Maintenance

Give Your Property the Look It Deserves

Mystic Property Services is a full-service company in the North Shore area. For over 10 years, Mystic has offered the consistency and high-quality property service needs that customers have come to expect. Mystic’s services include landscape maintenance, soft-scape, hard-scape, excavation, and snow removal. Certified and knowledgeable, Mystic has the professionalism your property needs.

Our dumpster division is currently offering a special deal on our dumpster rentals. Starting at only $250.00, we offer dumpsters in the 10, 15, and 20 yard sizes for your removal and hauling needs. Mention this advertisement and we will take off an additional $25.00! Call us at 978-702-6327 for a free consultation today.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Give Your Property the Look It Deserves

Mystic Property Services is a full-service company in the North Shore area. For over 10 years, Mystic has offered the consistency and high-quality property service needs that customers have come to expect. Mystic’s services include landscape maintenance, soft-scape, hard-scape, excavation, and snow removal. Certified and knowledgeable, Mystic has the professionalism your property needs.

Our dumpster division is currently offering a special deal on our dumpster rentals. Starting at only $250.00, we offer dumpsters in the 10, 15, and 20 yard sizes for your removal and hauling needs. Mention this advertisement and we will take off an additional $25.00! Call us at 978-702-6327 for a free consultation today.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Wayne Alarm: Spring security check-ups

SAFETY TIP OF THE DAY

SPONSORED BY WAYNE ALARM AND HONEYWELL.

Regular maintenance can help increase the life expectancy of your alarm system and insurance coverage, too. It is known that  security providers require monthly or yearly maintenance. However, you can do a self-maintenance as well. Older systems should be checked every three months, whereas newer systems are checked every six months. When doing check-ups, remember to notify your provider that it is just a test, so emergency support aren’t dispatched.

  • Fire and Smoke Detectors – According to The National Fire Alarm Code, smoke detector are required to be inspected annually. To ensure its proper functionality, check it by pressing and holding the button labeled “test.” In doing so, an alarm will sound. Remember to always follow along to the instructions instructed in the manual that can also give you help in keeping it up to date. Another tip is cleaning it with a vacuum cleaner(at least once a year) to remove any particles that couple affect the smoke alarm performance.
  • Video Surveillance –  If using video surveillance is one of your top security strategies, it can definitely use regular maintenance. To ensure a clear picture and uninterrupted feed, clean off the camera lens with a lens wipe and cleaner, and simply dust the camera’s exterior clean. Check daily for correct date and time that is often displayed on the monitor, sometimes brief power outages might require it to be reset.

Checking your system in your business is just as important, too.

  • Checking fire alarms in your businesses is just as important. Have it inspected to check if everything is up to date. If it is not being tested regularly, it could be more susceptible to false alarms.

Regularly checking if your security system is functioning properly can make a huge difference and can be useful in a time of emergency. Don’t hesitate to check on your system today, and reach our customer service for further questions.

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Wayne Alarm: Security tips renters should know

SAFETY TIP OF THE DAY

SPONSORED BY WAYNE ALARM AND HONEYWELL.

Renters are just as likely to have burglary, a fire, and any other form of danger that any homeowner can experience as well. Renting a home can be an entirely different experience, however, since it all depends on the landlord. There is nothing to worry about, there are still options on securing your apartment!

  1. As most common entrances for burglary are through windows and back doors, it’s important to ensure they are closed at all time. If your door doesn’t have a deadbolt, and your landlord won’t provide one, see if you can install one yourself, or even a chain lock. If a deadbolt is installed, consider asking the landlord to replace it, provide them with a spare key if necessary.
  2. Strike plates, the metal plate on your door frame, are often found old and worn out in rental homes. This means it is not as secure as it once was. Instead, try replacing the screws with longer ones to secure it or replace it with a more secure plate altogether.

When living on the first floor of a building, windows should be your main priority. You want to always make sure all of your windows lock.

  1. Most importantly, however, don’t make it easier for thieves to hide.  Avoid having tall plants or shrubbery near your windows and use a rod on the tracks of a sliding window or sliding a glass door. Since these don’t require much maintenance or work to do in a rental, making it perfect for renters.
  2. Avoid placing your most valuable items near your windows. You don’t necessarily have to hide your valuables, but don’t place big screen TVs and such by the windows as it can intrigue thieves to take it.

Most importantly, make sure you’re aware of your neighbors and get to know them. Not only can they help in case of any emergency, but can also share any privacy concern that they might have. It also helps to keep a line of communication between your landlord and yourself, so you can feel comfortable in bringing any security concerns.

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Malden takes Complete look at street safety

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — For the past two years Malden officials have been working on designing and implementing a Complete Streets Policy designed to provide safe, accessible use of all of the city’s streets and trails by motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

On Monday, June 12, city leaders invite the public to discuss future funding possibilities for Complete Streets project in the city. Members of the task force and representatives of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and the planning firm Toole Design Group will be at the forum.

The meeting will be at the Markey Senior Center cafeteria, 7 Washington St. from 6-8 p.m.

Two years of research and several public forums helped the city develop Complete Streets and implement it last fall on a pilot basis. The Toole Group gathered information at the previous March 29 meeting on potential municipal sites for projects, additions and improvements.

Saugus Town Meeting gets out the vote

The city is seeking state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to pay for safety improvements benefiting walkers, bikers, transit users, and disabled residents.

The Complete Streets Policy adopted by the Malden City Council states that “Complete Streets fundamentals contribute toward the safety, health economic viability, and quality of life in (the) community by improving the pedestrian and vehicular environments in order to provide safe, accessible and comfortable means of travel between home, work, recreational and retail destinations.”

The policy is designed to be incorporated into decision-making on future construction and reconstruction in the community.

According to the policy, “the city recognizes that all roadway projects — including new construction, maintenance and reconstruction — present potential opportunities to apply Complete Street design principles … (and that) the city shall, to the extent practical and financially feasible, design, construct, maintain and operate all streets to provide for a comprehensive and integrated street network for people of all ages.”

 

Wayne Alarm: Why you should upgrade today

SAFETY TIP OF THE DAY

SPONSORED BY WAYNE ALARM AND HONEYWELL.

Life changes – a new home, different financial situations, kids – often times prompt questions about our lifestyle and if security systems in our homes are good enough. Taking time to assess your systems and making sure they are still up to date, making sure they are still a good fit for your home, is important in order to have a stress-free life.

Most of the time, in the span of a year, exploitable vulnerabilities are likely to have been discovered. Technology advances so quickly that we never truly notice when it becomes outmoded. Criminals love older technology because they are fully aware of its weaknesses and where the systems are easy to crack through. Many security system owners also don’t realize that it’s more expensive to use landlines solely for the purpose of their security system, or that landlines can easily be disabled by criminals. Technology has improved security systems and, because of every change that it brings, an upgrade becomes necessary. With an advance use in touch compatibility, security systems that provide touch can bring a major boost to your home because it caters to your preferences whether it uses voice control, which allows for a safer use on the system, or even systems that alert you when it needs maintenance. Technology itself has allowed creators to think out of the box and provide home owners with better equipped systems that are more efficient to run and operate, as well as easier to use. For instance, most advanced systems provide access that can correct human errors such as forgetting to put it on, or even having the ability to check it remotely.

Although we never know what could happen, it’s important to be prepared by upgrading. Allowing you to feel comfortable knowing that your home security will do its job properly, the updated security systems can make a difference in your home and with technology advances, it puts your home out of harm’s way.

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Town Meeting rejects Eagle Road proposal

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — In the third Town Meeting session Monday night, members worked through six of the 12 remaining articles on the warrant, rejecting one that would allow Eagle Road residents to sell their properties for commercial use.

Residents asked that their properties, zoned strictly for residential use, be rezoned for commercial use. The proposal affects 42-61 Eagle Road, located behind Barn Carwash and C & P Imports. One of the homes is vacant, one is rented, and three are owner-occupied. Other lots in the mix do not have structures on them.

Rosemarie Zondiros, who owns three of lots, is in full support of the movement.

“I have lived on Eagle Road for 33 years and this is tough for me but I have seen all of the changes,” Zondiros said. “When I moved there it was a nice neighborhood. It’s not ever going to be a neighborhood again.”

While only one of the lots meets the 40,000 square-foot minimum land requirement set by the town that a developer would need to construct on the land, owners said they were willing to group the parcels to be sold together.

But Town Meeting members referred the article back to its creator with concerns about possible plans for the properties.

Bill Leuci, who represents Precinct 4, which encompasses Eagle Road, said he was concerned that redevelopment of the property would include more rock blasting.

If this land is developed — it is all rock — if they were to try to develop this land, there would be an awful lot of blasting and I think our area has been blasted enough,” he said. “With Essex Landing, everyone on my side of Route 1 felt that blasting quite a bit and called the Fire Department quite a few times, and there just wasn’t any relief until it was all done.”

Meetings to focus on beaches, state funding

Others said they were concerned the properties would be used to create an access road for a Revere development.

Town Meeting members also voted to allow a development at 2 Winston St. be exempt from a requirement that would force one of the seven units located in three buildings to be affordable.

This property has been vacant for probably a decade to 12 years,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “One of the things the town is interested in is healthy development that is going to be a benefit to the community with the least impact.”

Crabtree said he would rather allow the developer to be exempt from the requirement than see the property sit vacant for another decade.

Town Meeting authorized the town to borrow $695,000 for the purchase of a fire engine for the Fire Department. The motion also authorizes Crabtree to seek grant funding to reduce the borrowing amount and go toward the principal.

Fire Chief Michael Newbury said when the department receives the truck in about a year, it will replace a 23-year-old engine. The apparatus should only be used on the front line for about 15 years, he said.

The water rate was increased 2.5 percent with all receipts to be held within the Water Enterprise Fund to be used exclusively for water expenses, maintenance, debt and, improvement programs. More than $6.5 million was appropriated into the Water Enterprise Fund and more than $4.7 million was appropriated to operate the Sewer Enterprise Fund.


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

Swampscott looks to fill Hadley needs

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — School officials are forming a search committee to find the next principal of Hadley Elementary School after Stacy Phelan’s resignation earlier this month.

Phelan, 49, a Lynn resident who had been principal for the past three years, resigned after she accepted a job on March 31 at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown. She told The Item on Monday that one of her main reasons for leaving was because of the poor condition of the Hadley School building.

She will be at Hadley until June 30, and starts her new position the following day.

Anne Marie Condike, director of curriculum for Swampscott Public Schools, is forming the search committee, which will include three Hadley School parents/guardians and three Hadley staff members. The director of student services, and the principals from Stanley and Clarke elementary schools will also be on the interview team, Condike said.

The first round of interviews for the next principal will be during the first two weeks of May from 3 to 7 p.m. After a second round, two to three finalists will be selected, who will interview with the full teaching staff. A smaller subcommittee will conduct a site visit at each finalist’s school and they will interview with Swampscott school superintendent Pamela Angelakis. The position was posted online last Friday and as of Wednesday afternoon, there have been 12 applicants, Condike said.

“I think we have a very comprehensive interview process,” Condike said. “We want to make sure we get someone who is a really good fit for the Hadley School community.”

Phelan said the Hadley building has been very difficult to manage, because of the maintenance. Phelan said she wanted to focus on teaching and learning, and “while that is very much what we want here in Swampscott,” the building itself has taken her away from a lot of that work. Despite the building’s challenges, she said Swampscott has been a wonderful, rich community to work in.

On Tuesday, Angelakis released a lengthy statement about the resignation, calling Phelan a “passionate instructional leader who will be missed not only as part of my leadership team, but also in the community.  

“We, as educators, go into this business for the love of teaching and learning,” said Angelakis’ statement. “Curriculum and instruction is at the heart of our work. Spending time in classrooms, supporting teachers and students and analyzing data to increase student achievement is where our passions lie.

“The day-to-day management of a typical building with student and staffing issues is enough to get in the way of this work as a building principal. However, when you are trying to manage a building that is more than 100 years old, where the majority of your time is spent working with the district and facilities staff, it can become very frustrating.

“Losing a principal of Stacy’s caliber with her many skills and talents is truly unfortunate. Our community needs to understand that our school district will continue to lose talented and skilled leaders who are passionate about educating our children if we do not tackle the issue of our significantly deficient elementary facilities. Our students, teachers and principals deserve so much more than what we are currently providing.”

Ruggiero denied Peabody superintendent post

School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statement for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.

School Committee members responded to Phelan’s reason for resigning at their meeting  Wednesday night, and clarified what the principal does to manage the building. Committee member Suzanne Wright said Phelan is not actually “putting the hard hat on” with maintenance or managing the construction workers. She said the school system has a facilities director for that.

“What’s taking her time is having to shuffle kids around to different spaces and plan her testing in other locations and writing letters to parents and dealing with sort of that kind of fallout, which is taking her time,” Wright said. “So, I think people need to understand we do have a facilities person. We committed to an awful lot of money in our maintenance budget to try to stay on top of a lot of stuff because we do know it’s hard for the teachers and the administration to sort of keep themselves safe and all the kids safe and everything. We appreciate how taxing that is.”

Chairwoman Carin Marshall said the resignation puts the focus on the need for a new school.

“It brings up the bigger need of a new school and that is something that we’ve been working on, meaning the school committee and the school district,” said Marshall. “Individually, we’ve all been beating this drum for how many years. This is not new. It might seem new to some people who are reading these articles or hearing about this and wondering why more isn’t being done. Man, we’re trying. At the last meeting, we approved the statement of interest. We’re in the program. We’re trying. An entire project was already voted down once. We’re trying to make this happen as a school district and as a town.”

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

 

Swampscott principal blames building for exit

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT – Hadley Elementary School Principal Stacy Phelan is citing the poor condition of the building as one of her main reasons for leaving for the same position at Lowell Elementary School in Watertown.

Phelan, 49, has been principal of Hadley School for three years. She will be leaving for her new job in July. During her tenure with Hadley, she said the maintenance of the building has taken up the majority of her management time.

“My leaving Swampscott is due to the fact that the building has been a very difficult building to manage due to the maintenance of the building,” Phelan said. “I always look forward to the next chapter, but it’s bittersweet because I feel like there could have been a little bit more work here before moving on, but I did feel overwhelmed by the building management.”

School officials in Swampscott are actively trying to replace Hadley School, the oldest school building in town. Superintendent Pamela Angelakis recently submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Hadley School was the primary submission, with the intent for replacement and a new building. The statemsent for the middle school was intended for renovation, school officials said.

Angelakis could not be reached for comment.

Phelan said she wants to focus on teaching and learning, and what she likes most about being a principal is being in the classroom. “Although that is very much what we want here in Swampscott, the building itself has taken me away from a lot of that work,” she said.

Phelan said she is out of her expertise in managing the infrastructure of the building. This year, she said she’s been managing a boiler replacement project and has been focused on the structure and quality of the building, rather than the education of the students.

She learned on March 31 that she would become principal of Lowell Elementary. Despite the building’s challenges, she said Swampscott has been a wonderful, rich community to work in.

“I was looking for a larger school that has more elementary grades offered in it and (was) looking for a change based on just curriculum initiatives,” Phelan said.

Lessons learned in Malden

John Brackett, interim superintendent of Watertown Public Schools, said Phelan will be replacing Phil Oates, the interim principal of Lowell Elementary School. He said the search process started in February, and yielded about 50 applicants. Two rounds of interviews were held, first with eight candidates and then with three finalists.

“We were just very impressed with her experience both in Swampscott and her experience with various schools she served in Lynn,” Brackett said. “She brought a lot of experience and knowledge about working in different kinds of schools. We were very impressed with her leadership abilities. We found her to be extremely knowledgeable around curriculum, instruction and assessment. What we’re really looking forward to is not only her high energy and her wonderful interpersonal skills, but we’re looking forward to her instructional leadership to help Lowell School continue to move forward.

“She just rose to the top,” he continued. “From day one, we just knew that this was going to be a great match for Lowell School.”

Brackett said the school has gone through some leadership transition, and there have been four principals in five years. He said the district was looking for her to come in and bring some stability to the position, as well as really focusing on the students and continuing a strong culture of working with the parents.

Phelan lives in Lynn with her husband, Tim. They have two children, a junior and senior in college. Before her time at Hadley, she spent three years as vice principal of Connery Elementary School in Lynn. She was at the school for five years in total. Before her time at Connery, she taught in various elementary schools in Lynn. Her teaching career started in 2001.

Phelan received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Salem State University.


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.

Swampscott see forest through the trees

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Peter Kane stands in Harold A. King Forest.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Harold A. King Forest is under the spotlight as town officials are in the midst of adopting a land use and management plan for the open space.

One of the objectives of the Open Space & Recreation Plan, adopted in 2013, is to create maintenance plans for each of the town’s parks and playgrounds. A land use and maintenance plan for the Charles M. Ewing Woods, a conservation land adjacent to the Stanley School, has been completed.

Now the focus is shifting to Harold A. King Forest, also known as the Oscar Short Conservation Land, 47 acres that has been dedicated as public conservation land and is managed by the Conservation Commission. Primary access to the forest is down an uneven slope from a small, paved parking area at the end of Nichols Street, according to a draft of the land use plan.

Before the plan is completed and eventually goes before the conservation commission for final approval, residents are invited to submit public comment for the draft document until April 14. The document is available on the town website. Comments can also be presented at an Open Space & Recreation Plan committee meeting on April 11 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The plan’s purpose is to outline how best to manage the property and how to maintain it.

“Thickly wooded uplands are rare in Swampscott, and the Harold A. King Forest, which is managed by the conservation commission, serves as a habitat for both birds and mammals,” reads a town summary of the plan. “As one of the few natural undeveloped areas in Swampscott, the management objective of the Harold A. King Forest is to maintain the property essentially in its present natural state — healthy, clean, undamaged and as free as practicable from invasive species and to provide public access for passive outdoor recreational and educational opportunities.”

Damaged signs need to be replaced on the property. Plans also include having an Eagle Scout re-mark the one-way loop trail through the forest, clear the trail from debris and create an informational kiosk at the entrance to the forest off Nichols Street.

Longer term maintenance will include litter control and vegetation clearing from the trails. Work will be coordinated through the conservation commission, and the open space and recreation plan committee, with labor done by the Department of Public Works and volunteers.

Swampscott on the trail of $850,000

Peter Kane, director of community development, said officials want to complete a plan for every park and playground in town so there’s a clear outline for what the maintenance requirements and responsibilities are for each of those spaces. There’s no specific timeline for completing the plans for the 23 parks and playgrounds in town, but as each one is completed, officials will move onto drafting a document for the next space.

By documenting the maintenance and land use requirements, Kane said there’s a plan to refer to, rather than using common knowledge. The individual plans go into effect once they are adopted. Plans have to be adopted by the governing authority. For instance, the current plan has to be adopted by the conservation commission, while one for a school playground would have to be adopted by the school department, he added.

For further maintenance, residents are encouraged to form a “friends of” Swampscott conservation lands group, similar to ones in other communities, such as the “Friends of Lynn Woods” group. Those interested should contact Kane at pkane@town.swampscott.ma.us.


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

Swampscott courts Marian purchase

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

By GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elections taking shape in Swampscott


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

CFO accuses school committee of ‘fuzzy math’

By THOMAS GRILLO and BRIDGET TURCOTTE 

LYNN  — One day after the School Committee overwhelmingly rejected a move to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff from Inspectional Services to the school department because of the costs, the city’s chief financial officer blasted the panel’s fuzzy math.

“There was a lot of bad information spewed by the School Committee Thursday night,” said Peter Caron. “If the schools take over custodial operations as they exist today, the only cost to them is $1 million in health insurance. All the other talk about it costing another million here and another million there is baloney.”

The controversy began last month when in an attempt to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy engineered a plan to transfer supervision of school custodians from City Hall to the school department. Earlier this week, the city council voted unanimously for the change.

But in a 6-1 vote Thursday, the School Committee rejected the home rule petition that would make the transfer a reality. The panel asked the city’s Beacon Hill delegation to deep six the proposal when it reaches the State House. Only the mayor, chairman of the school committee, voted for the change.

“There are far too too many questions for us to support this change,” said Patricia Capano, a School Committee member. “We still don’t know what it will cost us, we want answers. Can we afford it without depleting our budget? It would be shortsighted.”

Showdown over Lynn school custodians

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), who also serves as a City Councilor at-Large, supported the measure at the council meeting.

“I hopes the issues get resolved in a way that benefits everyone in the city,” he said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said he will wait to see the home rule petition arrives on Beacon Hill before he makes a decision on how to vote.

Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn), through a spokeswoman, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Michael Donovan, ISD director, said half of his $14 million budget pays the salaries for 57 custodians, a dozen maintenance workers as well as for supplies and maintenance.

Caron insists that portion of ISD’s budget, or $7 million, would go to the schools, and it will not cost the School Committee a dime more to do the same job.

Still, Capano said she has no idea what it costs for the afternoon shift of custodians that are privatized. She wanted to know how much it would be for the schools to hire their own custodial staff.

“We want to make an intelligent comparison if it would benefit the citizens of Lynn to have 40 new employees, but can we afford it?” she said.

Donovan said the cost of the private company for the p.m. shift is $1.5 million. But it would increase to $2.8 million in salary and benefits if the schools hire their own workers.

But Caron insists such an added expenditure is unnecessary.

“If they choose to fire the private company and hire new custodians, that’s on them,” he said. “But if they continue to use the private afternoon service, I would take the cash out of ISD’s budget and put it into the school budget. The net result is zero extra costs for the schools.”

Technically, the School Committee has no say in the transfer. They can only make a recommendation.

The mayor has until Thursday to decide whether to sign the home rule petition request and send it along to the State House.

Kennedy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Despite the custodian transfer, the city is still dealing with other school spending issues. Caron reported a clerical error that resulted in a significant underfunding to the schools of about $1.6 million.  He anticipates a similar shortfall next year.

The health insurance portion of the net school formula was miscalculated using a head-count method, he said which only includes individual health insurance plans, not the added costs of covering families.

“I’ve recommended to the mayor that the city seriously consider moving away from a self-insured plan to a premium-based plan,” he said. “We would know what the cost would be for each employee every year. We would know exactly how much money we would expect for insurance costs for the coming year.”

Of the $8.9 million in debt the city is committed to repaying in a four year period, Caron said. About $900,000 has been repaid, leaving two years to repay $8 million, he added.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.comBridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com.

Showdown over Lynn school custodians

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE and THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN  — The school committee wants changes to be made to a Home Rule Petition that would transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff to the school department from the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD).

The move, engineered by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, is designed to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty. Under the revised rules, the city’s school custodians and maintenance staff are headed back to the school department. Earlier this week, the city council voted unanimously for the change.

The school committee, which did not have a vote in the transfer, was scheduled to hold a public comment session to hear from the employees and learn more about the change. But the meeting was canceled because of  last week’s snowstorm. Instead the discussion continued Thursday night, after the council vote. Kennedy said she would take all comments into consideration before signing off on council’s decision.

“I will take several days after this lands on my desk to decide if I’m going to sign it or not,” said Kennedy. “It has not been presented for a signature yet. By the city rules, I have 10 days once it is presented to me.”

Should Kennedy decide to veto the decision made by council, the panel would either make changes to the petition or drop it. But if she signs off, it moves on for approval from the legislature.

James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, said while the school committee can recommend to the city council that they rescind their vote from earlier this week to move custodian management to the school department from ISD, the council is under no obligation to reverse its vote. In addition, the school committee may ask Lynn’s Beacon Hill delegation to reject the home rule petition for the change, but they too are under no obligation to support it.

The controversy erupted in 2006, when former Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy shifted the custodians and maintenance staff from the school department to the city. The transfer came, officials said, because the schools were dirty and the janitors lacked supervision.

When ISD inherited the 166-employee unit in 2007, it included 120 permanent custodians, 20 substitute contract workers who filled in for absentees and 26 maintenance technicians for 26 schools.

ISD Director Michael Donovan said as a result of the switch, the custodians were held accountable, attendance and timekeeping policies were implemented, employees punched time cards, vacation rules were tightened and the city outsourced lots of maintenance project work.

Today, the department has 57 custodians and a dozen maintenance workers with a budget of $14 million.

While there’s agreement that ISD’s management of the custodians has worked well, Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said shifting the employees to the school department will add about $1 million to the city’s required school spending.

In a quirk in state law, while salaries for the custodians as city employees counts toward school spending, their health insurance premiums do not. By moving them, the city can add health insurance and reduce the deficit.

Caron and the mayor say moving the custodians to the school department will allow them to include those health care costs in the budget.

Richard Germano, vice president of AFSCME Local 1736 representing the workers, has said they are happy to go back to work for the school department. But because the petition calls for two custodians who clean City Hall to be transferred to the schools in addition to a supervisor position that has yet to be filled, Germano is concerned that the supervisor position was designed with a specific candidate in mind.

“That section is very offensive, as a taxpayer of this city,” he said. “The chief of inspectional services, I guarantee, will get this job. I guarantee it was put in there for him.”

Caron did not present the committee with any indication of the costs the transfer would pose to the school department because he said the numbers were not requested. School Business Administrator Kevin McHugh argued he sent an email to Donovan on Feb. 6 that has not been returned.

“This doesn’t feel correct,” said committee member Patricia Capano. “I feel that there are statements behind these statements that we are not aware of.”

Board members also shared concerns that the hiring process was in violation of state laws because the document does not indicate that veterans will have preference. The process outlined also requires three people to sign off on hiring a potential employee, rather than leaving the responsibility to the superintendent.

“When this comes to you (Kennedy), I would like to see it be sent back to the council to have them correct these things,” said committee member Donna Coppola.

“I share concerns about the costs,” said member Jared Nicholson. “I would appreciate seeing a breakdown. We spent a lot of time talking about the net school spending and this is entirely motivated by school spending. It was initiated by city council but everything in it is being implemented by the school department.”

Day without immigrants hits Lynn


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Revere man killed in home boiler explosion

PHOTOS BY SCOTT EISEN
Public safety officials respond to fatal explosion at 785 Revere Beach Parkway in Revere that killed a 50-year-old man.

By THOR JOURGENSEN and THOMAS GRILLO

REVERE — A heating expert says the boiler explosion early Wednesday that killed a 50-year-old man could have been avoided if simple steps had been taken.

“We are constantly preaching to customers and our technicians not to ignore boiler maintenance,” said Jeff Waldman, owner of Waldman Plumbing & Heating in Lynn, a four-generation family-owned business.

Reyes Bertrand died in the blast in the predawn hours at 785 Revere Beach Parkway. Revere Fire Chief Christopher Bright said the explosion severely damaged the basement of the Ranch-style home. Bright said the home’s other 10 residents were unharmed. But a man who identified himself as the victim’s cousin said he suffered injuries to his fingers.

Fernando Osorio said he was sleeping in the basement when the explosion threw him against a wall. He fled the house only to discover the victim was still inside. The blast’s force blew out basement windows and coated snow in front of the house with soot. Bright said the lower level was blown apart by the explosion’s force.

“Luckily, there weren’t more fatalities,” Bright said.

Customers often ask Waldman how often they should have their oil or gas burners inspected and tested. The safe answer is once a year, he said.

“The key is having a technician who is familiar with your heating system,” he said. “There are lots of safeties built into these units and if they are not checked regularly things like this can happen.”

For example, Waldman said every hot water system has a pressure release valve. If it’s not maintained, the homeowner could be in danger.

“If that pressure release valve malfunctions, you are creating a bomb in the basement that can blow right through the roof,” he said. “We show a video to our guys on what happens if there’s a plugged relief valve. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens.”

The other thing to keep in mind, he said, is an experienced tech with the right equipment will analyze the heating unit’s combustion for safety and efficiency.

“We test the flue gasses to make sure a burner is firing at the proper rate,” Waldman said. “Just because a boiler is working doesn’t mean it’s working safely. Many times homeowners wait until the heat goes out, but sometimes that’s too late.”

The first line of defense is an annual tune up, whether you have a gas or oil burner, he said.

If you fail to maintain the system, be on the lookout for telltale signs of trouble. Listen to your heating unit and if there’s a percolating sound or banging, that’s a sign of trouble, Waldman said. If there’s rust on the vent pipe connected to the chimney or white drip marks, that’s also time to call for service.

When the hot water in your home is hotter than usual, that means something is not working right, he said.

David Castro of Chelsea, who said he’s a friend of the home’s residents, had previously checked the boiler for problems at the homeowner’s request. He described the victim as a Honduran native who was living with his family in Everett before moving two years ago to Revere Beach Parkway.

“This is a really bad tragedy,” Castro said.

Neighbor Hugo Gonzalez formerly lived at 785 Revere Beach Parkway and said the home was one of several on a stretch of the Parkway damaged by the tornado that hit Revere three years ago. He said the victim had problems getting the boiler to work.

“It worries me. It could have been my family,” Gonzalez said.

Police log: 2-16-2017


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com. Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.