Big issues seemed to be everywhere you looked around Watertown in 2015, with new developments, the firefighter contract, the opioid epidemic and the Town Election, plus Watertown athletes enjoyed great success.
Rising above all the major issues this year was development. A number of major projects were proposed in town, many of which were approved. In January, the controversial East Watertown CVS got approved. In June, the major apartment complex on Arsenal Street, Elan Watertown, received approval – a project that went through the town’s new Design Standards and Guidelines. In October, a hotel proposed on Elm Street was rejected by the Zoning Board, and the developer appealed in State Land Court.
Other projects approved include the LINX Watertown on the old Verizon site and an office complex on Grove Street. Two major projects that have undergone major discussion, but have yet to be decided are the athenahealth campus proposal at the Arsenal on the Charles and the proposed zoning changes to allow redevelopment of the Arsenal Mall.
Opioids and Heroin
The problem of heroin and other opioids has been around for years, but it came to a head this year. In June, two people died in the same night from overdoses, just two of 10 deaths in Watertown this year. The town came together to try to end the opioid epidemic. A vigil was held in September to remember those lost to the addiction. In October, the town held the Erase the Stigma Week to try to raise awareness and inform people about the disease of addiction and show ways to treat it. For their efforts to end the opiate crisis, three Watertown groups received awards from the Watertown Belmont Chamber of Commerce.
The impasse really began in December 2014 when the Town Council voted down the Watertown Fire Local 1347’s arbitration award, but the issue of the fire contract extended well into 2015. Firefighters held rallies outside Town Hall joined by other unions, and red signs went up on lawns around Watertown. The disagreement caused much strife. In September, after more that 6 years, the contract was approved by the Town Council.
The town election had some upheaval, but less from the Firefighter Contract than from other issues. Several Council Candidates received the backing of the Firefighters, but the races where incumbents were unseated did not come from those backed by the union. In District B, Councilor Cecilia Lenk lost to challenger Lisa Feltner, who has fought for years against overzealous development in her neighborhood and beyond. In the School Committee race, two challengers who came from parents groups unseated two incumbent members.
Watertown High School has had some successful years, but calendar year 2015 was a banner one. The boys hockey team had a magical run ending in the school’s first hockey state championship. The girls basketball team also made a deep run to the EMass Final at the TD Garden after winning the North Section title. The field hockey team not only won another state championship – its seventh straight – but also set the national record for longest unbeaten streak. WHS alumna Erika Kelly continued her success at Stonehill College, earning the NCAA Div. II national player of the year. Plus the Watertown football team made a playoff run that got them to the North Section final, and ended the year by beating Belmont in a barnburner.