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Selectmen Meeting Minutes 12/03/2013
Selectmen’s Meeting
Nathan Media Center
Fuller Meadow School
December 3, 2013
7:30 PM

Call to Order – Chairman Prentakis called the meeting to order at 7:35.  Also present were Mr. Cresta, Ms. Jones, Mr. Houten, Town Administrator Mr. Singer, Assistant Town Administrator Mr. Ferrara and Town Assessor, Mr. Swanson.
Minutes – Mr. Houten made a motion to approve the minutes of both the regular and executive session minutes of the November 5, 2013 meeting.  Mr. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Approval of Warrants – Payroll Warrant 14 totaled $128,347 and includes some overtime.  The Payables Warrant totaled $2,014,979.  $1,869,159 of that is the quarterly Masconomet assessment.  There are also some smaller items including the contractor’s bill for construction of the office for the new planner.
Mr. Houten made a motion to approve the warrants.  Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.
Town Administrator’s Report
  • November Building Commissioner’s Report - The report came in too late to make copies for tonight.  The progress is typical with twenty new house permits so far this fiscal year putting the Town on track for 40 to 45 new houses. This means that the Town can use the 20% new growth number for tonight’s classification hearing.
  • River St. Water Issues – The Town’s water consultant, Kleinfelder will be at the December 17th meeting with recommendations for improving the water quality on River St.  Cobblestone Estates in particular has had problems with discolored water arising from slow moving water in a large diameter pipe.  The Board will receive a preliminary report before the meeting.  Department of Public Works Superintendent, Mr. LeBossiere will also be at that meeting.
  • Community Preservation Act (CPA) matching funds.  Mr. Singer asked Mr. Prentakis, Chair of the CPA Committee to update the Board.  Mr. Prentakis reported that the state match was $85,000 which was $45,000 more than anticipated.  This is close to a 50% match.  This happened because the State moved $25 million from the General Reserve Fund to the CPA Trust fund.  The Department of Revenue advised the Towns not to anticipate this in their planning, so the Town did not.  Since Middleton generally underestimates local receipts, the Town now has an unanticipated $45,000 in the fund.  Mr. Singer asked if this would continue automatically or would it require an additional filing.  Mr. Prentakis said that he believes this will continue as long as there is a surplus.
  • Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) Letters of Interest for New Projects – Letters of interest for new projects will be due in mid-February.  The School Department is planning on asking for $35,000 to study the condition of the roof here at the Fuller Meadow School, as well as some HVAC issue.  The Letter of Interest will require a sign-off from the Board of Selectmen before it can be submitted to the MSBA.  There will be two deadlines.  February 14 will be the deadline for accelerated projects.  The second deadline would be for other more general projects which could encompass other repairs.  It is not clear whether this project would qualify as accelerated.  If the project is submitted as accelerated, the State will look at these needs relative to those of other agencies and inform the Town right away whether it qualifies or not.
The application will be prepared by the Superintendent and his staff.  If the project is accepted under the accelerated program, the State will supply the design firm and the Owner’s Project Manager (OPM).  Normally, the Town would have to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for design services.  An OPM might not be necessary for a project of this size.  Last year the program funded 26 projects as accelerated and 15 to 20 more as regular repairs.  The anticipated reimbursement rate is 37%.  Mr. Prentakis asked how much money was available.  Mr. Singer was not sure but added that in 2013, $12.5 million was distributed to 47 schools and in 2012 $63 million was distributed to 36 schools.  Mr. Cresta asked what the anticipated cost of the project was.  Mr. Singer said he did not have actual numbers but anticipated something in the area of $750,000 to re-roof the original portion of the building.  Rooftop units were added when it was a Department of Social Services facility because they required air conditioning.  Most of those units were removed and the roof patched in the 1990’s.  The original roof is 35 to 40 years old with repairs that are 18 years old.  There is some leaking in classrooms and halls as well as in the library at the junction of the old and new wings of the building.  This is an opportunity to look at any other infrastructure needs in the building.  The aim will be to take a comprehensive look at the campus and make sure nothing is being missed.  Mr. Cresta asked about the windows.  Mr. Singer said that there were some problems with some windows in the older section.  All the windows could be more energy efficient.  A joint meeting with the School Committee and the Finance Committee will be needed.  The MSBA will not look at the application unless it has been endorsed by the Selectmen.  Mr. Ferrara noted that the reimbursement rate might be 46%.
  • Department of Youth Services (DYS) facility off Gregory Street – Mr. Singer and Mr. Ferrara received a last minute invitation from the Division of Capital Asset Management (DCAM) to participate in a walk-through of this site before the existing buildings are torn down.  At the July meeting, the Town has requested details of the landscape plan and had emphasized the importance of keeping the existing buffer of mature trees.  DCAM had declined to provide the plan saying someone would have to come to their office to view it.  This was the first opportunity to see the actual plan and it appears that all the trees are to be removed.  None of the participants seemed to know about the Town’s requests to save the trees even though this had been part of the discussion for five years.  There is a 300 to 400 foot line of mature spruce trees and 6 or 7 100 year old oak trees.  It appears that they are all going to go and Mr. Singer maintains that is unnecessary.  He did not receive a satisfactory answer.  They are also removing 2/3 of the trees towards the River for detention ponds.  Mr. Prentakis asked when the demolition would begin.  Mr. Singer said it would begin in about a week but again, they would not make the schedule available unless someone came to their office.  Mr. Cresta asked it the Town had involved the legislative delegation in this matter.  Mr. Singer said that he had not up to this point but that might be a good idea.  He will prepare a formal response.  Twenty or more 100 year old trees will be gone.
Assessor’s Office - Mr. Prentakis asked Mr. Swanson to update the Board about what is new in the Assessor’s Office.  Mr. Swanson reported that the triennial revaluation has been wrapped up and there has been an overall increase in valuation of 3%.  Assessments are at 96% of value, up from 95% last year.  Land prices continue to increase.  Sub-divisions are also doing very well.  The Town’s vendor, Patriot has wrapped up commercial valuation and has brought in regional information which the Department of Revenue (DOR) likes to see.  Growth appears to be almost double that of last year.  The numbers have not been finally certified but it appears that revenue growth for FY 2013 will be $545,000 up from $308,000 in FY 2012.  Final certification should be received this week.  53% of the growth is attributable to new lots and condominiums.  Growth should continue through next year as houses are built on these lots.
There have been a number of personnel changes in the office.  The Administrative Assessor Michelle Brannciforte took a job with the Town of Newbury.  The part-time data clerk, Ms. Toula Guarino, moved up to the full time position and is doing very well.  Ms. Donna Peary has been hired as a part time clerk and data collector.  That position has been retooled so that Ms. Peary can do some inspections of condos.  Both are town residents.  Mr. Prentakis noted that the department has always tried to move people up through the ranks.  However, he added that when there is a vacancy someone has to do work and that is Mr. Swanson.
Mr. Swanson reviewed the Department’s warrant articles from the 2013 Annual Town Meeting.  Warrant Article 9 was for $6500 for appraisal services. $6400 was spent.  Next year a smaller amount will be needed.  Mr. Swanson has found that spending money with Patriot for commercial and industrial appraisal is more efficient than trying to do it in-house.  Installation of the new server is planned for January.  Mr. Vanni has two quotes and is awaiting a third.  Mr. Swanson added that the installation should not be done while they are in the middle of processing valuations.  Another article funded GIS and WebPro which is a Patriot system for online viewing of assessor’s data.   Having this available cuts down both foot and phone traffic.  This application can be accessed through the Assessor’s Department page on the Town’s website.  After doing much research and issuing a Request for Buds, the Town hired its current map vendor to digitize all of its maps.  Mr. Swanson showed the preliminary zoning map with parcels overlaid on it.  The online GIS viewer will be available for all departments and eventually for the general public.
Tax Classification Hearing for Fiscal Year 2014
        Mr. Swanson noted that 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 for purposes of farming, forestry or recreation.  Mr. Swanson said that the Board of Assessors has determined that Middleton does not have any land in this classification, since any such land is either exempt or held under Chapter 61.
Mr. Houten made a motion set the open space discount at 0%.  Mr. Cresta 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.   This is sometimes done in cities or on the Cape.
Mr. Houten made a motion to set the Residential Exemption at 0%.  Ms. Jones 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.  Eligible properties must have a valuation of under $1 million and be owned by a business employing fewer than ten workers.  The Board of Assessors has determined that there are no eligible properties in Middleton.
Mr. Houten made a motion to set the Small Commercial Exemption at 0%.  Ms. Jones 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 and Personal Property Classes, as long as that shift does not exceed the minimum residential factor.  For Middleton that factor is 89.5%, so no more than 10.5% can be shifted.  Information on the impact of a shift was provided.  Mr. Prentakis noted that residential share of the valuation has ticked down from 82.75%. 82.65% and added that at least it hadn’t gone up.  One third of the residential properties in Middleton are valued between $300,000 and $400,000 though there are houses valued at up to $3 million.  42% of condominiums are valued between $200,000 and $300,000.  Middleton is fortunate to have a wide variety of options at different price points.
Mr. Houten made a motion to maintain the one tax rate for residential and commercial properties.  Mr. Cresta seconded the motion and all were in favor.
        Mr. Swanson reported that the Town’s current valuation is $1,620,675,578.  This is about the level of 2007.  The high point was 2008 when the total valuation was $1.750 billion.   The average property value has gone from $476,000 to $484,000, just under a 2% increase.   There will be an under 2% increase in the rate..  Mr. Singer pointed out that the average tax bill will rise about 3.33% because of the increase in valuation and a rate increase.  Ms. Jones asked why, in spite of all the expensive homes being built, there has only been an increase of ten in homes valued at over $1 million.  Mr. Prentakis explained that the down turn in the economy hit the value of the high-end houses much more than of the lower-end houses.  Mr. Swanson added that the high-end homes are coming back up in value and the houses being built in the new sub-divisions are high-end.  Mr. Prentakis pointed out that the average size of a new home is 3100 sq. ft.  Twenty years ago that would have been one of the largest homes in Town.  The Town is also experiencing some tear downs and re- builds in the earlier neighborhoods.
Mr. Singer asked Mr. Swanson to talk about how different classes of residential properties are being affected.  He noted that high end houses are up around 5%.  Mr. Swanson said that Ferncroft Tower is fairly stable with an overall 2% reduction so their tax bills will be flat.  Fuller Pond is also stable with an overall 4% decrease.  There have been strong sales at Peachey Circle so that complex is trending up.  Mr. Singer asked who would pick up the shift in cost.  Mr. Swanson answered that there have also been strong sales on Ross Lane and neighborhoods such as that would pick up the shift.  Mr. Singer noted that neighborhoods that dropped significantly during the economic downturn are now seeing their valuations rise significantly.  Shipley Lane is another neighborhood that has gone up significantly, with a 23% overall increase including some very high end houses.  The land value is being led by new sub-divisions like Norma Way and Woodbury Lane.  
Mr. Swanson thanked the Board and his staff for getting this job of revaluation done. Mr. Prentakis pointed out that since the Town doesn’t have the values from the DOR, it will be necessary to schedule a confirmatory meeting to redo the votes taken tonight.  Mr. Singer will schedule a short meeting for next Monday or Tuesday.
Acceptance of Fidelity Charitable Gift of $1,000 from Jeffrey and Carol Curvey for the Middleton Food Bank under the Massachusetts Gift Act
Mr. Houten made a motion to accept with thanks the Charitable Gift of $1,000 from Jeffrey and Carol Curvey for the Middleton Food Bank under the Massachusetts Gift Act.  Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.  
Ms. Jones commented on how nice it is that the Curveys remember Middleton even though they have moved away.  Mr. Singer added that they have also given generously to the Library and the Neighbors in Need program.
Adoption of Winter Parking Ban on Public Streets from Midnight until 6:00 a.m. from December 1, 2013 through April 1, 2014 - Mr. Prentakis noted that the start date should be changed to December 5th.
Mr. Houten made a motion to adopt the Winter Parking Ban on Public Streets from Midnight until 6:00 a.m. from December 5, 2013 through April 1, 2014.  Ms. Jones seconded the motion and all were in favor.
New Business
Mr. Houten reminded everyone that the annual Winter Festival is this coming Saturday at Middleton Green.
Executive Session under MGL Chapter 30A, Section 21, Paragraphs 3 and 6
Mr. Prentakis announced that the Board would be going into Executive Session under MGL Chapter 30A, Section 21, Paragraphs 3 and 6, and would not be coming back into open session.  Mr. Houten called the role.  Mr. Cresta voted yes.  Mr. Prentakis voted yes.  Ms. Jones voted yes.  Mr. Houten voted yes.  The Board entered Executive Session at 8:30.
Respectfully submitted,

Mary Jane Morrin                
Mary Jane Morrin, Recording Secretary

Timothy Houten, Clerk