A Round Up of Stow News including a Guilty Plea from a sex offender, the results of a public hearing on the Collings Foundation plan to build a museum, and the closing of the boat rentals at the Town Beach.
By Nancy Arsenault
Sex Offender Pleads Guilty
Stacey Theall, 49, of Pine Point Rd pled guilty on June 4 to felony charges of possession of child pornography and distribution of materials of children engaged in sexual acts. He was originally sentenced to 2 ½ years in a house of correction, but will now instead serve a suspended sentence for five years. If he complies with the terms of his probation over that period, the incarceration sentence will be lifted, according to Stow Police Prosecutor Gary Murphy.
Theall was arrested in April after Massachusetts State Police contacted Stow Police, indicating that monitored internet traffic revealed a local computer was downloading graphic child pornography and posting it on shared viewing sites. Investigative work by Stow Detective Mike Sallese identified Theall’s computer as the source of the traffic and after a search of his home, Theall admitted to the allegations and was arrested, said Sallese.
Prosecutor Murphy said Theall is scheduled for a hearing before a state board to determine his level to be placed within the state sex offender registry. His probation will include sex offender therapy and evaluation treatments, at his expense. While this eventual designation is not publicly announced, Murphy said the listing and designations of Stow’s registered sex offenders is always available at the police station to anyone who may wish to view it.
He said Theall is prohibited from engaging in any unsupervised direct or indirect contact with anyone under 18 years of age. This includes physical contact, speaking, or any electronic contact such as social media, chat rooms or email. His access to the internet is solely for the purpose of conducting business ie: bank account transactions, legitimate purchases, etc. He cannot visit random websites or surf the internet from any handheld, mobile or stationery device. He cannot disguise or change his internet identity in any way.
The probation department has also established monitoring rules pertaining to a GPS devise worn by Thaell. Murphy said that all conditions of the probation were in effect as of June 4 and must be followed at least through June 2019.
Museum Public Hearing Continued
The opening of a Planning Board public hearing to address the Collings Foundation proposal for a new museum, officially opened last Wednesday, but got no further. That night, due to personal scheduling conflicts, a voting member of the Planning Board was unable to attend. The applicant, Robert Collings, had the right to request a continuation to a future date, presenting his plan to the full contingent of voting members. If he had proceeded with the hearing last Wednesday, the missing member, Steve Quinn, would not have been able to participate in any future sessions of the hearing nor cast a vote in the final decision.
When presented with the continuation option from Chairman Lori Clark, Collings and his team of designers and engineers, all of whom were present at the meeting, chose to request a continuation. The meeting will now move forward on Wednesday, June 9th at 8:00pm at Town Hall. The evening prior, Tuesday, June 8, the Selectmen will hold what they believe will be the final night of public comment regarding the earth removal permit application that Collings is requesting for an airfield safety landscaping proposal. On Tuesday, July 15, the Conservation Commission continues the public hearing addressing their specific concerns around the museum construction project.
Kayaks and Canoes Could Be Beached
Summer’s first weekend is a popular one at Stow Town Beach, but this past weekend, there was a surprise for beach visitors. On Saturday, the Lake Boon Commission ordered a halt to beachside rentals of canoes and kayaks, a practice that has been in place for the past two summers, managed by the Stow Recreation Department.
Lee Heron, an auxiliary Stow police officer and a member of the Lake Boon Commission, docked the Commission’s patrol boat at the Town Beach on Saturday and informed the lifeguards that renting of the boats from anywhere along the Lake Boon shoreline is a direct violation of the bylaws. The bylaw referred to is a Lake Boon Commission bylaw, one that was automatically absorbed into the greater town bylaws several decades ago, according to Stow Selectman and Lake resident Don Hawkes.
Hawkes, who recently volunteered to serve as the Board of Selectmen liaison to the Recreation Commission, said that the bylaw was written to prevent individuals from setting up a commercial boat rental business on private property. He said that despite the Recreation Department program having operated without incident over the past two years, it can only continue with the recommendation and permission of the Commission and also approval from the Selectmen, as noted in the bylaw.
Hawkes said that this particular bylaw has not come under scrutiny in the past, so it most likely faded from the memory of most people who were aware of the boat rental program. He admitted that he himself did not recall its existence as he heard of the Recreation Department’s expanded plans for the beach area a few years ago.
The Commission’s Lee Heron said on Sunday, “I never knew the boats were being rented. If I had, I would have said something sooner. It’s really a question of liability and safety.” He explained that the Commission was not convinced that folks taking the boats out onto the Lake are aware of watercraft rules that govern the use and safe passage of different types of boats.
Recreation Director Laura Greenough said that younger children using the boats must be accompanied by adults, all renters sign waivers of responsibility and the town’s insurance policy covers the program. “We are aware of any liability and addressed that before we began the program,” said Greenough, who did not know of the bylaw existence before this incident.
As people arrived at the beach to rent boats on Sunday, Hawkes contacted the Lake Boon Commission and asked for a lifting of the ban, believing that both the Commission and Recreation Department will move forward in good faith to address the situation. Hawkes said he is hopeful that the boats, part of a growing fleet purchased annually with recreation department funds, can still be available to residents who may otherwise have no access to the lake beyond the shoreline.
Heron returned to the beach Sunday afternoon, informing lifeguards that boat rentals would be allowed for the next two weeks. He was hopeful that the Recreation Department could address the issue in Thursday’s monthly Lake Boon Commission meeting.