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Mass Audubon to hold annual birder event in Waltham this Saturday

March 3, 2014 01:36 PM

This weekend, fervent birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts will flock to Bentley University in Waltham for Mass Audubon's Annual Birders Meeting, one of the most popular regional events for people who appreciate the winged animal.

The New England society, which has over 100,000 members, will co-host the 22nd annual event, which will take place Saturday, March 8, with the Harvard Museum of Natural History based in Cambridge.

The day-long event will include programs and presentations by nationally-known speakers, and attendees can also shop among vendors for binoculars, guide books, artwork, and other birding related items. There will also be a raffle with birding-related prizes, organizers said.

This year's theme is "Extinction is Forever: What Have We Learned?" and will focus on extinction from a variety of perspectives. Experts at the event will use the passenger pigeon, which was hunted to near-extinction in the 19th century, as an example of what can happen to a super-abundant species in a relatively short span of time, organizers said.

“The Birders Meeting should definitely be on the calendar of those who care about avian species and the importance of birdlife in our future world,” said Wayne Petersen of the Mass Audubon. “This informative and inspiring conference traditionally draws nature lovers of all backgrounds, from first-timers and occasional birders to experts in the field.”

Registration, which includes lunch, is $60 for Mass Audubon and participating Harvard museum members, or $70 for nonmembers. There will also be walk-in registration the day of the event.

For more information, visit the organization's official website.

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Former Watertown councilor sentenced to 7 years in prison for marijuana enterprise

February 28, 2014 05:28 PM

Former Watertown councilor Thomas "Gus" Bailey,was sentenced Thursday to 7 years in prison and three years of supervised release after he pleaded guilty in November to trafficking marijuana out of his Waltham warehouse and laundering income from the drug sales.

Bailey, 52, who served as a councilor in Watertown from January 2002 through December 2005, was arrested in October 2011 after police found 1,062 pot plants and 300 pounds of loose cut marijuana, worth around $2 million, along with $20,000 in cash at his 269 Lexington St. warehouse, authorities said.

An investigation found that Bailey led the marijuana growing and distribution business from 2001 through when he was caught in 2011, which means he was running the illegal drug operation the entire four years he served on Watertown’s Town Council, according to a statement from US Attorney Carmen Ortiz's office.

Bailey's drug business became so lucrative that he repeatedly had to move to roomier locations and hire more workers to help grow and prepare the marijuana, the statement said.

In 2006, Bailey and the case's other co-defendants -- including his ex-wife, as well as his former mistress -- began laundering more than $1 million in revenue from the drug sales by depositing $5,000 or less in cash into their personal bank accounts and then writing Bailey checks, the US Attorney's office said.

Barbara Waldman, Bailey's ex-wife, was responsible for laundering at least $900,000 as part of this scheme, prosecutors said. She was sentenced Thursday to six months in jail after she pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to commit money laundering, the statement said.

All of Bailey and Waldman’s co-defendants have also been convicted and sentenced.

Bailey pleaded guilty on Nov. 18 last year -- the same day his trial was set to begin -- to one count of conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana, one count of distribution of marijuana, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the US Attorney's office.

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Waltham-based soccer club donates soccer balls to youths at JP organization

February 28, 2014 03:40 PM

The Waltham-based Massachusetts chapter of Global Premier Soccer, a youth soccer organization, donated soccer balls to the Italian Home for Children in Jamaica Plain today for the kids to play with on the site's soccer field.

The Italian Home for Children helps children of all nationalities between 4 and 14 years old with emotional and behavioral needs, according to the organization.

The organization was established in 1918 by Franciscan sisters who devoted their lives to raising and teaching thousands of children. As decades passed, the organization shifted its focus as the needs of the children arriving there reflected more complex crises.

"At GPS, we pride ourselves in being part of the local community," said Izabella Miranda, the soccer league's marketing manager. "Our philosophy is focused towards helping with the development of deserving young people and we cannot think of anything that epitomizes this more."

The soccer organization also has an inner-city initiative in Massachusetts, where they provide low-income communities the chance to play soccer.

For more information, visit the soccer organization's official website.

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15 year old faces charges after bomb threat empties Waltham middle school

February 28, 2014 01:26 PM

A 15-year-old student of Waltham's Kennedy Middle School is facing charges after hundreds of students were evacuated early Friday morning due to a bomb threat, according to Waltham authorities.

The student allegedly gave a note to a teacher around 8:15 a.m. Friday that said there were bombs in the school set to go off, and said that he found the paper in the hallway, according to Waltham Police Det. Sgt. Joe Guigno.

The school was evacuated while State Police and Waltham's fire and police departments swept the school for any signs of bombs, said Waltham Fire Chief Paul Ciccone.

After authorities interviewed the student who turned in the note, he allegedly eventually told them that he had penned the letter.

"The student said there was no bombs or anything in the school, that it was a hoax," Guigno said.

The student, whose name is not being released, faces charges for disturbance of a school assembly and falsely reporting a weapon capable of causing damage. He will be tried in Waltham's juvenile district court, and will also face discipline from the school, Guigno said.

The evacuated students were taken to the nearby Waltham High School for lunch around 11 a.m., and were then slated to be taken back to Kennedy Middle School, which has since been cleared of any threat, authorities said.

The bomb threat also comes after Kennedy Middle School teachers found a student with a "kill list" comprised of three other students in December. Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy did not specify if that student received or is facing any disciplinary action, but did note that school officials would act within school handbook guidelines and state law.

Guigno said the two incidents are not thought to be related.

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Waltham's REACH prepares for "Say Hi Week" once again, including new scavenger hunt

February 14, 2014 01:39 PM

Waltham's REACH Beyond Domestic Violence will hold its first annual scavenger hunt next month as part of its "Say Hi to Your Neighbors Week," which is part of the nonprofit's yearly Small Actions campaign to end domestic violence.

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reachma.org
Locals celebrating "Say Hi Week"
"Say Hi" week will take place March 1 through March 8 throughout Waltham. Events scheduled as part of the week, such as sending local sweets to neighbors or attending meet-and-greets with local officials, typically encourages residents to get to know their neighbors.

Allison Berry, REACH’s community organizer, previously told the Globe that saying hello to strangers, acquaintances, and neighbors can help create a safer community, break the isolation felt by people experiencing violence, and help citizens look out for each other.

“The personal connection to one another makes a difference - people will talk to someone they know about their problems before going to someone like REACH,’’ Berry previously said. “Families and neighbors are the first people to know. It’s about building relationships.’’

The initiative has a growing Twitter following, with a handle, @SmallActions, and a trending phrase, #sayhiwaltham.

This year, the newly-introduced scavenger hunt will take place Saturday, March 8 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., starting and ending at Watch City Brewing Co. on Moody Street. Day-of registration starts at 10 a.m.

Teams will race on foot around downtown Waltham looking for clues to answer trivia questions, searching for specific people to greet, and trying to find specific things to snap photos of, according to event organizers. Winners will received an undisclosed prize and a trophy, organizers said.

Participants can sign up in advance online.

For more information about REACH or to see a full calendar of "Say Hi Week" events, please visit reachma.org or call 781-891-0724.

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Waltham mayor wants to limit police and fire chief terms, merge city departments

February 13, 2014 02:30 PM

Waltham's mayor is hoping to streamline the city's government by merging six city departments into two, as well as limiting the tenure of the city's police and fire chiefs.

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File photo
Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy
Mayor Jeannette McCarthy submitted several proposals to the City Council this month that would consolidate positions specializing in finance into one department, and merge inspectional positions into another. The measures were referred Monday to the council's ordinances committee.

Under the proposals, the building, health, and wire inspection departments would be merged into the Inspectional Services Department, which would be supervised by the building inspector. The mayor also recommended creating a Financial Services Department, which would consolidate the departments of treasurer/collector, auditor, and purchasing, and would be headed up by the city auditor.

"It makes it easier for everybody," McCarthy said. "Instead of having to go to three different departments, you’ll only have to go to one."

The incumbents' pay would remain the same, whether or not their position would be the new supervisor, McCarthy said.

"It's net zero," she said.

However, the move could possibly save the city money in the long-term: as current workers leave or retire, officials could demote some of the former "director" positions into "assistant director" jobs, which might fetch a lower salary, McCarthy said.

"As vacancies come up we can make the decision on whether we should be keeping all six or make them into assistant directors, so we could have some savings there," she said.

McCarthy pointed out that surrounding communities, including Boston, had fewer departments than Waltham: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh reportedly wants to restructure Boston's government to have between 12 and 14 department heads. Waltham has 22, McCarthy said.

"There hasn't been much movement in Waltham to streamline the number of departments doing like functions," McCarthy said, noting that the public works department is the only section that has been consolidated recently.

The mayor said she also submitted measures to limit the tenure of Waltham's police and fire chiefs. Currently, the chiefs are the only two department heads in the city with life tenure; McCarthy said she wants to limit each term to five years, with the option to renew each incumbent's contract for another five years.

"There are no other departments that have life tenure," she said.

McCarthy's proposals also follow resolutions presented by other city councilors to investigate how the city can more efficiently consider development proposals and a general economic plan after several projects languished on the city council floor for years.

However, she said the recent proposals she submitted were based on the recommendations of other departments' staff, as well as more of an "appetite" to change rules after councilor Joe Vizard questioned the city council's rules.

McCarthy also noted that she submitted similar measures when she was a city councilor over a decade ago only to see the proposals permanently tabled.

"It's kind of important that all this work was done once before and went nowhere, because the full council wasn’t willing to change the rules then," she said. "But with Joe Vizard's request, other things are coming out now, and I think after 10 years they are finally making some movement."

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Keith MacPherson appointed, sworn in as Waltham's police chief

February 11, 2014 04:35 PM

Keith MacPherson, a longtime Waltham police official, was sworn in as the city's police chief Monday night after the City Council voted unanimously to appoint him to the top cop job.

MacPherson will fill the police chief position vacated by Thomas LaCroix, who resigned this past summer after a Concord District Court jury convicted him of assaulting his wife.

The council's vote was the last hurdle MacPherson had to overcome before becoming the next official police chief.

Mayor Jeannette McCarthy in January recommended MacPherson to take the position, which he has been manning since LaCroix was placed on administrative leave last summer.

"He's the deputy [chief] and I think he's been doing a wonderful job as acting chief," McCarthy said Friday.

MacPherson earned the mayor's recommendation over police captains Steven Champeon, Donald Feeney and William Stanton, who were all also up for the position.

Last year, LaCroix made $163,119 in salary and longevity pay as police chief, according to payroll records.

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Waltham councilors to vote on appointing Keith MacPherson as police chief

February 7, 2014 02:27 PM

Waltham Acting Police Chief Keith MacPherson may soon be able to drop the "Acting" from his title.

Waltham City Council is slated to vote Monday on whether MacPherson will officially take on the police chief job vacated by Thomas LaCroix, who resigned this summer after a Concord District Court jury convicted him of assaulting his wife.

The council's vote on Monday is the last hurdle MacPherson has to overcome before becoming the next official police chief.

Mayor Jeannette McCarthy in January recommended MacPherson to take the position, which he has been manning since LaCroix was placed on administrative leave last summer.

"He's the deputy [chief] and I think he's been doing a wonderful job as acting chief," McCarthy said Friday.

The City Council's Committee of the Whole unanimously voted for MacPherson to permanently serve as chief last week, McCarthy said.

"They questioned him last week and they agreed to appoint him," she said. "All we need now is the final vote."

MacPherson earned the mayor's recommendation over police captains Steven Champeon, Donald Feeney and William Stanton, who were all also up for the position.

Last year, LaCroix made $163,119 in salary and longevity pay as police chief, according to payroll records.

Waltham's Retirement Board voted unanimously to approve his pension benefits in October, which will equal out to more than $80,000 a year based on a state retirement formula.

LaCroix’s pension benefits will begin dating back to July 10, the date he resigned, officials said.

The Waltham Retirement Board’s decision comes after a Concord District Court jury found LaCroix guilty on June 26 of assaulting his wife, Andrea, last year. LaCroix resigned from his post July 10, the same day Judge J. Elizabeth Cremens sentenced him to 18-months’ probation.

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Waltham announces snow emergency, parking ban as snowstorm moves in

February 4, 2014 01:17 PM

Waltham officials have announced a snow emergency and parking ban effective at midnight tonight as local officials prepare for a wet, heavy snowstorm that is expected to pound the region with up to a foot of snow.

The parking ban will start at midnight, but cars can park in municipal and school lots starting at 6 p.m. tonight, according to Waltham police. Anyone who does so must be prepared to move their cars after the parking ban is lifted, police said.

Snow will begin falling early Wednesday morning, between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., and is expected to fall hardest from 7 a.m. through 1 p.m., according to meteorologist David Epstein.

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MSPCA-Angell opens 24-hour animal hospital in Waltham

February 3, 2014 02:00 PM

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Handout/MSPCA-Angell

An MSPCA-Angell worker attends to a dog at the organization's Boston location.

Boston's MSPCA-Angell opened a 24-hour Waltham branch of its animal hospital today, according to organization representatives.

The new Waltham location, officially dubbed MSPCA-Angell West, offers round-the-clock emergency care for pets, as well as internal medicine, surgery, and cardiology available immediately by appointment Monday through Friday. The organization plans to announce weekend and night hours soon.

“No matter the emergency or time of day -- whether a family dog has been struck by a car or a pet cat has ingested a poisonous substance -- the emergency room in Waltham will be open," said Dr. Ann Marie Manning, the MSPCA-Angell's chief of staff, in a statement from the organization.

The facility will also begin servicing birds and reptiles beginning in March, representatives said.

Officials from the private nonprofit said Waltham proves a prime location, noting that many veterinarians west of Boston refer cases to the MSPCA animal hospital in Jamaica Plain.

"In Waltham and its surrounding towns, there are over 200 veterinary practices that refer specialty cases to our Boston location," said Rob Halpin, MSPCA spokesman. "This will be a significant location convenience for clients already living in the area who come to us in Boston."

Halpin said the organization focuses on specialty treatment, including dermatology, ophthalmology, surgery, and neurology, to name a few.

"If a feline or canine patient comes in with a dermatological issue, for example, we try to find out if there may be an underlying allergy or an internal medicine issue," Halpin said. "Patients can stay under one roof and see specialists in multiple specialties, and we can also layer in advanced diagnostics, such as MRI imaging and CT scans. It's pretty sophisticated stuff."

The Waltham branch will not offer general medicine services. Officials said in a statement that there are already dozens of general practice veterinarians in the area.

The Waltham location will lack a permanent animal shelter, officials said, citing space limitations. However, the branch may host special events in the future where animals from other MSPCA locations are brought to Waltham to promote adoption.

The new branch will also add 35 veterinary and animal welfare-related jobs to the city, representatives said. Nearly a third of the forecasted staff, including board-certified specialty veterinarians and technicians, have already been hired, they said.

“Opening our new facility in Waltham is a win for veterinarians already in the area, for clients and -- most especially -- for animals,” said Carter Luke, president of the MSPCA-Angell, in the organization's statement. “We’re confident we can exceed the lofty expectations set out for us by investing the same energy in resources in Waltham as we have in our other locations, which are successful operations that treat and otherwise take care of tens of thousands of animals every year.”

For more information, visit the MSPCA's website.

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Handout/MSPCA-Angell

The new MSPCA-Angell animal hospital in Waltham.

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