Paul working for you.

Saturday, December 31, 2016


‘Russian hackers’ penetrate US power grid with ‘outdated Ukrainian malware’

‘Russian hackers’ penetrate US power grid with ‘outdated Ukrainian malware’

‘Russian hackers’ penetrate US power grid with ‘outdated Ukrainian malware’
A Vermont utility sounded the alarm after finding malware code on a laptop that the FBI and DHS had touted as associated with Russian hackers. However, cybersecurity specialists say the code came from an outdated Ukrainian hacking tool. 
 
On Thursday, the FBI and DHS released a joint report on a hacking operation they called ‘Grizzly Steppe’. They claimed the operation was linked to the Russian government, alleging that it had targeted “US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.”


Along with the report, the US security agencies released a sample of the malware code allegedly used in the Grizzly Steppe operation to compromise US computer networks. The code was also shared with executives from 16 industries around the nation, including the financial, utility, and transportation sectors, according to a Washington Post report.

On Friday, Burlington Electric, a Vermont-based power company, released a statement saying that the malware code had been detected during a scan of a single company laptop that was not connected to the grid.

“We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding. Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully,” the statement said.

The US media reported the incident as if Russian hackers had penetrated America’s electric grids, prompting some officials to call on the federal government to protect Americans from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety,” Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin said in a statement.

“This episode should highlight the urgent need for our federal government to vigorously pursue and put an end to this sort of Russian meddling,” he said.

 
Meanwhile, a number of IT specialists that have analyzed the code and other evidence published by the US government are questioning whether it really proves a Russian connection, let alone a connection to the Russian government. Wordfence, a cybersecurity firm that specializes in protecting websites running WordPress, a PHP-based platform, published a report on the issue on Friday.
Wordfence said they had traced the malware code to a tool available online, which is apparently funded by donations, called P.A.S. that claims to be “made in Ukraine.” The version tested by the FBI/DHS report is 3.1.7, while the most current version available on the tool’s website is 4.1.1b.

“One might reasonably expect Russian intelligence operatives to develop their own tools or at least use current malicious tools from outside sources,” the report says.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Bait and Switch

Very Special Legislation-
for the Police Station 

So it looks like bond counsel won't approve borrowing for the Police Station until the vote at town meeting is "fixed". One way to do that is to hold another special town meeting, the other way is to draft Special Legislation:

  Apparently, the police station project was not part of the Capital Improvement Plan which was required by By Law XLII - Capital Planning By Law:

 This is not what was presented at the Special town meeting on November 9, 2015 nor on the ballot.

Town Administrator Report 12/22/16

Town Administrator Report  
12/22/16

I wonder why the Inspector General is coming to Templeton for training? Will ALL departments attend? 



As discussed at the selectmen meeting on Wednesday 12/28/16, the polling location will be changed to the Narragansett Middle School Cafeteria. Check your Census mailing for more information:
 

Audit update: 
So it looks like may be, kinda, sorta, that FY 15 and FY 16 field work  might happen in early February despite the "variety of items" from FY13 and FY 14 that need to be redone.

So the Auditor has agreed to attend the MFOB meeting in January to discuss the elementary school financing. Wonder if his attendance at this meeting will increase the cost of the audits?

More to come...










Full Report HERE

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Templeton's Master Plan

Forum on January 10,  2017

264 pages of everything you wanted to know about Templeton

Mass. legislators move to delay legal marijuana sales

Mass. legislators move to 

delay legal marijuana sales


BOSTON - The process for licensing retail marijuana shops would be delayed by six months under legislation that surfaced Wednesday in the Senate before clearing both branches, the result of which could push the legal sale of marijuana, authorized by a successful ballot campaign this year, well into 2018.

The House and Senate on Wednesday morning during lightly attended informal sessions passed a bill (S 2524) amended by Sen. Jason Lewis, D-Winchester, pushing out the effective dates of several key milestones in the new law, including the dates by which the state will begin accepting applications and issuing licenses for retail pot shop licenses. The state, under the bill, would have until July 2018 to issue the first licenses for retail pot sales.

The move highlights a rare willingness among lawmakers to tinker with a law approved directly by voters.

The bill also directs the Baker administration to contract for a study of marijuana use, including patterns of use and methods of consumption, incidents of impaired driving and marijuana-related hospitalizations and the economic impacts on the state.

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who presided over Wednesday's session, said the bill would not impact any provisions of the new law that went into effect on Dec. 15, including the legalization of possession, use, gifting and home-growing of marijuana. House and Senate officials said the delay would give the Legislature more time to "improve the ballot question, take up issues not addressed by the ballot question and allow the state more time to implement the will of the voters."

"The legislature has a responsibility to implement the will of the voters while also protecting public health and public safety. This short delay will allow the necessary time for the Legislature to work with stakeholders on improving the new law," Rosenberg said in a statement. "Luckily, we are in a position where we can learn from the experiences of other states to implement the most responsible recreational marijuana law in the country."

The bill must still be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker before becoming law. The legislation would give the forthcoming Cannabis Control Commission an extra six months -until March 15, 2018 - to develop initial regulations, and applications for testing facility licenses and for retail sales from established medical marijuana dispensaries would be delayed until April 1, 2018.

HillBilly Weather

HillBilly Weatherman

 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Letter to the editor regarding merger of cemetery and highway departments into a pseudo DPW

Opposition to Creation of Pseudo DPW?

  
 Link to the letter HERE

Irony, anyone?

 

Meetings the Week of December 26, 2016


Meetings the Week of December 26, 2016


Wednesday 12/28/16
BOS                PCS Town Hall*    9:00 am
ZBA                PCS Town Hall*    6:00 pm

* Pauly Cosentino Sr. Town Hall

From the Selectmen’s Agenda for Wednesday:

So what type of chicanery are the selectmen up to during the Holidays?

Rescind the Uniform Office Hours and the resolution creating  a new department - The ODS.

What's all this about Police Station special Legislation? What? Say it ain't so!

How's the lack of a bond rating working out for ya? 

The audits are coming! The audits are coming! 

How many times have you heard that one?
 



Friday, December 23, 2016

NORAD Santa tracker 2016:

NORAD Santa tracker 2016: 

How to follow Santa around the world on Christmas Eve

By Ben Axelson | baxelson@nyup.com
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on December 20, 2016 at 4:06 PM, updated December 22, 2016 at 8:21 AM
 
Want to follow Santa Claus across the skies as he soars around the world on Christmas Eve? The NORAD Santa Tracker is back for 2016 and ready to help.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command will carry on its 61-year tradition of tracking St. Nick on the official NORAD Tracks Santa website.





On the site you and your family can follow along as NORAD pinpoints where on Earth Santa has visited, and follows him to each destination on Christmas Eve. You can also play Christmas games, listen to songs, watch videos and learn facts about Santa, NORAD and holiday traditions from around the world.

The Santa Tracker is also available as an app for your Apple, Android and Windows devices. Twitter users can follow live updates from @NoradSanta on Christmas Eve.

The story of how NORAD first started tracking Santa goes back to 1955 when a Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted a telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead, children were connected to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief's operations "hotline." The director decided to have his staff check for Santa flying down from the North Pole, and callers were given updates on his location.

The tradition was carried on the next year, and continued when NORAD took over in 1958.

Eager Santa followers can begin watching Father Christmas prepare for his journey at 2 a.m. ET on December 24. Santa's journey typically starts at the International Date Line in the Pacific Ocean. He then travels west through Asia, down through Africa then back up through Europe before flying across the Atlantic to visit North and South America.

Of course, if you prefer the classic approach, you can dial the toll-free number 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723) to reach NORAD volunteers helping to track Santa.

You can also send an email to noradtrackssanta@outlook.com for updates on Santa's location.
Eastern Air Defense Sector personnel in Rome, NY, have been training hard in preparation for the big night.

Google also makes it easy to track Santa on google.com/santatracker, where you can play games, see videos and more on Google's virtual Advent Calendar.


AG Healey Calls on the DPU to Investigate Increase in Allowed Profits for Utilities in Massachusetts

AG Healey Calls on the DPU to Investigate Increase in Allowed Profits for Utilities in Massachusetts

Seeks More Transparency in the Department of Public Utilities’ Decision-Making Process; A Decrease in Shareholder Profits Would Save Customers Millions

BOSTON – Attorney General Maura Healey this week called on the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to launch an investigation to explain why the allowed profits for Massachusetts utility companies are going up and are higher than the allowed utility profits in neighboring states. In a letter sent to the DPU Monday, AG Healey urged the DPU to shine more light on--and improve the process used to determine--utility companies’ allowed profits.

In her letter links to PDF file, AG Healey describes the DPU’s final decision-making process for a company’s allowed shareholder profits – known as its rate of return on common equity (ROE) – as less transparent than other public utility commissions.  The DPU does not provide a road map or the specifics for how it arrives at a final allowed ROE number, and the final result often appears inconsistent with the DPU’s other findings.  Small changes in a company’s ROE can either cost or save customers millions of dollars.

“Massachusetts customers should not be paying millions more towards utility profits than customers in neighboring states,” said AG Healey. “As the ratepayer advocate for the state, we must ensure best practices and a transparent process that is understandable to the public. Our office is calling on the DPU to conduct a comprehensive and public review of utilities’ allowed profits and to bring more clarity and openness to the rate-setting process.”

Eversource shifting thousands of retirees to private health insurance

Eversource shifting thousands of retirees to private health insurance

 

Eversource said the move will save $30 million a year in health costs and will benefit its retirees by offering a greater choice of plans. 



Eversource Energy will remove 14,440 retirees from its health care plan in the New Year and will instead offer to reimburse them for buying private insurance, a switch being made by a growing number of big companies to curb costs.

The electricity and natural gas company, the largest in New England, said the move will save $30 million a year in health costs and will benefit its retirees by offering a greater choice of plans through a new private insurance exchange. Eversource spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman said the service, called OneExchange, also may be able to get better deals on health plans because of its greater purchasing power.

“Health care costs are increasing. With more buying power, exchanges like OneExchange can more easily absorb health care cost increases on a larger scale,” Pretyman said.

The effect of the change on retirees will vary, as some of the former workers were already paying for the coverage provided by Eversource, while others received the company plan for free. Meanwhile, OneExchange offers hundreds of different plans that range in price, deductible amounts, and coverage limits.

But the union that represents some of the retirees predicted some members will end up paying significantly higher out-of-pocket expenses that will exceed Eversource’s reimbursement. It also criticized Eversource for making the change in a year that saw the retirement of its longtime chief executive, Thomas May, with a compensation package that included $23 million in accrued retirement benefits.

“If the company really wants to save money, then it should look to the excessive bonus and retirement packages provided to its top executives instead of reneging on its retiree health care obligations,” said Craig Pinkham, president of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 369, which represents about 3,000 retirees.

Other companies have made similar moves to limit retirees’ health costs, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute in Washington, D.C. In 2015 the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., based in Springfield, and General Electric Co, now headquartered in Boston, did away with their traditional retiree plans in favor of giving employees fixed subsidies to purchase plans through exchanges. GE offered retired hourly workers reimbursements of $1,000 per year.

Many other companies are eliminating retiree health benefits all together. A quarter of US employers with 200 or more workers offer coverage to retired employees, down from two-thirds in 1988, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Of the companies that still cover retirees, 6 percent do it through private exchanges.

At Eversource, formed through the 2012 merger of Boston-based NStar and Northeast Utilities of Hartford, most of the affected retirees are older than 65 and eligible for Medicare. They will receive either $2,500 or $3,600 annually to pay for a Medicare supplement plan through OneExchange’s marketplace, depending on when they retired, and their spouses will receive the same amount. Pretyman said May has signed up for insurance through OneExchange and will receive an annual reimbursement of $2,500.

About 1,900 younger retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare will receive $6,500 a year. The change was announced to employees in August and goes into effect Jan. 1.

Depending on the year they retired, former Eversource workers over age 65 had paid $816 a year for the company plan, while those who retired before 2000, according to the union, did not pay premiums.

Now they have to choose their own health care coverage online with the assistance of OneExchange workers. So far, Eversource said its retirees have enrolled in 462 different plans, offered by 51 carriers.

OneExchange, a division of benefits and health care consultancy Willis Towers Watson, connects retirees with Medicare supplemental coverage and prescription plans based on their location.

OneExchange has worked with hundreds of thousands of retirees, is a licensed Medicare broker, and puts new employees through weeks of training before they assist retirees, said John Barkett, director of policy affairs for Willis Towers Watson.

“It benefits both the employer and the retiree most of the time to move to a Medicare exchange, so that both can pay less for a similar plan,” Barkett said.

Pretyman said the average premium for Eversource retirees who are over 65 is about $3,000, meaning the company reimbursement should cover the new premium costs for most. But some worry their out-of-pocket costs are now much higher.

Bill Doherty said his 79-year-old father, William, who retired from the company about 30 years ago, will end up shelling out anywhere from $2,500 to $2,900 for prescription medicine after factoring in the Eversource reimbursement; previously the elder Doherty paid about $200 per year for medicines, his son said.

“For 30 years, he never paid anything close to” $2,500, Bill Doherty said. “It’s a change in their benefit and at 80 years old, a $2,500 change is significant.”

Many children now exceed recommended daily fluoride intake from toothpaste alone.

Many children now exceed recommended daily fluoride intake from toothpaste alone.

Dental Products

Dental products are a major source of fluoride exposure, particularly for children. Fluoridated dental products include toothpastes, mouth rinses, fluoride gels, fluoride varnishes, and fluoride supplements.


How Much Fluoride Are in these Products?

Fluoride Toothpastes (1,000 to 1,500 ppm)
  • Over 95% of toothpastes now contain fluoride.
  • A single strip of toothpaste covering the length of a child’s brush contains between 0.75 to 1.5 mg of fluoride. This exceeds the amount of fluoride in most prescription fluoride supplements (0.25 to 1.0 mg).
  • Many young children swallow over 50% of the paste added to their brush, particularly if they use candy-flavored varieties and if they are not supervised during brushing to ensure they spit and fully rinse. Research has shown that some children swallow more fluoride from toothpaste alone than is recommended from all sources combined.
  • Although dentists now recommend that children only use “a pea-sized amount” of toothpaste, many children use more than this, particularly when the toothpaste has bubble gum and watermelon flavors.
  • Ingesting toothpaste during childhood is a major risk factor for dental fluorosis, and can also cause symptoms of acute fluoride toxicity (e.g., stomach pain, etc).
  • The FDA now requires a poison warning on all fluoride toothpastes sold in the U.S.
Fluoride Mouthrinses (230 ppm)
  • Some mouth rinses now contain fluoride.
  • A single mL of fluoride mouthrinse contains roughly 0.25 mg of fluoride.
  • Between 5 to 15 mL are generally used per rinse, which equates to 1.25 to 3.75 mg of fluoride.
  • Little data is available to show how much of the rinse is ingested.
Fluoride Gels (Self-Applied) (5,000 ppm)
  • Dentists prescribe self-applied gels to those at high-risk of tooth decay.
  • Each mL of gel contains 5 mg of fluoride.
  • Without taking extraordinary precaution to limit the amount of gel that is applied and reduce the amount of gel that is ingested, self-application can result in dangerously high fluoride exposures.
Fluoride Gels (Professionally Applied) (12,300 ppm)
  • A single mL of gel contains 12.3 mg of fluoride.
  • Dentists are now recommended to apply no more than 4 mL when treating children (=49 mg of fluoride), and no more than 8 mL when treating adults (=98 mg of fluoride).
  • The highly acidic nature of the gel greatly increases saliva flow, which makes it largely impossible to avoid swallowing large amounts of it. While few measures were used in the past to limit the amount of fluoride ingested, dentists are now advised to use suction devices and to encourage the child to fully rinse and spit at the end of the treatment.
  • Even when precautionary measures are taken, children swallow an average of 7.7 mg per treatment
  • Adults swallow an average of 10.3 mg per treatment.
  • Symptoms of acute fluoride toxicity (e.g., nausea and vomiting) are common in children receiving fluoride gels.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

College Student Earns 4.0 GPA, Then Drops Out: "You Are Being Scammed!"

College Student Earns 4.0 GPA, Then Drops Out: "You Are Being Scammed!"


Submitted by Lance Schuttler via TheMindUnleashed.com,

Billy Williams just finished his first college semester and did so with the all-impressive 4.0 GPA. Instead of celebrating his accomplishments with friends and family, he decided to drop out of college entirely.
willson
Billy made a facebook post that is now going viral in which he explains his reasoning for dropping out:


“Now that I’ve finished my first semester I think it’s safe to say… FUCK COLLEGE. Now before all you of you go batshit crazy… I have a few points to make.

1. Yes I have dropped out after finishing my first semester (with a 4.0 GPA). And it’s one of the best choices I’ve ever made. Not because I am averse to learning, but actually the exact opposite.

2. YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED. You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will see it some day. Heck you may have already seen it if you’ve been through college. You are being put thousands into debt to learn things you will never even use. Wasting 4 years of your life to be stuck at a paycheck that grows slower than the rate of inflation. Paying $200 for a $6 textbook. Being taught by teacher’s who have never done what they’re teaching. Average income has increased 5x over the last 40 years while cost of college has increased 18x. You’re spending thousands of dollars to learn information you won’t ever even use just to get a piece of paper. I once even had an engineer tell me “I learned more in my first 30 days working than in my 5 years of college.” What does that tell you about this system? There are about a million more ways you’re being scammed into this.. just watch the video i’m gonna comment if you want to see more.

3. Colleges are REQUIRING people to spend money taking gen. ed. courses to learn about the quadratic formula (and other shit they will never use) when they could be giving classes on MARRIAGE and HOW TO DO YOUR TAXES.

4. Gosh there are so many more reasons I could add, but just comment if you disagree or have reasons to add. I’d love to add to the discussion. TAG a friend in college, Tag your parents, share this if you agree, disagree. Let’s just talk about it. Heck post a picture of yourself flipping off something you think is unjust in our society.”
Billy is right too that the price of college continues to soar


Ray Franke, a professor of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Boston said:

Update on "Open Honest and Transparent ?"

Appeals

Well look at this. It seems if the powers that be (TPTB) want to redact a public record, they have to provide a privilege log or detailed response concerning exemption claims.

 
Full Letter

So at what point will the realization be made that it might just be easier to give me the invoices requested in their "un-redacted" state?

How much more time and energy will be spent to keep the public in the dark about how their tax money is spent?

Stay tuned! I'll keep you posted! 



*****************************************



Open, Honest and TRANSPARENT? 
Nope!


In the never ending quest for truth, justice and the American way,
I promised to post the legal invoices from town counsel for the time period of August 2016 to October 2016 when I had them in my possession.  Here they are, sort of.


In all their redacted glory!

Hiding something? 

More borrowers are losing Social Security benefits over old student loans

More borrowers are losing Social Security benefits over old student loans

Over 70% of the $1.1 billion garnished from Social Security to pay student loans only applied to fees and interest.


Reuters
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren criticized the government’s policy of taking Social Security payments to pay back student loans.
 

 

 
By

JillianBerman

Reporter
The typical struggling student loan borrower is often a 20-something weighed down by six-figure debts as he or she looks to start a budding career and adult financial life. But a new report adds to the growing body of evidence that student debt is so widespread that it’s now a challenge faced by Americans of all types.

About 114,000 student loan borrowers over 50-years-old are losing out on a portion of their Social Security benefits because of an old student loan and the number of borrowers over age 65 facing this predicament has increased 540% over the last decade, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress. The government provides federal student loan borrowers with a variety of options to avoid defaulting on their loans, but once a borrower defaults the feds have access to incredible powers to collect on the debt, including garnishing Social Security benefits, wages and tax refunds.
More than 70% of the $1.1 billion collected through Social Security benefits to pay off student loans only applied to fees and interest —meaning that those funds likely barely made a dent toward paying back the borrower’s debt.
The dramatic increase in older borrowers facing these collection tactics is likely due in large part to the growth in older Americans carrying student loan debt; the number of borrowers over 64-years-old increased 385% since 2005, compared with an increase of 62% for borrowers between ages 25 and 49. About three-quarters of older borrowers had taken on loans for their own education -- not their children’s -- and those who are carrying debt on behalf of their kids were less likely to default, the GAO found.

The report indicates that often collections on student loans are increasingly pushing seniors closer to the financial edge. The government has to leave borrowers with a minimum of $750 in Social Security benefits, but that floor was created in 1996 and hasn’t been adjusted for changes in cost of living. In 2016, the poverty threshold for a single adult was $990. About 67,300 borrowers have had their benefits garnished below the poverty line, compared with 8,300 in 2004.

“This report demonstrates just how draconian these Social Security offsets are and how there seems to be a failure at all sorts of levels of this policy,” said Persis Yu, the director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center, a nonprofit group based in Boston, Mass.
GAO
Seniors are increasingly pushed toward poverty because of old student debts.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Winter Solstice

First day of Winter: 

everything you need to know about today's Solstice 

What exactly is the winter solstice?

The December solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on Earth. This year the solstice occurs on Wednesday December 21st at 10:44 GMT (Universal time).

The winter solstice happens every year when the Sun reaches its most southerly declination of -23.5 degrees. In other words, when the North Pole is tilted farthest – 23.5 degrees – away from the Sun, delivering the fewest hours of sunlight of the year.

The Sun is directly overhead of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere during the December solstice and is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year, meaning shorter days and longer nights.

The shortest day of the year lasts for 7 hours 49 minutes and 41 seconds in Britain. This day is 8 hours, 49 minutes shorter than on June Solstice. As such, Tuesday December 20th was the longest night of the year with the sun not rising until 08:04 GMT on Wednesday morning.

The day after the winter solstice marks the beginning of lengthening days, leading up to the summer solstice in June.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite is true. Dawn comes early, and dusk comes late. The sun is high and the shortest noontime shadow of the year happens there. In the Southern Hemisphere, people will experience their longest day and shortest night.

Does the winter solstice always occur on December 21st?

While it more often than not falls on December 21st, the exact time of the solstice varies each year.
Sunrise between the stones at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice in 1985 Photo: Mark GrantSunrise between the stones at Stonehenge on the Winter Solstice in 1985 Credit: Mark Grant

Snakes on plane? No, at Quabbin!

Snakes on a Quabbin island? Not so fast

WESTORO - A state decision on establishing a timber rattlesnake population on Mount Zion at Quabbin Reservoir is at least four months away.

The Fisheries and Wildlife Board on Monday approved a 120-day process that would consider additional comments on the project as well as evaluate concerns about the competence of the science on which the project is based.

The recommendation from the board's Rattlesnake Working Study Group was approved unanimously. The board also set up a Public Survey Working Group and a Science Advisory Group.

Joseph Larson, chairman of the Fisheries and Wildlife Board, told fellow board members that with respect to science concerns, those commenting needed to "identify specific scientific reports that were not adequately considered in planning for the project."

Sometime during the first two weeks of January, the Public Survey Working Group will meet and begin soliciting questions and concerns from their organizations, constituents and contacts.

Within the next month the panel will create a single list of questions and concerns for consideration by the Science Advisory Group.

During the next 30 days, those questions and concerns will be addressed with written comments from both groups.

Those concerns and comments, as well as any recommendations on the project, will be submitted to the Fisheries and Wildlife Board within the next 30-day period.

Asked after the meeting about the board's decision, director Jack Buckley said he would not pre-judge the outcome sometime in the spring, saying it was important to let the process play out.

MassWildlife's proposal to enhance the survival chances of the state's endangered timber rattlesnake population came under fire in January with criticism the proposal had never been publicly vetted, specifically that public safety concerns had not been addressed.

The 13-member committee reviewing the rattlesnake restoration project will include George Peterson, Department of Fish and Game commissioner; Leo Roy, Department of Conservation and Recreation commissioner; Jack Buckley, MassWildlife director; state Sen. Anne M. Gobi, D-Spencer; state Rep. Susannah Whipps Lee, R-Athol; Dan Hammock of the Quabbin Fishermen's Association; and Tony Brighenti of the North Worcester County Quabbin Anglers.

Ms. Gobi on Monday said, "I appreciate that the Fish and Wildlife Board understands the importance of the formation of a working group to discuss in detail the many issues surrounding the proposal to introduce rattlesnakes at the Quabbin." The senator is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "I look forward to being an active participant in the proceedings," she said.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Cautionary Tale

Spencer Water Crisis - April 25-27, 2007

A CAUTIONARY TALE 

From April 25- April 27 2007 the community of Spencer experienced a water crisis when a "chlorine bomb" had been released into the water system.

The full 293 page report can be viewed HERE.

Carter Terenzini was the town manager of Spencer at this time.  

Departmental consolidation had occurred creating an Office of Developmental Services in the Town of Spencer. 

Sound familiar? 

The Town of Spencer also had Fire Chief.

Page 9  from the report:
 Page 150 from the report:
 Page 264 from the report:
Page 279 from the report:

 

Anti-Foreclosure clinic-TODAY









Can't make it? More Anti-Foreclosure Clinics are coming up soon!

•  Thursday, December 22, 5:00-7:30 pm  in Springfield [Download flyer - PDF]
•  Tuesday, December 27th, 5:00-9:00 pm in Somerville
•  Wednesday, December 28th, 5:00-9:00 pm in New Bedford [Download flyer - PDF]

Monday, December 19, 2016

Suck it Up, Buttercup!

"Neutral" Evaluator?

In the rush to consolidate departments to try to achieve some sort of savings to close the budget deficit in the FY 17 budget, the merger of highway and cemetery departments is being considered.

The merger of these two departments is being done hastily, which will probably cause a lot of problems.

Both the cemetery superintendent and the highway superintendent will interview to remain employed by the Town of Templeton. The interim town administrator, Carter Terenzini, has proposed a "neutral" evaluator to interview both candidates. 

The plan is to put the "neutral" evaluator up in a hotel and pay for meals while these interviews are conducted. There is no money in the budget to pay for this.

Maybe a better plan is that the Board of Selectmen actually do the job to which they were elected. 

A better plan might be to  see if one of these long time employees is considering retiring and could train the other long time employee. Both of these individuals have extensive knowledge of the town. The transition period could take place and be beneficial to the town and the employees.

As for "neutral", the evaluator chosen by the interim TA is also a  colleague of the TA. 




 So Templeton selectmen, time to "suck it up, buttercup!"

 





 

Using and Rebuilding Free Cash

Using and Rebuilding Free Cash

Deb Wagner – BOA Springfield Office Supervisor
Tony Rassias - BOA Deputy Director of Accounts

Will this be another banner year for city and town certified free cash, continuing a trend that has exceeded the $1 billion mark each of the last four fiscal years? At this point, it appears that will be the case.

As of close of business on Monday, December 12th, 2016, certified free cash for 243 communities has increased $131.3 million (15%) compared to the prior year’s certification for that same group.

The graph below shows total overall certifications doubling from July 1st, 2009 to July 1st, 2016. Should this trend continue, last fiscal year’s record for free cash will likely again be broken.






However, this isn’t the whole story. A review of the last several free cash certification cycles for all communities reveals that not every entity has experienced an increase in its free cash certification.

This article will provide advice and guidance to those cities and towns where free cash certification has decreased, (see graph below) particularly where it has decreased for two certifications in a row. It will also be helpful to municipalities where certification is in the negative and any community that just wants to improve its free cash position.



What is Free Cash?

Free cash is a term believed to be first used in a 1923 letter from the Commissioner of the Department of Corporations and Taxation (now known as the Commissioner of Revenue) to Boards of Assessors. At that time, surplus funds available for appropriation were considered as unappropriated cash on hand. In that letter, the Commissioner referred to this cash as “free”, and the label “free cash” stuck.

Today, 93 years later, the idea of unappropriated cash available for appropriation remains about the same, although its calculation methodology and supporting documentation are somewhat different.

7 Rules for Using Free Cash
It must first be certified by the Bureau of Accounts from the community’s balance sheet accompanied by certain supporting documents as detailed in the Director of Accounts’ annual letter to accountants and auditors.

To be spent, it must be appropriated by the community’s legislative body applying the usual process for appropriating funds.

The certification is only effective from the date certified until the following June 30, after which any certified balance remaining cannot be appropriated until the amount is certified by the Bureau from the community’s next balance sheet submission.

It may be appropriated in particular for any lawful purpose or in general as an amount to reduce the tax rate, thereby releasing it as revenue applied against the entire omnibus budget.

It cannot be appropriated to an amount greater than the amount certified.

Upon request by the community’s accounting officer, the certification as of July 1 may be updated once during the fiscal year by receipts attributable principally to prior fiscal year property taxes, net of refunds, collected in the current fiscal year between July 1 and March 30. Receipts may also include non-recurrent distributions. An update will not be certified if, in the opinion of the Director of Accounts, the update could result in a negative certification as of the following June 30, and no similar update may be requested for the following fiscal year if an update is certified and a negative certification results.

Be very careful if appropriating it for anything other than one-time expenses or uses, such as capital expenses to paying down unfunded pension and OPEB liabilities. Since free cash is not a guaranteed revenue source, it shouldn’t be used to balance the operating budget. Using it to support ongoing expenses can lead to serious structural budget deficits. Also, replenishment must be planned for during the budget process and supported by strong property tax collections. Appropriating it for ordinary operating purposes could result in continued expenses the following fiscal year, with insufficient revenue to fund them.
      
On Rebuilding or Improving Free Cash

Credit rating agencies look for healthy reserves. Free cash is certainly one such reserve they focus upon to assess a community’s overall fiscal health and its ability to honor its debt obligations. Here are the building blocks of free cash and some tips on how to rebuild or improve free cash position.

Not Using it All - Don’t appropriate the entire certification in the first place. Some communities do; many do not. For certifications as of July 1, 2014, the median average free cash appropriated was 87% of the amount certified. For those that appropriate it all, pay attention to the tips below because your community’s free cash must be entirely rebuilt. For those communities that don’t appropriate it all, what goes unappropriated in one fiscal year becomes a building block for the next fiscal year’s certification.

Meetings the Week of December 19, 2016


Meetings the Week of December 19, 2016

Monday  12/19/16
Conservation                    PCS Town Hall*             7:00 pm  

Tuesday 12/20/16
Veterans                           Legion                               6:30 pm

Wednesday 12/21/16
Economic                        PCS Town Hall*             9:00 am
Adv. Com.                       PCS Town Hall*            6:00 pm



Thursday 12/22/16
Cable                                PCS Town Hall*           6:00 pm
TA Screening                   NRSD Library                6:45 pm
           

* Pauly Cosentino Sr. Town Hall

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kids Turn Violent As Parents Battle "Digital Heroin" Addiction

Kids Turn Violent As Parents Battle "Digital Heroin" Addiction


On August 28, The Post published a piece by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras,“The Frightening Effects of Digital Heroin,” that was based on his book “Glow Kids.” In it, he argued that young children exposed to too much screen time are at risk of developing an addiction “harder to kick than drugs.” The response was overwhelming, generating more than 3.3 million views on The Post’s website and hundreds of letters from anxious parents. Now Dr. Kardaras writes about this parental revolt against digital heroin and reminds readers of the worst effects of the obsession.

Experienced sailors, Barbara McVeigh and her husband exposed their children to the natural beauty near their home in Marin County, Calif. — boating, camping and adventuring in the great outdoors. None of this stopped her 9-year-old son from falling down the digital rabbit hole.

His first exposure to screens occurred in first grade at a highly regarded public school — named one of California’s “Distinguished Schools” — when he was encouraged to play edu-games after class. His contact with screens only increased during play dates where the majority of his friends played violent games on huge monitors in their suburban homes.

The results for Barbara’s son were horrific: Her sweet boy, who had a “big spirit” and loved animals, now only wanted to play inside on a device.

“He would refuse to do anything unless I would let him play his game,” she said. Barbara, who had discarded her TV 25 years ago, made the mistake of using the game as a bargaining tool.

Her son became increasingly explosive if she didn’t acquiesce. And then he got physical. It started with a push here, then a punch there. Frightened, she tried to take the device away. And that’s when it happened: “He beat the s–t out of me,” she told me.

When she tried to take his computer away, he attacked her “with a dazed look on his face — his eyes were not his.” She called the police. Shocked, they asked if the 9-year-old was on drugs.


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Barbara McVeighHandout
He was — only his drugs weren’t pharmaceutical, they were digital.

In August, I wrote a piece about “digital heroin” for the New York Post, and the response was explosive. More than 3 million readers devoured and shared the piece — though not everyone agreed on its message. Some readers felt that the notion of comparing screens and video games to heroin was a huge exaggeration.

I understand that initial response, but the research says otherwise. Over 200 peer-reviewed studies correlate excessive screen usage with a whole host of clinical disorders, including addiction. Recent brain-imaging research confirms that glowing screens affect the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that drugs like cocaine and heroin do. Thanks to research from the US military, we also know that screens and video games can literally affect the brain like digital morphine.

In a series of clinical experiments, a video game called “Snow World” served as an effective pain killer for burned military combat victims, who would normally be given large doses of morphine during their painful daily wound care. While the burn patient played the seemingly innocuous virtual reality game “Snow World” — where the player attempts to throw snowballs at cartoon penguins as they bounce around to Paul Simon music — they felt no pain.

I interviewed Lt. Sam Brown, one of the pilot participants in this research who had been injured by an IED in Afghanistan and who had sustained life-threatening third-degree burns over 30 percent of his body. When I asked him about his experience using a video game for pain management, he said: “I was a little bit skeptical. But honestly, I was willing to try anything.” When asked what it felt like compared to his morphine treatments, he said, “I was for sure feeling less pain than I was with the morphine.”



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Sure enough, brain imaging research confirmed that burn patients who played “Snow World” experienced less pain in the parts of their brain associated with processing pain than those treated with actual morphine.

Anti-Foreclosure Clinic Tuesday 5:30-7:30 pm Athol Public Library









Can't make it? More Anti-Foreclosure Clinics are coming up soon!
 
•  Thursday, December 22, 5:00-7:30 pm  in Springfield [Download flyer - PDF]
•  Tuesday, December 27th, 5:00-9:00 pm in Somerville
•  Wednesday, December 28th, 5:00-9:00 pm in New Bedford [Download flyer - PDF]

Saturday, December 17, 2016

TODAY!


Sugar Rush! 
December 17, 2016

 
10 am- 2 pm

Senior Center!