North Star Reporter’s 10 Biggest Stories in 2023 By Adam Bass

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Betty Pensavelle and Elaine St Martin, the two founding members of the Over 80 for Brady fan club at the premiere of “80 for Brady.” The club was the inspiration for the movie. Courtesy photo/Michelle St Martin
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abass@northstarreporter.com 

As 2023 draws to a close, the North Star Reporter looks back at 10 of the biggest stories that have happened this year in North Attleborough. 

1: Heavy flooding leaves homes uninhabitable, roads and infrastructure damaged. On the evening of Sept. 11, a rainstorm brought heavy flash flooding to North Attleborough. The floods resulted in damage to 200 homes in North Attleborough. More than 10 inches of rain fell during the evening, and more than 2,000 power outages were reported.

The effects of the flooding are still being felt in town today, as town officials are trying to repair damaged infrastructure such as the town hall basement while some homeowners are still unable to return to their homes. The storm, in the words of North Attleborough Fire Chief Chris Coleman, was an “unprecedented” event.

2: Town asks state for help assisting migrant families. In 2023, North Attleborough became the new home of more than 60 immigrant families. The first immigrant families arrived on Sept. 14, leaving town officials scrambling to find ways to accommodate them. 

The arrival of the families to North Attleborough came after Gov. Maura Healey announced a state of emergency on Aug. 8 due to a lack of shelters to house an influx of migrants coming to Massachusetts. Because of the rise in migrants coming to Massachusetts, the state’s shelter system has become overwhelmed with occupants, leaving several towns and cities having to shelter migrants in hotels. Today, the town is still seeking help from the federal and state government to expedite work permits to help immigrant families find work and start new lives in North Attleborough.

3: Immigrants find work opportunities in North Attleborough: After learning about the arrival of the immigrant families, Paul Belham Jr., vice president of Bell’s Powder Coating, took it upon himself to hire four immigrants to help boost his workforce. The Reporter talked to Jarvin Alphonse, 27, of Haiti and Jose Barros, 44, of Cape Verde and learned about their dream to work in the United States.

Since then, Belham Jr. has hired eight additional migrants to work for his company and has been an advocate for expediting work permits to hire more immigrants who have been relocated to North Attleborough.

4: Homeowner raises awareness of flood damage in town.  After her house was flooded during the Sept. 11 rainstorm, Kristine Bonneau made it her mission to help those who were also affected by the flash floods. 
Bonneau has been posting on social media and meeting with other homeowners to push the Healey administration to call on President Joe Biden to declare an emergency declaration so that the town can receive relief funds. Bonneau’s efforts have since been rewarded as Gov. Maura Healey made a formal request to the Biden administration for the declaration in December 2023.

5: Auchincloss says attitude to housing in Massachusetts is changing. The North Star Reporter sat down with Congressman Jake Auchincloss for a special interview on housing and what it meant for North Attleborough.

Auchincloss told the reporter that there must be more affordable housing in Massachusetts and that communities such as North Attleborough are starting to support politicians and plans that support building more housing and loosening strict zoning laws. He also advocated for a variety of housing stock to be built and talked about challenges facing his district in regards to complying with housing laws.

6: NAPD Officer Crosman transfers to Wrentham Police. In a surprise announcement on April 7, Officer Kristine Crosman, who has served with the North Attleborough Police Department for 20 years as an officer and School Resource Officer, left the force to join the Wrentham Police Department.

Crosman said her decision to leave was based on a desire to prioritize community policing and build trust among members of the community. The announcement came as a shock to many residents as Crosman was a familiar face at several community events, including the Special Olympics.

7:  Voters approve new $286 million Tri-County School. On Oct. 24, North Attleborough residents voted to approve the construction of a new $286 million Tri-County School. A total of 538 voted yes for the project, and 368 voted no.

The Tri-County School building has been showing signs of deterioration, with leaky pipes and broken electrical equipment a common sight in classrooms and hallways. The hope for a new building would be to replace all these deficiencies and create a more positive learning environment for students.

8: Commission plans survey to help those with disabilities. In a first for North Attleborough, the Commission on Disability created a survey to learn if the services the town provides for those with disabilities are adequate. 

The survey found that residents wanted to see more improvements towards special education and transportation services. Residents also said the town should provide more resources for those who have education based disabilities. Chairman Paul Keenan said the survey will help to assess whether changes are needed to currently available services and if more funding is required in the Fiscal Year 2025 budget.

9: Town approves sale of Fisher College building. After months of discussions and negotiations, the town is now the owner of the Fisher College building on 451 Elm St.

The college’s North Attleborough building shut down this year as more students opted to take more online classes. Seeing opportunities for a senior center and a food distribution center, Town Manager Michael Borg entered negotiations with the college to buy the building. The purchase of the building took longer than expected due to flooding from the Sept. 11 rainstorm and air quality issues. 

10: Original “80 for Brady” members love new movie, wish to meet Tom. It’s not everyday you get to interview a local celebrity, let alone two of them. The Reporter sat down with Betty Pensavalle and Elaine St. Martin of North Attleborough, founding members of the Over 80 for Brady fan club, and the inspiration of the movie, “80 for Brady.”

The two discuss how they founded the club, their best memories during Brady’s time on the Patriots, their thoughts on the current NFL and their longtime desire to meet the legendary quarterback himself.