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Board critic doesn't take rebuff silently.

Byline: George Barnes

ATHOL - Unhappy with past statements made at selectmen's meetings by H. Thomas Colo, Selectman Alan D. Dodge, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, told the businessman and former town and state official last night he would not be allowed to speak.

Mr. Dodge made his remark after Mr. Colo indicated an interest in speaking during a public comment period during the meeting.

Mr. Dodge first told Mr. Colo he respects him for his many years of community service, including more than two decades as a selectman.

"But," Mr. Dodge said, "lately you have not been speaking to us in a dignified and respectful manner so I'm not going to let you speak."

The statement drew an immediate response from Mr. Colo, who first asked if it was a permanent ban. He was told it was only for the meeting last night. He then requested an explanation.

"In fairness, you should tell me what was disrespectful," he said.

Mr. Dodge refused and tried to continue with the meeting, but Mr. Colo persisted.

"I request that your entire board send me a written specification of what was disrespectful," he said.

Eventually, Mr. Dodge gaveled Mr. Colo quiet and the meeting continued.

After the meeting, the discussion between Mr. Dodge and Mr. Colo continued, not just about the refusal to let Mr. Colo speak, but also about other issues. Mr. Colo was critical of the way selectmen, among other things, handled an announcement by Mr. Dodge that information for people needing help heating their homes this winter will be on the town's Web page and on cards available in Town Hall.

Mr. Colo has been a regular critic of selectmen over the past decade, especially about how the town has handled the police station renovation project. At the June 17 meeting, Selectman Anthony A. Brighenti got into an angry exchange with Mr. Colo over the businessman's continuing criticism of the project.

After the selectmen got on to regular business last night, the board was given an update about efforts to get a video camera set up at Veterans Memorial Park to help prevent vandalism. The board was told the town is still trying to get a camera mounted on a building across the street from the park.

Selectman Wayne E. Miller said he is dismayed by the amount of vandalism in town this summer. He said the town has spent many thousands of dollars and many hours improving parks. He said anyone caught vandalizing them should be forced to repair the damage.

Town Manager David Ames said the town has been working at dealing with the vandalism. He said police have arrested two juveniles for vandalizing the former Athol Middle School on School Street and have identified a person who has been putting soap into the Veterans Memorial Park fountain, causing it to fill with suds.

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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 20, 2008
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