Board of Selectmen

Saugus pins a new deputy

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Jake D’Eon, 10, pins the deputy fire chief of Saugus badge onto his dad, Thomas, after a swearing-in ceremony at Saugus Town Hall on Friday.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — There’s a new deputy fire chief in town.

Deputy Chief Thomas D’Eon was among five members of the Saugus Fire Department to be sworn in to a new position by Town Manager Scott Crabtree Friday morning.

D’Eon, Lt. Mark Gannon, Capt. Scott Phelan, Capt. James Hughes, and acting Lt. Damian Drella each celebrated their promotions, surrounded by their proud family members in a crowded ceremony in the foyer of Town Hall.

The new deputy chief will fill the role of former Deputy Chief Donald Shea, who retired on New Year’s Eve 2016 after 38 years of service.

Shea began his career as a dispatcher and continued to work for seven different chiefs over five decades. He became a firefighter, then fire lieutenant, and eventually fire captain under former Chief Walter Newbury. In 2015 he assumed the role of deputy chief.

“Don Shea is a mentor and I have big shoes to fill,” said D’Eon. “He’s what we all strive to be in the fire service.”

D’Eon joined the department as a firefighter 13 years ago after serving four years in the U.S. Navy and working as a plumber. The Malden native had ties to Saugus, with his grandparents and parents growing up in town.

He married his high school sweetheart, Jenn D’Eon, and later purchased his grandparents’ home in 1999. The family has set deep roots in Saugus. In addition to raising their two children, Ally and Jake, in town, D’eon has strived to take on a leadership position within the fire department, and Jenn serves on the Board of Selectmen.

“About five years ago, he told me he wanted to represent the town at a higher position,” said Jenn. “It has been a long process. It’s a sacrifice and the family makes sacrifices but ultimately it’s for the greater good and I know he will be an excellent deputy chief.”

D’Eon went back to college to study fire safety and began taking many state courses, said Jenn.

“I would take family vacations by myself with the kids because he would be at that table studying relentlessly,” Jenn said. “The books would come in the mail and they’d be as big as an encyclopedia. He’d read the whole thing from the first page and then he’d go back and begin again, but he’d start highlighting. He has worked so hard.”

D’Eon was pinned by his 10-year-old son, who said he was proud of his father and would consider following in his footsteps.

Fire Chief Michael Newbury said he has been proud to participate in all promotion ceremonies since becoming chief, but found Friday’s ceremony particularly humbling.

“I’m promoting people who have been here longer than I have,” he said. “Watching people put in the effort to be promoted to a higher level is great to see. Each level comes with more responsibilities.”

Gannon has been with the department for 23 years, Hughes for 26 of his 30 years on the job, Phelan for 19, and Drella for 26 years.


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

Saugus eatery has family feuding

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Jeffrey Floramo is set to open a new restaurant at the site of the now-closed Papagayo.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Rumors that meat will be falling off the bone in Saugus have strengthened in the past week, but Chelsea’s Floramo’s Restaurant owner maintains he is not affiliated with a new business planned for Route 1 South.

A restaurant, owned by Jeffrey Floramo, will open at the former site of Papagayo, a Mexican restaurant and tequila bar that closed earlier this year, at 817 Broadway in August.

Floramo told the Saugus Board of Selectmen Wednesday that he anticipates his menu will be “very similar to the existing Floramo menu and what we had at Clubhouse Cafe.”

Hungry customers will feast on barbeque, marinated steak tips, ribs, and Italian chicken parmesan, he said.  

But John Floramo, the owner of the well-known Floramo’s in Chelsea, maintains that the incoming restaurant has no affiliation with his family’s business.

John Floramo told The Item Friday that, though Jeffrey Floramo is his cousin, there is no affiliation between his family’s restaurant and the eatery slated to open on Route 1.

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“He has said he’s going to duplicate our menu — we don’t know how he’s going to do that,” he said.

In a post on the Floramo’s Facebook page, he wrote: “We at Floramo’s Restaurant are aware of the rumors that we are moving to Route 1 in Saugus. Apparently there are some individuals that are claiming to be affiliated with our family and our business and saying that they possess the same menu that we have so we would like to set the record straight for those of you that are inquiring.

“Floramo’s has only ever been owned by two people. One being our founder, Thomas J. (Tommy) Floramo. The second being his son, the current and sole owner, John Thomas Floramo. Floramo’s Restaurant does not have partners, silent or otherwise and never has, despite untrue claims. The only owner and President is John Floramo.

“We are not moving and are not opening a second location and our menu and recipes are Tommy and John’s and cannot be duplicated. We appreciate all your loyal patronage over the last 3 (almost 4) decades and we look forward to many more.”

Jeffrey Floramo initially requested the establishment to be called Floramo’s Clubhouse but removed the request from the application Wednesday.

“We received some communication from a family member of Mr. Floramo indicating they did not want the use of the name Floramo’s Clubhouse and on our application, we had that as a ‘doing business as,’” said attorney Richard Magnan, who represents Jeffrey Floramo. “I filed a letter with (the board) today, making the requested to you we be allowed to amend our applications to delete that reference.”

A name for the new restaurant will be determined at a later date.


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

Is the Swampscott rail trail worth it?

COURTESY PHOTO
A map of the proposed Swampscott rail trail.

YES: Alexis Runstadler, pro-trail abutter and co-chair of Yes for Swampscott Campaign

Love Swampscott — Vote Yes for the Rail Trail.

Courtesy photo

Runstadler

The Swampscott Rail Trail is about community. It is about a 2-mile linear park throughout our town for every neighborhood, every resident.  After 30 years of discussion and debate, now is the time to move this project forward.

Last month, Swampscott Town Meeting overwhelming approved (by a vote of 210 to 56) ($850,000 in) funding for the Rail Trail to move forward with design and engineering of the trail and acquisition of easement rights.  

The Rail Trail is unanimously sponsored by the Selectmen and endorsed by the Finance Committee, Capital Improvement Committee, School Committee, Planning Board, Open Space Committee and Conservation Commission.  However, as is too familiar in Swampscott, a small group of abutters to the National Grid utility corridor want to prevent progress by overturning Town Meeting’s overwhelming vote for the Rail Trail.

A recent letter from these abutters to voters included a lot of inaccurate information. Here are the facts:

The Rail Trail will be solely within the existing National Grid utility corridor, which only National Grid maintains and pays taxes on.

Title examinations on the corridor confirm ownership by National Grid, the Town, and Tedesco Country Club.

No abutter along the corridor has established any ownership to the utility corridor.  The abutters’ own attorney has stated that abutters have completed no title examinations to support a claim of ownership.

The Town is working with National Grid to secure recreational easements using eminent domain – a common way for towns to acquire easements as it cures potential title defects.

Many Massachusetts communities have used eminent domain to create rail trails.

Only property within the utility corridor will be impacted.  No homes will be impacted.

Multiple appraisals establish the value for the recreational easement at not more than $430,000.

Over $175,000 in private donations have already been secured for construction of the trail.  As in other towns, state funding will also be secured to construct the trail.

A lot of good things are happening in Swampscott right now.  Let’s keep it going.  Swampscott deserves the Rail Trail.  Please vote ‘yes’ on Thursday, June 29.


NO: Charles Patsios, Swampscott Town Meeting member and developer

Courtesy photo

Patsios

He wants the rail trail, but not without knowing what the costs are to the town and what the impacts are to other residents.

No other community in Massachusetts has created a trail like this using eminent domain — (it is) a human rights violation to take property against the will of a homeowner for something that is not a great public need. All others have been able to do the hard work of building community consensus.

Approximately 90 abutters have title to the land.

The $850,000 is just a down payment. The full cost to make this project happen will be north of $4 million.

The average price of a home in Swampscott is almost $500,000. To take land from a home will require that the town pay at least 10 percent of the value of the home. This is compensating the homeowner for the diminished value of their own land, as well as paying them for the actual property. Ten percent is a low estimate. It is the estimate used in class action suits that always result in lower payments than to individuals who fight the taking by themselves. Using 10 percent, that means each homeowner will need to be paid $50,000. With 90 homeowners, that is $4.5 million. Add $850,000 and you are north of $5 million — it will increase taxes and is better used elsewhere.

Our elementary schools are falling apart: At some time, we will need a new school. Swampscott taxes are some of the highest in the state. Taxpayers are not going to keep paying and paying. We need to prioritize and we should not prioritize a trail over a school.

This project is being pushed through by the Board of Selectmen using the same tactics they used on the Machon School, the Greenwood Avenue debacle, and the failed elementary school: marginalize and demonize those that oppose it; tell the public it won’t cost that much (but never discuss the full costs); bring the issue to Town Meeting, but not the town at large; and rig the debate at Town Meeting so that proponents have as much time as they need to make their case.

 

Swampscott awarded for use of green power

SWAMPSCOTT — Swampscott has been recognized as a top user of green power, as only one of two Massachusetts municipalities to appear on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Communities list.

The town appears for the first time on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list at No. 37, town officials said. Wellesley is the other Massachusetts town.

Swampscott is using nearly 17 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually, which represents 24 percent of its total power needs. Swampscott’s choice to use green power is helping to advance the green power market and support clean renewable energy alternatives, officials said.

“I’m extremely proud of the direction our town is taking to move toward a greener future,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, in a statement. “It’s exciting to not only see Swampscott gain this recognition, but more importantly that we’re leading the way. Swampscott is currently one of only two communities in Massachusetts to receive the designation.”

The town’s green power use is through the community’s electricity aggregation program, Swampscott Community Power. The program was developed with support from the consulting team of Bay State Consultants and Peregrine Energy Group, approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in 2015, and the first electricity supply agreement to provide greener power to residents and businesses started in January 2016, officials said.

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The program, a town electricity program that gives residents and businesses an electricity supply alternative to National Grid, while also helping to support the town’s sustainability efforts, provides 100 percent green energy and ensures that customers have choice because of a three-tier structure and transparency in the supply costs, officials said.

The community power program is an electricity aggregation, a form of group purchasing where a municipality selects an electricity supplier on behalf of its residents and businesses. The program impacts the electricity supply charges on their National Grid bill, officials said.

“Swampscott is proud to be recognized by the U.S. EPA for our green power use,” said Peter Kane, director of community development, in a statement. “Town Meeting members agreed with our desire to bring price-reliable electric supply in 2012 and we married that with the community’s focus on greenhouse gas reduction by developing the aggregation program.

“By making the choice to use clean, renewable energy, our community becomes more sustainable, while also sending a message to others across the United States that using green power is a sound business and community decision. It’s an important tool in reducing one’s carbon footprint in the fight against climate change.”

Green power is zero-emissions electricity that is generated from environmentally preferable renewable resources, such as wind, solar, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass and low impact-hydro. Using green power helps build demand for the development of new renewable energy capacity nationwide and helps users reduce their carbon footprints, officials said.

Town officials cited stats from the EPA that shows Swampscott’s green power use of nearly 17 million kWh is equivalent to the electricity use of nearly 2,000 average American homes annually.

Plane route protest takes off in Nahant

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT Nahant residents are worried flights to Logan International Airport are getting closer, and louder, to the one-mile stretch of land they call home.

Robert Damico, a Nahant resident on the Logan Airport Advisory Committee, said noise complaints from aircrafts flying overhead have drastically increased over the past few years. While it’s difficult to pinpoint a time when it began, he estimates it has been about three- to three-and-a-half years.

“A whole town doesn’t imagine the noise much worse than they did before,” said Damico. “Everyone knew where the planes used to be for seven to eight years. In the blink of an eye, something changed. Now they’re turning closer to Nahant than they did before. I thought it was temporary but it hasn’t changed.”

“We’re three miles from the airport, we know we’re going to hear airplanes,” said Damico. “But if you’re at the Tides (Restaurant) and see the way they’re turning, its very very loud to the point that you have a hard time talking to one another. When you have a two-mile causeway, why are you turning so close to a thickly-settled island? We want to get to the bottom of it.”

But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains it has not made any changes to flight patterns over Nahant.

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“The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not changed or modified any flight patterns related to  air traffic operations for Runway 4 Right – 22 Left at Boston Logan International Airport, the runway that brings flights over the Nahant Causeway,” a statement issued by the FAA said.

“The FAA advised the Town of Nahant that requests for changes to air traffic control procedures for noise abatement must come from the Massachusetts Port Authority, in accordance with the agency’s noise abatement policy.”

More than three decades ago, Damico said he helped create and worked in MassPort’s Noise Abatement office for seven years. While there, he said he helped create the flight tracks. He went on to represent Mayors Thomas Menino and Raymond Flynn on all aviation matters, he said.

“There are two kinds of waypoints these points in the sky where pilots turn,” said Damico. “They can see it on their instrument panel, which is line a dashboard, and they know where these waypoints are and they know where to turn. If the air traffic controller tells them to turn prior to that, they do. We tried to work with them but we’re getting no place fast.”

Damico and the Nahant Board of Selectmen will hold a public forum at Nahant Town Hall on June 21 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the issue. The Town Administrator’s office, where most of the complaints are received, has invited a representatives from MassPort and the FAA, State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn), and State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn).

Swampscott rail trail leads to the polls

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a map of the proposed rail trail.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Voters will head to the polls later this month to decide whether to allocate funds that would allow plans for a proposed rail trail to move forward.

At Town Meeting, by a 210-56 vote, members approved allocating $850,000 for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well as the legal fees and costs for acquisition of easement rights.

But a group of residents against the trail, including abutters, who have been vocal in their opposition, fought the vote, and spearheaded a citizen’s petition that garnered enough signatures to force a town-wide special election.

The Board of Selectmen have set the special election date for Thursday, June 29, where voters will be presented with the same question voted on and approved at Town Meeting last month.

The citizen’s petition garnered nearly 900 certified signatures, or more than 5 percent of the registered voters needed to challenge a Town Meeting vote, as required by the town charter.

The town charter (Section 2-6) reads that votes, except a vote to adjourn or authorize the borrowing or money in receipt of taxes for the current year, passed at Town Meeting, don’t go into effect for five days, and can be challenged within that timeframe by filing a petition with the Board of Selectmen, asking that the question be submitted to the town’s voters.

Officials have said $240,000 of the funds would be used to hire professionals for design and engineering costs. About $610,000 would be for acquisition of easement rights, where the town would work with the property owners (National Grid and/or other parties) to secure the rights. This may be done through eminent domain or by donation/gift of the land.

The funds would not be for construction of the trail, which would be financed through donations, grants and private funds, officials said.

Officials have said National Grid pays property taxes for the 11 parcels that make up the utility corridor, but doesn’t have clear title on all of them. Through a title process, numerous owners have been identified, which could include abutters.

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The two-plus mile, 10-foot wide trail would run from the Swampscott Train Station to the Marblehead line at Seaview Avenue, connecting with the Marblehead rail trail, which also links to trails in Salem.

Paul Dwyer, a Swampscott resident who lives along the proposed trail, has said the group decided to start the petition drive after losing the Town Meeting vote. He said previously that people have a problem with eminent domain, which is the wrong thing to do your neighbors, and that with so many financial needs in town, the trail is a luxury and a want more than anything else. He has said the town doesn’t need it and can’t afford it.

Other opposition to the trail has included safety and privacy concerns from neighbors. Residents in support of the trail have spoken about how it would provide free exercise and a way for people to get out in nature.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said previously that she thinks Town Meeting is a good representation of the rest of the town, and that she was confident the town-wide vote would be consistent with the Town Meeting vote.

Town Clerk Susan Duplin said an election usually costs the town between $10,000 to $12,000 for things such as ballot printing, poll workers and supplies.

Duplin said ballot questions typically draw a large turnout. For the November 2014 state election, the town had a new school question on the ballot, and a turnout of 67 percent. For the January 2010 special town election, where voters were presented with a question for a new police station, there was a 62 percent turnout.

“Prior history shows questions on the ballot definitely get the voters out,” Duplin said. “With that said, I’m predicting at least a 60 percent voter turnout for the June 29 special election, but (it) could be even more.”

Absentee ballots will be available at least three weeks before the election, no later than June 8. In order to qualify for an absentee ballot, the voter must be unable to vote at the polls on Election Day, because of absence from the voter’s town during normal polling hours, physical disability preventing them from going to the polling place, or religious belief. A family member may also apply for an absentee ballot for the voter, Duplin said.

Voter registration deadline is no later than 8 p.m. on Friday, June 9, and the town clerk’s office will be open for that deadline. Voters will also be able to come in and vote absentee. Early voting only applies to state elections, Duplin said.

Polls will be open during the election at three locations: Precincts 1 & 2 at Swampscott Senior Center, 200 Rear Essex St.; Precincts 3 & 4 at First Church Congregational, 40 Monument Ave.; and Precincts 5 & 6 at Swampscott Middle School, 207 Forest Ave.

Voter registration can be done online, an application can be downloaded, or voting status can be checked at the secretary of state’s website at www.sec.state.ma.us/ele/eleidx.htm.


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

Saugus Town Meeting gets out the vote

COURTESY PHOTO
A rendering of a possible new middle-high school.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Residents will hit the polls to vote on $186 million in improvements to the town’s public schools on June 20.

Town Meeting convened for its fourth meeting since the beginning of the month Tuesday night to determine that residents will vote on a new $160 million middle-high school and $25 million worth of improvements to two existing schools for reuse as upper and lower elementary schools.

“I’m not going to have children in my household going to a new school unless my household appears on the front page of The National Enquirer,” said Precinct 4 Town Meeting Member Al Dinardo. “But I am a supporter of democracy.”

Today is the final day to register to vote in the June 20 special election. The Town Clerk’s office will remain open until 8 p.m.

The School Building Committee recently approved a total budget investment of $186 million, which includes an investment of $160 million for a proposed grades 6-12 combination middle and high school.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) will reimburse the town at a minimum rate of 53 percent — which is expected to increase — of eligible approved project costs.

In addition, a $25 million district-wide master plan would restructure the district to include an upper elementary school for grades 3-5 at the existing Belmonte Middle School and a lower elementary school for Pre-K through grade 2 at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School. The master plan is a town project and is not being pursued through the MSBA. The town’s share of the total project would be an estimated $118 million, bonded over a 30-year period.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the town’s recently earned S&P AA+ bond rating, which is the highest rating in the town’s history, will save taxpayers an estimated $7.2 million over the life of the bond.

A fact sheet provided by Crabtree details the cost to residents with average home value assessments. According to The Warren Group, in March, the median home value in Saugus was $374,950.

At $375,000, the cost would be $76 in 2018, $118 in 2019, and would continue gradually increasing until reaching $541 in 2024. The cost would then begin to gradually decline.

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Town Meeting members voted 42-2 in favor of both articles after more than an hour-and-a-half of discussion over whether individuals supported or opposed building a new high school.

Members Bill Brown and and Eugene Decareau, who voted against both articles, admitted there is a need for a new school, but argued that the plan in place is not right for the town.

“There is all kinds of construction going on — we’re building hotels, apartments, condos — and we don’t even have a West Side Fire Station,” said Decareau. “That’s public safety. Schools are important. So isn’t life and we’re going to have to address that.”

Brown said he was concerned with traffic and questioned whether the current high school site was the best location for a new school.

Jonathan McTague, a 2014 graduate of Saugus High School, described the need for improvements to his fellow Town Meeting members.

“We would be in class half the time and the teacher would ‘say some of you have to move because the ceiling is leaking,’” he said. “We were learning from books that didn’t include anything about our first black president. We don’t learn sitting in rows anymore being talked at by a teacher — we need those collaborative classroom spaces. Our community needs a chance, our youth needs a chance. Until we speak up, we’re not going to get anything that we need or deserve. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m a Town Meeting member.”

“This is pretty exciting news tonight,” said Crabtree. “Exciting things are happening here. We’ve been talking about a new high school for many years now — probably eight to 10 — even back when I was on the Board of Selectmen.

“My father was in the first graduating class there in 1956,” said Crabtree. “I look at that project and my grandfather and parents paid for that current school that’s there now. It’s been a long time since any of the generations have been able to contribute but it’s past its time. The needs of the community brought us into the current middle-high school model. I think that we’ve identified what the needs are in the community and what plan would address those needs. Ultimately the residents will decide the direction of the town.”

Town Meeting members did not reach a decision on the School Department’s budget or address any other articles before The Item’s deadline Tuesday night.


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

Walking the line on pot

The border war between Lynnfield and Peabody this week was over almost before it began but the tussle between two neighbors has wide implications for the medical and recreational marijuana siting decisions.

Peabody Mayor Edward Bettencourt is no fan of marijuana sales in Peabody and he made sure the city’s medical marijuana zone got stuck out on Route 1 North. The border war ignited over a parcel in the zone abutting South Lynnfield’s Green Street neighborhood.

The town’s Board of Selectmen fired off a letter to the mayor and Bettencourt — a savvy elected official who is fast on his feet — quickly labeled the offending parcel a “hardship” from Lynnfield’s viewpoint and yanked it out of the zone.

Medical marijuana advocates and the coalition that campaigned for recreational marijuana last year understood that successful cannabis sales and marketing depends on saturating local markets. Language barring cities and towns from banning marijuana is a key element of the legislative language included in the 2016 pot legalization ballot questions.

Local officials retain control under the legislative language to regulate marijuana. Some communities, including Peabody and Lynnfield, have made it clear they don’t want recreational marijuana within their borders but their resistance is going to have to withstand marketplace demands.

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In other words, communities resistant to marijuana sales locally will find their position increasingly difficult to hold once recreational marijuana follows on the heels of medical marijuana and pot dealers set up shop in cities and towns.

But their inability to keep marijuana beyond city and town limits won’t prevent local officials from consigning pot zones to municipal borders. Highways skirting communities and industrial zones on the edges of communities are often havens for strip clubs and other businesses deemed undesirable by the local powers that be.

But Bettencourt can attest to the friction created when one community’s pot zone becomes a neighboring community’s hardship. Border wars like the one this week between Lynnfield and Peabody are going to spark and ignite and the flames might incinerate some political career and the goodwill shared by the feuding communities.

Of course, money changes everything and legal marijuana dealers may find the best way to avoid making enemies in one community — maybe two — is to talk dollars and cents with local leaders. Legal pot is here to stay in Massachusetts but the disputes rising from its presence loom on the horizon.

A new chapter for Saugus author

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Michael Coller is running for Saugus selectman.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — A private investigator and author of two controversial books is seeking a spot on the Board of Selectmen.

Given his law enforcement and investigation background, Michael Coller said he feels confident he can thoroughly research anything that comes before the board and make a well-informed decision in the town’s best interest.

“If you all have the same feelings to vote as one body, what’s the difference between having five different selectmen or just one,” said Coller. “I’m not challenging anyone on the board but I think finer points could be brought out. I’m hoping to create a little more degree of independence.”

Coller is on the Conservation Commission and Library Board of Trustees. He was born and raised in Saugus and graduated from Bridgewater State University with a degree in management.

He has worked as a security professional for 23 years, focusing specifically on large retail firms, criminal investigations, asset protection, and firearm licensing.

In his spare time, he enjoys writing. He takes pride in a series of books he’s working on, the Bruno Johnson series. He’s currently working on the third installment, which follows the main character, a private investigator, as he returns home to uncover political wrongdoings in local government.

Characters in the second book “Bruno Johnson: Against the Grain,” include Missiles, known for her “voluptuous breasts years ago (which) were worthy of being dipped in bronze. However, they now look like tube socks with baseballs sunk in the bottom;” Alisa, “a tiny peanut sized gal with what appeared to be fried eggs for breasts;” and Sue the Moo, who is “as big as a cow with four wrecking balls attached to her body. Two stuck on her chest and the other ones jammed in the seat of her pants.”

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Coller maintains that while the plot of the books may mirror local politics, the similarities are “purely coincidental.” He admitted he changed the names of characters in his book to protect the identities of real people but called his work fictional.

Like himself, he said Johnson is a character who refuses to knock on doors; he just opens them.

“I surely have the creativity to research what I need to research to come to a sound decision that will benefit the town,” he said. “This town shouldn’t be a stepping stone. I’m looking for a balance between property taxes and commercial taxes. As far as a new high school, it’s only going to help our property values. I don’t have children in the schools but I support a new high school. It’s going to help our town.”

If elected, Coller hopes to contribute to the revitalization of the town’s waterfront and Cliftondale Square.

“I went to Saugus High School with some of the people who own businesses (in Cliftondale Square),” he said. “It’s not as prominent as Saugus Center with the library and Town Hall. I think it’s gotten kind of dreary while Saugus Center is more welcoming. It needs some work. When I grew up here, it was as busy or busier than Saugus Center.”

Last year, a study of the square using a $10,000 Massachusetts Downtown Initiative grant found that 72 percent of the square’s businesses are independently owned. With more than 192,000 square feet of commercial space, the 66 existing businesses are underutilized, with some retail stores seeing fewer than 30 customers a day.

Coller worked as a commercial fisherman in Saugus, Gloucester, and Boston while putting himself through college and said he has an understanding for the importance of improving the waterfront area.

Town Clerk Ellen Schena said potential candidates can take out papers to run for office in July. Board of Selectmen candidates will be required to obtain 50 signatures and return the papers by Sept. 19.


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

Swampscott gives green light to Greenwood

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials have signed a purchase and sale agreement with Groom Construction for the redevelopment of the former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue, which included a stipulation to dismiss the longstanding lawsuit the company had against the town.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a proposal from Salem-based Groom Construction, which had submitted two concepts.

The Board of Selectmen entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the company for the construction of a 28-unit apartment or condominium project, which the board accepted as the primary concept, and adhered to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last year. In lieu of not offering any affordable housing, Groom would contribute $150,000 to the town’s affordable housing trust, officials said.

“I’m happy that we’ve been able to negotiate an agreement and we’ll be able to move forward on this chapter of our really long history with this building,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

The company can switch to a 60-unit Chapter 40B affordable housing project, with 25 percent of the apartments or condominiums allocated as affordable, which the board approved as an alternative, if there is litigation from the neighbors for the primary concept, officials said.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said part of the purchase and sale agreement was contingent on having the lawsuit dismissed that the company had against the town. According to a Salem Superior Court document, the lawsuit has been dismissed “with prejudice, without costs and with each party waiving all rights of appeal.”

“I think that really resolves a potential risk to the town and any time we can avoid a potential lawsuit and situation that was a financial risk to the town, that’s a good thing,” Fitzgerald said.

The suit 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.

The litigation with Groom, which originally won approval for a 41-unit condominium project on the site in 2012, had to be settled before the town could proceed with the sale of the property.

Peter Kane, director of community development, said the purchase price for the property is $1.2 million, with the company responsible for costs to abate and demolish the entire structure.

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He said the company would be credited for those costs up to $1.2 million, which would offset the purchase price, but Groom has to have documentation for whatever is spent on abatement and demolition. He said the company has previously estimated those costs to be $1.3 million, which could technically make the purchase price zero dollars.

Kane said the purchase and sale agreement allows for the buyer to go through the permitting process before they close on the property. He said the permitting process can take up to six months.

Once that is complete, Kane said the company and town can close on the sale of the property, and then Groom can sign off on the land development agreement attached to the purchase and sale agreement, which puts the buyer in the position to develop the property in the way agreed to with the town.

Officials estimate the project will generate at least $325,000 annually in real estate tax revenue.

Selectman Peter Spellios has said the Chapter 40B alternative project would give the town protection against a potential spot zoning lawsuit from neighbors, as it is exempt from zoning, and therefore, harder to appeal. The proposal from Groom approved by the Selectmen last month was the company’s response to the town’s most recent Request for Proposals (RFP) for the project.

In January, the board decided to act upon the advice of Town Counsel and reissue the RFP with both options — conforming to Town Meeting zoning and a Chapter 40B project — when the Selectmen had been slated to approve or deny a proposal from Groom to convert the middle school into 28 luxury apartments or condominiums.

Officials said at the time that Town Counsel made the recommendation because neighbors had been clear they were again intending to bring litigation against the town. Neighbors were concerned that a 28-unit structure would be out of character with the existing neighborhood.

Kane said at this point the town has not received any notice of a lawsuit.

Tom Groom, owner of the company, could not be reached for comment.


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

 

Peabody and Lynnfield clear the air

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — There will be no border battle over medical marijuana along Route 1.

Earlier this week, the Lynnfield Board of Selectmen sent a letter to Peabody Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. opposing a proposed medical marijuana zone along the highway that would include a parcel abutting the Green Street neighborhood in South Lynnfield.

But Wednesday morning, Bettencourt spoke to Lynnfield selectmen Chairman Christopher Barrett, telling him he would withdraw that parcel from the proposed zone at Thursday night’s joint hearing with the City Council and Planning Board.

“I had the pleasure to speak with Mayor Bettencourt about our concerns and applaud him for proposing an amendment to eliminate the parcels in the zoning change that would be directly accessed from Green Street,” said Barrett. “The mayor was responsive to the neighbors’ concerns and his efforts showed the people of Lynnfield why Peabody is so fortunate to have a mayor like him leading the city.”

Bettencourt said the proposed zone for the sale of medical marijuana along Route 1 North will include several parcels along the highway, but will not include the area that can be accessed through Green Street.

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“We agreed that it would be a hardship on that neighborhood,” said Bettencourt.

The hearing on the proposed medical marijuana zone is scheduled for Thursday at 7 in the Wiggin Auditorium at City Hall.

Allowing medical marijuana sales would reverse course for city officials, Bettencourt and several councilors said there were several reasons to make the change now. The mayor said the city could face legal action if it continues to prohibit the sale of medical marijuana. And at a recent council hearing on the subject, several councilors said they have seen the positive impact medical marijuana can make for those who need it.

While Peabody is on the cusp of allowing medical marijuana, city officials are backing a ballot initiative seeking the prohibition of recreational pot sales.

Both Peabody and Lynnfield officials have said they are doing their best to look out for the concerns of their residents.

“One of the main goals of the Board of Selectmen is to be a strong voice for all of the neighborhoods of Lynnfield,” said Barrett.  

 

Swampscott voters to decide rail-trail fate

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a plan for the Swampscott rail trail.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town Meeting members approved allocating funds allowing plans for a proposed rail trail to move forward last week, but a group of residents opposing the trail fought the vote and appear to have forced a special election.

Abutters to the proposed trail, who have been vocal in their opposition, and other residents, spearheaded a citizen’s petition, seeking to force the question brought before and approved at Town Meeting, to be placed on a ballot.

At Town Meeting by a 210-56 vote, members approved allocating $850,000 for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well as the legal fees and costs for acquisition of easement rights.

After the citizen’s petition garnered nearly 900 certified signatures, voters will likely be asked to allocate the funds during a town-wide election, with a date yet to be determined, according to Town Clerk Susan Duplin.

Officials have said $240,000 of the funds would be used to hire professionals for design and engineering costs. About $610,000 would be for acquisition of easement rights, where the town would work with the property owners (National Grid and/or other parties) to secure the rights. This may be done through eminent domain, or by donation/gift of the land.

The funds would not be for construction of the trail, which would be financed through donations, grants, and private funds, officials said.

Officials have said National Grid pays property taxes for the 11 parcels that make up the utility corridor, but doesn’t have clear title on all of them. Through a title process, numerous owners have been identified, which could include abutters.

The two-plus mile, 10-foot wide trail would run from the Swampscott Train Station to the Marblehead line at Seaview Avenue, connecting with the Marblehead rail trail, which also links to trails in Salem.

Paul Dwyer, a Swampscott resident who lives along the proposed trail, said the group became aware of a section in the town charter, that allows a challenge to the Town Meeting vote by means of a petition, and that could subsequently force a ballot initiative. He said when they didn’t win at Town Meeting, the group decided to start the petition drive.

The town charter (Section 2-6) reads that votes, except a vote to adjourn or authorize the borrowing of money in receipt of taxes for the current year, passed at Town Meeting don’t go into effect for five days.

The Town Meeting vote can be challenged within five days by filing a petition with the Board of Selectmen, asking that the question be submitted to the town’s voters. If five percent of the town’s registered voters sign the petition, the question in substantially the same language that was presented to Town Meeting, would appear on a ballot during a special election, according to the charter.

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Dwyer said the response to the petition was overwhelming in town. He said people want to be heard on this issue, as opposed to just passing it through Town Meeting because it’s a lot of money to be spent. If the town sinks $850,000 into the project, and then can’t raise enough money to construct the trail, would more funds be requested at Town Meeting, he asked.

He said the other thing people have a problem with is eminent domain, which he said is a great thing to be used to build a new hospital or school, but not to build a recreational trail. Dwyer said people think eminent domain is the wrong thing to do to your neighbors.

“We’re very optimistic and enthused about the support that happened last week and continues to go on, so we hope that carries over to an election,” Dwyer said. “There are so many financial needs in this town that this trail is a luxury and a want more than anything else. We don’t need it, we can’t afford it, and there are many, many more priorities in town than a trail.”

Duplin said there were 10,662 registered voters as of week. The petition needed to garner 5 percent of those voters, or 533 signatures, to force the town-wide vote. She said there were 946 signatures submitted, and that 889 were certified. Other signatures were not certified for things such as illegible signature, some people signed who don’t live in town, and several people signed the petition twice, she added.

After the clerk’s office is done certifying the signatures, Duplin said there is a 48-hour window where anyone can file an objection to the signatures, which expires Wednesday at 5 p.m. She said the petition was handed in on Saturday, within five days of Town Meeting, and the signatures were certified on Monday. If objections are filed, she said the Board of Registrars would have to hold a hearing within 14 days.

Duplin said anyone can file objections for various reasons, but usually the reason is to reduce the number of certified signatures on the petition.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said she has consulted with Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and some other members of the board, and doesn’t believe it’s wise to challenge the petition.

“I think it will go to a vote,” Dreeben said. “They clearly collected enough signatures and they have been certified so we’re not going to challenge it … People have a right to request a ballot measure for the town-wide vote and we’ll honor that.”

Dreeben said the board would set a date for the election, but the Selectmen have not met yet to discuss that. She said the Town Meeting vote was extremely clear on its approval to allocate the funds.

“I believe the Town Meeting is a good representation of the rest of the town, and I’m quite confident the town-wide vote will be consistent with the Town Meeting vote,” Dreeben said.

Duplin said an election usually costs the town between $10,000 to $12,000, for things such as ballot printing, poll workers and supplies.


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

 

Riley offers new point of view in Saugus

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is former School Committee member Corinne Riley.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Former School Committee member Corinne Riley is vying for a seat on the Board of Selectmen.

“Watching Board of Selectmen meetings and other committee meetings, I feel that at times there’s not that many different point of views during discussion,” said Riley. “I think that more people can be represented in town.”

Riley hopes to bring a different perspective. As a volunteer at many different capacities for several years, she said she has seen the needs and heard the concerns of different community groups.

She has served as the chair of the Saugus War Monument Committee, a member of the Belmonte Renovation Steering Committee; Belmonte School Council; Belmonte Parent Teacher Organization; an executive board member, league manager, and coach for Saugus Softball Little League; a religious educator at St. Margaret Parish in Saugus for eight years; co-chair of the Saugus Coalition for the Homeless; and campaign manager for the re-election of state Rep. Donald Wong.

“One of my strong points is my ability to work with all groups,” Riley said. “I have dealt with many personalities especially while volunteering. You have to be able to give and take and negotiate, for lack of a better word, to get things done. I’m an independent thinker but I have the ability to change my mind if someone has a better argument.”

While serving two terms on the School Committee, she advocated for salary increases for teachers and paraprofessionals that work with special education students, for new science labs, and proposed to lower extracurricular user fees. She worked with the Saugus Chamber of Commerce to bring back the student job fair at Saugus High School in 2014, which has since become an annual event.

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When she learned the Ballard Early Education Center was the only school with a defibrillator, she advocated for private donations to fund defibrillators in each school, she said.

“There are other things that could be addressed that, at this time, people don’t seem to want to discuss,” she said.

Riley said the new combination high school and middle school project is a priority for her. But she also sees strong needs in other parts of the town. She strongly believes the Fire Department needs to expand to include a third station on the west side of town.

“With all the development and planning for Route 1, we really do need another fire station,” she said. “That’s really something I would like to pursue. Route 1 will be invaded with more traffic and more people.”

It’s also imperative to conduct a more thorough census, she said.

“I really think this town would benefit from a town-wide, door-knocking census,” she said. “We need to be interviewing people and talking to them and getting the real numbers.”

Higher numbers could qualify the town for additional state financial aid, she said. It would also support the notion that an additional fire station is necessary.


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

Swampscott opens its doors to tourists

COURTESY PHOTO
The Swampscott area is shown in the above map. 

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Two zoning changes approved at Town Meeting on Tuesday night could bring a hotel or inn to Swampscott, along with more affordable housing.

The two zoning changes dominated the discussion during the second night of Town Meeting, but the more debated of the two was regarding a tourist lodging overlay district.

Town Meeting members voted, 153-51, in favor of amending zoning bylaws to create a tourist lodging overlay district, and modify where hotels, motels, inns and a bed and breakfast are allowed by special permit. The overlay district identifies more areas where the lodgings are possible, and the purpose is to make Swampscott more of a tourist destination again. The current zoning law has significant restrictions in place, making the creation of tourist lodging difficult in Swampscott, officials said.

The tourist lodging overlay district includes the portion of Humphrey Street from the Lynn line to the monument. There are also the properties on the east side of Puritan Road, opposite Sandy Beach. The Planning Board recommended to Town Meeting members, which was also accepted with the vote, that two properties on Sculpin Way be eliminated from the district, along with the properties from Phillips Beach to Preston Beach.

There is currently only one bed and breakfast in town on Humphrey Street, and there are no hotels, motels or inns.

Peter Kane, director of community development, said the properties were chosen so hotels would be adjacent to or across from water, with easy access to beaches, but also on main routes.

Town Meeting members questioned why the properties near Marblehead were removed, with Gerard Perry saying that there is a perception that certain neighborhoods in town are being treated differently, and he wanted to make sure that everyone was being treated fairly.

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Voters also approved amending the zoning bylaw by adding affordable housing regulations, or inclusionary housing regulations. The purpose is to encourage affordable housing in town, which is below the state required amount of affordable housing units. The town is at 3.75 percent, while 10 percent of all units are required to meet the affordable housing definition, officials said.

The Planning Board recommended, which was approved, that if a new project, or development is a certain size, developers would be required to contribute 10 percent, rather than the initial drafted 15 percent figure, of its units as affordable.

That would apply to a multi-family development, with 10 or more units; a new subdivision, with six or more units; and an assisted living facility or independent living facility, with five or more units, Kane said.

Developers can also pay a fee in lieu of offering affordable housing, which would go toward the town’s affordable housing trust. The change only applies to developments proposed after Town Meeting.

Richard Frenkel, a Town Meeting member, questioned the change from 15 to 10 percent.

Kane said the Planning Board heard feedback that 15 percent was a little too aggressive for initial adoption.

Town Meeting members also approved lowering the town’s speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour, as part of the Municipal Modernization Act, which allows the Board of Selectmen to lower the speed limit on certain roads without state approval.

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The change won’t affect state-controlled roads, such as Paradise Road, which has a speed limit of 35 mph, or town roads with posted speed limits lower than 25 mph.

Voters approved an article authorizing the Board of Selectmen to petition the General Court for special legislation allowing the board to issue eight additional all-liquor licenses. The town currently has 14. Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the last license was recently issued by the selectmen, and the increase is intended to bring additional businesses to Swampscott.

Town Meeting members approved placing a historic preservation restriction on the Swampscott Fish House.

Gino Cresta, department of public works director and assistant town administrator, said previously that the grant will allow the town to receive a $50,000 Mass Historical grant for renovations to the Fish House, which it has already applied for.

The Fish House is already on the Massachusetts Historic Register, but the historic preservation restriction puts more protection, and exterior work done on the building would require Massachusetts Historical Commission permission, Cresta said.

The Swampscott Yacht Club are tenants in the building. Jackson Schultz, past commodore of the Swampscott Yacht Club, spoke in opposition to the article, saying he’d much prefer to go to the town for permission for alterations to the building, rather than go to the state. He said one of the club’s goals is to eventually put a kitchen back in place.

“I rise against this change,” Schultz said.


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

 

Swampscott means business on licenses

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT Town officials have requested an increase in all-liquor licenses in Swampscott, which they hope will attract new businesses.

“We’re hoping that we can receive a few additional licenses, so we can continue to focus on economic development and bringing additional investments to Swampscott,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.

Town Meeting members on Monday will be asked to authorize the Board of Selectmen to petition the General Court for special legislation allowing the board to issue eight additional all-liquor licenses.

“This article would provide additional business opportunities in our commercial districts, such as Humphrey Street and Vinnin Square, where eating establishments would like to operate with a liquor license,” the warrant article reads. “The 14 existing licenses are currently granted in full.”

The town’s newly updated Master Plan calls for some strategic focus on Humphrey Street, Vinnin Square and the railroad station neighborhood, in terms of revitalizing some of the businesses and restaurant opportunities, Fitzgerald said. He said the increase would bring the right investments to Swampscott, and would bring a robust business quarter in those areas.

Fitzgerald said a few weeks ago, the Board of Selectmen issued the town’s last all-liquor license, which encompasses alcohol, mixed drinks, beer, wine and cordials. The town also offers beer and wine licenses, and a temporary beer and wine license, he said.

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Last week, a restaurant applied for a liquor license that the town doesn’t have, Fitzgerald said. He said the increase would be an opportunity to bring new investments or new opportunities to Swampscott that would be lost to another community that has the licenses available.

He said existing restaurants in town may want to apply for the additional liquor licenses, but the primary focus is on attracting new businesses to Swampscott. In addition, Fitzgerald said as officials look at ways to reduce the town’s overall residential tax rate, finding ways to increase the commercial tax rate will be part of that discussion.

If the article is approved by Town Meeting, Fitzgerald said the town would work with the legislative delegation, and the increase would have to advance to General Court for a vote by the legislature. Over the years, he said the legislature has seen fit to grant communities additional licenses.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said the full liquor licenses are given out by the state based on the population in the town. Swampscott has 14, based on about 14,000 residents. She said the board is asking for an exception because “this is the kind of business that can succeed in Swampscott.” Restaurants would really like to have full liquor licenses, she added.

“The businesses that we want to encourage are interesting eateries,” Dreeben said. “We need the liquor licenses to bring those to town.”

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

 

Marblehead voters make their selection

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Paul Jalbert posts election results.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — The Town Election brought a new member to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday, but also featured a low voter turnout.

Mark C. Moses Grader, chairman of the Finance Committee, was elected to a one-year term on the five-member board. He received the most votes of the Selectmen candidates with 1,899.

Grader has been a member of the Finance Committee for nine years, and chairman for the past five. He is the co-founder and managing partner of Little Harbor Advisors, an investment management firm based in Marblehead. He is married with two sons, who were educated through Marblehead schools.

“I’m very proud and honored to be elected, and it’s the culmination of a lot of teamwork and effort,” Grader said. “I’m just really pleased.”

The four incumbents — Jackie Belf-Becker, who serves as chairwoman, Harry Christensen Jr., Judith Jacobi, and James Nye — retained their seats. Nye received 1,807 votes, Jacobi had 1,783, Belf-Becker received 1,686, and Christensen had 1,535 ballots cast in his favor.

John Liming, a former selectman, was the other challenger, but did not gain a seat after receiving 819 votes.

Bret Murray was the other member of the Board of Selectmen up for re-election, but decided not to run for another term.

A term on the Board of Selectmen is only for one year, so incumbents have to run annually.

Voter turnout was 16 percent.

In switching boards, Grader said he was eager to go from an oversight role to a decision-making and executive role in Marblehead town government.

Grader said his No. 1 priority is to make sure Marblehead continues to be fiscally very sound. The financial health of the town is what makes every other initiative possible, he added.

Belf-Becker, an attorney, has lived in Marblehead for 41 years. She and her husband have been married for almost 43 years, and have two children who have gone through Marblehead Public Schools. She has been on the Board of Selectmen since 2005, and has been chairwoman for nine years, not all consecutively. Previously, she served six years on the School Committee, including three as chairwoman.

“I’m thrilled,” Belf-Becker said. “I’m very grateful to the voters for letting me serve another term … I think that we work really well together as a board and Moses will be a fabulous addition. I think that together, we do a good job for the town and that’s what matters most to all of us.”

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Belf-Becker said she would be focused on collective bargaining agreements, which all have to be renegotiated in early 2018, making sure that all budgetary needs continue to be met, and seeing what projects are coming down the pipeline.

Nye, a Marblehead native, is the president and CEO of National Grand Bank in Marblehead. He was first elected to the board in 2005. His three daughters were raised in the town.

Nye said it was a great honor to be re-elected. He said a fantastic team has been created, with the town administrator, finance director and the department heads.

“The town is really running efficiently,” he said. “I’m honored to keep it moving forward in a fiscally responsible manner. We welcome Moses to the team.”

Nye said the focus is always on the budget, and also said the priority would be on collective bargaining agreements.

Jacobi has served on the board since 2000. While running, she cited the importance of her years as a classroom teacher and a calm temperament that allows her to evaluate situations and listen to concerns.

“I’m very pleased,” Jacobi said. “It says a lot for the incumbents, and I think that altogether, we’re a good team.”

Going forward, Jacobi said her hope was to keep Marblehead the stable town that it is. Sometimes, she said, it’s more exciting to say people want change, but if the wheel is working, keep it rolling.

Christensen has served on the board for about 20 years since the 1990s on three different stints. He has been practicing law in Marblehead for more than 30 years. He is married with two children, and has three grandchildren. He has lived in Marblehead all his life, with the exception a year he spent in the United States Marine Corps.

Christensen was not at Abbot (Town) Hall for results or to comment on his re-election.  

In the only other contested race, Rufus Titus defeated Rose Ann Wheeler McCarthy 1,514 to 803 for a three-year term on the Cemetery Commission.

Other uncontested races were for Moderator, Assessors, Board of Health, Abbot Public Library Trustees, Municipal Light Commission, Planning Board, Recreation and Parks Commission, School Committee, and the Water and Sewer Commission.


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

 

Swampscott is fishing for $50,000

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Officials are hoping for a $50,000 grant for the Swampscott Fish House.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials hope a historic preservation restriction placed on the Swampscott Fish House, if approved by Town Meeting next week, will land them a $50,000 grant for renovations.

“We’ve applied for a grant that would provide funding for doing some repairs on the Fish House,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “In order to get that grant, we have to have this designation.”

Dreeben said the designation is a formal way of showing that the town intends to preserve the building, located at 391 Humphrey St., in a historically appropriate manner.

Gino Cresta, assistant town administrator and department of public works director, said in a phone interview that the Fish House is already on the Massachusetts Historic Register, but the article up for approval at Town Meeting on May 15 adds a historical preservation restriction to the building. He said that puts more protection, and exterior work done on the building would require Massachusetts Historical Commission permission.

Cresta said the town has already applied for the $50,000 Mass Historical grant for renovations to the Fish House, and as long as the article passes, the town would still be eligible for it.

“Without this approval, this grant is dead in the water,” Cresta said at a prior Board of Selectmen meeting.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the Fish House has an incredible legacy. Getting funding from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and working with the commission to establish an existing preservation for the building is ultimately a very positive thing for Swampscott, he added.

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Cresta said there are two primary provisions of the perpetual agreement up for Town Meeting approval.

“The first provision assures the MHC (Massachusetts Historical Commission) that the building and site will be adequately maintained in perpetuity, while the second provision requires that any proposed substantial alteration to the building interior, exterior or surrounding property be presented to the MHC prior to the start of construction in the form of an alteration request for review and prior approval,” Cresta wrote in an email. “Routine maintenance would not trigger an MHC review.”

The total renovations are estimated at $95,000. In May 2016, Town Meeting appropriated funds to do the work on Fish House, but the grant would allow the town to do additional work, Cresta said.

Renovations will include new windows and a new asphalt roof with a rubber roof membrane, painting the building, repairing the widow’s walk railing, a new balcony railing, a new roof hatch, and a new interior ladder with a cage, Cresta said.

Cresta said some renovations were done on the building 12 years ago, which included new windows and doors, and painting the building. He said a new roof was installed 20 years ago.

“There’s a lot of damage to the building,” Cresta said. “The renovations that we did 12 years ago are starting to deteriorate because of the result of the saltwater and the ocean.”

If the article is approved at Town Meeting, Cresta said the town is hoping to hear back from the grant by the end of June, and he would hope to put the project out to bid shortly after. He said the contractors have to be certified to work on historical buildings.


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

 

Saugus to give streets a facelift

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SAUGUS Town Meeting members zipped through most of the warrant on Monday with little to no discussion.

Town Meeting members voted to raise and appropriate $642,035 for street resurfacing, handicapped ramps and sidewalks, which will be reimbursed by the state under Chapter 90.

Town Meeting also authorized the treasurer, with the Board of Selectmen, to borrow $662,100 at 0 percent interest from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) Local Pipeline Assistance Program for designing and constructing improvements to the water pipelines.

Members voted to appropriate $224,212 from the premium paid to the town upon the sale of bonds issued to repair the Belmonte Middle School, which is the subject of a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion, to pay costs of the project being financed by such bonds and to reduce the amount authorized to be borrowed for the project, but not yet issued by the town, by the same amount.

An article requesting that Town Meeting vote to create a study committee that would evaluate benefits and costs associated with Saugus Public Schools providing free, all-day kindergarten was referred back to the School Committee.

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A revolving fund was reauthorized for supporting recreational programs for the community. Revolving funds were also reauthorized to support the water system cross-connection program, programs and activities at the Senior Center, the Senior Lunch Program at the Senior Center, and the Town of Saugus Compost Program.

The only debate was centered around whether a nonbinding resolution, not listed on the warrant, should be read and voted on. Town Meeting members were torn on whether the resolution, made by another member, Albert DiNardo, should be read.

Ultimately, a vote allowed the resolution to be read by DiNardo, which says that the cost of health insurance for Saugus employees and retirees is increasing at a double digit percentage rate.

“The projected FY18 cost of health insurance for Saugus is $13.3 million of an approximately $90 million Saugus annual budget,” the resolution reads. “Let it be resolved that the Saugus Finance Committee provide the Saugus Town Meeting with an analysis of past health care costs, trends, and provide a three- to five-year future forecast of costs and report back to the Town Meeting.”

The resolution passed after a roll call vote.

Town Meeting will reconvene on Monday, May 22, to take up the rest of the articles on the warrant.


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

$645,000 for new engine not alarming Swampscott

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
The Swampscott Fire Department is hoping to get funding to replace Engine 22, which has been in use for more than 20 years.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTTFire Chief Kevin Breen is seeking a $645,000 replacement of a 20-year-old fire engine at Town Meeting.

The new fire engine is among other capital project funding requests that would require approval at Town Meeting on May 15. It is the only equipment request from the fire department.

Breen said replacement of Engine 22, a 1997 Emergency One Hurricane Cab, which currently serves as a reserve piece, has been in his capital plan for six years. The engine has nearly 70,000 miles on it and almost 8,800 service hours.

By comparison, Engine 21, the frontline piece, is a 2009 Spartan, and has more than 43,000 miles on it, along with more than 4,800 service hours. If the funds are allocated for a new fire engine, Engine 21 would become the reserve piece and the new vehicle would become the frontline piece, Breen said.

Breen said the rated lifespan of a fire apparatus is 20 years. The Insurance Service Association begins to derate equipment after its 20th year.

Engine 21 would not be scheduled for replacement until 2029. But if funding was postponed, the town would run into the issue of purchasing a $645,000 apparatus closer to the planned replacement of Ladder 21, a 2004 American LaFrance, which is scheduled for in roughly seven years. At that time, the replacement of Ladder 21 could cost between $1.2 to $1.5 million, Breen said.

The planned replacement program, Breen said, is also to ensure the department doesn’t end with a catastrophic failure of equipment. He said Engine 22 isn’t on the verge of falling apart, but historically, as an apparatus gets older, the equipment requires more service.

Earlier this year, $1,200 to $1,400 had to be spent on a new alternator and voltage regulator. The older pieces get, he said, more is spent on maintenance and the parts are tougher to get, particularly with ladder trucks.

The fire department has three pieces of apparatus, two engines and one ladder truck. Two are frontline pieces and one (Engine 22) is a reserve piece. But because a frontline piece is in repair right now, Breen said he is in the process of trying to borrow a piece from a neighboring community for a couple of weeks. Engine 22 is currently in service.

Typically, a reserve piece is in service 65 to 80 days a year, for instances such as extra staffing for storms, whenever there is a mechanical malfunction with one of the frontline pieces, when one of the pieces goes out of town for mutual aid, or if there is a serious fire in town, Breen said.

Breen said he was very hopeful funding would be approved at Town Meeting.

“All signs are pretty good,” Breen said. “All the committees that we’ve presented to have been receptive to the need.”

If approved, Breen said there will be a specification put out, various manufacturers will bid, and a selection process would take place.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said he is in support, as it is a project that has been in the town’s capital improvement plan for the past five years. He said Breen has done an excellent job of focusing on replacing apparatus at a time that makes sense for the continuity of operation, and the longer the town holds onto the equipment, there’s more risk that something may fail.

Fitzgerald said the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and the Capital Improvement Committee have voted to support the recommendation to Town Meeting.

“We’re just taking those responsible steps to replace a very important piece of public safety equipment,” Fitzgerald said.


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

 

Charges dropped against harbormaster

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Criminal charges have been dropped against former harbormaster Lawrence Bithell.

Bithell was placed on administrative leave in September by the town, and had been facing criminal charges for use of an expired license plate. He was replaced and taken off administrative leave when Swampscott Police Sgt. William Waters was appointed as the new interim harbormaster in February.

His case was dismissed at Lynn District Court on Tuesday, when he was scheduled to appear for his trial.

Neil Rossman, Bithell’s defense attorney, said the case was assigned for jury trial and he appeared ready to try the case, but the Commonwealth, through the Essex County District Attorney’s office, said they didn’t intend to proceed and moved to have the charges dropped.

Rossman said it was nice to have the matter resolved, and he was sure that Bithell was happy to have the criminal charges removed and not hanging over his head.

Carrie Kimball Monahan, spokeswoman for the district attorney’s office, said DA’s office filed a “nolle prosequi,” which essentially ceases the prosecution. She said the assistant district attorney didn’t say on the record a particular reason for the filing, but typically the reason “is in the interest of justice.”

Bithell was arraigned in October on 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.

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

House passes balanced FY18 budget

As one matter is resolved, Bithell still has a pending lawsuit against the town, attempting to save his job as harbormaster.

In March, a “complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief” was filed on behalf of Bithell by Rossman at Salem Superior Court. The defendants are listed as the Board of Selectmen, town of Swampscott, and Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.

“The plaintiff, Lawrence Bithell, has served as the town’s harbormaster for over 38 years,” reads the complaint. “In a series of illegal actions by the town, acting by and through its (then) Town Administrator Thomas Younger, its (then) Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta, Jr., and the current board of selectmen, has attempted to remove the plaintiff from the office of harbormaster, first by placing him on administrative leave and then by allegedly not reappointing him.”

The complaint was filed to prevent the town from removing Bithell from his position, before a formal judgment by the court on “his rights to continued employment in office, and subsequently, for a declaratory judgment on his right to continued tenure in office,” reads the document.

Rossman said a hearing on the motion for injunction took place at Salem Superior Court on Wednesday, where a judge took it under advisement. He said the town attorney was there and made the town’s case, and he was there on behalf of Bithell. Rossman said he basically argued along the lines of the complaint, and declined further comment until the judge makes a decision to either grant the injunction or deny it.

Fitzgerald said in early April that the selectmen and Rossman were looking at a possible settlement. On Thursday, he said it was a matter of policy not to comment on pending suits. He also declined comment on the criminal charges being dropped.

The complaint argues that Bithell’s appointment from its initial enactment in 1978 “shall remain in force unless the harbormaster is removed for neglect of duty, negligence or conduct unbecoming of a harbormaster” and alleges that he had never been charged with any of the three reasons for removal. Rossman, in the complaint, also argues that the office of harbormaster is not subject to reappointment.

The harbormaster position pays a stipend of $7,983 and officials say it is a yearly appointment. Waters is in place through June 30, and Cresta, when recommending his appointment, said it was his hope that he would then be appointed as the permanent harbormaster.


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

Ifs, ands, and abutters may force trail off Grid

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a plan for the Swampscott rail trail.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — National Grid representatives have informed town officials that they will not voluntarily enter into a license with the town for a proposed rail trail within the company’s corridor.

Town Meeting members will be asked to approve a warrant article on May 15 requesting $850,000 for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well as the legal fees and costs for acquisition of the easement rights.

The two-plus mile, 10-foot wide trail would run from the Swampscott Train Station to the Marblehead line at Seaview Avenue, connecting with the Marblehead rail trail, which also links to trails in Salem, officials said.

A recent email from a National Grid representative, Michael Guerin, was sent to Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and director of community development Peter Kane in response to Kane’s April 6 email requesting a meeting to discuss the town’s proposed rail trail.

National Grid’s correspondence detailed the company’s concerns with the proposed trail, saying: “National Grid has property rights along the right-of-way proposed to be used for the rail trail.”

Guerin further stated in the email that the company has significant concerns about the opposition from neighbors along the right-of-way, and that National Grid has been contacted repeatedly by abutters and their legal counsel.

“These residents have been very vocal about their opposition to the rail trail and until such time as their objections have been resolved, National Grid does not feel it can voluntarily enter into a license with the town for the proposed trail,” Guerin wrote.

“If, however, the town of Swampscott intends to take the rail trail by eminent domain, then National Grid would meet with you to discuss how to best ensure National Grid’s ability to continue to use and maintain the right-of-way for its electric facilities, so that we can continue to provide safe and reliable service to our customers,” Guerin continued.

Kane said the letter wasn’t surprising and was expected based on past discussions with National Grid. On Tuesday, at a Rail Trail Informational meeting, he said the town had a meeting with National Grid earlier this week.

“Based on the town’s research and discussions with National Grid over the past few years, we knew they wouldn’t be able to provide us a low- or no-cost license for the exact reason they stated in the email,” Kane said in an email. “This is the reason why the Board of Selectmen submitted a warrant article for Town Meeting for funding to instead go through the eminent domain process.

“This email substantiates our statements at the public meetings that the town can’t get a license,” Kane wrote. “This is a standard type of response and we look forward to working with our utility to bring this amenity to the town.”

Kane said $240,000 of the requested Town Meeting funds would be used to hire professionals for design and engineering costs. About $610,000 would be for acquisition of easement rights, where the town would work with the property owners (National Grid and/or other parties) to secure the rights. This may be done through eminent domain, with compensation for owners, or by donation/gift of the land.

The Town Meeting funds would not for be construction of the trail, which would be paid for by donations, grants and private funds, officials said.

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Thomas Palleria, an abutter of the proposed trail, said he owns land that the town may try to take by eminent domain. He said neighbors have been living under the threat of eminent domain for years.

Town Meeting has voted for the creation of the trail on four separate occasions, including three times since 2002, Kane said. In 2009, Town Meeting gave the town the authority to use eminent domain for a recreational easement, but didn’t allocate the funds for that process.

Palleria said he thinks that eminent domain proceedings against National Grid are going to increase the cost of acquiring the easement rights, potentially to an amount much larger than the funds requested at Town Meeting.

He said there are also potential issues with appraised values of land for abutters and legal fees that could push numbers beyond that $850,000 figure.

In addition, Palleria said there’s “no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” referring to additional funds needed for construction of the trail, which the town would have to go out and find after the design, engineering and acquisition phase. There’s no guarantee that the rail trail is even feasible, he added.

Other residents at the informational meeting agreed, with one saying that Town Meeting could be voting in $850,000 that could get the town nothing, referring to the trail. Some argued that the warrant article should be split, with Town Meeting only voting to allocate funds for the design and engineering phase, and drop asking for funds for acquisition of easement rights until the first phase was completed.

Kane, through a presentation on Tuesday night, identified grant opportunities that Swampscott could pursue for the trail construction, including the Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation: Recreational Trails Program, Mass State Transportation Improvement Plan, MassDOT Complete Streets, Safe Routes to Schools, and nonprofit grant opportunities such as PeopleForBikes Community Grant Program and The Barr Foundation.

The rail bed, where National Grid power lines run to Marblehead, has been vacant since the 1960s, when the Marblehead railroad branch shut down. It was sold to National Grid’s predecessor.

Town officials meet with National Grid representatives in 2014 and 2015, who were believed to be the sole owners of the easement wanted by the town for the trail. Officials said the town had previously been in discussions to acquire the easement from the company for little to no cost, but it has since been learned that National Grid doesn’t appear to own all of the land. Through a title process, numerous owners have been identified, which could include abutters.

Kane said the utility corridor is made up of 11 parcels of property, which make up a total area of about 500,000 square feet. The rail trail easement would be about 90,000 square feet, or 18 percent. National Grid pays property taxes for all 11 parcels, and paid $57,778 in FY17. Although National Grid pays the property taxes, not all 11 parcels are held in fee simple title by the company, meaning it doesn’t hold clear title on all of them.

Not all residents who spoke on Tuesday were against the trail.

Eric Bachman said one of the reasons he moved to Swampscott 10 years ago was for enticement of the rail trail. He said he imagines it as safer place kids can ride their bikes and as free exercise, or a way people can get out in nature.


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

Tradition makes a stand in Marblehead

Town Clerk Robin Michaud’s name is not on the May 9 Marblehead election ballot but Michaud won a resounding vote of confidence at Monday’s Town Meeting when participants voted 389-166 to defeat a petition to make the clerk’s job an appointed rather than an elected post.

If the vote had gone the other way, appointment proponents would have had to jump through several hoops during the next two years before the clerk’s job became an appointed position. The petition dominated Monday night’s Town Meeting debate with Michaud speaking against it. She simultaneously exerted her independence and demonstrated her popularity by urging Town Meeting to view an elected clerk as a Marblehead tradition. She also warned that an appointed clerk could face pressure from town elected officials, notably the Board of Selectmen.

The chief proponent for an appointed clerk made what almost has to be viewed as a dig at Michaud when he suggested appointment, rather than election, could make the clerk’s office run more efficiently.

Marblehead’s neighboring towns appoint clerks, in the case of Swampscott, Lynnfield and Saugus where the town manager is the appointing authority. Nahant just elected its clerk, the popular Margaret Barile, but the emphasis on appointment offers an insight into the clerk’s role from one community to another.

If there is one job in town government that is most closely identified with an individual’s personality, it is town clerk.

Tradition comes to a ‘head

Clerks are the face of town government: They help people fill out and file birth and death certificates and, in towns such as Nahant, they preside over the annual rite of summer better known as beach permit renewal.

Clerks also preside over elections in many towns and that role can and does bring them into conflict with elected officials. It’s been a long time since a North Shore clerk stood up and said elected officials were attempting to exercise undue influence on the clerk’s office. But clerks know exactly what is going on in town government. They know who is feuding, who is looking to get someone a job and who is saying something different from what they are doing.

It is interesting — if not a little amusing — to note that Marblehead Town Meeting members voted by secret ballot on the appointment question. Imagine more than 500 people lining up with pencils and pieces of paper to make a decision that could have been affirmed with a show of hands.

A Lynnfield Town Meeting member had the nerve to propose a secret ballot vote on the controversial rail trail proposed for that town. The idea went down in flames and the resulting vote gave trail proponents a one-vote victory.

Marblehead’s secret ballot saw residents strike down the appointed Town Clerk proposal by more than a two-to-one margin. It confirmed what Michaud must have known before Town Meeting started on Monday: She is a popular town official who is viewed as efficient and hard-working and independent.

Tradition comes to a ‘head

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — The town clerk position will remain elected, as Town Meeting rejected a proposal to change the position to an appointed one on Monday night.

Town Meeting was dominated by the citizens petition centered around the town clerk position, and was relatively routine before the proposal was up for debate.

The petition was defeated 389-166, keeping the position elected, but the matter wasn’t easily resolved.

A petition from 12 voters before Town Meeting requesting that the vote be conducted by secret ballot was honored, meaning that hundreds of members voted individually by paper ballot, which then had to be counted.

Town Clerk Robin Michaud was against the proposed change, which if approved, would have then went on the town election ballot as a referendum in May 2018. It would have gone into effect in May 2019, if it had passed Town Meeting and a ballot initiative.

Michaud also spoke against the article at Town Meeting, saying that if the position was appointed by the Board of Selectmen, the clerk would be pressured to do what they want in order to keep his or her job.

She had previously argued that the position is the chief election official for the town, and should stay independent. Michaud said previously that elected town clerks have served Marblehead and towns through the Commonwealth for hundreds of years, and in a town full of tradition, “we should keep this tradition too,” one that has stood the test of time because it works.

Several Town Meeting members spoke against the proposal, with one urging a “no” vote in order to preserve the history and tradition.

Charles Gessner, the sponsor for the petition, said he thought the change would improve the efficiency of the town clerk’s office.

Saugus Town Meeting is at play

Without any discussion, Town Meeting members approved an $89.2 million budget, including a $36.5 million figure for the schools.

Three other citizens’ petitions had also garnered some attention leading up to Town Meeting.

Voters gave their approval to accepting Tioga Way as a town or public road. Only public ways are eligible for state Chapter 90 funds to repair and resurface local roads, Town Administrator John McGinn said previously.

Another petition requesting funds for holiday donations was indefinitely postponed, after the sponsors withdrew their motion, citing the recent approval by the Board of Selectmen to create a donation fund, upon the request of the Chamber of Commerce. With the fund, people can make freewill donations payable to the town of Marblehead, which would go into that fund and be available for the purchase of holiday decorations.

A fourth citizens’ petition passed, which was asking the town to support a resolution supporting state and federal legislation that provides greater transparency in political donations and limits the influence of money in politics, and requests state and federal representatives to pass such legislation.

The effort is part of a larger movement by Represent.Us, a grassroots campaign based in Florence, that is aimed at stopping political bribery, ending secret money and fixing broken elections.

Bonnie Grenier, one of the sponsors of the petition, said previously the resolution is nonbinding and doesn’t become law, but would represent the voice of the people, and would strongly encourage elected officials at the state and local level.

Speaking in favor of the article on Monday, she said it would enhance transparency in political fundraising and campaign spending, and is aimed at restoring government that truly represents, we the people. If there’s going to be change, she said it falls to the people to act.


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

Two heads better than one in Swampscott

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Gino Cresta, left, and Ronald Mendes have both been appointed assistant town administrators.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — One resignation at Town Hall has prompted the promotion of two other officials to assistant town administrators.

Former Town Accountant and Assistant Town Administrator David Castellarin resigned earlier this month for personal reasons. He had been out on medical leave since the beginning of March, and his resignation was effective April 18, according to Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.

A search for a new town accountant is underway and the position will be advertised this week. Starting salary for the position will be $80,000, and will be dependent on qualifications, Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald, as part of his plan to improve the delivery of municipal services and the administration of town financial functions, has promoted Gino Cresta, department of public works (DPW) director for 14 years, to the position of assistant town administrator for operations and Ronald Mendes, town treasurer/collector, to the position of assistant town administrator for administration.

Both men will also remain in their current roles. Cresta’s salary will be bumped from $101,225 to $115,000, and Mendes will see a raise from $78,250 to $101,000.

“Gino has a familiarity with the town that is really extraordinary,” Fitzgerald said. “He has served most recently as the interim town administrator, but he has been really indispensable from any vantage point. I think he’ll continue to grow and continue to contribute at high levels.”

Cresta served as interim town administrator for five months, while a search for a permanent town administrator was underway, which eventually led to the hiring of Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said Mendes has less tenure and time with the town, but “has a tremendous background in municipal finance, that “gives him the ability to support some of the higher level financial analysis and leadership that we’re looking to achieve over the next few months to years.

“Swampscott is poised to do some really great things with these two individuals in leadership roles,” Fitzgerald said.

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As assistant town administrator for operations, Cresta will be managing Swampscott’s day-to-day operations and long-term strategy for capital improvements for the town, in addition to his role overseeing the DPW. He has an engineering degree from Merrimack College.

Cresta, a Swampscott resident, said when he graduated, he worked for his family’s construction company, and started with the town in 2003 as assistant engineer for five months, before he was appointed DPW director. He has been married for 27 years and has three children.

“I’m honored that both the town administrator and the board of selectmen have put their trust in me and I’m looking forward to working with Sean Fitzgerald, as I believe he will be a tremendous asset to this town,” Cresta said. “Additionally, I’m looking forward to any new challenges this position may present.”

As assistant town administrator for administration, Mendes will continue in his current role as treasurer/collector and will also be leading all of the town’s financial services and supporting many of the evolving administrative duties of the town. Mendes said he would take on additional duties that Fitzgerald and the selectmen assign, such as budget development and capital plan development.

Mendes, a Lynn resident, has a degree in finance from the University of Denver’s Daniels College of Business and a law degree from the Massachusetts School of Law. He has more than 15 years of experience in municipal finance. Before his three years with the town, Mendes said he was the DPW business manager for the city of Newton and treasurer for the city of Wilmington before that. He has been an attorney for 11 years, but said his career is in municipal finance.

“I’m honored actually that Sean (Fitzgerald) is recognizing my ability to serve,” Mendes said. “I’m excited by the challenge and I just can’t wait to get to work.”

The Board of Selectmen approved the promotions on Wednesday night.

“We are excited to support these personnel changes,” Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said in a statement. “Swampscott has a great team of dedicated staff and their experience will be extremely valuable as we look to the future.”


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

Rail trail article squeaks by in Lynnfield

By ADAM SWIFT

LYNNFIELD — It all came down to one vote for a controversial rail trail article at Monday night’s Annual Town Meeting.

By a 342-341 tally, Lynnfield voters gave selectmen authorization to enter into a 99-year lease agreement with the MBTA for use of the old Newburyport rail line bed for possible future use as a recreation path.

The Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail advocated for moving forward with the project. The majority of the proposed 4.4 mile trail, about 2.5 miles, would run through Lynnfield near the center of town and over Reedy Meadow.

Patrick Curley of the friends group said the town has $7.1 million in state department of transportation money set aside for the project. The approval of the article does not commit the town to building the rail trail or committing any funds, Curley said.

“This is an incredible free resource,” Curley said of the potential of the MBTA leasing the property for free. “But we need to prove to the state that we have acquisition authority.”

Peabody is having a ball

Although the vote now gives selectmen authority to enter into a lease with the MBTA, Selectman Richard Dalton said there are still too many questions about the project that make him uncomfortable.

“My concern is looking at the process and due diligence for the project,” said Dalton. Dalton said he is not necessarily against a rail trail project, but said there are too many questions to move forward at this point.

In other town meeting action, voters approved spending $2.2 million for a new middle school track and other fields projects. Voters also approved several articles establishing bylaws prohibiting the sale of recreational marijuana in town.

 

Marblehead candidates stake out positions

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — Board of Selectmen candidates got an opportunity to state their cases to voters during on a forum Monday night, leading up to the May 9 Town Election.

A term on the five-member board of selectmen is only for one year, so incumbents have to run annually. Six candidates are running to fill five seats. Four incumbents are vying to retain their seats and two challengers are looking to get on the board.

Jackie Belf-Becker, who serves as chairwoman, Harry Christensen Jr., Judith Jacobi and James Nye have each decided to run for re-election. Bret Murray decided not to run for another term. John Liming and Mark C. Moses Grader are each running to become selectmen.

The four incumbents and two challengers faced off at the Marblehead League of Women Voters’ Candidates Night at the Marblehead High School Library. The forum was moderated by Jeff Shribman, a former selectman.

Belf-Becker, an attorney, said she has lived in Marblehead for 41 years. Her husband of almost 43 years is a lifelong resident. Their two children have gone through Marblehead Public Schools. She is running for her 13th term on the Board of Selectmen and has been chairwoman for nine years, not all consecutively. Previously, she served six years on the School Committee, including three as chairwoman.

“I believe that understanding the town, the budget process and the need to be fiscally responsible while addressing the services Marbleheaders rely on are key factors to one’s success as a selectman,” Belf-Becker said. “We don’t reinvent the wheel here. We keep it rolling smoothly and seemingly effortlessly.”

Belf-Becker said the town has consistently received a Triple A bond rating, which she said speaks volumes to the strong financial position of the town. Also reflecting that strength, she said, is the lower than most tax rate. She said the town has not had a general override for the past 12 years, largely due to fiscal planning.

One of the key issues for the board, Belf-Becker said, is that all collective bargaining agreements have to be renegotiated in early 2018. She said successful, fair, and good faith negotiations are beneficial for both sides, and an experienced board is best able to handle collective bargaining.

Jacobi said most of the qualities that she brings to the board come from the values that her parents, late husband and family have instilled in her, which are “the importance of honesty, integrity and service to others.” Her years as a classroom teacher have also been critical, she said. She said her calm temperament allows her to listen to concerns, evaluate situations and sometimes change her mind.

Jacobi said she has served on the board since 2000, and ran originally to make sure a well-run town stays well-run.

“Most importantly, I am running because I feel energized serving the town I am lucky enough to call home,” Jacobi said.

An important issue facing the board, Jacobi said, is being able to live within a budget so the town doesn’t have to ask for a Proposition 2½ override. “It is challenging, but it is important to keep the level of services Marbleheaders have come to expect,” she said.

Christensen, who is over 70 years old, said he’s served for about 20 years on the board since the 1990s on three different stints, but couldn’t remember how many terms. He said he has lived in Marblehead all of his life, with the exception of the year he spent in the United States Marine Corps.

Good vibrations in Lynn City Hall

Christensen has been practicing law in Marblehead for more than 30 years, with much of it in municipal law. He is married with two children and has three grandchildren. After the first semester of his Bachelor’s degree, he joined the Marine Corps. He was badly wounded in Vietnam, spending about five months there, and was sent home. After a stint in the naval hospital, he went back to school.

What’s most important for the board, he said, is what it has been doing.

“What we do is protect our town employees and ensure that we provide you people with the same services that you’ve been receiving over the years for the same buck,” Christensen said. “I’ve always thought that it’s been a pleasure and a privilege for me to serve the town.”

Nye, a Marblehead native, is the president and CEO of National Grand Bank Marblehead. His three daughters were raised in the town. He was first elected to the board in 2005.

“Over the past, the board, the town administrator and the finance director (departments) have managed the town budget efficiently and economically within the scope of Prop 2½ with no general override required,” Nye said. “I would like to continue this work on behalf of the taxpayers of Marblehead.

“The most pressing issue this year, as is every year is delivering the high level of service that the residents of Marblehead expect and deserve while providing for a small increase in pay for our town employees within the town’s budget, avoiding the general override.”

Grader said as a member of the Finance Committee for nine years, and chairman for the past five, he has been responsible for advising and recommending to Town Meeting. With his FinCom colleagues, he has reviewed, analyzed and vetted every appropriation budget and article project that has come before the town in that period.

Grader, co-founder and managing partner of Little Harbor Advisors, an investment management firm based in Marblehead, is married with two sons, who were educated through Marblehead schools.

He said the financial health of the town is the No. 1 issue, as the quality of services Marblehead residents have come to expect cannot be maintained without strong and well managed financial resources.

“What you have in me is a financial fiscal conservative who No. 1, has a deep understanding of the complex workings of the town government budget approval process and No. 2, who understands the importance of collaboration, fostering and maintaining the culture of accountability and getting things done,” Grader said.

Liming, a former selectman, said he would focus on fixing sidewalks, so children can walk to school safely. He said the sidewalks are in disrepair. He said he would work on giving more transparency, offering selectmen hours at town hall. If elected, he said he would pledge his stipend to go the Marblehead Holiday Decoration Fund.

“By running and winning, I hope I can open the gateway for other citizens of Marblehead who desire to run for public office,” Liming said.

The two candidates for the Cemetery Commission, the only other contested race on the ballot, were also supposed to debate each other, but Rufus Titus could not make it. Rose Ann Wheeler McCarthy and Titus are vying to fill a vacant seat on the commission, as William James is not running for re-election.

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

Swampscott beach fire debate heats up

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Phillips Beach in Swampscott is pictured in February 2017.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The Conservation Commission didn’t say no to cooking fires on Phillips Beach, but they didn’t say yes either.

A public hearing was held during a conservation commission meeting Thursday night, regarding the notice of intent filed by the Board of Selectmen to allow residents to have cooking fires on Phillips Beach.

The discussion was continued to the commission’s next meeting, with no vote taken. Conservation commission members raised concerns about how the fires would be regulated to protect the vegetation and about the timeframe they would be allowed. Patrick Jones, a selectman, asked for the continuance to discuss the concerns with the board and possibly limit the number of days and hours the fires would be allowed.

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 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.

Jones said the request was for up to four cooking fires in designated areas, where a permit would have to be obtained by the fire department. The time proposed was 6 to 11 p.m. with a $25 nonrefundable charge and a $50 deposit, which is meant to give incentive for people to clean up the area. Fires would have to be extinguished by water, and could not be buried.

“The reason we’re bringing it forward is because many residents continue to ask for this overwhelmingly,” Jones said.

‘This is not something we get used to’

Jones said even with no fires being allowed at Phillips Beach, there were still illegal fires occurring last year. The intent is to regulate them, he said.

Tom Ruskin, chairman of the commission, said last July that he was concerned with the vegetation going up in smoke. He said on Thursday that last summer was a compromise, with the commission finding that there was no threat to vegetation on Fisherman’s Beach, and allowing beach fires there. He said the commission has to weigh the benefits for the town of having beach fires versus protecting the environment. The commission has been liberal for the past 10 years, he said, in allowing people to enjoy the town.

“Now you’re asking us to threaten one of the most precious gems in town, this Palmer(s) pond,” Ruskin said. “If that place burns down, that’s it. It’s not worth experimenting. We don’t take chances experimenting with something like Palmer(s) Pond.”

Ruskin said he knows the commission would say “yes” to the beach fires on Phillips Beach if they could be ensured that the vegetation would be protected. If there couldn’t be a police or fire detail for regulation during the proposed timeframe for cooking fires, he suggested having fewer days they could be allowed. He said maybe the town could only afford to have a detail to monitor the fires from 7 to 11 p.m. for two days, and maybe they should only be allowed on a Friday and Saturday.

Ruskin said the regulation could also be someone getting paid to monitor the cooking fires and call police if something goes amiss.

The system last year on Fisherman’s Beach was, once permission was granted, a placard was given to someone to mark their fire. The fire must be attended to at all times by an adult who lives in town. Fire Chief Kevin Breen said up to four permits can be issued for Fisherman’s Beach.


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

 

Nahant Town Meeting chases ambulances

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — Among decisions to be made at the April 29 Town Meeting is whether to support Fire Chief Michael Feinberg’s request to adopt an Enterprise Fund to defray the cost of operating an ambulance service.

Passing the article would allow the town to institute an ambulance fee to fund ambulance service in the future, according to a report by the Finance Committee. The panel is not recommending Town Meeting support the article, stating “revenues aside, the benefit to residents of an Ambulance Enterprise Fund is questionable, and there is no urgency to doing it now.”

The document also noted that in 2016, the Fire Department responded to only 18 fires, 360 ambulance runs, and 62 assists to invalids, a pattern that has been consistent for years.

“Last year the town voted to lease an ambulance, which arrived at the end of 2016,” the report states. “Despite that vote, the ambulance was actually purchased via short-term debt at 6 percent interest. In addition, the department’s acquisition of unplanned and unbudgeted assets (i.e. a drone), raises concerns about making additional funding available outside Proposition 2½ protections.”

Richard Lombard, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he is opposed to the article because he fears people will worry about whether they can afford ambulance services and might not call 911 when they need help.

At a meeting last month, Selectman Enzo Barile said fees can be waived for residents with a financial hardship. Barile and Selectman Chesley Taylor Jr. supported the article.

Swampscott set to strut its stuff

Town Meeting will also discuss the fate of the Coast Guard Housing. First, they will be presented with a vote to rescind a 2008 Town Meeting decision to sell the land for the construction of condominiums. Then they’ll vote to authorize the selectmen to handle selling the four-acre parcel of land and 12 single-family homes.

But the Finance Committee is recommending a vote to indefinitely postpone the article, stating in the report that the town “should not act in haste.”

“The article as written specifies nothing, and it is fiscally irresponsible to approve it as such.”

The Finance Committee also recommended $175,000 be allocated to make improvements and repairs to the drainage systems at Bear Pond and Ward Road; $106,000 to purchase two new pickup trucks for the Department of Public Works; and $280,000 to maintain, repair, and improve the town’s 11 pumping stations.

Town Meeting members will vote on a total of 41 articles. The meeting begins at 12:30 p.m. at Town Hall.


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

 

Next steps for Swampscott rail trail

SWAMPSCOTT — Plans to convert abandoned railroad tracks into a community rail trail will be outlined in a public forum at the Swampscott High School cafeteria Thursday at 7 p.m.

A second informational meeting on the rail trail will be Tuesday, May 2 at 7 p.m. in room B129 at the high school.

“It’s just to learn more and to also be part of the next step of bringing the rail trail to town,” said Peter Kane, director of community development.

Town officials said in a press release it’s been years in the making, but the next big step to making the Swampscott Rail Trail a reality will take place during Town Meeting May 15.

The Board of Selectmen have unanimously sponsored a warrant article requesting $850,000 to be used for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well the legal fees and costs for acquisition of the easement rights, as previously reported in The Item.

The Town Meeting funds would not be for construction of the trail, which would be paid for by donations, grants and private funds, officials said.

Kane said the meetings will give a history of the rail trail process, what the actual process is going forward, show the plan of the relative location of the trail, and discuss how the money will be used.

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The two-plus mile trail would run from the Swampscott Train Station to the Marblehead line at Seaview Avenue, connecting with the Marblehead Rail Trail, which also links to trails in Salem. The 10-feet wide trail would cross Paradise Road, Walker Road and Humphrey Street and then go into Marblehead, officials said.

The rail bed, where National Grid power lines run to Marblehead, has been vacant since the 1960s, when the Marblehead railroad branch shut down. It was sold to National Grid’s predecessor.

The town has full rights to area that separates the ballfields behind the middle school and the middle school. The town would have to acquire the remainder of the easement for recreational use.

The trail was identified as a priority in the Open Space & Recreation Plan in 2013 and last year in the Master Plan process. Town Meeting has approved the creation of the trail on three separate occasions, officials said.

Visit www.swampscottrailtrail.org for information on the rail trail and Town Meeting warrant article.

 

What’s old is new in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The former senior center on Burrill Street, vacant since 2007, will soon be transformed into a community arts center.

The Board of Selectmen last week unanimously approved granting Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald the authority to sign a lease agreement with Reach Arts, a nonprofit group of artists and residents, which plan to convert the building.

“I’m totally thrilled that we’re going to have a cultural arts center in Swampscott,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen.

Laura Smith, secretary of Reach Arts, said the two-year lease with an option for a three-year extension is for $1 a year, with the town picking up the cost of utilities for the first two years. Reach would then take over the cost of utilities in the extended part of the lease.

“We have so many hopes and dreams for that building,” Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a really wonderful cultural arts center.”

Peter Kane, director of community development, said that last year, the selectmen agreed to a proposal through the Request for Proposals (RFP) process to grant a lease to Reach Arts to rehabilitate and convert the former senior center on Burrill Street into a cultural center. The proposal from Reach was the only response to the RFP issued in November 2015.

He said the lease allows Reach to operate, rehabilitate and manage the building and the property as a cultural center.

“Additionally, it is a town property,” Kane said. “We are leasing it to the nonprofit, and so the town will also maintain the snow removal for the sidewalks, the driveway, and will maintain the lawn. Reach will have the responsibility of doing improvements to the building, making it occupiable, running programs in the building.”

Through the lease agreement, Kane said the town committees will also have the right to use the space with proper notice and request. The town can also run programs there with request, he added.

If Reach is able to make the proper improvements and run a successful program during the first two years, the town will grant it an extension for three years, Kane said. At the end of the five years, Reach can then work with the selectmen on a new lease, he said.

Since the organization was founded in 2013, it had been working to get its reuse proposal approved by the town, Sydney Pierce, vice-president of Reach Arts, said in a prior interview. The group is homeless and held outside art attacks around town and started an operation virtually after their initial proposal was not accepted by the selectmen in 2013, Smith said. The RFP had been looking for affordable housing, Smith added, and was closed without awarding the building.

Smith said the group looked at other buildings, including the train station and the former Machon Elementary School, but couldn’t find a space as multi-functional as the senior center.

Renovations are expected to cost the group $29,720, according to a summary provided by Reach Arts. Kane said work will start in the basement level.

There will be lead paint removal. Then, he said the group will do analysis on the electrical and heating system in the building. They will do mold abatements, and demolish the kitchen space. There needs to be serious repainting and repairs to close up the building to get rid of the raccoon issue. There will be bathroom improvements, along with wall and ceiling repairs, Kane said.

Smith said the basement is handicapped accessible, with two handicapped-accessible bathrooms. She said the plan is to build a ramp to the first floor (the building has three floors, including the basement, main floor and upstairs), and install an elevator to get people to the second floor easily. The outside of the building will be painted and the front porch will be repaired, she said.

Over April vacation, from April 16 to 23, Reach Arts will offer high school students opportunities to learn home building skills through a professional lecture series, and donate their time and labor to the opening of the cultural arts house. Students will be put to work painting and pruning, Smith said.

Reach Arts hopes to open the arts house in the fall. Programming may include painting instruction on the first floor and performances in the upstairs area where there is a ballroom. Another room on the first floor is planned as a shop where artists can sell their work.

The group’s plan is to create a community kitchen where cooking classes can be held, Smith said. To generate income outside of fundraising and sales, their plan is to rent out different parts of the building such as the ballroom and basement, according to their revenue plan.

“We feel extremely excited and optimistic,” Smith said.


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

Swampscott gives the Green(wood) light

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials are moving forward with a proposal from Groom Construction to redevelop the shuttered former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue.

On Wednesday night, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a proposal from Salem-based Groom Construction, which had submitted two concepts. The town will now enter into negotiations with the company.

The first concept, for 28 apartments or condominiums, adhered to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last spring. In lieu of not offering any affordable housing, Groom would contribute $150,000 to the town’s affordable housing trust. The second concept was for a 60-unit Chapter 40B affordable housing project, with 25 percent of the apartments or condominiums allocated as affordable.

Groom submitted a response to the most recent Request for Proposals issued by the town. It gave developers an option to submit a plan that conformed to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last spring for a single structure with 28 units on the site that had to adhere to an affordable housing component, or for a Chapter 40B affordable housing project. Developers also had the option to present proposals for both options.

The selectmen approved the proposal with the 28-unit building as the primary, and the 60-unit 40B project as an alternative, if there was litigation from the neighbors for the primary concept, according to Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen.

“I would very much like to proceed with the 28-unit building,” said Dreeben. “As much as I want to see more affordable housing in the town, I think 60 units and a larger building is not something I would like in that location. I would like to see it smaller.”

Neighbors have expressed concern that a 28-unit structure would be out of character with the existing neighborhood. They, along with other residents with an interest in the project, filed a citizen’s petition for Town Meeting in May, hoping to reuse the building. Citizens of Swampscott for Adaptive Reuse, want to privately fund $60,000 for a feasibility study to investigate all possible uses for the site. Residents urged the selectmen to delay their vote on the proposal before the article could be voted on.

Spring cleaning

“A vote tonight is going to strip, in my opinion, it will strip the Town Meeting members’ right, as a legislative body, to vote on a pending matter,” said Benjamin Agoes, an abutter.

Agoes said the “soul of Swampscott is going to be decided by what ultimately sits on the top of Greenwood Avenue,” and the town’s civic pride, commitment to its Master Plan and respect for zoning bylaws was at stake.

“I’d like to see that (building) serve some public purpose,” said Richard Frenkel, who filed the citizen’s petition. “It’s a personal preference, but that’s the way I feel about it.”

Agoes questioned why the selectmen were representing Groom versus “the people,” with other residents in attendance saying it was blackmail.

“I’ve heard that numerous times,” said Dreeben. “We’re elected officials. We are charged with doing what we believe is in the best interest of the town, and the town is a whole entire town. We understand that our town has numerous neighborhoods and that people in different neighborhoods have different interests and priorities. And so, it is on our shoulders to look at the full picture of the town and take a balanced approach to development and preservation. And so, we must make that decision.

“That is what we must do and I have worked very hard to mitigate the negative impact of what I thought was too big a development without enough consideration for neighbors originally. But for arguing about whether you individually or 20 people are the people, versus the 14,000 people who live in the town, that’s not an argument I’m going to enter into.”

Laura Spathanas, board vice-chair, said the selectmen’s job is to honor Town Meeting votes, and “we haven’t done that.”

“This has been a long process,” Spathanas said. “I feel like it has not been rushed … We’ve tried to listen to everybody’s wants in the town … We are going to honor the Town Meeting vote. I agree that the smaller unit is something that would fit up there.”  

The proposal price from Groom is $1.2 million. Director of community development Peter Kane said the company requested that they be credited for costs associated with the demolition and abatement costs, which Groom estimated around that $1.2 million figure. He said the town has not agreed to that request, which will be part of negotiations.

In January, the selectmen decided to act upon the advice of Town Counsel and issue another RFP with both options. The board had been slated 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 site.

Selectman Peter Spellios said at the time that 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. A 40B project, in which 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.

The board decided to table the proposal from Groom, leaving the option open for them 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 in 2012. 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.

Selectman Donald Hause said the town was trying to prevent the possibility of a much more dense 40B development than the one proposed. If there is no legal settlement and Groom wins the lawsuit, the company could proceed with the 28 units zoning allows or build a much larger 40B project, where the town would not have the same control.


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

 

Light shed on Saugus problem

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Hitching Hill Road resident Ferruccio Romeo first noticed the street lights on Cider Mill and Bisbee roads were off more than a week ago while walking his dog in the dark.

They were turned off on Wednesday, March 29 and remained off last night, according to Romeo, but Peter Rossetti, chairman of the Planning Board, said he expects them to be turned back on any time now.

“Street lights are a public safety issue and jeopardize our public safety as well as the safety of our property,” said Romeo.

The issue stems from an unpaid National Grid electric bill totaling about $10,000. The bill is the responsibility of John Mallon, developer of the Bellevue Heights subdivision, until the project is completed and accepted by the town, said Town Counsel John Vasapolli.

“The legal responsibility is with the developer because it’s still a private development,” Vasapolli said. “It’s not an accepted subdivision. It’s up to the developer to plow, supply electricity, so on and so forth.”

Rossetti said Mallon has not paid the bill in about a year. At a meeting last month, Mallon said he would pay the bill when the board reduced his $50,000 surety bond. Rossetti warned that should the town have to step up and pay it on his behalf, they would pursue legal action.

Rosetti said he spoke with Town Manager Scott Crabtree and the Department of Public Works about resolving the issue because, although it’s not the town’s responsibility, it’s a matter of public safety. Crabtree could not be reached for comment.

“Mr. Mallon has overlooked payments on the electrical bill,” said Rossetti. “The last time I spoke with the DPW, they were making arrangements to have someone with the authority from the town allow the town to pay the bill. Then I believe the town is going to take action to collect the money that is owed.”

Green Line to Medford gets green light

Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said Crabtree wrote a letter to National Grid Tuesday stating that the town would take over the responsibility of the street lights moving forward.

“Town counsel is correct, it is not the responsibility of the town,” said Panetta. “However, it is a safety concern not to have the street lights turned on, regardless of this being private property in a subdivision owned by a developer.

“The developer’s failure to meet his obligations is the real issue,” she said. “It’s a shame that the town had to step in where this is clearly the responsibility of the developer. My opinion is that the developer should pay the street light bill and finish the development as promised. Any money spent by the town for this development needs to be reimbursed by the developer.”

Panetta added that the selectmen do not have any jurisdiction on developments; The matter is the responsibility of the Planning Board which she expects will vote to take action to address this issue.

Romeo has requested to be on tonight’s Planning Board agenda and to be heard at the next Board of Selectmen meeting.

Mallon could not be reached for comment.


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

Burning desire for new fire station in Saugus

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Saugus firefighter William Cross is advocating for a third fire station on the west side of town.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — As the amount of residential and commercial properties grow, the town needs to increase public safety resources to cover it, said veteran firefighter William Cross.

Cross, the union president of Saugus Firefighters Local #1003, is advocating for a third fire station to cover the west side of town with easy access to Route 1 North and South. It’s a fight he said dates back to the early 1970s under former Fire Chief Thomas Nolan, but is even more crucial today with the mixed-use developments planned for Route 1.

Essex Landing, a $120 million development under construction at the former Route 1 Miniature Golf & Batting Cages, will include 250 apartment units, two hotels, shops and restaurants. AvalonBay Properties is proposing 280 apartment units and 24,000 square feet of retail space at the former Hilltop Steak House site.  WoodSpring Suites will be constructed at the former Cap World Truck Accessories & Trailers site at 832 Broadway this year. The $9 million hotel will be a four-story building with 122 rooms, each with a kitchenette.

“What it comes down to is Saugus has outgrown its fire department,” Cross said. “We are stuck in the past. Every town department from A to Z has grown with the town, but not the Fire Department. With all the new building going on, we feel the growth should be reflected in the department.

“We are the biggest cut-through town on the North Shore,” said Cross. “For every minute we don’t put water on a fire, it doubles in size. When someone needs CPR, or needs any of the many skills that first responders bring to the scenes, the extra minutes it takes to get there, that’s taking away from a person’s chance at living. Every minute matters.”

Traffic congestion, especially when school is released in the afternoons, is a major concern, he said.

Former Town Meeting Moderator Robert Long, who served for 18 years, said a capital improvement program was approved by Town Meeting in 1995. The town voted to have a debt exclusion for $20 million to fund the construction of the Public Safety Building on Hamilton Street, Saugus Public Library, Senior Center, Department of Public Works building, and renovations to Town Hall. Finally, $500,000 was set aside for a West Side Fire Station, Long said.

“It had been envisioned as a two-bay engine house,” he said.

One bay would house a fast response engine and the other, either an ambulance or police car.

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Under former Town Manager Steven Angelo, a house was purchased beside the Oaklandvale Elementary School for about $160,000 to be used as a fire station property, Long said. Both he and Cross question why the location was chosen.

Studies in the ’70s and in the’90s determined the best location would be on Lynn Fells Parkway near Target and the entrance to Breakheart Reservation, Cross said. He believes the town could sell the Main Street home for double the purchase price.

In 2003, Cross sponsored three Town Meeting articles in an effort to bring the new station to fruition. A debt exclusion for a new ladder truck and a second debt exclusion for a new, $500,000 firehouse both passed. A third article for a Proposition 2 ½  override to fund the hiring of 12 new firefighters failed.

“It probably would have passed if the firehouse was on the ground and folks could see it,” said Long.

Cross argued that the current staff could man the station as more firefighters are gradually hired.

“It comes down to putting money where your mouth is and finding ways to fund it,” he said.

While he acknowledged that the town budget is tight, he said he is hoping to put the issue on the town’s radar.

“It’s no surprise that this is coming up again considering the Essex Landing and AvalonBay projects,” said Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “Public safety is of the utmost importance, and with these large developments being built in our town, people are concerned.”

Town Manager Scott Crabtree did not return calls seeking comment.


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

Harbormaster files lawsuit to save job

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Lawrence Bithell, attempting to save his former job as harbormaster, has filed a lawsuit against the town of Swampscott.

The “complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief” was recently filed on behalf on Bithell by his attorney, Neil Rossman, at Salem Superior Court. The defendants are listed as the Board of Selectmen, town of Swampscott, and Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.

“The plaintiff, Lawrence Bithell, has served as the town’s harbormaster for over 38 years,” reads the complaint. “In a series of illegal actions, the town, acting by and through its (then) Town Administrator Thomas Younger, its (then) Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta, Jr., and the current board of selectmen, has attempted to remove the plaintiff from the office of harbormaster, first by placing him on administrative leave and then by allegedly not reappointing him.”

The complaint was filed to prevent the town from removing Bithell from his position, before a formal judgment by the court on “his rights to continued employment in office, and subsequently, for a declaratory judgment on his right to continued tenure in office,” reads the document.

Fitzgerald said the selectmen and Rossman were looking at a possible settlement.

“At this point, we are in the middle of litigation, so I can’t really get into any specifics,” Fitzgerald said.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, said she wouldn’t comment on the lawsuit, calling it a “rather delicate situation.”

The complaint argues that Bithell’s appointment from its initial enactment in 1978 “shall remain in force unless the harbormaster is removed for neglect of duty, negligence or conduct unbecoming of a harbormaster” and alleges that he had never been charged with any of the three reasons for removal. Rossman, in the complaint, also argues that the office of harbormaster is not subject to reappointment.

Rossman said by phone on Tuesday that he had no further comment and the complaint speaks for itself.

Bithell was placed on paid administrative leave in September by the town, and is facing criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate. His case in ongoing at Lynn District Court and his trial is scheduled for May 2, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

Younger, at the time, told The Item that he was not recommending Bithell’s reappointment because he thought the town should go in a different direction. The complaint references a similar statement in a letter from Younger to Bithell.

Cresta, department of public works director and former interim town administrator, recommended the appointment of Swampscott Police Sgt. William Waters as the new interim harbormaster in February, which was approved by the selectmen. Once Waters was appointed, he replaced Bithell, who was taken off administrative leave.

Bridging a danger

The harbormaster position pays a stipend of $7,983, and officials say it is a yearly appointment. Waters is in place through June 30 and Cresta said at the time of his recommendation that it was his hope that he would be then appointed as the permanent harbormaster.

Cresta said he couldn’t comment on the complaint.

Bithell was arraigned in October on 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.

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


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

 

Money matters in Swampscott

By LEAH DEARBORN

SWAMPSCOTT — A joint session between the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night moved the annual budget one step closer to completion.

The FY18 budget saw a $1.2 million increase from last year, amounting to a 4 percent overall spike.  

Marzie Galazka, vice chair of the finance committee, said the budget will be finalized at Town Meeting in May, but for now changes are still possible.

“We’re just beginning the process. We still haven’t had the opportunity to deliberate,” she said.

Committee ponders meaning of ‘sanctuary’

During the goal-setting session, finance committee member Jill Sullivan jotted down which departments have yet to present their budgets.

The town fire and police departments are requesting equipment increases this year, with $11,500 for new police firearms and $15,000 for fire engine repairs, according to the proposed budget.

The police department is seeking $27,000 in funding for two three-season motorcycles.

The Recreation Department budget includes a new line item for the July 4 fireworks.

It’s the School Department, however, that has the largest proposed budget of approximately $28 million.

Galazka said to accommodate the school budget, payment of some services will be shifted from the school to the cityside, including the partial salary of the facilities director.

The official town warrant will be sent to the printers on April 24 and distributed shortly after.


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

No one wants to sit in empty Nahant seats

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — Nahant is gearing up for the April 29 town election, which will depend largely on write-in candidates.

Planning Board members Edward Tarlov and Tony Roossien announced earlier this year they would not run for reelection. Another member, Thomas Donahue, elected to step down before his term expires. Mirjana R. Maksimovic was appointed last year; her name will be the only one to appear on the ballot for a full five-year term. Members Richard Snyder, Cal Hastings and Sheila Hambleton will finish their unexpired terms. The town will depend on write-in candidates to fill the remaining seats.

Current Town Moderator David Conlin, Town Clerk Margaret Barile, Assessor Meaghan C. Kramer and Public Library trustee Christine J. Stevens are all running for reelection unopposed.

There will be a vote for two School Committee seats. Current member Lissa Keane opted not to run for reelection. Patricia Sheehan is the only candidate vying for her seat. Incumbent Michael J. Flynn is running for another term.

One seat on the five-member Housing Authority will be absorbed. One member is appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker and three, rather than four, will be elected by the town. Mickey Long hopes to be reelected and Susan Bonner is running for a return to the board after a short time away, said Town Clerk Margaret Barile.

Candidate Michael Smith wants to fill the shoes of Constable Wendy Kessler Cody, who will not seek reelection.

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

Richard Lombard, the longest-serving selectman in Nahant’s history, is pushing to add to his record with another term.

Lombard, who serves as chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he needs one more term to finish what he set out to do 38 years ago.

Lombard initiated beautification efforts immediately after joining the panel, he said. He’s proud to have been a part of the revitalization of the Causeway. Establishing The Charles Kelley Memorial is one of the accomplishments he is most proud of from his tenure. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran also headed efforts to create Veterans Park in 2008 and the Richard Davis Memorial on East Point overlooking the ocean. Davis, a U.S. Marine, was the only Nahant resident to be killed in the Vietnam War, he said, though more than 70 were wounded.

Now Lombard is on a mission to change the look of the entrance to town.

The Short Beach Master Plan includes burying above ground electrical wires in Little Nahant from Seaside Pizza on Nahant Road to the Nahant Police Station and eliminating poles on the ocean side. Overgrown weeds behind the park will be cleaned out. A Memorial Pond will be uncovered. The road leading into town will be lined with trees and benches. Gas lamps will replace existing light poles.

But in what he expects to be his final race, he’s up against newcomer Stephen Viviano. The challenger, a Revere firefighter, moved to Nahant at age 5 and attended the Johnson Elementary School. He has served on the Revere Fire Department for six years and has maintained and constructed rental properties in Nahant and Danvers. He lived in Danvers while working on his multi-family units but moved back to Nahant about five years ago.

If elected, Viviano said he would make improving town parks and playgrounds and revitalizing small businesses downtown his priority.

He’d like to attract businesses to the downtown area that would be able to thrive in a town with a population of about 3,000 people, but would also like to see any prospective businesses benefit Nahant residents.

The final day to register to vote is Friday, April 7. The town clerk’s office will be open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.


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

Swampscott gets look at plans for Machon

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a rendering of the Senior Residences at the Machon.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Draft schematic plans for the affordable senior housing redevelopment of the shuttered Machon Elementary School were presented to residents for the first time Thursday night.

Residents gathered at Swampscott High School to hear project plans presented by Peter Kane, director of community development, and the developers, B’nai B’rith Housing, represented by Susan Gittelman, executive director, and Holly Grace, senior project manager.

The schematic plans have to be approved by the Board of Selectmen, which is scheduled to vote on them on April 5. If approved, the developer will be able to finalize plans and submit them for the permit review process. Town officials said that B’nai B’rith will also be applying for tax credits associated with a low-income project.

“We’re really looking forward to this partnership with you, the neighborhood and the town,” Gittelman told the gathered residents. “We’re very excited about this.”

Town Meeting last May approved the selection and redevelopment proposal from B’nai B’rith Housing, a nonprofit that builds affordable homes for seniors in Greater Boston. The developer’s proposal is to build Senior Residences at the Machon, a complex at 35 Burpee Road that will include 38 one-bedroom units and 48 parking spaces. Each unit would have one parking space and 10 guest spaces would be available.

The town later entered into a land development agreement with B’nai B’rith. Under the terms of the deal, the nonprofit signed a 99-year ground lease for $500,000. The purchase includes an additional $50,000 for off-site improvements.

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B’nai B’rith plans to improve and reuse the 1920 building and demolish and replace the 1963 addition. Draft plans showed that the developer plans to add a three-story addition.

Grace said the overall design goal is for the building to be wheelchair accessible and accessible for people with disabilities. Three staff people will work regularly in the building, she said, including a resident services coordinator who will help residents access community-based services as needed as they age. She said those services could include home health aides, housekeeping and wellness activities.

“With this model, we tried to focus on and keep the mind and the body healthy,” Grace said. “The goal is to be able to have residents age in place in this building.”

An elevator will be located in the middle of the building for people with mobility concerns, Grace said. There will be three floors of apartments. She said the smallest apartment unit would be about 600 square feet, while some would be more than 700 square feet.

Residents in attendance were concerned there wouldn’t be adequate parking to accommodate all of the residents, arguing that there may be couples who live in the one-bedroom units rather than only single people.

Kane said with affordable senior housing, there could be residents, because of income level and the age demographic, that don’t have vehicles at all in the household. He said the residents may also have adult children or family members close by who they work with to get around.

“From our experience, I do not think it’s going to be an issue,” Gittelman said.

Other questions centered around financing. Grace said the projection was that the development would generate approximately $38,000 in real estate taxes for the first year of occupancy.

Gerard Perry, a Burpee Road resident, said he has been an opponent of the project, and wanted open space, but thinks the town has to move forward after the Town Meeting vote to approve the proposal. He requested that the developers keep the neighbors involved in the process to alleviate their concerns.

“Hopefully, we’ll make this a win for the whole town,” Perry said.

Jonathan Leamon, a Swampscott resident, asked how much 38 units of affordable housing would contribute to the town’s 3.7 percent stock. Kane said the current amount of affordable housing in the town’s inventory is 217 units, and another 38 would get the town to more than 4 percent, and closer to the state requirement of 10 percent.

Eight units are reserved for households at or below 30 percent of the average median income and 30 units are reserved for those at or below 60 percent. Preference will be given to residents over age 62. The maximum local preference allowed by the state is 70 percent.


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

Burgers and fries are safe in Saugus

By LEAH DEARBORN

SAUGUS Five Guys Burgers and Fries was awarded a Common Victualer’s license for their 180 Main St. location on Wednesday.

Owner Greg Vasey attended the Board of Selectmen meeting and apologized for not keeping up with the licensure paperwork.

Representatives of the restaurant failed to show up at previous Board of Selectmen hearings to renew their license.

“It wasn’t treated with the seriousness it deserved,” said Vasey. “We just managed to overlook our license this year.”

Vasey clarified that although he is the owner, there is an additional day-to-day manager on site who did not fulfill his duties to renew the license.  

Malden reflective of Community N’ Unity

Board Chair Debra Panetta said via email before the meeting that neglecting to renew the license wouldn’t cause the restaurant to immediately close.

She added that if a representative didn’t show up for Wednesday’s hearing, however, the board could potentially take their seating away.

The motion carried 5-0 with little commentary from the board.


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

Affordable housing for seniors on the agenda

SWAMPSCOTT — A community forum on Thursday will present plans for the affordable senior housing redevelopment of the shuttered Machon Elementary School.

Town officials and B’nai B’rith Housing, the developers, will present the draft schematic plans for the project to residents at 7 p.m. at Swampscott High School, Room B129.

Before the developer enters into a permit submission and review process, the town and B’nai B’rith wanted to present the current plans to the community for feedback, town officials said.

“This is a perfect opportunity for the community to not only see what’s to come, but to take part in it early in the process,” Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Town Meeting approved the selection and redevelopment proposal from B’nai B’rith Housing, a nonprofit that builds affordable homes for seniors in Greater Boston, last May. The developer’s approved proposal is to build Senior Residences at the Machon, a complex at 35 Burpee Road that will include 38 one-bedroom units and 48 parking spaces. Each unit would have one parking space and 10 guest spaces would be available.

The town later entered into a land development agreement with B’nai B’rith. Under the terms of the deal, the nonprofit signed a 99-year ground lease for $500,000. The purchase includes an additional $50,000 for off-site improvements.

B’nai B’rith plans to reuse the original 1920 building and demolish the 1963 addition.

Making an Irish dinner last and last

Schematic plans seen during the community forum will need to be approved by the Board of Selectmen. If approved by the selectmen, the developer will be able to finalize plans and submit them for the permit review process. Town officials said in December that B’nai B’rith will also be applying for tax credits and other subsidies associated with a low-income project.

Eight units are reserved for households at or below 30 percent of the average median income and 30 units are for those at or below 60 percent. Preference will be given to residents over age 62. The maximum local preference allowed by the state is 70 percent.

“We held a community forum in February 2015 that had residents work together to come up with reuse ideas for our vacant town-owned buildings,” said Peter Kane, director of community development, in a statement. “The resounding feedback regarding the Machon School was to convert it into affordable senior housing.”

Machon School was closed down in 2007 and was later turned over to the town.

Viviano runs for Nahant board of selectmen

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Stephen Viviano.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — Stephen Viviano, a Revere firefighter, has his eye on a seat at the Board of Selectmen’s table.

“I’m definitely aggressive,” he said. “I’m 31 and the best thing I’ve got going for me is being motivated. I have seven rental properties; 14 units, and a full time job. Diving in and getting things done is something I’d be good at. The community as a whole — it’s a beautiful place. But there’s a lot that can be done.”

Viviano moved to Nahant at age 5 and attended the Johnson Elementary School. He has served as a firefighter for six years and has maintained and constructed rental properties in Nahant and Danvers. He lived in Danvers while working on his multi-family units but moved back to Nahant about five years ago.

Viviano is running against incumbent Richard Lombard, who holds the record for the longest-serving selectman in town with 38 years under his belt.

Now that the Causeway has been enhanced, Lombard said his final mission is to change the look of the entrance to town. He doesn’t want to step down from his post until he’s finished the job, he said.

Lombard runs to add to record

The Short Beach Master Plan includes burying above ground electrical wires in Little Nahant from Seaside Pizza on Nahant Road to the Nahant Police Station and eliminating poles on the ocean side. Overgrown weeds behind the park will be cleaned out. A Memorial Pond will be uncovered. The road leading into town will be lined with trees and benches. Gas lamps will replace existing light poles.

When Viviano took out papers, he said he was unaware that Lombard would be running for another term. But that doesn’t mean he’s still not up for the challenge.

“I hesitated when turning the papers in,” he said. “I know Richie Lombard has been a selectman forever. He was always a nice, friendly guy. I thought his last time running would have been his last time. I don’t want to pose as the young kid going to run against an old veteran. I wanted to do the town a good service. There are changes that are long overdue and I really do love the town; I care about it a lot.”

While Viviano said he respects Lombard’s work on the board, he believes he has as good of a chance to be elected as anyone else running for the first time.

“I want to get involved,” Viviano said. “I think there’s a lot of Nahant that can be improved and a lot that can be preserved. I’ve invested a lot of money in the business district. I’d like to get some business back and revitalize the so-called downtown area. There’s a lot that Nahant can do better.”

If elected, Viviano said he would make improving town parks and playgrounds and revitalizing small businesses downtown his priority.

He’d like to attract businesses to the downtown area that would be able to thrive in a town with a population of about 3,000 people, but would also like to see any prospective businesses benefit Nahant residents.

“One big thing Nahant cares about is they don’t want to let outsiders in,” Viviano said. “I agree that the town is too small to have general traffic coming in. I wouldn’t want something that would bring in unwanted guests. The roadways and infrastructure, I don’t think could handle it. My primary focus would bring in business that the community can utilize, appreciate and keep in business.”

Viviano said Ocean House Surf Shop, which has a location in Swampscott, is interested in one of his commercial properties. He sees value in bringing in the business because they offer activities for children and adults that fit with the lifestyle offered by the coastal town.

He’s hoping to bring back a dry cleaner at another property, he said.

Owning property in town has taught him about building on a flood plane, he said. His interest in the town’s flooding problems grew from there. He hopes to help the town with preventative maintenance. Viviano believes the town’s parks and playgrounds should be improved for the youth population, which he believes is shrinking. He questions whether more parents are opting to send their children out of town to private school because the population is wealthier than it was when he was a child, or whether residents are unhappy with the Johnson School.

Finally, he hopes to bring Fourth of July festivities back to Short Beach, rather than Bailey’s Point.

“It’s based on Fire Marshal’s law that the fireworks have to be 500 feet from any house but that could easily be accomplished with a barge,” he said. “Where they are, people get stuck standing on Willow Road or Tudor Beach. Neighbors probably don’t appreciate everyone cutting through their yards. I haven’t gone to the fireworks in three or four years because of it. It’s just too congested. When I was younger, (watching) the fireworks at Short Beach was a town thing.”

Viviano said he’s also interested in filling an open position on the Planning Board.

Town Clerk Peggy Barile said two members are stepping down and two are up for reelection. Only one member, Mirjana R. Maksimovic, has chosen to run for reelection.

The last day to register to vote is Friday, April 7. Residents can visit Barile at Town Hall from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m.


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

Swampscott VFW no longer barred from serving liquor

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The days of Swampscott Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 1240 functioning as a dry establishment are numbered. Alcohol will soon be served again following a brief liquor license suspension.

Town officials suspended the VFW’s liquor license for 30 days in January following four violations in less than a year’s time. The infractions were presented during a disciplinary hearing in January, with Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan and Detective Ted Delano present.

Three of the four infractions involved over serving patrons, and the fourth involved serving alcohol to nonmembers of the club, when no members were present. The club’s license allows members to bring in guests, but people who aren’t members are not allowed to be there alone.

Two of the incidents, involving serving patrons who were intoxicated, resulted in car accidents, and subsequent arrests for OUI liquor. Both drivers told police they had been drinking at the VFW.

The third person who was over served was arrested for disorderly conduct, after urinating in public, in front of the VFW. The man told police that he had three beers at the VFW post, but police said his blood alcohol level of .182 was not consistent with that number of drinks.

Following the suspension, the VFW was required to go before the Board of Selectmen to submit in writing the steps they had taken to ensure the post was safer and to address the board’s concerns.

During the hearing, the selectmen told the VFW that after the 30-day suspension, the post would be able to serve alcohol again, but only until 8 p.m. for another 30 days. Their bar usually remains open until 12 a.m.

Last Wednesday, John Sacherski, VFW Post 1240 commander, and the post’s attorney, Neil Rossman, appeared before the selectmen to present the eight steps that had been taken to improve alcohol service at the establishment.

The selectmen, satisfied with the steps outlined, decided to waive the additional 30 days that hours of alcohol service would be rolled back, and instead reinstate service until the VFW’s regular hours of 12 a.m.

One of the conditions set by the board was that all of the bartenders would be required to attend Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission (ABCC) training. Naomi Dreeben, board chairwoman, said the police department told her all of the servers had attended that training.

“We really felt that they had addressed the issue and that they were certainly addressing the issues of concern and we felt that they had done it adequately,” Dreeben said. “We don’t want our veterans to not be able to gather and enjoy themselves. We just need to be assured that there are procedures and protocols in place to to address the things that have been problems in the past.

“We did not feel that any further closure or early closing was necessary,” Dreeben said. “We really do appreciate that they took our concerns seriously and I believe that they’re committed to the safety of the neighborhood and town as well.”

The selectmen did require one condition before alcohol could be served again at the VFW. A memorandum of understanding between town officials and the post, which formalizes the eight steps taken to improve alcohol service, in addition to two more requests added by the selectmen, was required to be signed by all employees and officers of the VFW.

The memorandum would also have to be signed by each new employee going forward, Dreeben said.

“You represent the town’s veterans and I think we all want to see the post really get back to that good standing,” said Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald.

Steps to improve alcohol service, presented by the VFW, outlined how the servers recently attended and completed an alcohol course given by the Swampscott police, how all servers had been TIPS (training for intervention procedures) certified, and no one would be allowed to serve who was not.

The bartender who served a woman involved in a car accident, who was subsequently arrested for OUI, was in the process of TIPS alcohol certification, but the others involved in the infractions had completed their training.

Sacherski said one bartender, his daughter, was fired three days after over serving a patron.

“Policies are policies and rules are rules,” Sacherski said. “Regulations are regulations and I’m a stickler (for them). I’m sorry we have to even be here at this moment tonight to handle this situation, but hopefully we can handle it in the most respectful way we can.”

VFW representatives said that a key card system had recently been installed so that only members with a card have access to the building. In addition, a computer keeps a log of entry time and identity of whoever enters. The selectmen requested that key card access also be provided to the police and fire departments, which Rossman said was already the case.

Three other organizations use the VFW, and are also considered members. With the new rules, associate membership, limited to members of American Legion, Marine Corps League and Disabled American Veterans, are only allowed to bring in a guest two times a year. Full members can bring in guests any time, Sacherski said. Posted notices say that guests must leave when the members who brought them do, representatives said.

To increase security, Sacherski said cameras have been installed around the building, which show what’s happening inside and outside, including the parking lot. Dreeben said she was concerned that there wasn’t a plan to watch the security cameras at all times. Sacherski said one could be put behind the bar, so any possible incidents outside could be monitored in real time.

“If this comes back to us that there’s more continuation, then I think it puts us in a really tough position,” said selectman Peter Spellios. “I hope we don’t have to revisit this. I think there’s a real genuine concern about safety.”  


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

 

Swampscott wants new schools

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are seeking state support for a new school building, more than two years after the town rejected a district-wide elementary school.

“I will be submitting two Statement of Interests (SOI) to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) by the deadline of April 7,” Superintendent Pamela Angelakis said in an email. “Hadley School will be the primary submission, while I will also be submitting one for the middle school. The reason behind the two submissions is to demonstrate that Swampscott has a long-range vision for its schools. We’ve spent the last two and a half years reflecting on the last process and developing an Educational Vision K-12.”

In the statement of interest, the district is asked to identify perceived deficiencies in a school building, and also indicates what type of project it thinks is appropriate. The SOI is completed by districts seeking MSBA funding, according to the MSBA website.

Carin Marshall, school committee chairwoman, said the intent for Hadley Elementary School would be for replacement and a new building, while the interest for Swampscott Middle School would be for renovation. The new building to replace Hadley could potentially be the same size or larger, but those details haven’t been determined yet, she added.

The intent with a new school building, Marshall said, is to align with the educational vision. The K-12 educational vision, presented in November 2015, outlines the preferred educational model for Swampscott Public Schools, with that being grade level consolidation. Grade level groupings were determined by developmental, academic and social emotional needs. School officials determined that fifth grade belonged with the elementary level, rather than middle school, as the preferred model.

The existing public school configuration is preschool, three K-4 elementary schools — Hadley, Clarke and Stanley — a grade 5-8 middle school and a grade 9-12 high school. The preferred new configuration would be a pre-K to 2 early education center, grade 3-5 elementary school, grade 6-8 middle school and a grade 9-12 high school, according to the educational vision.

Conceivably, the new school could be part of that goal, possibly a K-2 school, Marshall said, but plans are uncertain at this stage. She said the most likely scenario is a new elementary school, as that is the highest need.

Marshall said the middle school needs some serious renovation, including all new windows and roofs, and would need to be brought up to today’s educational standards. Even though the building is relatively modern, as it was built in 1958, she said “it is still very different from what you would build today for educational needs in 2016.”

City stands to collect $175K for parking tickets

Hadley School is the oldest school building in town and why it’s the primary statement of interest, Marshall said. She said an example of the building’s current condition would be the large amount school officials are paying to replace all of the boilers in that school just to keep it heated and safe for the children.

The cost of the project is more than $400,000. She said the money there is an example of how the building is negatively affecting the town. Conditions at Hadley have caused students to miss school in the past.

“We’re constantly having to put money into this building that’s far past its useful life,” Marshall said. “We’re spending money to keep these buildings limping along and it’s ultimately not fair to the students or all the taxpayers in town. We have to address these issues.”

Going forward, Marshall said all of the K-8 students need new or upgraded facilities.

The effort started after the failed Town Meeting vote in 2014 for a consolidated elementary school on the site of Swampscott Middle School on Forest Avenue. A task force was put together, made up of people for and against the new school, with the intent to put another statement of interest in.

In July 2014, the MSBA gave final approval for a district-wide elementary school in Swampscott. The plans included building a new school for grades 1-4 on land adjacent to the middle school. Clarke School would have been converted to house pre-kindergarten to kindergarten. Stanley School would have been demolished with the land converted to athletic fields and playgrounds. The proposed project cost $52.6 million, and the town would have been responsible for approximately $35 million.

The proposal had to pass two votes, a two-thirds majority at Town Meeting and a town-wide ballot vote requiring a simple majority. Town Meeting voted 140-98 in favor of the school in October 2014, falling short of the two-thirds majority. The school was rejected by more than 2,500 votes on the ballot initiative that year.

“In 2014, the community was presented with a plan without much conversation to address their concerns,” Angelakis said in an email. “Moving forward, once the SOIs are submitted and while we wait to hear if we are accepted back into the program, there will be outreach to the community. The plan for community outreach right now includes community forums, building tours, meetings with individual town boards and committees.

“It’s important to note that no site has been selected at this time and that site determination comes as part of the feasibility study when and if we are accepted by the MSBA,” Angelakis continued.

The school committee is scheduled to vote on the statements of interest on March 22. The Board of Selectmen would also have to approve the statements before the April 7 MSBA deadline, Marshall said.

If Swampscott is accepted by the MSBA, Town Meeting would have to approve funding for a feasibility study. Once the study is completed, architects would be hired to design the building and then Town Meeting would have to approve funding the school. A ballot vote would also be needed for the project.


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

Swampscott plugs school spending gap

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — After months of scrambling to bridge a significant spending gap, and with the help of an 11th hour increase in town allocation, the School Committee approved a balanced $30.41 million FY18 budget Wednesday night.

The FY18 budget represents a 2.2 percent change over last year’s amount. School officials struggled to achieve a balanced budget, and initially faced a $1.722 million spending gap.

Officials were able to reduce the gap to $275,000, a figure they had been working with for weeks, after $726,000 in salary reductions and $721,000 in expense reductions. Still faced with a substantial gap to fill, the option of eliminating free full-day kindergarten was floated, much to the ire of many parents in town. A tuition full-day model was proposed with a free half-day program.

Superintendent Pamela Angelakis and other school officials spent part of their public budget discussions lobbying town officials for more than the projected $750,000 increase in town allocation, arguing that the figure wouldn’t even cover their anticipated salary increases.

The school committee is currently in contract negotiations with the Swampscott Education Association, the teachers’ union, which has rejected a proposed contract, and is potentially seeking higher raises.

Their lobbying was answered, as the Board of Selectmen approved a $67.63 million town budget last week, opting to allocate an additional $200,000 to the schools, or a $950,000 increase over last year. The selectmen approved allocating $28,197,500 to the schools.

Saugus school head defends budget

To bridge the remaining $75,000 gap, Evan Katz, school business administrator, said the town will take over the school’s snow removal costs, which allows that $40,000 be allocated elsewhere, and expenses have been further reduced by $35,000. He said that included custodial supplies and utilities.

Angelakis said last week the additional town allocation will be used to continue to fund the full-day kindergarten program for the next school year.

Katz said the increase in town funds is actually $1.2 million, rather than $950,000. Other town support includes taking on $100,000 of the school maintenance expenses, paying half, or $46,000 of the shared facilities director salary, and allowing the schools to hold onto the $64,000 that would have gone toward the 53rd week of payroll for FY18. There are only 52 weeks in that year, and the funds will be allocated elsewhere.  

Katz said the town support allows the schools to meet a $400,000 maintenance goal, which is sorely needed for aging buildings.

The budget reserves $200,000 for high growth programs such as high school science, English language-learners and special education, Katz said.

Some cuts have included eliminating about five teacher positions. The special education teacher position at Hadley School has been eliminated, elementary health content is being moved to the physical education program, the middle school red, white and you class is getting the ax, high school Mandarin is moving to online-only in the midst of being phased out, a METCO clerical position is being absorbed into an existing staff person and one-third of the middle school reading program is being curtailed, Katz said.

An unpopular decision among the school committee is the decision to raise athletic fees by $75 for students. But Angelakis said fees have not been increased for nine years, and the $80,000 it would generate was necessary to balance the budget.

The town budget is subject to further conversation with the Finance Committee before ultimately coming back to the selectmen for final approval. Town Meeting members will vote on the budget, which is still subject to change, in May.


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

Saugus school head defends budget

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Superintendent Dr. David DeRuosi said he plans to defend the School Committee’s vote for a $29.6 million budget to the Finance Committee next week.

The Finance Subcommittee, comprised of two members of the full committee, met with DeRuosi, Executive Director of Finance and Administration Pola Andrews and Lisa Howard, executive director of pupil personnel service and special education, Tuesday morning to discuss the town manager and Board of Selectmen’s vote last week.

Selectmen voted on a $28.4 million school department budget, $1.6 million less than the $29.6 million appropriation the School Committee requested.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree noted that, at this time, the schools have been allocated about $300,000 more than what they were given last year in their operating budget. With charge-backs, the school department has about $41 million to go toward education, he said.

The Finance Committee will review the request and make a recommendation to Town Meeting in May.

“I’m going to defend the budget we voted,” said DeRuosi. “They’ve asked and requested a ton of information and we’ve answered all of their questions to the best of our ability. I think we can stay civil and work together to get somewhere.”

Classical alumni look to $1 million goal

On March 15, he plans to explain the increasing costs of special education. By April, he will outline in detail the impacts of the $872,000 deficit created by only appropriating the district an increase of $300,000. He will create two additional budgets for a scenario where the department instead receives $400,000 and $500,000, with deficits of $772,000 and $672,000.

“With $873,000, yeah, you’d have to do some serious number crunching,” said DeRuosi. “$672,000 you can chip away at a lot easier than $872,000.”

Committee member Peter Manoogian said he was concerned that if he didn’t prepare the budgets sooner, he wouldn’t be able to answer specific questions about what the underfunding would translate to in terms of changes to the district.

“You’re the expert on this,” Manoogian told DeRuosi. “We need to hear the proposal from you. That’s what we have you here for. I don’t want the School Committee proposing cuts.”

He added that he wanted residents and Town Meeting members to be aware of the effects of the budget they would be voting on.

“I don’t want people saying ‘gee, I didn’t know when I voted on the school budget that it meant this,’” he said.

“We need to have in much more detail what this school district would look like with a $300,000 increase, a $400,000 increase and so on,” said committee member Arthur Grabowski. “We want the numbers and recommendations to be hard with justifications of how the numbers you’re recommending will affect the district. Last year, we didn’t know what it was going to do to our district. We didn’t know what it would do to the high school.”

Manoogian tossed around the idea of not replacing retiring teachers and staff to cut costs. The budget includes $317,592 in cost containments from retiring staff whose positions will be filled at lower salaries.

“What if you don’t replace them? What if you chose not to replace those people?” he said.

Andrews reported the retirees included eight teachers; four elementary school teachers, one elementary specialist in computers and literacy, one high school teacher, a speech and language coach and a nurse in a supervisor position.

Should the elementary teachers be distributed across the town’s schools, choosing not to replace the teachers would result in larger class sizes, DeRuosi said.

“Our strengths are at the elementary level,” Manoogian said. “There are obviously down sides.

The subcommittee voted to make a recommendation to draft the three budgets to the full committee at the next meeting. They will also request alternating weeks with the full committee and finance committee, so finance subcommittee members can report their findings between meetings.


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

More or less for schools in Saugus

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Members of the School Committee will discuss the Board of Selectmen’s recommendation for a $300,000 budget increase from Fiscal Year 2017 at a meeting today.

Selectmen voted on a $28.4 million school department budget, $1.6 million less than the $29.6 million appropriation the School Committee requested.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree noted that, at this time, the schools have been allocated about $300,000 more than what they were given last year in their operating budget. With charge-backs, the school department has about $41 million to go toward education, he said.

The Board of Selectmen supported the town manager’s $79.9 million budget proposal last week. The Finance Committee will review the request and make a recommendation to Town Meeting in May.

“This is very early in our process — this is a preliminary estimate,” said Crabtree. “We try to put together the best we can do. This is the sixth budget we’ve put together and this is probably the most challenging budget, in the sense of fiscally, because of the continued increase in fixed costs with a 2½ levy increase with limited new growth.”

The budget includes an estimated fixed-cost increase of $1.9 million. Health insurance providers for the town asked that health insurance costs be budgeted at a 12 percent, or $1.2 million increase, from last year. Crabtree called the increase “pretty significant.

“Also, our personal contribution is mandated by state law,” Crabtree said. “We are on a schedule that has been set out by the retirement board and in that schedule, this year calls for an aggressive increase in the contributions on behalf of the town.”

The $580,000 increase brings the pension appropriation to $6.5 million. The increase keeps the town on track to fully funding its pension obligation by 2029.

Regional and vocational education cost increases and an 8 percent property and liability insurance increase are also included in the fixed costs. Contractual and wage adjustments are not factored in.

“This is one of the most challenging budgets as far as funding and because we are at the very top of the levy,” Crabtree said. “We’ve anticipated new growth but it’s not something that’s going to be realized until (major development) projects are completed.

“I think, some of the perception is that there is some sort of windfall money because of the new development and new growth that we’re going to be realizing,” he said. “That’s not happening this fiscal year and it’s likely that it won’t happen for at least another fiscal year.

“What we’re trying to do, I think, as a board, is support and prioritize looking at ways to grow our levy and grow our town.”

Ten thousand dollars will cover the costs of police dispatcher training.

The legal counsel budget jumped from about $273,700 to $323,500.

“Legal, in general, has been under-budgeted for many years,” Crabtree said. “If you’re getting the right advice in the beginning or during, you save a lot of money in the long run.”

He also expressed interest in creating a position for a town hall floater to fill in when others are out of the office, but didn’t include money for the job in this year’s budget.

Partners’ cuts hurt Lynn

About $775,000 was allocated to repair, maintain and provide electricity for the town’s street lights, up from $550,000 in FY17.

The library’s request for $611,243, the Department of Youth and Recreation’s request for $127,262 and Council on Aging’s $277,053 request were all supported.

“I remember it wasn’t that long ago that we talked about closing Youth and Rec, the senior center and the library,” said Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “Kudos to the town manager and our treasurer.”


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

All-day K safe for now in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT —School officials can rest easy after the town budget allocated enough to the schools to take free all-day kindergarten off the chopping block.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a $67.63 million budget last week, which is subject to further conversation with the Finance Committee before ultimately coming back to the board for final approval. Town Meeting members will vote on the budget, which is still subject to change in May. The FY18 town budget, as it stands now, is a 1.2 percent increase over last year.

Town officials opted to allocate an additional $950,000 to the schools, $200,000 more than the projected increase in recent months, which contributes significantly to closing their anticipated $275,000 budget gap. When faced with that gap, school officials were considering eliminating free all-day kindergarten, and instead switching to a tuition full-day model, with a free half-day program.

“At last night’s board of selectmen meeting, the board recommended a budget that included additional funding for the school department,” said Superintendent Pamela Angelakis in an email last Thursday. “This additional funding will be used to continue to fund our full-day kindergarten program for the next school year. This is wonderful news and I am grateful for the town’s continued support. Keep in mind that this is only the first formal step in the budget process and it will not be official until a vote on the budget at Town Meeting on May 15.”

The School Committee is scheduled to vote on their $30.49 million FY18 budget on Wednesday. After revolving grants and funds are taken into account, the school district budgeted for $28,272,500 in town allocation. With the increase, the town allocation is $28,197,500, leaving the schools with a $75,000 budget gap. Evan Katz, school business administrator, said school officials are evaluating how to fill the remainder of the gap.

Selectman Peter Spellios said the town has provided the school department with increases well in excess of what other areas of the town budget have received in the past several years.

“The problem with this is that it’s not sustainable,” Spellios said. “We are robbing Peter to pay Paul … The reality for us is that in order for us to have increased the funding, we have now just underfunded some town programs. We have deleted initiatives. We have taken things away.”

Spellios said the selectmen decided to allocate the additional funds in the face of losing all-day free kindergarten. But he said next year, the discussion may not only be kindergarten, but also about cutting AP English, two items that are on the superintendent’s list.

School officials are still in the midst of contract negotiations with the Swampscott Education Association, the teacher’s union, which recently rejected its proposed contract and is potentially seeking higher raises. In December, Katz 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.

Before ultimately settling on an additional $200,000 to the schools than was initially projected, town officials expressed an uneasiness with advocating additional funds, if it would potentially go toward payroll, rather than programs such as full-day kindergarten. As 80 percent of the school budget is already devoted to salaries, Spellios said last month that contractual increases were outpacing the revenue the town could give to the schools.

That sentiment was echoed by Carin Marshall, chairwoman of the school committee, last month after teachers representing the union gave prepared statements defending their decision for turning down their contract. Teachers said the rejection was based on several factors, the least of which was monetary, and that they didn’t feel respected as professionals. They also questioned how an initial $1.6 million school budget gap at the start of mediation when salary bargaining was underway became $275,000 after a tentative agreement was reached.

To reduce an initial $1.6 million budget gap to $275,000 before last week’s increase in town allocation, 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.


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

Still no developments in Bellevue Heights story

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS More than 17 years after the Bellevue Heights subdivision was supposed to be completed, officials are out of patience with developer John Mallon.

Chairman of the Planning Board Peter Rossetti said a conference call with Town Manager Scott Crabtree and Town Counsel John Vasapolli is scheduled for March 16 prior to the next scheduled Planning Board meeting. Mallon is to outline his timeline, which should include a June 30 end date, at the meeting.

“We will discuss any outstanding issues,” Rossetti said. “He is supposed to tell us his plans for completion, so we’ll wait eagerly for that.”

Conceived as a 28-lot subdivision with panoramic views from single-family homes, Bellevue Heights hit a snag when a retaining wall collapsed in 2008. The timing of the collapse could not have been worse for a private developer with the economy and housing market sinking, said Mallon. Since then, 21 houses have been built and are occupied.

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Last October, Planning Board and Board of Selectmen officials voiced frustrations with Mallon and the never-ending project at a public meeting. As of then, curbing had been installed on both sides of the road, but not repaired on the east side. The sidewalks were not finished and the Jersey Barriers had not been moved to their proper positions.

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

Rossetti said complaints were made about the subdivision’s roads not being treated for snow and ice during the winter storms in the past two weeks. Mallon is responsible for making sure the roads are plowed, sanded and salted.

But Mallon said the barriers were in place more than two years ago and that he is not required to place any additional units. He said the roads were done “just perfectly.”

My subdivision does not have to be any better than any other road in town,” said Mallon. “This is winter time. Ice is part of winter. There’s ice on every road. I look out my door and if the plow hasn’t come out by my door, I don’t go up and plow. If the town isn’t doing me, why should I do them?

“Instead of calling me and saying, ‘Hey Jack, it’s icy,’ they let it be icy and they wait and complain to the Planning Board.”

Mallon is expected to complete the project 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. Last week, he told the Item he is on target to meet that requirement.


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

Homes are where the hearts are in Nahant

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pictured is the Coast Guard housing on Goddard Drive in Nahant.

By ADAM SWIFT

NAHANT Selectmen want to give the people what they want when it comes to the 12 Coast Guard housing units at Castle Road and Chalgren Drive.

The 12 units will be sold individually, with the final development and sale details worked out by the town’s planning board, if a warrant article proposed by selectmen for the April Town Meeting passes. The warrant article reflects the results of a recent townwide survey, according to selectman Enzo Barile.

Of the approximately 625 responses, 469 residents indicated that they would like to see the 12 homes sold as individual units, while 61 said they wanted to see the property sold to a developer and another 80 wanted the nearly four-acre property subdivided into smaller lots.

“It’s pretty clear what the survey intent was, and it came back for selling as 12 individual units,” said Barile.

The article submitted by selectmen will reflect that intent, with the final language for the warrant being prepared for the board’s next meeting on Thursday, March 16.

In large part, who will be eligible to purchase the units will be decided after the Town Meeting vote by the Planning Board.

Still, selectmen Chairman Richard Lombard said selectmen should be ready for questions about the article on Town Meeting floor.

“Say the 12-unit article passes, who will have first choice?” Lombard asked, noting that list could include residents, veterans and low-income or first-time homebuyers. “All that has to be planned out.”

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Town Administrator Jeffrey Chelgren said it’s likely that many of those questions will be addressed in the final language of the warrant article.

A Special Town Meeting in 2016 proposed a new Bass Point Overlay District that would allow multi-family construction, but the article did not pass. If it had been approved, it would have allowed for eight single-family homes and a 20-unit condominium building to be built on the lot.

Earlier last year, the town tried to sell the property to a developer, but did not receive enough bids to warrant a sale. The intent of the zoning change was to make the property more desirable for potential developers, Chelgren said earlier this year.

Nahant purchased the property at Castle Road and Goddard Drive from the U.S. government for $2.1 million in 2004. The 12 existing homes date back to World War II when they were used to house soldiers who worked at a nearby bunker. Today they are leased to tenants. The parcels exist on one large lot of approximately four acres.

Barile said he would like to see a final resolution to the Coast Guard housing issue.

“We don’t want this to get so convoluted,” he said. “It’s been 10 years, and we need to get it done.”

Lombard runs to add to record

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Chairman of the Board of Selectman Richard Lombard is running for re-election.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — Richard Lombard holds the record for the longest-serving selectman in Nahant’s history and is running for reelection.

Lombard, who serves as chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said he needs one more term to finish what he set out to do 38 years ago.

“I have one more project to do and that’s the beautification of the town’s entrance,” he said. “That is one of my major projects.”

Town Clerk Margaret Barile said Lombard has served longer than any other selectman, including Charles Kelley, who was a selectman for 33 years until he died at the age of 61.

Kelley led an effort to revitalize the town’s golf course and develop remedies for a flooding problem on the property. After his death, it was named Kelley Greens.

“He was one of the longest-serving selectmen in the Town of Nahant,” Lombard said. “He served with me, and the things that happened, I wish I wrote a book. He was hysterical. He was quick witted and very, very smart. I learned a lot from him.”

Their time on the board overlapped for about a decade, while Lombard was starting out.

Lombard said establishing The Charles Kelley Memorial is one of the accomplishments he is most proud of from his tenure. He also headed efforts to create Veterans Park in 2008 and the Richard Davis Memorial on East Point overlooking the ocean. Davis, a U.S. Marine, was the only Nahant resident to be killed in the Vietnam War, he said, though more than 70 were wounded.

Lombard, a veteran himself, served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years. He was stationed in North Carolina and spent 14 months in Dong Ha, Vietnam.  

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Until the 1992 Town Administrator Act establishing the position of the town administrator for the town of Nahant, the Board of Selectmen was responsible for running the town, said Lombard.

“Without volunteers, this town wouldn’t function,” he said. “The Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, Conservation Committee and Board of Assessors — they’re all volunteers.”

Lombard initiated beautification efforts immediately after joining the panel, he said. He’s proud to have been a part of the revitalization of the Causeway. Sen. Thomas McGee, state Rep. Brendan Crighton and Rep. Seth Moulton helped secure a $22 million grant for the project.

Now that the Causeway has been enhanced, Lombard is on a mission to change the look of the entrance to town.

The Short Beach Master Plan includes burying above ground electrical wires in Little Nahant from Seaside Pizza on Nahant Road to the Nahant Police Station and eliminating poles on the ocean side. Overgrown weeds behind the park will be cleaned out. A Memorial Pond will be uncovered. The road leading into town will be lined with trees and benches. Gas lamps will replace existing light poles.

He hopes to find grants to help fund the project, he said.

But his experience ranges further than his selectman duties. Lombard has served on the Advisory Finance Committee, Memorial Day Committee, Nahant Lions Club, Short Beach Master Plan Committee, as commander of the American Legion, the Little League Committee, as a Babe Ruth coach, and had an unexpected 15-year stint as chairman of the 4th of July Committee when the former leader stepped down a week before the holiday.

“I’ve enjoyed serving the people in the town of Nahant — they’re just great people,” Lombard said.

Resident Stephen Viviano has taken out papers to run against Lombard, but has not yet returned them, according to Barile.

The election will be April 29, the same day as the Annual Town Meeting.


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

Nahant wants update on administrator job

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — A committee will honor the request of Town Meeting five years ago and review a 25-year-old Town Administrator Act.

At a meeting tonight, the Board of Selectmen will advise a committee, set out to update the language town bylaws, on what changes should be made to the language of the act establishing the position of the town administrator for the town of Nahant.

Selectmen said Wednesday it’s a matter of routine housekeeping and not a reflection of current Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren.

“I just think the way it was written will be changed because of some misconceptions in the way it was written in 1992,” said chairman Richard Lombard. “We want to straighten that out.”

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“It’s a healthy process to look at our bylaws,” said Chelgren. “It’s really just starting out. The committee is going in to talk to the board to see what they would like to see looked at.”

Chelgren is the town’s fourth administrator. He was hired in 2015 and has more than two decades of town administrator service in various communities. He succeeded former Town Administrator Mark Cullinan, who last served full-time as administrator in 2011, returning on an interim basis in 2014 following former Administrator Andrew Bisignani‘s resignation.

Bisignani pleaded guilty to four counts of filing false tax returns two weeks ago and was sentenced to a year of probation; the first four months will be served in Coolidge House and the remaining six on home confinements. His charges stem from failing to report more than $375,000 of his income on his federal tax returns from 2010 to 2013.

Selectman Enzo Barile said Town Meeting voted in 2012 to review the language of the Town Administrator Act and make changes to keep it in compliance with the state’s other towns. While he said he was unsure of what prompted the decision, he called it good practice to update bylaws over time.

“When the Town Meeting votes on something, it has to be carried out,” Barile said. “We made sure that it was carried out. The committee will look at it and see if there are any abnormalities. I’m not sure why it was brought up in 2012 but it’s a good thing to do anyway. You should probably go over this stuff every couple of years — things change.”


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