SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 13, 2013

A bunkhouse built for one

By Alan Burke
Staff writer

---- — PEABODY — With a new bunkhouse under construction, Brooksby Farm’s Jamaican workers are stuck at home, making no money and waiting until the construction is done. But that doesn’t mean there are no Jamaicans working at the farm.

Leo Peart continues to labor, driving some of the farm’s heavy equipment. His expertise and experience is a godsend to the staff and manager Pat Kriksceonaitis. Everyone is doing double duty trying to get the produce to grow.

Peart is living all by himself in the original bunkhouse. How does this happen after officials from the Massachusetts Department of Labor and Workforce Development have said the facility is inadequate? They complained about the grounds, sanitation in the toilets and doors that did not shut properly.

But while all that might make it inadequate for migrant workers from Jamaica, Peart is a Jamaican with a difference — he’s a naturalized American citizen. And that state office does not monitor where Americans live.

Thus, the old bunkhouse is all right for Americans. (Farm officials grumbled from the start that the old bunkhouse was good enough for all, but the city quickly accepted the state’s determination and agreed to build the new facility at a cost of $180,000.)

For his part, Peart is offering no complaints about living in the old place. “It’s quiet,” he smiles.

Fancy bumping into you here

Residents found a sympathetic ear at a recent forum on construction of the new Higgins Middle School when they complained about traffic on nearby Augustus Street. Specifically, they lamented the tendency to speed on the little side road.

Police Capt. Joseph Berardino nodded knowingly. “A car just drove out of Augustus the other day and right into the side of a police cruiser,” he said.

Not forgotten

The traffic accident that killed Theodore Buttner as he crossed Lowell Street in front of St. Adelaide’s Church last January hasn’t been forgotten. Residents and parishioners have asked for a traffic light to make that stretch of road safer for pedestrians.

An engineer is currently conducting a study, said Mayor Ted Bettencourt. “I’m hoping to have a report sometime in the next few weeks.”

Mon dieu!

Among the worries wrought by the proposed Boulderwood water tank in South Peabody is the possibility that the electronic gear slated to be included on it might be unsightly. One city councilor even asked if there was anything that would stop construction of an Eiffel Tower atop the water tank.

Imagine the boost in tourism if that were to happen. Total Outdoor Corp. will surely want to put a billboard on it.

Developer David Solimine explained that the cellphone equipment will be restricted to the sides of the structure. Councilors established that nothing taller than 5 feet could be placed atop the structure, which leaves out the Eiffel Tower at 1,063 feet.

A special honor for a top teacher

Seith Bedard is one of the state’s Teacher of the Year finalists. He’ll be honored Thursday at a reception at the Museum of Science in Boston, where the winner will be named by the state education department.

Bedard is director of the Peabody Learning Academy, the alternative high school program at the Northshore Mall.

Rallying at St. John’s

Daniel Lesser of the Essex County Community Organization reports that more than 450 people showed up Monday night at St. John the Baptist Church, mainly from North Shore religious organizations. Discussions centered on an agenda of hoped-for government actions on minimum wage, immigration and criminal justice. Joining the group were Sen. Joan Lovely of Salem and Rep. Ted Speliotis of Danvers.

Participants raised concerns that the Senate immigration bill currently being debated in Washington could be too costly — up to $4,000 per person in fines and fees — for an undocumented immigrant to become a legal citizen. The gathering offered support for raising the minimum wage, and advocated for changes in criminal law that would provide “evidence-based diversion programs” to eliminate some criminal charges and criminal records, as well as prison training and re-entry programs.