Looking back at 2020Dec 29, 2020 03:58PM ● By Susan Manning
The past year has been one like no other.
With a pandemic in full swing, people everywhere around the globe or forced to alter their lives. From masks and social distancing, to remote working and learning, people have forged forward and finish the year they will likely never forget. Hopedale, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, saw a lot of good deeds done by a lot of good people this year.
Let’s take a look back at some of the stories we covered in 2020:
Tracey Philips has been eager to find a way to weave a mural into Hopedale for some time.
The president of the Friends of Historic Hopedale said she saw the Fairy Walk as a perfect opportunity.
“I’ve wanted to see a mural in Hopedale for awhile now. My son was an artist and a few years ago I volunteered in his memory with Pow Wow Worcester (part of a world wide network of festivals that brings mural artists together to paint murals in different cities). Since then I’ve really been looking for a way to make one happen here in town. The Hopedale Fairy Walk seemed like a great way to make that happen,” she said. “Since the … walk would have been in its fourth year, it seemed like a good time to add something new and special to the day.”
So Philips partnered with the Hopedale Park Commission, and launched a mural contest. It was for 15 – 21-year-olds living in Worcester County. They were asked to submit their design ideas for a wing mural.
Covid Affects Voting
Neither the pandemic nor the lack of contested races stopped Hopedale residents from turning out to vote it in the towns annual election last month.
Town Clerk Lisa Pedroli said there was actually an increase in voters this year. Last year, 245 registered voters turned out; this year 340 turned out.
Despite the changes to voting procedures this year, with absentee and mail-in voting encouraged, as well as the date of the elections moving, Pedroli said there were no real issues.
“There were no problems, just many write-in votes [to count],” she said, referring to the six open seats that had no one running to fill them.
Pandemic no match for summer fun
Not even a pandemic could stop the annual tradition of the Hopedale Summer program.
The program, which has been around for 60+ years, had a few adjustments because of COVID-19, but still kept kids entertained last month as it has every year.
“Throughout this time, there have been some changes, but the very basics have remained the same and have been part of Hopedale’s Summers for awhile. There are signatures from young adults who ran this program in the Bandstand that date back to 1982,” said Jennie Holland, one of five students who ran the program this summer.
Fairy Walk Fun
The Hopedale Fairy Walk Reverse Parade, challenged by the new normal, was a hit.
So many turned out, in fact, changes had to be made on the fly. As the route started filling that morning, the organizers had to change how things were happening to be able to meet social distancing requirements.
In the end, have a one family at a time come to the corner to take pictures from a distance worked out fine with no complaints.
New normal, a little normalcy
Thanks to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Hopedale schools are opened a little bit later this year and looked a little bit different.
Like every other school districts in the state, big changes had to happen to allow the 20 20–2021 school year begin.
After much deliberation, the decision was made to start back with a hybrid model in Hopedale.
Unlike the spring, students are graded on their work, and were expected to attend classes whether they were in person or remote.
All staff and students were required to wear face coverings.
A Failed Override
The fiscal 2021 budget took a hit when voters rejected a tax override by 142 votes.
The override would have bridged a gap in the operating budget of roughly $1.3 million. It also would have been the second override in as many years. According to Town Administrator Diana Schindler, unlike like many other things, the deficit is not related to the current pandemic.
“Although we now face additional fiscal challenges operating [for an extended time] in COVID conditions. Fortunately, we have COVID funding to mitigate.”
And Eye to the Future
The town of Hopedale is working with Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission —CMRPC— to create a master plan.
Ron Barron, said the process will happen in two phases: phase 1 will be completed by fall of 2021; phase to completion will depend on funding.
“This plan is set up as a two-phase process. This phase will cover the Land Use, Population and Housing and Economic Development elements and will take approximately one year.
“Phase two will focus on the Natural and Cultural Resources, Open Space and Recreation, Transportation and Circulation and Facilities and Public Services.
Additionally, the town has applied for funding through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to complete the Natural and Cultural Resources and Open Space and Recreation elements,” he said.
“Having a master plan allows communities to set clear, actionable objectives for achieving its stated vision,” he said.