HomeWeekend Wrap-UpCritical Drought, Break-ins, Monkeypox Vaccination: Weekend Wrap-Up

Critical Drought, Break-ins, Monkeypox Vaccination: Weekend Wrap-Up

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WESTFORD — Welcome to the July 24 edition of Weekend Wrap-Up. Here, we highlight the most important news you may have missed this week in Westford.

Middlesex County enters ‘critical drought’ amid ongoing heat advisories

Following lower than normal rainfall since March, the Northeast Region of Massachusetts, which includes Westford, has now entered a critical drought.

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bethany Card announced the change from a significant drought to a critical drought on July 21. She cited deteriorating conditions and increased temperatures in many regions within the state.

According to National Weather Service data, precipitation remains six to eight inches behind normal rainfall for the region.

Officials open cooling stations

Officials are urging residents to stay hydrated and to check on children, seniors and pets.

Westford officials have announced a number of cooling stations available for residents during the extreme heat.

The J.V. Fletcher Library will remain open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday and 10 a.m.. to 5 p.m. on Saturday to provide air conditions options to those in need.

Additionally, the Cameron Senior Center, in partnership with the Upper Merrimack Valley Medical Reserve Corps, will host a cooling center in the center from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Everything Westford will receive in the recent state budget

The latest state budget passed by the legislature on Monday contains millions in funding for the community. This includes $17.55 million in Chapter 70 funding for Westford schools and $2.46 in unrestricted state aid.

School funding has increased by 1.56% from $17.28 million last year. Unrestricted state aid has increased by 5.4% from $2.33 million over last fiscal year, which ended on June 30.

The $52.7 billion budget includes $110 million to continue free, universal school lunches for students in Massachusetts. Normally, under the income-based program, only 7% of Westford students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals.

The budget includes additional funding for a number of local projects.

  • $65,000 for repairs and upgrades to the Parkerville Schoolhouse.
  • $56,000 for the purchase of an electric mail delivery truck for Westford Public Schools.
  • $25,000 for WestfordCAT for production and programming.
  • $25,000 for the Westford Housing Authority for internet, digital upgrades and broadband accessibility.

Westford Police seek information on series of break-ins on Littleton Road

Westford Police are seeking information on a series of break-ins that occurred Littleton Road earlier today.

The person was responsible for breaking into at least four different businesses, according to a post from the department on social media.

The department is requesting any information from on the individual be directed to Westford Police at 978-399-2345.

Mail-in ballot applications are coming soon to your mailbox

Mail-in ballot applications will soon be arriving to your mailbox ahead of a July 23 deadline.

The new law makes “no excuse” mail-in ballots and early voting permanent in Massachusetts, after pandemic-era measures expanded these offerings. Voters may now register up to 10 days in advance of an election, as opposed to the previous 20 day window.

The bill also increases accessibility for voters with disabilities, overseas service members and incarcerated persons.

Westford residents will receive their first application for the upcoming September Primary if they were registered to vote by July 8.

Massachusetts opens 11 monkeypox vaccination sites, including one near Westford

As the state works to respond to the current monkeypox outbreak, the Department of Public Health has announced it will be opening 11 sites across the state to administer the vaccine.

The closest location to receive a vaccine near Westford is at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence.

Currently, only those who are known contacts identified by public health via case investigation, contact tracing and risk exposure are eligible.

Presumed contacts are also eligible for vaccination. Presumed contacts include those who know that a sexual partner in the past 14 days was diagnosed with monkeypox or had multiple sexual partners in the past 14 days in a jurisdiction with known monkeypox.

UPDATE: Free school meals for all has expired, Legislature looks to extend benefits

The Massachusetts Legislature has submitted its final budget 18 days into the fiscal year. The compromise budget includes $110 million to extend the program that allowed for universal school lunches for students, regardless of household income.

The budget also includes at least $700,000 for Project Bread, a non-profit dedicated to combatting food insecurity among students. The money will be used to expand summer food service outreach and school breakfast outreach.

The budget won the approval of all 40 Senators and 153 Representatives, and now heads to Gov. Baker’s desk for final approval.

Local journalism is vital to our communities. As other publications shift focus toward regional journalism, WestfordCAT continues to provide high-quality hyperlocal reporting to our town, free for everyone to read. So  we have a small favor to ask. Every contribution, no matter how big or small, helps us sustain our journalism and keep our community informed. Please consider supporting WestfordCAT for as little as $1 on PayPal.

Ben Domaingue, Managing Editor
Ben Domaingue, Managing Editorhttps://www.clippings.me/bendomaingue
Ben Domaingue has previously worked at newspapers in New Hampshire and is the Managing Editor covering Westford. He’s passionate about community journalism, photography and hiking. Email him at bdomaingue@westfordcat.org.