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2017: Year in review

CITIZEN HEROES: Ruth L. Berg and Robert J. Long, left to right, receive the Saugus 2017 “Persons of the Year Award” at this year’s Founder’s Day, held in September in front of Saugus Town Hall. (Saugus Advocate Photo by Mark E. Vogler)

A monthly breakdown of the top stories in The Saugus Advocate during 2017

It was a year where Saugus took steps to stabilize the administration of town government and invest in the future of it children.

A campaign to win support for a new combination Middle-High School dominated the headlines, ending in a special election that town officials hailed as “historic” when voters overwhelmingly passed the new school project and education plan by landslides.

In November, the same voters who approved the new school project re-elected the five incumbent selectmen, who earned the nickname of “the Fabulous Five.” Later in the year, selectmen rewarded Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree with a new, five-year contract that will keep him at the helm of Town Hall through August of 2022.

At year’s end, Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.’s plans to expand its ash landfill had a tentative approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection. But town officials who opposed the project remained in holding pattern as they will join regional environmental groups in challenging an expected decision by the state early next year.

Here’s a look back at the top news stories in Saugus, month by month.

 

January

Special Town Meeting is set for Feb. 6 to consider three warrant articles drafted by the group Alliance for Health and Environment that would prevent expansion of Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.’s ash landfill. Saugus Public Schools Supt. Dr. David DeRuosi, Jr. seeks $1.3 million budget increase, saying town can’t afford to skimp on educational needs if it wants to improve school district. Driver escapes serious injury after being pinned in overturned fuel oil truck that spilled more than 100 gallons of fuel oil over the ground. Saugus Fire Relief Association sets fundraiser to help injured comrade Marco Tirella get back to fighting fires. AvalonBay Communities makes first public presentation to the town on $90-million project planned for the 14-acre site where Frank Giuffrida’s famous Hilltop Steak House restaurant stood for 52 years. The project includes plans for 280 apartments at the rear of the property and 23,630 square feet of retail space near its Route 1 entrance. Selectmen honor two citizens who pulled an 85-year-old man from a burning Midland Avenue house last November. Town weighs pros and cons of free, all-day kindergarten. Saugus High School Building Project Committee seeks ideas from public in community outreach session. More than 200 Saugus children raise money for their schools during an afternoon of fun — skating at Roller World.

 

February

Public gets a look at proposed high school-middle school in outreach session hosted by the Saugus High School Project Building Committee. Local Patriots sports fan Phyllis Barone makes national TV news with a life-size Tom Brady she created out of cardboard. During a special town meeting, Town Meeting members give overwhelming support to three articles that would curb expansion of Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.’s ash landfill at its trash-to-energy plant on Route 107. Selectmen vote to renew town’s cable television license with Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC for another decade, while noting concerns and limited options. Special Needs students open their own “Learning Care” at Saugus High School. A proposed, combined Saugus Middle School-High School receives approval from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) as the school district’s preferred schematic design. Aggregate industries offers to help town with $3,000 in monthly grants for parks and recreation improvements while working on closure plans for its quarry on Route 99. 10th Mountain Division Wounded Warriors Sled Hockey Team honored at Kasabuski Arena, while playing as tribute to the Saugus brothers who were killed in World War II — Walter and John Kasabuski, who both sacrificed their lives while fighting for the 10th Mountain Division in Europe in the closing days of World War II

 

March

Town Manager Scott Crabtree’s preliminary spending plan for the 2018 fiscal year provides $1.2 million less in the operating budget for Saugus Public Schools than what Schools Supt. David DeRuosi, Jr. requested. Crabtree’s plan would increase the School Department’s operating budget by $300.000. After two decades of going without much visibility on Route 1, Roller World owner finally gets his sign back. School Building Committee prefers a second floor gym in proposed school. Saugus mourns passing of Board of Assessors member Jon Gillis. Former Saugus resident Anthony Nalen gets named new head football coach at Saugus High School. Annual report released by Saugus Police Department shows drug overdoses killed 15 people in Saugus during 2016 — three times as many as in the previous year. Finance Committee talks about the need for a new fire station to cover the west side of town. Finance Committee Chair Kenneth DePatto says School Superintendent David DeRuosi Jr.’s proposed budget is “not sustainable.” School Supt. DeRuosi rates himself as “proficient” in meeting six-month goals set by School Committee. Former Town Moderator Robert J. Long calls a west side fire station a “top priority” that’s overdue. Cambridge man crashes stolen U-Haul into Revere garage after fleeing scene of Saugus sub shop break. Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree hires Christine M. Moreschi — a Town Meeting member who is well-connected to Saugus Public Schools — to be his new chief administrative aide. Moreschi replaces long-time Chief Administrative Aide Susan Dunn, who plans to retire in July. Saugus Business Education Collaborative honors nine students at 13th Annual Unsung Hero Awards banquet.

 

April

Saugus Chamber of Commerce hires former Selectman Julie Mitchell for vacant executive director’s job. Consultant advises Board of Health that several years of data on Wheelabrator emissions needed corrections, but facility is still in compliance. Saugus native Mike Vecchione signs with Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League and makes his debut. A Bridgewater woman with family ties to Revere and Saugus dies when she gets run over by her own SUV after stopping to get gas at a Route 1 North service station. Four new firefighters join Saugus Fire Department. Two buddies from Saugus create Cornbowl — a cross between the popular lawn game of Cornhole and Candlepin Bowling. Robert Favuzza is Saugus’ top-seeded runner among 13 town residents who will compete in Boston Marathon. Wheelabrator files for state permits to begin modification of ash landfill. Closing Ballard Early Childhood Center is part of superintendent’s plan to close $1.2-million school budget deficit. A $4.3 million project is big ticket item for May 1 Special Town Meeting. Mark J. D’Amico tops all Saugus runners in the Boston Marathon with a time of 3:50:43. Formula irks Finance Committee: Saugus paying more than its fair share toward Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational School District budget. Former School Committee Member Corrine Riley plans to run for Board of Selectmen. Less than a week before the Annual Town Meeting, two-time former Town Meeting candidate gets sworn in to fill vacant Precinct 1 seat. Aggregate Industries will have to monitor the Peregrine Falcon — “the fastest bird on earth” as part of its reclamation project at the Saugus quarry. Finance Committee Chair DePatto predicts productive Annual Town Meeting that will lead to upgrade in town’s bond rating.

 

May

Walnut Street blaze leaves two firefighters injured. Amendment to generate additional funds for Saugus Public Schools fails after considerable debate during Special Town Meeting; meanwhile, six articles calling for more than 47-million — the main one being $4.3 million for capital improvements in the Lincoln Avenue Pumping Station — pass with ease. Town Meeting Member Albert J. DiNardo plans to introduce resolution requesting study of how employee health benefits impact the town budget. Article passes at Special Town Meeting to address safety concerns at neglected parks. Members pass resolution for study of town employee health-care costs. Square One Mall and Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc. rank one and two as town’s top property taxpayers, combining for $5.9-million. State DEP launches website to get town feedback on Wheelabrator’s plans to expand ash landfill. Special Election is set for next month so residents can vote on new school project; Special Town Meeting set for May 30. The town presents its proposed 21st Century Education Plan and Middle-High School District-Wide Solution. Town of Saugus acquires two electric cars and charging station through grants, incentives. Proposed Middle/High School Building Project has a built-in contingency to accommodate an unexpected increase in school enrollment, consultant says. Selectmen approve budget for Saugus Community Television, Inc. and praise station’s board for “positive results.” Environmental group puts Wheelabrator on notice of possible federal court action to require groundwater monitoring at ash landfill. Saugus Veterans Council says it will invite nine Purple Heart recipients to lead Memorial Day Parade. Town Meeting approves purchase of new fire engine. Blessed Sacrament Church celebrates a century of worship in Saugus. For less than the price of a daily cup of coffee, Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree says the average Saugus owner of a $300,000 home could afford to pay the additional taxes needed for the new school building project that voters will consider next month.

 

June

A SIGN OF VICTORY: The morning after Saugus approved a landmark education building project last June, Prince Pizzeria gave its toast to the vote approving new Middle-High School and renovations to two other school buildings. More than 70 percent favored a new $160.7-million Middle-High School and $25-4 million more for a District-Wide Master Plan that includes renovations and improvements  at the Belmonte Middle School (grades 3-5) and the Veterans Memorial School(Pre-K). (Saugus Advocate Photo by Mark E. Vogler)

Overwhelming support at Special Town Meeting assures that residents will get to vote in Special Election on whether to approve two mega education projects — $160.7-million for a combined Middle School-High School and $25.4 million in improvements for Saugus Veterans Memorial Elementary School and the Belmonte Middle School. Saugus High School Valedictorian Rachel May and Salutatorian Kristina Italiano — best friends — graduate as top two students at school’s 146th commencement exercises. Grade school students take to the streets to help win votes for new Saugus High School-Middle School building. Saugus High School’s Athletic Director Mike Nelson says he’s resigning to take job at Greater Lawrence Technical School in Andover. Kristina and Katelyn Italiano are twin Sachem Scholars, finishing as the second and fourth highest ranking students respectively in their graduating class at Saugus High School. State Rep. Vincent says bill to ban Native American mascots at Massachusetts schools — like the Saugus High School Sachem — is misguided. A recently-completed playground at Bucchiere/Bristow Park gives parents with young children a new destination for recreation. Valedictorian Nicholas Petkewich credits perfect attendance in all four years at Northeast Metropolitan Regional Vocational High School in Wakefield as a key reason why his grades were tops in Class of 2017. The $186-million question: Saugus voters will decide whether they want to pay higher property taxes to finance construction of a new middle-high school and the renovation of two other school buildings. Book author/writer/private investigator Michael Coller plans to run for seat on Board of Selectmen. Police Department and Cops for Kids with Cancer team up to help 15-year-old Zachary Cummings. In what town officials are hailing as “historic,” voters pass new school project and education plan by landslides — a plan that includes a brand new combination Middle-High School and two renovated school buildings. Police capture 16-year-old Everett suspect after he eludes massive mall search following allege theft of a rifle and ammunition in burglary of Dick’s Sporting Goods. State awards Saugus $63.8 million grant to build new Saugus Middle-High School. Children in grades K to 5 can get patriotic this summer at the Saugus Public Library — by reading about the American Revolution. Aggregate Industries commences reclamation project at Saugus Quarry.

 

July

Popular Library Director Brian Hodgdon resigns to accept position at Salem Public Library after just 14 months on the job. Saugus Boy Scout Troop looks forward to honoring two of its most veteran members with scouting’s highest rank — Eagle Scout. Local school children get unique feel for state history as two reenactor groups perform drills at the Saugus Iron Works. Stay-at-home Saugus mother Stacy Filo earns her high school equivalency diploma and becomes the top student in her class at Catholic Charities North 22 years after dropping out of High School. Selectmen will consider proposal for an entertainment center on the second floor of Sears Square One Mall. Marijuana bill headed to Governor’s Desk would allow Saugus to “opt out” of commercial sales. Saugus Police Lieutenant Detective Grecoya gets a special tribute for act of heroism — a horse named after him that will serve in a mounted police unit in Washington, D.C. Former Saugus Town Manager Andrew R. Bisignani pleads guilty to corruption crimes related to his position as Town Manager in Saugus and Nahant. Town promotes five veteran firefighters. School Committee Member Elizabeth Marchese says she has an Ethics Commission opinion that clears her to seek the vacant athletic director’s job. A grand jury indicts a 16-year-old Everett boy accused of last month’s gun theft in a burglary of a sporting goods store at Square One Mall.

 

August

School Superintendent Dr. David DeRusi, Jr. earns “proficient” grade in first year evaluation by School Committee. Superintendent DeRuosi calls for meeting with School Committee to consider making athletic director full-time job. Veteran Special Education teacher Nicole Newbury takes charge of program at Saugus High School. Saugus High officials prepare for 2020 new school opening as freshmen and sophomore classes have their own wings when classes begin. Selectmen reward Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree with a contract extension for five more years. The Total Solar eclipse turns into local happening that attracts 240 at Saugus Iron Works. Two former Saugus High School track star greats try to get Belmonte Middle School Cross Country program running again. School Committee votes to return athletic director to full-time position as committee member Elizabeth Marchese abstains to avoid the appearance of a possible conflict of interest — voting on a salary increase for a position for which she is a candidate. Retaining wall collapses in Cheever Avenue resident’s backyard.  First Annual Saugus Ride raises money, youth awareness and memories of loved ones lost to substance abuse. Saugus Public Schools hires James Bunnell as new athletic director. Scott C. Crabtree briefs selectmen on the accomplishments he’s overseen since becoming town manager with a PowerPoint presentation called “Creating Success for Saugus.” Selectmen reject special permit for tattoo business in Saugus Center on split 3-2 vote despite public support. A coffee shop drive-thru will anchor the entrance of former Hilltop site. Vandals wreak havoc at World Series Park.

 

September

FOR HELPING HOMELESS VETS: During September’s Veterans/Military Appreciation Day at World Series Park, Julie Liuzza, a sixth grader at Lynnhurst Elementary School, receives a commendation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives, recognizing her “dedication, generosity and hard work on behalf of needy and homeless veterans.” State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus), left, presents the commendation to Julie, who was also joined by U.S. Army veteran Frederick “Pat” Walor, 94, of Dracut, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient who was wounded in France after the Normandy Invasion in World War II. Close to 300 veterans attended the event. (Saugus Advocate Photo by Mark E. Vogler)

School Committee member emails and failure to file timely minutes for executive session violate appear to violate state Open Meeting Law. Local church with Texas connections reaches out to Hurricane Harvey’s victims. Historic Round Hill site project proceeds. Veteran Saugus Police Patrol Officer Thomas Wilson gets state trooper’s job. Belmonte Middle School Principal Kerry Robbins leaves at the outset of school year, leading to staff changes — Myra Monto as interim principal and Maureen Lueke as interim vice principal. Saugus Honors Ruth L. Berg and Robert J. Long with the 2017 “Person of the Year Award” at 37 Annual Saugus Founder’s Day Celebration. Saugus Police Patrol Officers and dispatchers take their case to Town Hall. Veteran Saugus Police Sgt. Arthur Connors Jr. promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Saugus honors its veterans and active military people with the biggest local salute of its kind at World Series Park as close to 300 veterans attend Veterans/Military Appreciation Day. Marlene Taraskiewicz keeps the memory of her daughter Susan alive 25 years after her murder. State Attorney General’s Office invalidates three articles passed by Special Town Meeting which attempted to replace new restrictions on Wheelabrator Technologies Inc.’s ash landfill. Former Board of Selectmen Chair Michael J. Serino, a Town Meeting Member and Board of Assessors chair, announces candidacy for Board of Selectmen. Crews locate the body of missing kayaker and Saugus resident Craig Dustin, Sr. in Revere. Town hires Alan Thibeault as Saugus Public Library’s new director. Town receives the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey for Saugus Public Schools. Union representative for public safety dispatchers says town wasted more than $260,000 in legal expenses and unsettled contracts. Town Hall hosts Round Hill Historic Site dedication in packed auditorium. Saugus government leaders laud the contributions of Pam Harris, the late nurse who was hailed as a fervent protector of the town’s public health and environment.

 

October

Saugus Masons make history as William Sutton Lodge A.F. & A.M. turns 150 years old. First Congregational Church Pumpkin Patch is back for another autumn in Saugus Center. SAVE celebrates the unveiling of new signs that mark and explain the history of Vinegar Hill. A potential two-month closure of Kasabuski Arena sidelines youth hockey. New Officer Daniela Salinas joins Police Department. Five incumbents, three challengers attend Saugus Selectmen Forum sponsored by the Saugus Chamber of Commerce. The latest MCAS test results released by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show mixed results for the Saugus Public Schools — great success by students who took the test in the elementary school grades — but below state average results for students in grades 6 through 10. Saugus Public Library Foundation honors four new inductees at Third Annual Gala and Silent Auction. Town hosts a pizza party to recognize major strides by local government. Assunta Paloma announces her candidacy for the Board of Selectmen. Marc Magliozzi announces his candidacy for the School Committee.

 

November

Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc. gets provisional approval on ash landfill modification plans as state schedules Nov 30 hearing at Saugus High School for public comment. American Legion Cpl. Scott J. Procopio Post 210 dedicates a new flag pole. Voters decide to keep their popular Board of Selectmen intact. Two new members — Marc C. Magliozzi and Lisa M. Morgante — win seats on the five-member School Committee. Veteran member Arthur Grabowski loses bid for fifth two-year term on the committee. Saugus native and Fox 25 Reporter Catherine Parrotta leads Veterans Day Ceremonies with National Anthem. Planning Director Stephen T. Cole leaves for new job after just 14 months. Candidate Corinne R. Riley requests recount after losing by 16 votes in selectmen’s race to incumbent Mark D. Mitchell, who won the fifth seat. Former New England Patriots football star Peter Brock offers Saugus and Peabody seniors food for thought at Saugus Lions Club’s pre-game football dinner before Thanksgiving Day rivalry game. Two graffiti artists who sprayed a Saugus business with graffiti appear on security video film. Motel vandalism leads to heroin arrest.

 

December

Retirement Board votes to strip former Town Manager Andrew Bisignani of his pension, costing him and him and his wife a potential $1.5-million. DEP extends public comment period on Wheelabrator’s proposed ash landfill expansion to Jan. 12, 2018. Selectman Mark Mitchell thanks voters and town after recount affirms his re-election. New tax rates set: on average, officials say homeowners and businesses will pay less in taxes under FY 2018 plan approved by selectmen. A mild winter smiles on Saugus Christmas tree lighting event. Concerns about alcohol, public safety and neighborhood disturbances kill plans for mega entertainment project at Square One Mall. Hearing hosted by DEP at Saugus High School auditorium draws testimony from 53, many of them opposing the state’ provisional approval of the modification of Wheelabrator Technologies Inc’s ash landfill. Selectmen ink new five-year contract for Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree to nearly $159,000 — a $30,000 increase in the first year, making him the top-paid department head in town. Fire Department credited with saving First Congregational Church from burning down in two-alarm fire. Angry mother helps raise 14 times the amount of money stolen from classroom closet of Special Needs students at Saugus High School after launching campaign on social media site.

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