Category: Gazette

Assawompsett Ponds Complex revealed

By , December 31, 2014 3:00 pm

The end result of nonsensical restrictions

The end result of nonsensical restrictions

My column in the Dec 25 Gazette is online.

The Assawompsett Pond Complex consists of Assawompsett, Pocksha, Great Quittacas, Little Quittacus and Long Pond in the towns of Middleboro, Lakeville, Rochester and Freetown. These ponds serve as water supplies for New Bedford and I think Taunton as well. As far as I know it is legal to use the trails around this pond. I use them often and frankly Scarlett I don’t give a damn if I am supposed to be or not. I would love to see the state of Massachusetts turn these areas into a full blown state park or at least actively support recreational use of this land with designated parking areas and trail maps. Keiko Orrall, Tom Calter, William Straus, Marc Pacheco: Make it so. And if any of my MA legislators found this column by Googling yourself, get back to work and stop Googling yourself.

Apparently one of the trails I wrote about is off limits – which created some guff for the paper. I expect there will be a letter in this week’s paper about it. Personally I am of the opinion that allowing public use of state and/or municipal land is beneficial. Most or all of these ponds are public water supplies. A healthy dose of trail walkers would discourage activity that could endanger the water quality.

Downtown Middleboro – Gazette column

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By , December 13, 2014 6:54 pm

Photo by John Phelan via Wikipedia

Photo by John Phelan via Wikipedia

My column in this week’s Middleboro Gazette made it into the online edition. The column was prompted by a lengthy Facebook thread about the empty storefronts in downtown Middleboro and what sort of businesses people would like to see there.

The column also included one of my most epic plugs yet for Mary Barry Massage Therapy:

Before I get started I’d like to comment that I see a lot of talk about “downtown”. A vital and fully occupied Middleboro Center is important but let’s not forget all the other businesses in town. Mary Barry Massage Therapy comes to mind for some reason – probably because massage gift certificates are such a great and unique gift for holidays and special occasions., 508-923-0044. Most of you know that is my wife’s business and that I would never compromise my journalistic integrity by using my column to promote the incredibly awesome massages they provide – no matter how incredibly awesome they are.

The rest of the column talks about what sort of businesses people are suggesting along with my opinion on what the downtown needs – and probably more importantly: What it already has

Crunching MCAS numbers

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By , December 2, 2014 4:06 pm

Unnamed school department member looking at the latest Middleboro MCAS scores

Unnamed school department member looking at the latest Middleboro MCAS scores

My latest column Crunching MCAS numbers made it into the online edition – and beautifully formatted I might add. The headings are bolded and spaced just like my original submission. Hopefully this is a trend that will see my column in the online edition more often. I had a nice surprise with a byline that lists me as “Mark Belanger/Contributing Writer” – which sounds a heck of lot better than “local contrarian loudmouth“.

The last two columns take a closer look at Middleboro’s MCAS scores in the context of our town demographics.

Middleboro MCAS – demographics in action

By , November 13, 2014 12:41 pm

mcasAccording to a formula that is mysterious to me, my Middleboro Gazette column shows up in the online edition only occasionally. The stars have aligned this week and this week’s column is on-line:

To get a feel for how Middleboro schools perform, I compared them to the state average and to the bordering districts of Bridgewater-Raynham, Carver, Freetown-Lakeville and Wareham. I looked at the percentage of students testing either “advanced” or “proficient” and averaged the Math, English, and Science MCAS scores.

In the very first year testing is done — grade 3 — Middleboro is the second best. In grade four we drop to worst. Thereafter we are battling Wareham for last place. Lakeville and Bridgewater are the best in show. Carver, Middleboro, and Wareham all lag behind the state average, with Carver being a teeny bit better than Middleboro and Wareham.

In addition to the comparison and numbers I dig a little deeper to see how Middleboro compares with the non-low income subgroup and look at how our town’s demographics come into play.

Police station poll results

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By , July 8, 2014 5:44 am

My last Gazette column covered the results of a poll that asked voters why they voted “No” to a $12M override to fund expansion and renovation of the Middleboro police station. Here are the raw results:

Poll question
On June 14th MIddleboro voted 645 to 378 against a $12M renovation of the police station. If you voted against – please share your reasons. Selected answers may be used in an upcoming Middleboro Gazette article. All responses are strictly confidential – I have no way to figure out who you are and no interest in trying.

1) Why did you vote against funding the renovation of the Middleboro police station?


  1. I voted for it…but thought about voting no. The reason: The plans for renovating and adding on to the building look great. But the cost seems excessive and out of line with our town’s means. I would have been more enthusiastic about a more modest renovation.

  2. Middleboro absolutely needs a new police station; the one that we have is a wreck and rather shameful. However, I feel that the station building committee dismissed out of hand any serious discussion or look at other locations. In the 10 years (?) the committee has been in place, the focus appears to always have been on renovating and adding on to the existing building and not looking at other possibilities (hospital property, Winthrop Atkins property, Rockland Trust building, Wood Street property, etc.) For that reason alone, I voted no. I would like to see the historic part of the current building restored and used as a tourist attraction, a highlight of the town. While the current station plan includes this as part of the plan, it is not realistic to assume that tourists would feel comfortable touring a historic building with police personnel all over the place. They also would not be able to tour the rest of the building or see the entire historic part when there are meetings going on (I believe the current plans call for turning some of the historic building space into meeting rooms). The majority of tourists are not going to visit a police station (unless they have to).

  3. The idea of spending money to continue to use a historic building as a police station made no sense. Why not consider building presently owned by the town to repair and reuse. For example, why not convert the fire station on Rt 28 that is not being used or perhaps reuse the school building behind town hall

  4. I did not like the project, thought the new building was UGLY. I would like a stand alone police station. I don’t care about saving the building, there is nothing left of the general store anyway.

  5. While I did not vote against, I admittedly abstained from voting despite my best intentions to do so. I lived in WA state for a while, and all voting was handled through the mail. I realize this is not the standard here, and is likely quite cost-prohibitive, but it would sure be interesting to see the total vote count if such a system were in place. For the record, I am a home owner, pay property tax, and would have voted FOR. Ref:

  6. There are better solutions that will cost less. They tried to hard to make a square peg fit in a round hole (Forcing keeping the old store/station when it did not work and was a greater maintenance expense in the long term)

  7. renovation of a historical bldg is beyond a reasonable cost. Looking into a new or other empty existing bldgs might be a better way. There is no doubt Middleboro needs a new and bigger police station but as a fixed income tax payer a cheaper alternative would be of more interest.

  8. They could do it much cheaper. The renovation of the current structure should be a stand alone project. 12M is a lot to ask if homeowners already struggling and also with the potential new high school coming down the road

  9. Didn’t want it tied to preserving the Peirce Bldg. We are already paying a Community Preservation Tax…that is what this money is for.

  10. This country and it’s residents are in financial crisis. Many are hanging on by a thread trying to pay their bills. Gas is expensive, food is expensive, if you smoke you know cigarette prices are outrageous and nobody’s pay is going up.I don’t want one single bill of mine to go up 1 cent. I don’t care if the police station is outdated. It can continue to function as is. Maybe we could stop hiring officers. I believe this town has too many to begin with.

  11. I do not have enough money in order to afford the increase in taxes necessary to afford this project. I am over 65 and receive only 1200 per mo. I pay over 3k in taxes on my home and can not afford anymore.

  12. The cost was too high to renovate a building that is falling apart. There are other resources that need to addressed before they spend that kind of money on a old building.

  13. Bad design and location. Also too much for historical renoation. The building is too big fod that area.

    10340785 I believe the town wastes so much money and I didn’t want anymore wasted. We have a relatively new fire station in North Middleboro, that we don’t even use why can’t they use that. I think we should all live within our budgets and stop going into debt.

  14. Police deserve a new building but not in that location. Tired of the same old bag job from the usual suspects. They have no credibility. It is well and fine to preserve a historic structure but not at the expense of the tax payers. The Town fails to plan, it only reacts. Restoring the Town Hall was a waste of money. Ya let’s keep a building that is hardly used and inefficient and dump $$$ into it instead of finding a location where you could construct a municipal complex over time in phases makes a whole lot of sense. Were all of the options were not looked at? Not in my opinion. For example, could you build a new DPW facility next to a new police station for $12 million? of course you can. Was this looked at? I doubt it. Or how about a new high school and police station? Plymouth build a new high school and senior center. Why cant Mboro do a high school and police station? Plenty of room? How about the Rockland Industries site? Could have gotten $$$ from DEP to clean up property properly. You could construct a municipal complex there. It is not a terrible location either. You have an empty bank building that the Town is attempting to lease. Why not consolidate everyone into the bank building and use the Town Hall as the Police Station? Wasnt it a former jail? The ghosts and the fine upstanding citizens who frequent the police station would get along fine. Jack Healey at over $100k a year in retirement is cutting into my budget…what a shame. Cristello is next. Then the planner. Want to make sure I have enough money for Charlie boy and Ruthie.

  15. The location has been questioned. Does it make sense? Did it even make sense to rebuild the Central Fire Station with the traffic issues simply because it was ‘historic’? The use of CPA funds as a cash cow to sell the project has been questioned. Middleborough has known for decades of the need. Why come to property owners instead of putting aside money each year? Raises and benefits negotiated for town employees exceed those offered in private industry and it continues to be accepted as part of the budget without question.

  16. -I heard they were going to install wi-fi in the cells for highpoint escapees 🙂 *Probably because we need a new High School, priorities.

  17. our taxes are high enough and as one of the now working poor, I cannot afford it. Plain and simple. Give us a chance to earn a decent living and I would have voted for it

  18. Not enough public input and discussion. Seems like it was rushed even though it has been on the radar for years. Would like to have had options.

  19. Need a new police station. Do not need a renovated antique. Build a decent modern station like Bridgewater did! Why does Middleboro have a separate building for every department? Town Hall, Bank Building, DPW, Gas & Elec, Police, Fire. May have missed some.

  20. Because I feel that there is not a real need. We have only been told of the problem nothing about pro compaired to other towns.We have state police for back up which other town do not have.

  21. I would have voted yes if I had known there was a vote going on! Sad that I did not know 🙁

    10348746 For that amount of money they should be getting a brand new state of the art facility, not fixing up an old, decrepit building. I’m all for a safer work environment, equipped with all the bells and whistles, but let’s do it right instead of putting a band aid on it.

  22. I have lived in town for many years and I agree the town needs a new police station, but I will not vote for an override to increase my taxes, period. I have watched the town continue to bargain increases in salaries for many years and now the public sector is the best place to work. If you want a new police station, fund it by reducing benefits to public employees. Chief Gates is retiring at a huge pension at 55 yrs old with a live expectancy of 86, are you kidding me! public sector pension funds are killing all the revenue, address that and then ask the tax payers for an increase.

  23. My taxes are to hgh now

  24. Build new, don’t waste $$ on historic preservation. Also, not paying for gym. Go to the y like everyone else.

  25. I was out of town & didn’t vote

  26. Forgive me as I’m not as educated on the details of this plan as I should be, but my first question is why do we need a $12 million dollar renovation? My second question is how will this be paid for? Citizens are getting hammered financially and there appears to be no end in sight. Property taxes have increased ridiculous amounts based on crazy assessments used by the town, water and sewer rates are up 9 and 31 percent in the last two years. Gas taxes are up and continue to climb, inflation is up despite what the headlines say, and personally my salary has not kept up with this pace, not by a long shot. In a town like Middleboro, what purpose does a police station serve? It’s a place for the department to meet and discuss the issues of the day, store equipment, and possibly hold an arrestee overnight before bringing them to Plymouth or Wareham. Why in the hell do we need to spend $12 million dollars to upgrade a building for a service that is only really doing it’s job if it is taking place outside of the building, on patrol? We are not a major city. We do not need to store and train a tactical swat team on site, we need a few more officers out on patrol keeping the peace, removing the drug use from the known areas, and showing a force to keep the trouble makers away. That won’t happen from a building no matter what the cost. If there are safety concerns in the current building, fix them. Otherwise I’m sure we can find better ways to spend the money we don’t yet have.

  27. I voted against it. Because why watse 12 mill to fix and restore a building wehn we could go and spend 6 to build a brand new state of the art one.

  28. They are asking for to much money. The town could build a brand new station for less.we recently built a new fire station and that isn’t being used

  29. 🙁 I was out of the country when the voting took place so I was unable to vote. Although, I am surprised it wasn’t passed or at least a closer vote due to the obvious need for an update. I also don’t think the town did a whole lot to make people aware or remind the towns people of the vote.

  30. I have toured the building and yes it is in horrible shape. I feel the historical commission strong armed people in keeping it in that building, I would prefer it in another location like Winthtop Atkins building.

  31. I voted for the station. I understand that people don’t want to support the renovation of the Peirce Store and I’m fine with that. What matters, and what people don’t understand if they haven’t been to the current station is that it needs to be replaced. It is only a matter of time before someone is seriously injured or killed, whether it be an officer, arrestee, or innocent civilian in the wrong place at the wrong time. The current setup walks prisoners through the front door of the station, past the public. Just recently an officer had to hold a prisoner outside the main door to the station and tell a woman and her small child to stand in the waiting room and close the door with two men (one who quite possibly was mentally unstable) while the officer then walked the prisoner into the booking room. After the booking process, prisoners must be “walked” down two fights of stairs. Some do not want to go down the stairs and fight the whole way down or some are so drunk, the officer has to hope they don’t fall down the stairs dragging them down too. Once that severe injury or death happens you can guarantee there will be a lawsuit potentially costing the town millions of dollars and then we will have to replace the police station at a higher cost plus the cost of lawyers and a payout on the lawsuit. I don’t want my taxes to go up by approximately $116 a year but I would take that over them going up hundreds of dollars per year for option B.

  32. It cost 8 million dollars less to build the Middle school than it does to renovate the police station. The town collects plenty of taxes if they do not use their current funding appropriately how is it my problem that they can not balance their budget? Nobody hands me more money at the end of the month if I didn’t plan well. We have an unused Fire Station by the rotary instead of leaving the building empty why not expand that building to suit their needs? When the fire station was falling apart they tore it down and rebuilt yet again for less money than what they want to renovate the police station. I adore old buildings and feel they should be saved when possible but within reason. Follow the example of the fire department, tear down and rebuild a respectable building that suits the center of town if you can’t make the abandoned fire station by the rotary work. Taxes are high enough if the town spent the money wisely they would not need an override. How many times do you go to the town hall to hear the secretaries talking on the phone about what they are making for dinner or their plans for the weekend? There are cuts that could be made there to help fund repairs. This town is full of wasteful spending start cutting out the fluff and then talk to the tax payers.

  33. I didn’t vote and was unaware that was what was being voted that day. I would probably have voted against, if I had, because $12 million. It’s the same kind of boggle induced by the number I saw a while back – forget what it was, but large – being spent on “maintenance” by the school system. Which was supposed to provoke sympathy with the idea of a new high school for some ungodly amount. In the current economy, people want to know better exactly WHAT makes up that $12 million, or $2-odd million, or $20-something million. It may be local government, but that’s a lot of “trust us, we’re from the government and honest, we’re spending your money carefully, with no math errors, graft, embezzlement, or overblown ‘needs’ involved.”

  34. I would prefer to see a new High School.

  35. I voted yes because it was the only plan and we need one but would have preferred a new building without using the present building

  36. I voted for it because our police need a building that is not falling apart. Tying it to a historic property though has made the cost higher. If a different site were found the coat may be more palatable to voters. The vote was ill-publicized. If it had received more publicity perhaps the turnout would have been better. I was only person on my entire street who voted. That’s just sad.

  37. While I am in total agreement the police need a new facility I have serious concerns about the money management in this town . Judging by the results my guess is a lot residents feel the same way.

  38. They were asking for way too much from a town that can’t even afford to fund their schools. The high school is in such disrepair and the police are asking for a state of the art facility with all the bells and whistles. A gym? Come on! The YMCA is right up the road and we already subsidize their memberships there! To me, the town needs to step and and fund a new high school first before the police station. If they spend all of the $ for the police station, the school system will never see the light of day when it comes to a vote on what we truly need.

  39. They were asking for way too much from a town that can’t even afford to fund their schools. The high school is in such disrepair and the police are asking for a state of the art facility with all the bells and whistles. A gym? Come on! The YMCA is right up the road and we already subsidize their memberships there! To me, the town needs to step and and fund a new high school first before the police station. If they spend all of the $ for the police station, the school system will never see the light of day when it comes to a vote on what we truly need.

  40. I didn’t vote….was unaware until the Monday after…there was voting

  41. I did not vote – I didn’t see it published any where to remind me. I do think that we need a new police station – more modern and more space. I think that it should be in another location instead of renovating and adding on to the old building.

  42. Too much money. We are also in desperate need of a new high school and we will never get that if we spent 12.5 million on a police station. We can build one for a lot less even if it means not getting everything the police want in the new station but lets look at the town as a whole and realize the conditions our kids and teachers are asked to be spending their days in. we need to find money for both projects and not just one of them.


  44. I voted for it

  45. Because they should first utilize the beautiful “fire station” building that is sitting empty and unused at the Rotary on rt 18.

  46. Didn’t want to spend the extra money renovating the Peirce Building…tear it down

  47. Considering nearly 19,000 residents didn’t vote why is anyone shocked it didn’t pass? I would have voted for it but wasn’t even aware of the election. Random Facebook posts and plywood signs aren’t adequate means of conveying important information. To me, the problem starts with communication. And information sharing. Would’ve been nice to see as much conversation on this issue in the weeks leading up to the vote as I have in the time since it was voted down.

  48. I voted for it, the current conditions of the police dept are sub-par at best.

  49. I voted FOR the police station funding, and I have to say that I am 72 YEARS OLD disabled, and walked from North Main Street across from the Early Childhood Center all the way to Hannaford’s, and then on to the High School to vote. There were only two or three other people there to vote. I had a medical emergency while I was there, and the people there were so incredible – they got me cold drinks and a place to sit. Allison Ferreira and Office Dan (whose last name I don’t know) were wonderful. They all helped me and Brewster Ambulance was called. I didn’t actually go in the ambulance, but Officer Dan and Ms. Ferreira called to get me a way home. I realized that I shouldn’t have walked there in the heat and humidity, but I needed to get groceries and vote so it was crucial to get there. The failure of the override to pass was a waste of all of the money put into the effort. The article in the Gazette this past week mentioned all of the funds already spent on preparations, etc. It is so surprising that out of all the registered voters in Middleboro that only 1023 votes were cast. I was going to write a letter to the editor of the Gazette this week but I didn’t get it done in time for consideration. I think the Police Station was such an important issue. I wish it had passed. I realize that the heading says “IF YOU VOTED AGAINST – PLEASE SHARE YOUR REASONS”, but I wanted to voice my opinion and how important it is to get out and vote PRO or CON. THE MIDDLEBORO POLICE REALLY DESERVED THE NEW STATION. JEANNE MARKS

  50. Putting two projects together that should be separate and apart makes ZERO sense. Not to mention the town officials never have forward thinking. For so many years the selectman along with towns people complain we have no business because we have no parking. To build this monstrosity we would have lost the largest parking lot (100 spots) that is pivotal to downtown. The chief of police was well bent on getting the historical commission on board so he could get the project pushed through instead of actually trying to find a location that suits the departments needs. Rockland trust building in Everett square has become available. This building seemingly fits all of the criteria of the PD. It is a one floor building, in the center of town, with all utilizes in place (water, sewer gas). Has a drive through that can be converted to a garage. The cost savings on the site work and infostructure would drop the price down substantially. Ironically the plan of the chief was to temporarily renovate reedys on center st. Use that budgeted money to redesign the interior of Rockland trust and buy it for the 1.2 million they want. Still go ahead and spend 4 million on renovating it and all in all you have a 5 million dollar stand alone “in town” state of the art facility. Stand alone building is the only way to go.

  51. better options out there …like the Rockland trust building…or maybe team up with Lakeville who also need a new police station….each pay half. $12M addition come on give me a break

  52. Didn’t vote because I wasn’t aware there was voting. If I had voted, I would have voted no. I’m not against them having a new station, but the extras they want?! Unacceptable.

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