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of ups ‘n downs

By Matt Lynch


TOWNSEND — The days left on the calendar grow few and most of the town’s municipal committees and departments have already held their final meetings until after the ball drops.

It has been a year of tension and celebration in Townsend. The town received a gift that will keep on giving for many years to come — a multi-million-dollar donation by Al Stone, CEO of the Sterilite Corporation, for the construction of new, sorely needed municipal buildings. Ground has already been broken on a new Highway Department garage, while plans are in the works for a combined library and senior center.

It was a year that saw the turmoil in the Fire-EMS Department come to an end, with the departure of former Chief William Donahue and the rise of current Chief Donald J. Klein.

Board of Selectmen Chairman David Chenelle was at the forefront of many of the town’s biggest events, including a ride with fellow selectmen Robert Plamondon and Maureen Denig in one of the featured floats in the huge 275th Anniversary Parade.

“It was a tremendous event for the town,” he said wistfully. “The committees did a very admirable job in the execution of the parade, the fireworks everything.”

Chenelle remembered reaching the end of the parade route and walking back to the “corner where the old Cumby’s used to be, across from Anderson’s (Funeral Home), and we watched the rest of (the parade). It lasted a good couple of hours.”

“It was a very proud moment for the town,” Plamondon agreed. “It want off very smoothly, a real tribute to the town.”

The September parade was a needed high point after a tense start to the year due to the school committee’s budgetary override request. The selectmen recalled, with some sadness, the negative feelings in the air during that time.

“It was an ‘us versus them’ mentality in some circles, unfortunately,” Chenelle lamented.

Because Townsend is part of a school district, the town does not always have a definitive say in what finally comes to pass with the schools. That fact was made apparent when both Pepperell and Ashby voted to accept overrides.

“It was like a gun to the head,” Plamondon said.

Rather than be forced into a compromise that it didn’t support, the town finally approved its own override, after two town meetings and two vetoes.

Chenelle called it a “tumultuous” time, to the point where schools started a week late because of the budget delays. As a result, there were open staff positions when classes finally began.

Chenelle recalled his shock at the increase in the school’s budget when he first saw it — a whopping 21.3 percent from the year before. Eventually, that spike was reduced to an increase of “12 to 13 percent” but even that passed by the slimmest of margins.

The Sterilite gift, a major moment in town history, has already begun construction. Announced in August, several aspects of the first phase of the project — the Highway Department garage — were debated in public hearings, including stormwater drainage and access to the site.

Most of these events have implications on the year to come, but both Plamondon and Chenelle agree that the trials and tribulations of 2007 have provided an impetus for a better 2008.