A couple of library mentions

1) In a few minutes, the Emily Rooney Show will be discussing whether we still need libraries.  (Or, rather, “why and how libraries might be re-imagined in the future”, but “do we still need libraries” is better for ratings.)

2) A couple of weeks ago, the Boston Globe Magazine highlighted some interesting happenings at area libraries.  Among them:

Worcester Public Library

Graphic novelists and cartoonists Andy Fish and Jamie Buckmaster introduce 13- to 18-year-olds to manga, or Japanese comics. As Fish explains, “The program is designed to help them understand how to tell stories with comics, and manga, in particular.” Participants will learn how a book is published by producing a graphic novel/comic compilation called “Manga for Teens.” Second and fourth Fridays of every month through June, 3:30-4:30 p.m., Banx Room, 3 Salem Square, Worcester, 508-799-1655, http://www.worcpublib.org

Update, 12:50pm: Best quote from one of the commenters on Emily Rooney was (and this isn’t an exact quote): “We think learning is important enough that it shouldn’t just be available to those who can afford it.”

More Meadow Lane Thoughts

I’d like to thank Brian for commenting on my blog again.  He’s in an extremely frustrating position, and I think some of the items he’s responding are not so much to what I wrote as to what’s going on in the media at large.

I think clearing sidewalks that abut your property is a civic duty in the same way that clearing a fire hydrant abutting your property is your civic duty.  The difference, from the city’s perspective, is that you will (or, rather, might) be held financially responsible if you don’t do the former; if you do the latter, you’re a nice person, but if you don’t, the city won’t hold you responsible.

I’m going to leave aside the issue of whether the residents of Meadow Lane actually abut 122 or not.  I don’t think debating that will bring any clarity to the ultimate issue of whether or not sidewalks should be cleared by the abutter.

Here’s where we were at Tuesday at 7:00pm:
If the state owned this land, the city would not make the state clear the sidewalk.

When the city thought the state owned this land, the city wasn’t going to make the state clear the sidewalk.  In fact, the city wanted folks they didn’t think owned the land to clear the sidewalk.  That’s wrong by anyone’s definition.

Now the city finds that the residents of Meadow Lane own the land.   The city still wants them to clear the sidewalk.

Here’s what I would have liked to see in response to the sidewalk ordinance situation:
The city committing that all city-abutted sidewalks would be cleared.

The city committing that all bus stops would be cleared so that folks wouldn’t have to wait in the street and/or climb over snowbanks to get to their buses.

The City Council holding hearings to listen to those with particular hardships and thoughtfully getting us to a point where all sidewalks are cleared for pedestrian access.  The City Council also holding hearings to discuss areas where space is at a premium (that is, there’s nowhere to put the snow) to see what can be done.

Here’s what we got instead:
The City Council has decided to create an exception specially tailored to Meadow Lane so that those residents — who, by the way, didn’t ask for this — don’t have to clear that sidewalk.

Either all sidewalks need to be cleared, or they don’t.  If they don’t, we need to determine which sidewalks don’t need to be cleared and why that doesn’t pose a hazard to pedestrians (and what the process for determining which sidewalks don’t need to be cleared after the initial determination).

At this point,  anyone with a sidewalk that doesn’t abut his immediate residence is going to be asking himself why he should be shoveling that sidewalk when the residents of Meadow Lane don’t have to.  That wasn’t the intention of the Meadow Lane residents, that likely wasn’t the intention of the City Council, but that’s where we’re at.

If I owned a piece of land five blocks away from me that had a sidewalk, it would be a hardship for me to shovel that sidewalk.  So — at this point — why should I?

My frustration is not with the residents of Meadow Lane.  My frustration is with a City Council (barring Paul Clancy) that isn’t willing to listen to those folks, and to others, and to think about a long-term strategy to make the city safer for pedestrians (and users of public transportation) in the winter.

WPL Friends Mid-Winter Mini Sale

Despite announcements that they were only going to have one sale a year, the WPL Friends will be holding a mini book sale on Saturday, January 29 in the first floor lobby. 

These sales tend to have a small selection, focused on fiction, but excellent prices (25 cents).

(Also, they tend to not have a large selection of kids’ books, though they often have a shelf or three.)

Not addressing the problem

You might have noticed item 11d on tonight’s City Council agenda proposing the following:

Emergency Preamble


Whereas, The deferred operation of this ordinance would defeat its purpose, which
is to immediately provide relief from the obligation to remove snow and ice from
sidewalks on state highways abutting rear lot line of properties, therefore it is hereby
declared to be an emergency ordinance, necessary for the immediate preservation of
the public convenience.

Now, Therefore, this ordinance is declared an emergency ordinance under section
2-9 of the city charter such that it shall be passed with finality in one meeting of the
city council and shall, thereby, take effect immediately.

Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Worcester, as follows:

For one hundred-twenty days from the effective date of this ordinance, the provisions
of section 23 of chapter 12 of the Revised Ordinances of the city of Worcester shall
not require any owner or occupant of any property whose rear lot line abuts any city
street or state highway to clear any sidewalk on that portion of the state highway so
long as any such property owner or occupant otherwise complies with said section 23
with respect to any other sidewalk on any city street or state highway abutting the
property on any front or side lot line.

In other words, this ordinance would be adopted to that the folks on Meadow Lane would not have to shovel along 122.

The problem with Meadow Lane was not that the city is making elderly folks shovel their walks.  If those folks had a district councilor who worked hard, he could have contacted one of the organizations on the city’s list and gotten them snow shoveling services.

The problem is not an ordinance that makes people clear sidewalks.  People should clear sidewalks that abut their property.

The problem is that the city feels that the City-with-a-capital-c and the Commonwealth are exempt from said ordinance.

The problem is that when the city thought that the state was the abutter, they were in no way inclined to make the state shovel the walk.

The problem is that when Bill takes pictures of the Pharmasphere sidewalks, that the city should be clearing those walks, as the city still owns that land.

Councilors Eddy, O’Brien, Petty, Rushton, Palmieri, Germain, Lukes, Smith, and Haller — that is, those who are sponsoring this piece of legislation — are rewarding a few folks who have vocally opposed doing their civic duty, and by their silence on the larger inequity are also rewarding the city, which is equally committed to not shoveling something that no one will hold them accountable for.

This ordinance is, unfortunately, a knee-jerk reaction instead of a thoughtful investigation into what aspects of the ordinance are not working and which ones are.  But one can’t expect too much more in an election year.

James Street Bridge Liveblog

5:40 – I’m a little late – Moseley of MassDOT is speaking right now on Bailey Bridge feasibility – could be installed on the easterly side of the bridge, but would need to acquire right-of-way from Eddy’s Flooring America.  (On the westerly side, even more right-of-way issues.)

Temporary structure alone = $700,000 and add an additional 2 months to the 16 month timespan

5.42 – Rushton: did we look at installing the bailey bridge where the other footings down the street area?

Moseley: That would require even more road installation, etc.

Borbone — the state wants to start this on April 1, regardless of the option taken.  Close the bridge on June 1.  If they can do that, then from that point forward, either four months or 16 months.  In either case, they’ll try to get as much done during the summer as possible, because that’s when traffic is at its lowest.

[Fewer people here (10ish?) than there were last time.]

5:45 – Moseley says that 4 months is very feasible, steel is ready to be ordered.

Councilor Smith – possibility that it would be done even quicker?

Moseley – possible, but “I wouldn’t bank on it.”  By keeping one lane open, there are structural issues, so they might need to close the whole bridge once they begin looking at it more.

5:47 – Lukes – what happens between April and June?

Moseley – prep work for temporary walkways and signal equipment.  Once June goes, final barriers would go up.  Traffic would still be going on the bridge from April – June.

5:48 – Cheryl Olsen (sp?) – lives on Genesse Street and owns Gatto’s Florist, would like to say she doesn’t want the bridge closed at all.

Smith — Not really an option to not close because of the safety issues.

No other public comments.

(Also, Bill Eddy is not here.)

Konnie asked about preference for 1 way/16 month vs. closure/4 month.  Asks the audience again.

1 person raises the hand for the first option, 2 for the second option.

5:50 – Borbone reiterates that June/July/August is the slowest time for traffic.

Smith – final call for comment before they take a vote.

Four month construction will come up for a vote first.

Rushton – felt that the first meeting had a very good discussion, “this will impact” the businesses, “but we have to balance the issues here.”  “You could be spending the highway monies on more meaningful projects” than a $700k bailey bridge.

Rushton — “the four month closing will affect these businesses, no bones about it.”  He feels the 16 months will permanently affect the businesses because people will “re-wire” their driving habits.  He brings up the Newton Square construction and how that’s made people “drive in a different way.”  “You get up in the morning, and start taking that left instead of that right.”  He feels the four-month closure will impact the residents and businesses less, and discusses the public safety issue of unsafe bridges.

5:55 – Lukes — “Even if we did nothing, that bridge presents a hazard to the public.”  “I don’t think there was an intersection without construction” in the city.  She thinks that there should be large signs posted about the project, when it begins and when it ends, because there are so many projects in the city, many of which folks (including herself) have no idea what’s going on.

Smith thinks the signage would be good.  Moseley says electronic message boards will be up, and they will look into other signage.

5:57 – Smith thinks the shorter option makes more sense.  His recommendation is full closure for four month option.

All are in favor of four month option.  Will be brought up before City Council tomorrow for full Council to take a vote.

And we’re done!


The Fore River Bridge in Weymouth/Quincy is in the planning stages to join the accelerated bridge program.  (And these pictures were taken before there was any snow on the ground.)

Another bridge that will likely be in the accelerated bridge program is the James Street Bridge.  The City Council Standing Committee on Traffic and Parking will be meeting tonight at 5:30 pm to further discuss those plans, and I’ll be there to liveblog the meeting.  (At least, I think that’s what they’re discussing — I don’t see an agenda up on the city website.)

Reminder: Blogger Pizza Tomorrow

Here are the details:
time: Saturday, January 22nd at 2pm  (but feel free to show up later; that’s just when I’ll show up)
location: Firewood Cafe, 222 Chandler Street

As a reminder…You do not need to be a blogger to attend.  You do not need to be a regular commenter (or even reader) to attend. 

You are more than welcome to come for as long or as short a time as makes you comfortable — last time, many of us stayed for quite a while, and we talked about a wide range of topics.  (However, we should plan on ending around the time the dinner rush happens so that we don’t tie up the place forever.)

Feel free to let me know if you’re going to attend or just show up if the mood strikes you that day.  (And if this time doesn’t work for you, we’ll continue to have regular meetups and we’ll keep you posted.)

Teen author to speak about Wachusett Reservoir

On Sunday, January 23, at 2:30pm, in the Banx Room of the Worcester Public Library, Eamon McCarthy Earls will talk about his book, Wachusett: How Boston’s 19th Century Quest for Water Changed Four Towns and a Way of Life.

You can read more about the book and its sixteen-year-old author here.

And…as a friendly reminder: the Worcesterooners Lego Club will have its first winter meeting tomorrow from 9:30-11:00am.  Tell all your young Lego-building friends!

(Image:  Wachusett Reservoir, a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 image from Adam Rose’s photostream.)

Crompton Park Master Plan Meeting 3 Liveblog

Meeting 1, Meeting 2

A much smaller crowd than the previous two meetings — at this point, I’d guess 15ish people.  Which means I have elbow room!

We’ll likely start in a few minutes.

In Crompton Park Ice Skating Rink News — They are open daily as weather permits from 10am-5pm.  There will be special Friday evenings on January 28 from 5-8pm and February 11 from 5-8pm.  Call 508-755-1228 to confirm weather and ice conditions. 

Free used skates available if they have a pair that fits you (M-F noon-2pm at Pernet Family Health Service).

6:38 – Rob Antonelli opens the meeting.  Today is the final concept that “will guide us into all the future improvements to this wonderful park facility.”  (Should be noted that Barbara Haller and Paul Gunnerson, parks commissioner, are here.)

Gene Belanger will discuss the final plan.  They want to hear what people’s priorities are in the items that will be presented tonight.

A lady says that she does not want any sports eliminated; Belanger reassures her that she’ll be pleased with the plan.

6:43 – Michael M. speaking.  This plan allows us to use every corner of the park.

Starting at the pool area, the parking (32 spaces) would be on the other side (if you’re facing the pool from the street, left side) and move the handball courts near the tennis courts (so, to the left of the parking lot).  The football court would be on a diagonal, with the three ball fields in corners (I’ll try to take pictures so that you can see it).

They were able to add two full-sized basketball courts (where basketball is now), shifted towards the hill slightly.  Near the flat area where there’s currently a driveway would be unscripted, with pathways leading to a memorial/gathering space with arbor and specialty paving.

6:49 – They’re talking about expaning out the community room, having a concession area/bathroom area, which would be accessible from both inside and outside the building.  This would join into where the memorial plaza area would be.  Shaded as well.

Question about who it would be a memorial to.

The landscape designers noted that there were memorial pillars, etc., outside.  The residents note that some of them are site-specific. 

Doesn’t necessarily need to be memorial, but it would be a good gathering place that would be able to tie into the existing building.

6:55 – Playground equipment.  Non-prescriptive playground (climbing, stepping elements) rather that a traditional playground.  (Non-prescriptive = you can access it from multiple sides, one component has a lot of functions as opposed to just one)

They will put some equipment in at first, and then when the driveway is gone, there will be more added.

6:58 — Too bad there aren’t any kids here tonight.

Concern about installation of blacktop/parking where there were just trees planted.

Planners say that a survey will determine thing more.

Also, there are two tennis courts now; in the new plan there will be one.

Rob says that there would be a possibility that the trees could be moved (if they needed to be) or there could be new trees planted. 

7:01 — Same commenter says that she doesn’t want the pool to open at the same time a parking lot is being constructed.  Response — there’s no way that the parking lot could get done that quickly.

Another question — first aid station?

Rob — leagues and organizations are responsible for that function.

What about if there was a skatepark?  Answer: no.  There can be recommendations, etc.

Question about ice rink.  Answer: Still at tennis court, could still be converted to ice rink.

Question about park rules & regs — Park closes at 10pm [unless you have a permit].

Rob mentions the skatepark at Green Hill, and says that there’s relatively little trouble there.  There’s concern about whether kids would continue to use the skatepark after 10pm, that Green Hill isn’t residential area in the way that Crompton Park is.  (“I can hear all the noise now” says someone.  Someone else says that the sound of kids playing is a beautiful sound period.)

If someone’s out there at 2am, it’s trespassing.

Would the performance area (in the corner where the hill is) be big enough to have concerts like Elm Park?  The answer is yes.

7:09 – Q: are there plan Bs in case some of these things don’t work?  (Skatepark – yes).  We could start the performance area/amphitheater out small, to see if certain parts would work.  That is, put in an electrical pad first, with perhaps a few other elements, and add on.

Reiteration that this is not the same as an East Park pavillion.  On a sunny day, someone could just sit there and read under the shade of an arbor.

7:12 – Q: How many people could fit into that space?  A: a couple hundred.

Parking spots on Endicott Street — in a couple of locations they made it parallel parking to give more green space.  [For those of you following at home, all of those parking spots are technically park land, even though they tend to be used by residents.]

What about El Delicioso?  (There is no real answer to this, but it was half-said in jest.)

Rob reiterates that the spots on Endicott are park land, and that most of them aren’t being used for park purposes.  There’s a neighborhood need, and a park need, and it’s about balancing the two.

They have funding set aside for part of the playground, which should be done this year.

All of this is $4-6 million.  There’s about $250,000 set aside right now.

Councilor Haller says that there will need to be a lot of advocacy on both local and state (and resident) levels to keep this going.

When this goes to the parks commission, there will be a conceptual design for the playground.  The neighbors can give input into the playground at that point.  (The playground will be handicapped accessible.)  The $250k will cover the playground, surveying, planning, etc.  Not a lot left over.

7:26 — the conversation turns to expaning the building.  If we were going to expand the room we’re in now… the group that currently uses it needs some space for storage.  That would be secured.  The way the restrooms would work would be that they are accessible from both inside and outside. 

Restroom attendants — a league or organization would take care of the bathrooms.  Not open all day and all night, they would have a key to open/lock.  The gentleman from the league who was here last time says that many of the leagues would likely be willing to have that responsibility.

7:34 – The Endicott St. playground would be eliminated relatively quickly.  Debate about whether we’d want one there.  (In the plan, it’s unstructured grassy area.)

If play is still needed there, then we can discuss it.  But many folks had wanted an unstructured play area, and if you put in another playground, then you’d lose that free space.

There will be a Crompton Park sign — but where would you want it?

A lot of yelling about the sign.  The discussion gets redirected to focus on the playground.

(My battery is running low, but I think we’re wrapping things up anyway.)

7:51 — Rob says that diagonal parking on Quinsigamond Ave might be a little tough, and that it might not work with a bike route.

7:54 — which parks are we competing against [for funding]?  All the others, but  Antonelli says “we’re going to try to do the best we can to do what we can.” Haller says it’s one of the top priorities in D4.

7:56 — Could carpenters and/or United Way assist with the fence needs?

8:01 — Discussion of vehicles in the park and how eventually this can be prevented.

Parks Commission will be discussing rules & regs with leagues at their next meeting.  If the trash situation gets out of hand, they will either have to take away their trash, pay for a parks staffperson to staff the facility, or pay for trash removal.

I think we’re wrapping things up.  But I keep thinking that. 

I’ll sign off for now, but I think this is it.