Salute for native son
WHITMAN — The town will honor Army Paratrooper Maj. Michael J. Donahue, a Whitman native who was killed on Sept. 16 by a suicide bomber in Kabul, Afghanistan during his third deployment.
Selectmen on Tuesday, Sept. 30, voted to hold a memorial ceremony to honor Donahue, a graduate of the Whitman-Hanson class of 1990.
Donahue, 41, was with an 82nd Airborne unit out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday.
The town ceremony will be held on Sunday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m. in Whitman Park, near the pond and All-Wars Memorial.
Town Administrator Frank Lynam said he met with state Rep. Geoff Diehl, R-Whitman, on Tuesday about organizing a ceremony.
Lynam said Peter Brown, a classmate of Donahue, has offered to help coordinate the event, as has Aaron Richardson, commander of the VFW, and Christie Coombs, whose husband Jeffrey Coombs died in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“We as a community would like to honor him,” Lynam said. “All of the pieces are coming together.”
Selectmen Tuesday also voted to invite the state’s constitutional officers as well as Whitman’s state and federal legislative delegations to the cermony.
Whitman police, fire and other departments will also support the program, including honor guards.
Lynam said the memorial could draw 100 people or several hundred people, and is an appropriate way to honor Donahue.
“He’s been away from Whitman for a long time, but he’s a native son,” he said.
End of Winterfest
Richard Rosen, chairman of the Winterfest Committee, on Tuesday told selectmen that the committee has voted unanimously to end Winterfest after two decades.
“Mr. Chairman, times have changed. Things have changed. All good things must come to an end,” he said.
Rosen said the Whitman Winterfest celebration started as a one-day event 20 years ago, usually held around the first weekend in December.
The Winterfest Committee worked on a yearlong campaign in connection with Whitman’s 125th anniversary, with the largest parade, held carnivals for 15 years, raised funds for a $125,000 playground in the Whitman Town Park, and held the first-ever Whitman First Night this past New Year’s Eve.
Selectman Daniel Salvucci praised Rosen and the committee and said they made Whitman a better place.
Selectman Brian Bezanson said he thought Winterfest would expand and he was bummed out to hear it is ending.
“It caught me by surprise. I didn’t expect it,” he said.
Selectman Lisa Green commended Rosen’s and the committee’s dedication and said she is sorry to see Winterfest go.
Selectmen Tuesday voted to approve a request by Rosen to hold another Whitman First Night ceremony, to be held this New Year’s Eve.
Selectmen voted to sign off on an application for a $499,000 Community Innovation Challenge grant application to purchase 37 Lucas chest compression machines to be spread across 18 Plymouth County fire departments, including Whitman.
Fire Chief Timothy Grenno, who requested the measure, said the $4-million grant program is administered through the governor’s office and is for innovative projects that combine services or purchases of capital equipment.
Grenno said he spoke with his brother fire chiefs and they looked to a group purchase for equipment to help patients who are suffering from a cardiac arrest.
The Lucas chest compression machine straps around the chest of a patient, and compresses at the proper rate and depth, he said.
“It’s proven. It’s tested,” he said. “It increases, up to 88 percent, the chance of survival for patients who suffer from pre-hospital cardiac arrest.”
Selectmen approved a building alteration requested by Police Chief Scott Benton to insert black or privacy slats into a 440-foot fence around the police station, to prevent people outside from viewing the parking lot. Part of the fence damaged during snow plowing will also be repaired. The low bid for the project was $4,000.
Benton said a police supervisor brought the idea up during a monthly command staff meeting, noting that a number of police officers were concerned about the security of the parking lot.
“If it’s serious enough for them to come to me, I’m going to pitch it,” he said. “A safe work environment for the men and women over there is what they want.”
The chief said a lot goes on in the area, with prisoners being brought in, and lots of sport teams and people coming in and going out.
Benton said people tease officers about a police car that was in a crash that is parked in the lot.
He said the department gets undercover vehicles from the district attorney’s office that are parked there.
“Bad guys do surveillance, just like the good guys do,” he said.
Benton said the town had a bank robbery. The suspect or suspects knew the police and personal vehicles and shifts of Abington and Whitman officers, he said.
He also mentioned that the ambush of two Pennsylvania state troopers, took place after an assailant — still being sought — watched for two months and figured out the troopers’ schedules.
Salvucci said he stopped at a number of police stations during a recent trip with his wife to the Cape Cod Canal, and he could not see into the parking lots of at least six police stations along the way.
“When we had that station built, I don’t know why we didn’t think of that,” he said.
Lynam said community policing was the focus when the police station was built in 2008 and 2009.
However, community policing has changed since then, he said, although Whitman police continue to engage and interact with the community, walk around, and in good weather bike around the community.
There is a different group of people out there now, and in this electronic age, it is not hard to figure out who is in the vehicles, Lynam said.
“I thought, ‘are we trying to wall out people and build a fortress?’ But it makes sense,” he said.