A new approach for Needham’s streets

With the implementation of a new design and maintenance strategy, Needham’s streets and sidewalks have been placed on the infrastructure equivalent of a long-term diet. The regimen is intended to result in a leaner and safer multimodal (pedestrians, bicycles, cars) transportation system over the next decade and beyond. As with all diets, there will be sacrifices. Speed limits on certain roads will be reduced. Some sidewalk-lined streets will only have sidewalks on one side. And there will be aesthetic compromises because improving safety isn’t always pretty. The strategy was laid out last month at the inaugural meeting of the Mobility…

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Select Board nixes Columbus Day, tees up smallest tax increase since 2017

The Select Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a motion that will have Needham celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day and not Columbus Day on future second Mondays in October. Select Board chair Marianne Cooley, said the board received emails and letters from residents that were “overwhelmingly in favor of a change from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.” “Columbus was, at best, a difficult figure to defend, and clearly that was reflected in the comments we received from others,” she said. The Select Board held a public hearing on the status of the holiday at its Nov. 28 meeting and received a…

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NHS addresses absenteeism

For Needham High School, the days of remote learning and quarantine are long past. Yet something is still missing: a number of students. Like schools in much of the nation, NHS is struggling to return to pre-pandemic attendance rates. Almost 1 in 4 Massachusetts students missed 18 or more days of school in 2022-23, according to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The department identified 1,300 schools that did not reduce the COVID absence rates by at least half and named them Attendance Priority Schools. Despite a history of excellent attendance, NHS is in that group.  NHS reported…

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The season of lights

Local holiday traditions are lighting up Needham. On Saturday hundreds of residents gathered at the Town Common for the annual Blue Tree lighting. Performances by the Needham High School chorale and Olin College Fire Arts Club, and hot chocolate courtesy of Dunkin’ and the Charles River Y warmed up the crowd as they awaited the arrival of Santa Claus on a town fire truck. The honor of flipping the switch to light the Blue Tree this year was given to Needham firefighter Mark McCullough, who saved a man’s life at a Patriots game this fall.  Tonight the annual Menorah Lighting…

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Hanukkah arrives with a flicker of uncertainty

For some Jewish families, the Hanukkah celebration that begins with candle lighting tonight won’t have quite the same warm glow as other Hanukkahs. The brutality of the attacks and retaliation in Israel, acts against Jews in the U.S., including Needham, and the all-or-nothing positions on Israel and the Palestinians taken by politicians, campus activists and other opinion leaders make…

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Shop with a Cop pairs officers and kids

Needham police are sponsoring a new holiday initiative this year: their first Shop with a Cop event. This program, which has gained popularity in other towns, pairs police officers with children for an afternoon of shopping for gifts, paid for by the Police Working Dogs Foundation. “Given how the economy is, we knew there were families that might be…

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Library lends things, too

Looking to borrow a metal detector? How about a ukulele? Have you tried the public library? In 2022, the Needham Free Public Library joined public, academic and special libraries worldwide in establishing a Library of Things. The growing trend began with a grassroots experiment in London in 2014 and has promoted the idea of a sharing economy. Patrons can…

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Boards & Briefs

Select Board approves tiered rates for trash haulers

After much discussion at multiple meetings of both the Select Board and the Solid Waste Disposal & Recycling Advisory Committee, the Select Board has approved new rates to be charged for disposing of municipal solid waste at the town’s Recycling and Transfer Station (RTS).

Over the summer, a suggested 43% rate increase from $140 per ton to $200 per ton met with strong resistance from the four main local trash haulers and their customers. The dramatic increase reflected the fact that the rate had not been raised in a decade.

The local haulers are JT Trash, Dalton Disposal, Junk Removers and Needham Recycling.

Both the Select Board and the Solid Waste committee agreed to consider lessening the sticker shock, as well as agreeing that local “backdoor haulers” handling mostly local solid waste should be treated differently from commercial haulers whose loads may contain material largely from other communities.

Haulers from the surrounding area were making heavy use of Needham’s RTS, incentivized by the town’s significantly lower fees and disposing of trash originating from other communities.

The Select Board ultimately opted for a two-tiered, phased-in rate system. The four local haulers will be classified as “Tier One” and all others as ‘Tier Two.” This acknowledges that the local haulers have customers who are already subsidizing the RTS through their property taxes.

The increased fees will go into effect on Jan. 1 and will be $160 per ton for Tier One and $180 per ton for Tier Two. On July 1, 2024, a second increase will go into effect, increasing the rates to $180 per ton for Tier One and $220 a ton for Tier Two.

Housing, housing and more housing

Having attracted some 300 attendees to its Nov. 9 community meeting, the Housing Needham Working Group (HONE) showed there is significant appetite for discussions around housing in Needham.

Residents who missed the HONE meeting or who wish to continue the conversation can satisfy their interest by attending an open meeting hosted by the Needham Housing Coalition on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at the library’s  Community Room. The evening will begin with a presentation about housing in Needham in general and current housing initiatives in particular. The balance of the evening will be dedicated to discussion.

On Dec. 6, the Planning Board and Needham Housing Authority (NHA) will jointly host a community meeting at 7 p.m. at the Broadmeadow Elementary School and via Zoom.

The NHA will provide information on the status of the existing Linden/Chambers housing development, including designs and site plans for the proposed redevelopment of the site. 

Planning Board members will present zoning modifications the project will likely require in anticipation of an Annual Town Meeting vote in May. 

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Water main break near Cricket Field

A water main break along William Street caused temporary flooding late Sunday night and a loss of water service for approximately five hours before DPW…

Playoff runs come up short

Strong postseason runs ended in disappointment late last week for two Needham High teams. For the second year in a row, the boys’ soccer team…

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