Archives for August 2011

Annual Walk to Benefit The Children’s Room

Annual Walk to Benefit The Children’s Room

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Arlington Town Hall

1:00 pm

Join our inspiring fall fundraiser and largest community event of the year!

We will walk our 3 miles – RAIN OR SHINE!!

SUPPORT THE CHILDREN’S ROOM – REGISTER TODAY!

Honor the memory of a loved one, and help keep this essential program in place to support grieving children and teens after the death of a close family member.

To register for the walk, visit firstgiving.com/childrensroom, or visit childrensroom.org and be connected through our walk page. Registration is $20 for adults and $10 for children under 13. Registration includes t-shirt, entertainment, and refreshments. As in the past, we will include names of those we walk in memory of on the back of the t-shirt. The deadline for submission of names is 9/20/11.

CREATE A PERSONAL FUNDRAISING PAGE!

To help us reach our fundraising goal, we encourage all registrants to create a personalized fundraising page – it is easy to do and is a great way to spread the word about the mission of The Children’s Room. Once established, your page can easily be forwarded to family friends and colleagues – maximizing fundraising opportunities. Utilizing facebook and social media is a great way to expand your outreach and reach your fundraising target.

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

With the support of sponsors, 100% of money raised at the Memories Walk will directly support essential programs at The Children’s Room. We have a variety of levels of sponsorship and look forward to expanding our network of corporate and organizational support. Sponsorship information is available on our website, childrensroom.org.

MATCHING GIFT OPPORTUNITIES

Matching Gifts are a great way to make donations go further. As a walker or donor, explore whether you, a family member or friend is employed at a company that offers matching gift benefits.

For information or questions about Memories Walk 2011, contact tricia@childrensroom.org

We are truly appreciative of your support, and look forward to walking with you on October 2nd!

The Children’s Room, Caring support for grieving children, teens & families

1210 Massachusetts Avenue, Arlington, MA 02476 781/641-4741

childrensroom.org

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Greek Festival

ST. NICHOLAS CHURCH BRINGS A TASTE OF GREECE TO LEXINGTON

September, 16 -18

St.Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

17 Meriam St.

A Taste of Greece makes a return to Lexington next month, when the parishioners of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church celebrates their biennial three-day food and cultural festival, on the church grounds.

Festival times are Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. The festival menu will offer a wide range of freshly made Greek appetizers, meals, a la carte choices, and home made pastries, for lunch and dinner. Special menu dinners will be served on Friday and Saturday nights, including roast lamb, and meals will be available for take out. A discount is being offered to active military personnel.

 There will be live Greek music both Friday and Saturday evenings, which attendees can enjoy outside under tents, as well as Greek folk dance performances, children’s activities and church tours.

To view the full menu and more information, visit www.stnicholaslex.org.

 

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Skating Team Skate & Dress Sale

Sunday, September 11

10am – 3pm

Hayden Skating Rink

Don’t miss out! Even though it’s hot outside, winter will be here soon enough.

Do you have skate dresses…that fit? Are you ready for group skate lessons? Will you and your friends be able to go skating together?

If not we have a great opportunity for you to buy “gently used” figure skates and dresses at the Annual Skate and Dress Consignment Sale which will take place at Hayden Skating Rink, Lexington on September 11, 10am-3pm.

If you are looking to clean out your closets and maybe make a little cash, bring your gently used skate clothing and figure skates (sorry no hockey skates or equipment) to Hayden Skating Rink on Wednesday September 7 or Friday September 9 6:30-9:30pm (sorry no items accepted on the sale day). 

You set the price of your items and receive 65% of the sale price. Hayden Synchronized Skating Teams receives 35% .

Pick up your money for sold items (and any unsold items) on September 11, 4pm-7pm at Hayden Skating Rink.

If you have any questions email hsstskatesale@gmail.com.

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Volley For Molly

THE TEENAGER WHO WILL FOREVER MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Third Annual “Volley for Molly” Tournament to raise money for Ovarian Cancer

Ovations for the Cure of Ovarian Cancer, a national organization dedicated to research, patient support programs and raising awareness of ovarian cancer, has rejoined forces for a third year with Lexington High School for “Volley for Molly,” a high school volleyball tournament fundraiser during September in memory of their former student, Molly Eisenberg. Molly passed away in October 2009 from ovarian cancer at age 19, although her spirit lives on through this event.

Volley for Molly is 4-9:30 p.m. Friday; Sept. 30, 2011 at the Ralph Lord Gymnasium at Lexington High School, 251 Waltham St., Lexington, MA. Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults. Tickets can also be purchased at the door on the night of the event. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. For more information please visit www.ovationsforthecure.org or www.volleyformolly.org.

In 2009 and in recognition of National Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, Lexington High School hosted Volley for Molly in honor of their friend and star player Molly Eisenberg. Led by her previous volleyball coach, Jane Bergin, who remains volleyball coach at the school, this event raised almost $15,000 for ovarian cancer research, awareness and patient programs. Molly was able to view that first event, which drew more than 1,000 people, through a live internet feed. In 2010, a year after Molly passed away, the event raised an overwhelming $24,000.

Molly’s story is both tragic and inspiring. One week into college, Molly was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Though she had numerous surgeries and chemotherapy treatments, she lost her courageous battle on October 21, 2009. In her online guestbook found at www.ovationsforthecureorg, former Massachusetts state representative Stephen Doran describes a loss felt by many:

“The world lost a most extraordinary young woman today,” Doran said. “Molly died the way she lived, with spirit and energy and humor and grace, and in so doing, taught us many important lessons about life, about family and friends, about community and caring, about sports and sportsmanship, about giving, and caring, and sharing, and about the importance of looking out for one another. And about never giving up. She has left a permanent legacy.

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Amazing Grace

Gracie Watson Remembered on page 21 of this month's paper. Gracie (left) Pictured on Patriots Day this past April with longtime Lexington Visitor’s Center volunteers Bob Beckwith and Hope Place. (Photo by Jim Shaw)

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“Eddie” the Ice Cream Man

Congressman Markey is pictured second from the left with another "Colonial Maid" driver as part of Hood's "Beatle Bar" promotion for the Jimmy Fund.

By Heather Aveson  |  Political lessons come in all flavors. For Congressman Ed Markey, his first taste of civic engagement came right here in Lexington behind the wheel of a neighborhood ice cream truck. Paraphrasing the folk song of the same era, “If he had a bell he’d ring it in the morning, he’d ring it in the evening, all over this town.”

Summer 1965 found Ed Markey, a graduate of Malden Catholic High School, looking forward to entering Boston College in the fall. With tuition bills to pay he found his way to the driver’s seat of a Hood Ice Cream truck. Markey remembers his truck the way others think of their first GTO. “It was a sparkling white truck, The Colonial Maid.” It took a substantial investment for a young man, he was responsible for the $12 a day rent, buying his own ice cream and paying for insurance.

Markey quickly made the investment pay off. As “Eddie the Ice Cream Man” he traveled the streets of town announcing his approach with the iconic tinkle of his truck’s bell. He got to know the kids and parents along his route and built a loyal following.

Then it happened. Just as the British tried to silence the colonists in 1775, a long forgotten town statute threatened to silence Markey’s bell. “I’d been doing business street by street. One day the Lexington Police stopped me and escorted me and my truck to the station.” Eddie the Ice Cream Man was in violation of a 1798 town ordinance which Markey can still recall word for word. “The sale of any victuals by any hawker or vendor by means of ringing a bell within the confines of Lexington is prohibited.”

 An ice cream truck without its bell? Why, you may as well take the apple out of apple pie. “It would be very difficult to sell ice cream without my bell,” says Markey. Silenced, he hit the streets one more time. Like Paul Revere he spread the warning to the parents and children along his route “the ice cream truck isn’t coming! the ice cream truck isn’t coming.”

“Parents and children were upset. Lincoln Cole was the Chairman of The Board of Selectmen at that time, and at their next meeting a couple of dozen kids and parents showed up and filled the back of the room.”

With such a ringing endorsement from the citizenry, the selectmen agreed to change the law and created an exception. Eddie the Ice Cream man and his Colonial Maid were back in business ringing the bell freely and delivering frozen treats to the citizens of Lexington.

Ed Markey spent four summers on the Colonial Maid and his earnings paid his way through Boston College. With a daughter entering her senior year at BC this fall, I wondered aloud if an ice cream truck route might be the answer to this year’s tuition question. Congressman Markey dashed my dreams acknowledging it would be just about impossible to make that happen today.

Although he didn’t see it then, those days on the truck and in a steamy summer selectmen’s meeting room, would set a tone for his life “connecting with his constituency and fighting for their rights. Beginning with something as simple as ice cream, Ed Markey has always been a champion of the people. And, some of those who fought the first good fight with him still reach out to him. “When I march in the Patriot’s Day Parade I have former ice cream customers, now adults with their own kids, who run out into the street and say, “Eddie the Ice Cream Man do you remember me? And you know, a lot of times I do”

When he talks about those days, you can almost hear Congressman Markey return to Eddie the Ice Cream Man. You can feel the warm summer days, hear the bell ringing, and see the idealistic young statesman when he responds to a question about his favorite ice cream treat from the old days. “That’s tough because you really become a connoisseur of ice cream. It depends on the time of day. In the middle of a 95-degree day there’s nothing more refreshing than a orange juice stick. But you can’t really beat a Strawberry Shortcake or Chocolate Eclair either.”

The ice cream truck may be long gone, but the lessons learned by an idealistic young entrepreneur paved the way for a long and distinguished career in the United States Congress. And, how appropriate is it that included in the many communities Congressman Ed Markey represents, is the Town of Lexington.

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Off the Blotter

By Chief Mark Corr  |  Lexington Police Department “Off the Blotter” is an opportunity for the Lexington Police Department to share what is happening here in Lexington and in your neighborhood. The door bell rings, you answer it, and a young man starts his sales pitch. He introduces himself and seeks to capture your attention. The door-to-door sales person is a readily recognized American entrepreneur. These young men and women are willing to accept hundreds of refusals to make a few sales. This is a tough way to make a living and common during difficult economic times. Unfortunately, for all of the very good sales people there are a few who are antagonistic, combative or engaged in scams. Lexington allows Hawkers and Peddlers and this includes door to door sales.

Individuals and/or groups must have a permit with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and then must check-in with the Lexington Police Department. Typically, we identify who and where the solicitors will be working. We review works hours, identify individuals who should not be soliciting, and issue a Lexington permit. Residents are invited to contact the Police Department if they have any concerns or complaints about solicitors at 781-862-1212, ext. 0 for dispatch. If a solicitor is assaultive or refuses to leave your property, call 9-1-1. Not all people who come to your door are solicitors. Religious organizations, charitable or political groups are not bound by the laws governing solicitors. It is their right to canvass neighborhoods to speak about their organization or beliefs. These groups are encouraged to contact the Police Department so we are familiar with their locations.

The worst case scenario is the scam artist who solicits business at your door. They notice that your house needs painting, the roof needs repair or the driveway needs sealing. They offer you a “bargain” price because they are in the neighborhood and have some time to fill. They will target older residents and ask for cash or immediate payment. Please call the Police Department immediately. Many of these scam artists are well known to the police and we welcome the opportunity to meet them face to face. If you are uncomfortable with a sales person at your door, practice apolite refusal. “I know you are working hard but I do not do business at my front door. Thank you for understanding.” Smile and close the door.

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Light and Hope

Ana Hebra Flaster

 We’re big recyclers in our house; our shattered, lopsided bins prove it. We keep the thermostat up in the summer and down in winter. When Masspirg sends the nation’s youth to our door, I listen and usually sign the petition they’re peddling. I conserve and protect natural resources whenever possible. But the new push to use energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs is bumming me out big time.

 I have these corkscrew-shaped bulbs in most of our fixtures, thanks to the free MassSave energy audit we had here last winter. The bulbs cast a sad blue light that my mother says reminds her of communist Cuba. All I know is that when my loved ones sit under these lights, thoughts of jaundice and vitamin D deficiency float through my mind. To make matters worse, the bulbs don’t work well on dimmer switches or when a room is cold.

 The new bulbs mean well. They save electricity and think green thoughts, but too often they don’t work well on dimmers, or when a room is cold, and just flicker with good intentions while you feel around the inside of your sock drawer in the dark.

But it turns out we can have good lighting and save our planet, too. There’s a new efficient version of the standard 100 watt bulb that sheds the same kind of warm light, dims, and fires up in the cold just like the classic one—although it costs about $1.50 more.  Two web sites offer great details about energy efficient lighting options: LUMENNow.org and energysavers.gov. You see? There’s hope.

I’m trying to shine a light on hope wherever I go these days. I found bottomless wells of the stuff last Saturday at the Pan Mass Challenge cycling fundraiser in Bourne, Mass. After losing our beautiful vibrant friend, Wendy, to cancer last November, my husband joined hers in this ride to benefit cancer research and patients. Everywhere I looked that hot afternoon, I saw hope. The rider who ignored his missing leg and just peddled on with his fancy prosthetic device past the finishing line. Behind him came a pair of tandem riders, a man in front, a thin, obviously ill woman, on the second seat, both smiling and waving to us as we cheered. I saw a sweaty happy rider look around as she glided toward the finish line. She glanced at the crowd of supporters ringing bells and waving signs of gratitude at her, at the mob of riders ahead who had just stopped under the finish line banner, then she looked up at the banner itself and lost it. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, her head sagged down, and she wept. I looked away for a moment; so much emotion in a stranger seemed too private a thing to see. As I wiped my own eyes I wondered whom or what she’d thought of at that moment. When I turned back she was smiling again and waving to us all, her eyes brimming with light and hope.

 

 

Ana Hebra Flaster is a freelance writer and Lexington resident. Ana’s work has been featured on NPR and the Boston Globe.

 

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Mo’s Ice Cream!

By Heather Aveson  |  It’s as timeless as running through the sprinkler, catching fireflies and lazing the day away in a hammock.

The Ice cream truck is an all-American icon. Here in Lexington, the ice cream truck has reached super-star proportions, known simply as Mo’s. Young and old, we all know Mo.

Muhammad Shuheiber, is the legal name behind the smiling man handing out frozen treats by the pool, baseball games and town events. He started out as Mohammad. “I’ve been called Mo all my life, I wanted to be something different,” he says. So he changed his name to Muhammad. But, Mo stuck with him and it seems it always will.

Getting a Start

Mo first came to the US in 1986 from his family’s farm in Jordan. “I came looking for a good education. Our dad worked so hard in his life. The farm our dad left us wasn’t enough. It was a hard life.” he recalls. Mo brought that work ethic with him to Boston. He attended both Salem State and Bunker Hill Community College. Working all the time to support himself and to pay for his education. He made pizzas at the well-known Captain Nemo’s in Kenmore Square, then at the Prudential Center’s Ground Round, he worked his way up from cook to Kitchen Manager/Trainer. “In 1993 they closed to remodel – they offered me to go to another place or get laid off. Because my education was important to me I couldn’t travel, so I got laid off.” he remembers.

That got Mo thinking about working for himself. He bought an old post office van and started selling ice cream out of the back. From the right hand driver side to the empty back lacking any freezers it wasn’t the ideal truck, but Mo made it work. Every day started early picking up blocks of dry ice in Everett to fill coolers and then buying and stocking ice cream treats before heading out onto the streets.

Mo with his famous Sundae Cup

In the spring of 1994 Mo was finishing up classes and driving the truck. It turned out to be the perfect situation. “I had classes two days a week and I took the truck to college. After class I opened it up for all my classmates. They loved it.” Mo remembers with his signature smile.

Mo loved it too. So after graduating with a degree in Computer Information Science, he stuck with it and he’s never looked back. “I graduated, I loved it, I loved the kids.”

Mo’s first full time route was in Burlington. Lexington had been without an ice cream for a while and a local baseball coach he knew thought Mo could change that. So, he spent Memorial Day weekend in town 11 years ago and loved it, so did his customers. “People signed a petition during the weekend. They took the petition to the town and it was approved. I’ve been here every since.”

Kids of All Ages

But just what makes Mo’s ice cream so special? In a word, Mo. As we talk outside the pool, Jasinda Priest and Natalie Maglio, both entering 8th grade here in Lexington approach the truck. Mo greets them by name and as he reaches into the freezer I ask them about the draw of Mo’s truck. Natalie’s been visiting Mo since 2nd grade. “Mo’s pretty awesome and that makes everything taste better.” Jasinda adds, “I think after the pool everybody wants ice cream.” Within a few minutes, Jaime Lehoux, age 6, and her mom find their way to the truck. Jaime and Mo greet each other like the old friends they are. He asks about her family and her swim lessons. Today, Jaime is going with the watermelon ice and she tells me, “It tastes better here because it comes from Mo.” And how long have they been friends? “I always know Mo.”

Young or old, the sound of an ice cream truck’s bell reaches kids of all ages. On this day, Mo has a date at the Lexington Health Care Center on Lowell St. Dana Nichols is the Director of Nursing. For several years she’s been bringing Mo’s Ice Cream to the Center for family days, staff appreciation celebrations and resident visits. “I have to tell you, you’ll never meet anyone like Mo. When you have dementia, you might forget me, or you, but you never forget the sound of the ice cream truck. Mo touches them, he talks to them, he reminisces with them. It’s a really special day for them when Mo’s here.”

Family

While Mo was busy building a business, both he and his family back in Jordan were beginning to wonder about the rest of his life. “I was 35. I needed a wife. I wanted a house and a family. I couldn’t do that working for someone else. I did this in the summer and drove a cab in the winter.” So on a visit home in 1996 his family arranged for him to meet a young woman from his village. The families had known each other for years and Mohammad met his wife.

They left Jordan as a newly married couple in August of 1996 and returned to the Boston area. Their first child was born the next June. Even with a new grandchild to show off, he and his wife stayed in the US while she studied for her citizenship exam, which Mo recounts with great pride, she passed easily.

By the time they returned to Jordan for the first time, they brought four grandchildren with them. Their families were ecstatic. “They thought it was the best thing ever.”

Life continued for the family living in Malden with a growing family and Mo working the truck in the summer and driving a taxi in the winter. But after September 11, things changed. “My wife was wearing a veil and when she took the kids to the park she felt fingers pointing at her, she felt discomfort. So she started going to a different park,” Mo says. The experience was a blow to the family. “We’re talking about US citizens here.”

A year later, Mo brought his family back to Jordan to live. He built them a house near the farm he grew up on so they’d be close to friends and relatives. Mo visits for extended periods at the end of the summer and during the heart of the winter. “They miss the beauty of this country. We don’t have this in Jordan. My oldest son is 15 now. Next year, he’ll probably come here and go to high school.”

All the Bells and Whistles

Mo gives me a tour of his current truck. You could say it’s the Cadillac of Ice Cream Trucks. A long way from packing dry ice into coolers, the freezers are fitted with cold plates, which provide three inches of insulation using stainless steel walls filled with coolant piping. Just plug the truck in overnight and the plates stay cold throughout the hottest summer day. The truck also has a pizza oven, a coffee maker and hot dog steamer. But don’t expect an expanded menu any time soon. “I’ll never use those. It’s too hot to keep anything cooking in here.” Mo says shaking his head.

Inside the three icy freezers are the classic ice cream novelties of my childhood, the King Cone, Creamsicle, and Ice Cream sandwich. But tastes change and Mo keeps up with the times. “Every year there are different themes and cartoons. You keep up with the cartoons and listen to what the kids want.” But there are some treats that Mo won’t carry. “The Star Wars, look at it, it has too much coloring in it.” Imagine an ice cream on a stick that’s mostly Darth Vader’s black helmet. Why would you even do that to ice cream? Then there are the ones Mo just can’t understand and can’t imagine anyone wanting. “How can you sell an ice cream called Frozen Toes? In the shape of a foot? I would never carry that. Who do you think would be licking on toes?” I’ve got to agree with him.

So what are his top sellers? Well, there’s a reason they call them classics. Mo says it’s King Cones for the adults, and Italian Ice for everyone with the Bomb Pop coming in a close second. Mo’s favorite? Well it’s another classic. “Mo’s Sunday Special” – a purist’s dream. A few scoops of vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, whipped cream, complete with cherry and for that final touch “colored jimmies”. Take my word for it, delish!

Hazy Days of Summer Yes, Lazy No

He may not have to pick up and pack dry ice, but the days still start early and end late for Mo. During the summer months he’ll be at the pool by 8:30am and stay there until early evening when he moves around to the different ball fields or outdoor concerts, returning to the pool by 8:15 to catch his crowd as they leave on hot summer nights. Wait a minute, what about a day off? “My day off is when it rains or the pool closes because of thunder and lightning. It’s a short time during the summer. I have to make the most of it. So I get here by 8:30 and don’t leave until 9pm.” Time off will come when the pool closes and the chill in the air overcomes the desire for frozen treats. Then Mo will say good-bye to the children of Lexington and head home for a visit with his own children.

The long summer hours and time away from family is worth it. He gets so much pleasure from the kids he sees everyday and in return he plants childhood memories that can last a lifetime. And the lesson he teaches is universal.

“I know I’m not going to get rich, but I’m not alone. I’m making a living for my seven kids. I came to this country  “if you really want to work, you can work and you can make it.”

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Curb Your Enthusiasm

By Heather Aveson  |

“Everybody knew for a couple of years it was coming. But I didn’t expect it to be this bad,” says Tony Mitri, owner of the Gulf Service Center of Lexington struggling to be heard over the rumble of machinery and gazing back at his banks of empty pumps. It’s another day in what Diane Garabedian of Prime Roast Beef and Seafood now refers to as ‘a war zone’. “The situation seems to be that they just came in and blew everything up.” Business owners, shoppers and commuters are all feeling frustrated by the major road construction at the intersection of Rte. 2A (Marrett Road) and Waltham Street.

LEFT: Construction trucks, debris and barriers discourage motorists and shoppers from visiting the shops at Marrett Square.

On paper the project warrants just a three line description by the Mass Department of Transportation. But at ground zero it’s a different story. The project has involved everything from digging up the street to replace drainage systems and add new signal components to removing and relocating utility poles and all the wiring associated with them in addition to all the work at street level. From one merchant’s point of view “it’s just been chaos.”

When construction began this spring the extent of the project took everyone by surprise. Even the Lexington DPW didn’t seem to understand its scope. A web page set up to answer questions about the project estimated “there will be 3 – 4 construction workers and 3 pieces of equipment on site. More or larger equipment may be brought in for specific portions of the work.” But, business owners have not been kept up to date and interruptions have been extensive due to the large numbers of workers, equipment and debris blocking the intersection and individual businesses during the busiest part of the day. And that’s led to a lot of frustration. Sal Serio of Nature’s Way Cleaners sees his customers making major adjustments, but at least they’re still coming. “I’m doing OK. My core customers have told me they’ve switched their times to come. The 8am people come at 4pm. I’m fortunate; my customers have been really loyal to me – through thick and thin. I appreciate that.” But at Prime Roast Beef and Seafood the Garabedians’ customers can’t be as flexible. “When 65% of your business is lunch, you can’t work around it. We get people who call and before they place an order they ask, Is that mess still going on? If you have half an hour for lunch and you’re going to be stuck in traffic for forty minutes you’re going to go somewhere else.” Bruegger’s Bagels is also feeling the squeeze. With customers stopping in for a morning bagel or light lunch they’re customers have to battle the busiest part of the construction day. Bruegger’s Manager, Edwin Urena has watched their sales fall approximately 25% a week over last year.

RIGHT: Road widening has left utility poles stranded in the pavement. One of the final steps in the project will be the relocation of all poles and services.

Anneli Mynttinen of Lexington has braved the chaos to drop off dry cleaning at Nature’s Way, “I try to avoid this area. I cut down the side streets. I still frequent the stores when I can. I’m just surprised that it’s everywhere in town.” And that just adds to the frustration. Selectman Peter Kelley has been following the project closely since its inception more than a decade ago. “Part of the frustration is that there are other road projects going on at the same time, like the resurfacing of Marrett Road from Mass Ave. That’s a separate contract with a different contractor. On the projects that the town is more directly involved with, we try to arrange for work to be done at times when there are fewer cars on the road, But because this is a state contract, managing the day-to-day activity is pretty much out of our hands. However, I can tell you that Lexington DPW officials are encouraging the contractor to move the project along as swiftly as possible.”

Ed Sullivan of Tricon Sports feels the clock is ticking, “Has it impacted us, yes maybe to a lesser degree than some of the other businesses. But if they don’t get this done pretty quickly we’ll really be impacted because high school sports start up in the next week or so. We draw from all around and once they go somewhere else, it’s hard to get people to come back.” For other merchants even the temporary loss of business is having a devastating effect. “They’re doing this project at our expense. We’ve been here less than a year, this is the last thing we need. It creates a domino effect,” says Garabedian. He’s already had to cut back his employees hours. Tony Mitri at the Gulf Station is worried about his employees as well. “The people who work for me – they’ve been working for me a long time. I can’t lay them off just because it’s slow. Who’s going to help me.” With the pumps and repair bays empty his guys try to stay busy improving the station’s curb able by cleaning up the planter around their sign. It’s a heartening juxtaposition amidst the ravaged landscape that surrounds them.

Communication Breakdown

Merchants feel left out of the information loop. Although the DPW website states that, ‘MassDOT will contact businesses a day in advance if a staging area will cause any interruptions on the property,’ business owners say that’s just not happening. Communication becomes even more complicated because the project has been contracted out to a private firm, J. Tropeano of North Andover, through the state bidding process. Though some official communication may be going on between the state, the contractor and the landlords, the information isn’t getting to the business owners. It’s unclear where the breakdown is occurring, but the merchants are paying the price. This breakdown may merit review by the town before embarking on future large scale projects. In the meantime, merchants rely on gossip and word of mouth rather than official channels for updates. Ed Sullivan has heard several rumors about drainage issues slowing the project down and that’s how he gets all his information. “No representatives come in to update us – the only updates we get are secondhand.” And staging areas and interruptions have been hampering business since the project began. Sal Serio worries about his neighbors, “There’s been no contact with the state. They’ve paid attention to the traffic flow. But access to certain places, like Gino’s and the UPS store has been blocked for five weeks. The Marrett Square merchants, already pinched for parking, sometimes find themselves barricaded in their own shops. Diane Garabedian looks out her front window at the oversized machinery and piles of rubble in front of his shop. “The other day they were parking here, had their trucks here. They completely blocked off the area at lunch time. That’s 65% of our business gone.” And that’s what scares a lot of these merchants the most. Tony Mitri echoes his Tricon Sports neighbor concerns. No matter how well the newly configured intersection works he knows, “When people change their habits it hard to get them to come back.”

Businesses are doing their best to keep customers coming during construction so they won’t have to woo them back later. Tricon Sports still has its tempting racks out front, Crushed Grapes held a wine tasting over the weekend and Prime Roast Beef is offering more lunch specials than usual. Supporting the businesses now is an investment in the future, just as everyone hopes the reconfigured intersection will be. Francesca Pfrommer of Lexington continues to make her way through the construction to patronize Nature’s Way. She takes a long range view of the chaos. “The inconvenience is about upgrading the infrastructure. I have children who go to Clarke and they walk. For a while I would go through town to avoid this area but they have their own set of stuff. So – just grin and bear it.” Selectman Peter Kelley is also looking forward but is committed to helping merchants now, “The good news is the project is nearing completion and now that the pavement is down, it’s a bit easier to travel through that intersection and I highly encourage everyone to support those businesses that have been affected by the construction.”

The Grand Plan

The Grand Plan

The 1.8 million dollar project has been in the works for years, actually for more than a decade. Rich Nangle of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation points out that this project is not unusual in that way. It’s actually typical. A project has to reach several milestones before getting funded and moving on to the construction phase. At a Massachusetts Highway Department community design meeting in June 2006, Design Consultant John Bechard said he first got the project in 1997. According to the Bechard the intersection was listed on the Top 1000 (most dangerous intersections) for several years. He cited antiquated signal systems for both cars and pedestrians, the wide open nature of the intersection, and the lack of sidewalks and curb cuts as major deficiencies of the intersection.

The project proceeded in fits and starts for several years and by the 2006 Community Meeting it had reached the twenty-five percent design benchmark. There were still the seventy-five percent and one hundred percent designs to get through. After that a project gets in line to enter the TIP, or Transportation Improvement Program which funds projects and gets them on a schedule.

The overall design met with widespread community approval at the meeting. The intersection’s central location between Lexington High School and Clarke Middle School as well as within walking distance of Bridge Elementary made pedestrian safety a major issue for community members. The Highway Department agreed and cited improved pedestrian safety along with better traffic flow as the top priorities for the intersection..

The final design features widened roads on both approaches of Marrett Road and the northbound or Lexington Center bound approach of Waltham Street to accommodate left turn lanes, new traffic signals will be mast mounted making them more visible and will include protected turn phases for the Marrett Road westbound and Waltham Street northbound approaches. These are all designed to improve traffic flow and cut down on wait times for signal phases. New pedestrian signals will conform with current safety standards and include an exclusive pedestrian phase. Concrete sidewalks with curb cuts and wheelchair ramps will also improve pedestrian safety. In addition, the traffic island in front of Dunkin Donuts will be removed and the corner built out and landscaped. Entrances to businesses along Marrett Rd. will be clearly delineated adding to the safety of both moving traffic and those entering and exiting the roadway.

After contacting the agencies and contractor involved in the project it became clear I wasn’t going to get an official response either. But through word of mouth, it looks like construction should be wrapping around the end of October. A bit sooner than originally planned. In the meantime, frequent your favorite local merchants, or even drop in on a new one, in the area and remember Nature’s Way customer Francesca Pfrommer’s philosophy, “If you can take the bigger view it’s actually going to improve the area. Just take a deep breath.” And support your neighborhood merchants.

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