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  Friday, March 27, 2015
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Fran Collins Heads Residents's Group
By Rick Winterson

     At a December 29 meeting, the South Boston Residents’ Group elected local community activist Fran Collins as its new President.  He succeeds Lee Anna Vierbickas, who stepped down after serving as the Group’s President for the last three years.

     At the beginning of this interview, Collins paid tribute to Vierbickas’ efforts since 2003.  According to him, “She’s a young, energetic South Bostonian, who brought great community spirit to the President’s position.”  Vierbickas is the daughter of Gerry and Cathy Vierbickas, who are themselves noted for supporting many South Boston activities and causes.

     Collins first articulated his desire for a wider ranging membership in the South Boston Residents’ Group.  He would like more young residents in the Group, especially those who have moved to South Boston in recent years.  His feeling is that the Residents’ Group should encompass all of South Boston – “every street” – while supporting local neighborhood groups like the Dorchester Heights Association, to which he also belongs.

     Among the membership-related activities Collins is considering are monthly forums on “hot-button” issues.  He also wants to focus on letter campaigns, based on quarterly member mailings, which will describe recent Group activities as well as discussing plans and issues for the next quarter.

     A key area where Collins plans to invest his energies is “taking the streets back”.  Obviously, this will include reducing or eliminating crimes in South Boston, especially the breaking and entering incidents and drug-related criminal activities.  He is convinced that residents have to take part in this themselves, e.g., by crime watches, because “the Police can’t do it all.”

     But there are other “quality of life” issues on South Boston’s streets.  Some of these consist of simple littering.  In his view, this is inexcusable, particularly since it is often the fault of lifelong residents, who should know better but apparently don’t.  The ongoing messes left by dogs is also an issue.  Collins intends to get Animal Control officers involved, because they can issue tickets for misbehaving pets that carry some stiff fines for their owners.  Collins says, “I’m ashamed at what some residents do.”

     The resident-only restrictions have improved parking on neighborhood streets, but there are still offenders.  Overnight trucks and dumpsters take up parking slots for several days at a time – Collins would like to see heavier fines for these offenders as a deterrent.

     Collins also wants to position the South Boston Residents’ Group as a checkpoint for new developments in South Boston, which will allow input from an organization representing all of South Boston’s residents.  He would like to see a moratorium on condominium development until a mechanism exists for a neighborhood-wide review.  As another example, he thinks the Group should have an opportunity to review new commercial establishments along Broadway, before their permits are issued.

     Collins’ list goes on.  He intends that the South Boston Residents’ Group will center on what he calls South Boston’s “meat-and-potatoes, quality-of-life issues”.

     On the personal side, Collins is a Project Manager for the BRA.  He is currently working on “asset development” of the 360,000 square foot parcel in Roxbury near Police Headquarters, for mixed and residential usages.  He and Susan Nee are busily planning their wedding, which will take place on May 11.

     Collins is involved in many other community activities.  He’s on the Boys & Girls Club Board and the Crime Watch.  He just stepped down as a member of the Tynan Council.  Two years ago, he donated a kidney to his brother and then worked with state Sen. Jack Hart to enact a law that mandates paid sick leave for organ donors.  As a result, both Collins and Hart will receive “Gift of Life” Awards during the National Kidney Foundation dinner at the Quincy Marriott Hotel, Thursday evening, January 19, 6 p.m.

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