2020: What A Year!
Tales of the year 2020 around the world, the country, and right here in Norwood will certainly be remembered and described as 12 months of uncertainty, turmoil, and eventful. The following excerpts are just a taste of what hit our front pages each month. To read the articles in their entirety, visit www.localtownpages/papers/norwood.
Norwood Police Collect AAA Traffic Safety Awards
Congratulations to Norwood Police Chief William G. Brooks III and Sgt. Timothy M. McDonagh on their awardsw at the Annual AAA Community Traffic Safety Awards luncheon on November 15, 2019. Chief Brooks was awarded the AAA Northeast Gold Award – its highest award – for the Norwood Police Department’s outstanding achievement in traffic safety and continuing efforts to educate and protect the citizens of Norwood. Sgt. McDonagh was awarded the Traffic Safety Hero of the Year award for his efforts to implement and coordinate various grant programs related to traffic safety.
According to Mark Schieldrop of AAA Northeast, 33 awards were given to local Traffic Safety Heroes and police departments that year.
“The individual award winners are nominated by police chiefs who are asked to nominate officers or community members who show strong commitment to traffic safety issues and have a record of enforcement and community engagement on issues like drunk and impaired driving, pedestrian safety, child passenger safety, speeding, reckless driving and the like,” Schieldrop said.
New Digs for Light Department
When Norwood Municipal Light Department Superintendent James F. Collins, Jr., joined the department, one of the things he said he thought was needed was to “get the trucks indoors,” for personnel safety, equipment longevity and faster response time. That was 1976. Today, a brand-spanking-new 29,985 square foot vehicle storage area has made this long-awaited need a reality.
The Norwood Light Department, which serves Norwood with electric, cable, high-speed internet and phone services, has consolidated the majority of its operations to 135 Access Rd. Move-in began on January 17. The only thing that will remain in the old building is the head-end broadband room – the room that houses all of the programming and equipment to service Broadband customers. The new building also centralizes the stock area for both electric light and cable needs in its 12,077 square foot warehouse. The vacated building on Central Ave. will be used by the Town for other needs.
Calling all Norwood Businesses ... We Want To get To Know You!
Norwood has been known as a business-friendly community for many years. In its continuing efforts to promote local businesses, it has initiated Local Business Friday.
Joseph Collins, a relative newcomer to the Town’s administrative roster, joined its ranks as a budget and management analyst in mid-July of 2019 by way of North Attleborough’s town hall and that of Ashland, Virginia. In addition to his budget and management responsibilities, Collins manages the Town’s social media platforms. He conceived the new Local Business Friday initiative in order to further promote Norwood businesses through the Town’s multimedia presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
There are over 4,000 businesses in Norwood encompassing a wide variety of products and services. From business and professional services, personal care services, legal and financial services, to retail, restaurants, health care, education, arts and entertainment, sports and recreation, transportation, automotive, construction, real estate, home improvement and maintenance services such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, decorators, landscapers and locksmiths. All of Norwood’s businesses, large and small, commercial and industrial, are welcome and encouraged to participate.
Interested? This is how it works. Business owners or branch managers must complete an application which asks that you provide basic information about your business as well as the reasons why you would like to participate. The application can be found on the Town’s website at: www.norwoodma.gov/Local%20Business%20Friday%20Application%20Fillable.pdf. Once Collins receives the application, he will contact the business owner/manager to set up a time for a brief interview. That’s all there is to it!
Norwood Prepares for Coronavirus
The Town of Norwood is one small slice of the nation working to contain and eliminate the coronavirus (COVID-19), but that part of the pie is essential to its residents to stay healthy while attempting to proceed through life’s daily tasks and pleasures. So what has Norwood been doing?
The crisis hit very close to home when Norwood Town Manager was tested positive for the virus on March 9 after being exposed from a local fundraiser. The Norwood school superintendent was also exposed, but as of this writing, no positive test was released.
On March 16, Norwood announced that Town Hall and municipal services would be closed through March 20.
On March 16, Norwood Public Schools also made an announcement following a mandate from Massachusetts Governor Baker that all Norwood schools would be closed through at least April 7. This is the information available to this newspaper as of this writing on March 17, but for complete up to date reports on local restrictions and closings, and state and national statistics on the coronavirus, visit Norwood’s town website at www.norwoodma.gov, www.norwood.k12.ma.us, www.ma.gov, and cdc.gov.
Local Businesses React to Covid-19
The world is currently enduring a time of unprecedented challenges due to the emergence of the Covid-19 virus. It continues to affect all ages, nationalities, and socio-economic backgrounds.
When the virus first emerged in Wuhan, China in 2019, it seemed like a faraway problem. Nevertheless, in early March of 2020, the pandemic hit close to home when 11 of Norwood’s town officials were exposed.
On March 31, Governor Baker issued an order for the closure of non-essential businesses and organizations for in-person operations. These businesses span every industry including retail, hospitality, goods and services etc.
Norwood businesses are giving back to the community and staying strong to support one another.
“Ever since closing our doors to be part of the solution, we donated our unused face masks to front line staff and Norwood Hospital,” Swan Thang, Sky Spa nail salon owner said.
According to an estimate by the Department of Health and Human Services, in the United States alone, fighting the coronavirus will consume 3.5 billion face masks. Still in early March, Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, testified that there are only about 40 million masks in the stockpile — around 1 percent of the projected national need.
Making a Global Difference
Norwood residents heavily rely on the Department of Public Works which manages the Winter Street Recycling Center. Some changes were made in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. The hours of operation are still Saturdays, 8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. for disposal of leaves, brush, and cardboard. No other items will be accepted until further notice.
Textiles to recycle can be dropped them off at the boxes located at all Norwood schools and at the Savage Center at 275 Prospect St. If the school boxes are full, you are asked not to leave your bags on the ground and not to put the items into the regular trash. The simple recycling (pink bags) service for collecting textiles will be resurrected at some point in the future.
Free compost is available at the Recycling Center. This compost is made from the leaf and grass donations made by residents each season. Last year, Norwood implemented a Residential Food Scrap Program to help keep food scraps out of regular trash and support overall recycling objectives.
According to the DPW, trash and recycling collection and disposal costs are determined by the amount of weight we put into our respective carts each week. “Each year, Norwood residents throw away over 1,100 tons of food scraps into the trash costing taxpayers over $200,000. Every year!!” That’s a lot of waste every year when the money can be better spent on schools, roads, and other necessary programs.
Trust & Policing in Norwood
By now, we have all learned about the death of George Floyd at the hands (or knee) of a Minneapolis police officer while three other officers looked on, and the ensuing demonstrations, some of which became violent. As a result, there have been calls for defunding, disbanding, or restructuring police departments and removing the special immunity to personal prosecution that police officers are afforded, all of which has been front page news for several weeks displacing news of the COVID-19 pandemic and other high interest news such as the upcoming presidential election.
In light of all this, I interviewed Norwood Police Chief William G. Brooks III to find out what kind of training the Norwood Police Department (NPD) receives and how he felt about recent events.
“When I first watched the video of George Floyd’s death I wasn’t really prepared for just how long it would go,” Chief Brooks said. “Watching it on my computer I found myself saying ‘get him up, get him up.’ There is a procedure for when a handcuffed person becomes compliant, that you first roll him to a sitting position and then roll him into a standing position. Our officers have all been taught how to do that. It made me nauseous to watch the officer keep his knee pressed on Mr. Floyd’s neck until he died. And I was appalled by the arrogance he displayed.”
Many times, when a use of force event is in the media, it is discussed within the NPD. These discussions take a number offorms. Sometimes a policy is reissued to officers pointing out the aspect of Norwood’s policy that would have addressed the event.
“We have discussions within the Command Staff around policy and training issues, and whether we should make adjustments,” Chief Brooks explained. “Officers also discuss the incident among themselves. And we bring the issue up at roll call. What our officers recognized was a clear failure to intervene. They know that they have a duty to intervene when they see a use of force that is starting to get unreasonable.”
All Norwood officers have also been trained in Procedural Justice. Police misconduct and use of force have come under increasing scrutiny and public attention. The procedural justice model of policing, which emphasizes transparency, explaining policing actions, and responding to community concerns, has been identified as a strategy for decreasing the number of interactions in which civilians experience disrespectful treatment or the unjustified use of force.
A Storm Like No Other
I was in the basement cleaning up the mess from my oil tank that had ruptured two days before when I heard sirens screeching. It was late afternoon on June 28. They stopped for a minute or two then screeched again. And again, I wondered what was happening, and thought it must be something big for so many emergency vehicles to be blaring for so long.
It must have something to do with the storm, I reasoned, as I felt my way to the cellar stairs, ankle deep in water. Before the lights went out, I watched as water pushed through the steel door to my basement. I made the mistake of opening it to check that the large drain was open, which it was, and the entire build-up in the cellarway pushed its way in, soaking me in the process. As I gathered my shovel and brooms the lights went out. I would not learn what happened until the following day.
I was still reeling from all the problems I experienced over the past month – downed trees, plumbing problems and cleanup needed to facilitate the installation of a new oil tank – and was feeling a bit sorry for myself when I learned that the sirens were emergency vehicles brought in to transport patients from Norwood Hospital to other facilities. I saw photographs of cars floating in the hospital parking lot and learned that the entire basement that housed all of the electrical and mechanical systems was under water and no longer usable. I learned quite quickly that there were many people worse off than me.
Two trapped employees were rescued by Norwood firefighters from Ladder 1. Fire departments from Canton, Sharon, Westwood, Foxboro, Stoughton, Needham, Randolph, Walpole, Norfolk, Millis, Mansfield, Hanson, Abington, Whitman, Brockton, East Bridgewater, Hansen, and Norwell were all called in to help with evacuation efforts. The Lorusso Building suffered the most damage, but the entire hospital had to be evacuated – in all, more than 150 patients, 100 that evening and the rest the following day. An inspection was made and it was determined that the hospital was not fit for occupancy and temporarily closed.
While the hospital was the hardest hit, it was by no means the only one. The Heritage Baptist Church on Washington Street sustained considerable damage. The flooding originated from the back parking lot behind the building. Heritage Pastor Thomas Krampert said that the pressure was so strong that it broke the glass doors in the back, flooded into the building and the entire basement was submerged from floor to ceiling.
A number of other businesses experienced flood damage as did many homeowners. In a video address to the townspeople, Town Manager Tony Mazzucco said that business damage was still being reported and some homeowners were reporting damages of $50,000 or more. As I listened to Mazzucco’s video, I heard another sweet sweeper working on our street. In the 50-plus years I’ve lived here, they have seldom visited our little street more than once a year. It was the third day in a row they were here.
The Corner of Cottage and Nichols
He’s been called ‘Martini Man’, ‘Cat-man-do’ and, ‘The Earl of Norwood’, but his given name is Steven Paradis. He’s been a Norwood resident for 12.5 years and lived in the same house at the corner of Cottage and Nichols the whole time.
His habit of wandering the neighborhood with a martini while walking a cat didn’t begin in Norwood. It started years earlier while living in Boston’s Back Bay during a particularly stressful time in his life. He said that he and his cat Otter, who is no longer with him, walked up and down the street every afternoon. Paradis is by nature a very gregarious man and thoroughly enjoys meeting and talking with people. During our interview, many passersby waved or called greetings to him.
While sipping and observing on the corner, Paradis said he has gotten to know a lot of Norwood residents. “People stop by all of the time,” he said. He especially enjoys the company of a retired physicist in his mid-80s who drops by every 10 days or so and stays to chat for about an hour.
“This corner here is the nicest place in Norwood,” Paradis said. “And my neighbors are amazing!”
Sirens Active with Summer Heat
The Norwood Fire Department (NFD) has been very busy during the months of July, August, and September. With two weeks to go this month, there have been 29 fires that our NFD firefighters have extinguished. Thirteen of those fires were mulch fires.
“The extremely dry summer season with not a lot of precipitation made conditions conducive to mulch fires this year,” Norwood Fire Chief George T. Morrice said.
The other fires involved buildings, vehicles, and a dumpster.
From the end of July to the end of August, there were three house fires and a flames erupted at the Certain Teed Plant on August 29th. According to the department’s Facebook page, the process of making roof shingles is very dangerous and can often start fires. Because of this, the Norwood Fire Department and CertainTeed have formed a close relationship over the years. Once a year, at minimum, they conduct a familiarization tour and pre-incident planning of the site with site supervisors.
An interesting fact about the plant is they are one of the few factories left that still employ a fire brigade. A majority of these fires can be handled by the CertainTeed Fire Brigade who are both workers at the plant and trained in fire suppression.
“Firefighters have come to know that there are not many false alarms that come from their location at 1077 Pleasant Street,” Morrice said. “If an alarm or a phone call is received, there is a fire and it is bigger than the fire brigade can handle. It is for this reason that a full first alarm assignment of two Norwood Engines and Ladder, both ambulances, and a mutual aid Walpole Engine is dispatched on the receipt of a call.”
Thankfully, this fire was put out within two hours and there were no injuries.
Asked if the fires seemed to be increasing this year, Chief Morrice looked at the data from the same period of July through September for 2017 through 2020. In 2017 there were 30 fires, in 2018 there were 23 fires, in 2019 there were 21 fires and, as of September 16, 2020 there have been 29 fires. Data was not readily available as to the types of fires for the previous years, but it would appear that the trend is up and that the dry summer season and lack of rain has contributed to this year’s increase.
Every Day Should be Small Business Saturday
Holiday shopping, already? It always sneaks up on me! You couldn’t entice me to shop on Black Friday, nor do I choose to order gifts via the internet on Cyber Monday. But, I would definitely venture out on Small Business Saturday, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, to do a bit of shopping.
Before you “click to check out” on Amazon, consider the plight of local businesses that were already struggling to compete with Amazon ahead of the lockdown. Consider that they pay local taxes which benefits our community. Does Amazon help our local economy? The answer is a resounding NO! In fact, aside from tax avoidance (they make billions of dollars but paid no federal income tax for two years in a row), Amazon has a dubious track record on many issues including workers’ rights and the environment. So, do you really need to make that purchase on Amazon or can you use your money in a way that benefits the community? Shopping locally and early will help secure jobs, too.
If you have not been shopping in downtown Norwood recently, you might want to give it a try. Despite a few empty storefronts, there are a number of vital businesses just waiting to give you the personal service that is missing at the mall and on-line. In fact, there are more than 100 shops within a 16-block radius that would welcome your business.
But holiday shopping is not what sustains a business, and many Norwood businesses are available for your everyday needs such as prescriptions and other pharmacy items offered by the Norwood Pharmacy on Broadway who says that they accept all Medicare-D plans and Masshealth and offer lower prices than CVS or Walgreens, and more specialized services such as the state-of-the art A&E Driving School which is licensed by the Registry of Motor Vehicles and offers driver training for all ages.
Small business owners pride themselves on their personal service. We don’t get that at the malls. And we certainly don’t get it shopping on line. But, one day of sales is not going to sustain any business. Small Business Saturday is a great idea, but if we want to help our downtown and local businesses grow and thrive, we need to patronize them regularly. So, shop locally and often, not just on Small Business Saturday. It’s a win for them and for us when we do!!
Whether you are looking for someplace to eat, shop, or get pampered, there are many goods and services available to you in Norwood. For a list of local businesses, visit the Friends of Norwood Center Facebook page at https://www.norwoodcenter.org/
Fallen Soldiers Remembered with Wreaths Across America
Spending time with family and friends during the holidays is what warms the heart. However, many people spend this time remembering those they have lost. Many of those loved ones were in America’s armed forces, and what better way to truly embrace the seasonal spirit than to honor the heroes through Wreaths Across America (WAA) who gave up their lives so Americans could continue to live in peace and harmony.
Norwood is paying tribute to those veterans for a third year with Wreaths Across America, a national movement to honor those who are often forgotten. The mission is to REMEMBER fallen U.S. Veterans, HONOR those who serve, and TEACH your children the value of freedom by coordinating wreath-laying ceremonies with Arlington National Cemetery. More than 1,600 locations in all 50 U.S. states participate.
Norwood donations have increased each year and local coordinator Andrea Reed is turning to the local community again to assist with funding to place wreaths of local service men and women’s graves at Highland and Old Parish Cemeteries. In past years, there was a public ceremony for the dedication, however, due to COVID restrictions, participation unfortunately is limited. With these constraints, the focus of this year’s event is donations. Last year, 195 wreaths were delivered; 45 were donated by Ecolab (local coordinator Andrea Reed’s employer), 35 were donated by Grace Baptist Church, and 115 were generous donations!
“We are going to try to live stream the event to include those who would have loved to volunteer so that they are able to participate at home, if they choose,” Reed said. “The Colonial Pipers played bagpipes to start and end the event and John Mahoney (Boston Symphony Orchestra) played taps. The whole event was impactful and moving and we are inviting them to play again this year.”