FOSTER/GLOCESTER/SCITUATE – 2021 was a year of returning to normalcy for the towns of Foster, Glocester and Scituate after a 2020 pandemic that disrupted nearly every aspect of life.
Virtual meetings became hybrid and then in-person, and schools returned to in-person class as the necessity of face masks was debated.
In COVID-19 numbers, Scituate has seen a total of 1,796 cases, with a rate of 16,939 cases per 100,000 residents. The town had 76 total hospitalizations (a rate of 717 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents) and six deaths (a rate of 57 deaths per 100,000 residents). The town’s vaccination rate stands at 70.6 percent.
Foster has seen a total of 829 cases since the start of the pandemic, with a rate of 17,680 cases per 100,000 residents. The town had 35 total hospitalizations (a rate of 746 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents) and nine deaths (a rate of 192 deaths per 100,000 residents). The town’s vaccination rate stands at 61.1 percent.
Glocester has seen a total of 1,428 cases, with a rate of 14,192 cases per 100,000 residents. The town had 43 total hospitalizations (a rate of 427 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents) and seven deaths (a rate of 70 deaths per 100,000 residents). The town’s vaccination rate stands at 62.4 percent.
Foster Emergency Management Director Jayme Pirzynski and Glocester Emergency Management Director Gerald Mosca combined forces to hold vaccine clinics every Saturday to help residents get vaccinated, while Scituate held their own clinics.
Foster Town Council President Denise DiFranco said that the clinics had a large turnout and for the most part, residents were supportive in doing what they could to protect themselves and others.
The towns also had plenty to focus on outside the pandemic, from a new website in Foster to a development scandal in Scituate. Here were some of the top stories in 2021.
Plans for infrastructure upgrades underway:
Scituate’s development of Chopmist Hill Estates has been marked by contentious dealings from the start, as neighbors have protested the six-building, 18-unit condo project, saying it would put too much pressure on the underwater aquifer system that the neighborhood relies on for wells.
In April, residents along Chopmist Hill Road aired their concerns to members of the Scituate Police Department, who arrested former Town Council President John Mahoney on charges of larceny under $1,500 and willful trespassing after he was accused of removing signs from the side of Chopmist Hill Road. Mahoney was accused of removing signs, which said “Mahoney must go,” “Save Our Wells” and “No Condos,” on April 1 to stop what he saw as interference in the sale of his condos at Chopmist Hill Estates.
Mahoney described the arrest as “malicious prosecution” and said the majority of discussions with potential buyers revolved around the harassment he received from neighbors, sparked by them seeing the signs, and his dealings with the town. Mahoney said he checked land maps and said the signs were on state property, not private property, and he did not trespass when removing them.
The issues with Chopmist Hill Estates arose again in September when members of the Scituate Police Station Building Committee expressed concerns to town officials that no performance bond was issued at Chopmist Hill Estates for soil and erosion control, despite runoff issues following several rain events.
In October, sale prices increased at the complex, and five previously low-to-moderate-income condo units almost doubled in initial asking price after the Planning Commission approved an increase in area median income requirements. The Planning Commission voted unanimously on Oct. 19 to increase the price point for the two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo units.
The Planning Commission also approved a master plan for Coldbrook Terrace after its developers, Village at Chopmist, reduced the number of units.
Rockland Oaks continued to have issues with its water, with newly elected Scituate Housing Authority Board of Commissioners Chairman Terrell Parker saying in January the water was safe to bathe and wash dishes with, but not for drinking.
In July, toilets with running leaks caused wells to run dry at Rockland Oaks, leaving residents without running water for approximately 48 hours. The senior living facility remained under scrutiny from the Rhode Island Department of Health Center for for its drinking water quality, with the state agency declaring it must come into compliance with the standards of a public water system.
Residents also expressed fear about COVID-19 and a supposed lack of information at the complex in December after a resident died of complications from the disease. Resident commissioner at the Scituate Housing Authority Norman Monroe spoke before the Scituate Town Council on Dec. 9, saying residents are upset about many things going on at the 24-unit housing complex.
Foster’s Town Council President, Denise DiFranco, said that one of the town’s biggest accomplishments in 2021 was getting the new Foster Police Station proposal approved by residents.
The proposal passed with overwhelming support from the town in a 150-28 vote at the Financial Town Meeting on a $3 million bond in June. The Police Station Building Committee in Foster is moving forward with construction plans for the new station. The station will be located on the corner of US-6 and RI-94.
Another large accomplishment Foster underwent was working on the facade of Route 6, which DiFranco said “is an eyesore to many people in town.” The Town Council and Planning Board has begun working together to discuss what direction they want to the town to move in and how to bring businesses to Route 6.
In March, Foster’s Planning Board voted to ban wind turbines after researching whether they should be placed on the “prohibited uses” list within the town ordinance, or allowed by special use permit with certain restrictions. Residents gave their input, including those who already lived by wind turbines and said that they caused them great amounts of stress and anxiety. The decision then moved to the Town Council after they were informed the town could be sued for the town-wide ban.
In March, the Glocester Skate Park at Glocester Memorial Park was demolished to make way for a new bocce ball court and playgrounds. The demolition came with negative emotions from the kids using it and those who helped renovate it, including resident Brian Trainor, who spent two summers revitalizing the skate park.
After it was demolished, Town Council member William Worthy said the council would fight to get the town another skate park after hearing from so many constituents who were upset at the demolition.
Community upgrades show hope for the future:
At the start of the year, conversations emerged regarding fitness equipment that has sat unused in the Scituate Department of Public Works for more than two years. The equipment was purchased nearly four years ago and totaled over $13,000. It was meant to be used as part of a fitness circuit but apparently was never installed at its intended location at Tasca Field. The town is still looking for an option for the equipment after Supt. Laurie Andries said that the schools were not in the position to accept the donation of the gym equipment due to the investigation of sinkholes at Caito Field.
Lou Polseno, of Lou Polseno and Son Landscaping, opened Scituate’s first vineyard, and in September, a project 20 years in the making culminated when members of the Scituate Preservation Society and Town Council members unveiled the final version of the Main Street project in Hope. The project will include granite curbing, paving, period streetlights and historic signage, along with signs announcing its designation as a historic village.
Cato Field has been closed since May due to the investigation of a sinkhole. A preliminary geotechnical assessment report by Colliers Engineering and Design showed that there were more sinkholes in the field, with at least one of them larger than the original.
In other Scituate news, Republican Abbie Groves was elected as president of the Scituate Town Council in January. She is the first woman in Scituate history to hold the seat.
Foster is set to see its first marijuana compassion center, Green Wave, CC, after winning one of five new medical marijuana dispensary licenses selected in a state lottery. According to Green Wave licensing, the proposed dispensary will be a 2,900-square-foot shop located at 187 Danielson Pike, or just past the Grumpy Cat Cars Auto Sales, 175 Danielson Pike.
Foster completed phase one of work on its athletic complex and moved onto the second phase of work at the park which includes a football field, soccer field, basketball court, tennis court and walking trails. While use of the Foster Youth Athletic Field was minimal this year, Town Planner Michael Antonellis said that he believes the park will see more play once the second phase is finished. The complex is set to be completed in 2023.
In June the Glocester Land Trust opened almost 2.5 miles of new trails at the Hawkins Property on Putnam Pike, welcoming the public to a family-friendly area for hiking and fishing.
Local businesses came back to life:
The North Scituate Village Business Association invited the public to come out for the Springtime Stroll in May, hoping to jump-start the summer business season. With the COVID-19 pandemic, business was slow for local shops, and stores that did not have an online presence were having a difficult time staying afloat. The business association wanted people to rediscover North Scituate’s one-of-a-kind shopping experience, using a bee theme, playing off the “be kind” campaign and other kindness promotions held over the past year.
Although Foster’s annual “Foster Old Home Days” was canceled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic, the Foster Preservation Society opened the Winsor Blacksmith Shop on July 31 as a tribute to the Society’s original blacksmith, James “Bud” Heaton.
Local artists opened their doors during Artist Open Studios, and Scituate residents Kevin Lang and Christopher DiFilippo helped get the Manning Field concession stand back in shape.
Schools rediscovered their spirit:
Students and teachers in the Foster-Glocester and Scituate school districts returned to school in September with masks, despite harsh debates over the mask policy. Plans to allow families to exempt themselves from the state’s mask mandate due to “conscientious objection” were backpedaled after committee members received physical and legal threats from angry residents.
Superintendent of Scituate Public Schools Laurie Andries said that the schools feel as though they are back to normal, or semi-normal.
“I think one of the celebrations for us in Scituate has been the full return of our students and staff to a school routine that resembles pre-pandemic times. You can hear students laughing in the hallways and smiling as they enter our buildings each morning. Our teams are playing, our concerts are happening and all of the traditions that are uniquely Scituate have endured,” she said.
Scituate was forced to relocate its in-person graduation to the gazebo on the Village Green after the sinkhole developed at Caito Field. After a year of dealing with the unexpected during a pandemic, the last-minute change of venue did little to alter the Scituate High School Class of 2021’s enthusiasm for the ceremony and hope for brighter days post-COVID.
Foster, Glocester and Scituate stayed quirky:
In April, Scituate residents complained of the obnoxiously loud and “horrific” noise of their neighbor’s target practice. Heather Card of 198 Old Danielson Pike brought the issue of her neighbors shooting guns in their backyard for target practice several times a week to the Town Council. Councilor Michael Marcello said the town and police have their hands tied without a shooting ordinance and promised to put the problem on a later agenda.
After a five-month journey of tracking down an escaped companion donkey, Scituate resident Karen Lanoue celebrated a happy ending after the donkey was caught in a goat pen at a nearby farm. The donkey escaped its harness five minutes after arriving at her farm for the first time and had been wandering around the woods of Scituate and Johnston from June to October until resident Scott Bergantino’s goat pen came to the rescue and trapped the donkey to be taken back to its home.
If those events were not enough to capture the spirit of a strange year recovering from the pandemic, Scituate residents Justine Mooney and Mark Clancy invented Year At Play, a card game poking fun at the outrageous events of 2020. The game, which came out in 2021, poked fun while being informative about the year that no one who lived through it will forget.
Foster residents did not hold back their love for the community this year. Musician Chris Guertin, known around Foster for his catchy song, “I Live in Foster,” flooded the airwaves with his newest release, “From Shady’s to Cady’s,” centered around his experiences first moving to Foster, going to Shady Acres Diner, 164 Danielson Pike, for breakfast every day and then to drinks at Cady’s Tavern, at 2168 Putnam Pike in Glocester with the waitress who served him breakfast.
Thomas D’Agostino and his wife Arlene Nicholson, continued their passion for preserving the oral histories and legends of New England, with the completion of their 16th book, “Strange New England.” The book includes many stories from Foster which D’Agostino said is the “real witch city” of New England and has a long history of witches living in town.
Susan Joyce, a Foster resident, wrote a new children’s book, “Billy the Rescue Dog,” in which she describes how her adopted Treeing Walker Coonhound, Billy, came to Foster.
In February, Glocester’s community and anglers from around the state came together when Big Bear Hunting and Firearms held an ice fishing tournament to raise money for Bill Flynn, a former councilman and former director of the West Glocester Fire Department. Flynn’s house had burned down earlier in the month. Fishermen and women from around the state participated in the tournament by posting pictures of their catch to the bait and gun shop’s Facebook page from their local frozen pond.
“The underwear bandit” made a stir in Glocester in July after several residents said they’d spotted a woman leaving bras and panties at the end of their driveways. Police said they had not received any official complaints about the undies. Whoever the anonymous panty dropper was, it appears they have escaped.
The Scituate Art Festival returned to Scituate for its 55th annual three-day weekend of vendors selling arts and crafts, live music and food vendors. The town also hosted its annual Festival of Trees and Candlelight Stroll during this year’s holiday season.
After quintessential town events, such as the Scituate Art Festival and Glocester’s Scarecrow Festival, had to be cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020, many of them were able to return in 2021.
The Glocester Scarecrow Festival came back bigger than ever this year, with new live entertainment and expanded dining options to accompany the original handcrafted scarecrows that draw visitors year after year.
A Glocester artist, Ed Andrews, was able to hold an art show titled, “Ed Andrews: Transplant,” and the Preservation Society of Scituate welcomed back volunteers in May for a clean up of the historic “little orphan cemetery.”