So I've Heard  
Friday, October 14, 2011


Former Webster Selectman William E. Cunningham appeared before the current board Oct. 3 advocating municipal acceptance of a bylaw to exempt town citizens from a $35 annual charge to park their motor vehicles while at Memorial Beach.

The charge was instituted a couple of years ago, advocated by the town administrator and endorsed by selectmen to maintain and improve the municipal facility. Mr. Cunningham questioned the validity of the charge, levied through the sale of stickers to ¡§people who are paying taxes.¡¨

He got an example of inflation and a sand job report.

Selectman Deborah Keefe suggested that the cost of car stickers and administration of the program accounts for most of the $35 charge.

Chairman Walter Ricci said receipts have resulted already in improvements to the beach with needed deposits of sand.

Mr. Cunningham's proposal would restore a special law enacted in 1958, when a nonresident parking charge was authorized. This and several other special laws were set aside when Webster accepted its first charter. It does not appear that beach receipts are segregated.

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Randall V. and Donna F. Becker gave the town of Webster a half million dollars last month, and it was gone in a minute. The young couple, both lifelong Webster residents, bought three condemned downtown properties.

They'll be torn down, making way for construction of a new police station. The time reference ¡X 11:58 a.m. on Sept. 27 ¡X marks the moment the sale was recorded at the Worcester County Registry of Deeds.

Preliminaries to the big purchase were issuance of a quitclaim deed to the buildings by Shankar and Asha Garg, husband and wife, both of Worcester; and its acceptance by the Board of Selectmen, Walter Ricci, chairman; Jeffrey Duggan, Deborah Keefe and Don Bourque.

Both sets of signatures were recorded Sept. 26, conducted before Notary Publics, enabling the official moment of sale. Official town meeting votes making the sale a gift from the Beckers, were also recorded.

This means that the Board of Selectmen and the Police Station Building Committee can move forward with demolition of the properties. The process will require some time, according to town Assessor Mark D. Becker, who brokered the deal for his brother and sister-in-law, and on behalf of the town.

And, to include the time frame established by Randy and Donna, the gift was recorded before Columbus Day (this past Monday) or the tentative gift deadline established by the donors.

While the Gerald and Marilyn Fels Family Foundation has promised to help the town pay for the new police station and to rehabilitate the existing fire and police station on Thompson Road for fire use only, demolition of the downtown properties will be a municipal expense. It will probably take a year or more before town property owners feel the pinch of the tax overrides allowed for the police-fire projects, but they are inevitable ¡X even as others seem ready to jump on the over levy charge.

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Oxford's Roland Savageau is a self-proclaimed sidewalk superintendent, given to observing construction projects of all kinds in Oxford.

It wasn't planned, but Mr. Savageau had a sleep-deprived night a couple of weeks ago, so he went to Oxford center, where the highways were paved on a work-at-night schedule.

He had the sidewalk superintendent's job all to himself, revealing, ¡§I stayed for about an hour.¡¨

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Anthony B. DiDonato, 89, the longest-serving selectman in Dudley history, died suddenly late last month.

Mr. DiDonato's passing brought tributes from a cross-section of the municipality he served. Therein lies the reason he was remembered by so many: Tony DiDonato worked for and with everybody to make Dudley a better town. It was that simple.

He was humbled by public service, and he humbled others in the process. Norma Cash Smith, the first woman elected a Dudley selectman, came to public life with philosophies opposed to those of Mr. DiDonato. Both were sincere, but absolutely different. There might have been some combative moments, but time brought them to the same general objective, serving Dudley and its citizens.

Ms. Smith died a relatively young woman, and Tony encouraged others in establishing a public square in her honor. It goes without saying that Tony was a Democrat, Norma a Republican, but service became nonpartisan.

The thought here is that a Tony DiDonato-like infusion is the crying need in Washington, D.C.

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Friend Andy Pryga, one of Webster's leading Notre Dame football fans, was exposed to ¡§Fighting Irish¡¨ spirit early in his life, probably from within his family.

There's no explanation, otherwise, for claims that ¡§Notre Dame¡¨ were the first discernable words in his vocabulary. ¡§At least, that's what my mother always told me.¡¨

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The Webster-Dudley Historical Society will sponsor another in its series of railway programs at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 3 in the Chester C. Corbin Public Library.

John Mrazik will provide a historical review of the Great Thompson Railroad Wreck, and Alan Dabrowsaki will offer visuals. The event has been scheduled to commemorate the 110th anniversary of the wreck, says Mr. Mrazik, also program director for the society.

The wreck took place in a fairly isolated part of Thompson, but the Webster Fire Department joined in battling the blaze. A pumper truck was loaded onto a flatbed railroad car and pushed to the scene by an engine, according to a report published at the time.

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