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Selectmens Meeting Minutes 11-27-2012
Selectmen’s Meeting
Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School
November 27, 2012
7:30 PM
Call to Order – Acting Chairman Lindberg called the meeting to order at 7:30.  Also present were Mr. Houten, Ms. Jones, Mr. Prentakis, Town Administrator Mr. Singer and Assistant Town Administrator Ryan Ferrara
Minutes – Mr. Houten made a motion to accept the minutes of the November 13th meeting.  Mr. Prentakis seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Approval of Warrants –Payroll Warrant #1321 was presented totaling $365.233 which includes the School Department payroll of $266,707.  Payables Warrant #1321 totals $2,074,351, most of which is for the quarterly Masconomet assessment of $1,842,028. Other expenditures include, $6,740 for on-going renovations to the Police Station, $8,295 for book purchases for the Library, $29,114 for purchase of power and $3,211 for the Council on Aging Thanksgiving event.
Town Administrator’s Report
        Winter Festival – Mr. Singer asked Mr. Paul Richardson, who was in the audience, to talk about the plans for the Winter Festival scheduled for December 1st.  Mr. Richardson said that set-up would begin at 1:00.  Attendees can gather at the Library at 4:00 and then proceed across the street to Richardson’s Green.  There will be hot dogs, pizza, hot chocolate and cookie decorating as well as tables for the Food Pantry and Neighbors in Need.
        Change of Common Victular’s License for Subway – At the last meeting, Mr. Bhavesh Patel was granted a change of Common Victular’s license for the Subway at 235 South Main St.  That deal has fallen through and Ms. Anna Avtges will retain the license.
        Building Permits – The October Report from the Building Commissioner is in the packet.  So far this fiscal year, permits have been issued with valuation of almost $11 million.  This includes 19 new residences.  If this continues, Middleton could see 80-90 new homes for the year.
        School Committee Vacancy – A letter has been received from the Chair of the School Committee officially declaring a vacancy.  The position will be advertised and will hopefully be filled at the end of December.
        Housing Authority Vacancy – A letter of resignation has been received from Housing Authority member Ann Couture.  A letter from the Chair is needed to make it official.
        Dailey’s Restaurant – An application for a change of manager on the liquor license for Dailey’s Restaurant from Mr. Michael Dailey to Mrs. Dailey has been received.
        MassCHPS – Members of the School Building Committee and the School Department attended a reception for the three schools, including Howe-Manning, that achieved certification as High Performing Schools under the MassCHPS program.  This designation indicates that these building have been designed to be healthy and energy efficient.  Ms. Jones, who is a teacher at the Howe-Manning, noted that attendance has been better in the new school.  The ventilation and temperature control seem to result in fewer students absent with colds.  Mr. Singer added that the original budget for school operations included increased energy costs because of the increased size.  When the numbers came in there was a considerable saving and the budget was significantly reduced.
Tax Classification Public Hearing
        Also present for the Hearing were Assistant Assessor, Brad Swanson, Administrative Assessor Michelle Branciforte, and Board of Assessors member, Pat Ohlson, as well as Board of Trade members Arthur Carakatsane, Paul Richardson and Dana Newell.  Mr. Prentakis is also a member of the Board of Assessors.  Mr. Singer noted that it will be necessary to hold another hearing to confirm tonight’s votes.  The hearing cannot be publicized until the final values and growth figures are approved by the State.  That approval was received today.  A short meeting will be held on December 4th to confirm the votes taken tonight.
        Mr. Swanson read from the document prepared for the hearing.  In order to set the tax rate, the Selectmen must decide whether the following classes of property will receive special treatment.
Open Space Discount – This is land that is open but not subject to a conservation restriction, or held for the production of income or already under the provisions of Chapter, 61, 61A or 61B.  Mr. Swanson said that the Board of Assessors has determined that Middleton does not have any land in this classification.
Mr. Prentakis made a motion set the open space discount at 0%.  Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Residential Discount – The Board may adopt an exemption of up to 20% that will shift the property tax burden from lower assessed properties that are the principal residence of the taxpayer to higher assessed properties and properties that are not the principal residence of the property owner.  
Mr. Prentakis made a motion to set the Residential Exemption at 0%.  Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Small Commercial Exemption – The Board of Selectmen may adopt an exemption of up to 10% to shift the commercial tax burden from eligible to ineligible properties.  The Board of Assessors has determined that there are no eligible properties in Middleton.
Mr. Prentakis made a motion to set the Small Commercial Exemption at 0%.  Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Classification – The Board of Selectmen may shift the Town’s tax burden from the Residential Class to the Commercial Class.  Information on the impact of a shift was provided.  Mr. Prentakis noted that for four out of the last five years, property values have declined for all categories of property. The estimate is that the tax rate will go from 12.81 to 13.60.  Mr. Singer added that though the tax rate will go up 5%, the average tax bill will increase by a smaller amount.  New growth will offset some of the increase in spending.
Mr. Prentakis made a motion to set the one tax rate for residential and commercial properties.  Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Approval of Resolution Adopting FEMA Approved Hazard Mitigation Plan dated December 28, 2010 – Adoption of this plan allows the Town to apply for funds from FEMA.  The Plan has been around for a few years but must be adopted by the end of the month to continue the Town’s eligibility.
Mr. Houten made a motion to adopt the FEMA Approved Hazard Mitigation Plan dated December 28, 2010.  Mr. Prentakis seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Review of the First Draft of the Regional Emergency Communications Center (RECC) FY 2014 Operating Budget – Mr. Singer reported that the building is complete.  It is close to receiving its occupancy permit. The project was overseen by the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) and paid for with three 911 Grants.  The Financial Advisory Committee has been meeting to review the budget.  He is pleased to report that the Committee has voted to adopt the preliminary budget and bring it to a Public Hearing in February.  The budget has been expanded to provide an overview and history of where the organization has been since 2004 when the effort began.
        The per-capita assessment will be $16.26 as promised from the beginning and will be deducted from the Cherry Sheet.  It is expected that it will be able to be frozen for three years because of the transfer of cell phone 911 from the State Police to the RECC.  Cell phone 911 calls now outnumber land line 911 calls.  Call from the North Shore will be diverted to the RECC which will forward then to the appropriate community whether that community is a RECC member or not.  The RECC will get revenue from those calls.  This will allow full staffing, a stable budget and the addition of services such as reverse-911 at no extra cost.
        This budget also includes a Capitol Plan.
        Other communities are now starting to express interest in joining.  The new Emergency Medical Dispatch requirement is a factor in making the RECC more attractive.  Additionally, a change in protocol means that all calls will go to local dispatch centers.  If seven people call to report an accident, all seven calls will have be routed to the local dispatch center.  This could be overwhelming for small departments with one or two dispatchers.  The RECC will have to refer all non-RECC members’ calls to their local dispatch centers but will be able to dispatch their own members appropriately.
        The State is encouraging large centers.  They are denying funding to smaller entities.  They have recently denied Salem and Danvers, and Swampscott and another town.
        Ms. Lindberg asked it the population figure for Middleton included the population at the Jail.  Mr. Singer said that it was the 2010 federal census number which does reflect the jail population.  However, he added that here is an offset.
        Mr. Prentakis asked what the RECC’s capacity is?  Mr. Singer replied that the current population is about 80,000, but the building and staffing could support 200,000.  That could be reached quickly.  Methuen was originally interested but only if the Center were built in Methuen.  They are reconsidering.  Mr. Singer knows of three other communities that are discussing this.  Ms. Lindberg commented that many Towns were skeptical until they saw the building actually built.  Mr. Singer said that was a good point.  Now that there is a building, a director and a stable funding source, interest is increasing.
        Mr. Prentakis noted that salaries and benefits were project to rise at a rate of 2%.  Though this might be reasonable for salaries, it didn’t seem reasonable for benefits.  Mr. Singer said that the cost of benefits would be primarily borne by the State through the Group Insurance Commission (GIC).  This was the growth number that was given to them by the State Division of Personnel.  Mr. Prentakis also asked why there was a large jump in FY 2015.  Mr. Singer said that he thought it was for purchase of equipment.  Ms. Lindberg pointed to the projected population growth of 4000 per year.  Mr. Singer said that they had to have a number but it is a projection.  This might represent the addition of one small town such as an Essex or a Nahant.  Until they have a year of experience, some numbers will be fluid.
Acceptance of $500 Donation to the Middleton Food Bank under the Massachusetts Gift Act – The donor wishes to remain anonymous.
Mr. Houten made a motion to accept a $500 donation for the Middleton Food Bank.  Mr. Prentakis seconded the motion and all were in favor.
New Business
        Mr. Prentakis asked if the Town has heard about the grant for purchasing the Riddle property.  Mr. Singer said he had talked to the grant administrator and was told the decision was close.  The purchase and sale data is December 15th.  The Town can’t purchase the land before it hears about the grant.  
        Mr. Prentakis asked if there has been any feedback on the effort to enforce the sign by-law.  Mr. Singer said there would be a report soon.
        Mr. Prentakis asked if the Town were thinking about how it would handle the possibility of a medical marijuana dispensary in town.  Mr. Singer said that it might require a Zoning amendment.  The timing would be right for presenting it at the May Annual Town Meeting.  Ms. Lindberg asked if there were guidance from the State.  Mr. Singer said that the Town could modify another Town’s approved by-law.
        Ms. Jones wished to acknowledge the accomplishments of Kevin Lackey who has received his Eagle Scout award for his project to clean up the pond in back of the Howe-Manning School.  The pond will now be able to be used for skating again
Executive Session under MGL Chapter 30A, Section 21, Subsection (3) and (6) – Ms. Lindberg announced that the Board would be going into Executive Session under Section 21, Subsection (3) and (6) and that the Board would not be coming back into open session. Mr. Houten called the role.  . Mr. Prentakis voted yes.  Ms. Jones voted yes.  .  Ms. Lindberg voted yes.  Mr. Houten voted yes The Board entered Executive Session at 8:38.

Respectfully submitted,
Mary Jane Morrin                        
Mary Jane Morrin, Recording Secretary
Christine Lindberg, Clerk