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Potential catastrophe averted in Presidential Heights fire

27 Aug

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

 

More details will emerge here, but The Eye has learned that the fire at 13 Madison Ave in West Peabody last night was no ordinary garage fire. Turns out that the owner of the property was likely storing a large amount of chemicals in the structure as part of a swimming pool service company.

FF

The fire caused a strong odor, and a series of small, but frightening explosions before the Peabody Fire Department arrived.

 

Were it not for an outstanding job by the PFD, this could have spread to nearby homes, resulted in major property loss, and perhaps injuries to residents living in this Presidential Heights neighborhood.

 

“You could see the black smoke and the smell was really bad,” a neighborhood resident told us this morning. “There were a few explosions as well. It was very frightening.”

 

According to city records, the property is owned by Joseph Carpenito, who also owns Pools Unlimited. On its website, the company lists 13 Madison Ave as its office.

Below is a Google Earth image that shows the location. Note the close proximity of other homes. The large garage that burned is to the back right of the property.

madison

What’s going on with this site behind Latitude Sports Club on Route 1?

23 May

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

We’ll bring you more details as they develop, but for now I just wanted to give you a heads up on another quality of life, and potential public safety issue that’s brewing on Route 1.

landscape

Latitude Sports Club is to the upper right. The triangular paved area to the left is the property in question. Pine Street runs across the bottom of the image.

The developer who owns the land on which the Latitude Sports Club was developed, has leased a parcel behind the club to a landscaping company.

We hear that the landscaping company has a conditional permit from the city to operate, but that there are some serious questions about what affect this operation will have on the extensive wetlands adjacent to the site.  There are also additional public safety concerns around the fact that there is no fire hydrant on site, yet there is potential for flammable chemicals, such a fertilizer. Mulch, as we’ve seen, is also flammable. The site runs parallel to Pine Street, where there are several homes.

It also sounds like city officials, including the current ward councilor for this area, are trying to keep this quiet until a proper permit can be worked out. For example, no elected official has asked the building department to slap a cease and desist order on this company until the concerns can  be addressed. They continue to operate, which sounds like business as usual on Route 1 when it comes to developers.

We’ve also learned that people who work for departments whose job it is to protect residents and our environment, have voiced their concerns to city officials, and have been told to stand down for now.

More to come, but if anyone in our audience knows more, please send me a confidential message.

 

 

Council expected to side with Mayor on removing Civil Service as criteria for picking police, fire chiefs

27 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Peabody Mayor Ted Bettencourt

The Peabody City Council’s Legal Affairs Committee did the right thing last night in voting to advance to a vote of the full City Council Mayor Ted Bettencourt’s request to remove the police and fire chief’s jobs from the jurisdiction of Civil Service.

Councilor At-Large Jim Liacos said it best last night when he argued that the Mayor should have the ability to “pick his own team” without being hamstrung by Civil Service scores. Removing the barrier allows Peabody to find the best candidate for filling those executive positions, starting with the selection of a new police chief when Chief Robert Champagne retires on June 1.

There is also the issue of a Mayor being able to fire a department head based on performance.  Right now, unless there is some malfeasance, that’s not allowed under the Civil Service system.

Although Civil Service test scores need to remain an effective way of avoiding political patronage when it comes to hiring rank-and-file firefighters and police officers, a Mayor should have the right to pick his/her own department heads and executive team, regardless of test scores. I wrote about this earlier in the Eye, if you’d like to read more.

“We all want the best candidate, the most qualified person, for this critically important position and I believe removing the chief position, for both police and fire, from Civil Service gives us the best chance of finding the right person,” Bettencourt said.

Just three members of the Legal Affairs Committee were present last night, with Councilors Liacos and Bob Driscoll supporting the Mayor’s request. Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin wasn’t supportive of the Mayor’s request.

The matter will now go before the full council on Thursday, where it’s expected to pass. The vote would serve as a home rule petition that the state legislature would then have to approve and have signed by the Governor.

You can read the full story here in the Peabody Patch.

Please let me know where you stand by leaving a comment.

Mayor is right: Hiring of new Chiefs shouldn’t be determined only by test scores

12 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

When a community searches for a new police or fire chief, the process shouldn’t be hamstrung by a test that has a primary intent of keeping politics out of hiring.  Civil Service tests are a good thing when it comes to keeping the hiring of police officers and firefighters “honest.”

But it’s just too limiting of a tool for evaluating and hiring public safety chief executives.

This is why I support Mayor Ted Bettencourt in his request that a Civil Service test score no longer be the determining factor when it comes to Peabody hiring for these two critically important positions. The Mayor is asking the City Council to vote to remove both the police and fire chief positions from the jurisdiction of Civil Service.

Not worrying about how a candidate scores on a Civil Service test will help broaden the pool of potential candidates for the new Police Chief when current Chief Robert Champagne retires on June 1.

“My research has shown that the best process for the city is to take the (chiefs’) positions out of Civil Service,” the Mayor told the Peabody Patch.

And he’s right. Who the right person is for the job needs to be based on several criteria,  and to eliminate people simply because they didn’t get a Top 3 score on a Civil Service exam would be to eliminate some of the best candidates for a position that is essential when it comes to public safety.

Bettencourt says that he wouldn’t totally eliminate the test as criteria, but other criteria would carry as much, if not more weight, than the Civil Service score.

The Mayor’s request is likely headed for the Council’s Legal Affairs Committee. But the Council should act quickly here,  and I feel the councilors should approve this request so Peabody is assured of the best possible replacement when Chief Champagne leaves.

Help support Peabody’s Fire and Police Memorial

21 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When most people are running away from a dangerous situation, the brave men and women of our police and fire departments are running toward it.

I think of this adage in a huge way each September 11th, a day when hundreds of brave first responders made the ultimate sacrifice. And, we were reminded of it a week ago today when police and fire departments responded to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.

Peabody Fire and Police Memorial

A look at what the new Peabody Fire and Police Memorial might look like

Closer to home, and in just two days, we’ll memorialize the loss a year ago of one of Peabody’s finest, firefighter James Rice , who died as the result of injuries he sustained while fighting a blaze on Peabody’s Hancock Street.

Why am I bringing this all up today?

Well, it’s time for us to come together as a community and honor our own local heroes. It’s time to support the construction of the Peabody Fire and Police Memorial.

A joint effort between representatives from Peabody Fire and Police, and the Mayor’s office is underway to build a memorial that would look very similar to the photo posted here.

PFD Captain Dale Kimball is one of the organizers of the effort, which includes being able to raise $100,000 in private donations.  The city will donate land on Perkins Street.

What I’m asking all Eye readers to do today is click through to the website and consider making a donation to these efforts, or sponsoring a brick that will be placed around the memorial.

It’s a great way to saying thanks and show that you appreciate these people who keep you safe each and every day.

A night of honor for six of Peabody’s firefighter heroes

19 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

FFIt was an evening of honor for the Peabody Fire Department last night at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, as several of our brave firefighters were honored at 2012 Firefighter of the Year Awards,

Firefighter Jim Rice, who made the ultimate sacrifice when he lost his life a year ago while battling a fire on Hancock Street, received the Medal of Honor, the highest honor presented at the awards ceremony. Jim’s wife Amy, on behalf of Jim and their children Alyssa, Katelyn and Ryan, accepted the award last night from Governor Deval Patrick.

But it was also an evening to honor five additional Peabody heroes:

  •  Deputy Chief Eric Harrison, who was a captain last December, received a Medal of Valor for his actions while going into the building on Hancock Street with his team in an effort to save Firefighter Rice, who had become trapped.

The Peabody Patch today does a really nice job with full details from last night’s ceremony. You can check it out by clicking here.

Jim Rice to be honored at Firefighter of the Year Awards

17 Dec

Rice

By Eye on Peabody

Fallen Peabody firefighter James Rice will be posthumously bestowed with an award for bravery and excellence in fire service tomorrow night during the annual Firefighter of the Year Awards at Mechanics Hall in Worcester.

Firefighter Rice, 42,  died a year ago after inhaling toxic fumes while battling a three-alarm fire.

Since then a memorial scholarship fund has also been established in his name.

It’s definitely nice to hear of the latest honor for a Peabody fallen hero.

State Rep race fallout, a firefighter museum … and more random thoughts

10 Dec

Take our poll on your choice in the State Rep special election

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Random thoughts while wondering how long it is before we hear that the offices in Beverly of my “favorite” newspaper have been turned into a new Super Walmart. …

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the looming race for State Rep, but it should also be interesting to see what affect the special election will have on Peabody’s city election in the fall. With Dave Gravel and (maybe) Anne Manning, and Beverley Dunne throwing their hats into the ring, the rep race is likely to leave at least one open seat on the city council or school committee.

But the fallout on the fall election could be even more far reaching. It’ll be interesting in the coming months to see which pols and elected officials choose which sides, and how those alliances affect the city elections. Right away, the Eye wonders what Mayor Ted Bettencourt will do.  Both Beverley and Dave supported the mayor in his race against Sean Fitzgerald, so we wonder if Ted stays out of this rep race battle. One thing is likely certain, though:  The mayor won’t be supporting Ms. Manning should she get into the race. Anne was a big supporter of  Fitzgerald in 2011.

As for this blogger’s plans. All I can say right now is that I don’t have any. Was asked on Sunday about that by someone, and my response was I have not ruled out another run for councilor at-large.  But … as soon as constant companion reads this, I’m sure she will smack right in the head for not ruling it out here. :)

 Peabody Fire Museum is a hidden gem

You have to check out the old Peabody fire house and museum next to Brooksby Farm

Fire house museum near Brooksby Farm is a hidden gem

Stumbled upon one of Peabody’s true hidden gems on Sunday when constant companion and I toured the Peabody Fire Museum next to Smith Barn at Brooksby Farm.

The circa 1875 building housed Peabody Engine Company 3, which was originally located on Endicott Street. Not only has the fire house been preserved, but we were amazed to see the incredible artifacts stored there in what has to be one of the best firefighter museums on the North Shore. It’s only too bad more people don’t know about it. What a great job by the Peabody Historical Society in preserving and maintaining it.

Speaking of Peabody Firefighter history, the Eye sends out its condolences to the family of Leonard Marshall, PFD retired, who recently passed away at age 87.

Elsewhere, while cleaning out my mind’s notebook

In the Peabody Patch, there’s some very nice video from Sunday’s Holiday Festival at Peabody City Hall.  …  Looking for some good burgers and a way to help out the kids in the Peabody High band tonight? Check out this fundraiser going on at Fuddruckers … Also from the Patch, congrats to these Top 10 Spelling Bee winners from the Lions cluster at the Higgins …

Since he was good to this blog on Sunday and gave us the low down on his decision to not seek the State Rep seat, I won’t charge Tom Gould an ad fee for the following statement:

“Try the eggnog ice cream” at Treadwell’s  It’ll put you in the holiday spirit. …

I think the Patriots win tonight against the 11-1 Houston Texans on Monday Night Football in Foxboro. Aside from the fact that the Pats’ defense seems to be coming together at the right time, and Tom Brady has been in way more of these big games than Houston QB Matt Schaub, I just have a feeling that this is going to be a blowout. Of course, if Brady has a great night, my fantasy team is going down in flames this week,  since that’s who my opponent starts at QB. Anyhow, Pats 45, Texans 20 …

(Please follow Bob on Twitter @EyeOnPeabody)

If you won Powerball tonight, what would you buy first?

28 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

When I win the Powerball drawing tonight (I have the winning ticket burning a hole in my pocket right now), I think I’ll buy Peabody a new school, a new fire truck, and the mayor a new suit. :)

Let us all know in the comments section what your first purchases will be when you strike it rich tonight.

Peabody firefighter helps where help is needed

19 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The phrase “off-duty” doesn’t matter when you are a firefighter. The mission is still the same: While everyone else is running away from an emergency. you run towards it.

Such was the case recently with Peabody firefighter David Limongiello, who  wanted to do something for New Yorkers hit by Hurricane Sandy. So, going beyond the call of duty, and volunterring his own time, Limongiello loaded his 20-foot trailer with 3,000 pounds of donated supplies and headed off to help people of the devastated region.

And in a nice, heartwarming twist, turns out that Limongiello ran into firefighters in the New York metro area, who had earlier come to Peabody to pay their respects at the funeral of firefighter Jim Rice last December.

It’s a very nice story, which you can read here in the Salem News.

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