Peter Spellios

Elections taking shape in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sergeant approved as new harbormaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swampscott grapples with education spending

By GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Political payback’ in Swampscott?

By GAYLA CAWLEY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Plans for affordable senior housing in Swampscott

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Plans to build an affordable senior housing project at the shuttered Machon Elementary School are progressing with construction expected to begin in 2019. The project will need to be finished in 18 months according to the land development agreement.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the land development agreement between the town and the developer selected for the project, B’nai B’rith Housing, at a recent meeting.

“We’re excited that it’s finally moving forward,” said Peter Kane, director of community development.

B’nai B’rith, a nonprofit that builds affordable homes for seniors in Greater Boston, was approved at Town Meeting last May to build Senior Residences at the Machon. Under the terms of the deal, the nonprofit would sign a 99-year ground lease for $500,000. The purchase includes an additional $50,000 payment for off-site improvements.

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The complex, at 35 Burpee Road, will include 38 one-bedroom units and 48 parking spaces. Each unit would have one parking space and 10 guest spaces would be available.

B’nai B’rith plans to reuse the original 1920 building and demolish the 1963 addition. The town retains control of the property until B’nai B’rith closes on the property and the ground lease is executed.

The outside deadline for execution of the ground lease is 16 months from the January due diligence deadline. Extensions could be granted if the developer has not obtained public financing. Selectman Peter Spellios said the developer’s due diligence includes physical and legal investigation of the property.

Spellios said B’nai B’rith is also preparing schematic plans for the project to submit to the board for approval. The developer had already submitted limited floor plans as part of its response to the Request for Proposals (RFP), but they do not constitute schematic plans. The selectmen plan to hold a community forum for public input on the project after receiving those plans, he added.

B’nai B’rith also has to go through a permitting process. Spellios said the developer will also be applying for tax credits and other subsidies associated with a low-income project.

“We’re really delighted,” said Susan Gittelman, executive director of B’nai B’rith Housing. “We’ve already gotten started and are really wanting to turn this into the kind of neighborhood asset and larger community asset that I’m guessing folks are hoping for.”

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.


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

Swampscott hikes residential taxes

By LEAH DEARBORN

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents can expect a slight increase in taxes this year.

The average single-family homeowner will see a $177 increase in their bill. Tax bills are sent out on a quarterly basis, and the increase will be spread out over the course of the whole fiscal year.  

Interim Town Administrator and Department of Public Works Director Gino Cresta said the residential tax increase is being implemented to offset imbalances in the budget for the 2018 fiscal year.

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Cresta said the changes will not take effect immediately and that he is uncertain when residents will receive their first bill reflecting the adjustments.

The proposed hike prompted criticism.

“We don’t and shouldn’t accept that this tax rate is out of sight,” said attorney William DiMento.

Naomi Dreeben, Board of Selectmen chairman, said it’s important for residents to know that the 1.96 percent increase rate is lower than the 2.5 percentage allowable.

“We’re trying to stabilize our tax rate,” said Dreeben. She also said that the board has been looking seriously at long-term management strategies to create more sustainable tax rates.

According to information on the town website, the residential tax rate dropped during the years of 2013-2015 before going back up again in 2016.

The average single-family home in town is valued at a 2017 rate of $528,670.00, with the average tax going up from $9,048.00 to $9,225.00.

A business owner pays more in taxes in Swampscott than in nearby Marblehead, with the 2017 business tax rate set at $32.20 compared to $11.01.

“It’s all about tax base,” said board member Peter Spellios, who expressed that comparisons between the two towns may present inaccuracies based on population demographics. “It’s an apples-to-oranges statement. I understand why we have the data but this doesn’t tell the full story.”

During a discussion Wednesday on taxes, the board rejected a residential exemption of up to 20 percent and a discount factor for all land classified as open space. Members also rejected a small business tax exemption.

The rejections were based on advice by the Board of Assessors. John B. Speidel, assistant assessor, stated in a letter to Dreeben that lowering small commercial taxes will only increase large and industrial taxes, which already carry a larger tax burden.    

Asked whether the residential tax rate will move in a downward trend in coming years, Dreeben said, “I hope so, but that really depends on a number of other factors.”


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

Swampscott selectmen weigh in on Greenwood Avenue plan

Item File Photo

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — The Board of Selectmen Wednesday unanimously approved releasing the Request for Proposals (RFP) to formally solicit developers for the purchase and redevelopment of the shuttered Greenwood Avenue Middle School.

No public comment, aside from a question from one neighbor about the process of the RFP, was made prior to the vote.

Developers responding must adhere to an affordable housing component with their design for the construction of up to 28 apartments. A zoning change for a planned development district at the site, which was approved at Town Meeting in May, requires that at least 15 percent of the units constructed be affordable. A second option allows a builder to contribute to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town.

A public session held last week gave neighbors a last chance to weigh in on the RFP before it was released. Concerns raised at the meeting mostly centered around the pending litigation, between the town and Groom Construction, the Salem-based company that originally won approval for condominiums on the site five years ago, after Town Meeting members had approved a zoning change allowing a multi-family on the parcel.

Neighbors filed suit in 2014 and Massachusetts Land Court reversed the decision, reverting zoning back to single-family housing. Selectman Peter Spellios last week said that the litigation needs to resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property.

The litigation is disclosed in the RFP and Groom could potentially bid and settle the lawsuit. If the company wins the litigation, it could adhere to the zoning change, building a 28-unit structure or a much larger Chapter 40B affordable housing project.

The state’s 40B housing project allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to increase the stock of affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are defined as affordable, like Swampscott, where less than 4 percent of its housing is considered affordable.

Spellios said the main difference in the final RFP drafted after neighbors commented last week has to do with the inclusion of certain design guidelines.

“We think those comments were very fair and reasonable comments,” he said.

Developers have until Oct. 17 to respond. Another public community session will be held after proposals are received. Spellios said developers are also put on notice that an architectural peer review will be done by the town for design proposals.

In other business Wednesday, town officials were prepared to name an interim harbormaster, but the candidate for the position decided he was no longer interested in the job.

Town Administrator Thomas Younger said he was prepared to recommend assistant harbormaster Mounzer Aylouche as interim harbormaster to the Board of Selectmen Wednesday. But Younger said he was informed by Aylouche over the weekend that he did not wish to be appointed. Aylouche cited time constraints as the reason for not taking the job, Younger said.

Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell has been placed on leave. Younger said that he informed the Board of Selectmen that he will not recommend Bithell’s reappointment as harbormaster. He would not comment on why.

Bithell’s attorney, Neil Rossman, said last week that Bithell is scheduled to appear at a Sept. 19 clerk magistrate’s hearing to determine if criminal charges should be filed for use of an expired license plate. He declined to elaborate on the charge except to say that it is a complaint regarding a boat trailer. He wouldn’t comment further on Wednesday.

Younger said Bithell’s part-time position was budgeted this year for $7,983. Before an interim is named, he said there are assistant harbormasters in place, including the main assistant in Aylouche. Town public safety officials, including police and fire personnel, would also respond to a call requiring the harbormaster, he added.

Younger said town officials were exploring their options for the interim harbormaster.

“We are working to have a recommendation to the board as soon as possible,” he said.


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

Residents have final say in Greenwood plan

The Greenwood Avenue site. File Photo

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents had a chance to weigh in on plans to turn the shuttered Greenwood Avenue Middle School into affordable housing, before developers are formally solicited.

On Thursday, Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, and Peter Spellios, a board member, presented the drafted Request for Proposals (RFP) for the purchase and development of the middle school.

Residents had a brief period of time after the presentation to weigh in, with some of the comments centered around the town’s pending litigation with Groom Construction, the Salem-based company that originally won approval for condominiums on the site.

The litigation, which is disclosed in the RFP, needs to be resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property, Spellios said.

With the pending litigation on the property, Freddy Phillips, a Greenwood Avenue resident, questioned how someone besides Groom is going to get involved as a developer. Another resident questioned what the status of the litigation was and how much it has cost the town to fight the case.

Although Spellios said he hopes that Groom does bid, he added later that he has no preference with whether Groom or another third party responds, as long as it gives the town the tools to reach a settlement.

Dreeben said the case has not been especially active in the past year. Spellios said the next step is full discovery and motions on the plea case. Both said they didn’t know how much the litigation has cost.

Drew Epstein, a Rockland Street resident, called the litigation “the elephant in the room.” He said he didn’t see any advantage for Groom to try to negotiate a settlement, saying the judge would come in and the company is either going to win or lose.

Following the middle school’s closure in 2007, voters subsequently approved a zoning change that would allow for multi-family construction on the property. Then, voters approved a plan to turn the building into condominiums. Neighbors filed suit in 2014, opposing the revision. A Massachusetts Land Court judge revoked the multi-family zoning, and zoning reverted back to single-family housing.

In May, Town Meeting approved a zoning change to allow for a planned development district at the site. The designation allows for construction of up to 28 affordable housing apartments.

If there is no legal settlement and Groom wins, Spellios said Groom could proceed with the 28 units the zoning allows for or can decide to build a much larger 40B affordable housing project. The state’s 40B housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to increase the stock of affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are defined as affordable. Less than 4 percent of Swampscott’s housing is considered affordable.

Epstein said that he would like to see developers proposing a project with less than 28 units get a higher score than someone else.

Jim Olivetti, vice-chairman of the Open Space & Recreation Committee, wanted to see some sort of open space with any project. He said behind the existing building down to Fuller Avenue is a tree slope, which he would like to see preserved. He said there is piece of green space on the corner of Greenwood that he would like to see as a small park.

Resident comments from the public discussion could potentially be included in the final draft of the RFP, which will be presented and potentially approved by the selectmen at their Sept. 7 meeting. If approved, the document will go to Town Counsel and Peter Kane, director of community development, and released for developers to respond shortly after.

All respondents must adhere to the zoning change, which requires that at least 15 percent of the units constructed be affordable. A second option allows a builder to contribute to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town.


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

Any ideas for Greenwood Ave., Swampscott?

The Greenwood Avenue site. File Photo

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials are looking for the public’s help with the plan to transform the shuttered Greenwood Avenue Middle School into affordable housing.

In May, Town Meeting approved a change in the zoning law to allow a planned development district at the site. The designation allow for construction of up to 28 affordable housing units. The change was approved by the state’s Attorney General on Aug. 9.

On Thursday, Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, and Peter Spellios, a board member, will lead a public discussion on the drafted request for proposals (RFP) for the purchase and development of the former middle school. The meeting will be at 7 p.m at the Swampscott Library to discuss the current draft and hear suggestions for improvements that may be included in the final RFP, which will be used to solicit potential developers.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from the residents and their reaction to the RFP,” said Thomas Younger, town administrator. “Once the meeting is concluded, we will make a decision if there are any other changes that needed to be made within the RFP.”

The final draft of the RFP will be presented and potentially approved by selectmen at their Sept. 7 meeting. If approved, the document will go to Town Counsel and Peter Kane, director of community development, and released for developers to respond to shortly after.

Dreeben said the public discussion will expand upon a meeting between her, Spellios and neighbors held in June after the zoning change was approved at Town Meeting. She said the neighbors wanted to be part of the RFP process and did have some input in the draft. Some of the guidelines were incorporated based on their comments, she added. The primary design objective of the town outlined in the RFP is to ensure that “any new development is appropriate in size, scope and appearance to the neighborhood.

“We just want to point out what we’ve done in response to the concerns and take in any other feedback people want to provide to us,” Dreeben said.

The former middle school was closed in 2007. Voters later approved a zoning change that would allow multi-family construction on the parcel. Five years ago, voters also adopted plans to transform the building into condominiums.

But a group of abutters filed suit in 2014, opposing the revision in a neighborhood of single-family homes. A Massachusetts Land Court revoked the multi-family zoning, ruling that reuse of the school did not serve a public purpose. Zoning reverted to single-family housing.

Groom Construction, the Salem-based company that originally won approval for condominiums on the site, is eligible to bid once the RFP is issued. Officials said the hope is that Groom submits a bid as a compromise to the pending litigation.

If the firm submits a bid and the lawsuit is settled, officials have said there would be no risk of a much larger Chapter 40B affordable housing project and the developer would pay for the estimated $1 million demolition of the building.

The state’s controversial Chapter 40B housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to increase the stock of affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are defined as affordable. Less than 4 percent of Swampscott’s housing is considered affordable, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development.

The pending litigation is disclosed within the RFP.

“Within the RFP, it does indicate that there is legal action pending on the property,” Younger said. “So we have to disclose that. Anyone who meets the requirements of the RFP can respond.”

The zoning change also requires that at least 15 percent of the units constructed be affordable. A second option would allow a builder to contribute to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town.


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

Swampscott focused on Greenwood future

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Some neighbors are unhappy with officials moving forward with affordable housing plans for the shuttered middle school on Greenwood Avenue.

The former Swampscott Middle School was closed in 2007. Voters later approving a zoning change that would allow multi-family construction on the parcel. Five years ago, voters also approved a plan to transform the building into condominiums.

But a group of abutters filed suit in 2014, opposing the revision in a neighborhood of single-family homes. A Massachusetts Land Court judge revoked the multi-family zoning, ruling that reuse of the school did not result in a public purpose. With the court decision, zoning was reverted back to single-family housing.

At Town Meeting on May 16, voters will be presented with an amendment to the zoning by-law which would create a planned development district, and allow for construction of a 28-unit dwelling, according to town documents.

If the zoning change is approved, a Request for Proposals would be issued. Groom Construction, the company that had its condominiums approved, and has a pending lawsuit against the town, would be eligible to bid.

“Our hope is that Groom Construction does bid,” said Peter Spellios, a member of the Board of Selectmen.

There would be two plans for affordable housing at the school. If voters approve the change, a developer would have to establish at least 15 percent of its units as affordable, according to town documents.

A second option would allow a builder to put a predetermined amount of money into an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town. That amount would be no less than 20 percent of the total proposed units multiplied by $25,000, according to documents.

Frank Shorr, of Greenwood Avenue, told the Board of Selectmen at a public hearing Wednesday night that neighbors were shut out of the process.

“You’re asking us for our input but the amendment is already drafted so what difference does it make?” he said.

Jeff Sprague, who lives on Greenwood Terrace, said the proposed structure is “massively” out of scale with the neighborhood. He said the zoning change would ruin the historic neighborhood. He could understand why a school would be exempt from single-family zoning, but questioned why a new residential structure would inherit that exemption.

Freddy Phillips, of Greenwood Avenue, said his property values would go down with the development. He said he was uncomfortable with what he felt is a rush to get the amendment put before Town Meeting.

“Years ago, when we fought this and won at the land court, there was a rush,” he said. “Neighbors weren’t involved. It’s the same thing. Neighbors aren’t involved.”


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

Swampscott homeowner razes hope

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
George and Sara Wattendorf look over their home at 57 Rockland St.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — A Swampscott couple was looking to downsize with their purchase of the Henry Hall House last fall, but their plans to demolish and rebuild on the property has triggered unexpected resistance.

George and Sarah Wattendorf, owners of the 1840’s Gothic Revival home and carriage house at 57 Rockland St., applied for a demolition permit in September. The couple, managers of Oceanview Real Estate LLC, bought the property for $895,000 because they were drawn to the home’s oceanfront location.

But the age of the building triggered a bylaw to protect historic dwellings. If a property is 75 years or older and is historically significant, the Historical Commission can delay demolition. In January, the commission imposed a nine-month delay.

The couple, who live nearby on Millet Lane, said they were told the delay was procedural and were assured that once it was over, they would be able to go ahead with demolition and build a new two-family house, where they planned to retire. They say that the property is already zoned for a two-family residence and they would not need to apply for a special permit to build another one.

“We called the town hall, spoke to the building inspector, people on the planning board and town manager, who said we would have the right to remove the house after nine months without question,” George Wattendorf said. “Now they’re trying to change the rules after we bought the house. I don’t want an old, dilapidated house.”

George said just three weeks ago, upon returning from Florida, they were informed that demolition would become even more difficult because of a proposed local historic district that would encompass 39 houses, including most of the properties on Rockland Street, two properties on Redington Street, one on Rose Street and a house on Highland Street.

If the district is approved, demolition or any large addition to those designated homes would have to be approved by the Historic District Commission.

But George said they are not interested in just making renovations, saying the home is not salvageable, during a tour of the Rockland Street property given to the Item on Wednesday. During a walk through of the home, he pointed out boarded up windows, a large hole in the middle of the home covered by wooden boards and a hole on the outside of the house that he said rats go inside through. He said there is no basement under two thirds of the home, something he said is not conducive to modern living.

“Nobody in their right mind would buy that house unless they were able to tear it down,” he said. “It’s been let go for so long and it’s so bad that the house does not have good bones.”

He said the house has been abandoned for a year, but its previous owners did not take care of their property, adding that the building has been condemned by a structural engineer and three architects. He said that there hasn’t been a building permit pulled on the house in the past 50 years, except for one regarding a hot water heater. Some work that the couple has done included removing all of the asbestos from the home, with the abatement completed about 30 days ago.

The historic district proposal followed a push by some neighbors who attended a public hearing on the demolition permit by the Historical Commission last fall. The neighbors questioned how the home and character of the neighborhood could be preserved. Some are bothered that the proposal is a direct reaction to one property.

Outgoing selectman Matthew Strauss tried to get his fellow members of the Board of Selectmen to recommend that Town Meeting members indefinitely postpone the article for the proposed historic district, which is set to be voted on May 16. He and Peter Spellios, a member, voted for the recommendation, but were defeated by the three other board members. Strauss also took a walk-through of the home, expecting to be met with a “turn of the century home.”

“I was quite shocked,” he said. “At first, I was afraid to continue into the home. It’s a wreck.”

Spellios said the district is “100 percent responsive to 57 Rockland.”

“This, to me, is a process that is totally reactionary and designed to defeat a single property,” he said.

Geoffrey Boland, of 69 Rockland St., said he has no objection to the house coming down, saying that it is a detriment to his property value.

“I do have an objection to being blindsided by turning this into a historic district,” he said. “They want to stop him and punish everyone else on the street.”

But Mary Bester, of 56 Rockland St., would like to see the home preserved. She called it dated, but liveable.

“It just may not have been the style of house that everyone would appreciate,” she said. “It’s something that should be preserved for the cultural and historical value for the community of Swampscott.”

If the historic district passes Town Meeting, it would be submitted to the Massachusetts Historical Commission, if any changes are made from the preliminary study report on the Rockland Street Historic District that was sent to them in February. The report would also be submitted to the attorney general and if approved, would be filed at the Essex Registry of Deeds.


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

 

Frustration a strong factor in Swampscott election

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Donald Hause, left, and Patrick Jones are the two newest members of the Swampscott Board of Selectmen.

Like an undercurrent tugging a swimmer out to sea, the political dynamics or voter frustrations in Swampscott’s Tuesday election left Matthew Strauss without a seat on the Board of Selectmen.

Ask anyone in town and everyone will say Strauss is a nice guy who holds Swampscott’s interests close to his heart. So why was he the odd man out in the three-man contest for two board seats?

Rain and unseasonably cold spring temperatures limited voter turnout to 16 percent of registered voters. That core likely included supporters of Strauss, Donald Hause and Pat Jones, and residents interested in town politics.

When the last vote was counted, Strauss trailed Jones by more than 100 votes. Hause received 20 percent more votes than the incumbent.

What forces were at work to craft the results? To start with, Hause and Jones weren’t competing with Strauss for one open seat on the board. They were aiming for two seats in the wake of John Callahan’s decision not to seek reelection.

With that goal in mind, the two challengers did not need to target Strauss for defeat. They simply needed to convince enough voters that two new faces on the board made sense.

They obviously didn’t have to work very hard to make the argument. Voters in Swampscott are frustrated and the objects of their disaffection are easy to define. They think property taxes are too high and they have friends and neighbors who moved to Marblehead where tax rates are more reasonable.

Every homeowner gripes about tax bills. But the anger felt by Swampscott residents ties in with frustration over the number of empty public buildings in town. The shuttered police station, the senior center building, the Greenwood Avenue middle school and the Machon School prompt residents to ask the same question every time they drive by one of those buildings, “I wonder what they’re going to do with that place?”

It’s hard not to wonder if the board’s decision Monday night to map out a future for Machon convinced voters go to the polls wondering about plans for the other empty buildings.

It is interesting to speculate on how Hause and Jones will fit into the board. The two are no strangers to town government, having served on other important boards. Jones shares a knowledge of government with Naomi Dreeben. Peter Spellios is the board’s political mover and shaker and Laura Spathanas is the person ready to help anyone and everyone.

Where does that leave frontrunner Hause? He brings business experience to the board. Will that translate into refreshing approaches to tackling taxes and town buildings? The voters, or at least the handful who went to the polls, will be watching and waiting.

Swampscott voters make a Hause call

Photo by Paula Muller 
Donald Hause received 999 votes to earn a seat on the Swampscott Board of Selectmen.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Donald Hause and Patrick Jones are the town’s newest members of the Board of Selectmen, after beating incumbent Matthew Strauss Tuesday night.

Hause, who served on the Zoning Board of Appeals for a decade, was the big winner with 999 votes.

Jones, who served on the Planning Board for five years, received 912 votes. Strauss, who was seeking a third term on the board, received 810 votes.

Just 16 percent of voters turned out for the election.

Other members of the board, Naomi Dreeben, chairperson, Laura Spathanas, vice-chair and Peter Spellios were not up for re-election.

John Callahan, the other incumbent, did not seek re-election.

Hause stepped down from the ZBA in February, shortly after deciding to run for selectmen. This is his first elected position. He congratulated both of his opponents, saying Strauss has been a great advocate for the town.

“I’m thrilled,” Hause said. “I worked as hard as I could. I felt I could have a positive impact on the town.”

Hause is employed as a vice-president of Rockland Trust in Boston, a commercial bank. Prior to working for the bank, he worked for three commercial real estate companies in Boston.

Hause said there are some exciting initiatives that have been started in town and he sees an opportunity to complete them. He plans to focus on attracting businesses to Swampscott and improving infrastructure. He said town boards and commissions need to work collaboratively.

Hause said one of the best aspects of winning was telling his daughter that they no longer had to move out of town. When he initially told her of plans to running for the board, she was excited, but told him that if he lost, the family would have to leave Swampscott. He didn’t have much other celebration planned after a long day.

“I’ll go home, have a glass of wine and go to sleep,” he said.

Jones served on the Planning Board, an elected position, until 2012. He serves on the AllBlue Foundation Committee, a nonprofit established to enhance Swampscott athletic facilities and open space.

He is a licensed architect and has been practicing for 20 years.

“I’m thankful and humbled,” he said. “It was a close race. All three candidates were extremely qualified.”

Jones said he was excited to get to work. He said he has been working in different capacities with the town for nearly a decade. He said a looming large project is the potential construction of a new elementary school or the renovation of an existing one in town.

What made the difference in his victory was his town involvement and ability to listen to all sides of an issue, while trying to reach consensus, Jones said. He added that has always been his approach, that he never goes into anything with a bias.

Now, he’s planning to take it easy for a bit.

“I’ll go have a drink, sit back, relax and warm up,” Jones said.

Hause and Jones will be sworn in at the next board meeting, scheduled for May 4.


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

Swampscott candidates forum Tuesday

SWAMPSCOTTThe Item will host a Board of Selectmen candidates forum Tuesday, April 12, 7-8 p.m., in the High School auditorium.

Candidates Donald Hause, Patrick Jones and Matthew Strauss are running for two seats on the board, each seat carries a three-year term. The town election will be April 26.

The Item is soliciting questions from readers. Submit questions through itemlive.com or by mailing them to the Item, 110 Munroe St., P.O. Box 5, Lynn, MA 01903. Questions must be received by Monday at noon. Please send questions to questions@itemlive.com. Three questions will be selected and asked by moderator Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, with opening and closing remarks by each candidate.

School Superintendent Pamela R.H. Angelakis will introduce the candidates and School Committeeman Ted Delano will serve as forum timekeeper.

Strauss is a two-term selectman first elected in 2009. Jones served on the Planning Board from 2007 to 2012 and Hause currently serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Board members Laura Spathanas and Naomi Dreeben’s terms do not expire until 2017 and selectman Peter Spellios’ term expires in 2018.

Swampscott candidates forum Tuesday

SWAMPSCOTTThe Item will host a Board of Selectmen candidates forum Tuesday, April 12, 7-8 p.m., in the High School auditorium.

Candidates Donald Hause, Patrick Jones and Matthew Strauss are running for two seats on the board, each seat carries a three-year term. The town election will be April 26.

The Item is soliciting questions from readers. Submit questions through itemlive.com or by mailing them to the Item, 110 Munroe St., P.O. Box 5, Lynn, MA 01903. Questions must be received by Monday at noon. Please send questions to questions@itemlive.com. Three questions will be selected and asked by moderator Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, with opening and closing remarks by each candidate.

School Superintendent Pamela R.H. Angelakis will introduce the candidates and School Committeeman Ted Delano will serve as forum timekeeper.

Strauss is a two-term selectman first elected in 2009. Jones served on the Planning Board from 2007 to 2012 and Hause currently serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Board members Laura Spathanas and Naomi Dreeben’s terms do not expire until 2017 and selectman Peter Spellios’ term expires in 2018.

Swampscott candidates forum Tuesday

SWAMPSCOTTThe Item will host a Board of Selectmen candidates forum Tuesday, April 12, 7-8 p.m., in the High School auditorium.

Candidates Donald Hause, Patrick Jones and Matthew Strauss are running for two seats on the board, each seat carries a three-year term. The town election will be April 26.

The Item is soliciting questions from readers. Submit questions through itemlive.com or by mailing them to the Item, 110 Munroe St., P.O. Box 5, Lynn, MA 01903. Questions must be received by Monday at noon. Three questions will be selected and asked by moderator Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, with opening and closing remarks by each candidate.

School Superintendent Pamela R.H. Angelakis will introduce the candidates and School Committeeman Ted Delano will serve as forum timekeeper.

Strauss is a two-term selectman first elected in 2009. Jones served on the Planning Board from 2007 to 2012 and Hause currently serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Board members Laura Spathanas and Naomi Dreeben’s terms do not expire until 2017 and selectman Peter Spellios’ term expires in 2018.

Hause zones in on Swampscott seat

Donald Hause

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The race is set, and three candidates will run for the two open seats on the Board of Selectmen, after Donald Hause had his nomination papers certified on Monday.

Tuesday was the final day to turn in nomination papers for the Town Election which will take place on Tuesday, April 26.

Hause, a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals since 2005, will face incumbent selectman Matthew Strauss and Patrick Jones, a former Planning Board member from 2007 to 2012.

John Callahan, the other incumbent up for re-election, announced in February that he would not be seeking a second term.

Board Chair Naomi Dreeben, Vice-Chair Laura Spathanas and Peter Spellios, a member, are not up for re-election. Dreeben and Spathanas will not see their terms expire until 2017, while Spellios will be up for re-election in 2018.

Hause is employed as a vice-president at Rockland Trust in Boston, a full-service commercial bank headquartered in Massachusetts. He shared that prior to joining Rockland Trust, he worked for three of the largest commercial real estate companies in the country, all based in Boston.

“When my wife, Kim, and I moved to Swampscott over 12 years ago, we were struck by the potential we saw in this beautiful town,” Hause said. “Our three kids are now in high school, middle school and elementary school, and we love calling Swampscott home. I treasure the time I’ve spent volunteering, as a coach for lacrosse and flag football, and as a member of the Swampscott Zoning Board of Appeals for the past 10 years.”

Hause said the potential he sees in Swampscott is also the source of one his greatest frustrations.

“When we continue to revisit the same issue over and over again without moving the town forward, we see our great potential placed at risk.”

Throughout his career, Hause said he has managed budgets and people, and has learned that “we cannot continue to do the same things and expect better results.

“And as a cancer survivor, which certainly gives you a different perspective, I learned how we need to seize the moment,” he said. “This is why I’m announcing my candidacy for the Board of Selectmen.”

Hause said there are three main demographic groups in Swampscott, and he has a window into all of them. He said the groups include the elderly population; people who have moved into town and have been living there for 10 to 15 years, raising teenagers; and younger families moving into town or younger, single people moving there. Hause’s window into those demographics comes through having a child in the high school, middle school and Hadley Elementary School, along with a wife who teaches at the latter elementary school.

“I understand a lot of the issues and fabric of Swampscott,” he said.

Hause sees his candidacy as an opportunity for change. This is his first time running for elected office.

“I am grateful to those who have volunteered their time to serve the town, but I feel that it is time for change,” Hause said. “We need proactive, intelligent leadership, the willingness and ability to get to work, and the discipline to make the tough decisions that lie ahead.”

If elected, Hause said he would focus on long-term financial planning and “facilitating smart consensus decisions at all levels of our government.”

“I am also prepared to make the hard decisions needed to address our high real estate taxes and make sure we are fiscally prudent in everything we do,” he said.

With the town’s Master Plan almost complete, Hause said the more difficult work lies ahead, including the implementation of the plan “in a way that improves the character, amenities and economic strength of Swampscott.”

“While we need to be a catalyst for new business, more importantly is that we need to revitalize our main streets and amenities for our own residents,” Hause said. “This will require a tremendous amount of work, creativity and an ability to make tough decisions.”

In his opinion, “most of our residents have lost faith in our government’s ability to make those decisions, which is why I believe it is critical that we have new members on the Board of Selectmen now.”

“I’m excited about running and hopefully I make a compelling vote,” Hause said.


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

Three Declared for Board of Selectmen Race

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Two challengers and one incumbent have declared their intention to run for a seat on the Board of Selectmen.

Matthew Strauss, a current member of the Board of Selectmen, announced his intention to run at a board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

“I’ve decided to take out papers to run for another term,” Strauss said at the meeting. “[It’s been an] honor to serve residents for two terms. I would like to see things through to completion. I’ve very much enjoyed serving.”

No other current board members have taken out nomination papers from the Town Clerk’s office, according to Clerk Connie Hayes. Hayes said Strauss has not returned his papers yet. The other current members are Naomi Dreeben, chair, Laura Spathanas, vice-chair, John Callahan and Peter Spellios.

The two challengers who have taken out nomination papers are Patrick Jones and Donald Hause.

Jones filed his nomination papers Tuesday morning. He said he received an email saying his papers were verified at about 12:30 p.m. that same day.

Running for a seat on the board has been on the mind of Jones for awhile. He said he believes it is the “right opportunity and the right time.”

“It was on my mind for a few months,” Jones said. “Once town papers became available in early January, I started to consider the possibility and talked to a few people. I decided it was the right time.”

Jones served on the Planning Board from 2007 to 2012 and was an appointee to the Zoning By-Law Review Committee. He served as chairman of the Police Station Building Committee from 2012 to 2015. He currently serves on the AllBlue Foundation Committee, a nonprofit group established to enhance Swampscott athletic facilities and open space, according to a campaign release.

Jones has been a Town Meeting member since 2008 and has coached both girls and boys youth soccer, Little League and lacrosse, according to a campaign release.

Jones is a licensed architect, who has been practicing for 20 years, following his graduation from Pennsylvania State University. He is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), is a LEED Accredited Professional (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and is Massachusetts certified for educational projects, with a focus on science and technology for higher education, according to a campaign release.

Jones moved to Swampscott in 2003 and said he chose the town “because of its scenic town charm, its proximity to beaches, and the easy access to Boston.” He said the view of community and “sense of place” is the way he approaches the projects he designs and “will be a continuing focus for me as a Selectman.”

“But every worthwhile project also demands long-term functional and financial planning, combined with community engagement, to be successful,” Jones said. “I intend to use this same approach of forecasting and transparency, if elected.”

Jones said he believes “Swampscott is at a critical juncture in regard to long-term capital planning, fiscal responsibility and the future bonding costs of maintaining our infrastructure.”

“My experience with town boards and committees, combined with my professional experience, gives me a unique perspective on what it takes to help Swampscott move in a positive direction,” Jones said.

Hayes said Hause also took out nomination papers. Hause currently serves on the Zoning Board of Appeals. He is works for Boston-based company Meridian Partners, which has a focus on real estate and increasing business profitability.

Hause said he is currently on a business trip and was unavailable for further comment on his candidacy.

Candidates have until March 4 to obtain nomination papers from the Town Clerk’s office. They have until March 8 to return those papers.

Hayes said no other candidates have taken out nomination papers for the board, which would indicate their intention to run.

The Town Election will be held on Tuesday, April 26.


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

Swampscott selectmen hold first meeting of the year

By GAYLA CAWLEY 

SWAMPSCOTTThe Board of Selectmen met for the first time in 2016 Wednesday night, where they discussed and approved six members to serve on the newly created Athletic Field Turf Construction Subcommittee.

The subcommittee will help formulate a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the artificial turf field at Blocksidge Field, according to Selectman Peter Spellios. An artificial turf field was approved at Town Meeting this past spring.

Spellios said subcommittee members will serve in an advisory role and ultimately do not vote on a proposal for the project, or any related finances. The votes will be held by the board, along with two “ex-officio members” who were also approved Wednesday night.

Spellios recommended six subcommittee appointments, which were approved unanimously. All six appointed members are Swampscott residents — John Tripp, Robert Pasersky, Mark Routzohn, Matt Leahy, Sean Quirk and Scott Faulkner.

Also approved were ex-officio members DPW Director Gino Cresta and Recreation Director Danielle Strauss. Spellios will serve as the board liaison on the subcommittee.

Spellios said he wanted to create a subcommittee to help support Town Hall and asked that members bring their expertise to the project.

Tripp is a civil engineer by education and training. Pasersky is an architect with experience in design and project management. Routzohn is a facility manager with Aggregate Industries in Saugus with geotechnical and earth removal experience. Leahy is a certified landscape designer with experience in landscape design and project implementation, according to Spellios.

Quirk was most recently hired as the head coach of the Boston Cannons of Major League Lacrosse. He previously served as the head coach of the men’s lacrosse team at Endicott College for over 20 years and served as part of the team that oversaw the design, construction and use of multiple artificial turf fields at the college, according to Spellios.

Faulkner is a member of the AllBlue Foundation and has ties to many sports organizations in Swampscott, Spellios said.

Town Administrator Thomas Younger said the artificial turf at Blocksidge Field is the most important project for 2016, as it has been through Town Meeting for years.

“We have to do it right,” Younger said. “I have no problem using the expertise we have in town that we might not have in Town Hall.”