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Appeals Report Possible Today Following Tuesday's Hearing

A DEP hearings officer could lay out the issues that will be discussed and the timeline moving forward for the high school appeal as early as Wednesday.

All involved parties in the spent about three hours in the same room on Tuesday .

During a pre-screening conference at the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s Wilmington office, each side made their case in front of hearings officer Timothy Jones, who will issue a conference report as early as Wednesday.

That report is the next important step in the process as it will lay out which issues will be discussed moving forward and will also lay out a timeline for the appeals.

“I think the meeting went as expected,” said Board of Selectmen chairman Mike Newhouse. “I thought the hearings officer was thorough in obtaining what information is pertinent. From my standpoint, this is a procedural meeting that is an important part of the process. I wasn’t expecting to have any newsworthy kind of results today.”

From appeal spokesman Kevin MacDonald’s perspective, the day was a successful one.

MacDonald said he believed he and abutter Gerry O’Reilly were able to get their points across to the hearings officer in a way he feels they’ve been unable to at the local level.

“It felt good to be able to sit down at a meeting and be somewhat respected and not shut off from being able to speak or denied adequate time to speak,” said MacDonald. “That felt good as compared to the treatment we get at Board of Selectmen and High School Building Committee meetings. It’s nice to sit in front of someone who was thoughtful, considerate and wanting to get all of the information.”

George Lingenfelter, who is among the residents who signed MacDonald’s appeal, was in attendance and said he would wait to read the conference report before weighing in on whether the day was a success or not.

But Lingenfelter did say that the hearing office asked “thoughtful questions,” and that “at certain points seemed to be favoring both sides, and at certain points seemed to be ruling against both sides.”

Newhouse said that while the report will be issued within one week, he and other parties were told that it could be sent out on Wednesday.

“It’s wait and see,” said Newhouse. “Time is essential as we take care of this expeditiously.”

According to coverage of the meeting in the Lowell Sun, O’Reilly expressed his concerns with what impact the construction will have on his drinking water during the session.

“I am concerned about the quality of my life and the quality of my water, and that’s why I’m here today,” said O’Reilly, according to The Sun. O’Reilly has declined comment to the media during the appeals and attended Tuesday’s meeting along with his attorney. “Everyone else can say, ‘We’ll study it after the fact. We’ll take care of you. After the bomb has been dropped, we’ll see if you’re dead.’”

MacDonald said he believes appellants have the best interest of the environment at heart, and that he was happy to get his information out to the public during the conference.

“We’re looking at this from a realistic perspective rather than an emotional, ‘Ra Ra’ spirit one,” said MacDonald. “The people with children in the district want a new school regardless of who it harms, and we think that’s wrong.”

Mario Marchese August 15, 2012 at 11:30 AM
Matt, Thanks for keeping us up to date and for also posting the link to the Lowell Sun Article. Not to be too optimistic but it sounds like things are moving forward in a positive way.
Joe L August 15, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Mario, are you running for any office this time around?
Al Roberts August 15, 2012 at 02:35 PM
Mario has a right to run for anything he wants. Its a free country. And everyone knows he is a Concerned Citizen. :)
Joe L August 15, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I think I'm missing something here. I'm just asking if he's running for anything this election year? I voted for him back a few years ago and was just wondering.
Josephine MorningStar August 15, 2012 at 10:27 PM
read the article in the Lowell Sun, and the last paragraph, im wondering how the town will interpret it.. the quote :: MassDEP Northeast Chief Regional Counsel Heidi Zisch said the department would not object if the town wished to begin construction while the appeals process continued, as long as the work was confined to land outside the riverfront area where DEP has jurisdiction. :: the only problem i can see, is that the town has never held to the state's guidelines for riverfront / wetlands.. and has allowed both activity and construction to be much closer to the 'water' then what the state and federal laws mandate. and hasnt some construction already started? and how close is it to the states boundary for the wetland / riverfront????
Matt Schooley (Editor) August 15, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I will have a full story Thursday morning on the conference report, but in short as of right now that information about construction isn't completely true. The hearings officer issued no ruling about the town beginning construction, and the town would have to file to the DEP if they want to attempt to do so during the appeal. And to answer your final question, no construction has begun on the site related to the new school. Thanks for checking in!

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