TOWNSEND -- Police Chief Erving Marshall appeared before the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday to provide them with an update of school security initiatives.

Marshall briefed the board on the parent information session that was held at the North Middlesex High School on Jan. 3. The meeting was attended by several safety experts, including members of the NEMLEC School Threat Assessment and Response System, which is made up of police officers, school administrators and mental-health professionals.

"There were a lot of good questions asked. Current concerns were raised but a lot of things came out of that meeting," said Marshall.

The schools, said Marshall, are safe. Even prior to the Newtown shooting, it was and remains the practice of the district's safety team to meet regularly to discuss school safety protocols. Marshall expressed confidence in Superintendent of Schools Joan Landers as well as in the safety regulations that the school has in place.

Still, said Marshall, "Although I think it's very important to have protocols in place if incidents occur at the school, it's also very important to try to address these issues before they occur."

After the Columbine shootings, the Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education collaborated on a study of school violence in 37 schools the country.

In the report, Marshall said, "In most cases, someone already knew that there was planning in place for one of these incidents and nobody came forward.


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Marshall urged anyone who hears of any threats to come forward as soon as they are first mentioned.

"If you think there's potentially a problem, by all means bring it forward so we can address it before anything critical happens," he said.

In cases of threats, said Selectman Sue Lisio, she felt community members need to take the responsibility of intervening by telling a trustworthy person.

"What you don't want to have to do is live with the regret of having not said something ... It's not to get that person in trouble. It's hopefully to get that person some help," she said.

In other business, selectmen voted to request approximately $1,000, the final number to be determined, from the Finance Committee reserve fund to mail surveys to residences regarding the town's current cable contract with Comcast. The decision came on Tuesday after the Cable Advisory Committee met jointly with selectmen to discuss the renewal of Comcast cable services. The survey is conducted once a decade and is used to determine the level of the public's satisfaction with the town's cable and Internet service, said committee Chairman Stephen Cloutier.

Traditionally, the surveys are sent out in the mail, said Cloutier, but since the last time the survey was conducted 10 years ago, the cost of mailing the surveys to each residence has gone up to about 30 cents per household, which totals approximately $1,000.

The idea was discussed to have the survey online. Even a decade ago, said Cloutier, most of the responses came through the town website.

Lisio asked whether that would insinuate bias in the results, especially regarding a survey that asked residents about Internet service.

"If you don't have an Internet connection, you don't have the ability to go on to the website," she said.

Cloutier agreed that mail is the way to reach the greatest number of people.

"To do it any other way, I'm afraid you may not get enough of a representative sampling of the community in terms of responses," said Lisio. "Sometimes you've just got to pay the bill."

During the last survey, said Cloutier, "We were deluged with complaints."

These days, he feels like public satisfaction with the service is greater on the whole. The largest areas of concern that he has heard thus far are matters of cost and that some areas in town are not serviced. However, this sampling is small, he said. He estimated less than 100 residences remained without the cable service.

"Most of the town is served and we're just trying to fill those gaps where they're not served," said Cloutier. 

Once the survey is sent out, said Cloutier, residents will have two weeks to submit them. Submissions can be done by mail, online or in drop boxes, the locations of which will be determined later.

A public hearing will then be set up; the committee is aiming for April.

Selectmen also voted to open the Town Meeting warrant. Articles are due by March 1 at 5 p.m.