Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School
January 29, 2012
Call to Order – Chairman Cresta called the meeting to order at 7:40. Also present were Mr. Houten, Ms. Jones, Mr. Prentakis, Town Administrator Mr. Singer and Assistant Town Administrator Mr. Ferrara.
Minutes – Mr. Houten made a motion to accept the minutes of the January 10th meeting. Mr. Prentakis seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Approval of Warrants –Payroll Warrant #1330 was presented totaling $118,845. It includes small amounts of weather related overtime in the Electric and Public Works Departments. Payables Warrant #1330 totals $172,335. $43,873 is for Payroll Deductions. The Electric Light Department expenditures include $19,878 for purchase of power and $10,177 for new poles. The Public Works Department includes $9,789 for salt and $7,990 for Solid Waste Removal.
Mr. Prentakis made a motion to approve the warrants. Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Town Administrator’s Report
Accessing the School Building for Meetings – Mr. Singer explained that new policies require the school building to be locked after hours. There is a phone number posted on the door for anyone who wishes to get into a meeting when the door is locked. This is a temporary solution.
Beer and Wine License - Freddie’s Place will be applying for an on-premise beer and wine license. That public hearing will be scheduled for the next Selectmen’s meeting.
Transfer of the Class II license on North Main St - A partial application has been received for the transfer of the Class II license on North Main St. which was held by Michael Hancock. The license holder is not on the premises. If a proper application for the transfer is not received, the Board could call in the license holder.
Department of Youth Services (DYS) Facility off Gregory St. – The Town has received formal notification that DYS has removed all current detainees from the facility as they finish the design of the new building and prepare to demolish the existing building. The funds have been appropriated so that construction can begin this summer. It should take two to three months for demolition since there is some hazardous material that must be dealt with. Staff will still be on site during construction perhaps in modular buildings.
Regional Emergency Communications Center (RECC) – The packet includes minutes from the three sub-committees that met on January 11th when a tour of the facility was held as well a public hearing on the budget. In addition to adopting the budget, the committee established two new sub-committees. One sub-committee will set up guidelines for new communities that may wish to reconsider joining the RECC. The second sub-committee will be responsible for helping with negotiations for collective bargaining. Employees will become state employees. Mr. Singer is a member of this sub-committee. Mr. Cresta asked about the go-live date. The first community should be up and running in May
or June with others to follow shortly. They are awaiting final dates from Verizon on the cut over, and dates for the installation of some Computer Aided Dispatch software. The building is in great shape and is fully functional. A grand opening is planned with the governor invited. As host community, Middleton will want to have a presence there.
Medical Marijuana – Correspondence has been received from both the Department of Public Health and from Middleton’s legislative delegation. There are concerns that applications for siting these facilities will be received before rules and regulations are in place. Peabody City Council adopted a ban that may be challengeable. If Middleton were to do this it would have to proceed through the By-law Study Committee and Town Meeting. Mr. Cresta pointed out that Towns that have taken action have not gotten approval of any legislation from the Attorney General’s office.
East St. – Middleton is now the official owner of the former Riddle property on East St. The closing took place on January 24th and the deed has been recorded at the Registry. Mr. Prentakis asked if any local farmers had been contacted about using the fields. Mr. Singer that Mr. Stasinos who currently hays the fields is interested in continuing. Mr. Singer will contact him about making this a more formal arrangement.
North Shore Vocational and Technical (NSVT) High School Property – Mr. Singer met with Dan O’Connell, Superintendent of the combined NSVT and Dean Porteous, Chair of the combined School Committee. They informed the Town that they expect to market the Middleton property by the end June of 2013. Two appraisals have been done and the value is just under $6,000,000. The Town has the Right of First Refusal. Mr. Singer asked that they send a formal letter to the Board of Selectmen who can place an article to purchase the property on the Warrant if they wish. The timing fits in with Middleton’s Town Meeting schedule as NSVT will need an answer by the end of June.
Mr. Cresta asked what the taxable value of the property is. Mr. Singer answered that before it was a school, the property brought in about $80,000 a year in taxes and would bring in the same amount at the $6 million valuation. He added the real market value is what they get for it. Mr. Prentakis noted that when a non-taxable property becomes a taxable property, the tax bill is based on the sales price and the bill is prorated from the date of purchase.
The property will be sold as a whole. The construction of the new school is on time. The School will be occupying the old site until June of 2014. They will be issuing a Request for Proposals in order to hire a commercial broker to market the parcel. They may work with the Town to come up with a re development plan to make it more attractive.
When the property was turned into a school, a $6 million bond was taken out. That is paid off and all that remains is a small additional bond taken out for the septic system. The property is essentially debt free. The total cost of the new school project is around $128 million but the local debt service split among the 17 towns is between $32 and $34 million. Whatever they get for the old property will come right off that debt. There will be a construction assessment in addition to the per student assessment. For Middleton, that assessment based on having 2 ½% of the population will be $30,000 to $50,000 a year while the annual assessment for the students sent there runs around $350,000.
Mr. Prentakis asked what the appraiser used as a potential use for the property in establishing the value. Mr. Singer said that he had just received the appraisal and would make copies for the Board. He added that the Town wants to form a partnership with the commercial broker that the School chooses, so as to make sure that the right things happen He feels that the property would not be sold before September of 2014,
Mr. Cresta asked if there had been an increase in traffic when the property became a school. Mr. Singer said that the previous owner had 200 employees who all drove rather than being bused. The School came in around the same time as Market Basket. The Town worked with Market Basket on the signalization for the intersection. They paid for engineering and ended up having to pay for the whole project at a cost of $2 million when State funds were frozen. There may be a better traffic plan. Mr. Cresta asked if there might be any zoning changes that would benefit the property. Mr. Singer said that it is currently zoned as light manufacturing. The Town could work with commercial broker to see if any zoning changes would
make the property more attractive.
Recreation Committee Alternate Member Appointment, Ms. Lisa Bream, Applicant
Mr. Prentakis made a motion to appoint Ms. Lisa Bream as an alternate on the Recreation Commission for a term ending June 30, 2013. Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Discussion of Governor’s Legislation to Consolidate 240 Local Housing Authorities (LHAs) into Six Regional Commissions and “take over ownership and fiscal and operational management of all public housing in the Commonwealth” – There is information in the packet from the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) regarding this proposal. The six regional agencies would be governed by Commissioners who would be appointed by the Governor. Middleton would have very little say in who represents them on this Commission. Middleton currently has a very good relationship with the Housing Authority.
Ms. Jones expressed her opinion that this would create one more level of bureaucracy while Mr. Houten feared that Middleton Housing Authority would be paying for the mistakes of other LHAs. The Middleton Housing Authority is fiscally sound and has a healthy reserve which would revert to the State. If that were the case, Mr. Singer said that he felt the reserve should revert to the Town.
Mr. Cresta noted that this proposal has gotten good press. Mr. Prentakis said that the State should use the model of the Regional Emergency Communications Center to offer incentives for regionalization. Mr. Cresta said he would like the Board to express its displeasure to the Town’s legislative delegation.
Review of Governor’s House 1 Budget Submission and Local Aid and Municipal Operational Impacts – In his budget submission the Governor has proposed increases to Local Aid. They would be funded by new taxes that would total $1.2 billion. Mr. Cresta noted that for Middleton the increased in Chapter 70 (aid to education), school transportation and unrestricted aid would only increase aid by $19,000. Mr. Singer said that the increase is really about $43,000 or between 1.3% and 1.5%. Even that is dependent on the proposed new revenue. Mr. Singer noted that the big beneficiaries are larger Towns such as Danvers which could see $7 million in additional aid due to quirks in the Ch. 70 funding formula which they feel account for costs they were not reimbursed for.
There is a new line item which the Massachusetts Municipal Association refers to as “restricted unrestricted aid”. The Town could get an additional $27,000 if it meets some as yet unidentified criteria, such as managing its health care costs. Currently, the Town gets $462,000 in unrestricted aid. Any increase will be restricted by a new formula which may or may not impact Middleton. It is not enough money to attract interest and it is dependent on additional taxes that may or may not be enacted.
Middleton will be losing its assessment for the Essex Agricultural School but this will be more than made up for by additional students attending NSVT. The cost per student is about $25,000 rather than the $14,000 for Masconomet. The Cherry Sheet does not as yet show the RECC assessment so there will be a loss there which will be offset by savings in operational cost when the dispatchers move to the RECC.
Mr. Singer said that he will build the 2014 budget based on these numbers. At least, it is not an overall cut. Ms. Jones noted there are some cuts that seem small, but have an impact. There is a cut in funding for school lunches and it appears there is a cut to funding for Veteran’s Services. Mr. Singer pointed out that the Veteran’s funding is based on the previous year’s expenditures so the reason for the cut is that less money was spent last year.
Mr. Singer referred to a NYT article pointing out that the cost of the Health Care Act is driving the structural deficit in Massachusetts. It is now 25% of the State budget. Mr. Cresta pointed out that 50% of state budget not discretionary.
Mr. Cresta noted that increases in the gasoline tax and in registry fees are proposed to fund the Transportation Infrastructure Program. This would include an increase in CH 90 funds. However if the revenue increases do not pass, there might be decrease in Ch. 90. Mr. Singer said that the proposal is for $330 million in Ch. 90 aid. This would provide Middleton with an additional $125,000 bringing the total up to $500,000. This will help Middleton to continue its road rebuilding and repaving. It is fortunate that Middleton has the resources to keep our program going.
Mr. Cresta noted that these matters will probably not be taken up in the legislature until April and by then Middleton will be very deep in the budget process. Mr. Singer pointed out that Masco must certify it budget the 2nd week in March. They appear to have very little increase in their state funding. Their net increase is around $19,000 because the $59,000 they will get from the $25 per pupil minimum “hold harmless” funding will be offset by a $21,000 loss in regional transportation funding. Mr. Cresta noted that last year the legislature restored the regional transportation funding. The bottom line for Middleton is level funding.
Open Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Town Meeting Warrant
Mr. Houten made a motion to open the Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Town Meeting Warrant. Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Request to Insert an Article to Amend Town Bylaws to Regulate Conduct of All Town Meetings in Accordance with the Publication of the Massachusetts Moderators’ Association entitled, “Town Meeting Time, A Handbook of Parliamentary Law, latest edition – Former Town Moderator, Henry Tragert has made this request. The Selectmen may either refer the matter to the Bylaw Study Committee or vote to include it on the FY 2014 ATM Warrant. Mr. Cresta explained that this action would change the rules under which Town Meeting is run from Robert’s Rules to a set of rules aimed specifically at Town Meetings.
Ms. Jones made a motion to refer the matter to the By-law Study Committee. Mr. Prentakis said that he would like to read the publication before making a decision. He would also like to ask the opinion of current Town Moderator, Lynn Murphy. Mr. Cresta added that he thought the By-law Study Committee had enough items on their agenda. Ms. Jones agreed to withdraw her motion. The items will be brought up again at the next Selectmen’s meeting.
Mr. Cresta wanted to inform anyone watching that if they wish to propose a warrant article they should contact the Town Administrator to be sure that all the technicalities are correct.
Fire Fighters – Mr. Cresta noted the large number of devastating fires in the Commonweal, this winter, including one in Lawrence. Middleton was there front and center at that fire. The Lawrence Tribune had a front page picture of Lt. Doug LeColst completely encased in ice. Mr. Cresta wants to recognize the extreme circumstances they were working under. Lt LeColst, Fire Fighter David Leary and Fire Fighter Dennis Ring did Middleton proud in providing mutual aid to Lawrence.
East St. Property - Mr. Singer wished to express his thanks to the Rubchinuk Family Trust for their patience in the long process of selling the East St property to the Town. He appreciates their foresight in offering it to the Town and preserving the vista that has been there for so long.
Executive Session under MGL Chapter 30A, Section 21, Subsection (2) and (3) – Mr. Cresta announced that the Board would be going into Executive Session under Section 21, Subsection (2) and (3) and that the Board would be coming back into open session for a vote. Mr. Jones called the role. Mr. Prentakis voted yes. Ms. Jones voted yes. Mr. Houten voted yes. Mr. Cresta voted yes.
Executive Session was entered at 8:50.
The Board re-entered Open Session at 9:08.
Mr. Prentakis made a motion to approve the Collective Bargaining agreement between the Town of Middleton and the Department of Public Works Employees Union for FY 2013 and FY 2014. Mr. Houten seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Adjournment Mr. Houten made a motion to adjourn the meeting. Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor. The meeting was adjourned at 9:09.
Mary Jane Morrin
Mary Jane Morrin, Recording Secretary
Nancy Jones, Acting Clerk