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Select Board roundup: Officer Powers lauded; health director notes positive signs regarding COVID surge

by | Jan 25, 2022 | Featured: News, News, Police & Fire

At Tuesday’s Select Board meeting, retiring Police Officer Phil Powers was recognized for his 34 years of service to the town, primarily as the school resource officer.

“Thank you doesn’t really come close to covering what needs to be said,” Select Board Member Muriel Kramer said. “You’ve served this community for a very long time in a very professional and compassionate and deeply present way. We don’t often talk about the ways that police officers — even in sleepy little towns like Hopkinton — answer really difficult calls, and I know that you have done that. And I know that you have seen families through those difficult times. It’s hard to capture in words what that means to people. You’ve been for a very long time keeping our kids engaged and safe and setting a great example for them up in the schools as the resource officer.”

Added Brendan Tedstone: “You are kind of what molded my perception of what the town is, as far as public safety. You did it well, you did it great, you did it with tremendous pride. And you showed that it was all right to be a good guy, but when it was time to do your job, you did your job.”

Police Chief Joseph Bennett noted that Powers was his training officer when he started with the town, and the two have remained close since then.

“When I started this job someone said to me, ‘The most important thing that you can do is stay true to who you are.’ Phil, you have done that,” Bennett said. “You are the same person that I met a few years ago when I was in training. Your care, your empathy — you didn’t let the job change you. And you rode it out to this point where we are today. … He’s still the man he was the day I met him. His care for the community, his giving back to the community, his care for the members of the department, always giving to them and being there for them, I can’t think of a big enough word to describe his contribution.”

Sergeant Tim Brennan credited Powers for being a resource for new officers.

“All these young guys, you’ve been a voice for them and a springboard for them behind years of problems and issues and complaints and concerns,” Brennan said. “And I don’t know if you ever really knew how much value you added to young officers’ lives.”

Powers, who has reached the mandatory retirement age, said it has been a pleasure working in Hopkinton, and he has learned a great deal from the students with whom he has worked closely.

“I’m going to miss the work, I’m going to miss the job, I’m going to miss the people, I’m going to miss the kids,” he said. “But I’m still going to be around. I still live in town.”

Added Powers: “These past 34 years have been great. If I were ever to do it over again, I would do exactly the same. No regrets, and I’m sorry I have to leave.”

Health director optimistic about COVID

Health Director Shaun McAuliffe, in his COVID update, said there are signs that the record-breaking case surge has passed its high point.

“On a positive note, we appear to be on the downslope of the peak of the omicron surge,” he said.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), there have been 889 confirmed cases in Hopkinton since Jan. 1. Of those, 386 are in the 0-19 age group, 44 are college-aged, 398 are between 23-65 and only 39 are older than 65, McAuliffe shared, crediting the Senior Center for its efforts.

However, McAuliffe noted that those numbers represent a “significant undercount.”

“We consulted with the DPH the last two days, and the message that we’re getting from them is at this point, with this level of a surge, numbers aren’t really important,” McAuliffe said. “We know that our true number from unreported home tests actually brings us closer to 1,600 cases over the month of January.”

The department now is transitioning into a new phase “where we’re really focusing on hospitalizations, serious illness, trends, clusters and really educational and outreach material,” McAuliffe said. He added that the state recently announced additional regulatory changes for schools and day-cares, and Hopkinton already had started implementing them on its own.

“We’ll be helping the administration, the school nurses and the residents work through this new set of changes where we’re going to a strict five days isolation, five days wearing a mask [for positive cases],” he said. “Kids will be sent home each week with home tests. We’ll be setting up a weekly surveillance program, and we’ll be testing kids who are symptomatic both at home and in the school. So a lot of the responsibilities are going to be actually shifted in some ways out of the Health Department and the school nurses to the parents, and we’ll be working a lot to help everybody through this transition.”

The Health Department continues to offer vaccination clinics each week at Town Hall, and some larger regional clinics are being planned for February.

McAuliffe credited parents in town, noting that the vaccination rate for ages 5-11 is at 94 percent.

“When you look across the board, the residents of Hopkinton responded, they got their vaccinations, and that’s why I think from a health standpoint we’re in a much better place than a lot of other communities, and an outcome standpoint — we’ve had fantastic outcomes throughout this omicron surge,” he said.

That said, McAuliffe encouraged residents to remain vigilant.

“The overarching message is to stay home when you’re ill,” he said. “Test when you’re not feeling well. We’ll be making available home test kits to those who are having difficulty getting them. We need to just take the time to isolate for five days when you’re ill. And then just wear a face covering when you either return from your isolation or, generally speaking, when you’re out in public. Our position is that we in Hopkinton should be following the governor’s recommendation for face coverings, and if we’re doing that, we’re going to reduce our overall risk and we’ll be in a much better place in a couple of weeks.”

Misc.: Lykan TIF talks continue

In his town manager report, Norman Khumalo said negotiations with Lykan Bioscience on a tax increment finance (TIF) agreement were “progressing smoothly and now nearing conclusion. We are hoping that we will be presenting a very comprehensive draft to the Select Board at your meeting next week.”

Lykan is looking to expand its headquarters on South Street. …

Michelle Murdock was designated as a records access officer for the Police Department. Khumalo explained that she will handle the work while the town seeks to fill a position whose responsibilities include that task. …

The board approved a parade permit for the Maspenock Mile Road Race, which is scheduled for Friday, May 27, at 6 p.m. The race will begin and end at Sandy Beach, and no road closures have been requested. The nonprofit event is expected to have about 30 participants, race director Chris Stevenson said. …

Ilana Casady and Amy Groves were appointed to the Cultural Council — with whom they already serve — to terms that expire Jan. 29, 2025. …

The board voted to accept a gift of $1,000 from TSG Enterprises LLC to the Marathon Fund Committee in memory of longtime resident Fred Murphy, who died earlier this month. …

As part of the new Turkey Ridge Estates development, a new road is to be constructed off Cedar Street Extension, and it needs a name. Selecting from a list of suggested names provided by the developer, the board voted to go with Honeybee Pass.

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