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Naughton wants to put a stop to Eliot until questions answered.

Byline: Jan Gottesman

CLINTON -- A state representative has lobbed the latest volley in the effort to get information about just who will be coming into town by way of Eliot Community Health Services' Winsor Academy.

The project is planning to move into 46 Boylston St., a large, white house overlooking the Wachusett Reservoir, within the next few weeks.

"I would like to take this opportunity to express my utter dismay with the complete lack of communication my office has received from the Department of Youth Services or Eliot Community Health Services,'' State Rep. Harold Naughton Jr. wrote in his letter to Department of Youth Services Commissioner Peter Forbes on Monday. "Neither I nor my office has received any official notice concerning the planning, development and implementation of this program. The first notice I had of the planned program was from local media.''

The Item first reported about the project in the March 14 edition, then again in recent weeks as information has changed about the type and number of students, and whether any of the students would be attending Clinton High School.

Last week, school, town and DYS officials met to discuss the project in depth (see the story in the April 4 Item).

In his letter, Naughton noted the "incomplete and inaccurate information'' provided by DYS and/or Eliot.

"I am fully aware of the daily burden on DYS and the yeoman's work done by your employees,'' Naughton wrote. "Additionally, while I appreciate the services that the Eliot CHS program offers for troubled youth, I still hold a number of reservations for the effects this initiative will have on the community.''

In the April 4 Item story, Barbara Morton, director for the central region of DYS, said the majority of the students would stay in the house for school, those being the so-called "track one'' offenders. However, some could enter the public schools in the "track two'' program, geared toward independent living. Morton said the teens, 13 to 18 years old, are generally low-level offenders, mostly misdemeanor and property offenses, though some assault offenders with "a story behind the charges'' might be included. These students would be the ones who might attend the public school. In Fitchburg, they are treated as School Choice students, and Fitchburg is paid by the students' home town, Morton said.

She also added that having a sex offender in the house would be extremely rare, though she did not rule it out.

Naughton mentioned that in his letter.

"More troubling is the fact that the DYS regional director would not commit to excluding sex offenders from the property. She was, however, quoted as saying about the residents, 'If they leave or walk away, we are not concerned about public safety,' '' Naughton wrote."Commissioner Forbes, I am concerned about public safety. Clinton is one of the smallest, most densely-populated towns in the Commonwealth. This house is in the middle of a condensed, tight-knit neighborhood.''

Naughton wrote that it was not a case of "not in my backyard,'' but an attempt to make sure the town is dealt with fairly, instead of "not being told fully about what to expect from a project or the impact upon the community, schools and local finances. No mitigation whatsoever has been offered.''

Naughton called for "an immediate moratorium'' on any further development at Winsor Academy "until a full and fair review of this project can be done by all impacted parties.''

A spokesman for DYS stated in an email, "We have received Rep. Naughton's letter and are working on a response.''
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Title Annotation:Coulter
Author:Gottesman, Jan
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 11, 2014
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