Now as one year closes and another begins, we’d like to look back at the past year and point out some of the major news from the Town of Webster month-by-month.
- Seasoned Police Chief Tim Bent retired and Deputy Chief Michael Shaw was promoted to fill his place. Chief Bent served 13 years as Police Chief and over 31 years in the Webster Police Department. While Chief Bent’s leadership will be missed, Chief Shaw has done an admirable job replacing him.
- As part of the Webster PowerUp Program, local residents participating in the program received an almost three cent savings on their electricity rate. The Town received an additional $119,657 grant from NGrid for streetlights. With the additional funds almost the entire $330,000 cost of the streetlight LED replacement program was covered by grant or incentive monies.
- As part of the Massachusetts Complete Streets Program the Town received a grant of $33,000 for a sidewalk, bicycle lane needs analysis. Based on this analysis the Town applied in the fall to construct sidewalks from Burger King to Walgreens on East Main. We expect to hear on the grant award in January 2020.
- On Feb 4th Detective Trainor seized a kilo of cocaine and made an associated arrest. The Police Department continued to make major drug arrests over the next several months.
- The Town registered vacant properties as part of its nuisance property taskforce. The taskforce works year-round to address issues associated with unkempt and abandoned properties.
- An LED information sign was installed in front of Town Hall. The grant-funded message board now keeps residents informed about local events and notices.
- Sadly, Lieutenant Willie Gendreau of the Webster Fire Department passed away. The Department dedicated the new Engine 4 in his memory.
- As part of the Town’s beautification efforts, a new welcome sign was installed on Route 16. As the weather warmed, the Town continued these efforts with additional flowers and improved public spaces.
- As the Town installed new LED streetlights, the net metering credits received from local solar farms could be reallocated to the library saving approximately $17,000 in energy costs annually.
- The final phase of the LED streetlights installation project was completed. Not only do the new lights provide a cleaner, brighter light, but the town saves a projected $150,000 in energy and annual maintenance costs.
- Long-time Senior Center Director and advocate for the public library, Jean Travis, is named an “Unsung Heroine” by the State of Massachusetts for her dedicated efforts towards caring for the elderly and her work towards making the new Gladys E. Kelly Library a reality.
- With the local elections, we received two new Selectmen—Lisa Kontoes and Earl Gabor. Their energy and outlook are great assets to our community. We also thank long-serving Selectmen Mark Dowgiewicz and Bob Miller for their many years of dedicated service to the Town.
- The Town received a $30,000 grant for hiring a preservation architect for Town Hall. Their work will culminate in plans for $600,000 in renovations to Town Hall which may be funded through the Massachusetts Preservation Fund.
- The State also contributed $25,000 to the opioid taskforce. This taskforce has been very successful pairing those with destructive overdose habits to resources that can assist them on their road to recovery. The taskforce also routinely holds awareness meetings and Narcan administration trainings.
- The Board of Selectmen adopted new policies for more transparent government. These include the posting of meeting minutes in a timely fashion as well as holding regular office hours.
- Through the Attorney General’s Office, the recreation department received grant funds to offer discounted swimming lessons at Memorial Beach.
- The summer carnival sponsored by the local firefighters union kicked off another great summer.
- The Myrtle Avenue water main relining project made substantial progress. Water main relining is one of the many steps being taken to remove sediment from the water distribution system. It also provided additional structural integrity to the pipe system.
- The annual fireworks display started off the Fourth of July with a bang. Additional summer events included the weekly concert series and farmer’s market.
- The Police Department, through some excellent detective work, make arrest in the kidnapping of a 12 year old girl earlier in the summer from a local park.
- On the Fourth of July, Sergeant Patrick Perry, with the assistance of others, heard a call for a distressed swimmer in the lake and promptly acquired a boat and was able to locate the distressed swimmer. Sergeant Perry jumped in the water and saved the man moments before he would have drowned.
- The Town saved $340,000 July 1st when our local municipal regional partnership (named the Massachusetts Strategic Health Group) bid out and received reduced premium rates for active municipal employees. The Town saved an additional $50,000 in October, when this same group bid out our retiree health insurance plans.
- National Night Out started us off with a month full of great activities. Our 2nd annual Shakespeare in the Park event was a smashing success with the Brown Box Theater producing Measure for Measure. Boston 25 News brought their Zip Trip to Memorial Beach for a great day on the lake. The news segments highlighted the rich cultural, historic and natural resources the Town of Webster has to offer.
- Also, August saw the Greek Market on Main Street demolished. Efforts are underway to revitalize this lot as well as the others that were hit by the tornado in 2018.
- This summer the Sewer Department did smoke testing throughout Town. Smoke was blown into the sewer system in an effort to see where the system had leaks or illegal tap ins.
- Bay Path High School started construction on the pavilion at Memorial Beach. As you may recall, the pavilion is being constructed through local donations from community members with a matching grant from MassDevelopment.
- We held our downtown walk-through and business meeting in an effort to bring energy and new businesses to our downtown. One of our new downtown tenants opened in September—You Inc. You Inc is a career pathways program designed to help town residents find better career alternatives. We are grateful for their commitment to our Town.
- Our senior citizens got grooving in September too as we held a Senior’s dance in the Town Hall auditorium.
- In October, we were awarded $207,772 for energy improvement initiatives for town buildings through the Massachusetts Green Communities program. Approximately $15,000 in annual savings are expected from lighting upgrades to Town Hall and the Police Station.
- The Town also received a $400,000 grant for improvements to the Memorial Beach. A landscape architect will be designing the upgrades over the next few months with construction scheduled to begin in July 2020.
- A beautiful mural was completed on the Dugan Building in downtown in October. Artist Dave Laabs captured the spirit of Webster with both the historical importance and natural resources of Webster prominently and stunningly displayed.
- The Town completed the process with MassDOT for Lake Parkway/Klebart Ave reconstruction project to move forward. This project will fully reconstruct the roadway and add sidewalks to both sides of the street. The project is currently out to bid and will begin construction in early spring 2020.
- Engine 4 was put into service for the Webster Fire Department. The new engine is part of the comprehensive apparatus replacement program to replacing aging fire vehicles and provide redundancy for the existing apparatus.
- The Massachusetts Economic Assistance Coordinating Council approved the creation of the Town of Webster Vacant Storefront District in the Historic Downtown and South Main area. The program allows tenants moving into vacant storefronts in the district the ability to receive $10,000 in tax incentives and a matching contribution from the Town of Webster. This is a fantastic tool now available and another great step in our efforts to revitalize Downtown.
- A small amount of water began flowing through the water treatment plant in December, with full implementation schedule for January. Over the next few weeks we'll continue to ramp up production and monitor the results. Come January, we'll share the progress of the filtration plant and the next steps in the process for improving the water distribution system. While there will still be plenty of work to do, we are excited about the nearing completion of the filtration plant. It is a major milestone in improving the distribution system.
Thank you to all who made this past year a great one in the Town of Webster. We look forward to more progress and cooperation as we enter the New Year!