Highs and lows from last week (March 17, 2014)

Highs and lows from last week (March 17, 2014)


High: Violations of social host laws locally and drug overdoses related to heroin in Rhode Island have been in the news lately, which made Wednesday’s workshop at the Westerly Police Department both timely and important. Police Capt. Shawn Lacey and Officer Tony Alicchio spoke to a group about drugs, including the legalization of marijuana, and the social host laws, but the topic of most interest was the heroin epidemic and how most young users start with prescription pain pills. Alicchio, quoting national drug statistics, said that 60 percent of the drugs used by seniors in high school are prescription drugs, and one out of three first-time illicit drug users begin with a prescription drug. “I bet everyone in this room has old prescription drugs sitting around the house somewhere,” Lacey said. “The smartest thing to do is get rid of them.”

High: Finally, there’s a potential tenant for the Pawcatuck Shopping Plaza’s anchor building, which has been vacant since Stop & Shop closed five years ago because a Super Stop & Shop opened 2½ miles away in Pawcatuck Farms. William Kane, founder and CEO of Fitness and Nutrition Inc., has applied to open Renegade Fitness Center at the Route 1 location, and his proposal will go before the Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday. Since Stop & Shop won’t allow another grocery store to sublet the building’s lease, that according to First Selectman Ed Haberek Jr., a fitness center will do nicely.

Low: The long, brutal winter has impacted many this year; now its even affecting the summer events schedule. The Big Apple Circus, hurt by slow ticket sales in New York and Atlanta because of snow and ice, was forced to cut its schedule short, canceling its Ninigret Park stay this summer. “Financially, the tour has become very difficult,” said Joel Dein, director of communications for the nonprofit production. “We just can’t afford to do this.” And the show’s absence will have a trickle-down effect on the area. “Last year they were here for 24 shows,” Charlestown Chamber of Commerce Director Heather Paliotta said. “I know the restaurants are full after the shows; the hotels are all booked.” In addition to losing the circus, the Charlestown business community was dealt another blow. Concert promoter Frank J. Russo was hoping to stage one or more large concerts in the park, but said he was too late with efforts to book entertainers of the caliber he wanted. “I am endeavoring to pursue 2015 now,” he said.

Low: The Chariho School Committee formally adopted its proposed $55 million budget, but it didn’t sit well with many who attended the meeting. Numerous audience members were concerned with cuts that would take place at the middle school — one of two deans would be eliminated, along with 3.3 positions in the certified staff and a fractional cut in support staff hours. Others in the crowd of about 100 said one dean was not enough to handle disciplinary issues, or adequately foster personal relationships with the students. “They make it very safe,” Dan Potts, a science teacher in the middle school, said, “so the kids don’t get lost in the system.” School Committee member George Kenney of Hopkinton moved to restore the second dean position, but his motion was defeated 5-3. The budget will go to referendum on April 8.

High: Many schools across the nation are taking steps to prevent bullying, which has reached epidemic proportions — nearly one in three students (27.8 percent) report being bullied during the school year (National Center for Educational Statistics, 2013). Aware of the problem and having experienced bullying as a child in Brazil, jiujitsu instructor Jorge Alves decided work it into his classes, developing a “bully-proof” program that requires students to discuss the issue and learn about ways to defend themselves, and others, from being picked on. On Saturday at a sparring event at his Westerly dojo, each student read aloud their own pieces about bullying and how it links to their martial arts practice. “We all need to work hard to stop bullying so that people can live lives where they don’t have to worry,” student Tristan Turano wrote. We couldn’t agree more.

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