Editor’s Note: For this week’s column, we sat down with Town Meeting Member Peter Manoogian and asked him what makes Precinct 10 so special and what he sees as the top issues in the Saugus neighborhoods he represents. Manoogian, who turns 69 next month, spent 34 years as an educator before retiring. First elected in 1985, he has never lost an election. He has served East Saugus and all of Saugus in a variety of roles, including three terms as a selectman, past member and Chairman of the Saugus Finance Committee, past Chairman of the 2007-2009 Charter Commission, Vice Chairman of the Saugus School Committee (2015-2017), and many appointed sub-committees of Town Meeting, most recently being on the Ballard School Study Committee. He is a 1972 graduate of Saugus High School. He received his bachelor’s degree in History from Salem State College (1976), a master’s degree in public administration from Suffolk University (1991) and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Salem State College (2001). He and his wife Sandra, have three grown-up children: Peter, who lives in Winchester; Alex, who lives in Saugus; and Julianne, who lives in Charleston – all Saugus High graduates. His service and advocacy for his community and his precinct resulted in his being named Saugus Person of the Year in 2018. Some highlights of that interview follow:
Q: Please tell me a little bit about your Saugus roots.
A: My father moved here in the 40s from the Armenian enclave in Watertown. Moving from the urban part of Watertown to Saugus is like from Saugus to the inner woods of Maine.
Q: What makes Precinct 10 special?
A: It’s always had diversity because it’s the most affordable part of town. Bristow Street and Venice Ave. are an Italian enclave. Demographically, East Saugus has had a history of ethnic and cultural diversity. We have many Jews in East Saugus, many Poles and French Canadians. We once had the largest lobster fleet on the East Coast based right here in Saugus. It’s still an economic factor. We have two active boatyards in East Saugus and social clubs – the Italian American Club and the Fox Hill Yacht Club. The tight-knit families for many years have characterized East Saugus. The area has always had its share of political characters. East Saugus has always had people active in government.
Q: Please tell me a little bit about the history.
A: There was a controversy that they were going to build the Town Hall where it is now, so East Saugus wanted to secede from the town. East Saugus was going to break away, so to pacify East Saugus, new water pipes were installed. A lot of your infrastructure is in East Saugus. The sewer pump station used to be a public library. Saugus General Hospital was right on Chestnut Street. We had the Ballard School.
There’s a lot of interesting history in this part of town. Washington and Lafayette went over Boston Road to get to Salem. There was talk of having an oil tank farm here in the 30s. The Patriots were talking about building a football stadium here in the 1960s. There was also talk of a commuter rail station. A lot of noted Saugus High athletes came from East Saugus. A lot of GE factory workers and World War II veterans lived in East Saugus.
Q: What about famous people who lived here?
A: Marian L. Starkey, who wrote “The Devil in Massachusetts: A Modern Enquiry into the Salem Witch Trials.”
Q: Anything else?
A: The great paradox for East Saugus is that it generated so many elected officials. But in spite of that, these same elected officials have sacrificed East Saugus. East Saugus has been affected by the globalization of industry. The thing that’s always frustrated me is people are so willing to say “Put it down there.”
Q: So, what are pressing issues for you in Precinct 10? What would you like to see happen to improve your neighborhood?
A: Two things that I would like to see; I want the ash landfill shutdown. I don’t think the people of Saugus and East Saugus should have to bear the burden of accepting a substandard trash-burning facility that can’t possibly meet current emission standards and – currently outrageous – is to allow an unlined ash landfill to double in height over the next 20 years.
The second thing I’d like to see happen would be the demolition of the Ballard School and the creation of the Ballard Gardens Passive Park.
Q: Any historical markers in the precinct?
A: There’s a monument on Willis Street, at the corner of Chestnut and Winter Street, for Frederick Willis, who was from Saugus and was Speaker of the House in Massachusetts – 1945-48. He was a Republican.
Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the residents of Precinct 10, in your opinion?
A: There are several challenges. The rising waters are one. People in the Houston Ave. area – Venice, Beachview, Winston Street; that area – are seeing waters rise more frequently, flooding, the effects of climate change. Also, the impact of the incinerator, which more and more people in Saugus are aware of since the latest noise incident, which woke up all of Saugus.
And also the opportunities – there are opportunities in East Saugus, too. There’s opportunity for quality growth and redevelopment that is consistent with what you would want to see in a New England coastal town. The opportunity will come once the Riverwalk gets built and the completion of the Fox Hill/Belden Bly Bridge. This will be a big improvement for the area for the people who use the water. And the Riverwalk will result in a rebuild of the boat launch area. So, there’s definitely opportunity and there’s challenges to that as well.
Q: What about the package store property at 206 Lincoln Ave. – the site of the former Amato’s Liquor Store?
A: As far as the package store property, the people really came together in great East Saugus fashion. They came together, they raised money. They made it clear that they were going to fight any proposal. They tried to claim that it was an educational facility under the Dover Amendment. When we asked for the details that would support the Dover Amendment, they couldn’t produce anything.
A: So, it was obviously a ruse to get into an apartment building. But that being said, I think the neighbors are open-minded – because it is commercially zoned – to some sort of rezoning for modest use of condominiums, or multifamily, that is consistent with the neighborhood and results in improvements to the sidewalk and drainage. So, the neighbors are not opposed to seeing the site being redeveloped in a noncommercial way.
But someone has to come forth with a proposal. Like any proposal, talk to the neighbors first. Don’t try to steamroll over them.
Q: Any other big issues in Precinct 10? There’s no question that WIN (Waste Innovations) is the biggest one. Or is it the biggest one? Is the flooding bigger than WIN?
A: I think the two go hand in hand. You can’t talk about rising waters and flooding without talking about the impact of raising the height of that landfill to 100 feet. We’ve already shown Town Meeting – the four of us [four of five Precinct 10 Town Meeting members] – as you know, Peter Delios did not support us. Peter Delios supported the increase of the height, 50 to 100 feet, after he promised us, when we interviewed him to fill Mike Serino’s vacancy, that he’d never do it. That to me was the biggest political disappointment that I’ve had, as a Precinct 10 Town Meeting member: to see Peter Delios break his word to the people of Precinct 10 and vote in the deciding vote to shut down discussion on the Town Meeting floor, which ended up denying Precinct 10 residents – the very people he represents – the opportunity to speak.
And that’s why I passed that bylaw. I put forth that bylaw that got passed – that you now need a nine-tenths vote to shut down the public. Yeah, flooding and WIN, the two go hand-in-hand.
We’ve proven to Town Meeting that four out of six sites that we did soil samples had excessive amounts of lead in them – that we know that there’s lead in the environment. We know that that landfill is a known lead producer, from the solid waste that goes through there – burning the metals, and so forth. And there’s lead in our environment. Why people want to allow more lead in the community… I could show you where two kids on Hemingway had lead poisoning. I proved it to them. But it fell on deaf ears.
Q: Any other issues in Precinct 10? Anything else you want to talk about?
A: Well, the redevelopment of the Ballard School – Ballard Gardens – I’d like to see. I’m grateful for Town Meeting support on that, for the Ballard Gardens. I would hope that the town manager demolishes the buildings in Cliftondale Square for additional parking – and that he put together a bid for all three of those sites, so we can get to do all the demolition at once. I see that the Ballard School project is a five to seven year project. That would be fantastic, not only for the neighborhood, but for the whole area.
Q: Anything else? Do you think there will be a good turnout for next Monday night (Oct. 23)?
A: I hope it’s a good turnout. I do want to say that the delegation in Precinct 10 – myself, Darren Ring, Carla Scuzzarella and Martin Costello – we’ve worked well together. You remember, in the beginning, we came up with a list of issues – sidewalk issues, tree issues, infrastructure issues – that we presented. We’ve worked through the system. We communicate with the town manager’s office, and the things do get done. There’s a process for getting things done. We work through the town manager’s office and they’ve been responsive to us. And if you drive by, you’ll see that Warren Road just got paved today. We went through that. If you noticed, there’s elevated sidewalks across the street that got taken care of. We got a great delegation – the four of us. The four of us work well together and we spent many hours trying to convince Town Meeting that raising the height of this landfill is not in the best interests of our precinct or the whole town.