Board of Selectmen

Swampscott school race draws contenders

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Two incumbents are vying to retain their seats on the School Committee.

Suzanne Wright and Gargi Cooper could face a challenge from Melissa Camire, who also pulled nomination papers for a chance to fill one of the two open seats.

Wright and Cooper are running for a second, three-year term on the school committee.

Candidates have until March 3 to obtain nomination papers and until March 7 to return them. Fifty certified signatures are required for a candidate to appear on the ballot. The local election is April 25.

Wright said she decided to run because she is enjoying the whole process of being on the committee. She said it took almost a full year to get up to speed after initially being elected.

“Now, I feel we’re working really well as a committee,” Wright said. “It’s been really rewarding.”

If re-elected, Wright said she is looking forward to some new projects, including seeing a new school get built. School officials intend to submit a statement of intent to the Massachusetts School Building Authority by April. Officials are seeking state support for one or several new school buildings in Swampscott, which would be for a new elementary or middle school.

Wright said she wants to be a part of the continuation of the mental health initiative in town. Two new programs were recently unveiled at Swampscott High School, aimed at providing a supportive environment for students suffering from mental or emotional health concerns. Wright said she wants to see those programs introduced at the middle school. She also wants to see a comprehensive technology plan for the entire district.

Cooper said she decided to run for a second term because she believes in her tenure, the committee has created transparency between the school department and the community.

“I feel that we have made positive movement on many initiative(s) that help unite resources for the town and the school department,” Cooper said in an email. “The school department underwent a large amount of changes over the past three years during my term and I am proud that during this process a lot of important initiatives have occurred, including a new facilities director that has helped unite the school and town on improving our aging facilities.

“I believe continuity is also important in our school department and feel that I will help continue this positive momentum,” she said.

Camire could not be reached for comment.

Elections taking shape in Swampscott

uAmy O’Connor, vice-chair of the school committee, also spoke about the importance of continuity on the board, and endorsed her fellow members. If Wright and Cooper win, she said it would be the first time in more than 10 years that there is consistency on the board.

“With all the turnovers in school leadership in the past decade, Swampscott can’t seem to maintain any traction,” O’Connor wrote in a text message. “Hopefully, we will this time … We’ve had so many (superintendents) and principals. This is traction we need. We are in the midst of making difficult decisions.

“If you had asked me two years ago if I would support their re-election, I’m not sure what my answer would have been,” O’Connor said. “It was a slow start. But I can say categorically that I support them now. We disagree on a lot, but it is great discourse and positive friction. Each one of us is pushing the others to be our best.”

There is one open seat on the Planning Board. Angela Ippolito, chairwoman of the board, is running for a second five-year term.

“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to run again for another term,” Ippolito said. “I love the work that we do on the planning board. I think it’s really important.”

Ippolito said the planning board is the authority for site plan review. She said the board manages the town’s zoning bylaws and any change comes before it. The board doesn’t look at zoning as putting restrictions on what a developer can do, but rather as trying to encourage the right type of development in town.

She said the board also develops and executes a master plan. The town’s master plan was completed last spring, and will be implemented over a 10-year period. Many municipal departments and boards have responsibility for various parts of the plan, but the planning board coordinates and oversees the process, she added.

Ippolito said she also wants to continue to work on spearheading the town’s effort to purchase White Court, the former Marian Court College, and utilize the property for a public use. The 6.2-acre site is owned by the Sisters of Mercy.

“We are doing all those things finally,” she said. “I feel that it’s a board working really well together.”

As reported in The Item on Wednesday, Naomi Dreeben and Laura Spathanas, chair and vice-chair of the Board of Selectmen respectively, have announced they will be running for a second, three-year term. Both said they want to continue to see town projects move forward, as part of their reason for running.

There are four other open seats in town, and all of the incumbents are running. As of Thursday afternoon, no challengers have pulled papers. Only Michael McClung, town moderator, has returned his papers and is guaranteed to appear on the ballot, according to Town Clerk Susan Duplin. He is running for a second, one-year term.

William Sullivan is running for another three-year term on the Board of Assessors. Martha Dansdill is trying for another three-year term on the Board of Health.

Duplin said local elections usually average about 20 percent voter turnout.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott courts Marian purchase

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Marian Court College is pictured in this file photo.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials are interested in purchasing White Court, the former Marian Court College, and are focused on putting together a business plan by Town Meeting.

Angela Ippolito, chairwoman of the Planning Board, told the Board of Selectmen recently that she was speaking on behalf of the Historical Commission, Conservation Commission, Open Space & Recreation Committee, along with other residents “when I express our very strong desire to see the town acquire this property.”

“I don’t say that lightly,” Ippolito said. “I know it’s a very big deal. It’s a lot more than acquiring a property. Marian Court is a unique property as we all know. It’s a generational asset. This is sort of a once in a lifetime opportunity that we’ll ever see a property of this value become available in the town … We think the town has an opportunity here and we feel that there are many ways of going about acquiring a property.”

Officials have said if the town acquires White Court, it would be for a public use.

The property at 35 Littles Point Road is owned by the Sisters of Mercy. A previous proposal from Fr. Andrew Bushell, executive chairman of St. Paul’s Foundation, to convert the former Marian Court College into an Orthodox Christian monastery, with a brewery on site fell through. Town officials were not in favor of the brewery and said it would have been a $4 million purchase.

Alice Poltorick, director of communications for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas Northeast Community, said Wednesday that there are no offers on the property.

Ippolito said the planning board and other committees were seeking the selectmen’s approval for and participation in a collaborative group, that would research the potential funding sources and uses for White Court. That brainstorming would include general fundraising, private investment potential, types of acquisition, and management, maintenance and preservation of the property.

She said the goal would be to develop a business plan of how the acquisition would work for the town or if it would be feasible. Ippolito said the business model would be presented at Town Meeting in May, which the town could vote to accept. That would include a financial model, including how to get money and how to manage it.

“I’m very interested in working together, and I think it’s really important for so many of our town committees, representing so many different populations and interests in town to be gathering together to think about this,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen. “And I agree with you that we do have to get it started.”

Selectman Donald Hause said he thinks acquiring the property is a good idea, and he would be happy to get involved.

“Time is of the essence,” Hause said. “So it’s got to be a committee that can work quickly, not hastily, but quickly together.”

Ippolito said the planning board has been researching other similar situations, where local municipalities have had the chance to acquire a historic mansion to convert it, restore it and have it be a functional asset for the town. A similar property in North Andover, acquired by the town, she said, is used for weddings, parties and outdoor functions. Other properties host corporate functions.

In past summers, White Court has been booked for weddings most weekends, a use Ippolito envisions would be very easy to continue.

Many years ago, Ippolito said, a group of residents concerned about the loss of property in Swampscott and preservation in town formed what is now the Swampscott Foundation, which donated their own money and collected from other residents.

“Without the Swampscott Foundation, we would not have Ewing Woods,” Ippolito said. “We wouldn’t have Linscott Park. We had a proposal for multi-story apartment towers on that site, where we have our beautiful little gazebo and parks. That’s what would have happened and it would be gone. So, imagine our town without Linscott Park. There are people out there who are willing to do this. It’s our job to find out how we can do it and we’re willing to do the work.”

The 6.2-acre White Court property is assessed at $7.8 million, including the two buildings and surrounding land, according to land records.

The former college is listed on LoopNet as “a spectacular oceanfront estate property in Swampscott” with CBRE/New England, which calls itself the worldwide leader in real estate services.

“The property’s idyllic setting is perfect for housing, hospitality, or a continued educational or institutional use,” the listing reads. “Located in the desirable seaside community of Swampscott, 35 Littles Point Road offers investors, owners, developers and collectors a myriad of exciting restoration, adaptive reuse and development options.”

Elections taking shape in Swampscott


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Elections taking shape in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Two seats are up for grabs on the Board of Selectmen for the April 25 local election.

Naomi Dreeben and Laura Spathanas, chair and vice-chair respectively, have announced they will run for a second, three-year term.

William DiMento, a Swampscott attorney, also pulled papers to run, but said he’s not going to return them, after learning the two incumbents are running again. Speaking from Florida on Wednesday, the former school committee member said he retired about a year ago, and isn’t taking on any more legal cases. He wants to travel. He said he likes the current board members and thinks the town is going in the right direction.

Candidates have until March 3 to obtain nomination papers and until March 7 to return them. Fifty certified signatures are required for a candidate to appear on the ballot.

“After some very serious consideration, I have decided to run for reelection to the board of selectmen,” Dreeben said at a recent board meeting. “It is a very big commitment … What I realized is that after three years of really getting up to speed and becoming familiar with the issues and the policies and the programs we have here in town, I now have this body of knowledge, and I want to be able to use it more effectively. And I want to see a few more things that we’ve initiated come to fruition.”

Dreeben said she is excited at the chance of working with new Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and wants to be able to continue to work with the schools as well.

“I feel very invested in the work that we do as a board and I’m very interested in continuing for one more term,” Dreeben said.

Spathanas said there are lots of exciting things happening in the town that she continues to want to be a part of. There are lots of unresolved issues that the board hasn’t finished yet and things it hasn’t started yet, she added.

“Three years ago, when I was first elected and after our campaign, I told the town it was an honor to be elected and to be able to serve,” Spathanas said. “It’s really, throughout the three years, it’s been, continued to be an honor to serve our residents, to serve with this board, other members that have come and gone over the last three years.”

Selectman Peter Spellios spoke about the importance of continuity on the board. He added that he’s learned lots from Dreeben in the past year and a half. He said Spathanas is part of the reason the board has positive traction on a lot of things, adding that she’s open-minded and listens.

Initially, DiMento said he considered running out of frustration, with what he considered to be a spendthrift town. He said town government spends far more than it can afford to, which has caused Swampscott to have one of the highest tax rates on the North Shore and puts a strain on the majority of residents who don’t have children in school. He thinks the schools are given too much money.

“I’m a strong believer in public education, but I’m not a strong believer in wasting taxpayers’ money,” DiMento said. “Let’s give them a school system. Let’s not give them a Cadillac.”

Ferryway student rolls over barriers


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

 

A sharp divide in Lynnfield

Creating a trail for bicyclists, walkers and runners to bisect Lynnfield sounds like a well-intentioned and non-controversial idea. But the fierce debate pitting rail trail opponents and supporters suggests the project strikes at the heart of how town residents view Lynnfield.

The trail has been discussed, debated and denounced with the Board of Selectmen prepared to bring the idea before Town Meeting for discussion. Both sides in the debate offer reasons worth pondering when it comes to opposing or supporting a rail trail.

Advocates say a trail will promote local fitness and alternate transportation options when many communities are embracing similar objectives. Opponents are worried about the trail attracting people using drugs and criminals scouting local residences for an unlocked home or car door.

Arguments on both sides of the discussion are compelling but they do not get to the so-called heart of the matter.

Lynnfield is a small town with a decidedly rural feel that has survived even as suburban subdivisions mix with the town’s older neighborhoods. It borders other communities but it is a community unto itself and, like people in most small towns, its residents cherish tradition and view change with at least a dose of suspicion.

For every proponent who argues the trail will attract only local bicyclists and runners, there is an opponent arguing the trail will be a magnet for non-Lynnfield residents who don’t, frankly, belong in the town even though they are basically passing through it.

Thinking freely in Saugus

The argument against the trail, to some degree, is an argument for preventing Lynnfield’s identity from being eroded. In opponents’ minds, the trail takes on the ominous appearance of an anonymous byway frequented by people, upstanding as well as unsavory, who can use the trail to get within proximity of local homes and neighborhoods.

That flight of the imagination is underpinned with paranoia but small towns like Lynnfield stay small because they tend to look inward and prioritize self interests over notions of regional cooperation or other expansive pursuits.

Opponents are likely to go before Town Meeting and argue that questions of sensible land use, property encroachment, conservation priorities and a hundred other detailed points of argument should define and, ultimately, defeat the rail trail. Proponents will really have only one argument to make in favor of the trail: It makes sense in Lynnfield and anywhere else to provide a resource, if one is available, that benefits everyone.

In a town where not a lot changes, a rail trail might just be too blatant an invitation for rest of the world to come to Lynnfield.

Vets organize competition for Kasabuskis

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — In an event to honor veterans, the 10th Mountain Division Wounded Warriors sled hockey team will play at the Kasabuski Arena Friday night.

“The rink is named after the Kasabuski brothers who were killed in World War II,” said Board of Selectmen member Scott Brazis. “They were part of the 10th Mountain Division. (The Warriors) wanted to become an active participant in anything having to do with that arena. They’re coming all the way from upstate New York to be there.”

John and Walter Kasabuski were killed in 1945. John was hit by a grenade. Walter was with him when he died. Twelve days later, Walter was shot. The brothers have side-by-side grave markers at Riverside Cemetery.

“The Warriors are very much looking forward to honoring Walter and John Kasabuski who made the ultimate sacrifice while fighting for the 10th Mountain Division in Europe in the closing days of WWII,” said coach Mark McKenna, in a statement. “It will be our honor to play in an arena named after the brothers.”

A city in mourning

Hosted by Saugus-Lynnfield Youth Hockey, the event will begin at 4:50 p.m. Two hours of sled hockey with the Warriors will follow. Finally, the Lynnfield High School and Saugus High School teams will face off at 8:20 p.m.

Disabled veterans and children are invited to play in the game. Adaptive sleds will be available for different abilities that can either be pushed or self-propelled. The league will make an effort to accommodate all players.

Saugus-Lynnfield Youth Hockey will donate a new ice hockey sled to the Warriors with an estimated value of $2,500.

Blades the Bear from the Boston Bruins will be in attendance. There will be a ceremonial puck-drop, a Color Guard presentation and a performance of the National Anthem.

Those interested in playing or supporting the event should contact Bob Belyea at 781-233-8230.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Sergeant approved as new harbormaster

SWAMPSCOTT — Officials are confident it will be clear sailing for their new harbormaster.

Swampscott Police Sgt. William Waters was unanimously approved as the new interim harbormaster by the board of selectmen on Wednesday. Waters was recommended by Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works director.

“It’s an honor to be considered for the position,” said Waters. “I hope to get down there and be accessible and do the job for the town.”

His first day is March 1. He will be in place through June. Cresta said his hope is that Waters, whom he called his No. 1 candidate for the position, will be reappointed on July 1.

The position, which pays a stipend of $7,983, or $665 a month, is a yearly appointment.

“I think he would make a great harbormaster,” said Cresta.

Waters, 48, grew up in Nahant and lives in Swampscott with his wife and three children. Cresta said Waters is a lifelong experienced boater on the North Shore.

The new harbormaster served as a reserve police officer in Nahant from 1989 to 1991, when he became a full-time police officer. He’s also served as a police officer in Peabody. He transferred to the Swampscott Police Department in 1996 and was promoted to sergeant in 2001.

Waters served as assistant harbormaster in Nahant from 1992 to 2004. Cresta said Waters has also agreed to take the required classes to obtain his harbormaster council certification.

Cresta said in a previous interview that it took some selling for Waters to say yes to the position. He was interested in appointing Waters because of his knowledge of the harbor and because he’s a police officer.

Waters said he didn’t have much interest in the position initially because of time constraints. Eventually, he said, he came around and thought it might work out well. In the past, he said there hasn’t been much of a schedule with the position, but he wants to show more of a presence at the harbor and town waters and get the boat out on a more regular basis.

The new harbormaster said in the past the police department hasn’t had access to a boat with water emergencies. Now that he’s going to be running the boat, Waters said that will change. His goal is to have several police officers be appointed as assistant harbormasters, and plans to do more patrols on town waters on weekends and evening hours.

“In the past, it’s been kind of sporadic,” Waters said. “I’d just like to see a more regular presence with the boat.”

Members of the board of selectmen were happy to appoint Waters. Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, said she had recently met him and was very impressed with his professionalism.

“I know Billy,” said selectman Peter Spellios. “I can tell you, I think as though he’s an A-plus for us. I think he’s very serious about everything he does. He’s very serious about the town and those are the things you can’t fake and you can’t learn. And I think he’s going to be great.”

Waters will be replacing Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell, who is facing criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate, and had been on paid administrative leave since September.

Bithell was arraigned in Lynn District Court in October and last appeared in court for a pretrial hearing. His next appearance will be for a motion to dismiss hearing, scheduled for Feb. 28, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

Officials have said that Bithell remained on administrative leave because waterfront towns are required by state law to officially have a harbormaster in place.

Swampscott takes on Waters as harbormaster


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott residents want school reuse ideas

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Neighbors of the shuttered former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue want to find a way to reuse the building instead of demolishing it.  

The residents, as part of Citizens of Swampscott for Adaptive Reuse, have filed a warrant article for consideration at Town Meeting in May.

The group was formed “on the belief that careful and professional consideration of adaptive reuse of town-owned properties is the course of action most likely to result in public policy decisions that truly represent the best interests of the town,” according to information provided by the group.

“The potential to adapt this historic building to other uses of instead of simply demolishing it cannot be overstated,” said Richard Frenkel, who filed the article on behalf of the group, in a statement. “Affordable housing is just one potential reuse that comes immediately to mind. Certainly, the town’s track record in that regard is abysmal. What our group is advocating is that we have the building professionally evaluated for adaptive reuse. This is something the Historical Commission has long sought and really should have been done when this project first started.”

A feasibility study to investigate all possible uses for the site, including, but not limited to mixed affordable residential and public use, sole affordable residential use, or sole public use, would be conducted if the article is approved at Town Meeting. The study would cost up to $60,000, and would be raised privately, according to the citizens group.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said the board would not have to approve the article before it could be placed on the warrant for Town Meeting. She said the citizen’s petition got the required number of signatures.

Dreeben said the Request for Proposals for redevelopment of the property was released last week. She said the selectmen will be choosing one of the projects submitted by developers through the RFP process. Developers have until March 10 to submit proposals.

“It’s hard to imagine we would go back to rethinking the use of that property,” Dreeben said.

Dreeben said the condition of the building has degraded to the point where she doesn’t think reuse is possible. She said it would be more expensive to renovate the building than tear it down.

“I don’t think it’s realistic at this point in time to consider reusing the building,” Dreeben said.

Swampscott back to drawing board on Greenwood

Last month, the selectmen tabled a proposal from Groom Construction to convert the former middle school into 28 luxury apartments or condominiums, with three garage outbuildings on the site. The proposal was submitted through another RFP process.

Instead, the selectmen decided to act on the advice of Town Counsel, and issue another RFP, which would give developers an option to submit a plan that conforms to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last spring: Construction of a 28-unit structure with an affordable housing component, or for a Chapter 40B affordable housing project. Developers are also able to present proposals for both options.

The town is already in the midst of pending litigation with Groom, which initially won approval for a 41-unit condominium project on the site five years ago. That suit has to be settled before the town can proceed with the sale of the property.

The lawsuit stemmed from an initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned in Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning reverted back to single-family housing.  

Town Counsel recommended reissuing the RFP because the neighbors had been clear that they were intending to again bring litigation against the town if it went forward with Groom’s proposal. Neighbors have said that a 28-unit structure would be out of character with the existing neighborhood.

Selectman Peter Spellios said in a previous interview that a 40B project, in which about 25 percent of units have to be affordable, would give the town protection against a spot zoning lawsuit from neighbors, as it is exempt from zoning, and harder to appeal.

Since the town owns the land, Spellios said proposals would be solicited for a friendly 40B, where town officials would enter into a land development agreement with a potential developer, and would therefore, have some control over the property. If there is no legal settlement and Groom wins the lawsuit, the company could proceed with the 28 units zoning allows for or build a much larger 40B project, where the town would have have the same control.

Benjamin Agoes, a member of the citizens group, said neighbors and residents have only been given secondhand accounts that the building is completely dilapidated and full of mold. He said he’s heard from some people who have been in the old middle school that it’s not that bad. He said the group is interested in potentially taking the building down to how it looked before all of the additions throughout the years.

“One thing that’s plagued the process is it’s been a very top down decision process,” Agoes said. “Historically, the board of selectmen have come to the residents and said here’s the plan, here’s what’s going to happen. They have been looking for input but the foundation has always been laid. There’s always been this top down and … I know what we’re advocating for is making this a more level set process.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

 

Driving toward healthy senior services

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pictured is the van the Lynnfield Senior Center is looking to replace.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — The Council On Aging is looking for a new van to help keep senior citizens active and healthy.  

“That’s our goal, to get everyone out of the house. To get up and get out,” said Director Linda Naccara. “That’s good for people of any age, but especially for people who are living alone.”

Naccara presented a proposed budget for the council at a board of selectmen meeting on Monday. The 20-passenger van, which would replace a 2004 model, was the only official request in the budget.

The two buses owned by the senior center on Salem Street give 80-100 rides each week, taking seniors on trips to the pharmacy, market and to doctor’s appointments, said Naccara.

A low-vision support group goes out on quarterly rides to the Perkins School for the Blind, said Naccara, and a group for people who have been newly widowed uses the bus in their meetings on the first Sunday of the month.

Council chairman Fred Santangelo said the 13-year-old van in need of replacement has 140,000 miles on it and no air conditioning.

“It would be very costly and not cost-effective to repair,” he said.

The van’s springs and shocks are in poor condition, in addition to rust in the undercarriage and an exhaust pipe leak. The lack of a rear exit presents a safety hazard, said Santangelo.

A gap in the passenger door allows cold air to enter and provides a warm place for mice this time of year, he said.

He estimated a replacement van will cost in the ballpark of $80,000.

Selectmen chairman Phillip Crawford said the council’s request will be reviewed by Town Administrator James M. Boudreau for eventual inclusion in a final town operating budget.

Crawford estimated the operating budget will be done by mid-March before going to vote at Town Meeting in April.

School budget sees increase in Lynnfield


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

How to pay for all-day K in Saugus?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pictured is a kindergarten student at Oaklandvale Elementary School. 

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS  — The burden of funding free, all-day kindergarten throughout the district, could be shared by Town Meeting.

At the request of the School Committee, the Board of Selectmen added an article to the Annual Town Meeting warrant that, if approved, will result in the formation of a committee of five people, including at least two Town Meeting members, to “evaluate the benefits and costs” of all-day kindergarten.

The board voted 4 to 0 to move the article forward.

Should Town Meeting accept the article, the new group will review the findings of the All-Day Kindergarten Task Force, hold at least two public outreach sessions, identify public funding sources and make a recommendation at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting.

The task force formed in November at the request of school committee member Peter Manoogian. The group includes an elementary school principal, two kindergarten teachers, a Town Meeting member, a few parents, Manoogian and Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi.

Tuition for all-day kindergarten is $2,700. There is no tuition for half-day kindergarten. Each year, 10 full-day scholarships are awarded based on financial need. The task force’s mission is to provide a richer educational experience to all kindergarten students, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.

The final day to submit a Town Meeting article to the Board will be April 12.

School committee pushes for all-day K


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

School committee pushes for all-day K

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Kindergarten student Grant Leonard and his teacher Andrea Proctor work on math at the Oaklandvale Elementary School. 

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The school committee is requesting Town Meeting take action to further efforts to provide free, all-day kindergarten throughout the district.

The panel will go before the board of selectmen tonight to ask that an article be added to the Annual Town Meeting warrant that would request the formation of a committee of five people, including at least two Town Meeting members, to “evaluate the benefits and costs” associated with all-day kindergarten.

The group will review the findings of the All-Day Kindergarten Task Force, hold at least two public outreach sessions, identify public funding sources and make a recommendation at the 2018 Annual Town Meeting.

The task force formed in November at the request of school committee member Peter Manoogian. The group includes an elementary school principal, two kindergarten teachers, a Town Meeting member, a few parents, Manoogian and Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi.

Tuition for all-day kindergarten is $2,700. There is no tuition for half-day kindergarten. Each year, 10 full-day scholarships are awarded based on financial need. The task force’s mission is to provide a richer educational experience to all kindergarten students, regardless of their family’s ability to pay.

“What was apparent to me — the compelling reason (half-day students) weren’t enrolled (in full day kindergarten) is the $2,700 cost,” Manoogian said.

Children in the full-day program spend 60 minutes on math, 60 on social studies and 60 on English language arts each day, he said. Alternatively, students in the half-day program spend about half an hour on each.

School committee chairwoman Jeannie Meredith supported the article with a positive vote but said she misunderstood the motion.

“I would recommend we ask the current task force to continue their work and open it up to other community members, rather than a separate committee of Town Meeting members,” said Meredith.

“Although I’d love to see free, all-day K in our district, I firmly believe we have to have our financial health in order and have our priorities outlined,” she said. “For the last several years, we have made band-aid budget cuts but we’re not really addressing the issues. As chairwoman of both committees — the school committee and the school building committee — my primary focus is the new middle school, high school project and working on a capital plan with the Town Manager and current selectmen that addresses all the current schools, pre-K through 12.”

As part of a complete overhaul of Saugus Public Schools, by 2020, the number of school buildings could be condensed to just three. A lower elementary school would serve pre-K through grade 2 students; an upper elementary would serve grades 3-5; and, through the project closest to fruition, the middle and high school would share a single building.

The new school structure would replace the existing pre-K, four elementary schools, middle and high school. Fewer schools would mean less operating costs and more money in the school budget, Meredith said.

“As important as kindergarten is, I’d like to see that come with time,” she said. “We need programs that are going to bring our district to a level 1; like robotics and STEAM. In my opinion, we cannot afford to cut any programming from our students. We need to start looking at ways to bring these things now, not wait until we have a new building.”

Meredith said she was opposed to cutting teachers’ jobs and existing programming but declined to comment on how the programs could be funded.

Saugus debates pros + cons of all-day K


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Lynnfield looks to state for library

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — The Lynnfield Public Library Board of Trustees is inching forward in the process of building a new library by applying for a state grant.

The application, signed on Jan. 26, will now be submitted to the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and the status of the grant application will be announced in July of this year, said Library Director Holly Mercer in an email.

If awarded, the money will cover approximately 40 percent of eligible project costs.

The grant is for partial funding of a proposed building located on the road frontage portion of town-owned Reedy Meadow Golf Course, one-third of a mile from the current Summer Street location.

Selectman Richard Dalton has previously estimated the cost of the library will be $10 million to build. Mercer said last spring she was unsure what the final cost of the project will be.

The need for a new library arose from issues related to insufficient parking, the lack of a programming or separate teen room and an inadequately sized children’s room, according to a release about the grant.

If built, the new 25,874-square-foot library will include additional parking, meeting and program spaces, expanded youth services and additional patron seating.

“This has been quite the transitional year at the library,” said Mercer during a budget presentation at the Jan. 9 board of selectmen meeting. “We’ve put a lot of focus on what our goals are and really what it means to be a 21st century library.”

Mercer requested an increase in the library program budget to $5,000 for the fiscal year to better serve the 300 patrons on average each day who use the building.

Residents are invited to participate in a community forum in March on the building project, said the release.

A master plan survey that polled residents about town-related issues last month gave some preliminary feedback about the new library and other public building projects, although Planning Board Vice Chair Heather Sievers said the results are still being analyzed.

A survey overview given by Sievers said that people were generally in favor of new or updated town facilities, despite less enthusiasm from senior citizens.

“Final results were in the following order: library, open space, recreation center and senior center expansion, with police and fire stations lagging,” said the overview about the level of positive reactions.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Swampscott grapples with education spending

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT With school officials still scrambling with how to bridge a $275,000 budget deficit, the Swampscott Education Association, the teachers’ union, fought back after taking some heat from town officials last week for rejecting their proposed contract, and potentially seeking higher raises.

Parents are not happy that the school department is considering transitioning full-day kindergarten to a half-day program at no charge. Parents would have to pay tuition for the full-day program. School officials have asked the town to increase their allocation to bridge the gap instead.

Teachers representing the union voiced their concerns in prepared statements to the school committee Wednesday night.

“In recent weeks, teachers have been described as budget busters and likened to video game characters gobbling up resources, when in reality, you can easily check the facts and see that Swampscott does not spend an extraordinary amount of its budget on public schools when you compare us to districts around the state most like us,” said Allison Norton, a teacher at Stanley School, who spoke on behalf of the union.

Norton was referring to a comparison made by Peter Spellios, a selectman, at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting, who said he would not advocate for allocating more town funds to the school department, if it would potentially go toward payroll, rather than keeping programs, such as full-day kindergarten. As 80 percent of the school budget is already devoted to salaries, he said contractual increases are outpacing the revenue the town can give to the schools. He compared it to feeding a Pac Man that keeps eating the programming.

“Town officials have the audacity to suggest that any renegotiating of a contract with teachers will jeopardize free, full-day kindergarten,” Norton said. “In fact, the school committee and administrators were considering charging for free full-day kindergarten well before the contract ratification failed. And for the record, the Swampscott Education Association wholeheartedly supports free access to full-day kindergarten.”

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said it was not true that school officials were considering charging for free full-day kindergarten beforehand. She said that was something decided in the 11th hour when cuts were being looked at to bridge the deficit.

The committee was initially scheduled to vote on their proposed $30.49 million FY18 budget Wednesday. Instead, the committee postponed that vote until Feb. 16, until after the town budget is presented at the Board of Selectmen meeting Feb. 15.

After revolving funds and grants are taken into account, the school district budgeted for $28,272,500 in town allocation. But the town is only allocating an additional $750,000 from last year’s amount, or $27,997,500. Therein, lies the $275,000 deficit.

School officials are faced with a scenario where the $750,000 increase in town allocation is not enough to cover their teacher- and staff-anticipated salary increases. In December, Evan Katz, school business administrator, projected there would be $960,000 in salary increases for school employees and teachers, based on a then-anticipated 1.5 percent raise for educators.

Catie Porter, a Swampscott teacher speaking on behalf of the union, disputed that figure. She said the proposed raise would not increase salary by $960,000, but by approximately $200,000. The remainder is salary advances due to teachers staying in the district or advancing their degree.

After overwhelmingly rejecting their contract, the teachers’ union issued a statement that the members questioned the dramatic change in statement about the budget deficit, which was reported at $1.6 million at the start of contract mediation when salary bargaining was underway and was more recently pegged at $275,000 after a tentative agreement was reached.

Nancy Hanlon, SEA president, issued a further statement that the rejection was based on several factors, the least of which was monetary, and that the union believes that teachers are not being treated with respect as professionals. Those statements were echoed Wednesday night by teachers speaking on behalf of the union.

Carin Marshall, chairwoman of the school committee, said salaries, which total 80 percent of the school budget, have grown to dollar amounts that exceed what the town can afford to allocate to the school district each year.

For the past two years, she said, the town has given the schools unprecedented increases in allocation, which it has informed them is not sustainable and cannot continue. To address the issue, she said the committee decided that salary increases would be held to a 1.5 percent limit.

Marshall said successful negotiations within that 1.5 percent salary increase limit occurred with other staff, including administrators and the superintendent. She said the teachers were offered a package with 1.5 percent raises, and budget constraints were shared.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that Swampscott does not value our teachers or the work that they do,” Marshall said. “I have seen and heard statements that money was not the only or most important factor in why the agreement failed. I cannot speak to that. What I can say is that I was present for that year’s worth of negotiation sessions and I can categorically say that in every instance, it was all about the money. There were many other issues and items discussed on both sides, but in the end, they were always tied back to the money.”

Also discussed was how potential half-day kindergarten would work. Martha Raymond, director of student services, said after noon, kindergarten teachers already cannot introduce new curriculum during a full-day program. From 8:15 a.m. to noon, the schedule wouldn’t change at all. She said parents have expressed concern that a full-day tuition program would mean daycare after 12 p.m., but she said that wasn’t true. Between 12 and 2:15 p.m., Raymond said teachers are working on the social emotional development of kids.

“It does not mean I support it,” said Angelakis of half-day kindergarten. “This is just a discussion. It is not a vote of support.”

To reduce the initial $1.5 million budget gap to $275,000, there have been revenue increases of $240,000, personnel transition savings of $200,000, program reductions of $314,000, and the $300,000 budgeted for the unknown amount of students who may join the district and require special education services has been eliminated.

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott admin signs four-year agreement

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Sean Fitzgerald is pictured in this December 2016 file photo.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Sean Fitzgerald is looking forward to his first day as town administrator in Swampscott. His first day of work is Feb. 27.

“With any job, I think the first couple of weeks is really exciting,” said Fitzgerald, who signed a four-year deal. “I’m eager to really work with the board of selectmen. They have a lot of busy plans and they’ve been working incredibly hard to support the town with a number of projects.”

Fitzgerald, who was town manager in Plaistow, N.H., and is a Peabody resident, said it’s hard whenever there is a position that’s been open for an extended period of time and the staff is pulling double duty. He hopes to give them support.

The new town administrator anticipates a busy first few weeks after taking the helm, which he said will include contacting local officials and stakeholders in Swampscott and on the North Shore. He also looks forward to working with the Council on Aging and the school department. Change is always a challenge, Fitzgerald said. He said he cares deeply about Plaistow residents and was honored to serve in an important position there.

But the lifelong resident of the North Shore said working in the seaside town will give him a chance to spend more time with his family, which includes three young sons. Fitzgerald spent much of his childhood in Swampscott. His grandmother was a nurse at Hadley Elementary School for decades and his mother grew up on Bay View Drive.

“The major expectation is really proactive leadership,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen. “We’re expecting that he will be picking up the initiative on moving our projects forward, both the things that are in motion and the things we’re interested in doing in the future.”

Dreeben said project priorities for Fitzgerald will include forward movement on the development of the former Machon Elementary School and old Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue. He’ll also be involved with school officials’ plans to bring a new school building to town.

Town officials are also interested in possibly acquiring White Court, or the former Marian Court College, for an open space use. Dreeben said he will be involved in the reuse of other buildings in town as well.

Under the terms of his contract, Fitzgerald will be paid at a prorated rate for the remainder of fiscal year 2017, based on a salary of $128,500. On July 1, his annual salary will increase to $129,800.

Fitzgerald’s pay will increase each year on July 1 as outlined in the contract, with him set to make $132,400 in the final year. His contract expires on June 30, 2020, and will be up for renewal with the selectmen then. Fitzgerald’s performance will be evaluated publicly by the selectmen semi-annually during his first year of employment and every year thereafter on or before Oct. 1, according to the contract.

If Fitzgerald wishes to terminate his contract before it expires, he must give written notice to the board of selectmen at least 90 days in advance. His employment can also be terminated by the selectmen before the contract is fulfilled under the town charter, according to the deal.

Before becoming town manager in Plaistow in 2008, Fitzgerald served as chief of staff to former Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti. He was hired in nearby Saugus in 2015, where he served less than a week as town manager. He was sworn in a day before a recall election that unseated four of the five members of the Saugus Board of Selectmen. His contract was voided a week later after the four new selectmen were sworn in. Saugus reinstated Town Manager Scott Crabtree, who was fired by the previous board. Fitzgerald was reinstated in Plaistow.

Fitzgerald was hired by the selectmen in late December. He is replacing former Town Administrator Thomas Younger, who left in mid-October for the same job in Stoneham.

Gino Cresta, department of public works director, has been serving as interim town administrator. Town Accountant David Castellarin, who also serves as assistant town administrator, has been in charge of the budget during the interim.

“It was a great experience,” Cresta said. “It was great working with the board of selectmen. It was great having their support and it was a great learning experience for me.”  

Dreeben called Fitzgerald a very high energy person. She said the selectmen have been meeting with him about once a week for about a month to catch him up on what’s happening in town. He’s also been meeting with town staff and administrators including Cresta and Castellarin.

Dreeben also expressed her appreciation for Cresta taking on the role of town administrator, in addition to his duties as department of public works director.

“Gino is wonderful to work with,” Dreeben said. “Gino has been really stepping up and he’s doing two jobs. I’m delighted that he’s been able to do this for so long, but I don’t want him to get burnt out. I want him to have a reasonable job.”

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus gets its fill at Town Meeting

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Wheelabrator Saugus.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SAUGUS — After nearly three hours of heated debate, Town Meeting members on Monday approved three zoning bylaw changes that will affect current and future landfills.

The Alliance for Health & the Environment, a coalition of environmental organizations and public officials that requested the special Town Meeting, is opposed to the expansion of Wheelabrator Saugus, an energy-from-waste facility that disposes up to 1,500 tons of waste a day from 10 Massachusetts communities.

With the approval of the three articles, definitions will be added to the town’s zoning bylaws for “ash,” “landfill” and “ash landfill.” An addition would be made to the Environmental Performance Standards section that restricts the elevation of a landfill to 50 feet above mean sea level.

“No new landfill or new ash landfill shall be established in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and no existing landfill or ash landfill shall be expanded in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern,” reads the second article, which was passed 25 to 8.

The third article, passed 31 to 2, would alter the Table of Use Regulations under Zoning By-Laws, Article V, Section 5.6, by adding the principal use “landfill/ash landfill” to only be allowed in areas with industrial zoning and would require a special permit.

The zoning by-law changes would have to be approved by the attorney general. Wheelabrator can also challenge the decision. Peter Kendrigan, general manager of Wheelabrator Saugus, said passage of the articles would result in another court case for the town.

Ann Devlin, president of Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment and Town Meeting member, authored the three articles on behalf of the alliance. She said their passage was about doing the right thing for the health and well-being of the people of Saugus and surrounding communities.

Bill Brown, a Town Meeting member, was opposed to all three articles.

“These articles target one business,” he said. “They target one taxpayer in the town of Saugus and that’s Wheelabrator.”

Brown said he wasn’t going to argue that Wheelabrator doesn’t bear part of the responsibility for health problems in town. It does, he said, but so do many other things. Residents can’t point the finger at one particular cause, and say that’s the only cause of health problems in town, he said.

Proponents of the passage of the three articles argued that Wheelabrator is the only unlined active ash landfill in the state and the only one located next to an area of critical environmental concern. They also argued that the ash landfill is a health concern, with cancer risks cited by multiple speakers.

“I think adding more control in our bylaws makes sense,” said Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “I think we’re just empowering ourselves.”

James Connolly, Wheelabrator vice-president of environmental health and safety, said previously that in addition to being illegal, the articles, if passed, would threaten the company’s ability to keep providing environmental and economic benefits and would result in costly litigation for Saugus taxpayers.

Connolly said on Monday that there continues to be a number of false claims against Wheelabrator. He said the landfill has a clay soil liner and any claims that the ash is toxic are false. He cited a Department of Public Health report published last spring and requested by Wheelabrator Saugus, with results showing no elevated risk of cancer in town.

State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere), who heads the Alliance, said it’s obvious that Wheelabrator has no intention of ever closing the landfill. If Saugus doesn’t take action now, she said, people could be skiing on a mountain of toxic ash.

“These are very reasonable zoning changes and you have every right to control your destiny,” Vincent said.

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott teachers turn down contract

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials already grappling with a $275,000 budget deficit are seeing an additional obstacle after the Swampscott Education Association, the teacher’s union, rejected their proposed contract and could potentially seek higher raises.  

School officials held a public forum on their proposed $30.49 million FY18 budget last week. After revolving funds and grants are taken into account, the school district budgeted for $28,272,500 in town allocation. But the town is only allocating an additional $750,000 from last year’s amount, or $27,997,500. Therein, lies the $275,000 deficit.

School officials are faced with a scenario where the $750,000 increase in town allocation is not even enough to cover their teacher- and staff-anticipated salary increases. In December, Evan Katz, school business administrator, projected there would be $960,000 in salary increases for school employees and teachers, based on a then-anticipated 1.5 percent raise for educators.

Parents are not happy that to bridge the $275,000 gap the school department is considering transitioning full-day kindergarten to a half-day program at no charge. Parents would have to pay tuition for the full-day program.

Many of the same parents who voiced their opposition to that option last week to the school committee repeated those concerns to the board of selectmen on Wednesday night. School officials have asked the town to increase their allocation to bridge the gap instead.

Selectman Peter Spellios said the board, made up of parents of children in Swampscott Public Schools, is sympathetic to the talk around preserving full-day kindergarten.

But, he said, since the budget was presented at the public forum last week, the teachers’ union voted not to ratify their contract, which was negotiated with the school department. He said it was his understanding that part of the reason given was that the union found it “suspicious” that the school was miraculously able to take a $1.5 million deficit and make it a $275,000 gap.

Initially, school officials were faced with a $1.5 million projected budget deficit. Through some cuts and fee increases, the deficit was reduced to $275,000.

Spellios said he would not advocate for allocating more town funds to the school department, if it would potentially go toward payroll, rather than keeping programs such as full-day kindergarten. He called union leadership irresponsible that they would reject the contract because they thought that there was more money on the table for them. He said 80 percent of the school budget is already devoted to salaries, and added that contractual increases are outpacing the revenue the town can give to the schools. He compared it to feeding a Pacman that keeps eating the programming.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said without ratification of the contract, or the Memorandum of Agreement, budgeting an unknown increase for potential raises is difficult, if not impossible.

“If the union were to attempt to negotiate a higher increase, then yes, the current deficit would increase,” Angelakis said in an email. “I support the board of selectmen’s position. If more money were allocated to the schools, I could not allow it to be used for anything other than (kindergarten) programming because it’s the right thing to do.”

The Swampscott Education Association issued a statement on its Facebook page on why they “overwhelmingly rejected a proposed contract.” The SEA said there was no language in the contract to protect the professional autonomy and educators’ judgment and no language giving educators sufficient voice in school-based decisions.

“The members of the SEA question the dramatic change in statement about the town’s deficit, which was reported by town officials as $1.6 million at the start of mediation when salary bargaining was underway and was more recently pegged at $275,000 after a tentative agreement was reached,” the statement said. “Please support your Swampscott educators as we head back to the bargaining table.”

Nancy Hanlon, SEA president, was asked if the union would be seeking higher raises. She said it feels that in the midst of mediating a fair contract, it would be unethical to issue a full statement.

“However, we want to be clear that the rejection was based on several factors, the least of which was monetary,” she said in an email. “The SEA believes that teachers are not being treated with respect as professionals.”

To reduce the initial $1.5 million budget gap to $275,000, there have been revenue increases of $240,000, personnel transition savings of $200,000, program reductions of $314,000, and the $300,000 budgeted for the unknown amount of students who may join the district and require special education services has been eliminated. School officials say eliminating free full-day kindergarten is a last resort.

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott fired up again

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
Phillips Beach in Swampscott is a popular spot to walk dogs from October to April.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT Beach fire discussions are heating up again.

The Board of Selectmen remain interested in having cooking fires on Phillips Beach, and have decided to file a notice of intent with the conservation commission. Officials hope to have the fires approved in time for summer.  

The conservation commission reluctantly gave the go-ahead for cooking fires on Fisherman’s Beach last July, after deciding the area did not fall under its jurisdiction, because of the lack of vegetation that would be affected.

But the commission found that the conservation area at Palmer Pond and dune vegetation would be altered at Phillips Beach, and that the activity would apply to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act, leading them to require town officials to file a notice of intent for fires there.

With summer dwindling, officials decided to wait on submitting the additional notice for Phillips Beach. Once the notice is filed, there would be a public hearing with the conservation commission.

“If we’re going to do it, let’s do it now,” said Selectman Peter Spellios. “I think we had a system that worked at Fisherman’s last year that would work at Phillips.”

Tom Ruskin, chairman of the commission, said last July that the request would likely be denied, unless the fires could be monitored by safety officials on Phillips Beach at all times. His concern was about the vegetation going up in smoke.

The selectmen approved the beach fires on Phillips and Fisherman’s Beach last June after a two-year ban, but conservation commission approval was also needed.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, was the lone dissenting vote on allowing the cooking fires. She said she thinks they’re dangerous for a number of reasons.

Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works director, said Fisherman’s and Phillips are the two most popular beaches in Swampscott. With high tide, there’s still room to have beach fires. He said the idea of the fires is to give families a chance to enjoy the beach at nighttime and cook. It gives people another way to socialize, he added.

“By going in front of the conservation commission for the notice of intent, this will just get the process moving,” Cresta said.

The Swampscott Fire Department is able to issue three permits for beach cooking fires on Fisherman’s Beach, according to the selectmen. The system last year was, once permission was granted, a placard was given for someone to mark their fire. The fire must be attended to at all times by an adult who lives in town and is only allowed between 6 and 11 p.m. The initial plan was to allow four permits for Phillips Beach.

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Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus spending to address school changes

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — As the demographics of the district change, the school committee delivered a budget that they pledge will support students.  

The panel approved a $29.6 million spending plan for fiscal year 2018, up from $28.1 million last year. The request will be reviewed by Town Manager Scott Crabtree and the Board of Selectmen.

As a result of the increase, Spanish will be a requirement, rather than an elective, a cut that was made for last year’s budget. An allocation of $82,000 will fund Chromebooks, which will be necessary next year when MCAS testing will require a computer, according to committee member Arthur Grabowski.

“Down the road, all state testing will be done online,” said Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi. “ELL (English language learner) testing is already online and MCAS is making the transition.”

Two new transition counselors and an expansion of the English language learning department are included in the budget to help the needs of the district’s changing demographics.

During a presentation Monday, DeRuosi described the financial impacts of the change. In 2012, the district had 88 ELL students. Last year, that swelled to 126, he said. The public schools have students who have “very limited English skills. Some don’t even have skills in their own language,” he said.

About 40 percent of students are considered low-income and qualify for a free or reduced price lunch program. They are also eligible to ride to school at no cost, he said.

The homeless population has increased steadily over the past five years and reached 40 students in 2016.

“Enrollment might be dropping but the kids that we have are becoming absolutely more needy than the kids we had before as a population,” DeRuosi said. “As a district, we are beginning to feel the effects of a changing student demographic.”

Transition councilors would help with the social-emotional needs of students, which would help them remained focused and get more out of their educational experience.

Swampscott tries to bridge a gap

More than $300,000 will be saved in cost containments, including two students who will no longer need to be transported out of the district, retiring employees whose jobs will be filled with newbies at a lower salary and cuts in the cafeterias.

“It is the responsibility of the school committee to advocate for an educationally sound budget, whatever that budget number might be,” said Grabowski. “To advocate for something less or to make a request that’s not inclusive of what our needs might be, from my point of view, is irresponsible.”

The budget will be presented to the town manager and board of selectmen by Feb. 1.

The Saugus High School Project Building Committee is asking for parents, teachers, members of the Parent Teacher Organization and residents to attend their next meeting on Monday to provide feedback on the combination middle-high school project.

Jeannie Meredith, chairwoman of the committee, said she hopes to hear from residents before the project enters its next phase with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent government agency that funds public schools.

The feedback will help the committee with the design and educational space for the new school building, she said.

The new middle-high school would be constructed on the same property as the existing high school. A new football stadium with multi-use fields would replace the current building.

By 2020, the school system could be transformed to contain one lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2; one upper elementary for grades 3-5; and a combination middle and high school. The new school structure would replace the existing Pre-K, four elementary schools, middle school and high school.

Sixteen-year-old Veterans Memorial Elementary School would become the lower elementary building. Modifications would be made to the Belmonte Middle School and it would become the Belmonte STEAM Academy. The upper elementary school would have a special focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

The building process began when the town sent a letter of interest to the MSBA at the end of 2013, which was accepted the next month. By last February, PMA Consultants was chosen as the owner’s project manager and HMFH Architects Inc. was chosen to design the new building.

Cambridge-based HMFH is known for its user-centered designs and use of color in their work. The company has experience working with the state on combination middle-high school and standalone high school projects.

The meeting will be held at Saugus Town Hall at 4 p.m.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Swampscott tackling Blocksidge renovation

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Plans to play on artificial turf at Blocksidge Field are advancing, with town officials soliciting bids for construction of the nearly $2 million project.

Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works director, said the town is putting out three separate bids this week for the construction phase, and three contractors will be selected. Cresta also serves as chairman of the Turf Field Advisory Committee, the board that has been the leader on the Blocksidge project.

One of the bids going out is for site work, which includes the demolition of the existing structures at the field, ripping up the field, drainage installation and infrastructure placement for lights that will be purchased at a later date. Other bids are for the installation of grandstands with a 750-person capacity and for the artificial turf, which will replace the grass field.

Bids for the grandstands and turf field are due by Feb. 9, with substantial completion of those projects expected by June 1. The bid for the site work is due on Feb. 16, with substantial completion expected by Aug. 18. The lowest qualified bidders will be selected.

Construction is expected to start in the spring and the field should be ready for play by September.

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Town Meeting approved $1.65 million in construction costs for the turf field in May 2015. An additional $300,000 was raised by the AllBlue Foundation, a Danvers-based nonprofit established to enhance Swampscott athletic fields and programs. The $1.85 million project includes the new field, grandstands and a press box.

Huntress Associates, a landscape and engineering firm specializing in athletic facilities, was chosen last May to design the new turf field and oversee construction.

Town officials are looking to raise at least $500,000 for work that hasn’t been budgeted at the field, Cresta said, which would probably be through private donations. Those funds would be used to purchase lights, which would cost about $350,000. Cresta said his hope is the field will have lights installed by September 2018. Other costs would be for upgrading the entrance, which would be another $100,000 to $150,000.

Money would also potentially be raised for a new concession stand. If the stand includes male and female restrooms on either side, Cresta said it could cost $100,000 to $120,000.

“We have a lot of work to do between now and when that field opens,” said Scott Faulkner, a member of the Turf Field Advisory committee, at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting. “We want to do what’s right for everybody and get all the extras, if you will, into that project. Open your hearts and your wallets, and it should be a pretty successful project.”

Cresta said the field would be lined for football, soccer, field hockey and boys’ and girls’ lacrosse. Officials have said there are advantages to a turf field including less maintenance, since grass fields are destroyed by overuse and a turf field would be unaffected by inclement weather. In the past, the field would have to be shut down for several days following heavy rains, so that it wouldn’t get torn up, Cresta said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Lynnfield looks to limit marijuana sales

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — The town is looking to halt marijuana sales within its borders after the substance was legalized across the state last November.

The Board of Selectmen voted Monday to include a referendum question preventing its sale on the next town election ballot, as well as two warrant articles that will be presented at the April Town Meeting.

“This is a nightmare for town counsels throughout the Commonwealth,” said Town Counsel Thomas Mullen.

Mullen explained that the new law contains limited opportunities for municipalities to prevent the sale of marijuana. A bylaw blocking its sale must be adopted by voters at the polls, he said.

“A city or town may adopt ordinances and bylaws that impose reasonable safeguards on the operation of marijuana establishments,” according to the initial Question 4 proposal.

Rather than pass a single zoning bylaw or a general bylaw, Mullen said he wants to proceed cautiously to prevent possible lawsuits with a “belt and suspenders approach.”

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The approach Mullen outlined will instead require a vote on both a zoning and a general bylaw. The effect of the amendments would be the prohibition of marijuana establishments in town other than medical marijuana facilities, said Mullen. He said the town does have a medical marijuana zoning bylaw in place already.

Another option Mullen presented was for the town to adopt a moratorium, or temporary postponement on marijuana establishments until June 2018. Mullen called the two bylaw solutions somewhat awkward, but said one of the two bylaws could possibly be rescinded at a later date.

The majority of the town’s population voted against Question 4. In November, 2,940 votes were cast in favor of legalization versus the 4,427 votes against it, according to the Town Clerk’s website.

“I think the law itself is a mess,” said Vice Chairman Christopher Barrett. “The voters have spoken loudly. I think it’s necessary to bring this to the ballot this April.”


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Swampscott pumps the brakes, eyes town-wide 25 mph limit

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials have taken the first steps toward lowering the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour, citing safety concerns.

“It’s definitely for safety,” said Peter Kane, director of community development. “That is the prime reason you do it.”

Kane said the idea is to lower the speed limit in thickly settled areas. If this were rural Massachusetts, he said, slowing cars down might not be as much of a concern because homes are set back so far. But when a town is dense, more people are out, and cars should be traveling slower.

Last Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen approved lowering the statutory speed limit on all town-owned roadways within a thickly settled or business district, acting on the recommendation of the Traffic Study Advisory Committee.

“The committee recommends opting in to this on a town-wide basis due to the density of development of town as well as the street network,” Kane wrote in a letter to the selectmen. “The committee has been asked to consider speed limit reductions from 30 mph to 25 mph on Stetson Avenue and Puritan Road, and feel that this option is the best method to achieve those reductions, as well as achieve improved traffic safety on our local roads.”

Reducing the speed limit requires a Town Meeting vote in May after the board voted to “opt in” to the Municipal Modernization bill, signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker last summer. One aspect of the bill gives local government the authority to make the speed limit change, bypassing MassDOT review and study.

The Boston City Council also recently acted upon the law, by voting to reduce the city’s speed limit to 25 mph. The change took effect on Jan. 9.

Kane said the change won’t affect state-controlled roads, such as Paradise Road, which has a speed limit of 35 mph. Town roads with posted speed limits lower than 25 mph also won’t be affected by the change.

The selectmen also approved two other recommendations from the traffic advisory committee. Neither require a Town Meeting vote.

One change was to add a “No Parking Here to Corner” restriction on the southwest side of Burpee Road from the hill crest south of Jessie Street up to the intersection with Buena Vista Street. Prior to the modification, there were no on-street parking restrictions on Burpee Road.

“By doing this, it’ll improve the visibility of vehicles at the stop sign on Buena Vista Street to more easily see traffic coming down the hill on Burpee Road,” Kane wrote to the selectmen.

The other change was to add a flashing pedestrian crossing signal on Humphrey Street at St. John’s Church. In December, John Lofgren, 73, of Lynn, was killed after he was struck by a car while crossing Humphrey Street in front of the church.

Kane said the request was in response to that accident. There have been other previous incidents at that location. He said the crossing signal can enhance safety by reducing crashes between vehicles and pedestrians at unsignalized intersections and crosswalks by increasing driver awareness.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Swampscott back to drawing board on Greenwood

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pictured is a sketch for the proposed Greenwood Avenue redevelopment project.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — It’s back to the drawing board for the redevelopment of the shuttered Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue.

The Board of Selectmen were supposed to decide Wednesday night to either approve or deny a proposal from Groom Construction to convert the former middle school into 28 luxury apartments or condominiums, with three garage outbuildings on the site.

Instead, the selectmen decided to act upon the advice of Town Counsel, and issue another Request for Proposals (RFP), which would give developers an option to submit a plan that conforms to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last spring, or for a Chapter 40B affordable housing project. Developers also have the option to present proposals for both options.

The board also decided to table the proposal from Groom, which could choose to respond to the new RFP. The town is already in the midst of pending litigation with Groom, which originally won approval for a 41-unit condominium project on the site five years ago. That suit has to be settled before the town can proceed with the sale of the property.

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The lawsuit stemmed from an initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned in Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning reverted back to single-family housing.

Selectman Peter Spellios said Town Counsel recommended reissuing the RFP because the neighbors had been clear in recent days that they were intending to again bring litigation against the town if it went forward with Groom’s proposal. A 40B project, in which about 25 percent of units would have to be affordable, would give the town protection against a potential spot zoning lawsuit from neighbors, as it is exempt from zoning, and therefore, harder to appeal, he said.

“I am genuinely saddened and disappointed that so many neighbors continue to be against this development,” Naomi Dreeben, board chairwoman, said at the meeting to room full of the property’s neighbors. “I understand that you’re very much against it. In the spring of 2014, when I joined the board, I voted to withdraw the appeal of the housing court decision.

“I believed that the building was too large for the space and that there had not been enough of a process to include the neighbors in the planning,” she continued. “I am very upset that this issue has created so much anger, frustration and aggravation for so many for so long. I really believe that protecting the town with this recommended two-proposal plan is really the best course of action at this point.”

A zoning change approved at Town Meeting last May allows for the construction of a single structure with 28 units on the site. Developers responding to the RFP released in September had to also adhere to an affordable housing component. Either 15 percent of the units constructed would have to be affordable, or developers could contribute to an affordable housing trust fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town.

The other option is for what could potentially be a much larger 40B affordable housing project. The state’s 40B housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to increase the stock of affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are defined as affordable. Less than 4 percent of Swampscott’s housing is considered affordable.

“Everyone’s expectation is and should be that a 40B project would come back larger,” Spellios said. “The question is, how large?”

Since the town owns the land, Spellios said the proposals would be solicited for a friendly 40B. He said town officials would enter into a land development agreement with a potential developer, and therefore, have some control over the property. If there is no legal settlement and Groom wins the lawsuit, the company could proceed with the 28 units zoning allows for or build a much larger 40B project, where the town would not have the same control.

Neighbors have expressed concern that a 28-unit structure would be out of character with the existing neighborhood. Many of those residents spoke to the board Wednesday, expressing their continued frustration that they weren’t being heard in the process.

Resident Robin Slavin said the whole process has been less than transparent. She said the redevelopment process has been a classic case of people thinking “as long as it’s not in my neighborhood.” She said as long as the structure doesn’t go in someone’s backyard or neighborhood, people don’t care as much as neighbors affected would.

“It could be a colossal elephant,” Slavin said.

Fiona Barrett, a Greenwood Avenue resident, said the potential structure would not be in her backyard, but her front yard. She said the process has been flawed from the beginning.

“We are here and we oppose this proposal,” she said.

Neighbors were also upset by what they believed was the selectmen giving the property away to Groom, before the vote was taken to reissue the RFP. Groom’s purchase price would have been zero dollars, with the company responsible for paying $1.3 million to demolish the building at no cost to the town. In lieu of not having any affordable housing, the company would contribute $150,000 to an affordable housing trust fund.

Ellen Winkler, a Greenwood Terrace resident, said giving away the property for zero dollars to settle a lawsuit would leave a bad taste in the neighbors’ mouths.
“We’re not going to sit back and say this is OK,” she said.

Selectman Donald Hause said the idea that the town was being blackmailed, pressured or extorted to settle the lawsuit was preposterous.

“We’re ultimately trying to act in the town’s best interest.” Hause said. “An uncontrolled 40B is not in anyone’s best interest.”

Neighbors had recently come together to start raising money on their own to demolish the building and reuse the space as a park.

“I understand the desire for open space and a park at this site,” Spellios said. “We all wish we could have more open space. I understand the sentiment of not wanting the Greenwood middle school to be replaced with a 28-unit building. What I do not agree with, however, is that somehow this 28-unit building that’s one half the size of the existing building is totally out of character with the neighborhood … For the last century, this building has sat there larger than a Home Depot.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

New harbormaster at the helm in Marblehead

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Marblehead’s new harbormaster, Mark Souza.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — Town officials have chosen Mark Souza as their next harbormaster, a position that’s essential in a waterfront community.

Souza, deputy harbormaster in Beverly for the past six years, was unanimously hired by the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night, following a brief job interview. Souza said he also served as an assistant harbormaster in Beverly.

“It would be the growth perspective,” Souza said of why he was interested in the job. “I wanted to become the harbormaster. I’m very excited. Lifelong goal.”

Souza said when he starts his new job he’ll first focus on customer service, his availability to the public and getting the lay of the land. He was born and raised in Tewksbury, but has always loved the North Shore.

Marblehead has a fantastic history, which makes it very attractive,” Souza said.

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The range for the full-time position is between $64,000 and $85,000, with contract negotiations and a decision on the start date pending, according to Town Administrator John McGinn. But he said the start date could potentially be mid-February.

Marblehead Harbormaster Webb Russell resigned several months ago to move onto other opportunities. He’s been the town’s harbormaster for five years. His last day is March 15, according to McGinn.

“Webb’s been a very good guy in that role, but I certainly respect his desire to move onto other challenges,” McGinn said.

Russell could not be reached for comment.

The harbormaster is responsible for managing the harbor enterprise fund and its budget, along with the administration, operation and revenue generation associated with the town’s harbors and related facilities or properties, according to a job description.

“I’d like to welcome you to Marblehead Harbor, the birthplace of the American Navy,” said Harry Christensen, a member of the board of selectmen, to Souza after his job interview.

Following Russell’s resignation, a selection committee was formed, made up of two members of the Harbors and Waters Board, the board that oversees the harbormaster, and McGinn.

The position was posted, with the search process conducted in November and December. Two rounds of interviews were conducted, and the selection committee collectively made the recommendation that Souza was the best person for the job, McGinn said. The harbors and waters board interviewed Souza on Tuesday and recommended him to the selectmen.

McGinn said Souza was selected because of his extensive experience in harbor management, his certification by the Massachusetts Harbormasters Association, his management style and his solid references from other local harbormasters.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

‘Political payback’ in Swampscott?

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Mary Ellen Fletcher was the only sitting member not reappointed to the Harbor and Waterfront Advisory Committee by the Board of Selectmen recently. The board said it was nothing personal, but she claims it is backlash from her questioning how town funds were spent for two waterfront projects.

“I saw it coming the day after the editorial in the Lynn Item came out,” Fletcher said, referring to an October editorial after she and two other harbor and waterfront advisory committee members brought up the waterfront projects’ spending. “I knew that this was going to happen. I didn’t know it for a fact. It was my gut feeling. The rumor out there was that it made the selectmen look bad.”

Fletcher, along with two other harbor and waterfront advisory committee members, Milton Fistel and Glenn Kessler, appeared before the selectmen last October to present two instances of how the town overspent on waterfront projects, harbor dredging and a proposed breakwater that haven’t moved past the study stage.

“I can’t help but think there was retribution,” said Kessler. “I just got the feeling this was political payback.”

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Kessler spoke in favor of Fletcher at last week’s board meeting, asking the selectmen to reconsider their decision not to reappoint her, calling her a conscientious person, hard worker and a real asset. Fletcher said she received a phone call about the decision from Naomi Dreeben, board chairwoman, the night before the meeting.

At last week’s board meeting, Peter Spellios, a selectman, proposed two courses of action related to the harbor and waterfront advisory committee. He suggested increasing membership from seven to nine members, which was approved unanimously.

Spellios also proposed reappointing six of the incumbents, not reappointing Fletcher and adding three new members. That recommendation was also approved, but split the board 3 to 2, with Laura Spathanas, vice-chair, and Patrick Jones voting against it.

Dreeben, Spellios and Donald Hause voted in favor, citing a potential conflict of interest as Fletcher started serving on the finance committee last spring. They said there could be a potential conflict if financial matters relating to the harbor and waterfront advisory committee came before the finance committee.

“I would support not reappointing her,” said Hause. “I want to stress that’s not personal or an indictment on her capabilities whatsoever.”

The three new members are Mark Wolinsky, Ulf Westhoven and Ryan Patz. The members reappointed were Jackson Schultz, Mounzer Aylouche, Fistel, Kessler, Jacqueline Kinney and Neil Rossman.

Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell, who is on paid administrative leave and is facing criminal charges for use of of an expired license plate, was also reappointed as ex-officio. Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta and the selectmen are actively looking for an interim harbormaster to replace Bithell.

Spathanas and Jones argued that Fletcher could recuse herself from any finance committee vote pertaining to financial matters with the harbor advisory committee. Jones said he might be more convinced if there was a history of the conflict happening.

“I’m not convinced there yet with this particular person because of the due diligence they do provide,” Jones said. “It’s someone who does put in a lot of time with things.”

Spathanas questioned why the selectmen would take away something Fletcher is passionate about, by taking her off the advisory committee. Despite those arguments, Dreeben said she was still concerned about a conflict of interest, but recognizes Fletcher’s value as a volunteer. The decision had nothing to do with the substance of the person, Spellios added.

“Mary Ellen Fletcher is knowledgeable and well-informed on issues,” Dreeben said when asked if the lack of reappointment was a political move related to the town spending questions. “We greatly value her work on the finance committee.”

Fletcher said the conflict argument didn’t make sense to her. She said if there was a finance committee vote pertaining the harbor advisory committee, it would be a no-brainer that she would recuse herself. The harbor committee also has no fiduciary responsibility, and simply acts as an advisory to the board of selectmen, she added.

“This is just politics,” Fletcher said. “This is not life or death or that serious. It’s just disappointing, that’s all. I have every intention of continuing to be a good volunteer in my community … I don’t think their judgment was in the best interest of the community. It’s just so crazy. If they thought there was any issue of conflict, why did it take them seven months to bring it up?”

Fletcher and Kessler said the incident may deter others from volunteering.

“To reappoint six of us and to not reappoint her, I thought that was both rude and disrespectful,” said Kessler. “You’re really doing a disservice not only to Ms. Fletcher but to the town … I have to say that just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Nahant homeowners hold back the flood

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT Many residents will see lower flood insurance bills thanks to the town’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Study Committee.

FEMA, a federal hazard prevention and response agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, accepted a letter of map revision (LOMR) that will change previously mapped flood zones.

As a result of the revisions, some homeowners will be removed from flood zones while others will get lower flood rates, said Enzo Barile, selectman and chairman of the committee.

“FEMA agreed with our analysis on the town and lowered the base flood elevation in some spots by 15 feet,” Barile said. “We all feel very good about it. It was a group effort and we did a good job. We got the funding for it and we pushed it through. FEMA really admitted that they made a mistake.”

The maps were completed in 2012 and rezoned two years later, changing the elevations and adding at least 50 houses to the flood zone. Barile and the committee believed the maps were incorrect and failed to accurately represent the flood risk for the different areas.

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The Board of Selectmen voted to fund the remapping of flood zones and have a LOMR written last fall.

Flood zones are categorized into either “velocity,” the highest risk for flooding, “A” or “X,” low risk for flooding.

Barile said the typical cost for food insurance is between $500 and $2,000 annually. But some residents are paying as much as $11,000, and for many, the insurance is unnecessary.

Woods Hole Group, a Falmouth-based international environmental, scientific and engineering consulting organization, was hired to write the revision letter.

The LOMR is FEMA’s modification to an effective flood insurance map or flood boundary and floodway map. They are generally based on the implementation of measures that affect or improve the hydrologic or hydraulic characteristics.

The town notified 52 households of the change. Once they respond that they’ve received notification, town employees can tell FEMA. Three months later, residents should see a difference on their bills, Barile said.

Barile will be at Nahant Town Hall on Friday, Jan. 13 and Jan. 20 from noon to 3 p.m. to review maps with residents and answer questions.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Swampscott residents see red over Greenwood

ITEM PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pictured is a sketch for the proposed Greenwood Avenue redevelopment project.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Neighbors are not in favor of the proposal from Groom Construction to convert the shuttered Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue into luxury apartments, with one resident even threatening a lawsuit.

“I feel like the selectmen have not been listening to us,” said Ellie Miller, who lives on Greenwood Avenue. “We are really frustrated. We are willing to go and fight for it. If it means taking the town to court, we are willing to do it.”

The town is already in the midst of pending litigation with Groom Construction, the Salem-based company that originally won approval for condominiums on the site five years ago. That suit has to be resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property.

The lawsuit stemmed from the initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned by Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning was reverted to single-family housing.

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For this project, Groom has proposed 28 luxury apartments or condominiums and three garage outbuildings on the site. A zoning change approved at Town Meeting last May allows for the construction of a single structure with 28 units on the site. Potential developers had to adhere to an affordable housing component. In lieu of not offering any affordable units, Groom is responsible for contributing $150,000 to an affordable housing trust fund, which would be used to contribute to affordable housing elsewhere in town.

Peter Kane, director of community development, presented Groom’s proposal at a community forum on Thursday to residents who packed the cafeteria at Swampscott High School.

“Is this the best we can do?” said Jeff Sprague, a Greenwood Terrace resident. “It’s an amazing piece of property and is this the best we can do? You’ve got to be kidding me … This is the same crappy solution that was determined illegal by a judge. You just made it smaller by a little bit. You just changed the zoning to make it work.”

Sprague argued that the neighbors were never consulted about another option, asking how from a design perspective, a massive structure would fit into a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Residents also questioned if the purchase price, which is zero dollars, with Groom responsible for paying $1.3 million to demolish the building, at no cost to the town, had any correlation to the lawsuit. Kane said the purchase price was related to the cost to remediate the property, with the cost for demolition allotted within Groom’s cost to develop the property.

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Drew Epstein, a Rockland Street resident, said he’s secured $73,000 in pledges after sending out an email Wednesday afternoon to about 40 people on the Greenwood Avenue neighborhood list, proposing reusing the former middle school property as parkland.

“I vote for a park,” Epstein wrote in an email. “Other than the ocean, we have so little open space in Swampscott, that a park is the best use of the land. It will cost $1 million to demolish the old school (maybe less). We should tear it down and make soccer fields or basketball courts, and maybe charge for off-street parking or boat storage in the winter. If 1,000 families contribute $1,000 each, we will have the necessary money to do the demolition.”

Epstein said at the forum that the pledges are to keep the property from becoming another development that the town does not need.

“It just does not fit in with the neighborhood,” he said about the proposal.

Groom was one of two respondents to the Request for Proposals released by town officials in September. The other developer, Charing Cross Realty Trust, officially withdrew its proposal Tuesday to build 11 single-family homes on the site. Phil Singleton, a trustee for Charing Cross, cited an uneasiness with a number of decisions made by town officials regarding the selection process as their reason for bowing out.

“There was another person interested in this property and he felt so maligned by the town and he felt everything he proposed was just sort of squashed down and he withdrew his proposal,” said Miller. “He just found it impossible to work with the town.”

The Board of Selectmen is tentatively set to vote on the remaining proposal in late January or early February.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus weighing special meeting

COURTESY PHOTO
Wheelabrator Vice President of Environmental, Health & Safety Jim Connolly shakes hands with with Wildlife Habitat Council Chairman Kevin Butt in this December 2016 photo.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The Alliance for Health & the Environment, a coalition of environmental organizations and public officials, will request a Special Town Meeting at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting as it continues to voice its opposition to the expansion of Wheelabrator Saugus, an energy-from-waste facility that provides disposal of up to 1,500 tons per day of waste from 10 Massachusetts communities.

The Alliance was founded in May 2016. Its focus is on raising awareness about impacts of waste incineration and associated ash disposal activities, reducing pollution associated with waste incineration and ash disposal, and promoting environmental justice for communities impacted by waste incineration and ash disposal, according to its website.

The Alliance is requesting the Board call a meeting to address three articles. If approved by Town Meeting, definitions will be added to the town’s zoning bylaws for “ash,” “landfill” and “ash landfill.” An addition would be made to the Environmental Performance Standards section that restricts the elevation of a landfill to 50 feet above mean sea level.

“No new landfill or new ash landfill shall be established in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and no existing landfill or ash landfill shall be expanded in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.”

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The third article would alter the Table of Use Regulations under Zoning By-Laws, Article V, Section 5.6, by adding the principal use “landfill/ash landfill” as a line item under Wholesale Transportation and Industrial.

Wheelabrator maintains that its facility will continue to meet standards.

“Having first received word of this proposal today, we are in the process of analyzing it and may have further comment when that process is complete,” said James Connolly, Wheelabrator Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety in a statement.” We would be surprised and disappointed if the Board of Selectmen were to entertain such a request given that Wheelabrator Saugus continues to follow the regulatory processes required by MEPA and the DEP, the authorities which govern the operations of our monofill.

“We are confident that we will continue to meet all applicable standards and are committed to our ongoing operations in Saugus,” Connolly said. “Wheelabrator Saugus remains an integral part of the region’s environmental infrastructure, providing Massachusetts communities and businesses with an environmentally sound way to convert post-recycled waste to clean energy.”

State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere), who chairs the Alliance, could not be reached for comment.

The group gathered 451 signatures, exceeding the minimum of 200 to call a Town Meeting, said Town Clerk Ellen Schena.

Tonight’s meeting will be at 7:30 at Saugus Town Hall.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Lynnfield selectman seeking re-election

COURTESY PHOTO
Philip Crawford, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, is seeking re-election to another four-year term

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — Citing long-term projects and renovations still in the works, Philip Crawford, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, is seeking re-election to another four-year term in April.

“We’re still doing a lot of work in town,” said Crawford, who said the need for major renovations to police and fire department buildings are upcoming projects he plans to focus on if re-elected. “You learn a lot as you go. It’s not something anyone ever learns 100 percent. As long as you make yourself available, you’ll do all right.”

In an email, Crawford clarified that he is running for the position of selectman and not specifically chairman of the board.

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Crawford named the defunct Perley Burrill gas station on Salem Street as an example of an issue he has struggled with for the past four years that will finally reach a conclusion with the site’s cleanup.

Continuing to improve athletic fields in town will be another priority, said Crawford, with plans for renovations to Jordan Park in the works pending funding and a potential vote at the spring Town Meeting.

He referenced the sale of historic Centre Farm as another long-term town project that is coming to an end and said that a request for proposal (RFP) will go out on the property later this week, initiating the sale process.  

“There are a lot of good things going on right now,” said Crawford.

In a letter announcing his candidacy, he said, “It has been an honor and privilege serving on the Board of Selectmen for the past four years and I look forward to serving the residents of Lynnfield for another term.”

The letter said Crawford has been a Lynnfield resident for more than 30 years and has children and grandchildren living in town. He served five years on the Finance Committee and has worked in finance for more than three decades.

He said the makeup of the board will go to a vote by its three members after the election results are tallied.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Leadership sets Swampscott up for 2017

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The town saw a changing of the guard in 2016 and opportunities to bring new life to old buildings.

The Board of Selectmen hired Sean Fitzgerald, a Peabody resident and town manager in Plaistow, N.H., as town administrator in December. Board members and Fitzgerald still have to negotiate the terms of his contract, including salary and a start date.

Former Town Administrator Thomas Younger left his post in mid-October after he accepted the same position in Stoneham in August. Gino Cresta, department of public works director, has been serving as interim town administrator since Younger’s departure. Town Accountant David Castellarin, who also serves as assistant town administrator, has been in charge of the budget during Cresta’s interim tenure.

Town officials have made filling vacant buildings a priority this past year. The former Machon Elementary School on Burpee Road will soon be transformed into senior affordable housing.

Construction is set to begin in 2019.

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B’nai B’rith Housing, a nonprofit and the developer selected for the project, plans to reuse the original 1920 building and demolish the 1963 addition. The town retains control of the property until the developer closes on the sale and the 99-year ground lease for $500,000 is executed. The purchase includes an additional $50,000 payment for off-site improvements.

The former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue is also slated for redevelopment.

Two developers responded to the town’s Request for Proposals (RFP). Groom Construction has proposed a single structure with 28 luxury apartments or condominiums. Charing Cross Realty Trust wants to build 11 single-family homes. The zoning change approved at Town Meeting last May allows for construction of a single structure with up to 28 units on the site, with developers required to adhere to an affordable housing component.

Groom originally won approval for a different condominium project on the site five years ago, and is in the midst of pending litigation with the town, which has to be resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property. The lawsuit stemmed from an initial zoning change for a multi-family unit approved at Town Meeting, which was overturned by Massachusetts Land Court, reverting zoning back to single-family housing.

The selectmen are tentatively scheduled to vote on one of the two proposals in late January or early February.

The former senior center on Burrill Street is set to be transformed into a community arts building. The board approved a reuse proposal from Reach Arts, a nonprofit group of artists and residents, last March. The building had been vacant since 2007.

Cresta said the group hasn’t moved in yet and the building needs hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations. He said the building either needs to be renovated or disposed of.

Cresta said the town also needs to find a suitable use for the train depot building on Railroad Avenue, which it leases from the MBTA. He said it’s been unoccupied for the past 20 years and the building is deteriorating.

The former Marian Court College, also known as White Court, could soon become an Orthodox Christian monastery with a brewery and cider house on site.

Fr. Andrew Bushell, a Marblehead native and executive chairman of St. Paul’s Foundation, a monastic institution of the monks of Mount Athos in Greece, has a purchase agreement in place with the Sisters of Mercy, the current owners of the property at 35 Littles Point Road. The school was closed in 2015, due to financial difficulties.

Cresta said on Thursday that Bushell has not closed on the property, and his deadline was by the end of December. Town officials have not been supportive of his plans for a brewery, arguing that zoning bylaws do not allow for one in the residential district where the former college is located.

Swampscott also saw a change in its garbage collector, after its former trash hauler, Hiltz Waste Disposal, informed town officials that they were stopping collection services with about a day’s notice. Officials had to scramble to find a new hauler, with a hasty procurement process leading to the hire of Republic Services. Hiltz later declared bankruptcy. Town Meeting had to allocate an additional $408,587 in November to make up the difference from the larger contract negotiated with Republic.

Artificial turf will soon be implemented at Blocksidge Field, a project that was in the discussion phase for many years. In May 2015, Town Meeting approved $1.65 million in construction costs for the turf field. An additional $300,000 was raised by the AllBlue Foundation. The $1.85 million project includes the new field, grandstands and a press box.

“We’re hoping to have it out to bid prior to the end of January and starting construction with any luck by end of April, beginning of May,” Cresta said.

The field should be ready for play by September 2017.

Cresta also highlighted the $440,000 Humphrey Street paving project from the Lynn line to the Fish House. The majority of the project has been completed, but paving also has to be finished from Millett Road to Shelton Road. Work began last May with the installation of 47 handicap ramps. Sidewalk curb extensions were designed to slow traffic, crosswalks were restriped and bike lanes were added.

Cresta said the public works department is going to be starting the rehabilitation of the sewer mains in the Stacey Brook area, with plans to put that out to bid by the end of January. Construction is expected to start in the spring.

Funds needed to clean up the sewage discharging into the ocean at King’s Beach from Stacey Brook at the Lynn-Swampscott line were allocated at Town Meeting in November.

Voters approved the $2 million needed for design and construction costs to eliminate the non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

Two separate outfalls have Lynn and Swampscott discharging right next to each other. Sewage is getting into the drainage pipe and going into the ocean.

The funds are needed to keep the town in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent decree, that requires the town to eliminate the pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

The funds would be for the first two parts of Phase 1 of the Stacey Brook project, which will include relining sewer mains and replacing sewer infrastructure that is more than 100 years old. The project includes four phases of work, that when adjusted for inflation will cost $10.7 million over eight years.

With the help of Peter Kane, director of community development, Cresta said all of the town’s streetlights were converted to LED lights, which was completed within the past month. The project was funded through Town Meeting in 2015, with $150,000 of the $350,000 paid for by a grant.

Looking ahead, Cresta said the town will be negotiating union contracts with police, fire personnel and clerical staff. All of those contracts expire on June 30, 2017.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Clear sailing for new Swampscott harbormaster

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The search for an interim harbormaster has hit another roadblock.

The Board of Selectmen was set to vote on an interim harbormaster at their Jan. 4 meeting, but the matter has been pushed until their Jan. 18 agenda.

“I had one candidate that I was ready to recommend to the board of selectmen and he called me this morning, and told me he had a change of heart and that he would not be accepting the position,” said Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works director, on Thursday. “So, back to square one. I’m hoping to have somebody to recommend to the board of selectmen for the meeting on the 18th.”

Cresta said the yearly stipend for the harbormaster position is $7,500.

Saugus is driven to help

Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell remains on paid administrative leave. He was arraigned in Lynn District Court in October on criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate.

Bithell last appeared in court for a pretrial hearing Dec. 12, which was continued until Jan. 23, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

Cresta and Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, said Bithell remains on administrative leave because waterfront towns are required by state law to officially have a harbormaster in place. Dreeben said he’ll be taken off leave when an interim harbormaster is selected.

Bithell is facing charges of attaching or concealing a registration plate, use of an uninsured trailer and use of an unregistered trailer. He was also issued a citation for misuse of an official number plate.

Dreeben said a permanent harbormaster will be appointed within the next year. For both the interim and permanent position, she said town officials are looking for someone who has boating experience, is responsible, fair, organized, has good interpersonal skills and is able to help people down at the waterfront.  

Bithell’s charges stem from an Aug. 15 complaint received by police about the misuse of a registration plate, assigned to a town-owned gray 2007 Load Rite utility trailer, according to a police report from Lynn District Court.

Photographs from June and August showed the same plate affixed to two different trailers, a Highlander brand pulled by Bithell’s truck and a ShoreLand’r trailer carrying a small power boat.

Bithell told police the ShoreLand’r trailer belonged to Assistant Harbormaster Mounzer Aylouche. He told police he used Aylouche’s trailer to move his boat in August without his knowledge, according to the police report.

Police located the town-owned trailer, along with an additional town-owned trailer, at Ryan Marine Services on Lincoln Avenue. Both were without plates. The owner of Ryan Marine said it was brought there inadvertently. Bithell was unaware it had been moved from the yard at the town of Swampscott water tower. The plate, which Bithell told police was located in the back of his truck, was returned to Town Hall, according to the police report.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott neighbors will have say on Jan. 5

ITEM FILE PHOTO
The former middle school on Greenwood Avenue.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents will soon have a chance to weigh in on two proposals, one for luxury apartments, the other for single family homes at the site of the former middle school on Greenwood Avenue.

Peter Kane, director of community development, will present the proposals the town received from Groom Construction and Charing Cross Realty Trust at a community forum Thursday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Swampscott High School cafeteria.

“The town’s been focused on reuse of its vacant buildings over the past few years,” Kane said in a statement. “We’re now moving forward to reinvigorate those properties like the Machon School on Burpee Road, which will soon become affordable senior housing. Swampscott has spent a number of years discussing and pondering what to do with the various shuttered properties, but now’s the action phase to make those ideas reality.”

Groom Construction, a Salem-based company, submitted a proposal for 28 luxury apartments or condominiums and three garage outbuildings on the site.

The other developer, Charing Cross Realty Trust, based in Peabody, has proposed constructing 11 single-family homes on the site.

Groom originally won approval for a different condominium project on the site five years ago, and is in the midst of pending litigation with the town, which has to be resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property. The lawsuit stemmed from the initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned by Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning was reverted back to single-family housing.

The zoning change approved at Town Meeting last May allows for the construction of a single structure with 28 units on the site. Potential developers had to adhere to an affordable housing component. The zoning change requires that at least 15 percent of the units be affordable, or a builder could contribute to an affordable housing trust fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town.

Town officials said respondents to the RFP were encouraged to develop proposals that serve a residential purpose, adhere to a scale appropriate for the site, are consistent with the neighborhood characteristics and that comply with the zoning.

The Review Committee, made up of Gino Cresta, the acting town administrator, Kane, and two selectmen, have been analyzing the proposals and meeting with the respondents. The committee will later make its recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, who are tentatively set to vote on one of the two proposals in late January or early February.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Saugus taking stock of housing

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS Residents can get a look at the town’s finalized housing production plan tonight at Town Hall, before it’s submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

“The housing production plan public meeting will give community members a chance to see how the town hopes to increase housing options for current and future residents in a way that (responds) to the changing economic and demographic landscapes of the town and North Shore,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree.

Walking toward progress along Saugus River

The plan was developed over a series of public forums to meet the need for affordable and market rate housing, and reach the state’s mandatory 10 percent affordable housing goal.

It outlines strengths and weaknesses within the town’s housing market and presents strategies for achieving a healthy mix of housing types and tenure options moving forward.

Saugus received a $20,000 state grant to develop the plan. About 7 percent, or 749 units, are affordable in town, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Chapter 40B, the state’s affordable housing law, requires 10 percent of a community’s housing be affordable. If not, developers are allowed to override local zoning and build denser developments.

Meanwhile, according to Karina Milchman, regional planner and housing specialist for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), one third of all Saugus households are low-income.

The public meeting follows two public forums in May and October, during which residents participated in various brainstorming activities with the MAPC and contributed to the final plan.
It will require Planning Board and Board of Selectmen approval. Once adopted, it will be submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and will include a short presentation followed by a question and answer period.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Lynnfield will serve new rules on alcohol 

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — The Board of Selectmen approved a new set of regulations for liquor license holders at a meeting on Monday and appointed three liquor enforcement officers.

“We actually don’t have a liquor policy right now. Nothing substantial,” said Town Administrator James M. Boudreau. “This puts them on notice of what their behavior is and gives penalties.”

Police Chief David J. Breen, who was one of the appointed enforcement officers, attended the meeting and presented the board with the proposed regulation changes.

According to the new rules and regulations, any infraction may be grounds for action by the board including the modification, suspension, revocation, non-renewal or cancellation of a license.

The guidelines for action suggest that a first violation be treated with a letter of reprimand and/or suspension of the license up to three days. Liquor closing hours of 11 p.m. for 10 days may also be imposed.

The second violation is penalized by suspension of the liquor license from three to 10 days and liquor closing hours of 11 p.m. for 30 days.

Three violations are cause for suspension from 10 to 30 days with liquor closing hours of 11 p.m. to be enforced for 30 days. A fourth violation results in the revocation of the license.

Church meets state in Swampscott

Breen explained the changes as a way of letting license holders know what’s at stake.

The changes included harsher penalties for serving a minor, with three violations leading to a license revocation when the sale or service of alcohol to underage drinkers is involved.

Boudreau recalled an establishment that had its liquor license suspended for two weekends during NFL playoff season.

“It’s a big hurt. That’s how seriously this board takes underage drinking,” said Boudreau.

Board member Richard Dalton questioned the severity of the penalties and asked what would happen if a license holder with a long history of responsibility wound up before the board for an infraction.

“These are guidelines,” said Boudreau. “The board still has the right to make decisions based on individual cases. You maintain the discretion to do less or to do more.”


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Zoning issues brewing on Swampscott waterfront

COURTESY PHOTO
St. Paul’s Foundation’s Fr. Andrew Bushell has a vision for the Marian Court property.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Tension is brewing between town officials and Fr. Andrew Bushell over the planned business portion of his intended monastic reuse of the former Marian Court College, also known as White Court.

Bushell, a Marblehead native and executive chairman of St. Paul’s Foundation, a monastic institution of the monks of Mount Athos in Greece, a church, not a nonprofit, intends to turn Marian Court into a Orthodox Christian monastery. He has a purchase agreement in place with the Sisters of Mercy, the current owners of the property at 35 Littles Point Road. They closed the college in June 2015 because of financial difficulties, but Bushell has not closed on the property.

Bushell said his decision to complete the purchase of the Marian Court property hinges on being able to build a small monastic brewery and cider house on the site, inside what is now the Mercy Center. Plans also include establishing a warehouse in Lynn or Revere, which would be used for storage and larger deliveries.

“I would like to clarify that the only way we’re going to proceed with the purchase of the property is with a brewery,” Bushell said at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting. “That’s not any doubt in our mind … It’s our understanding that we do this by right. It’s our understanding that any religious organization has the right to support itself.”

Town officials argue that zoning bylaws do not allow for a brewery in the residential district where the former college is located. The only uses allowed in that district without having to obtain a special permit are a single-family dwelling, a religious use, educational use, child care facility, agricultural use or facilities for the sale and production of dairy products from June to September, according to Peter Kane, director of community development.

Kane said a brewery is not identified as an allowed use in Swampscott, and according to the town’s zoning bylaws, if a use is not specified, then it’s not allowed. He said Bushell could argue that the brewery is for a religious use, but he would still have to go through the town’s building inspector. Depending on the building inspector’s determination, whether the brewery falls under a religious exemption or doesn’t, Bushell or the town has the right to appeal that decision, Kane said.

“Because it’s a residential district, I don’t believe that manufacturing of goods is allowed on the property,” Kane said.

Selectmen Peter Spellios and Donald Hause agreed. Hause said he doesn’t think the brewery would follow the Dover Amendment exemption, the law that exempts agricultural, religious and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions.

“I don’t believe it’s a use that’s appropriate for the property,” Hause said.

Spellios said it was his belief that a brewery should not be in that neighborhood.

Bushell argued that the Dover Amendment would apply to the brewery. He said it’s traditional for monks to support themselves by the work of their hands. Work and prayer is their motto, he added. In Marblehead, for instance, he supports a small monastic house through the Marblehead Salt Company, which was founded when he returned to the town five years ago.

The salt company provides for the group’s basic needs and allows them to donate to the community and the larger world, he said in a previous interview. The funds are sufficient for a small house, he previously added, but the White Court property is larger and more expensive to maintain, with money also needed to support the group’s mission to help its Middle Eastern brothers.

“It’s very traditional for monastics to brew beer,” Bushell said. “We’ve been making beer for well over 1,000 years. It’s typically how we support many of our communities and also allows us to provide for charitable works.”

Bushell said he thought that a small brewery in the monastic tradition would be most suitable to repair the property, restoring it to the jewel it once was and provide for the group’s charitable works around the world.

He plans for no more than 18 full-time residents at White Court should the sale be completed. There are also plans to repurpose a room for a small chapel.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Lynnfield businesses seeing red over taxes

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — Several business owners spoke out against the high tax bills coming from property values at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. The board voted to maintain a 1.184 tax rate shift, meaning residential and commercial tax classifications are set to stay close to their rates in fiscal year 2016; residential valuation rates moved from 86.21 to 86.41 percent and commercial rates went down from 11.92 to 11.28 percent.

While the tax levy itself isn’t moving much, a number of business owners complained about the increases.

Restaurateur Jeffrey Gates, one of the owners of Gaslight Lynnfield, said he received a tax bill for approximately $76,000, a larger sum than what he pays for properties in Boston.

“The town of Lynnfield is our host … but it’s caught us completely off guard,” said Gates, who wanted to know why the property was so highly assessed. “These numbers are what box stores can afford to pay.”

ALSO: Waterfront development backed up by questions

Assessing Manager Raymond E. Boly said Lynnfield splits its rate between commercial and residential taxes, making it one of the few small towns in the state to share the tax burden equally between classes.

Boly said the practice is more typical of larger communities and that the town adopted the split rate in 2004 to compensate for residential values that were rising at a faster rate than commercial properties at the time.

“We have a disagreement about value,” said Tom Desimone, a partner at WS Development, the firm that developed MarketSteet.

Desimone said the firm presented the town with an economic impact statement eight years ago that estimated $1.5 million in gross revenue for the town. He said MarketStreet is now paying the town $3.5 million in taxes.

According to statistics provided at the meeting, the average value of a retail store on Market Street went up from $190,503,900 to $206,081,600 over the past year.

“We’re providing more benefit to the town than we thought we would be able to. To some extent, I’m glad to do that,” said Desimone, who has begun an appeal process in an attempt to bring tenant bills down. “We’ll figure it all out and come to some sort of solution.”

“We’re pretty low for commercial tax rates,” said board member Christopher Barrett. “Residents also bear the burden.”

The same statistics from the meeting listed the average residential value in town for 2017 at $618,400.

Commercial tax rates in town were lower than in surrounding communities, set at $17.68 in 2016 as opposed to Wakefield’s rate of $27.03 and Peabody’s rate of $24.19.

Philip Crawford, chairman of the board, said that the money from MarketStreet is all part of one big tax levy, some of which has gone into the town operating budget. He said it was especially beneficial in refilling reserve accounts that were depleted during the years of the recession.  

Administrator search extended in Swampscott

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Swampscott Town Hall.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents will have to wait about a month longer than expected for a permanent town administrator.

Initially, the Board of Selectmen gave a timeline of a mid-January start date for Swampscott’s next town administrator, after they would have selected a candidate from finalists presented to them from the screening committee on Nov. 2. An offer from the board was expected in mid-November.

But Naomi Dreeben, board chairwoman, said the Town Administrator Screening Committee told her they need more time.

Don Pinkerton, chairman of the five-member screening committee, said the start date for a new administrator is potentially mid-February. He said three finalists will be recommended to selectmen by the beginning of December.

The selectmen will then be in charge of hiring one of the candidates. The person chosen, if he or she accepts the job, would have 90 days notice to give their employer.

Pinkerton said there have been more than 50 applicants. He said the committee decided to do more “due diligence” and bring people in for in-person interviews. Phone interviews were conducted before that.

“We felt it was important to get it right, so we decided to push it back and the selectmen agreed with that,” Pinkerton said. “We’ve got some excellent candidates, some really qualified people, so we just want to make sure we get the right one.”

Pinkerton and Dreeben said that the person selected would potentially be serving the town for a long time, so they felt it was important not to rush the process and be thorough.

Pinkerton said the committee is looking for someone who has a good vision for the town, good leadership skills, and a fair amount of experience with the ability to bring people together.

Dreeben added that the ideal candidate is someone who could take the initiative on the town’s priority projects and will have a lot of energy in terms of follow-through and implementation. She said the person has to be a good communicator and leader. A strong grasp on budgetary processes is also necessary and the candidate has to be able to work with the schools.

Gino Cresta, department of public works director, has been serving as the interim town administrator since mid-October, when former Town Administrator Thomas Younger left for the same job in Stoneham. Town Accountant David Castellarin, who also serves as assistant town administrator, has been in charge of the budget during the interim tenure.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott having a $2M pipe dream

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — A large portion of Monday’s special Town Meeting is expected to be devoted to discussing funds needed to clean up sewage discharging onto King’s Beach from Stacey Brook.

Town Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Swampscott High School.

There, town officials will be asking members to vote to allocate $2 million for the purpose of funding design and construction costs to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

The funds would be used to clean up the sewage discharging into the ocean at King’s Beach at the Lynn-Swampscott line. Two separate outfalls have Lynn and Swampscott discharging right next to each other. Sewage is getting into the drainage pipe and then goes into the ocean.

Funds are needed to keep the town in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent decree, that requires the town to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system. Last June, the town submitted its plan to the EPA to complete the first phase of construction work in 2017, according to town documents.

“I think the Stacey Brook article will get the most discussion only because it’s seeking the most appropriation,” said Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works (DPW) director.

Cresta said he expects Town Meeting members to want some explanation of the expenses of the project and appropriation needed going forward. He said that Phase 1 of the Stacey Brook project includes four phases of work, which when adjusted for inflation, will cost $10.7 million over eight years. Town Meeting members will be asked to approve $2 million every other year for the project.

The first two parts of Phase 1 of the project will include relining sewer mains and replacing sewer infrastructure that is more than 100 years old.

The DPW plans to procure a contractor for construction this winter, with work expected to begin by next spring, according to a presentation from Cresta at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting. But he said that can’t be done without the funds being approved at the special Town Meeting.

A two-thirds vote is needed to pass the appropriation, with the seven other articles on the Town Meeting warrant only requiring a majority.

Another article that might warrant discussion includes one centered around asking voters to approve $128,750 for the purpose of redesigning beach entrances to alleviate flooding.

The town was awarded a $103,000 reimbursement grant from Coastal Zone Management, which requires a 25 percent matching contribution from Swampscott. Despite the town only being responsible for $25,750 for the project, the total cost of the redesign has to be approved by Town Meeting members. Coastal Zone Management requires design completion by end of next June, according to town documents.

The Finance Committee did not recommend this article, but the selectmen did.

Selectman Peter Spellios said at a recent board meeting that he disagreed with the finance committee, and that it would be a “black mark” for Swampscott to receive the grant and then turn it down, if the appropriation was not approved. He said it would make the town less competitive for grants in the future.

Other major funds that Town Meeting members will be asked to appropriate is an additional $408,587 for trash and recyclable collections. The funds would make up the difference from the larger contract the town negotiated with their new trash hauler, Republic Services, after their former company, Hiltz Waste Disposal, abruptly ended garbage collection service on Aug. 31. Republic Services was hastily hired a day later. Hiltz has since declared bankruptcy.

With a special Town Meeting, Cresta said there could possibly be a quorum issue. To start the process on Monday, about 160 members need to show up.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus looks at pet project

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SAUGUS — There’s some paws for concern after the owners of Red Dog Pet Resort & Spa had their plans temporarily halted for a proposed outdoor area on the roof where their canine guests could relieve themselves.

The Red Dog owners won approval from the Board of Selectmen earlier this year to operate a two-story shop just off Route 1 in Saugus. The resort would feature a swimming pool, three indoor play spaces and two outdoor spaces. It’s big enough to house 150 dogs and 25 cats. The resort would also feature daycare and overnight boarding services, along with grooming services and other spa services.

The owners operate five other locations, one in Boston and four in the Cincinnati area.

Eric Schneider, president of the operation, said plans were to open the resort in the spring in Saugus, but not getting immediate approval from the selectmen for the roof area would delay construction and opening by three months.

He went before the board on Wednesday for modification of the special permit the business received over the summer. He said approval of the roofing area for bathroom use would be the last piece needed to get their building permit.

Schneider proposed building eight-foot block walls on the roof that would look exactly like the existing building, with brick on the front and painted red block on the side. There would be no roof on the walls. He said dogs can jump over six-foot walls, but not eight. Ten to 15 dogs would be brought outside to relieve themselves at a time, and wouldn’t be caged but would have individual chain link fence runs.

He said the structure would be for dogs that are guests on the second floor. First-floor dogs would have their own area to go outside. The dogs would be outside for three to five minutes and at staggered times, so when the first dog is going in, the last dog in the group would be brought out. They get four potty breaks a day and their feces would be picked up afterwards and sprayed into the drain, which goes into the regular sewer system, Schneider said. Foaming and spraying chemicals kills the smell, he added.

“The idea of this is to mirror their home life while they’re at their resort,” said Alyssa Regalia, executive director. “By taking them outside into an enclosure, they can relieve themselves and go back inside to eat, sleep and play.”

The selectmen raised concerns over noise from barking and fear that the dogs could jump over the wall off the roof.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said his concern was that stormwater and rain would go onto the roof in areas that collect the elimination from animals. From a plumbing standpoint, he said the town can’t have stormwater going into the sewage system. He said the owners would need to have a plan approved by the Department of Public Works before the proposal could go forward.

Debra Panetta, board chairwoman, said she was not comfortable voting to approve the permit modification.

“The idea of putting dogs on the roof is frightening to me,” she said. “Some of these dogs have springs. They jump. That, along with the noise concerns me.”

To receive the modification, Panetta said there had to be at least four votes in favor from the five-member board. When Scott Brazis, vice-chair, also indicated that he might not vote in favor, Mark Mitchell, another board member, said that he didn’t think it was right that someone has a great idea for a business and now the selectmen would be potentially altering what they would be doing.

“This is a great opportunity for our town to have another great facility here for dogs,” Mitchell said. “It’s almost like we’re not advocating for these businesses.

If the board voted the roof area modification down, it could not be brought before them for another two years. Instead, Schneider was given an opportunity to withdraw his application, which he did. He offered the selectmen an opportunity to visit the Boston site of the business to see how a similar roof bathroom area would work, which they accepted, after approving his withdrawn application. The owners now have to reapply for the roof structure and seek approval again from the board at a later date.

If the roof bathroom area is not approved, Schneider and Regalia wouldn’t say for certain that they would be leaving town and looking for a new location. But they said it would be “disheartening.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

9th Essex likes its representation

PHOTO BY NICOLE GOODHUE BOYD
Donald Wong holds onto his granddaughter, Ava Myers, 5, before entering the room to celebrate his re-election Tuesday at Kowloon.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SAUGUS — Coming off a contentious race, state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) called for unity and healing after winning re-election.

Wong declared victory at the Kowloon Restaurant shortly before 9 p.m. even as results in the 9th Essex race continued to come in.

Wong defeated Democratic nominee Jennifer Migliore.

Wong received 12,766 votes to Migliore’s 10,541, according to unofficial results from city and town clerks from Lynn, Saugus and Wakefield.

Wong lost Ward 1, precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn, but handily won Wakefield and Saugus precincts. The Saugus Town Clerk’s office reported Wong received 6,451 votes to Migliore’s 4,790. In Wakefield, he won 4,753 to 3,656. In Lynn, Wong received 1,742 votes to Migliore’s 2,005.

Wong said Migliore called him at 9 p.m. to congratulate him and concede the race.

“It feels very good to win,” said Wong. “But now is the time to heal and bring our parties together for the good of the community. We have to look toward the future. The past is the past.”

Wong said he wanted to thank Migliore for wanting to be active in the community.

Migliore, 25, confirmed the concession and said “I am incredibly proud of the campaign we ran. We spoke with over 15,000 constituents and raised awareness about key issues. These are not the results we had hoped for, but I am confident that the conversations that we have started will benefit generations for years to come.”

Wong, 64, has held his seat since 2011. Before that, he served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen. He has lived in Saugus for 40 years and is a third generation business owner of Kowloon.

Wong said he wanted to thank everyone who came out to vote and supported him.

“I’m glad that the election is over now so I can put 100 percent of my attention into my district again,” he said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus rep candidates in final faceoff

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
Democrat Jennifer Migliore and Republican State Rep. Donald Wong answer questions at the Daily Item-sponsored state rep forum at Saugus Town Hall auditorium on Thursday. (Check back with the Item for a video recording of the debate).

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — At Thursday night’s debate between State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and challenger Jennifer Migliore, the candidates faced off with just days until election day.

Supporters filled the Town Hall Auditorium, Wong supporters wearing T-shirts that read “So Wong, it’s right” and Migliore fans came equipped with cow bells for a more boisterous applause. Hosted by the Item, the forum offered candidates the opportunity to sound off on everything from experience to Wheelabrator Saugus to their views on the ballot questions and presidential candidates.

“Please consider my opponent’s background,” said Wong, who added that Migliore’s includes playing softball and being a staff member for a politician. “She has no experience working with any budget other than her own. I pay taxes. I balance budgets. I have a track record of proven leadership. I have a 100 percent voting record at the State House. I cross party lines for the best results.”

But in working with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who she said was also new to his position at the time, Migliore said she got extensive experience helping veterans and families, like those who live in the district.

“I’m 25 years old and I’m proud of the experience that I have,” Migliore said. “I started working for a freshman congressman. We solved over 800 constituent cases. I worked for a freshman and we got an incredible amount of work done. Don’t tell me that being a freshman is a negative thing. I view it as a positive thing. We need new blood, new energy, new ideas.”

The two candidates vying for the seat Wong has held since 2011 took the opportunity to hold each other’s feet to the fire with each rebuttal.

Wong, 64, served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen. He has lived in Saugus for 40 years and is a third generation business owner of the Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1.

Migliore is a Saugus native. In her former job as a district representative for Moulton, she served as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 9th Essex District encompasses precincts 1, 2, 4-9 in Saugus; precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 in Wakefield; and Ward 1 precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn.

When asked about what they did to try to prevent the closure of  Union Hospital, Wong said he was the first official to talk to the attorney general about saving it. He hopes to see the building used as a veterans hospital and for emergency services. Migliore said she attended Save Union Hospital meetings and worked with Sen. Thomas McGee and state representatives Dan Cahill and Brendan Crighton, all of whom have endorsed her.

Migliore said part of the reason she is running is she is not satisfied with the job Wong has done.

We need a state rep that is focused on Beacon Hill, instead of Saugus politics,” she said. “Donald Wong was heavily involved in the recall (election of the Board of Selectmen). There is clearly a divide between current Board of Selectmen and Donald Wong.”

But Wong argued that he supports all local officials in Saugus and that nothing would get done if both parties didn’t work together.

The recall was over a year-and-a-half ago,” said Wong. “We need to move on. There is an open line between my office and the town manager, I’m always available to the officials.”

Both candidates said residents’ health comes before money when asked about the financial contributions Wheelabrator Saugus makes to the town.

Wong said the most recent study found there were no adverse health effects as a result of the facility’s operations, but added that other reports have shown mixed results. He wants to look at the big picture and get to the root cause of common health problems, including plane fumes, General Electric, Wheelabrator and other pollutants.

Migliore called the number of miscarriages and residents suffering from cancer “uncanny,” adding that if she held Wong’s seat, she would have co-sponsored Rep. RoseLee Vincent’s bill opposing an expansion to the ash landfill.

“They pay less than $100,000 in taxes for a very large area,” she said. “I do not see $100,000 as making or breaking the town budget.”

Both were against the legalization of the sale and use of recreational marijuana and funding for additional charter schools. Migliore said she supports her party’s candidate for president; Wong only said he is disappointed with his choices.

The debate was moderated by Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Saugus state rep forum tonight

SAUGUS — The Daily Item will sponsor a candidates forum Thursday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall auditorium with the two state representative candidates whose names will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Democrat Jennifer Migliore and Republican state Rep. Donald Wong will answer questions asked by Daily Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, who will serve as forum moderator. Candidates will deliver opening and closing statements.
Migliore, a Saugus native, has experience working for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton. Wong is a three-term legislator and 41-year town resident who has served on Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen.
Voters in the 9th Essex District including Lynn Ward 1, Precincts 1 and 2 residents; Saugus Precinct 1, 2, 4-9 residents and voters living in Wakefield Precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 will vote in the Nov. 8 final election.

Saugus State Rep forum Thursday

SAUGUS — The Daily Item will sponsor a candidates forum Thursday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall auditorium with the two state representative candidates whose names will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Democrat Jennifer Migliore and Republican state Rep. Donald Wong will answer questions asked by Daily Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, who will serve as forum moderator. Candidates will deliver opening and closing statements.  

Migliore, a Saugus native, has experience working for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton. Wong is a three-term legislator and 41-year town resident who has served on Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen.

Voters in the 9th Essex District including Lynn Ward 1, Precincts 1 and 2 residents; Saugus Precinct 1, 2, 4-9 residents and voters living in Wakefield Precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 will vote in the Nov. 8 final election.

Lynnfield working to keep history alive

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The town of Lynnfield is placing historic restrictions on the Centre Farm property at 567 Main St. in preparation for putting the farm up for sale.

BY LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — The Lynnfield Historical Commission wants to make sure Centre Farm retains its historic facade.

Steve Todisco, chairman of the commission, presented the Board of Selectmen with revised restrictions regarding the property on Wednesday.

When the commission voted on the revised regulations on Oct. 18, they originally asked for oversight regarding any future changes made to front and side facades of the house.

After reviewing the restrictions, however, the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) wanted to take them a step further and include oversight to changes made on the rear facade as well.

“We really look forward to the possibility of a new owner,” said Todisco. “It’s just going to be a great thing to see it preserved.”

Todisco added that there’s a mural in the dining room that the town will have access to in the event that the building is sold. He said it depicts a landscape scene with characters and is so large that the individual vignettes will have to be carefully cut out and removed.

Located at 567 Main St. across from Town Common, Centre Farm was built by the Rev. Joseph Mottey in 1785 and rebuilt in 1810. It’s one of the oldest buildings in town.

The town purchased the 7,167-square-foot home for $1.4 million in 2014 to prevent it from falling into the hands of a private buyer and possibly being demolished or redeveloped.

Town Meeting voted to authorize the board to sell or lease the Centre Farm property back in April.

Philip Crawford, chairman of the board, said that because the final draft of the revised regulations has been approved, it will now go back to the MHC for review. The board can then issue a type of bidding solicitation called a request for proposal (RFP), initiating the sale process.

Town Administrator James M. Boudreau said that the property will likely be ready to go on the market by early December. He said that as of the last appraisal, the minimum bid for Centre Farm was set at $900,000.

Money talks in Swampscott

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Swampscott Town Hall.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Trash, pollution and flooding highlight a special Town Meeting, set for next month.

Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at Swampscott High School, which includes eight articles for members to vote on.

Voters will be asked to approve an additional $408,587 for trash and recyclable collections. The additional funds are needed in the aftermath of the town’s former trash hauler, Hiltz Waste Disposal, abruptly ending trash collection service on Aug. 31.

This led to officials quickly hiring Republic Services a day after Hiltz cut services. But Hiltz had been budgeted at a lower amount for trash and recycling collection, said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. Hiltz has since declared bankruptcy.

“We just need to make up that difference and we need Town Meeting approval for that,” she said.

Town Meeting members will also be asked to vote to allocate $2 million for the purpose of funding design and construction costs to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta said the funds are needed to clean up the sewage discharging into the ocean at King’s Beach from Stacey Brook at the Lynn-Swampscott line. There are two separate outfalls with Lynn and Swampscott discharging right next to each other onto the beach. Sewage is getting into the drainage pipe and then goes into the ocean.

The funds are to keep the town in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent decree that requires Swampscott to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system. Last June, the town submitted a plan to the EPA to complete the first phase of construction work in 2017, according to town documents.

Cresta said the town plans to go out to bid by next spring, with a purpose of getting a contractor for the clean-up.

The other major funds Town Meeting members will be asked to approve is $128,750 for the purpose of alleviating flooding at Swampscott beach entrances, Cresta said.
Dreeben added that the funds would be for the redesign of beach entrances to protect the coastal area from flooding.

The town was recently awarded a $103,000 reimbursement grant from Coastal Zone Management for the project. The grant requires a 25 percent matching contribution from the town, which would make Swampscott responsible for $25,750, but Town Meeting members have to approve the total cost of redesign, according to town documents.

Coastal Zone Management requires that design be completed by the end of next June.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus rep foes trade insults

By Gayla Cawley

SAUGUS As the Nov. 8 election draws closer, state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and challenger Jennifer Migliore, a Democrat, have been trading insults by their respective campaign’s press correspondence.

“Unlike my opponent, I am running to do a job, not to get a job,” said 64-year-old Wong in an email sent to the local media. “This first debate provided the residents of Saugus, Wakefield and Lynn with a clear choice between my ability to deliver what we need to succeed and my opponent’s lack of experience and misinformation at many levels.”

Wong’s statement was part of a correspondence where he fact checked 25-year-old Migliore, based on her remarks from their first debate in Wakefield last Thursday.

Wong, a three-term legislator and 41-year Saugus resident, is vying to remain the 9th Essex District representative. He has been endorsed by the Saugus Republican Town Committee and Saugus police unions. He has served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen.

Migliore, a Saugus native, most recently served as district representative for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). She beat Wakefield resident Saritin Rizzuto in September to win the Democratic primary.

This week, she was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Migliore worked as an intern for Warren’s 2012 election campaign and then went on to intern in her Washington, D.C. office. The senator called Migliore “the type of fighter that we need more of on Beacon Hill.”

She also received a vote of confidence from Elizabeth Marchese, a Saugus School Committee member, who wrote that Migliore has made public education a pillar of her campaign.

On Monday, Migliore and her team campaigned with Moulton and Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, the Democrat running for Essex County Sheriff.

“After knocking on Saugus doors with her, it’s clear that people want a change at the State House,” said Moulton in a statement.

But Wong’s campaign is not impressed, fact-checking Migliore’s debate performance. He questioned her comment on the lack of infrastructure investment and transportation improvement that has come to the district, citing the Walnut Street overpass in Saugus.

According to his campaign, Wong has secured money for the repair of the Walnut Street overpass as part of $1 million in funding through the 2014 transportation bond bill. Other infrastructure improvements the campaign cited included the Saugus Main Street overpass and nearly $1 million in road and bridge repairs to Wakefield as part of the 2013 Chapter 90 funding.

Migliore and her team attacked Wong’s statement during the Wakefield debate when he “falsely claimed to have co-sponsored a bill” with state Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere), which aims to prevent the Wheelabrator ash landfill in Saugus from expanding.

“Donald Wong either knowingly misled his constituents or he doesn’t know his own record,” said Migliore in a statement. “Regardless, he inaccurately portrayed his position on Wheelabrator, one of Saugus residents’ top concerns. We deserve a leader who will stop Wheelabrator’s planned expansion and clearly Donald Wong doesn’t even have a grasp of the issue.”

Wong responded in his own campaign correspondence.

“First, I would like to address my own misstatement regarding the Wheelabrator ash landfill,” he said in a statement. “In my eagerness to respond to a question from the moderator, I incorrectly identified which piece of legislation I supported to limit an expansion of the facility. My office has taken numerous steps to ensure that the health and safety of our residents comes first, including an ongoing discussion with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a site analysis.”

The Daily Item has scheduled a 9th Essex debate on Nov. 3 at Saugus Town Hall.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Controversy developing in Saugus

The end of the Bellevue Heights project is in sight after more than 17 years with the new deadline set for June 30, 2017. (Photo by Paula Muller)

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — More than 17 years later, the Bellevue Heights project has an end date.

Developer John Mallon proposed a timeline for the remaining components of the project, with a deadline for completion of June 30, 2017. The Planning Board is willing to work with Mallon, but others are losing patience.

“Why do we have to give him until June 30?” said Scott Brazis, a member of the Board of Selectmen. “I think these people have suffered long enough. Give the guy until the middle of May. Hold his feet to the fire and get the job done.”

Brazis indicated that once the deadline passes, Mallon can be fined about $500 per day until the job is done.

“Come June 30, when we don’t have any work done up there, we’re all going to be back here again, arguing,” he said.

Original plans outlined 17 years ago included a 28-lot subdivision with single-family homes. Since then, 21 houses have been built and are occupied.

A retaining wall collapsed in 2008. Three houses were sold and moved to different lots, but the wall remains unfinished at the site, with Procopio Construction Company working to repair it.

The board previously asked Mallon to complete the project by Sept. 15. The deadline came and went, and work remains unfinished.

At the board’s Oct. 20 meeting, Mallon reported the retaining wall is 90 percent completed. Curbing has been installed on both sides of the road, but not repaired on the east side. The sidewalks are not finished and the jersey barriers have not been moved to their proper positions.

New signs with the proper spelling of Hitching Hill Road need to be installed. The road needs to be paved, nine trees are yet to be planted, and a grass strip between the sidewalk and the street needs to be installed.

To repair the wall, the construction company is drilling into the cliff and inserting 10- to 15-foot spikes into the rock. Each block locks into the row below, above, and next to it, said Peter Rossetti, chairman of the Planning Board.

“From what I understand, it’s a great engineering project,” he said.

Mallon said he would inform the panel of specific construction dates on April 1, but the board negotiated to move the update to March 1.

He will be held responsible for installing necessary fencing and having the jersey barriers in place by Nov. 17.

During the winter months, Mallon will maintain the roadway by plowing, sanding and salting.

All other work will be completed by the end of June. Should he miss any of the deadlines, a surety bond of $50,000 will be seized to finish the work. Mallon estimates it will cost about $65,000.

“We’re not opposed to the extension,” said Ferruccio Romeo, who lives on Hitching Hill Road with his wife Joanne. “This has to be the drop dead, last extension. If this goes on any longer.. It’s outrageous in our opinion. We want the project done but we want it done correctly.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Saugus rivals square off

State Rep Donald Wong. Item file photo.

By Thor Jourgensen

WAKEFIELD — State Rep. Donald Wong touted his experience as a three-term legislator Thursday night. But challenger Jennifer Migliore said she will have more access as a Democrat to “the powers that be” in the State House.

The pair answered questions posed by a Wakefield Community Access Television (WCAT) media panel for an hour in advance of the Nov. 8 election.

Wong, a Republican representing the 9th Essex District, and Migliore said they will fight to keep Union Hospital open. Migliore said owner Partners HealthCare must ensure emergency services are preserved in Lynn and Wong suggested the hospital, if it is closed in three years, could be a future veterans hospital.

Migliore said she wants state officials to reconsider action earlier this year on Wheelabrator’s request to extend the life of its landfill.

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review of Wheelabrator’s proposal concluded that no further environmental review was necessary and that the proposal can be advanced to the state Department of Environmental Protection for permitting.

“People in Saugus are very concerned about the risk factor. This is an area Rep. Wong has been weak on,” Migliore said.

Wong said a state public health study concluded there are no adverse health effects from the landfill. But Wong said he favors an additional federal study.

“Wheelabrator should receive a fair and unbiased review,” Wong said.

Wong, 64, served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen. He is a 41-year town resident as well as a third-generation business owner of the Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1.

He has been endorsed by the Saugus Republican Town Committee, with the committee citing his perfect voting record in the Legislature, and Saugus police unions.

Migliore, 25, is a Saugus native and Wellesley College graduate. In her former job as district representative to U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, she served as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Labor.

She beat Wakefield resident Saritin Rizzuto in September to win the Democratic primary. Her endorsements include the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro Choice, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.

The 9th Essex District encompasses precincts 1, 2, 4-9 in Saugus; precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 in Wakefield; and Ward 1 precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn.

Migliore said her work with Moulton and her ability, if elected, to work with fellow Democrats in the Legislature will help Lynn, Saugus and Wakefield get additional state money to push Copeland Circle road work and other Route 1 improvements forward.

“I want to create a new vision for Route 1,” she said.

But Wong said state tax money cannot be simply dedicated to transportation and other specific projects. He said he has a track record of getting state money for Saugus public safety and education projects and said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will join him in Saugus early next month to announce $120,000 in state money for a local water works project.

Wong described himself as a longtime town resident with local and state government experience facing an “opponent who worked nine months as a government staffer.” But Migliore said the 9th Essex District race “is about our district getting its fair share.” She criticized Wong in her closing statement.

“At the time when he should have been involved on Beacon Hill, he was too heavily involved in Saugus politics,” she said.

Both candidates said they oppose the state ballot question legalizing marijuana and will vote no on expanding charter schools in Massachusetts.

The pair took questions Thursday night from Daily Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, Wakefield Daily Item reporter/columnist Mark Sardella and Wakefield Observer reporter Richard Tenorio. WCAT producer David Watts Jr. moderated the debate.

Thursday’s debate can be viewed on WCAT You Tube. The Daily Item (Lynn) has scheduled a 9th Essex Debate on Nov. 3 in Saugus Town Hall.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Last chance to talk housing in Saugus

Saugus Town Hall (Item file photo)

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — Next Thursday will be the final chance for residents to weigh in on a plan to fulfill the town’s housing needs.

Saugus is developing a housing production plan to meet the need for affordable and market rate housing, and reach the state’s mandatory 10 percent affordable housing goal.

Krista Leahy, town planner, said the goal is also to provide a greater variety of housing to a community primarily comprised of single detached one-family homes.

The initiative kicked off in February. Residents and officials are working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to draft a plan that will require Planning Board and Board of Selectmen approval. Once adopted, it will be submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Saugus received a $20,000 state grant to design the plan.

“The MAPC compiled all of the notes and the feedback from the meeting in June,” Leahy said. “They took soundbites of ideas into a living document. This will be the last chance to respond to the proposals.”

At the first forum, Karina Milchman, regional planner and housing specialist for the MAPC, said providing 10 percent affordable housing is important to serve the needs of the town’s residents.

It also gives officials more control when developers propose construction of multi-family housing in town. If a town doesn’t meet the requirement, developers can override local zoning and build denser developments, she said.

As of June, there were 10,754 housing units in Saugus. Only 749, or 7 percent, were considered affordable by the state. Leahy said the number has remained nearly unchanged.

At the first forum, residents brainstormed what they thought Saugus’ housing goal should be over the next five years, and what barriers they might face to achieve it.

The MAPC will provide feedback on the ideas residents drafted and make its own recommendations, Leahy said.

“This will be the final one,” she said. “Because of that, this forum is more important than the last one. Everyone will get their final say and have their voices heard. They’ll get feedback on their recommendations that MAPC has created.”

Leahy said it will be the final opportunity to be a part of creating paperwork that developers will look to for the construction of housing and development in the future.

Stephen Cole, planning and development director, added that the forum will serve a dual purpose. It will also be educational for residents who want to learn more about the housing needs, regulations and what affordable housing really means.

“The housing production plan will play an important part of healthy economic growth within the town of Saugus,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “It will give the town more input on potential developments, help identify the housing needs of the community, and it will help create more of a variety of new housing, such as apartments, condos and single- and double-bedroom units. With more options for housing, the town will, in turn, attract a variety of age ranges to live, work, have a family and retire in Saugus.”

He added that the housing production plan is part of the administration’s initiative to have a strategic plan based on the needs of the residents.

The meeting will be held at Saugus Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 6:45 p.m.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Sink or swim for Swampscott harbormaster

Swampscott Town Hall. Item file photo.

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell will be arraigned on criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate.

Bithell is scheduled to appear in Lynn District Court on Oct. 28. A clerk magistrate’s hearing was held on Sept. 19, where it was determined that criminal charges should be filed against Bithell.

During the hearing, Clerk-Magistrate Jane Brady Stirgwolt found probable cause to proceed with three of the four charges — attaching a registration plate to assigned vehicle (trailer), use of an uninsured trailer and use of an unregistered trailer, according to Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan.

Bithell’s attorney, Neil Rossman, has said previously that the complaint is regarding a boat trailer, but on Monday declined to comment on the pending arraignment.

On Aug. 15, Madigan received a complaint regarding the misuse of a Town of Swampscott registration trailer plate, according to a police report obtained at Lynn District Court. Police said photographs from different dates showed a blue registration trailer plate was attached to two different trailers. The registration trailer plate is assigned to a 2007 Load Rite gray utility trailer owned by the town, according to court documents.

A photograph taken on June 6 shows the blue registration plate attached to a trailer, connected with a vehicle owned by Bithell. Police said the photograph showed that the registration trailer plate was attached to a trailer other than its assigned utility trailer. The picture was taken at the boat ramp at the Fish House and showed the registration plate attached to a Highlander brand trailer, according to court documents.

The Highlander trailer was located at Fisherman’s Beach between the Fish House and Martin’s Way, without a registration plate, on the beach next to the wall that abuts Bithell’s Puritan Road residence, according to court documents.

The photographs taken on Aug. 7 at Martin’s Way, a beach where the public has a right of access on Puritan Road, shows the registration trailer plate attached to another trailer, a ShoreLand’r trailer. Police said the trailer was also holding a small white power boat with a center console, court documents show.

Police further learned that Load Rite utility trailer was at Ryan Marine in Marblehead. An officer was told by the owner at Ryan Marine that two trailers owned by the town were brought there and one of the trailers, the Load Rite utility trailer, was mistakenly taken there. Police didn’t see registration plates attached to either trailer, according to court documents.  

An officer later spoke with Bithell at the Fish House as he disembarked from his boat — a white power boat with a center console. Bithell was asked where the blue registration trailer plate was and he told police that it was in the back of his truck. Bithell was asked where the trailer was located that should have the registration plate attached to it and he told the officer that it was stored at the yard of the town water tower, according to court documents.

Police said Bithell didn’t know that the trailer had been moved and taken to Ryan Marine. Bithell also told police that he used the registration trailer plate on his Highlander trailer to move his private boat, which he sometimes uses during the course of his Harbormaster duties.

An officer asked Bithell who owns the ShoreLand’r trailer, which photos showed the registration plate attached to, and was told that it belonged to Assistant Harbormaster Mounzer Aylouche. He told police that he used Aylouche’s trailer to move his boat on Aug. 7 and stated that the assistant harbormaster was unaware that he had borrowed his trailer, according to court documents.

Police said Bithell turned over the blue registration trailer plate and it was returned to Town Hall.

Swampscott officials have placed Bithell on administrative leave and are actively looking for an interim harbormaster. Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta said no one has been chosen for the position and hopes to discuss the matter with the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus hires a new planner

Stephen Cole

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — Stephen Cole has been hired as the town’s new planning and development director.

Cole has experience working for the city of Springfield, where he filled several roles, including operations manager of development services, chief of staff for the mayor and project manager for the financial division.

Most recently he worked as the director of economic development for the city of Hartford, Conn.

As the head of the newly-created Planning and Development Department, Cole will tackle land use and planning; energy, housing and open space projects and initiatives; infrastructure needs assessments; and conduct efforts to attract economic development.

He will oversee Krista Leahy, who assumed the role of town planner at the end of August.

“I am pleased to welcome Stephen to his new role as director of planning and development for the town of Saugus,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “Stephen has a wealth of experience and qualifications, and I am confident that he will bring these assets to the job.”

Crabtree created the department in place of the economic development department. Duties of the town’s former economic development officer, Bob Luongo (who left the department in the spring), were divided into two roles to better serve Saugus’ needs, Crabtree said in a statement.

“I am extremely excited to be given this great opportunity to have a positive impact on the town of Saugus,” Cole said in a statement. “I am confident that my skills and professional development will serve me well as the director of planning and development, and I look forward to getting to know the community and getting to work.”

Cole received a Master of Arts degree in public policy from Trinity College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Westfield State University. He has experience working  in the planning and development field and in municipal government.

“Thank you to the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and Town Meeting for their support of this new department, which will greatly benefit the taxpayers by promoting economic growth and increasing annual revenue for the town,” said Crabtree.

Safety is elementary at new Saugus playground

Grace Moon, swinging, and Chloe Crabtree play at Veterans Memorial Park in Saugus. (Item photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Bridget Turcotte

 

SAUGUS — The town is stepping up safety features at Veterans Memorial Park as the second of three new playgrounds prepares to open.

Veterans Park on Hurd Avenue was unveiled in September and has since drawn crowds of children of all ages.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said he’s happy with the success of the park and the number of children using the facility. To combat destruction of the equipment and increase safety, he plans to add a few new features.

“It’s new and there’s a lot of excitement with it,” he said. “It’s drawing a lot of people there. We’re trying to do what we can to upgrade and protect it.”

Within the next few weeks, additional lighting and high-definition, multi-lense cameras will be added. Fencing and a slide are being repaired, and a sign will be posted that spells out the park’s rules.

Turnout is even greater than anticipated, Crabtree said. Police are stopping by more frequently and reminding children that the playground closes at dark.

“I’m really thrilled that the town and elected officials, the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, Town Meeting members were all able to come together and help support and fund these initiatives,” he said. “It’s a great investment into our community and the residents of Saugus.”

At a cost of about $700,000, the playground was revamped with a larger play area with wheelchair-accessible playground equipment. The basketball court was redesigned, resurfaced and features new hoops. A track surrounding the court was added. Swings, which the old park lacked, are a welcomed addition.

Jill Lauziere brings her children to the park every day. Her oldest son, Charlie, goes to the Veterans Memorial Elementary School. She estimated more than 100 park-goers use the equipment each afternoon.

“A lot of kids come from the Lynnhurst (Elementary School) and Waybright (Elementary School),” she said. “It’s really geared for kids up to age 12 but those kids who are maybe 11 to 14 are in that in-between age who are not old enough to go to the mall or something on their own are here, standing on the baby swings and being rough. It’s a beautiful park. I would hate to see it get destroyed.”

Desiree Moon, a parent, said most of the problems stem from older children playing on a playground intended for younger children.

“We love the new park,” she said. “Almost the whole (Veterans) school comes out to play here. My thing is, be respectful of your town’s things. Once it’s broken, it’s broken.”

Bristow Street Park is undergoing a $1 million renovation that will include new equipment, fences, a basketball court and parking.

Crabtree said there will be a bathroom, storage shed, concession stand and 10-f0ot ball-wall for lacrosse practice. He expects it to be ready for a ribbon-cutting ceremony within the next month.

The tennis courts at the Belmonte Middle School are being upgraded at a cost of about $300,000. When completed, they will comply with regulations for holding tournaments.

Improvement projects at the three parks total a $2 million investment.

“We want to protect our taxpayers’ investment,” Crabtree said. “We hope that parents that are there will step up and if they see things that shouldn’t be happening, report them.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.