Friday, March 7, 2014

Why the obstruction?, by Jennifer Marie Bellan

How Winchester treats its volunteers is disgraceful.

If you volunteer to serve on a town board, you had better be ready to support the agenda pushed by special interests in the town or your service will be deemed lesser-than, or worse, you will be seen as an impediment to their plans. I found this out when I sat as an alternate on the planning board. I even had to fight to be allowed to volunteer for this position because the then-chairman tried to block me!

Instead of fixing the historic districts ordinance so that it can work for the town, a warrant article has been inserted by a special interest group’s petition to eliminate the historic districts. Judging by the non-verbal communication exhibited between a couple of historic district commission board members and the land use officer and the now chairman of the planning board during the public hearings, the due diligence attempted by the commission board will be rendered a waste of time, because there are already two members who’ll vote the way the special interest group desires.

The Winchester Historical Society is not the historic district commission and has nothing to do with the management of the historic districts. The society runs entirely on volunteers and what money is raised through membership dues. The board of selectmen and the budget committee voted to not recommend the society’s warrant article asking the town for $5,000. That’s shameful as the society is the caretaker of the town’s history, plus, it houses the town’s antique fire equipment at no charge to the town.

During the past year, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who worked hard to fulfill their charge to investigate the consolidation of the town’s two libraries. Judging by the remarks made by certain selectmen, the commission’s report was not what they wanted to hear. Actually, it isn’t clear what the selectmen wanted this commission to do, because they now claim it was never their intention to close the Thayer Library — even though that’s what “consolidation” would mean in probate court.

And, why would a Thayer Library trustee run again for a trustee spot when he didn’t fulfill his obligations as a current trustee? Not only has he not attended a trustee meeting for the last two years (since March 2012), or ever once volunteered at the library, but he sat on the budget committee and voted against funding the library. The Thayer Library is another entity that runs entirely on unpaid volunteers. None of us receives the rent-free house plus half of our oil bill paid for by the town as this trustee’s nephew did as the prior librarian.

Of course, you can say that nobody is forcing me to volunteer and that I am foolish for doing so. But, are you saying then that all of those other wonderful Winchester volunteers, often the same people time and time again because no one else volunteers, are also foolish for trying to make Winchester a better place to live?
If you are, then that is the biggest disgrace of all.

Jennifer Marie Bellan
 P.O. Box 3


O. Blivious said...

There was no need to have a committee to investigate the consolidation of two town libraries. The town has ONE library only. Thayer is a private organization run by volunteers with private money. That's like investigating whether a privately run neighborhood watch group should be consolidated with the Winchester Police Dept. Same with the Historical Society. It is a project run by volunteers and supported by donations. If there are not enough donations or volunteers to run it then it will have to close just like any other business that fails. If people aren't jumping up and down when when you come to volunteer, take the hint and stay home rather than working for no money and no thanks.

Concerned said...

to O.Blivious said... at 3:53pm,
As your name indicates, you certainly are oblivious... Such sad commentary you make of town citizens who are trying, and yes, often without thanks, to bring positive thought and action to Winchester/Ashuelot.

Anonymous said...

The poor overburdened taxpayers of this town already subsidize Sheridan House each year. In 2013 the normal tax bill for $293K assessed valuation would be $9003.89 ($30.73/1000 tax rate). The historical society pays zero taxes. Now they want $5000 more for a glorified social club, that's shameful! It would be cheaper for the town to store the antique fire equipment elsewhere.

Scratching my head said...

Wow! O.Blivious - what part of Thayer Public Library do you not get? It's NOT a "private" library.

It is also the only town department that is forced to run solely on volunteer service.

Thank you Jennifer for all of your volunteer service.

Anonymous said...

Jen, just a few things I noticed about your letter. First as you admit, you had to force yourself onto some of the boards you referred to, then when they didn't put out the welcome matt or liked the way you operated or caused large legal bills for us to pay you complain about not being accepted or thanked for your hard work? I think you should take another look at the problem there.
You called the people who supported and signed the petitioned warrant article to disband the Historical districts "special interest group"? When I signed it I noticed almost everyone supporting it lived in theses districts, and had to deal with the HDC holding them back, if this is what you call special interest, then so be it. What I have noticed is just about every single person who has supported these districts staying don't actually live in them, so why would they care about the rules and regulations people living in these districts have to live by when they can go home and do as they like to their own property's? This includes the HDC members, does any of them live in a historical district?
The Sheridan house is a victim of a town putting all tax payers in a strangle-hold. Yes 5,000$ is not a lot of money and could go far in helping our Historical society, but we are at a point that the property owners just cant keep up with the tax bills anymore, Many things they cant control but extra spending warrants they can.
After looking through the town report I cant see where you own any property or pay property tax, so it would be easy to see how you don't understand that supporting every thing with tax payer money is becoming a problem.

Many other people have also volunteered and worked hard, They didn't write letters about it or go around patting themselves on the back, that's not why you volunteer. When it was no longer enjoyable for them, or they didn't feel their volunteering was worth what they had to put up with, they simply just walked away. no complaints, no letters, and no asking for a thanks.

Ronnie C. said...

What a coward ( above commenter ) to hide behind the anonymous feature while belittling someone who had not only enough courage to put her name to her letter to the editor; but also the guts to stand up and tell it like it is. Typical for the type of person who attacks others because they expose the tyranny in this town and the attitudes of those who haven't a clue.

amanda said...

its not just social club Jenn has brought to the fore front history, showcase history of Winchester I think what stinks is to hear garbage from such jealous people of the work she has done and others to make sense of other peoples messes what other articles ask for money this chump change you wonder why we have trashy Main St and ugly store fronts its not uncommon to have house that holds history genealogy im from Worcester Ma i grew up around art museum,higgins armory,Salisbury Mansion,ecotarium,Worcester Historical Museum,Established in 1877, the WHM collects and interprets the city's history through its permanent exhibits of relics, clothing, and writings. then theres Salem Ma who has far more history. Jenn and others didnt do this for themselves they did this for Winchester you seemed to forget other members that are Vets that helped with this project in the 90's didnt get paid what they did clean the place with there heart and sweat i think people should help bring the history to the fore front