by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall
Maynard, MA - One would think that, with a vote to fund an $83 million school building project now on the agenda for Maynard’s Fall Town Meeting, scheduled for this October 10th, everyone would have received a copy of the Warrant (the meeting’s agenda and related information) by now.
As we did not receive one at our house (or it was lost in the shuffle while we were cleaning up for an event here on Saturday), I went out in search of a copy. I walked down to the Maynard Town Hall and met with Gregory Wilson, Executive Assistant to the Select Board, late on Thursday. He has a number of copies in reserve, but most of them are being saved to hand out at the meeting itself, as an unusually large number of people are expected to attend. When I asked, he agreed to place a few copies out in the Town Hall Lobby, available to voters who need one.
Voters are left with only a few choices by now: pick up a copy at Town Hall, see the Warrant on the Town’s "Town Meeting" Web page:
... where it is available as a PDF file, or download a copy here (also in PDF format, please see link below). To produce a paper copy from the PDF, voters will have to use their own printers to print it out, or find someone willing to print out a copy for them. However, that’s quite a bit of ink, as the document runs 23 pages, if they include the budget in Appendix A (or 17 pages without the Appendix). Another choice is for voters to ask their neighbors if they received one that they don't plan to keep.
How did we get into this mess? First, a quick history: Back when many local communities had a weekly newspaper, Town Meeting Warrants were traditionally included in the paper as a separate section. On that date, the paper was delivered to every household in town, even for voters who did not have a subscription to the newspaper that would otherwise cover that day. When I lived in Arlington, that was how I got my Warrant before Town Meetings convened there.
But now that the Beacon-Villager newspaper is no longer in print, the town must use other means. The cost of postage to mail the Warrant to every household individually would severely strain the Town Clerk’s budget, to say the least, so the choice has been to have copies of the Warrant delivered with the Action Unlimited instead.
However, because the Action Unlimited is not a traditional newspaper (it carries mostly advertisements, along with a few stories and announcements), a number of voters just toss it in recycling when it shows up in their mailboxes.
So why weren't voters notified ahead of time, to keep an eye out for the September 22nd issue of The Action? A notice was posted on the town web site home page:
... on the 18th, just 4 days in advance. But many residents don’t take the time to check the town’s web site home page every few days, especially since updates are not that frequent (the most recent one that appears below the notice for the Warrant, when I checked just now, was posted back in August). There was no “reverse 911” call or text message sent out because that’s reserved for more urgent public issues, such as town wide emergencies.
Note for Newcomers
So, what's a "Warrant?" If how town meeting works and some terms used in town government may not be familiar to you, I've written a short (3 page) document to help introduce you to all this. (there is also a title page, but if you print front & back, it's two sheets of paper.) This is in the form of a PDF, with a link provided on the "Essays" page on this web site, but is also available by clicking on the link here below. I am also considering printing out a number of copies to distribute at Town Meeting on the 10th.
Note: If you find this document useful, or you wish to support our work here at Town Wide Mall, please click on the "Donate" button, below, and consider making a donation of any amount. We do not carry any advertisements, and access to everything here on this web site is free of charge (there is no "paywall") so we must cover our costs exclusively with donations. If you have already donated, we thank you!
by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall
And in so choosing, they must try to satisfy some basic criteria, such as:
• Am I curious about this subject?
• Will my audience be interested in this story, or find it of value?
• Do I have the resources (time, skills, and background) to do this story justice?
• Can I tell the story sufficiently in only a few hundred words / a few pictures / short video clips?
• Will my audience have the time and patience to delve into this story, once I publish it?
• Did someone already start a thread on Facebook, potentially rendering my story idea moot?
OK, that last one does actually happen,* but I certainly can’t blame anyone for sharing news on Facebook! Clearly as a very small journalism outfit (me, and one other reporter, so far), I certainly can’t expect to cover more than a tiny fraction of what’s of interest here in town.
Anyway, I call this bias, “selection bias.” That is, the selection of which stories to tell is a bias hidden behind the scenes, so to speak, in any news organization. We read (or listen to, or watch) the news that we see. It’s hard to think about what else there might be, while our minds are focused on the stories at hand. When the New York Times says “All the news that’s fit to print,” that’s clearly a bit presumptuous! Anyway, it’s a phrase in the passive voice. Perhaps it should say “All the news we saw fit to print.”
If you click on the headline of this story, above, and then scroll all the way down, you should see a comment box. If you fill that in and click the "Submit" button, I will consider your suggestion. Yes, your comment will be seen by other readers of this story, if you do this. So if you need to write to me privately, you can always use the “Contact Us” feature in the main menu bar, at the right hand end.
Please understand, as stated in my list of criteria above, I may not find it practical to do a story on everything suggested by readers. My resources remain rather limited, and I have some limitations other than selection bias, so I may choose not to do some stories. But, regardless, I invite you to give it a try.
* Case in point: The Green Meadow School building topic and upcoming vote story exploded on Facebook before I could complete my story on the topic. I published my story, anyway, as I had worked for months on researching it, but when I tried to give notice on the various Facebook group pages devoted to Maynard, the existing threads "floated to the top" of those groups and my story notice was "pushed down" into relative obscurity.
OK, my ego was a bit bruised, I must admit. But after all that work, it was difficult to see that happen. Finally, I decided to post links to my story within the threads started by others.
Meanwhile, I'm working on a bulk e-mail system, but I don't have it ready yet. My goal is to allow people to subscribe to an e-mail feed without having to log onto Facebook, if they don't desire to (or they just don't have a Facebook account.)
I understand the popularity of Facebook, as it's much easier to start a group or post comments there, as opposed to constructing and updating one's own web site. One drawback, however, is the addictive nature of Facebook, a "feature" carefully cultivated by the company that runs it. Once you log in, it throws many very enticing other posts at you. After awhile, you realize that you've spent an hour and a half on there, when you only intended to be online for ten minutes.
(Note: Town Wide Mall did not receive any benefit from Cambridge Typewriter for this mention.)
by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall
Within the next two months, the citizens of Maynard will face a significant decision: Shall we vote to replace our existing elementary school building with a completely new one, borrow the necessary funds (known as a bond issue), and pay off the balance with increased property taxes over the next 30 years?
The building is projected to cost $83 million with approximately $29 million to be reimbursed by the state (funded by state tax revenue) and the remaining $54 million funded by taxpayers here in Maynard. The property tax increase is projected to be anywhere from about $500 to over $1000 per year, per property, based on property value. This PDF file from the school department's web site gives the specifics:
Here in Maynard, a committee (the Green Meadow Building Committee) was set up in March 2021 to analyze the condition of the current building and then weigh the options. As this was just one year into the pandemic, there were new challenges to overcome for the committee to do their work and for the public to follow their progress. A year or so later, the local newspaper ceased publication, which made communication between the committee and the public that much more difficult. Ultimately, the committee decided that the current building was not suitable for renovation and must be abandoned and replaced.
One major factor in this decision is the availability of funding from the state, as administered by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (the MSBA). The MSBA is authorized to select specific school building projects and help offset the cost to individual cities and towns. However, this offer from the MSBA comes with significant conditions that the town must meet in order to qualify for the funding. Typically, the MSBA provides funding only if a new building is to be built, or in rare circumstances, an existing building will be expanded by undergoing significant renovations. The committee had to amass significant amounts of information in order to conform to the guidelines and requirements of the MSBA. They had to prepare and submit multiple documents with many hundreds of pages of details to apply for the funding. Copies of these documents, meeting minutes, and other information is available on the school department's web site:
Over this past summer (2023), the committee has held a number of public meetings and tours of the existing school in order to convince voters to go ahead with the project and answer their questions.
Often, newspapers run editorials, prior to elections, to endorse specific candidates or votes on ballot questions. I am choosing not to do that here because I’m a self-appointed local journalist; I don’t have an editorial board as major newspapers do. Also, I realize that, in starting my news feed here, I’ve gained some credibility here in town, which naturally has given me some influence. I take the responsibility that comes with that influence very seriously; I want to be as open, honest, and fair as I can with my opinions.
I've done some research into past school building projects and participated in online discussions regarding other current projects, such as the Nashoba Regional High School building project (which serves Bolton, Stow, and Lancaster). I have spent many hours over the past few months thinking about this issue and its implications, in depth.
Here are a few issues that I've identified:
1. Rising Costs - If the cost of buildings like this keep rising faster than inflation, where does this end? Looking back, in 2010, Newton built Newton North High School for just under $200 million, making it one of the most expensive school buildings in the country. Recently Arlington built a new Arlington High School for close to $300 million, again one of the most expensive so far. In my opinion, this can't end well. Eventually, as school budgets and buildings take a greater and greater percentage of local city and town budgets, we will reach a crisis point where projects will be voted down to avoid starving other municipal departments of revenue needed to function at even a bare bones level. Those school departments will be stuck with the existing, worn out buildings. If the deterioration is bad enough (mold, lack of air conditioning as temperatures rise, etc.), then long term school dismissals will have to occur. Although this result may seem far off at the moment, major economic factors could cause the situation to deteriorate much more rapidly than expected.
2. Maintenance and Long Term Planning - So this leads to the next question: How did we get to this situation, where we're being told that our only option is to spend the money on a new building? Certainly, a major share of the responsibility for this dilemma rests with state government. The state has created such a vast web of regulations and policies that often local school officials have few choices left. In this case, the MSBA gives priority to new buildings, with very little for the care and maintenance of existing ones.
Here in Maynard, if mistakes were made with regard to building maintenance (or lack thereof) in the past, what plans do we have to do better in the future? From what I understand, building maintenance in general has been critically underfunded in our town, for years. I don't think there is any one person or group of people necessarily responsible for this. Rather, I see an inherent limitation in how local government works, again, largely as required by state laws. In my experience, many local governments are big on short term decisions (as annual budgets have hard deadlines each spring) and weak on long term planning. Long term planning is difficult and usually doesn't yield the immediate results that voters often hope for. So it tends to be put off. However, eventually the price will have to be paid, one way or another. Typically, maintenance is less costly than letting things run down until a replacement is necessary. The environmental impact of constructing a new building is vastly greater than proper maintenance and renovation of existing ones.
3. Impact on Diversity - The more we try to promote the town as a great place for families with school aged children, and raise taxes devoted to the schools to support that effort, the more we start to shift the demographics of Maynard in general. The elderly, low to moderate income folks, artists, and single people will eventually be pushed out. Yet these populations are a significant part of what makes Maynard the diverse and exciting place it is. Retired and single people are more likely to volunteer for community groups and projects that enhance life in the town, for just one example. I know people who avoided moving into other towns nearby, where there are "excellent schools" (and much higher taxes to pay for them), because those towns ended up with a mono-culture of families with parents working high earning jobs, with little time for community life.
4. The Suppression of Dissent - In my experience with this and similar campaigns in other towns, the extremely aggressive promotion by the proponents has left a number of residents feeling intimidated and afraid to speak up about their real concerns. The proponents respond to questions with carefully selected facts and arguments, but the ultimate conclusion of some residents is that "they don't really want to listen to us." The proponents have the upper hand because they have spent our tax money (legally) to research and build a substantial base of information with which to argue in favor of the project. The rest of us have little resources to "fight facts with facts" in order to bring about a balanced discussion on the pros and cons of going forward, in light of the true impact on the town overall. In my opinion, this is bad for democracy. Indeed, the complexity of many issues facing towns has continued to grow over the years, making it harder and harder for the average citizen to properly inform themselves before voting or making decisions. An aggressive one-sided campaign just makes it worse.
Conclusion: I am not here to urge you to vote one way or the other on this project. I raise these questions because I want there to be a responsible and open debate. I know there are many more considerations, but I have only a limited time to write this and you, the reader, likely have a limited time to read a lot more more than what I've written here. After all, we all need time to look away from our screens, get up, and stretch, right? I wish I could publish an actual newspaper, but that's just not in the cards for now.
The worst thing that can happen is that citizens stay home because they feel overwhelmed by the whole process. If possible, I suggest that you talk with your friends and neighbors, in person "over the back fence" or while walking the dog, if possible. There are ways to reach an understanding about things in quiet in-person discussions that no social media can match.
by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall
As I am new to this (asking for financial support), I suddenly realized that, of course, I wanted to thank the individuals who have given so far. I finally got Paypal to give me a list of their names, so I can send thank you messages to them directly.
But while considering a plan to publish a public acknowledgement listing them, I realized I had forgotten to ask permission for that! Oops!
So, let’s make this an “opt in” scheme. That is, if you want to donate (or already have donated) and want to have your name published, please say so in the comments. If I don’t see any clear “yes” (you say not to publish or just say nothing at all about it), then I’ll refrain of giving out your name, in public or privately.
Also I don’t plan to publish anything about the amount given by any individual. I know it’s traditional to post donor lists in “tiers” such as “friend,“ “donor,” “supporter,” or “top circle” (or whatever they call it), but I hesitate to do that. I welcome donations of any amount. I don’t want to shame anyone for not giving more than they can afford to, or who donate to other causes and must therefore budget the amounts they give to any one of them.
As I’m doing all this alone, so far (except for someone I hired by the hour to help with data entry for the upcoming community group list), I may need to bring in a little more paid assistance going forward, to help prevent me from reaching burning out! As you may imagine, great dreams often come first, then the amount of work required to implement hits you later!
All that said, I want to thank everyone for their support, whether financial or as messages of gratitude for what I’m doing here. You’re welcome!
by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall
To learn more, first open the DPW's main web page:
Residents can scroll down to the Task Force's survey announcement, read the details, then click on the "TASK FORCE SURVEY LINK" to get started. A QR code graphic is also provided for those wishing to use a portable device to answer the survey questions.
If you have neighbors or know anyone in town without good computer or internet resources, please let them know about this survey and invite them to visit the Maynard Public Library and use a computer available there. There is more information about this service on the Library's web site:
Alternatively, residents with a portable device, such as a smartphone or tablet, can meet with a friend or neighbor without access, somewhere where there is reasonable public WiFi, and help them through the survey questions right on the spot, even during hours the Library is not open.
Why is this survey so important?
• Maynard spends approximately $1 million per year on these services, some of which is funded by trash sticker revenue and the rest by our property taxes. If the town can save money on these services, it can free up funds for other purposes provided by the DPW.
• The DPW (and the town in general) wants to arrange their services to best serve the public. If trash and recycling services become easier for residents to use, then they will better fit our needs, and the entire operation will become more efficient.
• We have a chance to reduce our environmental impact by improving how we handle all our unwanted materials.
• We often think of democracy in terms of voting on election day, or participation at Town Meeting, but this is a rare chance to make your wishes known to local government without waiting for election season.
Beyond this survey, I want to remind everyone of the "Six Rs and an M." They are:
• Rot (compost)
Trying to live by this list can be challenging in a world of millions of products that are designed to be "single use" (use once and throw away) or marketed for the lowest price, and therefore often impossible to maintain or repair. When shopping, it may help to ask ourselves, "What will happen to this when I'm done with it, or it needs fixing?" It may seem to be an uphill battle because most products are sold without any information regarding maintenance, repair, or disposal. Typically, we're left on our own, or our taxes are needed to pay to get rid of all the resulting trash and broken (unfixable) items. That, sadly, is the hidden cost of an economy largely based on the mass marketing of low cost goods.
by Vicki Brown Stevens, Special to the Town Wide Mall,
with introduction by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster
Maynard, MA - The Public Works Department in Maynard is in the process of establishing a 4th well field in town, in order to provide Maynard with enough fresh drinking water for current and estimated future needs.
For the first time, Town Wide Mall is fortunate to have a guest reporter - Vicki Brown Stevens, a resident of the town and an experienced journalist. She has contributed an excellent article on Maynard’s efforts to provide enough fresh drinking water for its residents and businesses. As with a number of surrounding towns, Maynard must operate its three water systems on its own: fresh water, wastewater treatment, and storm water drainage.
Vicki’s story is a detailed and fully illustrated report. As it runs 10 pages, I have attached it as a PDF file, here below, for you to download and read, instead of incorporating it directly into this news feed.
Because water is so easy to use, it’s also easy to forget what makes all this possible. This story, provided by Vicki, brings to light many of the factors and costs involved and I urge you to take the time to read it in its entirety, if possible.
The availability of water in Maynard is a key factor that impacts many other aspects of life in town. The amount we pay for water affects our cost of living here, of course. But the availability of water also limits our use of existing buildings (residential versus business). For the future, it limits our prospects for the redevelopment of the few remaining parcels of land we have available, which, in turn, limits our potential tax revenue.
Our democracy was established on the principle that individuals take an active role in overseeing government. Since our nation was established, the technology that supports our lives has become more and more extensive and complex. Our challenge is to work as diligently as we can to inform ourselves of the issues faced by government so that we can continue our role as active citizens. Many of us have such demands on our time, on a daily basis, that it may be difficult to do this as well as we might wish. For that, I forgive you. We each do what we can.
All our reporters work on a volunteer basis. However, there are other costs associated with providing this news service. If you are able, could you please make a donation? Just click on the Donate button, below. If you've already donated, thank you1
by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall
Maynard, MA - An intense fast moving thunderstorm treated Maynard residents to high winds, frequent lightning and thunder, and intense downpours for about an hour this afternoon, starting around 2:30 PM.
When it had finally moved on, the storm left plenty of damage in the form of downed trees and tree limbs, as well as damaged utility lines and power outages. Maynard Police and Public Works Department staff were kept busy all afternoon and into the night, assessing the damage, cleaning up, and redirecting traffic around the problem areas. Other adjacent towns, such as Sudbury, Stow, and Acton were also hit with trees down, impassable roads, and power outages. For awhile, Powder Mill Road in West Concord had to be closed, because a very large tree fell across the road, blocking all lanes of traffic. Maynard drivers had to find a detour back around through Acton to reach West Concord Center and subsequently head over to Route 2.
Nearby residents and some businesses lost power almost immediately and a section of the road had to be closed by police.
Later on this evening, police reported that Eversource could not give a firm estimated time of arrival to begin work, so it is uncertain whether repairs will be completed at the day and time originally estimated.
The trail was blocked in the section along Maple Street, behind Nason Street Shops and Restaurants, as it heads down toward the Assabet River foot bridge. (story continues, below)
Why does it take so long to get power restored? As with any storm, utility crews must prioritize where to focus first, restoring power to essential services such as hospitals, fire departments, and other emergency facilities. The more widespread the damage is (multiple cities and towns), the more work there is to do.
Although many of these facilities have their own backup generators, generators typically only cover a portion of the energy needs of the facility, so it's still important to restore full power as soon as possible.
In the case of the pole on Walnut Street, even when Eversource crews arrive, they must completely disassemble the pole and all the fixtures on it, dig into the ground to remove the remnants of the original pole, hoist a new pole into place and secure it into the ground.
Once the new pole is in place, they must add all the necessary new hardware to the pole at the proper height for each service, including high voltage three phase power lines at the very top, then service voltage power lines below that. They must also coordinate with other utility providers, such as Verizon and Eversource, to remount telephone, coaxial, and fiber optic lines. There may also be street lamps and the wiring for them, fire alarm boxes, or other communication lines or devices.
Please consider making a donation to Town Wide Mall. We do not run advertising so you are our only means of support. Our expenses include occasional contract labor (to help with the upcoming community organization guide), bulk e-mail services, subscription to a web design platform, monthly internet service fees, and computer hardware and software maintenance. For details, please click on the "Donate" button below. Once you do, you can still decide to donate at a later time, if you wish. And thank you!
by Glenn C. Koenig, webmaster at Town Wide Mall
Maynard, MA - Although December might seem a long way off, plans for the 57th Annual Maynard Holiday Parade are already forming. This year it falls on Sunday December 3rd (the date is always the 1st Sunday in December and it always starts at 2:00 PM). The food collection trucks roll out right at 2 o'clock and the parade follows shortly after.
However, funds must be raised in advance to make the parade successful and free to all who wish to venture downtown to join in the fun.
Maynard resident and community event producer, Jen Picorelli, has sent along a link to a page on Facebook, describing the event details. For those of you without a Facebook account, there is also a web site devoted to the Parade:
Here is what she posted on Facebook:
"Being the director of the Maynard Holiday Parade has become one of my achievements that I am most proud of in town. I am so happy to report to you all that I have partnered with Sanctuary ( https://www.sanctuarymaynard.com ) to not only raise funds for the 57th Annual Maynard Holiday Parade, but also begin a tradition that we have never had in town; a costumed ball lovingly named The Fall Ball. In addition, being able to host this event with one of my most favorite friends, William Doyle, makes the event all the more special to me.
Come and hear the amazing live band Soul Function Boston, dance the night away, mingle with friends, enjoy appetizers and desserts of local Maynard eateries and raise funds for one of the most loved traditions in our fabulous town, the 57th Maynard Holiday Parade. Costumes are encouraged, but not necessary to attend."
Date: October 20
Time: Doors open at 7:00 pm, music starts at 8:00 pm
Age Restriction: 21+
Ticket Price: $50.00 - Includes light food options – appetizers and desserts curated from Maynard's top eateries.
To order tickets, go to the Eventbrite page for this event. (The URL was so long, I created a shorter version: https://tinyurl.com/TWMLink2 )
There are more details about the event on the Eventbrite web page, once you click on the above link. You are free to read all about it without having to buy tickets until you're ready.