approve remote participation
13-year-old Wojnar commended for aiding choking friend
By Charles Kelleher Harris
DUDLEY- Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting opened with a heartwarming story of heroism.
Fire Chief Dean Kochanowski came before the board to present a special certificate of appreciation to 13-year-old Joseph Wojnar.
Recently, during a church retreat at Saint Louis Church, Wojnar and friend Ryan Finton, both 7th graders at Dudley Middle School, were joking around and eating M&Ms.
Suddenly Finton began to choke, and Wojnar immediately came to his rescue.
"I wasn't nervous, I just reacted," said Wojnar.
Wojnar hit Finton directly on the back which caused him to project the lodged candy.
Wojnar said that he had learned the technique at a school survival day last November.
"I'm thankful to Joe for hitting me on the back," Finton laughingly told the board.
"Joseph acted quickly when a friend was choking," said Kochanowski, "[Wojnar] won the undying gratitude of the Dudley Fire Department."
Wojnar has not let the recognition go to his head.
"I don't really feel like a hero," he said.
In fact, Wojnar didn't even tell his parents, Dudley Police Chief Steven Wojnar and his wife Christine about the incident.
It was only after Finton's father called Christine that she learned of her son's bravery.
"We are very, very proud," said Wojnar's mother.
"He did a great job. He responded when a lot of people wouldn't," said Chief Wojnar, "We are very proud of him."
After Kochanowski handed him his certificate, young Wojnar received a standing ovation.
Things then quickly took a serious turn at Monday's meeting when the discussion came to a Special Town Meeting scheduled for Feb. 28.
Initially the meeting was scheduled in connection with the approval of a loan from UniBank for the purchase of a new fire engine.
The town voted in the last election to move forward with the purchase.
However, some confusion seems to have developed about the process of awarding the loan to the town.
"Why are we having this meeting?" Selectman Paul Joseph asked, "I'm up in arms about this because I don't like the bank telling us what to do. They don't tell us how to run the town. My suggestion is that we tell them to go pound sand."
Selectman John Marsi agreed and said that the motion initially on the ballot had been overwhelmingly favored and that the town didn't need to "go through the motion again."
Fire Chief Kochanowski came forward and explained that he had been assured by the town treasurer "three or four times" that everything was moving along well. Kochanowski said that the first 50 percent of the payment was due at the end of this month in order for the town to receive a discount by the manufacturer.
Later, however, Kochanowski said he received an e-mail stating that before the loan for the first installment was to be granted by UniBank, a town meeting vote had to be received.
Chairman Jonathan Ruda pointed out that as a lending institution, UniBank had the right to set out any qualifiers it wanted to. He then suggested that the motion be passed, but in the meantime asked Town Administrator Peter Jankowski find out whether or not the meeting was really necessary.
"Find another bank to give us a loan," Joseph said.
When Jankowski said that it would cost about $500 to hold the Special Town Meeting instead of the $3,000 it costs to run the Annual Town Meeting, Joseph remarked, "It isn't the $500, it's the principle. I don't want to succumb to UniBank if we don't have to."
The board then voted unanimously to approve the Special Town Meeting, but instructed Jankowski to look further into the matter before the Feb. 28 meeting.
Also at Monday's meeting the board voted unanimously to accept a motion to adopt a new proposal for an open meeting law that allows remote participation.
The Attorney General's office recently amended the public meeting law to include remote access in cases were members of public bodies are unable to physically attend such meetings.
Listed reasons for absence include personal illness, personal disability, emergencies, military service or geographic distance.
The law has been met with mixed reviews from various towns across the Commonwealth.
Of a list of 10 towns gathered by Town Administrator Peter Jankowski, only two communities adopted the new law.
"This is still very brand new," Jankowski told the board.
Selectman Joseph said that he was "torn" on the issue fearing that some public officials may misuse the law for personal benefit.
Selectman Marsi, however, was undeterred by the lukewarm reception to the law.
"Why can't Dudley be at the vanguard?" Marsi said.
Selectman Peter Fox agreed, saying, "I...think we should go ahead and approve. I don't think we'd have to use it too often and if it doesn't work we can change it."
Chairman Jonathan Ruda motioned to approve the law with the stipulation that it be reviewed in one year.