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Concerns mount over Vineyard Wind turbine failure

Five days after a Vineyard Wind turbine blade broke apart during testing, a 300-foot section of the blade fell into the water, prompting further cleanup efforts at sea and along the Nantucket shoreline as officials continue work on determining the cause of the blade failure.

The section, which had been dangling from the turbine since Saturday evening, hit the water just before 7 a.m. Thursday. Company officials said they had expected the compromised blade to eventually fall into the water, with vessels and resources on standby to respond. 

“This morning, a significant part of the remaining GE Vernova blade detached from the turbine,” the company said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Maritime crews were onsite overnight preparing to respond to this development, though current weather conditions create a difficult working environment.”

The statement said a fleet of vessels remained at the site on Thursday, “managing the situation,” while working to remove debris, and additional crews deployed to Nantucket in anticipation of more debris washing ashore.

Officials from MassDEP, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs have also been in communication with the companies and are on standby for additional support. 

Gov. Maura Healey on Thursday said state officials were on site with workers to clean up and remove debris, Axios Boston reported.

“We see the success of wind and wind turbines around the world that have been operating well and safely for decades,” Healey told Axios. “Obviously, something went wrong. There was a problem. We need to understand that, get to the bottom of it and make sure it’s addressed.”

“The offshore wind industry is a critical component of Massachusetts’ economy and the country’s transition to clean, affordable energy,” Healey said in a later statement to The Light. “It is essential that we gain a full understanding of what happened here and how it can be prevented in the future.”

Healey’s office stated her administration continues to press for transparency and frequent updates each step of the way as the public seeks answers.

How events unfolded 

Updates to the public from Vineyard Wind and GE were initially slow to come, but since Monday, Vineyard Wind has provided at least a daily update. Following is a chronology of how events unfolded.

Screenshot

Saturday, July 13: One of the three blades on turbine AW38 sustained  damage in the evening while undergoing testing. U.S. Coast Guard issued a notice to mariners to exercise caution due to debris in the area. Soon after, BSEE issued a verbal suspension order, requiring operations to cease at the site. 

Sunday, July 14: Some fishermen encountered and captured pictures of the damaged blade. 

Monday, July 15: BSEE issued a written suspension order, and Vineyard Wind published a press release announcing to the public the turbine incident. 

Tuesday, July 16: Nantucket residents reported finding large and small foam and fiberglass debris scattered across several beaches. Vineyard Wind dispatched contractors and employees to help town staff with cleanup, filling trucks with debris. Nantucket closed affected beaches to swimming.

Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller responds to comments and questions at the Nantucket Select Board meeting on July 17 after a turbine blade sustained damage a few days prior.

Wednesday, July 17: Beaches reopened for swimming while cleanups continued. That evening during a Nantucket Select Board meeting, Vineyard Wind and GE officials responded to questions and heard impassioned comments from residents, who are concerned about health and environmental impacts. Vineyard Wind’s CEO Klaus Moeller apologized to the local community, stating he was “truly sorry.”

Thursday, July 18: A significant remaining portion (about 300 feet) of the 350-foot-long blade detached from the turbine and fell into the water just before 7 a.m. Vessels were on site to retrieve debris. More workers were dispatched to Nantucket in anticipation of more debris coming ashore. 

Incident fuels political debate

Republican state representatives this week cited the ongoing Vineyard Wind incident in their unanimous opposition to a Democrat-backed clean energy bill. 

House Minority Leader Brad Jones called the legislation, which seeks to expedite the permitting process for clean energy projects, a “missed opportunity” to address the “catastrophic failure” of the turbine, the State House News Service reported.

“We don’t know whether it’s a one-off. We don’t know whether it’s something much more serious and systemic that’s going to repeat itself,” Jones told the News Service. “We’re lucky there were no fatalities or injuries, but there were obviously beach closures, and obviously that’s not something that you want to see on a recurring basis, not very sustainable from an energy perspective.”

State Rep. Dylan Fernandes, who represents Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, said on Thursday that the incident is “deeply concerning” and that the project should be suspended until assurances are made that it won’t happen again. 

Turbine parts have continued to come into the Port of New Bedford for staging. The most recent was on Thursday with tower components.

Vineyard Wind and GE officials did not respond to further questions on Thursday. A safety zone around the affected area remains in place. 

Until the companies determine through their investigation that other blades are in the clear for both operation and installation, the wind farm is shut down under a federal order and not sending any power to the grid. 

The Light has requested copies of the orders from Vineyard Wind and the federal government.

Email Anastasia E. Lennon at [email protected].

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Pedestrian hospitalised with “life-threatening” injuries, Daisy Hill

A woman in her 20s is fighting for her life after she was hit by a car at Daisy Hill this morning.

A Queensland Ambulance Service spokesperson said ambulances were called to a “pedestrian and vehicle incident” at the corner of Rose Street and Alamanda Drive just before 9am.

He said a woman in her 20s suffered “life-threatening” injuries to her head.

She has been taken to the Princess Alexandra Hospital.

More to come.

 

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7 artists answer Art Walk’s ‘Call of the Sea’

Summer in New Bedford brings the Seaport Art Walk, founded by Jessica Bregoli-Sparling when she was a sculpture major at UMass Dartmouth 11 years ago. Around long enough to be called an institution, the annual public art installation has popped up every year on the waterfront along Route 18 between Elm and School Streets. 

This year, there are seven artists, each working within an overall theme: “Call of the Sea.” It is focused enough to provide common links and visual conversation but vague enough to allow for personal quirky stories that reveal glimpses into what reverberates for each, including history, nature, adventure, community, music, and the waterfront.

The Art Walk garnered a bit of lowkey notoriety in 2016 when sculptor Donna Dodson exhibited “Seagull Cinderella,” a large three-dimensional and rather buxom cartoonish figure that was part bird and part fairy tale princess, stark white with a yellow beak. Some residents were outraged by her bust, even demanding that it be removed.

Of course, there was a backlash from those who loved Seagull Cinderella and came to her defense. Decals were printed and stickered on car bumpers, barroom mirrors and stop signs. It made national news and became a bit of a feminist icon. Dodson received much attention, the vast majority of it positive. Slightly revamped, but no less buxom, SC returned to the Art Walk in 2023 for the 10th anniversary celebration to the pleasure of her many fans. 

“Surfin’ USA” by Ed McAloon. Credit: Don Wilkinson / The New Bedford Light

This year, there is nothing that could offend anyone even with the most Victorian of sensibilities, save for the possibility of a naked metallic man, devoid of any apparatus other than his surfboard.

There are three painters and four sculptors displaying work. One of those sculptors is Ed McAloon, who has fond memories of spending his summers on the beaches in the city’s South End in the 1960s and listening to the Beach Boys. He created the aforementioned unclad glimmering figure. 

He nostalgically recalls that era as his introduction to surf culture and created “Surfin’ USA.” 

Naked, hairless and without facial features or genitalia, he straddles a surfboard, his legs cocked at the knees, his hips thrust back and his arms raised for balance. Equal parts Silver Surfer and Frankenstein’s monster, with rough welds that look like stitches, he appears to be flashing his backside at the folks in queue to board the ferry to Cuttyhunk.

“The View from Here” by Jacob Ginga (a.k.a. Maker Jake). Credit: Don Wilkinson / The New Bedford Light

A few yards to the north are three faux unpainted pine framed windows, tightly abutting each other. Roughly 10’ wide x 5’ high, Jacob Ginga’s “The View from Here” features inventive reimaginings of what is directly outside the favorite windows of three New Bedford residents: Beatriz Oliveira, Sarah Moniz, and Bryan Ribeiro. 

Artist Brooke Mullins Doherty, with her sculpture “Sea Shanty.” Credit: Don Wilkinson / The New Bedford Light

Ginga, who is known to many in the art community as Maker Jake, attempts to reflect how diverse people experience their city. Scanning a QR code below the painting brings one to a very brief bio of the three residents and a personal playlist curated by each of them.

Oliveira offered up five songs, including Sergio Mendes “Diagonal,” and one of Moniz’s choices was a “Let You In” remix by Safiyyah, a London-based R&B and soul singer of Portuguese and Moroccan heritage. Intriguingly, Ribeiro left only a message that said “coming soon.”

Sculptor Brooke Mullins Doherty’s response to the call to artists and to the call of the sea was inspired by the lyrics and even more so, the harmony of a traditional New Zealand sea shanty called “The Wellerman.” She and her young children discovered the song last year, which led to “a family deep dive into the world of sea shanties with their fascinating combination of history lesson and driving beat.”

The lilting song tells the tale of a whaling ship and its crew and their long hunt for a right whale. It harmoniously speaks to the crew’s desperate hope for the arrival of a supply boat known as a wellerman to bring them little luxuries, namely sugar, tea and rum.

A sample stanza:

“No line was cut, no whale was freed
The captain’s mind was not of greed
And he belonged to the whaleman’s creed
She took that ship in tow, huh…”

In her preliminary sketches for her sculpture that she called “Sea Shanty,” Doherty drew the harmony of the chorus as a fluid line that rose and sank across vertical lines that represented the steady beat. The intersection between relatively straight lines and those that curved began to take the form of an octopus.

“If You Can Read the Stars, You’ll Never Be Lost” by Mark Carvalho (a.k.a. Boston Maki). Credit: Don Wilkinson / The New Bedford Light

What grew from there was a steel armature with eight coiled tentacles, ultimately covered with blue, white, lavender and violet tulle held in place with a monofilament line. The end result is something that is half cephalopod and half garden flower, a perfect marriage of sea and land.

Painter Mark Carvalho’s “If You Can Read the Stars, You’ll Never Be Lost” features his trademark one-stencil and aerosol spray paint technique. It features a crusty old graybeard sea captain in a wool cap peering through a sextant.

Carvalho (a.k.a. Boston Maki) has always been obsessed with the stars and the sea, and he regularly hikes and kayaks. He readily admits to his dependence on GPS but harbors tremendous respect to those who used — and still use — old-school navigational technology. In a brief talk at the official commencement of the exhibition, he said, “To any of you Generation Z-ers here, a sextant is an analog for GPS, if you know how to use it.”

In the previous year’s iteration of the Seaport Art Walk, artist Mandy Fraser painted “Secret City Whales” on a set of Jersey barriers in the parking lot of the State Pier. This year, she returned to do a not-quite sequel but a spin-off of sorts.

“Cod” by Mandy Fraser. Credit: Don Wilkinson / The New Bedford Light
“Lobster” by Mandy Fraser. Credit: Don Wilkinson / The New Bedford Light

Joining the whales are a yellow flounder, a red lobster and a blue-gray Atlantic cod. It should be noted that this undersea menagerie is a work in progress, as Fraser will soon return to take on the last five Jersey barriers and emblazon them with images of haddock, tuna, scallops, blue lobster and a to-be-announced “secret design.” All are an homage to the bounty of the sea.

Bregoli-Sparling’s “Sea Bells” is not a sculpture in the traditional sense but rather a giant wind chime. She notes that “from the shore, one can hear the many distinctive sounds of the ocean. Floating above the crashing of the waves and the call of seagulls, you will often hear the ringing of a bell. Be it from a buoy, lighthouse or passing boat, it offers a signal of guidance to all within listening distance.”

“Sea Bells” by Jessica Bregoli-Sparling. Credit: Don Wilkinson / The New Bedford Light

The peal of the bell is haunting, nonetheless.

The seventh artist, Connecticut resident Chris Plaisted, is the only participant not on the east side of Route 18. Instead, his sculpture is across the busy road, in front of the New Bedford Tattoo Company.

“Skuldelev” is an abstract steel sculpture painted indigo blue. It references a quintet of Viking ships recovered from the the waterway of Peberrenden at Skuldelev, north of Roskilde in Denmark. Its form is an outline of the sail and hull of a ship. Below are the imagined monsters of the sea.

Plaisted hopes to inspire viewers to remain steadfast in their commitment to preserving our collective cultural heritage and to protecting the environment. Noble goals indeed.

From the philosophical to the whimsical and from the beautiful to the melancholy, the deep blue has much to reveal.

Don Wilkinson has been writing art reviews, artist profiles and cultural commentary on the South Coast for over a decade. He has been published in local newspapers and regional art magazines. He is a graduate of the Swain School of Design and the CVPA at UMass Dartmouth. Email him at [email protected]

More Chasing the Muse

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Damaged wind turbine blade likely to fall

Debris from the damaged Vineyard Wind blade continued to fall into the ocean Wednesday night as company officials said the integrity of the remaining portion had been compromised and was expected to soon detach from the wind turbine. 

“That is what we expected to happen” due to wind and gravity, said a turbine engineer during a public meeting with Nantucket town officials and residents Wednesday night. 

Company officials shared the news as they responded to questions and comments during the tense and at times contentious meeting, which lasted nearly four hours. Many expressed frustration over the incident, and the time it took to be notified of incoming debris that would wash up on many island beaches. 

Full video of Wednesday’s Nantucket Select Board meeting with offshore wind officials. Discussion of Vineyard Wind’s damaged turbine blade begins at 10:20.

The 350-foot turbine blade was undergoing testing when it sustained damage Saturday evening. Vineyard Wind and GE Vernova, the manufacturer of the 13-megawatt Haliade-X turbine, are still working to determine the cause. 

The Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement earlier this week issued a suspension order, halting all operations and construction at the site until Vineyard Wind and GE submit a “root cause analysis.”

Until the companies determine that other blades are in the clear, the wind farm is shut down and is not sending any power to the grid. Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller said they ceased operations before receiving BSEE’s order to do so out of an abundance of caution.

“The Suspension Order suspends power production on the lease area and suspends installation of new wind turbine generator construction: Those operations will remain shut down until the suspension is lifted,” read a statement from the federal agency. “BSEE has also issued a Preservation Order to safeguard any evidence that may be relevant to determining the cause of the incident.” 

“There are no reported injuries or harm to any marine resources or mammals from the incident. BSEE is onsite with Vineyard Wind as investigations are underway. BSEE will conduct an independent assessment to ensure the safety of future offshore renewable energy operations,” the statement continued.    

Vineyard Wind CEO Klaus Moeller responds to comments and questions at the Nantucket Select Board meeting on July 17 after a turbine blade sustained damage a few days prior.

The analysis involves visually inspecting the turbine and retracing the blade every step of the way — from its production in a factory in Canada to installation south of Martha’s Vineyard.

Roger Martella, head of government affairs for GE Vernova, referred to a “war room” in GE’s upstate New York offices set up to analyze what went wrong. 

“A failure like this once a season, or even less often, is unacceptable,” Martella said. “That’s the purpose of our root cause analysis, is to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Company officials said the turbine automatically shut down when the blade was damaged, which set off an internal alarm system. Per requirements, Vineyard Wind notified agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and BSEE. 

Moeller apologized to the community of Nantucket over the incident, stating he was “truly sorry” and that the company is taking it “very, very seriously.”

He later left the meeting early due to an “urgent development” on the remaining blade pieces. 

So far, responders have collected about six truckloads of fiberglass and foam debris from Nantucket shores, all of which will be shipped off the island (and some of which has already been transported to New Bedford for analysis). 

Credit: New Bedford Light, OpenStreetMap

Residents and members of the Nantucket select board pushed back on Vineyard Wind’s characterization of the debris from the blade as “nontoxic,” stating it was a health concern that was being downplayed by the companies. 

The town closed several beaches to swimming on Tuesday, and upon reopening them Wednesday, said beachgoers should still exercise caution, wear appropriate footwear, and refrain from bringing their pets in light of possible fiberglass shards. 

Good morning from Vineyard Wind turbine AW38.

This is the damaged turbine blade that has sent thousands of pieces of fiberglass & foam core onto Nantucket’s south shore.

The damaged blade is now in danger of detaching and falling into the sea. More debris came loose last night pic.twitter.com/oBA3FUXxKJ

— Nantucket Current (@ACKCurrent) July 18, 2024

Gaven Norton, the owner of a surf school on the island’s south shore, said his business was immediately compromised, with customers canceling their surf lessons on both days. 

Company officials said they so far have seen no sign of other material releases, such as oil, into the water as a result of the blade damage. 

As for lightning (which struck Saturday night in the region) playing a potential role, Renjith Viripullan, a GE engineer, said they so far have not observed any burn marks on the turbine, which would be evidence of a lightning strike to the structure. The turbines are also equipped with conductors meant to minimize the impact when struck. 

Blade failure is not unprecedented. This year, there have been at least three reports of blade damage with wind projects overseas — both onshore and offshore — including a Siemens Gamesa blade in Norway and a Vestas blade in the United Kingdom. 

A GE Haliade-X blade of the same model size, 13-megawatts, was damaged in May in the Dogger Bank offshore project in the United Kingdom. A preliminary statement said it was an isolated incident.

“We are aware of the Dogger Bank situation. We do have the assessment that it was an installation issue unique to the installation of that blade,” said GE’s Martella. “We don’t think there’s a connection between that installation issue and what we saw here in Vineyard Wind … we see those as very likely disconnected.”

Viripullan, the GE engineer, later clarified an “installation issue” pertains to how the blade component is “picked up.” A blade is lifted several times before installation offshore. It is loaded from a factory onto a heavy lift vessel, then offloaded at a staging terminal in New Bedford, and then loaded onto a barge before its final lift to the nacelle.

Brooke Mohr, select board chair, stressed to Vineyard Wind and GE officials the necessity that they continue to update the town, and to do so expeditiously.

“Our ability to respond as a community and communicate effectively to our residents was hampered greatly by the delay in that communication,” Mohr said. “I recognize … you followed your regulatory requirements. And I just want to state for the record it was inadequate for this community and hopefully you can answer us how that would be different in the future.”

Another board member suggested inviting federal officials, including BOEM, the lead regulator that issues key permits on the projects, to answer questions. As of Thursday morning, BOEM has not issued a public statement on the incident. 

Vineyard Wind and GE officials did not immediately respond to questions on the status of the blade as of early Thursday morning. They initially said they do not expect the nacelle (the turbine generator) will be damaged during detachment, but will monitor the situation. 

“Vineyard Wind will continue to coordinate closely with its state, federal, local, and tribal partners to respond to this evolving situation while continuing to prioritize the safety of its personnel, its contractors, and the environment,” read a statement late Wednesday night. 

A safety zone around the affected area remains in place. 

Email Anastasia E. Lennon at [email protected].

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Olympics 2024 a nice warm up to our own 2032 event

The Olympic Games kick off on Friday next week. Although I won’t be travelling to Paris, I know Ali and the kids will be watching at home. 

I’m sure many of us in South East Queensland will be looking to the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games in preparation for hosting in 2032. 

As one of the proposed regional hosts, I want to make sure that Logan will get some of the events right here in our city. As the youngest and most diverse city in the state, I’m sure we’ll have lots of talented Logan athletes representing Australia in 2032. I mean, we already have an impressive bunch to come from our city in this year’s lineup. 

For these Olympics, make sure to keep your eye out for swimmer Mollie O’Callaghan who was born in Logan. 

BMX freestyle gold medallist Logan Martin is also heading to Paris. He learned to ride at Crestmead by following his brother.

Meadowbrook-born decathlete Ashley Moloney is the first Australian to win an Olympic medal in the decathlon (bronze in 2020) and I’m looking forward to seeing what he achieves this year.

Marathon runner Genevieve Gregson (nee LaCaze) is a former John Paul College student and Paris will be her fourth Olympics. Incredible!

And Logan’s own para-shooting medallist Natalie Smith is aiming to achieve Gold at the Paris Paralympic Games. 

I hope you join me in cheering loudly for Australia – and especially for our Logan athletes.!

Our local supporters are even stronger this week because  more than 400 Logan locals from over 40 countries took their pledge to become Australian citizens, At the recent citizenship ceremonies at Logan Entertainment Centre, I made sure our newest Aussies understood how important the “Aussie Aussie Aussie” war cry is to our success at Paris, and ran them through some drills to make sure they were loud enough! They’ll need it when they watch the Olympics on TV… and in person in 2032.

The City of Logan is getting its very own multi-use indoor venue for the 2032 Games, set to be built in Logan Central over the next few years.

With funding from the State and Federal governments, it means Logan will be on the world stage broadcasting indoor sports such as basketball when the Olympics come to town. 

I can’t wait. 

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Logan’s Tobacco Taskforce crackdown

A new taskforce to combat the recent spike in theft and arson of tobacco and vape stores has rolled out operations across Logan.

Several locals have been arrested and more than 100kg of tobacco seized as the taskforce cracks down on “organised crime syndicates behind illicit tobacco trade”.

Earlier this month a 26-year-old Logan man was arrested over the alleged forced entry of four tobacconists in Ipswich.

Police allege a group of people travelling in a blue Haval SUV, which had been reported stolen from Eagleby, “forced entry into four tobacconist shops” across the Ipswich area.

“At three businesses they stole cigarettes and tobacco products but were unable to access any cigarettes at the fourth business,” police said.

Police later found and arrested the Logan man at an Edens Landing address.

In late June, a 29-year-old Bethania man was one of two people arrested and charged over a separate incident in which a Mount Isa tobacconist was set on fire.

Police allege two people “doused the entryway” of the Mount Isa store with flammable liquid at around 2.50am on 24 June, before setting fire to the building.

“The business sustained significant fire damage to the front wall and immediate interior – no one was inside at the time of the fire,” a police statement said.

Police allege two motorcycles and 105kg of chopped tobacco, relating to a separate arson incident, were seized following a search warrant that led to the man’s arrest.

Police suspect the bikes and tobacco are linked to arson crimes at tobacconists in Kempsey and Taree in NSW.

A second man, a 31-year-old from Pimpama, was arrested in Woodridge last week over the same incident.

 

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Daisy Hill Conservation Park just got bigger!

Just over 213 hectares of land in Daisy Hill is now protected forever.

We’ve officially declared the Shailer property on Leo Lindo Drive as part of the Conservation Park.

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales is considered one of the most biodiverse regions in Australia, behind only South West Western Australia and the Daintree, and this land is one of the most intact parcels of bushland in our region.

It’s been cared for by locals for over a century.

Now it’ll be protected for generations to come.

The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service is now working to install new fences, fire trails and signage, as well as clearing weeds and removing old infrastructure to make way for visitors.

I have mountain biked, walked, and had picnics here all my life, and more recently helped in bush care activities at Daisy Hill Conservation Park, so I know how important this is to the entire community.

It is a rare thing to see such huge increases to protected areas in urban environments like Springwood, so this will be a massive relief to local residents, and the conservationists who have protected Daisy Hill and Venmans bushland for so long.

I want to thank the new Premier Steven Miles for backing this initiative for so many years, from concept, to now putting this high value bushland back in the hands of the people to be protected forever.

PHOTO CAPTION: Member for Springwood Mick de Brenni, Lynette Shailer, Jim Dennis and senior Ranger Diana Hughes at the official declaration celebration on 6 July 2024.

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School board names new school Congdon-DeValles Elementary

NEW BEDFORD — The South End’s new elementary school will be called the Congdon-DeValles Elementary School when it opens, which is planned for January 2027.

The School Committee considered a long list of suggestions from the public before voting Monday to use the names attached to two elementary buildings that will retire when the new construction finishes. The DeValles name honors Fr. John B. DeValles, the courageous World War I chaplain from New Bedford known as the “Angel of the Trenches.” And Congdon honors James B. Congdon, the abolitionist and politician often referred to as a founding father of New Bedford. 

Map credit: Kellen Riell / The New Bedford Light; photo credit: Jack Spillane / The New Bedford Light; source: Google Earth

Mayor Jon Mitchell, as chair of the School Committee, spoke about Congdon’s founding of the city library and authorship of the city charter, and DeValles’ international awards for courage, such as the French Croix de Guerre and American Distinguished Service Cross.

“Continuing to have their names is fitting and appropriate,” Mitchell said. “It’s as much about honoring [them] as it is setting an example for folks in the future. Especially children.” 

The current Congdon and DeValles buildings are both over 100 years old. Replacing them has been a long-stated goal of both Mayor Mitchell and Superintendent Andrew O’Leary. In total, eight New Bedford schools are older than 100 years, and the district has submitted bids to the state to replace several of them. Last year, New Bedford received $70 million to build the Congdon-DeValles school, but none of the other projects have been officially awarded — so naming processes have not begun. 

John B. DeValles. Credit: Image provided

How the new school got its name

New Bedford residents, teachers, and school staff submitted a list of more than 75 name recommendations to the School Committee.

In the committee’s deliberations, members Colleen Dawicki and Melissa Costa, the only women on the seven-member committee, spoke about the possibility of naming the new school after a woman. Dawicki said there was a disappointingly small number of schools named for women, and noted that it was “reflective of the gender disparity of the committee.” 

Ultimately, the committee voted for the name, Congdon-DeValles Elementary.

James B. Congdon. Credit: Image provided

While Monday’s vote ensures that Congdon and DeValles will remain prominent in the city’s memory, other suggestions offer a glimpse into what New Bedford residents most hope to honor, and what stories about their hometown they most hope to memorialize. 

Many recommended keeping the Congdon and DeValles names. It’s not the first time that the city has named a school after two honorees. In 1975, the Knowlton-Clifford School was replaced with a new building under the I-195 overpass, named Hayden-McFadden for two former school superintendents, Dr. James R. Hayden and Ruth B. McFadden.

Over a dozen submissions suggested naming the new school after Frederick Douglass, the famed abolitionist, orator, and publisher who escaped slavery in Maryland and lived in New Bedford for three years. It was here that Douglass first began to preach, launching a career that would ultimately make him among the the most famous men (and the most photographed person) of the 19th century. 

Douglass was one of only two figures to outnumber “Congdon-DeValles” in the public suggestions. But, “Frederick Douglass has already been taken, so it’s not realistically an option,” said Mayor Mitchell. Alma del Mar, the charter school network, named its second campus after Douglass in 2019. Melissa Costa said, “I think that was a missed opportunity for us.”  

The city paid Douglass homage in 2023 with a statue in Abolition Row Park. 

The second-most suggested name was Margery “Ruby” Dottin, the first African-American woman to serve on the New Bedford School Committee and a longtime education and anti-poverty advocate in New Bedford. Dottin, who passed away in 2020, was the director of Upward Bound at Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMass Dartmouth).

Margery “Ruby” Dottin was the first woman of color to serve on the New Bedford School Committee. A tireless advocate for equity in education, She was also active with Onboard, Upward Bound, the Red Cross and The League of Women Voters. Courtesy of New Bedford Free Public Library

“I can’t think of anyone else more deserving than Margery Ruby Dottin to have a school named after and for students from all racial backgrounds to be proud of attending a school in her name,” wrote Jeanne Costa, one of the people who submitted Dottin’s name for consideration. 

Other names on the long list of suggestions included many prominent community figures. Some of these were William “Bill” do Carmo, the civil rights organizer; Elizabeth “Piper” Ensley, educator and suffragette with ties to New Bedford; teachers and principals including Gwendolyn E. Todman, George Heath, Laurinda Andrade, and Dr. Herbert R. Waters; organizing or political figures such as Mary Barros, Lee Charlton, and Rosalind Poll‐Brooker; and little-known historical figures, like inventor Lewis Temple.

Bill do Carmo portrait in 1970. Credit: Courtesy of Spinner Publications

Several of New Bedford’s former mayors also were suggested as possible names, including Rosemary Tierney, John Bullard, and Fred Kalisz. Jon Mitchell himself was suggested twice. 

Others sought to honor the city’s nautical heritage with suggestions like Bay Side, Whaling City, Harborview, or Herman Melville. One suggestion was “New Bedford Light,” which the suggestor explained had to do with the city’s seaside lighthouses, not this news organization.

At least one suggestion was for “Goodyear,”  the former tire manufacturer that long occupied the site of the new school.

Mitchell thanked the public, saying, “I really appreciate all of the input that we’ve heard.” He clarified that the new school name will include a hyphen. “But we can revisit that,” he said. “We have time.”

Email Colin Hogan at [email protected]

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Backers pull the plug on downtown business district

NEW BEDFORD — Advocates of a downtown Business Improvement District — which stirred a public protest campaign by entrepreneurs, property owners, and social justice advocates — have withdrawn their proposal. 

In light of questions about whether the plan presented to the City Council in March meets requirements under state law governing these districts, a consultant for the proponents sent a withdrawal letter to the head of the City Council’s Finance Committee on Tuesday. The committee was scheduled on July 22 to hold a third hearing on the plan, which was supported by Mayor Jon Mitchell and some of the biggest names in the local restaurant and business world. 

The two-paragraph letter to At-large Councilor Linda Morad from Marco LiMandri, who had been acting as volunteer consultant to the project, offered no explanation and said the BID advocates would not appear at the committee meeting on Monday.

Opponents of the Business Improvement District gather outside New Bedford City Hall Monday. Credit: Eleonora Bianchi / The New Bedford Light

“The participating property owners within the proposed BID are ceasing their efforts to have the plan and petition adopted by the Finance Committee and full City Council,” LiMandri wrote. 

The plan was to assess property owners an annual fee and establish an organization devoted to cultivating downtown commerce by improving the appearance, staging events, and promoting the area. There are now 10 BIDs in Massachusetts, including three in Boston.

Opponents argued, among other things, that the BID could drive up rents within the district, spilling over into surrounding neighborhoods. Some feared that private interests would encroach on spaces such as Wing’s Court, limiting public access.

Steve Silverstein, a restaurateur and member of the steering committee leading the New Bedford BID effort, said it appeared that city officials were going to find the proposal short of legal requirements, including the number of signatures needed from property owners within the BID.

“We don’t have a final answer on whether the math works or not,” Silverstein said on Wednesday morning, but serious questions had been raised about the BID petition at hearings in April and June. He said he spoke with Morad on Tuesday to tell her that the steering committee wanted to withdraw the petition, and asked how they should proceed. 

“We want to take a cooling period,” said Silverstein, who owns the Black Whale and Cisco in New Bedford and the Sail Loft in South Dartmouth. He said there were no immediate plans to pursue this further. 

“I honestly don’t know if there will be a future attempt or not,” Silverstein said. He added that it was “not likely” that the eight members of the steering committee would want to try again.

“Everyone wants to enjoy the summer and forget about it,” said Silverstein. “It’s just a dead topic today.”

Morad said in an interview on Wednesday that the city officials who were asked last month to review the BID proposal and report back on July 22 were still working on their response, but she said there was “a consensus that the petition didn’t meet the requirements.”

Specifically, she said there were “significant questions” about two main requirements: signatures from owners of property worth more than half the total valuation of the district, and signatures of more than 60% of all owners.

The proposed district was to include an area of about seven square blocks west of the waterfront, between the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center to the south and the SRTA bus station to the north.

BID opponents — who had posted “NO BID IN DNB” signs on downtown shop windows, launched their own petition drive, and staged a rally outside City Hall before the committee hearing last month — welcomed the news.

“I think it’s the right decision,” said Elissa Paquette, owner of the Calico boutique on Union Street and a leader of the opposition. “There were numerous questions that were raised, and it was not in the best interests of the community.”

Jenny Newman-Arruda, who owns TL6 The Gallery on William Street, said in email that her “feelings about the BID withdrawal are optimistic,” but she was concerned about similar efforts that could yet surface.  

“I am looking for legislation to further protect our city,” she said, adding that opponents were still planning a rally outside City Hall on Monday “so that the city government knows we intend to fight any future BID …”

In the end, the most effective move against the BID seemed to emerge quietly, as Rose Miller, a co-owner of commercial downtown properties, did her own analysis of the BID proposal and found it came up well short of approval from 60% of all owners. She passed her information to Morad in May, which contributed to the request in June for a review by the City Solicitor, City Clerk and Assessor.

Email reporter Arthur Hirsch at [email protected].

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CategoriesFeatures

Kids4Kids $53k boost

Nearly $53,000 has been raised for a local charity that provides school supplies to families in need.

In May this year, The Kids4Kids Foundation was chosen by local Officeworks staff to be supported by the company’s annual ‘Make a Difference’ appeal.

Last week it was announced stores across Loganholme, Browns Plains, Underwood, Lismore, West Burleigh, Nerang, Upper Mt Gravatt, Coffs Harbour, Capalaba, Underwood, Pimpama, Southport, and Robina raised $52,965 for the charity.

Kids4Kids CEO Tanya Glancy said the money would provide more than 600 children with backpacks filled with school supplies.

“We’re over the moon,” Ms Glancy said.

“We can comfortably give 600 children back to school packs and that doesn’t include our stationary donations we’ve received.

“It’s just an incredible gift from Officeworks in these current times – it’s incredible that they’ve been able to raise that amount of money.”

She said the funding was a “lifeline” amid challenges in meeting high demand in the local community.

“It’s going to help us immensely to reach more children and help support those families that are struggling,” Ms Glancy said.

“The current economic conditions and pressures has families going without life’s basics including access to resources to further their children’s education.”

These conditions also mean a demand for more volunteers.

“We need volunteers for our shop, for our packing days where we pack pencil cases and backpacks,” Ms Glancy said.

“We’ve got events we need help with, and other support that we need to give back to families,”

The foundation’s shop, known as the Kids4 Kids Hub, is located at the Bethania Community Centre.

Ms Glancy said children could come in and personally choose their school supplies.

The foundation was created in 2017 by Ms Glancy’s son, Samuel, who was nine years old at the time.

Since then, Kids4Kids has donated supplies to around 5000 families.

Its mission is to ensure “no child’s educational opportunities are limited by their socioeconomic status”.

The Officeworks appeal, now in its seventh year, last year raised more than $950,000 for 15 charities across Australia.

To volunteer, or to reach out to Kids4Kids, contact the team at [email protected].

 

 

 

 

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