Author Archive: Mayor Dolan

Adopt-A-Sites available for spring!

Now that the snow is gone (we hope!), it’s time to think about spring flowers. We have two very high profile sites available in our Adopt-A-Site program, Bellevue Island, at Bellevue and the Lynn Fells Parkway, and Ell Pond near the gazebo. These are great sites if you want to raise the visibility of your business or organization. If you prefer something a bit smaller, we also have sites available at Berwick St., Bishop Park (at Washington and Trenton streets), and Meehan Island (Pleasant and Washington streets). If you’re interested in adopting a site, call Joan Bell at 781-662-0210 or e-mail jbell@cityofmelrose.org.

MHS all clear

This is the message that was sent for the all clear to parents.

Good Afternoon,

Melrose Police Chief, Fire Chief, NEMLEC & STARS have done a complete sweep of Melrose High School and surrounding areas. They have deemed Melrose High School safe for occupancy. All students were dismissed at 2:11 p.m. All afternoon activities will be held as scheduled.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Marianne Farrell signature

 

 

Principal

Melrose High School

MHS evacuation: Additional information

The following Connect Ed message was sent to homes of Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School students:

Dear Parents,

Good afternoon! This is Principal Brow at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School. The purpose of this message is to inform you that today –Thursday, April 17, 2014, Melrose High School received notice of a written threat in the third floor boys’ bathroom. The Melrose Police, Melrose Fire, and Public Safety Officials have established an incident command center and determined that the high school students will be relocated to the Melrose Athletic Field. It has been determined by the public safety officials that there is no threat to the students and staff at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School. The NEMLEC and STARS teams have been called to sweep Melrose High School and the general surrounding areas. We anticipate a normal middle school dismissal at 2:05 p.m. We would like parents to know that school and police officials are conducting an investigation to identify the responsible individual(s). We take all threats seriously and implement this protocol for any threat. The focus of school officials and the police department is the safety of our students and staff.

If this incident has triggered feelings of anxiety, please inform your children that we will have counselors available to meet with any child who is concerned. We wish to thank everyone for their cooperation in allowing the school and public officials to do their job and keep our students safe. Thank you.”

Sincerely,
Tommy Brow, Principal
Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School
350 Lynn Fells Parkway
Melrose, MA 02176
781-979-2100

MHS evacuation

This is a statement from MHS principal Marianne Farrell:

Good afternoon. This is Marianne Farrell of Melrose High School.

On Thursday, April 17, Melrose High School received notice of a written bomb threat in the third floor boy’s bathroom.

Students will be evacuated to the football field. NEMLEC and STARS teams have been called in to sweep the high school and general surrounding areas. Students will be brought back to the building as soon as it has been cleared and we anticipate a normal dismissal at 2:11 p.m.

Principal
Melrose High School

Public safety officials have determined that there is no risk whatsoever to Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School. The students remain in place and are safe.

Come to the Melrose Egg Hunt on Saturday morning!

Hunt_Flyer2014Disney

Questions and Answers

Welcome to the newest feature on my blog: On the third Wednesday of every month, I will answer questions from the public. You can submit questions as comments to this blog or by sending e-mail to balverson@cityofmelrose.org.

Q: I really am confused about the building at the corner of Main and Grove streets. How was it approved when it’s so close to the street, and where will the parking be?

This lot is unique in many ways. The primary constraint is the culvert that runs through the property, which has inhibited redevelopment of the property for so long. The culvert and the unique shape of the lot also necessitate some leniency with regard to the front setback. The front setback in that district is 5 feet, but the building is being built at the property line, which is consistent with other buildings on Main Street in the downtown area. The original proposal for this lot was for a three-story mixed use building that would have had a much bigger footprint and would have had no space for parking. The medical office building will have sufficient parking for the use in the rear of the property. Here is what the Planning Board had to say when they granted Site Plan Approval:

During the course of the review of the project, the Board expressed considerable interest in the quality of the building design, especially given its prominent location and the relationship to the adjacent mixed use building and the downtown historic district. The Board appreciates the Applicant’s attention to detail and commitment to a well-designed building and high quality building materials, as shown on the plans. The building is positioned at the front lot line, providing a well-defined and consistent streetscape experience with the parking concealed in the rear of the lot. The Planning Board supports the overhanging bays, which assist to break up the facade and provide a shadow line as well as visual interest. The Planning Board directed the Architect to consider additional design elements that will give the building more prominence given its gateway location. The Applicant will meet with the Design Review Committee to review proposed architectural devises which will better emphasize the building and the site. [This has been done.]

The subject building is located within the area bounded by Essex, Grove and Myrtle Streets and is therefore permitted to substitute spaces in municipal parking lots in lieu of meeting the on-site parking requirement. Nonetheless, the Project provides ample parking to serve the dental practice and the future tenant and, unlike the previous project, will not require the use of parking spaces in the adjacent municipal parking lot.
[And the parking is located behind the building. Recall the prior use, Sparks Automotive, had an asphalt parking lot in the front of the parcel.]

Q: Allow me to start by saying you are doing a great job in our city. Melrose is an increasingly exciting place to live and I’m proud to call it home. Our city is becoming a town more and more people want to raise their families in.

In the past several years, I have witnessed what I perceive to be a rampant issue with underage drinking and recreational drug use in our city. Parties are occurring at all hours of the day. There was a well-documented school skip day incident which brought the police. And early last November, I witnessed the police break up a party at around 9am (Incident #13-11669-OF). These are not the only two incidents.

As someone who is raising a young family, it is a bit disconcerting to me that in these instances, it seems there were no repercussions for the offending parties (and in many cases, their parents). Even more, these young people have returned repeatedly to the same party spot. It’s shockingly brazen and defiant of authority. Maybe this is an issue with only a select group of individuals, but I’m not so sure.

I’m interested to get your thoughts on how this issue is being addressed currently and how it can be improved upon in the future so I can take more comfort in raising my children in a safe, family-friendly environment.

Thank you for your kind comments. It’s an honor to serve as Mayor.

Alcohol abuse, particularly binge drinking among youth, and recreational drug use are issues that face every community in Massachusetts and the nation. In a recent forum for Melrose High School students, former NBA and Massachusetts basketball star Chris Herren pointed out that over the last decade, the U.S. has seen an increase in alcohol and drug addiction from 15 million to 30 million. Clearly there is something systemic in our culture that is exacerbating this issue. As someone who grew up in Melrose, I do believe one of the weaknesses in our community has been that although for many years we were considered a “dry” town, alcohol use among teens was often looked at as a rite of passage and there has been a boys-will-be-boys mentality that often included parents allowing underage children to drink at home.

One of the moments in my administration that I believe was a true change in culture was when two young people died of drug overdoses. That forced the community to understand that the disease of addiction could happen to anyone. I acknowledged at that time, and continue to acknowledge, that we have an alcohol and drug problem. Although every community has these problems, we have been willing as a community over the last several years to talk about it openly and honestly.

Here are several things we are doing, and several things that we need to do as a community:

  1. Awareness and education: The Community Coalition is an inter-community network of grass-roots groups working to make our community healthier and a better place to live. Their sole focus is healthy choices to keep young people from using alcohol and drugs. They are active throughout our community, educating parents and youth.
  2. Staffing: Through grants, the City now has full-time drug and alcohol counselors working with parents and teens who who need addiction services and don’t know where to go. One of the greatest challenges for parents who suspect their child may be on drugs is that they don’t know where to turn or how to get through the bureaucracy. We can help them. There are young people who are afraid to tell their parents they need help, not just with addiction but also with mental health services and supportive care. We can help those children. We also have a full-time alcohol educator, starting at the youngest grades, talking to children and educating them about the dangers of alcohol and tobacco.
  3. Alternatives: Giving kids the opportunity to do something other than hang out on Main Street or “find trouble” is important. For the first time in well over two decades, Melrose now has a full Teen Center that runs activities year round and averages well over 100 participants every weekend, with field trips and events at the YMCA. Run out of our Recreation Department, it is mobile, relevant, interesting, and fun. For the last several years, we have also focused on identifying the after-school needs of middle school students, students who don’t need a babysitter but may still need some sort of structured setting while their parents are at work. We know that grades six, seven, and eight are important years of change and possibly experimentation. We offer countless after-school programs funded by the Recreation Department and the McLaughlin Foundation that focus on arts, sports, personal development and keep those middle schoolers busy and moving in the right direction. Our Middle School library is full after school until 4:30 every day with children working on computers and socializing, all with supervision.
  4. Enforcement: The social host law has been extremely effective in limiting house parties in the City of Melrose. Although the house parties you mention were significant, we have many fewer parties now than before that law was enacted. When a house party is identified, the owners are put on notice by the chief of police; if there is a repeat offense, there are fines.
  5. Community: Although we have come a long way by identifying the fact that there are substance abuse issues in the community, it is still very clear that some parents will allow kids to drink alcohol illegally in their basement rec rooms, in their summer homes in New Hampshire, the Cape, or Maine, or even in their own homes. We are going to put up a video of the incredible presentation made by Chris Herren that I mentioned above, which was attended by every high school student and who was planning to go to the prom, as well as their parents. I believe everyone in that room, including myself, was educated about the challenges of youth today and why teenage drinking and drug use are not a harmless rite of passage, as our culture has led us to believe. Another issue we have to deal with culturally is the prevalent legalization of marijuana throughout the country, not necessarily for medical use but for recreational use, and what message that is sending to young people. The nation as a whole is saying through the ballot box that recreational use of marijuana is OK. I don’t care to get into the debate of whether that is good or bad, but it is sending a message that is very different from a decade ago. So how do we expect young people, in some cases as young as middle school, to not go along with that? In health class they are learning that pot and other illegal drugs are bad whereas on TV it is accepted as a rite of passage. When it comes to the use of drugs, we are in a transitional period as a country, and that has to be very confusing to teens.

Nonprofits, parents, teachers, and our community are working very hard to educate youth and families about the issue. Professional staff has never been more available to help those in need. There have never been more activities for young people to be involved in if they so choose. There are enforcement mechanisms in place. We still face the challenge of drug and alcohol abuse, but we are making advances and we will continue to confront this issue for this generation and the generations to follow.

Q: It is very frustrating after shoveling driveways and sidewalks for the snowplows to come along and throw the snow right back where it was before. Moreover, when they do so, what they throw back is always much heavier and harder to remove than what was shoveled in the first place. Every household does not have 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds to remove the snow. The actions of the snow plow drivers make it very difficult for older homeowners to cooperate and remove snow. It seems as if the drivers do not give a thought to where the snow goes; thus, we would like to know what sort of guidelines/instructions the drivers are given.

This is the age-old question that has plagued people in communities for as long as there have been plows and shovels. The question is how do you, with a very large plow, remove snow from a street and not put it back into someone’s driveway. I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t think there is an answer. To make the challenge worse, it is critically important in Melrose, where there are such narrow streets, to plow from curb to curb. If the streets are not plowed curb to curb, snow will take away two to three feet on both sides, making it impossible to park on both sides, to get public safety vehicles down the street, or to allow two cars to pass at the same time.

We get these complaints periodically, and your question is fair, but I do not believe we can avoid putting snow back in people’s driveways while meeting the criteria that are necessary for snow removal and public safety. However, if somebody is doing something very egregious, please make sure my office is aware. We have many contractors who do an exceptional job, but some do not, and we want to address those issues as soon as possible.

Q: From the map that was provided on your blog in November or December, it seemed that Pleasant Street was to be one of the roads that would have its sidewalks cleared by the City. However, that never happened. We would like to know why the snow on Wyoming Avenue was cleared (including in front of private homes) but not on Pleasant Street.

Sidewalk routes are done for the purpose of getting children to school. At the beginning of every school year, snow routes are reviewed by the school principals. The reason Wyoming is done is it is a business district that is also home to one of the largest elementary schools in the City, with almost 400 children. When there are at least 200+ cars every day going to that region to drop off children, is critical to clear the sidewalks across from the school to ensure students’ safety during dropoff and pickup. This is not just done at West Wyoming but at every school in the City. Most of our schools are in heavy business districts or small residential areas, so the principal agrees to the snow removal plan, the parents are educated on where to drop off their children, and this is coordinated with DPW.

The larger question we need to confront, and I do not have the answer to it, is whether there should be an ordinance requiring homeowners to clear the sidewalks in front of their homes. Currently, only commercial properties are required to do so, however, we receive many phone calls from residents who believe that Melrose should consider making it mandatory for individuals as well. The courts of the United States have made it clear that if an individual were to slip in front of a house on a city sidewalk, the homeowner is responsible. I can understand the pros and cons to such an ordinance, but I do think that there needs to be further community dialogue on whether or not we should introduce further regulation regarding shoveling.

Q: Does Fuller House have a Sprinkler System? If yes; how effective was it? If no; should it? Were the residents evacuated? How are mobility issues managed during this type of event, while the elevators are disabled? What are the lessons learned and opportunities for improvement?

No, the Fuller House does not have a sprinkler system. It was built before the code required it. However, the walls are fireproof, and residents know to stay inside their units when there is a fire. The building also has standpipes, so firefighters can connect to a water source from the inside. A list of residents who need assistance is available to firefighters in a special lockbox. While there are always lessons to be learned, Captain John White, our Fire Prevention Officer, does an excellent job working with the building managers, social workers, and case managers. It should be noted that the Fuller House is a private building, not owned or operated by the City of Melrose or the Melrose Housing Authority.

Road and Construction Update for April 16, 2014

Lebanon Street: Closed between Emerson and Upham. Detours will be in place. Upham Street will be open to all traffic with construction delays expected.

Lincoln Street: Construction related delays on Lincoln between Porter and Upham.

North and South Cedar Park: Construction related delays.

Franklin Street: Construction related delays.

Belmont Street: Open to abutters only.

Remembering a sad day

Sean Collier

Sean Collier

Today, on the one-year anniversary of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, we remember those who lost their lives on that tragic day, Lu Lingzi, Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, and Officer Sean Collier, who was killed in the line of duty, as well as those who were injured. This is a day that none of us will forget—nor should we.

Boston Marathon victims

Road and Construction Update for April 15, 2014

North and South Cedar Park: Open with construction related delays.

Linwood Avenue: Expect construction-related delays.

Franklin Street: Open to traffic with construction related delays.

Lebanon Street: Traffic traveling into Melrose from Malden on Lebanon Street will be detoured around construction between First Street and Upham Street. Outbound traffic on Lebanon Street towards Malden will be maintained as much as possible with construction related delays expected.

All work will be performed weather permitting. Rain is in the forecast.

50 Days in the Schools #27: Winthrop fifth-graders get the scoop

Meghan Lewis 2
A group of Winthrop School fifth-graders are learning about research, writing, and design by publishing their own newspaper.

The paper is published once a month as an afterschool enrichment activity; fifth-grade teacher Meghan Lewis is the advisor, and all the staff of 19 reporters and editors are in her class (the other fifth-grade class has its own podcast). The newspaper is distributed to all the fifth-graders and the Winthrop staff.

Just like other newspapers, The 5th Grade Scoop has regular features: A cover story, a sports column, a technology column, an advice column, even comics and puzzles. The newspaper club meets at the beginning of the month to figure out the lineup of stories.

“The biggest things we focus on are the cover articles,” said Lewis. “The students pick what they want to do their research on—we do a lot of science research, we did an article on the Olympics, and we also report on things that go on at school, such as the bazaar. We will have a report on their e-camp experience; we have reporters who will ask questions and check in with the teachers there. And then current affairs, but that’s very student directed. I help them with their research and help them figure out where to go for ideas.”

Students can leave questions for the advice column in a box in the computer lab, which is used by both fifth grades. “The questions are often related to peer-to-peer things that are going, on but there are also academic questions: I have this big test, what can I do to study for it?” said Lewis. “In September we had a question about managing homework. My advice columnists work together and also consult our school adjustment counselor.”

The sports column covers national and local sports, including Melrose football and hockey. Comics are drawn by a different student every month, and each student has a chance to draw a comic about something he or she is interested in. The paper also has a monthly doodle contest.

Every month the students come up with a poll for the fourth- and fifth-graders; respondents have six possible answers to choose from, and the reporters present the results as a pie chart. There’s also a doodle contest and an “Interesting Facts” column. “They have so much fun researching the interesting facts,” said Lewis.

The students write up their articles and save them on the school computer, and Lewis does the final layout of the four-page paper. “That’s a good amount of work, but it allows the students to focus more on the writing and research and reporting,” she said. Then the editors review their work: Lewis prints out a draft and sends it to all the students in the newspaper club with a pink pen to make edits. Then the paper goes to its final draft, and once copies are printed, the students fold them and deliver them.

The newspaper gives the students an opportunity to use their English, math, and research skills in a new context, and it also is an opportunity to consider some other problems. “We have had conversations about our advice column and how to include that piece and keep it anonymous,” said Lewis. “We talk about our audience, who we are writing for. They are fifth-graders, so they let their own interests drive their choices.” They also discuss which research sources are the most reliable.

” I always have a large group in September, and it’s nice when I have a few more join in October,” said Lewis. “It’s not just about writing; there is so much more involved. It’s great to see some of my students who don’t think writing is a strength for them become very interested in doing this and put together some fabulous writing, because it’s a different form, it’s student driven, it’s what they are interested in, and it’s more engaging.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 287 other followers