HomeWeekend Wrap-UpPublic Hearing for Firearms Business Bylaw, FIRST Robotics: Weekend-Wrap-Up

Public Hearing for Firearms Business Bylaw, FIRST Robotics: Weekend-Wrap-Up


Subscribe to our mailing list and consider following WestfordCAT on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for daily updates from Westford's hometown source for news. 

WESTFORD — Welcome to the June 11 edition of Weekend Wrap-Up. Here, we highlight the most important news you may have missed this week in Westford.

Public hearing opens for firearms business bylaw proposal

A public hearing has officially opened regarding a proposed zoning bylaw amendment that could regulate future firearms businesses in town.

Attendees voice support of amendment

A number of residents in attendance spoke out in favor of the proposal during the June 5 public hearing.

Resident Jody Marchand, a proponent of the bylaw, says she is “in shock that our town known for the school system [and] Kimball Farm will now be known as the town with the gun shops.”

She added, “it’s very upsetting to me.”

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wonder database, firearms account for nearly 19% of deaths for children ages 0 to 18 in the United States.

A number of residents also referenced a recent bylaw amendment in Acton which passed during a May 1 Annual Town Meeting. This bylaw would allow just two firearms businesses in Acton at any given time.

“I don’t know why we need to have a total of five firearm stores,” resident Barry Rosenberg said. “I think it’s overkill.”

Some, like resident Gloria Miller, cited concerns over the town having “more options to purchase a gun than a bra.”

“Generally speaking, half the population of Westford is female. The vast majority of those women probably wear a bra on a daily basis. The number of places I can purchase a bra in town is probably one,” she said.

Miller also believes that the town has “a history of limiting commercial development,” referencing limits on drive-through restaurants and a ban on nonmedical cannabis retailers.

“The community is voicing their opinion that they are not comfortable with this business,” she said.

Some feel proposal is too restrictive 

However, others felt setting a limit on the amount of firearm businesses would be too restrictive.

“We’ve never had a restriction before and we don’t have many firearms businesses. Just because you’re allowing for four or five doesn’t mean there are going to be four or five businesses,” First Middlesex Republican State Committeewoman and Westford resident Kathy Lynch said.

She added, “there are lots of people who aren’t here tonight that believe that this is too restrictive, that there shouldn’t be a number on this, that the business and the market should determine that.”

Resident Arnold Price also added that “there’s not a whole lot” of licensed firearm dealers in Massachusetts, citing data from the Firearms Records Bureau.

According to data from the Firearms Records Bureau, nearly 65% of communities in Massachusetts have no active gunsmithing business, approximately 55% of communities have no firearms dealers and approximately 41% of communities have no businesses with a license to sell ammunition.

What’s next?

The public hearing will continue during the July 17 Planning Board meeting. The proposal will be considered at a Westford Special Town Meeting no later than October 16.

Residents who are unable to attend in-person may submit written comments via email to planningboardstaff@westfordma.gov.

Regional robotics team promotes outreach, engagement for STEM

Did you know Westford has a high-school robotics team?

The Stormgears are a group of high school students from Westford, Acton, Boxborough, Chelmsford and Littleton among others who use robotics to cultivate student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Teammate and Westford Academy senior Veronica Cheng said that “everyone should have an equal opportunity to do STEM and learn what they want to learn to make the world a better place.”

Originally founded in 2014, the 49-member team has worked with a number of students in countries such as Columbia, Thailand and Botswana.

Members say their goal is to increase accessibility to STEM in developing regions. They hope to give equal opportunities to all students engaged in STEM.

“Everyone should have an equal opportunity to do STEM and learn what they want to learn to make the world a better place,” Elenu Wu, team member and sophomore at Westford Academy told WestfordCAT.

Involvement with FIRST

The Stormgears are one of many teams part of FIRST or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST is a non-profit dedicated to inspiring young people to be science and technology innovators through leadership, problem-solving and community engagement.

The team is part of the First Robotics Competition — a competition for students between 14 and 18 years old. Many students in FRC graduate from First Lego League, or FLL, a competition for younger students in elementary and middle school.

Through the program, the team has competed against and collaborated with other students through regional and global competitions.

Last September, the team ran an FLL workshop, which introduces younger students to STEM through hands-on learning.

“It’s like a pipeline, you have to get them engaged in robotics and STEAM,” Sai Vuppuluri, a freshman at Westford Academy told WestfordCAT.

His teammate Ajay Krishnan, a freshman at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School added, “We’re gonna scale this up into something bigger. We want to make sure there’s something…so they [the children] can keep running their robots.”

Members typically will work with and host workshops with The Gummy Bears, an FLL team from Westford.

The Stormgears also plan to introduce more workshops for FLL teams in Columbia to continue expanding engineering opportunities around the world.

Global Outreach

The Stormgears’ non-profit, STEAM Splash, was created alongside the team in 2014 to promote STEM within their communities and beyond.

Through STEAM Splash, the team has organized multiple outreach events geared toward elementary school children. It is also how they work with other FLL and FRC teams over the world.

“People across the world can access it at any time. We [can] reach the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time,” Vuppuluri said.

For their global outreach, the team was awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award by FIRST, which “celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering,” according to the FIRST website.

“The teams are trying to make the world a better place,” Wu said. “It’s not about just building the best robot in the field. It’s about giving people the tools they need to achieve their dreams.”

Managing Editor Ben Domaingue contributed to the reporting on this article. 

Program to provide week of summer camp, after-school care for some residents

Low-income families may again be eligible for subsidized summer camp programs and after-school care, which remains available through the 2023-2024 school year.

The temporary program was funded through a $30,000 American Rescue Plan Act request from the Health Department, Council on Aging and Recreation Department. The Select Board unanimously approved the funding during an April 26, 2022 meeting.

“The way we proposed it [our request] was that it could last as long funds allow. It’s [still] the original pot of money,” Regional Community Health and Wellness Coordinator Brittany Nash told WestfordCAT.

According to Town Accountant Jesse Beyer, $1,675 was spent on the program in FY22 and $9,040 was spent so far in FY23. $19,285 in funding remains available for the program.

According to Nash, 35 kids were approved for the offering in 2022. So far, 13 kids have been approved to participate in 2023.

Nash recommends families who wish to receive a free week of summer camp apply as soon as possible. The Recreation Department’s summer program runs from June 26 to Aug. 11.

The department’s after-school program begins on Aug. 30 and runs through the school year.

The program provides a free week of camp per child or a $400 cap on one week of after-school care per child for families at 300% of the federal income poverty level. Applications will be accepted on a first-come first-serve basis.

Families who participated in 2022 are invited to participate in 2023 if they meet current income requirements. Applications can be emailed to Regional Community Health and Wellness Coordinator Brittany Nash.

Residents with questions can contact Nash via email or by phone at 978-399-2564.

VIDEO: Artist of the Month — Dave Martsolf

Dave Martsolf is June’s Artist of the Month at the Parish Center for the Arts.

He began painting in 1979, having originally studied architecture at the Massachusetts’s Institute of Technology before shifting to an art degree.

“By the time I got through high school, I thought ‘I probably want to be an architect,’” he said.

After taking a number of art history classes, he left MIT for the University of New Hampshire where he finished a Bachelor of Arts degree.

He notes much of his work on display at the Parish Center for the Arts are his recent works.

“The work you would see here spans the most recent years,” he said.

Martsolf says his work is “driven first by surrealism,” but notes he has done work in abstracts.

His work will be on display through June 26. Gallery hours are held every Sunday from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.

Having trouble purchasing a copy of graduation? We have alternative options

So — you’re trying to purchase a copy of Westford Academy’s graduation ceremony, but there have been a few hiccups, right?

You’d be correct. We’ve received a number of reports from users that our Video on Demand partner, Castus, has had trouble accepting user payments to purchase the video.

As a result, WestfordCAT is offering an alternative way to purchase and download your copy of the graduation ceremony. Our station has set up a new link through Network for Good, our fundraising partner, in order to collect payment for the video.

Simply provide Network for Good your first name, last name, email address, payment information and other applicable information to make your purchase.

Once we receive your information and payment from Network for Good, we will email a Google Drive link of the graduation ceremony for parents, families and friends of recent Westford Academy graduates to watch and enjoy.

We are truly sorry for this inconvenience. We are working to rectify these issues with our Video on Demand partner as soon as possible.

Click this link to purchase your copy of the ceremony. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at 978-692-7152 or by email at westfordcat@westfordcat.org.

*Proceeds from this sale help to offset our production costs.

WestfordCAT News

Support WestfordCAT News

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 by donating online.

Ben Domaingue
Ben Domainguehttps://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.

Upcoming Events