable Mention
Michael Monaco; Photography; Stillness; Gold Key
Michael Monaco; Mixed Media; Discrepancy; Honorable Mention
Jonathan Ricci; Digital Art; Here’s Jonny!; Gold Key
Jonathan Ricci; Sculpture; Global Suffrage; Gold Key
Samia Sabir; Sculpture; Cowboy Boot; Honorable Mention
Margaret Tobin; Sculpture; Forbidden Fruit; Honorable Mention

From Gates Intermediate School:
First Name: Last Name: Medium: Title: Award:
Sophia Fererra; Sculpture; Billingsly; Honorable Mention
Abigail Hilditch; Drawing; Lawson Tower; Silver Key
Michael Kinney; Drawing; Serpent; Honorable Mention

To learn more about these awards in Scituate Schools, please contact:

Dawn Benski,
Department Chair of Fine Arts, K-12
Scituate Public Schools
606 CJ Cushing Highway
Scituate, MA 02066
781-545-8750 ext. 342
dbenski@scit.org

###

Flood relief bill expected to go to House vote early March

February 25, 2014 05:18 PM

An altered flood relief bill won't come before Congress until early March, despite hopes that congressional representatives would take up the issue in late February.

According to RollCall.com, the bill lacked the necessary number of votes to move forward. The language is being put to a rewrite to alleviate some Democrat concerns.

The bill was expected to make its way before Congress on Wednesday, a step that may bring relief to thousands of South Shore residents coping with the effects of a federal flood insurance mandate.

“They were cueing it up and ironing out their differences to be voted as early this week…to have a full vote of the U.S. Senate and House [before Congress adjourns in June],” said state Rep. Jim Cantwell, a Marshfield Democrat, on Tuesday afternoon.

The bill seeks to augment the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, which imposed steep flood insurance premiums for everyone in new flood zones. Legislators said the mandate’s goal was to better reflect the cost of coastal flooding and to make the National Flood Insurance Program solvent.

Coupled with new Federal Emergency Management Agency maps, thousands of coastal homeowners saw an increase in rates. Others experienced exorbitant flood insurance premiums for the first time despite living miles from the coast.

State and federal legislators have since taken up the mantle to effect changes to the law. The U.S. Senate passed a version of the relief bill at the end of January.

Though House Speaker John Boehner initially said he would not take up a relief bill, an augmented proposal has been brought to the floor.

In its present form, the new proposal will eliminate some sections of the bill, such as requirements that new homeowners purchasing a primary residents instantly have to pay the newer, and higher rates, rather than the grandfathered rates of the previous homeowners.

There are also discussions of a cap to how much flood insurance would be allowed to rise per year. Currently rates cannot go up more than 20 percent. The new bill would require that rates go up at least five percent, but no more than 15 percent for the average rate within a group of similarly risked properties.

“People would be seeing increases but they would be manageable,” Cantwell said.

Rather than a four year delay to removal of subsidies, subsidies would be reinstated for homes that were constructed before flood maps were created in the community.

Grandfathering would also be reinstated. Homeowners or business owners who built to previous building codes that are no longer good enough for new expected flood levels won’t see flood insurance increases, Cantwell said.

“They would be able to lock in to an elevation at the time they did their work. That’s good news,” Cantwell said.

The house bill would also reimburse homeowners that have paid rates that have since been adjusted due to the changing mandate.

To pay for the cost of repealing the bill, homeowners would have to pay a surcharge in addition to their bill. For primary residents, that would be $25. For everyone else - vacation homeowners, business, non-profits, schools - that surcharge would be $250.

Present bill language would keep the affordability study proposed in the Senate, and would also create and fund a flood insurance rate advocate.

If an altered bill is passed in the House, the two bils would go to conference committee to iron out the differences. Both houses would then vote the bill up or down to be sent to the president.

“Congress will be adjourning in June, so the hope is to have action in the house this week or next in the latest,” Cantwell said.

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch was not available for comment, however Cantwell credited him and U.S. Rep William Keating with the work they had done to progress the bill.

“They deserve a lot of credit…they have been very good on this, and when there was a government shutdown, they were having meetings to get a bipartisan support,” Cantwell said.

To read the entire text of the proposed bill, click here.

Scituate increases tobacco-purchasing age to 21

February 25, 2014 01:21 PM

Scituate health officials voted to increase the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 21, as part of a range of new regulations designed to make purchasing and using tobacco products more stringent.

At the Board of Health meeting on Monday night, members increased the age limit, limited the use of e-cigarettes in public places, outlawed cigar and hookah bars, and restricted the sale of single cigars costing under $2.50.

The new laws were coupled with increased fees for tobacco licenses – to $200 from $100 a year - and increased the penalties for violations.

“With every action there is a reaction,” said Board Chairman Russell Clark of the changes. “But the business owners didn’t [speak against it]. One business owner had some of the cheaper single cigars. Our regulation goes into effect May 1, and I hope that gives them enough time to dispose of that product.”

Board members have discussed changes to the regulations for weeks, but had said they probably wouldn’t pass a change to the age limits.

Despite initial thoughts that an age increase to 21 from the current 18 would be “drastic,” Clark said the board ultimately felt it was the right move.

“We were leaning maybe towards 19. Last night we said, 'If we’re going to do it, let's just do it.' Twenty-one seemed to be the number, and if that’s what liquor sales are, then maybe that’s what tobacco sales should be,” Clark said.

Only a few other Massachusetts towns, including Needham, Sharon, Arlington, Canton, Ashland, Dedham, Dover, and Wellesley, have increased the limit to 21. Several others – Brookline, Belmont, Watertown, Westwood, Walpole, and Sudbury – have limits at 19.

“I don’t know if it was something people said it needed to be changed, but everyone I’ve talked to said it was a good thing, and a lot of people I’ve talked to are smokers,” Clark said. “…I think it will be accepted, and if there is fallout, we can review it at a further time. But we’ve made a pretty good decision.”

Scituate names Cafferty acting public works director

February 21, 2014 11:39 AM

Scituate's town engineer, Kevin Cafferty, has been named acting director of public works through Sept. 1.

Town officials announced the interim appointment on Thursday, saying Cafferty will be handling all DPW projects and issues in place of retired DPW Director Al Bangert, who concluded a five-year stint in the role on Dec. 1.

Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said plans for a permanent DPW chief had not yet been decided.

"[The appointments] are in effect until September, and we will evaluate and determine next steps then," she said in an email.

Cafferty said he would be interested in taking over the director role permanently, but agreed that things were up in the air. “It’s a feeling out process, seeing how everything works out, seeing what it’s like,” he said.

Despite the unknown, little will change for now, Cafferty said.

“Should be the same as what’s been going on in the past with us,” Cafferty said, noting that he has been filling in for some aspects of the role since Bangert’s retirement.

Cafferty has worked for Scituate since 2009 in the engineering supervisor role. Prior to that, he was highway superintendent in Lexington.

Engineer Sean McCarthy has been appointed as Interim town engineer in Cafferty’s place.

Cafferty said Bangert is still acting as a consultant on several projects, including the wind turbine, solar array, and cable TV.

Scituate school officials look at earlier start to academic year

February 18, 2014 01:20 PM

Starting school after Labor Day has been tradition in Scituate for dozens of years, but discussions are ongoing to start the school year earlier.

At the request of Superintendent John McCarthy, School Committee officials discussed the proposal at a recent meeting, debating if a start date change is in the cards and when it might be imposed.

“There are a lot of things to consider, but mostly it’s the fact that it gives you a cushion on those late start Septembers to alleviate any kind of snow problem,” said School Committee Chair Richard Hebert

Recent snow days have made the discussion ever more relevant, with school administrators trying to plan ahead for worst-case winter scenarios.

Changes won’t occur for the September 2014 school year start, as a draft calendar has already been created.

If changes were to be imposed for 2015, discussions would have to start in the fall with the teachers and unions to put a new start date into contracts.

“You’d want it early enough to not impact people’s vacation plans in the summer,” Hebert said. “I’d imagine before next January we’d have to come up with some kind of decision so people had plenty of forewarning.”

Reasons why an earlier start might be warranted are aplenty, officials said.

Under state guidelines, school cannot go into July and Scituate has come close to the deadline. Last year, school didn’t get out until the end of June due to snow. A few years prior, snow days caused the last day to be as late as June 28, Hebert said.

Though administrators can chose to have a late start to the school day rather than use one of the five snow days built into the calendar, schools still need to meet standards for in-class learning time.

At the secondary level, students must get 990 hours of learning. At the elementary level, students must reach 900 hours.

According to Hebert, some districts have had to cancel vacation times to compensate for missed learning.

Learning time also has more value at the start of the year than at the end, Hebert said.

“The educational value, of course, is in the fall. It’s a lot better than in the summer. The kids’ [attentions] start to wander and the conditions themselves are tough with those hot school days,” he said

A quicker return to classrooms also means more preparation time for state tests like MCAS, Hebert said.

Discussions were highlighted by the fact that the 2015 Labor Day falls especially late, creating more problems on top of a potentially shortened school year.

"The primary issue is that’s a very late Labor Day, I think it’s the 7th or 6th - it’s the latest you can have Labor Day," McCarthy said. "My concern is with starting so late and with the way winters have gone the past few years, we’re getting deep into June before we even consider snow days. We hope to start a conversation with the community if they are interested in starting prior to Labor Day."

Though the shift would be a big change for many in the coastal community, Hebert said School Committee officials would have the discussion.

“Being a costal community …[residents] hang on the summer as long as possible,” Hebert said, noting that in his 35-year teaching career, school always started after Labor Day. “It’s not something in the past that people were able to look at with any seriousness, but things change.”

“I'm not certain we can do it," McCarthy added. "Traditions are hard to change.”

Scituate Scanner Tales: Man charged with OUI drugs

February 14, 2014 12:34 PM

A 65-year-old Scituate man was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of drugs on Monday after a motorist called to report erratic driving.

According to police, Scituate Police received a call shortly before 4 p.m. on Monday from a motorist who reported that a gold Mercedes-Benz was traveling erratically on First Parish Road.

The caller said the suspect had crossed into the opposing lane of traffic nearly a dozen times.

Scituate Police quickly located the car on Country Way and attempted to stop the car. The car continued into North Scituate Village, where the operator finally stopped, police said.

The driver was asked to perform several sobriety tests and then was arrested.

Bradley A. Reussow, 65, from Scituate was charged with operating under the influence of drugs, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and a marked lanes violation.

Scituate senior center debate heading to Town Meeting

February 7, 2014 12:42 PM

A simmering dispute between Scituate seniors and town officials will be brought to Town Meeting floor with a proposal to spend $25,000 analyzingthe needs of the senior population.

The study will look at town amenities and programs for seniors, who are hopeful the results will point to a senior center that elder residents have been craving.

“We needed to start at ground level and get a study done to figure out what the needs of town of Scituate are,” said Joanne Ball, president of the Friends of Scituate Seniors group.

The idea of a new senior center has been embroiled in controversy since 2012, when town officials shot down attempts to put specifically senior amenities in the Scituate Harbor Community Building. According to officials, a restriction on the property says the building has to be used for everyone.

Instead, town officials envisioned a revamped Town Hall at Gates Middle School, with senior amenities in a wing of the building.

The preliminary plans only generated more outrage. Seniors protested that square-footage was nearly half of what they needed, and released a flyer in November urging something different.

Seniors and town officials came together in a contentious public meeting shortly thereafter, and the sides have stood firm ever since.

Ball hopes that a study will highlight the more expansive senior needs, and offer a comparison to other towns.

“If we went with a needs study, and took it to town floor and found out what our needs are, we would get somewhere,” Ball said. “…Seniors built this town, and they have been kicked for a few years. They have been kicked down whenever there is talk of getting a better place.”

The proposal needed 10 signatures to be put on the Town Meeting warrant, but Ball said they obtained 35.

Talks regarding the study have been under way with the Center for Social and Demographic Research on Aging at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. But if the funding is approved, the work would likely be put out to bid.

The plans are a new development as town officials try to find a solution to the 23-year-old dilapidated Council on Aging building on Brook Street.

“We all agree that the senior center is a top priority for the town,” said Selectman Tony Vegnani. “We have to figure out a way to get a better one in place as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there is so much else going on right now.”

Vegnani was unsure where the funding for the study might come from, or whether he would support it.

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I don’t know if we need it,” he said. “I want to talk about it a bit more of what you’re going to get for it. But we do studies for a lot of the initiatives we do, sometimes it gives us some good information back.”

The discussion would go to a vote with selectmen and the Advisory Committee before it gets to Town Meeting floor, but all petition warrant articles are put on the warrant regardless of official approval.

The Friends group plans to garner as much support for the project regardless. In an email blast, members said a presentation will be made to town officials to explain the funding request.

Members also pointed to similar studies that have occurred in Hingham, Cohasset, and Marshfield.

“Often by the end of these projects, even before [the] formal presentation of results at Town Meeting, towns have already taken steps to address the needs they've discovered in the process. In many cases these steps included plans for a new senior center,” members said in the email.

Whether the proposal gains the support of the town's senior representative is still up for debate.

Council on Aging Director Linda Hayes said she is working with the Friends group, but realizes the town has a different plan.

“I am trying to bring the sides together, and help everyone understand how it should best work…” she said. “In the end, I do feel the town has a plan and I work for the town, and we will support that whatever that may be.”

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