Selectmen Take up Budgets, Town Hall Access

The Selectboard and Finance Committee heard reports from the Center School and Mahar Regional that fiscal 18 budgets are climbing slightly. As the Center School budget, projects at $1.8 million for 128 students, creeps toward $2 million, officials warned  the town may have to  reconsider maintaining a 6-grade school structure. About half the 128 students in the school are now enrolled from other towns but their $5,000 tuition payments remain well below the nearly $15,000 annual cost per student at the school. Even so, the town needs their financial contribution to continue running the school as it, officials said.caladonia tuneup

In other business, the board:

Appointed a five-member committee to review and develop solutions for handicap access for the main hall of Town Hall. Members are Candace Anderson, Jana Dengler, Roy Nilson, Stephanie Selden and John Woolsey. The committee has a deadline of June 30th, or earlier, and will be reporting to the Selectboard during the process.

Heard from Highway boss Greg Waid that he is exploring a collaborative purchasing agreement with Phillipston and Royalston that might save the town some money. Bids for the towns would be managed by Kevin Flynn of Phillipston, he said.mann lumber

Heard from Chief Assessor Dana Kennan that tax discounts for open land registered under Chapter 61, 61A and 61B are now  costing the town an annual sum greater than $1 on the tax rate and continue to grow, putting pressure on other taxpayers. \

Vice chair Henry Woolsey reported that he is working with Associated Building Wreckers of Springfield to schedule asbestos removal work at the Nichewaug property.

Broadband Sign-up Began March 9

The Broadband Municipal Light Plant committee will hold a public information meeting at 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 8 in the lower town hall. Petersham began accepting subscriber deposit payments for the proposed broadband internet service on March 9. On March 24, the committee reported that 83 residents - 31 percent of the total needed to start work on the project - have signed up for the service. bbthermo

A town-wide mailing urging residents to subscribe has been sent. Matrix Design has offered to accelerate their build-out schedule for Petersham and is prepared to begin Survey, design & construction work beginning the first week in April according to Broadband chair Chip Bull. 

Residents can send or bring completed subscription forms to the Selectboard office get a blank form from this website, or at the Selectboard office.

Download and print out the subscriber form here,

When the subscriber count reaches 270 customers, Matrix, the company's choice to build a fiber-optic internet network, will begin applying for permits to do the initial work of checking all 1,200 utility poles in town where cables will be strung. Electric and phone Wires already on the poles may have to be moved and some poles replaced. Six of those permits are needed as the poles will be checked in groups of 200. National Grid and Verizon have up to 45 days to respond to those applications.

Chip Bull, chair of the newly formed Broadband Municipal Light Plant (BMLP) said Petersham may "leapfrog ahead of some" other rural communities that are also planning for broadband services if the subscriber count hits the 270 mark quickly.sone harvest farm

BMLP members said they may canvas their neighbors to encourage signups. There are some 526  households in town according to Town Clerk Diana Cooley. Subscribers will pay a deposit and commit to a 24-month service period.  After June 9, 2017, the sign-up fee will jump to $1,500. Homes more than 300 feet away from the street will pay extra charges to connect.

Bull said he hopes the network will eventually reach all homes in town. Subscriber forms will be mailed to every household in about a week and will be available at the town offices, the Library, at the Post Office and Quabbin Woods as well as at the transfer station and right here.

Residents will return their subscriber forms and initial payment of $250 to the Selectboard offices. The money will be held in a town escrow account untilquabbin woods broadband service is activated. Residents will pay a second $250 when their service is about to be          turned on, Bull said. Residents near the town center may see broadband service as soon as the fall of this year with outlying homes connected as cables are strung over the next 18 months or so.

A central equipment room for the network will be built in the lower town hall.

Bull said the town, which took $300,000 from a stabilization fund and is borrowing $260,000 more for the project, fully expects to see reimbursement of $460,000 or more from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. MBI  was set up by the state to spread broadband services to underserved communities.

country store

All This ... and a New Coat of Paint as Well

The Country Store will be getting a new coat of paint this summer and the building owner, East Quabbin Land Trust (EQLT), is setting up a permanent fund for future building repairs and maintenance. When fund raising reaches $10,000, a dedicated fund can be created at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation to hold the money. The store is operated by Ari and Jeananne Pugliese who have renewed their lease for another five years. Nearly 100 neighbors stopped in to help celebrate on well domes March 11.

Cynthia Henshaw, EQLT executive director, said Butler’s Painting of Athol will paint the entire exterior. The cost is nearly $40,000. Financial gifts for the painting project are welcome, Henshaw said. Customers, residents, and local businesses have already donated initial seed funding of $4,000, but at least $10,000 is needed to start a Building Fund at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

Contact Cynthia at chenshaw@eqlt.org  for information and a pledge form to make a tax deductible gift to The Country Store Building Fund at the Greater Worcester Community Foundation.

Earthlands in Petersham Changes Hands

A 51-acre portion of The Earthlands property on Glasheen Road has been sold to Craig Newhouse, owner of a privately held building company in Wilmington and his daughter, Felicia Newhouse, owner of an online company that provides business advice to mothers around the world seeking to become entrepreneurs.felicia

Larry Buell of Oliver Street, who founded Earthlands in 1973, said a new Earthlands Trust will take over all aspects of Earthlands - the property, the vision, and the programs. A sale price of $350,000 was recorded at the Worcester County Registry of Deeds on Feb. 24

Buell said, "Many who know and love Earthlands are very excited that the Earthlands Trust, a father and daughter team of Craig and Felicia Newhouse, will now oversee the new Earthlands. A new Earthlands Trust will expand on the original Earthlands vision by adding new programs across areas of Earth-based learning, personal transformation, spiritual inquiry, creative expression, and health and wellness. robinson lumber

A statement on the earthlands.org website says, "The Mission of Earthlands and its Special Projects is to educate, demonstrate and provide global citizens of all ages and circumstances the ability to live, learn, and act in sustainable, regenerative, conscious, sacred, and creative ways through Earth-based learning, personal transformation experiences, community living, and socially just endeavors that unify personal and planetary well-being for the whole Earth Community.

"A vision like Earthlands could never have been created without hundreds of hard working and deeply committed individuals - all those who have been involved with Earthlands over the years are to be acknowledged and celebrated today. Soon the Earthlands Trust will make a public announcement about the new Earthlands and outline its priorities for the future," Buell said.. Visit www.earthlands.org or contact the office at <earthlandsretreat@gmail.com> (978) 724-3428.for more inforomation.
To see Felicia Newhouse's international women's and business entrepreneurial work visit: www.mompreneursoul.com

Tai Chi is Coming to the Town Hall

The Council on Aging is sponsoring a 10-week Monday Tai Chi exercise program in the town hall starting in March. The program began on March 6 and runs from 5 to 6 p.m. There is no requirement to register in advance. The program is funded by a grant from the Cultural Council. There is no charge to participate.