Art Campbell

Art started The Groton Line late in 2009 as a synthesis of two careers in newspaper journalism and technical communications -- writing about networks, computers, and software. He's lived in Groton 20+ years, so he qualifies as "one of the new guys."

Jan 312015
 

Marcie MuehlkeSuzanne Larocque
When Marcie Muehlke thinks back on her wedding day, she remembers one detail that was not perfect, not as she planned and dreamed.

Her wedding dress.

“My husband and I wanted every aspect of our wedding day to reflect our beliefs,” Muehlke said. “When I shopped for dresses, most were made from petroleum-based polyester. As a socially conscious consumer, I wanted a gorgeous dress that I felt good about wearing.”

So in 2012, three years after — and because of — her slightly imperfect wedding, Muehlke founded Celia Grace, America’s first line of Fair Trade wedding dresses. according to a news release, the company’s mission is to create beautiful wedding gowns that also make a difference in the lives of women and the environments. Celia Grace is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, a global movement to end poverty by paying workers a living wage, and advocating for work in safe and fair conditions.

Muehlke is from Groton, the daughter of Rick Muehlke and Martha McLure. She attended Groton-Dunstable schools and then the Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School. She left Groton to attend Brown University, then “My husband and I moved back to Massachusetts in 2009 to get married and start grad school at UMass Amherst. I got my MBA and MPPA (Master’s in Public Policy and Administration) there in 2012 and we have been living and working here ever since. ”

Newly opened Dream Bridal of Sudbury is the first shop in Massachusetts to feature Celia Grace’s line of wedding dresses.



“Dream is focused on great service and beautifully handmade dresses,” said Malinda Macari, owner of Dream. “We have one dressing room so we can focus on one bride at a time. And along those lines, we chose Celia Grace not just for the silk, unique laces and flattering fit — because they truly are beautiful dresses. But we also chose Celia Grade because it’s a line of wedding dresses that is more meaningful for brides, seamstresses and the environment.”

Dream will host a trunk show featuring the full Celia Grace 2015 collection from Feb. 13 to Feb. 22 to celebrate the line —and the local connection. Celia Grace sells wedding dresses, and accessories for men and women, in bridal boutiques across the United States and direct to brides around the world.

“I love that I can work with such amazing women across the bridal industry like Malinda Macari at Dream,” Muehlke said. “It’s such a benefit for thoughtful brides, and great to partner with a bridal shop that also values the importance of giving back. The wedding dress is a symbol and a thing of beauty, the most exquisite garment you’ll ever wear. Where it comes from and whose hands have touched it is important to me. Our dresses put resources directly into the hands of hard-working women and men in poor countries who are changing their communities for the better.”

And when Muehlke mentions women across the industry, she means women worldwide. Muehlke is based in Amherst, but Celia Grace’s FIT-trained head designer Alix Kivlin works in Brooklyn. Production takes place in Cambodia and India, a concious choice Muehlke made so she could help the women living there earn money and gain confidence in a healthy, safe work environment. Celia Grace uses laces made in the United States on several dress styles.

“I love working with the women in Southeast Asia,” Muehlke said. “They are talented seamstresses; smart women who are coming out of really tough situations.”

Head Designer Alix Kivlin describes the dresses as standing on “an enlightened pedestal” not only for the Fair Trade practices, but because of the dresses’ one-of-a-kind materials and designs.

“Our 2015 collection introduces our first all-natural dyed dresses in blush pink using a Shibori technique that looks like light dancing on the water,” Kivlin said. “The soft blush colors come from coconut husks and hibiscus flowers. Our gowns are made in soft heirloom eco-silks woven on traditional, non-electric, wooden looms the way they have been made for centuries.”


Jan 312015
 

James "Stewie" Horan

James “Stewie” Horan

A Groton call firefighter, Chris Curtis, has been removed from active duty pending an internal investigation. Curtis allegedly sent an email threatening James “Stewie” Horan, a former Groton firefighter, and members of the department who know him.

The email, apparently sent Monday, January 26, 2015 at 6:51 a.m., was addressed to Groton EMT Cathy Lincoln. It was CC:ed to about 50 more people, including what appear to be all members of the Groton Fire Department including officers and Chief Steele McCurdy, and warned off “Some people that still stay in touch with stewie (Horan) … and we know who you are!!!”

Horan received multiple copies of the email from concerned people within the department.

When he read the email for the first time, “I was stunned,” he said. “Honestly, I was stunned. The clear threat to me was one thing, but the implied threat to those who may or may not speak to me bothered me more. If you have a problem, you talk to me directly. You don’t threaten, or imply a threat to those who are friends with me and who speak to me.”

The full text of the email, apparently created in reply to a legitimate department message related to training, reads:

Subject: Re: Schedule for Ice Rescue training

Some people that still stay in touch with stewie and we know who you are!!! Should have a talk to him about emails it could get dangerous for him!!!!!

Horan resigned last spring after being involved in a union organizing attempt. He subsequently joined with three “non-reappointed” firefighters (Deputy Fire Chief Clarence Jefferson and firefighters Ben Miele and Stephen Tervo) who were terminated by the town in June, 2014 to file a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the town and town officials. That lawsuit is now in federal court.

Although the body of the mail refers to “we” several times, Curtis is the only firefighter who was removed from duty in connection with the incident.

Horan noticed that particular wording in the email. He said, “Here’s my biggest question: Who’s the ‘we’ that you claim to represent in the email? I find it disturbing that this culture of hostility and divisiveness continues to be tolerated, where it’s still thought of as acceptable to not only make a threat but to distribute it to your peers and superiors with no apparent concern. I fully intend to pursue this as far as the law allows.”

McCurdy said that Curtis was relieved of duty on Monday, within hours of allegedly sending the email. McCurdy said Curtis is now the subject of an internal fire department investigation, and that may lead to disciplinary actions or a termination hearing. Curtis has been a member of the Groton department for more than two years. After this story was published, at 9 a.m. on January 31, McCurdy sent a message noting that the town’s Human Resources director was also involved in the investigation.

Horan met with Groton police Monday evening and asked them to investigate both the personal threat in the email and any potential illegalities related to his role as a potential witness in the federal lawsuit. He communicated with investigating officers during the week, but hasn’t received any additional information, he said Friday night.

Rob Bowen, attorney for Horan and the three “non-reappointed” firefighters, did not return a phone call on Friday asking for his comments. Other attorneys contacted by The Groton Line gave informal opinions that the federal judge hearing the lawsuit would be interested in hearing about the email because it has a bearing on the pending case, and one added that the judge would have the option to ask that criminal charges, possibly including witness intimidation, be brought against the sender(s) of the email.

McCurdy refused to speculate on how long the investigation would take.

“Because it is a personnel issue, I can’t disclose a heck of a lot about it. There will be a fair and impartial investigation into this whole thing and we’ll go from there. It is internal to the fire department at this point, and there are a lot of people to talk to. It is something that has been taken very seriously,” he said.

Curtis did not respond to a request for an interview.


Jan 302015
 

Do your housemates need new jewelry? Slightly delayed, 2015 dog licenses are available. Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Do your housemates need new jewelry? Slightly delayed, 2015 dog licenses are available.

It’s one of those annual rites of winter, like taking the old year’s calendar off the wall and hanging a fresh one for the coming year. The Town Census, a snail mail missive from the town to see if you and your family weathered the year and if there are any changes in your household, didn’t go out on time this January.

But this January it didn’t happen. Town Clerk Michael Bouchard said the vendor the town uses to assemble and mail the package had some problems. He said that he expected the census, a 2015 dog license application, and two questionnaires — one each from the Cable Committee and Council on Aging — to be mailed to residents by the middle of next week, the first week in February.


Jan 272015
 

“You plow a road and 20 minutes later, you can’t find it again,” one Groton plow truck operator said, reporting from his cab as Groton woke up to the “historic” Blizzard of ’15. By 7 a.m., most people found more than two feet of light powdery snow on the ground, a steady nor’east wind, and 12 degree temperatures.

Plow truck drivers were reporting difficulty getting around town between 8 and 9 a.m., complaining of occasional whiteout conditions. One truck drove off the road on Hoyt’s Warf Road and had to be pulled back by another plow; other trucks had difficulty with the roads along Lost Lake Drive, because of their steepness, narrowness, and twisty turns.

Drivers who had been on the road for a number of hours were able to take a breakfast break at the Central Fire Station on Farmer’s Row, where Chief Steele McCurdy had called in crews on standby. Firehouse chefs planned on three meals, at least, as long as plow truck drivers and emergency crews were on blizzard duty, McCurdy said. Fire and EMC crews only had one emergency call overnight, a routine medical call, he said.

Residents were staying off the roads, heeding Governor Charlie Baker’s emergency order banning non-essential travel.

At 9:45, the Massachusetts State Police reported: “Northeastern MA All stations report heavy snow and snow covered roads. MSP and National Guard assisted local authorities with evacuation of homes on Elm Street in Ipswich due to flooding.” And that there was next to no traffic on the Mass Pike and other main roads. Both Logan and Hanscom airports are closed.

Groton-Dunstable Regional District Schools will be closed two days, Tuesday and Wednesday.

In marked contrast to utilities around the state, at 1 p.m., Groton Electric Light Department reported only one outage, a problem with a West Groton house that required the utility to shut off power to five neighboring houses while it was repaired.


Zephyr Horton having some fun in the snow. Video by Rob Horton.


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Jan 262015
 

If you take some neat photos during the Blizzard of ’15, we’d love to see them — they’ll go into our community gallery.


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The Blizzard of ’15 Groton Community Gallery

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Jan 262015
 

Bread shelves were emptying quickly at Shaw's Four Corners store Monday morning, but were being restocked ahead of the Tuesday blizzard Art Campbell | The Groton Line

Bread shelves were emptying quickly at Shaw’s Four Corners store Monday morning, but were being restocked ahead of the Tuesday blizzard

With weather forecasts calling for anywhere from 24-36 inches of snow driven by 40 mile an hour winds to smother Groton between Monday night and Wednesday morning, residents performed the standard New England nor’easter prep ritual: visit a grocery and maybe the package store for supplies. While many residents waited in checkout lines, town and school officials planned mid-day meetings to firm up plans for what the National Weather Service called an “historic blizzard.”

Shaws’s and Donelan’s Supermarket were both reporting steady business at noon, but neither store had waiting lines. Some shelves were emptying out, but being restocked from on-hand supplies. Denis Marchand, owner of Craven’s Package Store, hadn’t had a storm surge yet — he said that he was expecting a rush as soon as the first snow flakes started to fly though — which forecasters said could occur around 6 or 7 p.m. Monday.

Groton-Dunstable Regional School District Superintendent Kristan Rodriguez made the decision to cancel Tuesday classes at 12:30 p.m.

Fire Chief Steele McCurdy reported in an email that he was on a conference call discussing emergency services, and that “Groton Fire Department will be staffing up for the duration of the storm. Fortunately, it appears that this storm will be light fluffy snow, but the power of this storm should not be underestimated. We encourage folks to stay off the roads where they could become stranded. Emergency services will be available to assist homeowners if they need to evacuate to a shelter.”

Police Chief Donald Palma activated the town’s Code Red reverse 911 call system, asking residents to stay off the roads after the snow begins, and to stock up on supplies. Like McCurdy, he said that local shelters would be available to residents should anyone need to be evacuated from their homes for any reason.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency early Monday and banned all non-essential motor vehicle travel during the approaching blizzard. Baker said Monday the state of emergency is effective immediately and the non-essential travel ban goes into effect at midnight Monday.

Town officials were meeting around lunch time, according to spokeswoman Dawn Dunbar, to determine if any special preparations were called for. She said an announcement about town office closings on Tuesday may also come out of that meeting. A follow up call to Town Manager Mark Haddad was not immediately returned, but a notice was posted on the town website saying that town offices are closing at 4 p.m. Monday. Then Dunbar sent an email from Haddad’s office at 1:33 p.m. to say that “All meetings are cancelled for tonight, including Board of Selectmen’s meeting and we will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday 1/27. ”

Blizzard of '15 Snow Total ForecastArt Campbell | The Groton Line

Blizzard of ’15 Snow Total Forecast

Vanessa Abraham, Director of the Groton Public Library, said the library would be closed on Tuesday.

Keven Kelly, Groton Electric Light Department Manager, already had storm plans in place by 7 a.m. Monday — have his crews available during the storm, but he didn’t anticipate any local problems. In fact, he hoped to have GELD crews available to assist harder-hit areas by Tuesday evening.

“I expect our guys to be working overtime Tuesday into Wednesday. As always, Groton comes first. If the electric system is stable in Groton late Tuesday, we would begin looking to the needs of other municipal light departments in Massachusetts. If the MA municipal light departments are stable, we would look to assist municipal departments wherever the needs are greatest in New England,” he said.

Jennifer Mieth, Public Information Officer for State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan and the Department of Fire Services, wrote in a press release that Cohn reminded people to observe all safety precautions with candles, generators, and other emergency equipment, and to “Check on elderly neighbors and see if they need extra supplies before the storm.”


Jan 222015
 

The Groton Interfaith Council’s annual Martin Luther King Day breakfast is always a friendly, welcoming affair, but Monday’s pot luck vegetarian feast felt a bit like a new family celebration. Neelkanth Mishra, spiritual director of the New England Shirdi Sai Parivaar Temple, was the featured speaker, and he welcomed Groton and about 50 interfaith feasters to his family — “parivaar” means “family” or “extended family” in Hindi — as the Interfaith Council welcomed Groton’s newest congregation, a Hindu temple, to the town.

The New England Shirdi Sai Parivaar Temple, with more than 400 members, now meets in a rented building in Chelmsford. The sect purchased 28 acres on Route 119 near the Littleton town line several years ago, has secured all town permits to build a permanent temple, and plans be meeting in a building that is the first phase of an ongoing construction plan in 2016.

The congregation venerates Shri Sai Baba, a holy man who lived in the late 19th and early 20th century in Shirdi, a rural community near Mumbai, on the eastern side of the Indian peninsula. The sect, as many Hindu sects are, has a strong regional base there, but Shirdi Sai has expanded around the world. In North America, there are strong communities around Boston, Chicago, and on the west coast, and smaller communities in Texas, Canada, and in other areas.

Following Shri Sai Baba’s teachings, the temple will be more than a place of worship, Mishra said — it will be a community center and a place of service to the surrounding community.

See the Wikipedia entry on Shirdi Sai Baba


Currently, the temple holds four Aartis, or services, a day. It is open from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. each day but Thursday. Thursday is a special holy day, and the temple remains open until 10 p.m. In addition to the four Aartis, the temple is always available for individual or small group meditation or prayer, Mishra said, and he invited anyone interested in the temple to visit a service.

The temple is heavily invested in helping people, he told the Interfaith Council member, with food and clothing drives, blood drives, and volunteer service. The Groton temple will be more than a place for worship — it will also be a center for community services and outreach, he said.

The temple’s website is at http://www.nessp.org/ .


Jan 182015
 

Freezing rain and ice contributed to a two-car head on collision on Route 40 near Burntmeadow Road that injured three people about 1 p.m.Meghan Volpe

Freezing rain and ice contributed to a two-car head on collision on Route 40 near Burntmeadow Road that injured three people about 1 p.m.

Rain falling on icy cold roads quickly turned town streets into skating rinks Sunday afternoon, sending multiple cards into ditches, trees, and each other, and several people to area hospitals. From about 12:30 to 3 p.m., until sanding trucks began to catch up, Groton Police and Fire Department personnel responded to a seemingly endless stream of accidents and cars off the road. Minor accidents sent cars off the road on Chicopee, Longley, Townsend, Lowell, Pepperell, Island Pond, Old Dunstable, and Old Ayer Roads.

The most serious occurred around 1 p.m., when two cars hit head-on on Lowell Road, Route 40, near Burntmeadow Road. Three people were taken to Nashoba Valley Medical Center and Lowell General Hospital for treatment; the extent of their injuries was not available when this article was published.


Jan 162015
 


It was just seven months ago that Selectman Josh Degen became the Chair of the Groton Board of Selectmen. There have been high points — the opening of the new central fire station, for instance. But Degen was clearly tired of the way board members are not working together when he asked his fellow selectmen for help to rebuild the often-dysfunctional body at Monday night’s BoS meeting.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last couple weeks concerning some of the actions of this board and our ability to work cohesively together with one another. We were all elected individually to serve the town of Groton. The last few months have had a tremendous amount of issues, from public information requests, from open meeting law issues, from lawsuits involving firefighters, and many other issues.

“I think this has really worn hard on the board. I would like to see if there is a way we can all collectively work together in a more cohesive manner to serve the town of Groton in a better way.

Degen inherited a number of problems that rolled over from the previous fiscal year, when the board was led by Peter Cunningham. Two open meeting law complaints against board operation under Cunningham’s tenure, both filed by The Groton Line, were validated and resolved over the last few months. Four call firefighters, including Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson, a 33-year veteran of the Groton Fire Department, lost their positions to encouraged resignations or “non-reappointment” to their positions in early June after months of “investigations” — and they promptly filed a federal law suit against the town that could drag on for years.

Last October, Town Manager Mark Haddad filed a Public Information Request for private emails sent to and from Selectman Jack Petropoulos, one of his supervisors, seeking the names of residents who questioned his approach to marketing the Prescott School building.

Then there was the proposed “gag rule” policy aimed at Petropulos, that would have prevented individual selectmen from working for a political solution to a problem after the board of selectmen had determined its collective policy.

More recently, in December, 2014, Cunningham filed another PIR against Petropoulos, looking for a year’s worth of emails between Petropulos and Art Campbell, editor of The Groton Line, including private communications unrelated to town business.

Many of these events have taken hours of all the selectmen’s time to talk over and attempt to resolve, and many have involved negotiations with town counsel.

In the background have been the usual “routine” problems associated with running any the town, and last year’s budget crisis caused by incorrect accounting by the local school district, and a significant increase in the proposed town budget for 2016.

Degen went on with his statement:

“For my part, I would like to apologize to the town, to those of you who think we got caught up in the minutia of many other things.

“But it is important that we all work together. And it is OK for us all to have different perspectives and different criteria which we operate under. But when we work together, we are the Board of Selectmen and I think we need to strive to work in a more cohesive manner.

“I would like the other selectmen to take away and think about how that might happen and we can discuss that at a future date.”


Jan 142015
 

The public is invited to the opening reception of the “NOA Gallery of Fine Art Instructor’s Exhibition” this Sunday, Jan. 18th, from noon to 3 p.m.

The show features more than 40 works of art in pastels, oils, acrylics, pastels, mixed-media, watercolor and handspun, woven tapestries work from the six artists who teach classes at Groton’s NOA Gallery’s School of Fine Art: Suzanne Binnie (Adult Watercolor), Claudia Chase (weaving on Mirrix Looms), Joelle Levallet-Feldman (Adult Pastel), Dylan Parker-Roach (Pet Portraiture), NOA Gallery owner Joni Parker-Roach (Children’s All Media Arts and Adult Watercolor), and Alexia Rosoff Wilber (Adult Drawing and Painting, Youth Art Studio).



The show is being hosted by the Parish Center for the Arts 10 Lincoln Street, Westford, Massachusetts. The exhibit is open on the 18th from noon to 3 p.m. and the following Sunday, the 25th, from noon — 2 p.m., when the center is open for other events, and by appointment. To schedule a viewing or for more information, call 978-692-6333 (PCA) 978-448-2690 (NOA Gallery); email CA@Westford.com or joni@noagallery.com.