SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 29, 2012

Heard Around Town: Planning board and council set joint meeting

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — Tuesday’s City Council vote on banning marijuana dispensaries and growing facilities in Peabody — it was 10-1 to begin that process — attracted the attention of New England Cable News. The next step is a meeting of the Planning Board and council at the end of December.

NECN reporter Josh Brogadir interviewed the prime mover of the plan, Mayor Ted Bettencourt, and asked the big question: Is the city planning to defy the will of the voters?

Bettencourt replied that he is acting “in the best interest of the city of Peabody,” and he pointed to the fact that he, too, had the support of the electorate, having won his seat a year ago.

Meanwhile, some of the same councilors who voted to back the mayor admitted that they also voted in favor of the marijuana referendum question — Dave Gamache, Mike Garabedian and Arthur Athas, for example. Nevertheless, they don’t want the facilities in Peabody.

The only member not supporting the mayor was Bob Driscoll, who worried that the board was reacting too quickly and said the city should wait and see what the state is going to do. Barring the marijuana shops could even be counterproductive, he warned. “I would think it would be waving a red flag in front of the people interested in this.”

“I would think we’ve already done that,” Council President Jim Liacos replied. He gave a nod to the back of the hall and added, “It’s going to be on TV.”

Whatever floats

your cars

When businessman Diomedes Mejia visited the City Council, he got plenty of advice.

Mejia was there for permission to move his used-car operation from Summit Street to 36 Walnut St., but councilors advised that his plan to house five vehicles would probably lead to his returning in the future looking for approval to have more cars. Better to ask for more now, he was told.

A quizzical Mejia held up one finger. “One more?”

He was urged to ask for a total of 10.

Then Councilor Barry Sinewitz warned, “That location — when we do have a storm event, water comes up through the floorboards.” He advised Mejia to have an evacuation plan.

“Or a license for three boats,” Councilor Mike Garabedian joked.

One neighbor objected to the proposal on the basis that the city already has too many used-car lots.

Even so, it was approved unanimously. “It actually is a nice-looking facility inside,” Councilor Tom Gould said.

Blue goes to college

Peabody police Lt. Scott Richards has completed a seven-week course at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island on executive development.

Not adding up

Who counts in the Peabody schools? Apparently, it’s not the consultants. A recent consultant report worried that the students at Community High School — a venue for special needs students that meets at Higgins Middle School — numbered only nine.

“I don’t know where the number nine came from,” says School Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne. Her research indicates that the true count is closer to 17.

“It’s still not as high as it was before,” she concedes. “But it’s not nine.”

All this matters because of the up to $700,000 budgeted for the program. Consultant Michael Palladino had warned that the program is not worth continuing with fewer than 15 students.

In a presentation to the board, however, he was a little vague about the number of students attending. His count was nine. He urged, however, that some effort go into determining the exact number of attendees.

Spiliotis ailing

State Rep. Joyce Spiliotis has been out of action, according to her office.

“She’s been out for quite some time,” explained her aide, Craig Lundberg. “Joyce has been ill, and she has been ill for some time.”

There’s no word to date on how she is faring.