Will Worcester Smart Grid Succeed or Fail?
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
"If we were optimistic going into the meeting -- we're now optimistic cubed, " said grassroots activist Clare Donegan. The Zoning Board voted to seek additional information on the proposed communications tower construction at 30 Tory Fort Lane or 597 Mill Street prior to its next meeting on February 3.
National Grid wants to utilize the tower to transmit information for its smart grid pilot proposal, which it says will provide advanced communication equipment on the grid to monitor, identify and quickly correct problems -- and provide increased reliability of power as a result.
Opponents have been outspoken on the grounds of potential health issues for residents, as well as privacy issues.
"We want George Clooney, because this looks like "The Perfect Storm", said Donegan, referring to the movie of the ill-fated Andrea Gail. "The United States has inadequate FCC limits, and Massachusetts -- while a "green communities" state -- is overriding the environmental concerns of its citizens, and now Worcester is facing attempts to implement a pilot program with enormous consequences."
Former Mayor and City Councilor Konstantina Lukes said she had been initially supportive of the concept while Mayor but has "changed her position" after hearing from those in the community who have expressed their concerns -- and how the process was moving forward.
"What happens when the corporate sector -- who cares about profits -- when merged and married to government power is a concept that challenges our traditional definition of democracy," said Lukes.
Grid Meeting Response, Next Steps
Drew continued, "Here, National Grid is seeking ZBA approval for the proposed project at the Tatnuck Substation on Mill Street. In fact, after engaging customers in the Tory Fort Lane area, we agreed to postpone our initial petition while we conducted additional engineering studies, finding a preferred alternate location for the WiMax tower is the Tatnuck area. We believe that installing the proposed communications base station at the Tatnuck Substation is the best possible outcome for the community and our customers."
Drew was optimistic that the process would continue to move forward successfully.
"It’s National Grid’s understanding from the ZBA chair’s comments at [Monday] night’s hearing the Board will seek direction from the city’s attorneys regarding what aspects of the proposed project the Board should properly consider as it makes its decision on National Grid’s zoning applications. National Grid believes the criteria that the Board needs to apply in deciding this matter are set forth in the Worcester Zoning Ordinance’s provisions governing Personal Wireless Service Facilities, and by applying these criteria, the ZBA should properly be able to regulate the location and construction of the proposed project within the limitations specified in the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. National Grid will continue to work with the ZBA and the city’s attorneys and provide them the information they require to make the best possible decision."
Opponents Raising Health, Governmental Oversight Concerns
"I think the whole [smart grid] issue requires people who want to be informed, to be informed -- to get the local, federal, and international perspective," said longtime HaltMAsmartmeters activist, Patricia Burke.
Burke cited the Telecommunications Act of 1996 as "preventing communities from voicing environmental or health concerns about the infrastructure."
Burke cited the increased warnings associated with cell phones -- including the inclusion of earphones when new phones are sold -- as a warning. "People compare smart meters to cell phones favorably, but we're seeing more information coming out now about the health effects of cell phones," said Burke.
Follwing the ZBA meeting, Burke said was " heartened" by the people that came out -- and the issues raised. "I think the potential is there to halt this," said Burke. "Everyone who spoke did so with knowledge and passion."
Lukes, who said she had concerns with the health issues that been had raised, addressed what she saw as potentially problematic with smart grid technology.
"There are so many legitimate issues with privacy, hacking -- weaknesses of technology -- and individuals ability to respond, or victimized by technology. It raises frightening specter," said Lukes. "I was very concerned about their definition of a "personal wireless mechanism" -- it's not personal to the consumers, their privacy's being invaded. It's only personal to National Grid."
DPU Looking to Move Grid Modernization Forward
In December, the Patrick Administration announced they would "require grid modernization plans for electric utilities" -- including "investing in infrastructure for advanced metering functionality."
“Grid modernization will allow customers to gain more control over their electricity usage and save money on their electricity bills,” said DPU Chair Ann Berwick. “Developing a policy to fully realize the benefits of a modern grid is part of the DPU’s mission to increase the reliability of electric service for residents across the Commonwealth and facilitate the integration of renewable power.”
Pursuant to the last ZBA meeting, National Grid remained optimistic that Worcester would approve the latest tower -- and ultimately their proposed smart grid plan.
"We are hopeful that we will receive the ZBA’s approval. A positive outcome benefits the pilot participants and the city through enabling electric distribution infrastructure upgrades that will allow various levels of automation on our system that will help us quickly identify and respond to outages, and reduce the frequency and duration of power outages," said Drew. "This is one aspect of the Smart Energy Solutions Program that the WiMax towers will help provide."
Smart meter opponent Donegan said that they would continue to oppose the effort -- and pointed to Germany's defeat of a smart meter measure last fall.
"Now Governor Patrick is saying let's mandate these?" said Donegan. "This is such a complex subject, but I feel people are now waking up."
Related Slideshow: 14 To Watch in Central Mass in 2014
EcoTarium's Cox, who took the helm in 2012, is one to certainly watch in 2014. If you don't know Joe, he helped raise over $26.5 million at his previous post at the Galisano Children's Museum in Florida – and broke attendance projections in the process. If a track record of success is any indicator of a future one, expect to see amazing things at the Ecotarium.
Thanks to a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, EcoTarium will soon house one of the most unique exhibits in the country. A team of researchers led by Robert L. Ryan, professor of landscape architecture and regional planning at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, along with Worcester's Clark University and Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, will integrate the science of urban systems into a new "City Science" exhibit.
Next City Manager
With Michael O'Brien's departure from the City Manager post he'd held since 2004 for the private sector, Ed Augustus got tapped from his Director of Communications post at Holy Cross to fill O'Brien's shoes – but for an interim basis only. The former McGovern staffer and State Senator will take the helm for nine months only, leaving the big question in 2014 as to who will be the next City Manager.
The next City Manager will have a myriad of issues to deal with, from economic development, to crime – a top issue as far as residents are concerned. Will the next City Manager address the fact that while more than 40 percent of Worcester's population is a minority, the City has more than 1,600 full- and part-time city employees and well over 80 percent of them are white. Will city government ever reflect the population of Worcester?
The Hamilton native, who did a stint at Syracuse before declaring for the NBA draft this year, is already making an impact as a pro.
In February, GoLocal's John Barone broke the news that Hamilton native, and Syracuse Orange guard, Michael Carter-Williams would declare for the 2013 NBA draft after his sophomore season.
Carter-Williams, a 2011 McDonald’s All-American at St. Andrews in Rhode Island, was drafted 11th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. He is currently having himself quite a rookie year, with 17.6 point and 7.8 assist per game averages.
Dr. Dickson, who was named President and CEO of UMass Memorial Health Care this past February, will no doubt continue to have an influential role in the community.
During his tenure to date, challenges have included financial and labor issues, but also oversight of major changes as well -- Dickson appointed a new president of UMass Memorial Medical Center, Patrick Muldoon, and embarked on closer collaboration with Baystate Health to improve quality, access, and affordability of care.
Republican activist and Boylston school committee member Brad Wyatt will definitely be someone to watch in 2014, having just announced he's running for State Representative.
Wyatt is eyeing Hank Naughton's seat in the 12th Worcester District, as Naughton's now seeking the office of Attorney General. According to the Red Mass Group, the district, which includes Boylston, Clinton, Lancaster, and Berlin is the 38th most Republican leaning district in the Commonwealth. Scott Brown took the 12th in 2010 63-36, and Charlie Baker got 51% to Deval Patrick's 40%. Could Wyatt see a similar success in 2014? Stay tuned.
The Holy Cross senior is no stranger to politics – both locally, and in Washington, DC, having worked as an intern in the Office of Communications at The White House (and before that both in the office of the Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Worcester.)
As President and co-founder of the Worcester Student Government Association, Hakim told GoLocal's Susan Wagner, "Lately I have been describing myself as a pragmatist. I’m definitely a dreamer, but I believe the only way to get anything done is to make an honest assessment of where things stand and then go from there."
Who will get medical marijuana licenses in Worcester County will be watched for certain in 2014.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health in November released the names the 100 applicants for potential medicinal marijuana dispensaries who made it through to Phase 2 of the state’s licensing process. Worcester was named by 10 different applicants, more than any other city. The county itself has 14 finalists for dispensaries, more than any other county than neighboring Middlesex, which has almost twice the population.
Future of the T&G
What will become of the Telegram and Gazette will no doubt be closely watched in 2014.
GoLocal's Dean Starkman wrote in November of the scenario, "The Telegram and Gazette, a wallflower among New England newspapers that has suffered years of benign neglect by distant owners, seemed poised for a revival, after John Henry scooped it up as part of his landmark deal to buy the Boston Globe. Now a month later, he’s putting it on the block."
The potential future of the paper that has a nearly 150-year presence in the city and circulation of roughly 75,000 was broken down by Starkman. One of the major question marks is if new ownership would be local, or a return to a New York parent company.
The quintessential power player in Worcester has been a tireless advocate for the Commonwealth's tourism and visitor industry – with clear focus on developing the Canal District and the Blackstone Valley.
Giangregorio sits on the boards of Preservation Worcester and the Worcester Convention and Visitor Bureau, and also serves on the steering committee of Citizens for Business and as representative for the Canal District on the Mayor's Small Business Roundtable.
Be Like Brit
The legacy of Britney Gengel, who perished in the 2010 Haiti earthquake while on a service trip with Lynn University, continues to move forward through the Be Like Brit orphanage.
What started as a project built in her memory is now home to 35 children, and employs more than 40 full-time employees. According to the Be Like Brit website, hundreds of American and Canadian college students and other volunteers visit or volunteer at Be Like Brit each year.
He might have gotten the nod earlier this year for his cool factor, but GoLocal is putting Corazzini on our list of people to watch because of his "kid" factor.
While we feature the business and political minds needed to move Worcester – and all of Central Mass – forward, we recognize that the future of the Commonwealth depends on the education, and development, of our youth.
Waterman, the CEO of Girls, Inc., didn't always know she'd end up in the role of spearheading the 97-year-old organization in Worcester that allows girls the ability to participate in enrichment programs and get the tools, opportunities, and encouragement needed to grow.
A 20 year veteran of the mortgage banking industry, Waterman created "Divorce Mortgage Specialists" to help women in transition, before switching gears to head up Leading Women Massachusetts as President, providing cutting-edge leadership development solutions for women in organizations. Now, Waterman is setting her sights on the 100 year anniversary of Girls Inc. in 2016.
Central Rock Gym
Could 2014 be the year you start climbing to the top? If you haven't already been to a Central Rock Gym, watch out, because you could just catch the climbing bug.
Now in four locations in MA and CT, the gym offers climbing opportunities for all ages and abilities, and hosts climbing camps, regional, national – and international – competitions.
Trial attorney Paczkowski is as busy out of the courtroom as she is in – sitting on the Community Legal Aid Access to Justice Campaign Leadership Committee and co-chair of the Young Lawyers' Division of the Worcester County Bar Association, Paczkowksi is also the founding member and President of the Young Professionals Women's Association.
With goals of serving as a platform for women to share their voice on issues relating to the region's vitality, connecting with women through social and educational events, and providing opportunities for self-enrichment, the YPWA's esteemed found was recently named a 2013 Massachusetts Super Lawyers Rising Star.
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