SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

April 11, 2013

Heard Around Town: In Peabody, a million here, a million there

PEABODY — If you were expecting to have a new Higgins Middle School costing roughly $83 million, you might have been startled when the figure coming out of the School Building Authority was actually $92 million.

Earlier, discussions centered around the former — and lower — figure, after all.

What caused the increase? Had someone neglected to carry the nine? Did they order extra book bags? Will the floors be heated?

No. The answer is a bit more understandable. The increase actually stems from the reluctance of the state to give the kids an auditorium. Instead, they offered a stage, but no place for the audience. “The other option,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt said, “was a ‘cafetorium.’”

Dinner theater?

Anyway, it wasn’t enough for the mayor, who cites the need to support “the great performing arts we have in our middle school.” Additionally, an auditorium can be used for civic events.

As soon as the state balked on the auditorium, Bettencourt expressed his determination to have such a facility. Now, the city, on its own, will produce the extra money needed to put one in.

Remembering

The Holocaust Center, Boston North director and co-founder Harriet Wacks had a few tense moments at Monday’s Holocaust Memorial at Peabody High School.

She juggled the schedule when it proved difficult to locate featured speaker, former Boston College history professor Paul Breines, allowing Salem State University President Patricia Meservey to talk first.

Finally, she asked from the podium if Breines was in the hall. He promptly got up and headed for the stage.

“I was pretty freaked out,” a relieved Wacks joked to the gathering as he approached. “He doesn’t look like his picture.”

It’s not easy running these events.

Wacks was the center of attention a short time later when Sandy Weitz, daughter of co-founder and death camp survivor the late Sonia Weitz, presented her with framed photos to honor 30 years of helping establish and run the center.

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