Monday, February 28, 2011

Mayor Announces Planning, Redevelopment Hires

BROCKTON--From the Mayor's Office:
Mayor Linda M. Balzotti recently has announced Foxboro's long-time town planner will lead the reinstated Brockton Redevelopment Authority and a consultant has been hired to aid Brockton 21st Century Corp. focus on redevelopment of the downtown.
Balzotti said in a prepared statement the moves are expected to herald a new era of revitalization in Brockton--efforts that are led by qualified experts with backgrounds in the fields of economic development and planning.
“Having personnel in these vital positions gives Brockton the ability to plan not just for today, but for the future in a thoughtful and efficient way,” Balzotti said in the statement.
Marc Resnick has been named executive director of the Brockton Redevelopment Authority and is expected to start work Monday, March 7.
Resnick has over two decades of planning experience, and has most recently been the Foxborough Town Planner since 2001.
While in Foxboro, he managed the municipal review of plans and site construction for Patriot Place at Gilette Stadium and coordinated the planning, rezoning, and permitting for the redevelopment of the 150-acre Foxborough State Hospital site. Resnick replaces interim Executive Director Anne Marie Belrose, who will stay on as the BRA’s Director of Finance and Compliance.
“We believe we have found someone with excellent planning credentials who will get us moving in the downtown and in the city in general, toward revitalization,” said Gerry Smith, Chairman of the Brockton Redevelopment Authority, in a prepared statemet.
In July 2010, Balzotti re-established the Brockton Redevelopment Authority. The mission of the BRA is to distribute federal Community Development Block Grants, for the benefit of all Brockton residents.
The BRA has taken over equitably distributing the block grants from the now defunct Building a Better Brockton--an agency that was eliminated after it was shown the board had numerous conflict of interests surrounding how the money was paid out.
In addition to full-time staff members, the BRA also has a new board of directors.
Also, McCabe Enterprises has begun work as the development planning consultant to the Brockton 21st Century Corporation.
The Massachusetts Department of Community Housing and Development awarded the Brockton 21st Century Corporation $90,000 in October 2010 to fund the hiring of a consultant to focus on downtown redevelopment including moving projects forward and developing a pipeline of potential development, community stabilization opportunities and neighborhood revitalization efforts in the Campello neighborhood. The grant award expires in September of 2011.
Kathleen McCabe, principal of Boston-based McCabe Enterprises, has a strong background in planning and economic development.
The McCabe team working with B21 will include Urban Planner Jen Mecca, lawyers Betsy Lane and Jeanne McKnight of Kopleman and Page, and Peter Bradley of Project Management.
Also, Rian Amiton has been hired as the city’s new junior planner.
As junior planner, Amiton will focus on site plan and development impact review, demographic analysis; conducting planning studies relative to land use, open space, housing, economic development and transportation.
Most recently Amiton has been an associate planner at Larry Koff and Associates in Brookline.
Amiton holds a master's degree in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning from Tufts University. He holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Oregon, Eugene.
For more information about the Brockton Redevelopment Authority, please call 508- 586-3887. For more information about the Brockton 21st Century Corporation, please contact Mary Waldron at 508-586-0021. For any other questions, please call the mayor’s office at 508-580-7123.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Court Upholds Environmental Approval In Brockton Power Plant Case

Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Plymouth County Superior Court has upheld a Department of Environmental Protection decision that would allow an environmental permit necessary to build a 350-megawatt natural gas plant on the East Side of Brockton—one of many legal decisions and permitting questions that will be decided over the next year. Joseph Ganley, vice-president of Weber and Shandwick, a public relations firm recently hired by Brockton Power, the company seeking to build the power plant, said he believes it is the first legal decision that will be decided in the company’s favor.
““We are obviously pleased that the Court upheld the decision of the Department of Environmental Protection to grant our permit,” Ganley said. “We are confident that, as the courts review the other cases involving the project, similar rulings will follow.”
The decision was issued Feb. 4 by Associate Judge Robert C. Cosgrove.
The city has the right to appeal the decision to the Supreme Judicial Court.
Phillip Nessralla Jr., the city’s head legal counsel, could not immediately be reached for comment, however city officials, including Mayor Linda Balzotti and nearly all members of the City Council, and the city's representatives in the State Legislature, have vowed to fight the plant at every step and an appeal is expected.
There are a handful of other court cases stemming from city zoning and other permits and approvals that have been denied that Brockton Power or the City of Brockton have appealed in land and superior court.
The case began in June 2008 when Brockton Power filed a required Notice of Intent under the Wetlands Protection Act with the Brockton Conservation Commission because the XXX square-foot facility proposed for Oak Hill Way would be within 100 feet of a vegetated wetlands that borders the Salisbury River and would construct not only the power plant itself but also seven cooling towers, paved parking, roadways and a storm-water detention basin.
In Oct. 2008, the Conservation Commission denied an order of conditions-a requirement to construct the plant-- citing Brockton Power needed, and failed to file for Site Plan approval with other city boards and said the company did not submit enough information in its application about the use of wastewater and its effects on the environment when it was discharged into the Salisbury River.
In Sept. 2009 Brockton Power appealed the Conservation Commission’s decision to the DEP, which issued a superseding order of conditions overruling Brockton’s decision in March 2010.
Brockton’s Conservation Commission appealed that decision and requested a hearing with the DEP. The DEP upheld its own decision to approve the project.
In its decision, the DEP said Brockton Power did not have to apply for Site Plan review because it had requested an exemption from those local rules with the DEP and state Department of Public Utilities.
The DEP also rejected Brockton’s argument the power plant company did not provide sufficient information about the use of treated wastewater on the environment, stating Brockton Power had provided detailed information about environmental effects to the Conservation Commission and Department of Public Utilities.
Brockton’s Conservation Commission shortly after appealed the DEP’s decision to Plymouth County Superior Court.
Associate Justice Cosgrove, in his decision, stated “The DEP decided that applying for an exemption (under state law) fulfilled Brockton Power’s obligation to apply for site plan approval from the Brockton zoning authorities…The DEP’s interpretation is reasonable, and is entitled to deference from this court.”
Cosgrove also affirmed the DEP’s decision regarding information provided about the treated waste water’s environmental effects stating Brockton Power’s submission was satisfactory.
Cosgrove also said, “Furthermore, the DEP’s interpretation comports with common sense.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Family, Friends Mourn Tragic Deaths

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—When Maria Montrond first met her best friend Maria Avelina Palaguachi-Cela three years ago at a local food pantry where the two women volunteered, they formed an instant friendship.
“My name is Maria and her name is Maria. My mother’s name is Avelina, her name is Avelina. We became great friends right away,” Montrond said.
Earlier today during the funeral for 25-year-old Palaguachi-Cela and her 2-year-old son Brian who were found brutally murdered 10 days ago in a dumpster behind their Warren Avenue apartment, Montrond could not hold back her tears.
She cried unabashedly as the caskets were carried out of St. Patrick Church into three hearses waiting outside to bring the three family members to their final resting place in their home country of Ecuador.
“She was so sweet, so nice,” Montrond said. “It’s so awful,” she said.
Not only have friends and family cried during the last nearly two weeks for the senseless killings of Palaguachi-Cela and her son Brian, but the family was struck with more sorrow after 25-year-old Luis Tenezaca Palaguachi, Maria Palaguachi-Cela’s nephew, died from a fall from a roof in New Bedford four days after his aunt and cousin were found.
Ines Montero, Montrond’s sister-in-law and one of more than 150 people who attended the service, shook her head and could only express her anguish about the family’s tragedy with a few words.
“It’s so sad. So awful,” Ines Montrond said. “Why the child? Why Brian? He was a nice little boy,” she said.
The question of why a young mother and her son were beaten to death is difficult to answer, said St. Patrick’s Pastor Rev. Jose Manuel Abalon who during a funeral mass mostly in Spanish pointed toward the Bible’s Book of Wisdom for solace.
“The measurement of life is not age,” Abalon said. “Maybe sometimes it is to take them from the situation we are in…and they are now in peace. In Christ we have the hope we haven’t lost Maria, Brian and Luis,” he said.
(Photo at top: At right, Maria Emilia Palaguachi and her husband Manuel Tenezaca await a limousine following the funerals for their son Luis, and Maria's sister Maria Avelina and nephew Brian)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Water Bill Dispute Enters New Phase

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Interviews of residents with disputed water bills by the city’s independent auditing firm are set to begin next week—a round of interviews that began with city councilors earlier this month.
Interviews with residents are expected to begin Monday, Feb. 28 and will continue Monday, March 7, several officials and residents said.
Councilor interviews began Feb. 8 and members met with The Abrahams Group in shifts over the next couple of weeks.
Each of the city’s ward councilors is expected to pick one resident to meet with the review team. Councilor-at-Large Thomas Brophy, the only councilor at large to choose a resident, has picked Robert Ford, a resident who has been vocal and public about his fight with the water department over his bill that was reduced to $12,000—a figure Ford believes is still erroneous.
Among those who are expected to meet with auditors are Ayanna Yancey Cato—the woman who received a $100,000 bill—and Marianne Silva, who has paid her bill, but disputes the numbers involved.
Not all city councilors have made public their picks-yet.
Ward 1 Councilor Timothy Cruise said he has asked a particular lady, but has not heard back if she will be able to attend.
Ward 3 Councilor Dennis Eaniri said in a telephone message and Council President Paul Studenski said in a telephone interview they have made their picks, but are also uncertain if the residents will accept or will be able to make the scheduled interviews.
Dennis DeNapoli could not be reached for comment, but sources have said he has made his pick, but it is uncertain if the resident has accepted.
Kathy Jewett, who was chosen by Ward 7 Councilor Chris MacMillan, is president of the Fieldside Gardens Condominiums Association,which has had ongoing problems with meter readings and problem bills.
Jewett and others in the condo complex have tracked their water bills for over two years and since the latest snafu have had maintenance personnel monitor and record the meters on a quarterly basis—a step Jewett said should not be necessary, but is considering the problems.
Jewett said during the summer when the water bill issue erupted, the condominium complex was hit with a $55,000 bill that was reduced, but the change left numerous questions about the process and formula used to decrease the bill.
She said condo owners are still getting far-fetched bills and are still working with the water department to fix the problems. Steps have been taken to find leaks and none have been found, she said.
“No one is getting an actual read,” Jewett said. “The actuals are actually based on estimates,” she said.
One of the reasons she, Ford and others want to bring their individual problems to the review team is to ensure the auditors understand what the problems are and that the review includes all of the issues associated with metering and billing problems—not just the ones city officials might have mentioned.
“We want to make sure the system is fixed. We want to make sure bills that say they are actual reads are just that, and not based on estimated water use,” Jewett said.
Residents also want to ensure a process is in place that outlines the formula and criteria water officials used to reduce bills that were seemingly high.
“There’s no paperwork. No one knows how they came up with these numbers,” Jewett said.
One of the concerns voiced since July when the problems surfaced is that people who have been receiving bills that were supposed to be actual reads—either by an electronic device or a human worker--may be hit with high bills in the future because the system is broken.
Jewett said there are numerous examples of actual reads that cannot be right—most notably bills in the hundreds of dollars for unoccupied units or extremely low actual bills for apartments occupied by two or more residents.
Initially many of the problem bills, officials said, were a result of meter readings that had been estimated and when the water department went back and billed residents--in some cases for 10, 12, or 15 years of water use--unusually high bills were mailed igniting a furor.
Initially some water department and city officials blamed residents for not contacting the water department to have meter readers come to the house, condo or business to have meter readers enter the property and gain an actual reading.
Councilor Tim Cruise said the water department’s initial reaction was not a good one and residents should not have been blamed.
“The process of putting the onus on the resident to get a reading was not good policy,” Cruise said.
He said since his meeting with the auditors he is confident solutions are imminent and believes the billing problem is not as widespread as once thought.
He said he has had only two calls about problem bills and one of those is more about a sewer problem than a water billing problem.
Cruise said he is really interested in seeing how many residents were actually contacted for actual reads and how many refused to allow city workers in.
Since the summer many officials have conceded water department and city officials did not handle the matter very well and without an independent review costing $97,000it would be difficult to repair the credibility or trust within the water department.
Without an independent review, officials and residents said, the current level of hostility and underlying personal attacks that have grated both sides of the issue would likely be worse.
“In some cases it has been ugly” said Ward 3 Councilor Thomas Monahan, who said he has high hopes for recommendations and solutions since he met with The Abrahams Group earlier this month.
“They’re a very competent firm,” Monahan said. “These guys are accountants and they are looking at the numbers,” he said.
Monahan said he received a list of everything the auditing firm will review, including defective meters and data collection devices on the meters, internal processes and guidelines within the water department when dealing with problems and why water department personnel did not know about or did not use software programs that may have flagged problem readings—like a much publicized $100,000 bill.
Monahan said the software existed to red-flag some of the more outrageous bills, but was either underutilized, or employees were not trained to use the software and or did not know the software existed at all.
“It’s going to be three years before all of this stuff is fixed,” Monahan said, but added, “at least we will have a plan to deal with it and hopefully we won't have these problems in the future.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Palaguachi Funeral To Be Held At St. Patrick's

BROCKTON--A funeral mass will be celebrated for three members of the Palaguachi family, including a mother and son who were found murdered, Wednesday at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Church in Brockton. According to Russell and Pica Funeral Home the lives of 25-year-old Maria Avelina Palaguachi, her 2-year-old son Brian and Luis Gilberto Tenezaca Palaguachi Wednesday Feb. 23 at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick's Church, 335 Main St.
The bodies of Maria and her son Brian were found Sunday, Feb. 13 in a dumpster near their Warren Avenue apartment. Luis unexpectedly died Thursday Feb. 17 after a fall from a roof while he was working.
A wake and calling hours for the trio will be held Tuesday, Feb. 22 from 3 to 8 p.m. at Russell and Pica Funeral Home, 165 Belmont St.
Interment will be held in Ecuador after the bodies are flown later this week to the family's native country.

Tragedy Brings New Friends To Brockton Family

BROCKTON--The Boston Globe has reported a roommate of a slain Brockton woman and her son found dead in a dumpster is being held in Ecuador by authorities there for allegedly using false travel documents.
Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz's office has not commented on the capture of Luis Guaman, who is wanted in Brockton for questioning regarding the murders.
Guaman, who Cruz has said has used other aliases including Antonio and Segundo Castro, is the last person to have seen 25-year-old Maria Avelina Palaguachi-Cela and her 2-year-old son Brian alive before they were found murdered in a Brockton dumpster Sunday, Feb. 13.
Funeral arrangements for mother and son have not been completed yet.
David Russell Jr., co-director of Russell Pica Funeral Home in Brockton said the wake and funerals have been delayed due to another family tragedy.
Russell said nephew Luis Gilberto Tenezaca Palaguachi, 25, of Brockton, died Thursday, February 17, 2011 at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford as a result of injuries sustained from a fall from a roof he was working on.
Russell said the family will likely hold services for all three family members sometime this week. Russell said he did not expect services to occur before Monday, Feb. 21.
He said arrangements are waiting on the release of Luis' body by the medical examiner.
Russell said international burial arrangements are usually not difficult on the local level. He said all that is needed is the right paperwork from Ecuador's consulate--a simple matter.
"The problem would lie over there," Russell said. "They have to be prepared to accept the bodies and often they are not," he said.
For more about the family's tragedy, please visit The Boston Globe.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Women Of The Year Award Winners Announced

Brockton-From the Mayor's Office:
Mayor Linda M. Balzotti and the City of Brockton’s Commission on Women’s Issues are proud to announce the winners of the 2011 Women of the Year Awards.
The commission’s selection committee chose the winners from a long list of nominees earlier this
“Choosing this year’s winners was a difficult process,” said Lisa M. Rheault-Sliney, chairwoman of the Commission on Women’s Issues. “All the nominees are working hard to make a positive impact on the city, but only a limited number could be chosen," she said.
The following women were selected to be the 2011 Women of the Year:
Lovern Augustine
Aisha Barlatier-Bonny
Laronda Campbell
Nadia Gay
Jill Wiley
In addition to these five Women of the Year, a special award will be presented to Kathleen Mary Mullen as the 2011 Woman of Courage.
Award recipients will be honored at the 2011 Women of the Year Awards Breakfast to be held
Saturday, March 5 at 10 a.m. at the Shaw’s Center, 1 Feinberg Way.
Tickets are $20 and available for purchase between 1and 4 p.m. at Rockland Trust locations
throughout Brockton. Proceeds from ticket sales will fund scholarships for young
Brockton women.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Heated" Argument Preceeded Murders, Flight to Ecuador

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—One roommate of a Brockton mother found dead with her son in a Brockton dumpster is in custody pending $50,000 cash bail and another roommate—an illegal immigrant with a violent criminal record--is being sought for questioning, but is likely in Ecuador, a country officials say where he fled just 2 ½ hours after authorities discovered the bodies of 25-year-old Maria Avelina Palaguachi-Cela and her 2-year-old son Brian.
“We’re going to use everything we can use and deal with all the appropriate agencies and countries and people in between to make sure we get justice for this little boy and this woman,” said Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz during a press conference following the arraignment of one of the roommates living with Palaguachi-Cela and her son Brian.
Aparicio Velencia De La Cruz, 34, a suspected illegal immigrant from Mexico and one of Palaguachi-Cela’s roommates, was held on $50,000 cash bail during his arraignment in Brockton District Court today on a charge of withholding information from investigators that could have led law enforcement personnel to search for another roommate--Luis Guaman--at airports in Massachusetts or New York. (Guaman pictured above)
Prosecutors said during more than five hours of interrogation while in custody, De La Cruz did not tell officials that Guaman had plane tickets to Ecuador and only told officials Guaman was heading to New York City.
It wasn’t until authorities talked to De La Cruz’s girlfriend and far too late, did they learn Guaman might be flying back to his native country. (De La Cruz pictured below with lawyer Jonathan Moriarty)
Cruz said Guaman—under the alias Segundo Castro—flew from New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to Ecuador at 12:01 a.m. Monday, Feb. 14—just 2 ½ hours after police were led to a dumpster at the corner of Warren Avenue and West Park Street where the bodies of Palaguachi-Cela and her son Brian were found Sunday at about 9:30 p.m.
“He is the last person to see her, and he’s gone,” Cruz said.
Cruz did not call Guaman a prime suspect, but during the bail hearing for De La Cruz, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Flanagan said Guaman was the last person to see Palaguachi-Cela alive and the pair had a “heated and passionate” argument because their relationship had ended. Prosecutors said Palaguachi-Cela was overheard telling Guaman she did not love him anymore.
Along with living with Guaman and De La Cruz in an apartment at 427 Warren Ave., Palaguachi-Cela also lived with the father of the murdered boy, Manuel Jesus Caguana, who was working in Virginia when mother and son went missing. Prosecutors said Caguana and De La Cruz are not considered suspects in the murders.
Caguana and Palaguachi-Cela are from Ecuador, but Cruz would not say if they are here legally or not.
Cruz declined to call the situation a love triangle.
“A 2-year-old boy is dead. What does that have to do with a love triangle,” Cruz said.
Cruz said the investigation has been complicated by language barriers, communication issues with criminal records, Guaman’s aliases and there will be more issues to overcome now that Guaman is likely in Ecuador—a country Cruz said does not have extradition rights with the United States.
Cruz said all avenues of diplomacy and legalities will be used to have Guaman returned to the U.S. for questioning in the murders, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, and the FBI are already working on the case.
Cruz said it is believed Guaman bought the plane tickets either last Friday or Saturday, and the bodies of the mother and toddler were probably in the dumpster for several days before police were notified.
Cruz reiterated the mother and child were beaten to death and their bodies were found intact and not mutilated, but would not say what the weapon was.
With the evidence that has been collected, Cruz said, his office could argue that the murders might have been premeditated.
Cruz said authorities have found no evidence that Guaman entered the U.S. legally and outlined a past of violent crimes under his real name and aliases.
Cruz said Guaman, 33, is wanted in New York under his own name for felony kidnapping with malice and assault charges.
Under the alias Antonio Castro, Guaman has a pending case for assault and battery in Brockton when police used Mace on Guaman/Castro during the arrest, Cruz said.
Guaman also faces charges in Milford for assault and battery.
During De La Cruz’s arraignment, his defense attorney Jonathan Moriarty argued De La Cruz did not believe he was lying or withheld information and was shocked by the horrible images he was shown of the murdered bodies.
Moriarty said De La Cruz—who was told by a translator what was being said in the court room-- is a hard-working roofer, who could not pay the $50,000 cash bail which would be tantamount to being placed in custody. Moriarty said he had not been shown evidence that De La Cruz is an illegal immigrant and is not a flight risk.
A plea of not guilty was entered on De La Cruz’s behalf.
Assistant District Attorney Flanagan argued De La Cruz is an illegal immigrant from Mexico with no local ties to the area and could be a flight risk if bail was lowered and De La Cruz was released on his own recognizance.
Judge Paul McCallum ruled the $50,000 cash bail would stand and all of De La Cruz’s court records be impounded for the duration of the case.

Brockton Man Arrested In Connection With Mother, Son Deaths

BROCKTON--Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz's office announced a 34-year-old Brockton man has been arrested in connection with the double murder of a mother and her son late Sunday night.
In a prepared statement Cruz's office said Aparicio Velencia De La Cruz, 427 Warren Ave. has been charged with misleading a police investigation in connection with the deaths of Maria Avelina Palaguachi-Cela and Brian Palaguachi.
De La Cruz will be arraigned today in the Brockton District Court.
The statement did not have any more information.
Palaguachi-Cela, 24 and her nearly 3-year-old son Brian were found dead in a dumpster near their 427 Warren Avenue apartment. De La Cruz lives in the same building.
A spokesperson for Cruz's office could not immediately reached for comment.
Please see posts below for more about the double murders.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dumpster Deaths Ruled Head, Brain Trauma

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON--The Plymouth County District Attorney announced this morning that the results of an autopsy on a Brockton mother and her son found dead in a dumpster is the result of blunt force trauma to the head and brain.
Bridget Norton Middleton, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Timothy Cruz, said the medical examiner gave her office the results of the autopsies on Maria Avelina Palaguachi-Cela, and her nearly 3-year-old son Brian this morning and has ruled their deaths were the result of some type of beating.
"The autopsy of both show the manner of death to be blunt force trauma to the head and brain," Norton Middleton said.
She said authorities are treating the matter as a homicide and a search for the killer is on-going.
Norton Middleton could not comment on a motive or if the killings happened elsewhere.
Officials have said they have eyed a suspect and do not believe the murders are a random act, but Norton Middleton could not comment further about numerous aspects of the investigation including where the killings might have happened.
"People have been brought in for questioning who can provide information in many ways," Norton Middleton said.
(Please see posts below for coverage of the double homicide)

Balzotti Stresses Cooperation For Future Success

Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—During the first “State of the City” address given by a female Brockton mayor, Linda M. Balzotti highlighted several economic successes during her first year in office, noted low points like the water bill dispute debacle, but stressed commitment, enthusiasm and a positive attitude for the city's future success.
“The challenges are many, the hurdles are high, but we have the right people in the right places and most importantly, we have the right attitude,” Balzotti said as she closed her historic speech Monday night, Feb. 14.
“We are building on our successes, all while working together better than we ever have, and that is something we can all be proud of,” she said. (Balzotti pictured above with School Committee member Richard Bath)
Balzotti noted several economic successes, including Bernardi Auto Group building $20 million showrooms on vacant land on Manley Street, and Northeast Electrical relocating more than 200 employees from Canton to Oak Street—adding tax dollars on properties that had been dormant.

(Click here for a complete transcript of Mayor Balzotti's speech)

While the budget outlook is not rosy for 2011-2012, Balzotti said there is a “glimmer of light,” from a sluggishly improving economy and it is difficult to tell what impacts that will have on next year’s budget.
Balzotti noted this year’s budget was difficult, but through cooperation and communication officials were able to reduce a $10 million deficit in the school department to $7 million which resulted in the loss of 160 positions, but averted further job losses and the possibility of closing a school.
She noted the schools have been a success and continue to outperform other urban schools—successes that have been highlighted by national media including The New York Times and CBS News.
A low point during her tenure, Balzotti said, has been the dispute over water bills and the outdated meters, problematic readings and estimations that have caused controversy since last summer.
“Sometimes the wheels of government grind slowly,” Balzotti said.
She said the city has hired an outside auditor to make recommendations about the issue and that she would handle the matter in a fair and forthright way, and to carry out the letter of the law—something that might not make her popular and quoted former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Balzotti's speech lasted about 25 minutes and was received warmly by a packed crowd in City Council chambers who clapped 10 times during the presentation before giving Balzotti a standing ovation at the conclusion.

Audience members included family and friends, and officials from the school department, police, fire, library, arts community and Council on Aging.

Mayor Balzotti's State of the City Address

BROCKTON--The following is a transcript of Mayor Linda M. Balzotti's "State of the City" address presented in City Council chambers, Monday, Feb. 14, 2011.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Police Seek Mother, Son Killer

Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON--Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz in a press conference said not only was a 25-year-old woman found in a duffel bag in a Brockton dumpster, her 2 1/2 year-old son was also found.
Cruz identified the woman as 25-year-old Maria Avelina Palaguachi, who lived at 427 Warren Ave. and her 2 1/2 year-old son Brian.
"This is a heinous act," Cruz said, noting investigators do not believe the pair's death are a random act and that they have a suspect. "Who would do that to a 2 1/2 year-old child," Cruz said.
No one has been arrested in the case, Cruz said, and no cause of death was given. Cruz said autopsies on the bodies were expected to be completed sometime this afternoon.
Cruz implored anyone who saw anything or might have information to contact investigators at 508-941-0234.
Police began an investigation Sunday night after receiving an anonymous tip at 9:18 p.m. from a female caller reporting she found a body of a woman in a dumpster at the intersection of Warren Avenue and W. Park Street. The woman hung up but told police she saw a leg, a boot and buttocks.
It was not until Cruz's press conference was it known that a second boy, the one of 2 1/2 year-old Brian was also found in what has been described as a duffel bag thrown in the dumpster.
Cruz said while the scene was gruesome, both bodies were intact. He said information from family members indicates Palaguachi has another child, but Brian is the only one living in this country. Cruz did not say from what country Palaguachi came before coming to the U.S.
Cruz deferred questions surrounding a pickup truck that was towed as evidence and in what position the bodies were found because it is an ongoing investigation.

Friends Mourn Water Dept. Head's Loss

Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Family and friends are mourning the death of Mark Creedon, the son of the city’s Water Systems Manager Brian Creedon, who unexpectedly died Saturday after a brief and sudden illness.
Richard Zaccaro, a friend of the family said the situation is horrible and came upon the family suddenly.
Zaccaro said Mark Creedon suddenly passed away Saturday to the family's shock.
“It’s terrible. Horrible. It’s devastating to lose your child,” Zaccaro said. "It's a parent's worst nightmare," he said.
Zaccaro said he has known the family for a long time and said he feels bad for the family and Brian Creedon, who has been under intense public scrutiny since the summer over disputed water bills.
Zaccaro said Mark, in his early 30s and was a friend of his son's, was a nice young man who was taken from his family much too young.
“It’s a shame,” Zaccaro said.
Conley Funeral Home in Brockton is expected to hold a wake Thursday, Feb. 17, from 3 to 8 p.m.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Brockton Courts Evacuated After 2nd Bomb Threat

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Hundreds of Brockton District and Superior Court personnel and prisoners were evacuated Thursday morning after authorities received what was a second false alarm since late last month.
“It turned out to be a false alarm, and turns out to be a prank, but because of the nature of the facility we have to take it seriously,” said Brockton Deputy Fire Chief George Phillips.
Phillips said the fire department received a call about a potential bomb in the Main Street courthouse at about 9:45 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 10. Phillips said the call came from the State Police who had received a tip, but he was not sure exactly what was said.
As in the last bomb scare Jan. 25, Brockton Superior Court on Main Street was evacuated and unlike January's incident when the threat was specific to Superior Court, Brockton District Court on Belmont Street was also evacuated.
Surrounding streets were blocked off and bomb-sniffing dogs scoured the building and found no evidence of an explosive device.
Phillips said personnel and prisoners returned to the court houses at about 11:30 a.m. after authorities gave the all clear.
In a separate, yet related matter, officials at Cardinal Spellman High School contacted Brockton Police Tuesday at about 7:33 p.m. after a custodian found a bomb threat scrawled in one of the boys’ bathrooms.
Principal Dorothy Lynch said the incident was minor and steps were taken to ensure it was not a serious threat.
She said police have investigated the matter and parents were notified about the issue through the school’s messaging system.
Because word had spread through the student population, Lynch said officials also made an announcement about the issue to students in the school.
“It was very, very minor, but steps had to be taken as a precaution,” Lynch said.
The scrawl has since been removed from the bathroom.

Balzotti's State of City Address Another Historic Moment

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—When Mayor Linda M. Balzotti gives her “State of the City” address Monday night, it will be another historic moment for Brockton and the city’s first female to be elected mayor.
Balzotti is expected to make the first “State of the City” address by a female mayor in City Council chambers at 8 p.m. Monday.
After she was elected in Nov. 2009 Balzotti gave the first inaugural address by a female.
Monday history will be made again when she gives her speech, however, after more than a year in office, Balzotti said the moment was not in the forefront of her mind.
“Now, I just think of myself as mayor,” she said.
When she makes her speech Monday, Balzotti said the speech will include a forecast of the fiscal year 2012 budget, an outlook that appears grim today, but could improve depending on outside forces.
“In terms of the future of the city, a key aspect of that is the budget,” Balzotti said, adding, “and the budget depends on the overall economy of the country. What happens in the city depends on what happens in the economy.”
Balzotti said there are several developers interested in projects in Brockton, however, because of the lagging economy are hesitant to commit just yet.
Adding to the uncertainty are state budget proposals that could reduce numerous line items, including schools and other services, as well as a tough winter that has already depleted Brockton’s $2 million allotment for snow and ice removal.
Last Monday, Feb. 7, the City Council was asked to transfer $1.5 million from the city’s stabilization fund to cover snow removal. Officials have said about $600,000 of the $1.5 million has already been spent due to the Jan. 27 storm and another Feb. 2.
The transfer would bring the stabilization fund, or reserve fund, down from about $4 million to $2.5 million—a chunk of cash that will not be available to offset any shortfalls in the 2011-2012 budget.
“This wasn’t the year for a bad winter,” Balzotti said in a prior interview.
While the budget outlook is gloomy, Balzotti said part of her speech will attempt to lift the city’s spirits and be a reminder that good things are happening.
“I want to build a little confidence and let people know Brockton is a good city to live in,” Balzotti said. “Brockton has some problems, but so does everyone else,” she said.
As the city’s first female mayor, Balzotti said she will likely resurrect a tradition of having a portrait placed on the walls of City Hall and City Council chambers that depict Brockton’s mayors going back to the 19th Century.
The tradition seemed to end with Carl Pitaro, who left office in the early 1990s. Recent mayors John “Jack” Yunits and James Harrington do not have a portrait on the wall.
There are no portraits of females and Balzotti said while she intends to have her image placed on the wall as an inspiration to women of all ages, she can wait because tradition calls for the portrait to be displayed after the mayor leaves office.
“Hopefully that will be a long way down the road,” Balzotti said.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Mob Fugitive Ponzo Arrested In Idaho

BROCKTON--After nearly two decades on the run reputed Mafia member Enrico Ponzo, a fugitive wanted by the FBI in Boston for conspiracy to murder, racketeering and other violations was arrested this week in Idaho.
According to a prepared statement from the FBI, on Monday, February 7 the U.S. Marshals Service Fugitive Task Force arrested Ponzo without incident near his home in Marsing, Idaho.
The next day, FBI special agents and task force members served a federal search warrant at Ponzo’s home to recover evidence, including firearms, and more than $15,000 in cash and gold.
At the time of his arrest, Ponzo was living in Idaho under the assumed name of Jeffrey John Shaw. Ponzo was scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Idaho Wednesday.
According to the statement, Ponzo was arrested in 1994 on cocaine and drug charges. He failed to appear in court and many believed he disappeared after he and others allegedly tried to kill members of the Patriaca family in an attempt to control organized criminal activity in the greater Boston area.
In 1997, Ponzo was charged, along with 14 others, in a 40-count federal indictment with, among other things, racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, and plotting to murder and attempting to murder individuals who were loyal to the rival Patriarca Family headed at the time by Francis "Cadillac" Salemme.
The indictment alleged that members of this dissident faction committed three murders--Richard Devlin, Joseph Souza and Paul Strazzulla--and attempted to kill seven other individuals, including Salemme.
According to the indictment, the defendants “acted to usurp control of the Patriarca
Family,” “violated the rules of La Cosa Nostra by plotting and attempting to murder Salemme” and others, and “intended to replace Salemme as Boss of the family, and thereby, be able to 'make' new members of the Family from among their group.”
Ponzo is charged with the attempted murder of Salemme in Saugus on June 16,
1989 as part of a pattern of racketeering activity.
He is also charged with racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to murder multiple individuals in aid of racketeering, three counts of using and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, assault with a dangerous weapon and the attempted murder of Joseph C. Cirame on September 16, 1994.
Ponzo is also charged with conspiracy to distribute and to possess with intent to distributecocaine, as well as extortion and extortion conspiracy.
If convicted, Ponzo faces up to 20 years on the racketeering and conspiracy charges; up to 10 years for conspiracy to murder; up to life imprisonment on the use and carrying of a firearm, with mandatory minimum consecutive sentences of five to 30 years on those counts; up to 20 years for assault with a dangerous weapon and attempted murder; up to 20 years for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute cocaine; and up to 20 years for the extortion and
extortion conspiracy charges.
(Photo courtesy FBI)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Brockton Man Seeks Parole Board Appointment

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Brockton’s James Rober said he may not have a law degree, and he may not have worked in the criminal justice system, but after more than 20 years of trying to prevent his brother’s killers from being released from prison—he knows something other potential state Parole Board appointees might not.
“To be a victim or a survivor of such a tragedy, to know what people go through—it would bring a different perspective,” Rober said. (Pictured inset)
Rober, 44--whose paraplegic brother Paul Jr. (Pictured above) was brutally tortured and murdered in Plymouth in 1986-- has responded to Attorney General Martha Coakley’s call last month for Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a victim’s advocate to the state’s Parole Board in the wake of the resignations of five members, including the director, following the killing of a Woburn police officer by parolee Domenic Cinelli.
Patrick has named Josh Wall, first assistant district attorney for Suffolk County, as interim executive director and is expected to make Wall the parole board’s chairman.
That leaves four more spots and Rober hopes to fill one of them.
He has sent a letter to Patrick outlining the anguish and torment of Paul Jr.’s death and continue his late father Paul Sr.’s (Pictured below) tireless efforts to help violent crime victims--including heading the Boston Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children--by asking for an appointment to the parole board.
While Patrick and members of his staff have been mum on the idea of appointing a victim’s advocate, Rober said he was contacted earlier this week by Patrick’s Assistant Director of Boards and Commissions Rachel Charnley who explained to Rober how the process works and that the governor’s office is reviewing his submission.
Rober said he was told following a review of his resume and background checks he would hear from Charnley shortly.
An email from Patrick spokesman about the matter simply states, “We are in the process of reviewing numerous highly qualified candidates from a range of backgrounds for the remaining parole board vacancies, and look forward to making those nominations in the coming days.”
There was no response to additional email requests for comment about the idea of having a victim’s advocate on the board.
Parole board members earn about $95,000 a year, the chairman, about $125,000 and serve on a board that hears more than 8,000 hearings annually.
Rober said he understands that inmate rights advocates and others might believe having a victim or victim survivor on the board might create undue bias toward continued incarceration or conflict of interest, however he believes currently there might not be enough scrutiny—as the Cinelli case has shown.
“I’m not as biased as some people might think, there is reform, but in this case the system didn’t work.” Rober said.
The parole board resignations followed the murder of Woburn veteran police officer John Maguire by 57-year-old Domenic Cinelli, who after 21 months on parole shot and killed Maguire during a botched jewelry robbery Dec. 26 that also left Cinelli dead.
Cinelli was sentenced to three concurrent life sentences in 1986 for a long string of armed robberies, armed assaults and escapes, including shooting a security guard and assaulting a police officer.
Under state law, because Cinelli was not convicted of first-degree murder, a sentence of life carries with it the possibility of parole after 15 years.
A review of his parole by John Grossman, undersecretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, showed numerous flaws in Cinelli’s 2008 parole hearing and subsequent release in March, 2009.
Grossman found the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office and Middlesex County police departments were not properly notified that Cinelli would be before the Parole Board in Dec. 2008—something as a parole board member Rober said he would make sure would not happen again.
“I would ask the question if the proper authorities and victims had been notified. That’s something that has to be done,” Rober said.
Suffolk County officials were notified of the parole hearing but because of a software glitch the underlying crimes in the case were wrong.
Neither Middlesex or Suffolk officials attended the hearing or submitted opposition to Cinelli’s parole and have since said if they were properly notified would have voiced concern over Cinelli’s release.
Grossman’s report also found that Cinelli’s parole officer did not follow-up on certain required contacts during the five months leading up to the robbery to ensure Cinelli was following the conditions of parole.
Rober said he realizes the system isn’t perfect, but maybe it is time that victims voices should be heard as a member of the Parole Board and not just as people in chairs in front of the board.
“I know that there are inmate’s rights, but what about the victims and their survivors,” Rober said.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Water Bill Meetings To Be Held Monthly

By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Residents who attended an informational meeting about disputed water bills are expected to submit a petition to Mayor Linda Balzotti to act in the matter, including enacting a new ordinance that would require the water department perform an actual meter reading every year—a policy similar to the state’s Department of Public Utilities requirements.
“That’s the industry practice and standard,” said Ward 6 City Councilor Michelle DuBois, who along with Councilor-at-large Jass Stewart and numerous residents with Brockton United Voices organized Monday night’s meeting held at the Mary Baker Elementary School.
An estimated 50 to 60 residents joined a dozen city officials including city councilors, Chief Financial Officer John Condon and members of the city’s legal staff for the meeting that is the first in what will be monthly meetings to discuss issues surrounding residents’ disputed bills and a review by an auditing firm of the water and sewer departments metering and billing practices that have resulted in some residents receiving unusually high water bills.
Many residents reported they had estimated bills for years and suddenly received bills last summer that calculated estimated or actual use going as far back as 15 years of water service.
Many residents said they did not and could not have used the amount of water they have been billed and strongly disagree they had an unidentified leak somewhere in their plumbing system.
During the meeting several residents told their individual stories about their disputed water bills. Many recounted how the DPW gave them the run-around or were treated with hostility and annoyance by department representatives. One resident, Ed Miller, said the DPW’s management needs to be looked at closely and maybe some need to lose their jobs over the matter.
“We have someone who runs the water department like a fiefdom,” Miller said, referring to DPW head Michael Thoreson. “If he knows his job is on the line he might run it a little better,” he said.
The petition signed last night calls for a “thorough analysis of management” in the water and sewer departments—a measure over and above any recommendations that the auditing firm, The Abrahams Group will offer once its review is complete at the end of March or early April.
Residents also want city officials to limit how far back residents can be billed for estimated reads, or retroactive billing. City officials have said the law allows them to bill as far back as the transfer of the deed—in some cases 12 or 15 years.
Marianne Silva, a member of Brockton United Voices, a grassroots group formed to keep residents informed about the water bill situation, said the meeting went very well and looks forward to the monthly meetings.
“I think it was very productive, very informative,” Silvia said.
The meeting also showed residents who have high bills or want to dispute the bills what the process is. Silvia said 20 to 30 residents filled out dispute forms requesting abatements with the Department of Public Works—the first step in the dispute process.
Silvia and other volunteers will bring the dispute forms to the DPW today, Feb. 1--the deadline for residents who have received notices that their overdue water bills will be attached to their property taxes to dispute the bills and retain their right of appeal at the state Appellate Tax Board.
The deadline is for residents who refuse to pay their bill because they believe it is erroneous and might not have the money to pay the bill.
Those who have paid their bills, but believe the figure is wrong can fight the bill in small claims, district or superior court.
Some residents have had their bills jump from $93 to $1,100 in one quarter, while others received bills for $5,000, $6,000 or much higher figures such as $17,000 or the most publicized of $100,000.

Brockton Schools One-Hour Early Release Tuesday

BROCKTON--Due to another storm Tuesday Feb. 1, Brockton Public Schools will release all students one hour early. All afternoon and evening programs have been canceled.
School officials made the announcement following weather forecasts that call for snow and sleet accumulation to be between 4 and 8 inhces in the region.
The city has also declared a snow emergency parking ban which means all vehicles must be removed from city streets to plows can clear snow.
Brockton has also canceled rubbish pickup for Wed. Feb. 2 and moved all collections to the next day due to a storm predicted for early Wednesday into the afternoon that could bring another 4 to 12 inches in the Brockton region and more than a foot north of Boston.
Tuesday trash collection will remain the same.
(Photo courtesy National Weather Service)