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    In  Town  Report 2 8 09 In Town Report 2 8 09 Document Transcript

    • This Week: Brother, can you spare a dime If you ca n’ t stand the hea t . . . NIMBY or NIMTH No Developer left behind Odds & Ends
    • From Chelmsford Independent Budget talk looks to keep things balanced By Robert Moreau/Correspondent Fri Jan 30, 2009 CHELMSFORD - Under the reality of what Town Manager Paul Cohen called “the worst recession this country has had since World War II,” a joint Board of Selectmen, Finance and School committees meeting convened at the Chelmsford Senior Center to assess further cuts going into the fiscal 2010 budget. Budget shortfalls had increased due to a lack of revenue, creating a projected deficit of over $2.2 million for fiscal 2009. The situation for 2010 (starting July 1) presents additional challenges, said Director of Finance John Sousa, with the loss of $1.6 million in aid from the state government, “a significant amount for our town,” he noted, as well as a 28.5 percent loss in lottery revenue. Loss of over $67,000 in charter school assessments and a $1.9 million loss in motor vehicle excise taxes, which comprise over half of local receipts, were other listed concerns. Though there is a projected increase of “about $45,000” in available funds, the revenue losses as well as non-departmental increases in health insurance, pension and other areas create a total projected shortfall of just over $2.3 million. Cohen called for steps to be taken to eliminate the projected 2009 deficit, including the use $1.5 million from the town Stabilization Fund — currently at just over $3.5 million — and “long-term planning” measures for 2010 to ensure that Chelmsford can eradicate shortfalls without resorting to reserve cash. This involves allocating the deficit costs across the town’s various departments. Potential relief exists with proposed bills at the state and federal levels, Cohen remarked. He also said the town could save over $1 million per year in health insurance costs by bringing the town into the state GIC health plan, but is unable to due to union opposition to such a move. Cohen stated that though Governor Patrick suggested lowering the approval threshold for joining to 50 percent, he did not believe this would lead to Chelmsford joining the plan. He said he believed the state should put all cities and towns in or lower the approval threshold to zero percent. A special presentation was made by Superintendent of Schools Donald Yeoman on steps the school system, which takes two-thirds of the town’s operating budget, could immediately take to save money. He noted significant budget cuts from last year including cutting 44 total staff positions, the closing of Westlands, and the introduction of a transportation fee. “I’m told the town started here in 1655 and they didn’t have buses then, but for the last many, many years kids have ridden to school on a bus for free. For the first time, they paid,” he said. One step that has been taken already, Yeoman explained, was to not fill three administration and four special education positions that have been vacant, spreading the workload among other employees. Other measures would include freezing of spending in library, custodial overtime, textbook, computer, staff development, and other accounts, and a reduction of the legal account. Regarding these proposals, Yeoman ex- plained that, “I don’t like to function that way [without legal advice], but I don’t like to go without the right textbooks either, I don’t like to go without the right computer equipment, I’d like the snow removed before the school day so we can start on time too, but these are difficult times, and these are not normal times.” Yeoman said that the department has been fortunate due to conservative spending over the past five years as well as the seven resignations allowing them to save money. He also praised the cooperation among town departments and said, “we’re going to face the crisis with a positive outlook.” Cohen concluded by stating he will begin quick action starting the morning after, evaluating potential department layoffs and cuts and working to finalize a proposed 2010 fiscal budget for the Board of Selectmen by its Feb. 9 meeting. ***************************************************************************************************************************** Budget forum with the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee. Town Meeting Rep Sheila Pichette expresses concern over fiscal crisis at Tri-Board meeting 1-29-09 CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO CLIP
    • From Chelmsford Independent Town employee positions cut By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Fri Jan 30, 2009 CHELMSFORD - About a dozen town employees lost their jobs Friday as the town continues to struggle with a $2.25 million budget shortfall Town Manager Paul Cohen said two full-time employees from the facility department and a full-time clerical worker in the tax collector’s office were let go. Other positions eliminated include one part-time employee each from the recycling, assessor’s, building in- spector’s and town clerk’s offices. The library was also affected, with four part-time employees’ positions lost and a further reduction of the MacKay hours. Beginning Monday, Feb. 2, the North library branch will be open Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday from 1 to 8 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Residents will also see reduced hours at the Town Office Building, which will now be open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. All of this is expected to reduce the budget shortfall by $250,000, said Cohen. “While you may see another one-and-a-half positions go in the library, barring any unforeseen situation, this should get us through the next 18 months,” said Cohen. Although Chelmsford is poised to receive just under $1 million in special education and educational construc- tion funding from President Barack Obama’s stimulus package, the town’s budget cuts will continue through fiscal 2010. “I informed the schools last night that their fiscal 2010 budget will be about $1.5 million below their current level of funding,” said Cohen. But Cohen hopes Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposals to allow communities to add additional meals, room and telecommunications taxes will be approved by Beacon Hill. “A 1 percent meals tax would give us an additional $342,459. And a 1 percent room tax would add $85,534,” said Cohen. “And the telecommunications tax would bring in $130,916.” Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at chelmsford@cnc.com. ************************************************************************************************************************************************************** Sunday, January 11th 2009: Tackling the troubled economy is going to require Americans to sacrifice - and it means some campaign promises will have to be put on hold, President-elect Barack Obama says. quot;Everybody's going to have to give. Everybody's going to have to have some skin in the game,quot; Obama said on ABC News' quot;This Week with George Stephanopoulosquot; . ************************************************************************************************************************************************************** http://www.lowellsun.com/politics/ci_11604193 Political Column The Lowell Sun Updated: 02/01/2009 Sun Staff Report SERIOUSLY, Are you talking to me? It was a classic Robert DeNiro moment Thursday night following a budget meeting in Chelmsford where state Rep. Cory Atkins, D-Concord, talked about making sacrifices so towns can save money on soaring health-insurance costs. Atkins, a supporter of letting cash-strapped municipalities, not unions, have the final say on joining the state's group health-insurance plan, said everyone is in the same lifeboat. quot;If we row in the same direction, we will get out of this,quot; Atkins said. After the meeting, a couple of Town Meeting representatives said that while Atkins' speech was right on the money, she should practice what she preaches. One rep blasted Atkins for talking about sacrifice after she agreed to take a 5.5 percent pay raise this year, bringing her annual salary up from $58,237 to $61,440. Atkins has promised her entire raise will go to charity. But some say a real non-tax-deductible sacrifice would have been to follow the lead of Panagiotakos and Arciero, the only legislators to flat out decline a raise during the toughest economic climate since World War II. - Rita Savard.
    • T h e Race I s O n Third name enters selectmen's race From Chelmsford Independent By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Wed Feb 04, 2009 CHELMSFORD - Sometime on Wednesday, Sean Scanlon , of 11 Sierra Drive, pulled papers to run for one of the two open Board of Selectmen seats. quot; I know the town is going through hardships and when I saw two va - cancies and only two candidates running, I decided to run, quot; said Scanlon. quot; I wanted to give the people of the town more of a choice. quot; Scanlon, 28, grew up in Chelmsford and graduated from CHS. After earning a degree in history from UMass-Amherst he enlisted in the U. S. Air Force. While on active duty, he served a six-month stint in Afghanistan. He is still currently a captain in the Air Force Reserve. And he works as a civilian for the Department of Defense at Hanscom. quot; I'm young but I have relatively unique experiences in leadership positions, quot; said Scanlon. He and his wife Nancy moved to town in 2006. For Sean it was a homecoming. quot; I grew up in town and went through the school system, quot; he said. quot; I understand that part of it. But I'm still sort of an outsider so I have a fresh perspective too. quot; Scanlon is currently a member of the Chelmsford Cultural Council. In May, Scanlon was one of eight candidates to apply for an open Planning Board alternate position. During his interview with that board, he said he had grown up in Chelmsford and returned to raise a family. He served five years in the Air Force, where he was involved in research and analysis. “ I’m looking for a way to help out the community, ” he said in May.
    • Walsh not seeking re-election **************************************************************************************** to Chelmsford school board By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com 01/28/2009 CHELMSFORD -- After serving three years on the School Com- mittee, Chairwoman Christina Walsh told The Sun she will not run for another term. But Walsh's seat, the only open slot on the School Commit- tee this year, hasn't managed to conjure any public inter- est to date. No one has pulled nomination papers for the sole vacancy. Papers became available Jan. 5 and must be returned to the Town Clerk by Feb. 17. quot;I hope somebody steps forward,quot; Walsh said. quot;It's a very important job and with the way the economy is going, the School Committee will have a lot of challenges ahead.” ************************************************************** Another potential candidate in the selectmen's race and the School Committee spot gets its first bite. -------------------------- http://www.creatingresults.net/ Biographies of Principles George R. Dixon, Jr. George's background includes real estate development, general contracting, and golf course construction in New England and
    • Florida. He developed a 3-phase project in Southern New Hamp- shire, built out the 78 Executive Home Phase I and sold off Phases II & III. He also was the prime mover in planning and building a 9- hole golf course in the Lowell, Massachusetts area with surround- ing up-scale condominiums. Earlier in his career, he spent time in the banking industry and has continued to work with his financial contacts from that era. George received a B.A. in Business Administration from Lowell Technological Institute and holds a General Contractors' License in the state of Massachusetts. George was an outstanding 4-sport athlete at Chelmsford High School and is presently on the Board of Directors of the Lowell Boys' Club and the Paul Center. He is active in Chelmsford community affairs and serves on several town committees. He has founded Caring Friends to help Alzheimers and Breast Cancer patients and their loved ones. ************************************************************** ************************************************************** More residents eye runs for office From Chelmsford Independent By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Thu Feb 05, 2009 CHELMSFORD - On Thursday, George R. Dixon Jr., of 15 Edgelawn Ave., pulled papers for the Board of Selectmen's race. Dixon had been a member of the Sewer Commission With the additional of Dixon, the Board of Selectmen's race has four potential candidates for the two open seats, in- cluding Sean Scanlon, who pulled papers Wednesday, Matthew J. Hanson and Donald Van Dyne.
    • Also on Thursday, Coach Road resident Nicholas A. DeSilvio became the first person to vie for the School Committee seated being vacated by current Chairman Christina Walsh. Nick and Family ******************************************************************************** Matt Hanson appearing on Politically Incorrect with Tom Christiano 1-27-09 Topics: Fiscal crisis /Town Hall redevelopment Billerica & Boston Road 40B projects Billboards in Chelmsford CLICK HERE TO VIEW SHOW Donald Van Dyne appearing on Town Talk with Dennis Ready 2-5-09 Topics: Tax Classification / Town Hall redevelopment Town Manager / Ambulance issue / Override GIC Insurance CLICK HERE TO VIEW SHOW
    • Q&A with the Candidates ***************************************** QUESTION : If you were Selectmen now, would you vote to have David Hedi- son's two (Center & North) Town Hall proposals go to a special Town Meeting for a vote ? Why or Why not? (responses from candidates in order as received) Candidate for Board of Selectmen SEAN SCANLON First, let me say I am in favor of utilizing the town halls for town-planned affordable housing. Too often, new housing is only thought viable if created on new land, re- quiring the elimination of wooded areas. I believe town government should actively seek smart solutions to inevitable growth as business continues to develops along the i495 beltway. Plans such as the Town Hall proposal enable seniors and young professionals to remain in Chelmsford and contribute to the town’s welfare both culturally and economically. I earned my undergraduate degree in history so I understand the value of, and have always enjoyed visiting, historical properties. That being said, I also realize the town and people of Chelmsford are facing challenging times. I believe Dave Hedison’s proposal enables the town to relinquish the financial upkeep of the buildings, while maintaining the 19th century backdrops people have grown to enjoy. Ultimately, I understand both perspectives of this issue, which is why I believe a vote at town meeting is important. The town halls are properties of sentimental and historical value to the people of Chelmsford. In cases where the future of a town landmark is at stake, it is right for members of Town Meeting to represent their precincts and enable the will of the people. If you would like to contact me regarding this issue, another, or you would just like to get involved with my campaign, please send an email to sean.scanlon@usa.com Thanks for reading, Sean
    • Candidate for Board of Selectmen Donald Van Dyne To start, thank you to Roy and Tom for providing this special opportunity for can- didates to share their positions on the issues important to our Town. The value of the In-Town Report is in the responsible exposure of unbiased information in an effort to keep our Chelmsford community credibly informed. Throughout the years I have been very active in town. I have been a coach for T- Ball and soccer; a Town Meeting Representative; a member of the Charter Review Committee, the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee, and the Capital Planning Committee; and a member, Vice Chair, and Chair of the Finance Committee. The question the newsletter has asked is: “If you were a Selectmen now, would you vote to have David Hedison’s two (Center and North) Town Hall proposals go to a special Town meeting for a vote? Why or why not?” Most certainly I would allow both questions on the floor of Town Meeting to be voted by Chelmsford’s Town Meeting Representatives. It is the Board of Select- men’s duty to set forth the articles to be voted at town meeting. Therefore, the Board is the gatekeeper of the policies enacted by our town. In this instance, to move the questions forward to Town Meeting, our legislative branch of our gov- ernment, is a reflection of “good government” and a testament to our democracy. The action is consistent with the “due process” and the intentions of the Chelms- ford Charter. Moreover, it reinforces citizen participation and devolves power. The New England area is unique in that it embraces a form of government that is often referred to as a “primary democracy,” in which everyone should be allowed to participate in the decision making process. The New England Town Meeting is an example of this type of citizen participation. I believe it is the duty of town leaders to increase and foster civic participation by encouraging the residents of Chelmsford to be engaged in community affairs. An active Town Meeting helps to ensure that your local elected officials are better informed and aware of all residents concerns. Further, civic participation is psy- chologically rewarding and creates the political and social networks essential to building a community. It is important to note that this discussion is different than “Do you support the Town Hall proposals?” In the interest of keeping my answer reasonable in length,
    • I’ll leave that discussion for another forum. If interested, feel free to give me a call at home: 978-256-6909 or watch the Town Talk w/Dennis Ready linked in this newsletter. As a member of the Board of Selectmen, per our Charter, I will make it my responsibility to keep town meeting members “abreast of town business and for- ward materials” to be studied throughout the year and in advance of Town Meeting. I will make every effort to facilitate the expectation outlined in our Charter Section 2-12 (c) “town meeting members will attend selected meetings of multiple bodies, attend hearings held by the finance committee and actively prepare for each ses- sion of the town meeting.” Working together we will make Chelmsford an even stronger community. I ask for one of your two votes on April 7th. Thank you, Donald Van Dyne Please save the date: Campaign Party Sunday, March 1, 2009 Chelmsford Country Club 4pm-8pm Suggested contribution $10 ************************************************ Candidate for Board of Selectmen George Dixon Jr. I believe an open forum such as the Town Meeting is the proper place for a decision on the Town Halls or any other subjects that affect so many peo- ple. Hopefully each Town Meeting member would poll as many of the con- stituents in their precinct, making it more representative to all voters or as many as possible! Thank You. George Dixon
    • Candidate for Board of Selectmen Matt Hanson I am in support of exploring different possibilities for our town halls. However, I do not feel that the community has had enough time to explore any alternate op- portunities; especially in regards to the center town hall, which just recently closed. I am in support of bringing this proposal in front of a special town meet- ing but only after I feel that the proponents of the plan have had adequate time to explore other possibilities. If this plan passes, there is no turning back, the Town Halls will no longer be part of the town, they will be housing units. This is an enormous decision for the town to make and because of its lasting effects, should not be rushed. I understand the need for affordable housing in our community but it would be a shame if the town was forced into this proposal that could sacrifice the integrity of our only lasting historical buildings unless all options are fully explored. I understand the time restraints on this project but there are people working in a timely manner to offer alternatives before this projects deadline. I would vote to have a special town meeting on this proposal before the deadline for attaining stimulus and other funding. Matt Hanson Campaign Announcements Campaign website up and running although still under construction www.matthanson.us Questions about me or the website can be sent to contact@matthanson.us The information about my campaign kickoff party will be uploaded to the site soon! Also, please send me an email at contact@matthanson.us if you would like to be added to the supporters section.
    • NIM BY N I MT H Chelmsford or ( Not in my back yard ) (Not in my Town Hall ) (Not Chelmsford housing debate pits past vs. present By Rita Savard, rsavard@lowellsun.com Posted: 02/03/2009 CHELMSFORD—With nearly 1,400 Chelmsford CHELMSFORD residents on a waiting list for affordable housing, town officials will be asked to weigh converting two landmark buildings into apartments. A proposal from the Chelmsford Housing Authority to place affordable rental units inside the old Center and North town halls was met with a room divided last night as residents appeared torn over preserving history and fulfilling a huge demand. “I do support housing for people in need,” Susan Gates said. “But I do not support putting it in the Center Town Hall. That should be our cultural community center.” Peggy Dunn agreed, saying it is “unacceptable” for the Center Town Hall on North Road— which is often used as an iconic image to portray Chelmsford—to be gutted for apart- ments. But Dunn and several others said they favor placing affordable units in the North Hall, which has been mostly vacant for the past 20 years. “Please don’t dump on North like you’ve done in the past,” countered resident George Merrill, who gave a passionate speech against putting housing in what he called the “only historically significant building left in North Chelmsford.” Despite claims that the former North Town Hall, on Princeton Street in Vinal Square, is badly in need of repairs, Merrill argued that the structure is “as sound as the day it was built,” and reminded the public that the Pop Warner football league still stores equipment in the building. Fran McDougall, who favors converting both buildings into affordable units, said, “We don’t want to start ‘which child do you love best’,” adding that if the town doesn’t take care of its people first, there will be no culture to protect. By redeveloping the sites for housing, CHA Executive Director David Hedison said that more than $1 million of funding from state historical tax credits can be used to preserve the exterior of the buildings for years to come. Hedison said it’s a plan that not only looks to preserve the buildings, but bring additional economic development to both centers of town, put the buildings on the tax roll, and elimi- nate the need to use town money for maintaining the mostly vacant buildings. But mostly, he said, it would address an unprecedented need for affordable housing in town.
    • quot;When people come to fill out an application for affordable housing, I have to tell them it's a seven- to 10-year wait,quot; Hedison said. CHA's proposal now shows 17 studio apartments inside the Old North Town Hall, and 10 one-bedroom units and four studios for the Center Town Hall, which was closed for the winter to save Chelmsford thousands of dollars in utility costs. Income limits would be $35,640 for one person and $40,680 for two people, perfect for young professionals, Hedison said. The town's 15 single veterans under the age of 60 would be favored for the studios in the North Hall. Hedison also added that the town would save about $40,947 for annual upkeep of the Center Town Hall, including plowing, cleaning, insurance, maintenance and utilities. Long-term capital improvements over the next five to seven years for replacing 30- year-old windows and lead-paint removal are estimated at $310,000. Selectman Clare Jeannotte said Community Preservation Act money is also ear- marked for the purpose of restoring buildings of historical significance. Jeannotte said she doesn't think the town should rush into making a long-term deci- sion for such a significant historic asset until it looks at all alternative uses. Chelmsford Veterans Agent Regina Jackson said her office was located in the Center Town Hall for 11 years, and even at the best of times, the building was never fully uti- lized. “As a taxpayer, I don't want any more of my money going into this mothballed build- ing,” Jackson said. The Chelmsford Food Pantry has operated in the basement of the Center Town Hall for 16 years. The location makes it easily accessible by bus, and many homeless families currently walk to the pantry from Chelmsford hotels, said Director Sandy Donovan. Donovan said she’s worried about what would happen to the food program if it has to move. “I was shocked when I found out,” she said. “We feed 350 to 500 people a week. I'm worried about how people will get to us.” Hedison said nothing in the CHA's preliminary blueprints is final, and that it's his de- sire to work with all the people who have “their hearts and souls” in these buildings to make it a project that works for everyone. CHA will appear before selectmen Monday to request a Special Town Meeting vote on the issue in March. Take a photo tour inside North Town Hall CLICK HERE
    • Resident wonders if Dalton should vote on housing plan From Chelmsford Independent By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Tue Feb 03, 2009 CHELMSFORD - Before Selectman Bill Dalton votes on placing the Housing Author- ity’s plans for the old town halls on a warrant, Susan Gates wants him to get the green light from the State Ethics Commission. Gates, who is an outspoken opponent of the proposal to turn Town Hall on the Com- mon into housing, said was concerned over the legitimacy of Dalton’s vote because his wife Linda works for the Housing Authority. In an e-mail sent Tuesday morning to Dalton and Town Manager Paul Cohen, Gates wrote, “I am asking as a resident of Chelmsford that you immediately contact the State Ethics Commission and ask them to give you a ruling regarding your partici- pation in that vote. I am sure you do not want any appearance of impropriety. If you do this and share the answer with the public, it will remove any doubt.” The ethics commission does not comment about ongoing investigations. But Gates said she spoke with Cathy Gallant from the commission and was told if Dalton calls he would be given an answer immediately then receive a follow-up letter. “I love the idea of holding his feet to the fire,” said Gates. “If he is really the great citizen and Board of Selectmen member he purports to be, he should want to clear up the cloud.” Dalton agreed. “I’m going to call the Ethics Commission today,” Dalton said Tuesday. “(Housing Authority Executive Director) David (Hedison) is working to get this thing to work.” Dalton doesn’t expect his vote to place the question on a special Town Meeting warrant to pose an ethical problem. “It’s just allowing them to go before Town Meeting,” said Dalton. On Monday, Feb. 9, selectmen are expected to call a special Town Meeting for March 9 to deal with budget shortfalls and to address the proposal to turn the North Town Hall and Town Hall on the Common into affordable housing. Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at chelmsford@cnc.com.
    • UPDATED: UPDATED Ethics Commission: No conflict for Dalton From Chelmsford Independent By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer CHELMSFORD - After speaking with the State Ethics Commission Tuesday, Selectman Bill Dalton said his vote to place the Housing Authority plan on a Town Meeting warrant would not constitute a conflict of interest. quot; I explained the whole thing: I'm on the Board of Se - lectmen and my wife works for the Housing Authority and we are voting Monday on a Housing Authority plan, quot; said Dalton. quot; They only question they asked was would my wife's salary change if the project passed. quot; Because his wife's salary would not be tied to passage of the proposal, the Ethics Commission said Dalton could vote on putting it on the warrant. quot; Basically they said there is no conflict, quot; said Dalton. quot; But I do have to file a disclosure form with the Town Clerk before Monday's meeting .”
    • CHELMSFORD INDEPENDENT EDITORIAL: Time to save Town Hall Thu Jan 29, 2009 CHELMSFORD - Although its sentiment is sound, the Housing Authority’s plan to turn Old Town Hall into a 40B development is shortsighted. There is no question that low-income residents, the elderly and veterans could use help in finding real affordable homes in Chelmsford, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the town’s history. Yes, all too often individuals pushing to preserve every nook and cranny of the last 350 years earn their mean-spirited sobriquet “Hysterical Society” — if you believe every plaque proclaiming “George Washington Slept Here,” you’d have to admit the man never got out of bed — but sometimes a little hysteria is a good thing. Old Town Hall on the Common remains Chelmsford’s only Town Hall. The building on Billerica Road is simply that: the Town Office Building. When the governmental offices were moved to the old McFarlin School it was no acci- dent the name Town Hall didn’t follow. Town Hall on the Common, built in 1879, was more than a place to pay your tax bill or to hold a meeting; it was the heart of the community. Before Mr. Adams donated money to build a library on Boston Road, residents would come to Town Hall to check out books. Even then, space was at a premium. Residents would line up in the hallway and tell the li- brarian through an open door what book they wanted. Dances were held in the upstairs auditorium on the pine floor, which was later replaced with a rock maple one in 1903. As they say, “If these walls could talk,” it would probably relate tales of first kisses, mar- riage proposals and maybe even a few broken hearts. Downstairs was a dining room where groups often held special dinners. Awards were handed out and honors were bestowed to residents. Town Hall was the heart of Chelmsford for more than 100 years. Even after the town offices outgrew the place in the early 1980s, the Town Hall remained the cultural center as the Cultural Council and Recreation Department set up shop there. Housing future residents is important but so is protecting those things that make Chelmsford the town that it is. After all, the town’s motto is “Let the children guard what the sires have won.” And isn’t it important to guard the community’s history? Without those significant pieces Chelmsford becomes just another town filled with plaques that tell people what once stood on this site.
    • Chelmsford Independent Letters to the Editor Housing Authority plan makes sense Wed Jan 28, 2009 CHELMSFORD - To the Editor: After reading the article titled “Housing plans for Town Halls irks many” I wanted to express my opinion on the proposed conversion of old Town Hall to town housing. I can understand the desire to preserve the two town halls for a historical purpose, but the current and future economic problems require towns to focus on the necessities of their economy, not wants such as historical preservation. Converting the town halls into housing would create much needed revenue for Chelmsford, something that idle buildings would not. I believe that keeping the outside of the buildings looking as they do now will serve as a reminder to future generations on historical importance, and the housing conversion will also serve as a reminder to the towns proactive approach to creating new sources of income. Kenneth Van Tassell Gallup Drive Housing plan is great idea Wed Feb 04, 2009 CHELMSFORD - To the Editor: I don’t agree with you editorial concerning the Chelmsford Center Old Town Hall. You overlook many other benefits from the project. You describe the project as a 40B development with all its negative connotation. This proposal would provide 10 one-bedroom units and four studios in an area that is bet- ter suited for multiple housing than in a residential area that doesn’t lend itself to multiple housing and where usually it is not wanted by the neighbors. These units would be counted towards the town’s goal of having 10 percent housing as affordable. The Chelmsford Housing Authority has documented a need for this type of housing. But there is another important consideration. This could be a first step toward the needed revitalization of Central Square. For years the town has struggled with how to make Central Square a vibrant area for shopping. With the traffic improvements that have been made, the plans for depressing the utilities and the opening of two new restaurants there is hope. But what the Central Square area really needs is more “walk around traffic”. That means having people live close enough to the center that they can frequent the shops on foot. There are few locations that can accommodate this and this is one of them. There are two other similar locations: the area behind the old train station where Trinity has their station and in the Stop & Shop Plaza, if and when they move to the old Cinema area. From an historical perspective the CHA proposal will meet all the preservation and restoration stan- dards of the federal Department of the Interior. Certainly the architecture of the Old Town Hall is worth preserving. Due to economy constraints over the years the town has not been able to maintain this building in the manner it should. The fact that the building has a long and valuable history does not mean that the history is lost if its use changes. You documented many uses in your editorial: town offices, library, dance hall, and dining facilities. Does that mean that we shouldn’t have moved to Billerica Road, that we shouldn’t have built the Adams library and then the new addition? Of course not. “Let the children guard what the sires have won” does not mean that there should be no change. It does not mean that “guarding” only ap- plies to buildings. It means to “guard” all the many values that describe Chelmsford. I think this is a great idea. David J. McLachlan Brentwood Road
    • Town Hall proposals earn mixed reviews From Chelmsford Independent By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Thu Feb 05, 2009 CHELMSFORD - If the first public hearing on a plan to turn the Old Town Hall and North Town Hall into housing is any indication, half of the project may be built. Of the couple of dozen residents who turned out Monday night, it appeared about half would support converting both buildings into apart- ments and half would support only turning the North Town Hall into rental units. “I really don’t think the Center is the right vehicle,” said Thoreau Drive resident Kit Harbison. “It is the only intact historic building left in town. There would not be enough income (from housing) to lose that building forever.” Under the Housing Authority’s proposal, the Old Town Hall on the Common would be turned into 10 one-bedroom apartments and four studio units. The building would include between 1,300- and 1,500- square feet of public space that would be open to the community. It would also include about 52 parking spaces. The North Town Hall would be converted into 17 studio apartments with veterans receiving preferen- tial placement on the list. Although the property has room for only about four parking spaces, the plan calls for an additional 10 spaces behind the Fire Department’s Engine 2. Precinct 1 Town Meeting representative Ralph Hickey thought the Housing Authority’s plan was a sound one. “I went through the North Town Hall and it’s a solid building,” said Hickey. “I think it can be done over and housing is a better way to go. And for a lot of people who don’t have transporta- tion, I think the Center is an ideal spot for them. I think both projects are worth looking into.” But even the supporters expressed concerns that the plan calls for removing the Chelmsford Food Pantry from the Center site. “I was shocked. I had no idea this was going on,” said Sandy Donovan, executive director of the food pantry. “We feed 350 to 550 people a week. My ministry is serving people and I’m worried how people are going to get to us.” Although Chelmsford Housing Authority Executive Director David Hedison stressed the town’s need for more affordable housing — citing a seven to 10 year wait for the 1,387 names currently on the Chelmsford list — and promised to work with Donovan to find a new suitable location, many in atten- dance weren’t buying it. “I do support housing for people in need,” said Trotting Road resident Susan Gates. “But I don’t sup- port it at the Center. That should be our cultural community center.” Gates also disputed the claim that the Old Town Hall in the Center is a surplus building that needed to be mothballed. She reeled of a litany of groups including the Chelmsford Community Band, the Merrimack Valley Chorale and the Chelmsford Art Society that had to find new homes after officials closed the building this winter. “The only reason it’s not being used is we’re not allowed to use it,” said Gates. Not only did North Chelmsford resident George Merrill question the proposal he took umbrage at those who said the North Town Hall was crumbling. “The building is not derelict, it is as sound as the day it was built,” said Merrill. “It is the only historically significant building left in North. To me it’s not a building but a monument to the independence of those people in North. And monuments don’t make money.” Because the projects as presented utilize Community Preservation money, Town Meeting would need to approve the plan by a two-thirds rather than simple majority vote. Selectmen are expected to call a special Town Meeting for March 9 to address the plans. Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at chelmsford@cnc.com. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE TOWN HALL HOUSING FORUM
    • Open letter to the Board of Selectmen Subject: Letting the redevelopment of the Town Halls Proposal go to Town Meeting Dear Selectmen: The undersigned Town Meeting Representatives respectfully ask that the Board of Selectmen vote, during your meeting on February 9th, to allow both of the CHA redevelopment proposals for the Cen- ter and North Town Halls to come before the Town Meeting Repre- sentatives for a vote. As members of the quot;legislativequot; branch of our town Government, we feel it is the right thing to do, to let the people speak through their elected Town Meeting Representatives at the Town Meeting. We always like to hear what the representatives & residents have to say at all of our town meetings. Thank you, Tom Christiano Roy Earley Town Meeting Representative Town Meeting Representative Precinct 9 Precinct 6
    • Warrant article would change how town buildings are sold From Chelmsford Independent By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Sat Feb 07, 2009 CHELMSFORD - When the Board of Selectmen vote whether to place the hous- ing proposals for the old Town Halls on a special Town Meeting warrant Monday, it may also include an article to make selling the buildings easier. Town Manager Paul Cohen has proposed the board include a third article about the Housing Authority's plan that, if passed, would require only a sim- ple majority vote to sell the two buildings. quot;My job is to give the town the tools it needs to make a decision,quot; said Cohen. quot;Then they can decide if they want to utilize it.quot; During the last decade, said Cohen, Massachusetts General Laws dealing with affordable housing have been amended. Normally a town looking to sell municipal properly needs two-thirds of Town Meeting to agree to the deal. But if a locality adopts the later amendment and agrees to convey the land to build affordable housing, a simple majority vote would suffice, said Cohen. Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at chelmsford@cnc.com.
    • C h e l m s f o r d and the L e a v e N o D e v e l o p e r B e h i n d Law 40B on Westford/Chelmsford line is approved From Chelmsford Independent By Peter Costa/Staff Writer Wed Feb 04, 2009 WESTFORD - The Jefferson at Westford housing project faces a few more state regulatory hurdles before con- struction can begin, according to Ross Altobelli, Westford planner. “They will need state approval for waste water and a few other permits,” Altobelli said. The project, recently approved by the Planning Department, will add 308 rental apartment units on more than 90 acres at 16 Littleton Road near the Chelmsford town line on undeveloped land known as Hick's Pit. A total of 20 percent of the units will be priced affordable and set aside for tenants with incomes below 50 percent of the area median income. “The great thing about apartments is all of the units count as affordable housing, even the ones that aren't affordable,” said Altobelli. Jefferson at Westford will offer the following mix of bedrooms: one-bedroom units, 154; two-bedroom units, 154; and no three-bedroom units. The Planning Board’s peer reviewer for traffic issues, Fay, Spofford & Thorndike, Inc., recommended the following conditions: • Subject to the approval of MassHighway, and subject to modifications, if any, which may be required by MassHighway. • The site driveway intersection with Littleton Road (Route 110) shall be modified generally as identified on At- tachment 26-1; • Littleton Road shall be widened in a manner sufficient to create an exclusive westbound left turn lane designed to meet MassHighway standards plus a shoulder with a resulting combined width of 16 feet. • In the absence of an exclusive right turn lane, the eastbound approach plus the shoulder shall be at least 16 feet in width to allow vehicles to bypass motorists turning right into the site driveway and minimize the poten- tial for rear end collisions. • The gated emergency driveway between the site and South Chelmsford Road shall be designed compliant with the Record Plans. The Applicant shall install a sidewalk within the emergency driveway compliant with the Record Plans. • Internal site circulation on the proposed site driveway and parking lot access drives shall be designed in ac- cordance with the Record Plans so as to accommodate for turning traffic without requiring overlapping paths of travel between a design automobile and a design small truck (SU-30 design truck) throughout. In particular, the final design shall include reflectorized traffic paint and signage to direct traffic safely through the roundabout. • The primary access driveway and emergency accesses shall be designed such that they accommodate the Westford Fire Department’s largest vehicle (i.e., comparable to the needs of a bus 40 feet in length). In other affordable housing plans, in December, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to grant a comprehensive per- mit for the Westford Crossing project that would construct 28 dwelling units, 25 percent of which, are affordable. “We will soon make a calculation as to how much these projects add to our affordable housing percentage,” said Norman Khumalo, assistant town manager.
    • From: Eric Dahlberg <ericrdahlberg@gmail.com> Date: February 4, 2009 9:53:25 PM EST To: Roy Earley <re007hq@comcast.net>, Tom Christiano <tchris- tiano@comcast.net> Subject: Tonight's Billerica ZBA meeting on Aspen Apartments proposal Hi Roy and Tom, Per your request - here's an update on tonight's meeting, which I and Pat Wojtas attended. Aspen Apartments portion began at 8:30 and ended at 9:10 - short and sweet. I'd say there were roughly 25 attendees - a few Chelmsford residents and Rep. Greene were among the attendees I recognized. The content of the meeting was unremarkable - engineers spoke briefly to report that they had nothing to report. The applicant spoke briefly. The attorney for the abutters, Dan Hill, spoke briefly to remind the Board of the re- quests he made at the last meeting. The Board asked a few questions of the applicant. No new info of interest from anyone as far as I could tell. Hearing was continued until March 18th at 8:00 PM. Best, Eric Waiting for Aspen From Chelmsford Independent By Chloe Gotsis/Staff Writer Fri Feb 06, 2009 BILLERICA - The Past: On Jan. 12 critics of the proposed 672-unit, 55-acre affordable housing complex came before the Zoning Board of Appeals with a list of concerns including the developer’s out of state license and claims that town officials supported the development. Martin Conway, traffic officer for the Billerica Police Department, listed some definite sight concerns near the Aspen Apartment’s proposed loca- tions on Rangeway Road. Attorney Dan Hill, who represents 55 Chelmsford abutters presented the board with a laundry list of requests including: looking into the K and K developer’s license, retaining an environmental engi- neering firm, conducting a wildlife evaluation, requesting a complete list of waivers and requesting more information on utilities. The Present: Town Counsel Peter Costello reported, at the third ZBA public hearing on the project, he discovered through his research on out of state businesses that Massachusetts requires foreign businesses working in the state to have an office in Massachusetts. Costello also said it is not uncommon for a developer to create an in-state entity to hold the property, a process which he said is not necessary with the project’s early stage status. Joshua Davis, attorney for the developer, said his client will file the application with the attorney general’s office when they are actually conducting business. Ralph McKenna, Zoning Board member, asked Davis how town officials came forth to support the project. Davis told the board when the project was first discussed with the town three years ago that the project would be allowed to count for the town’s 10 percent requirement for affordable housing and developed the number of units. The Future: The board is holding a working session to meet with the developers and their attorney along with engineers on Feb. 17. The next public hearing is scheduled for March 18 at 8:00 p.m. The board has 180 days from the first public hearing on Dec. 3 to make their decision on the comprehensive per- mit for the project.
    • POWER PLANT BUZZ Please share with your friends, family, and neighbors. www.BillericaPowerPlant.org 7 February 2009 The Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) issued its Tentative Decision to Site the proposed Billerica power plant this week. Click here to read the Decision. This means the order, previously a directive, has been officially issued in document form. The issuance starts a seven day comment period during which intervenors in the process, named interested parties, and legislators will be allowed to make comments. Comments from the general public are not accepted at this time. The 95-page Tentative Decision document discusses the legal arguments made for and against the proposed plant during the siting process. The EFSB will next weigh input from the comment period in rendering its final decision. It’s important to note that the purpose of the Siting Board is to site power plants. Even if the Board disagrees with some of the assertions of the proponent, there may not be sufficient reason not to site the plant. The EFSB is only one step in a long process, however. Two additional state-level agencies must review the information, and the proposal must navigate several boards and committees in Billerica. Many plants have been sited, but never built. The Billerica Planning Board met this week to discuss plans submitted for a subdivision on the Baker Com- modities property, in the same location as the proposal for the plant. The move is an admitted attempt by the developer to protect its position, which it sees as threatened by the general by-law that was approved by Spe- cial Town Meeting in December 2008. The by-law establishes 17 criteria for evaluation of proposed power plants by various Boards and Departments within Billerica. Although the motions of submitting plans for a subdivision are being executed, there is no intention of putting a subdivision on that property. The move was met with concern and scrutiny by the Planning Board. The folks fighting the proposed Brockton power plant have provided a great window into a siting board hear- ing. They videotaped their most recent hearing, which is at about the same stage as the Billerica proposal. The video is in three segments. Click on One, Two, and Three to watch the segments. The second seg- One Two ment has a DPU representative clearly stating that the region does not need the power the Brockton plant would provide. Additionally, the opponents to the Brockton power plant have created a video documenting their views and those of the surrounding communities. Click here to watch Brockton’s documentary. It’s stunning how similar the concerns and conclusions are to those of us fighting other fossil fuel-burning power plant proposals in the state. Meetings/Events Wednesday, February 25, 2009 7:00PM Billerica Conservation Commission The Billerica Conservation Commission will continue its discussion of the Notice of Intent filed by the devel- oper and the review of the wetlands and stormwater management issues. Billerica Town Hall, 365 Boston Road, Billerica, MA Press Click on the News tab to access recent articles.
    • Thanks goes out to Theresa Evans and Jacki Cunniffe at concernedforchelmsfordsfuture@gmail.com for the following... Good morning all, Below is a sample email if you wish to send to your legislators. Please note per the update that the public is unable to submit comments at this time, they MUST come through your legislators. For your legislators contact information, please click on the following link: http://billericapowerplant.org/chelmsford_info.htm Thank you for staying involved! Theresa ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Dear Merrimack Valley Legislator, The Energy Facilities Siting Board has put their tentative decision to site the Billerica power plant on paper.This kicks off a seven day window in which public officials may submit a com- ment prior to the board's final determination. As you know, the power is not needed for our region by a wide margin.The environmental im- pacts and health consequences for all of the surrounding communities is unquestionable. And we know that we join communities across the state that are opposing these types of projects and the power plant free-for-all that is underway.We cannot let the business interests of a hand- ful of people outweigh the lifetime of noise, air quality and water quality impacts for our area. I urge you to submit a brief statement of opposition and concern to the Energy Facilities SIting Board before February 12. Statements may be sent to: Ms. Selma Urman, Hearing Officer Energy Facilities Siting Board One South Station Boston, MA 02110 Please reference EFSB 07-2 and Billerica power plant in your correspondence. Thank you for your continued attention to this matter. YOUR NAME HERE
    • Chelmsford Bits & Pieces AGGREGATE: Board of Selectmen talk about presenting Aggregate Industries with conditions for operating in the community. 1-26-09 CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO CLIP Chelmsford Independent Highway union gives up raises to save jobs By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Fri Feb 06, 2009 CHELMSFORD - Highway Division union members returned scheduled raises and contract payouts to save two employees from receiving pink slips last week. The 15 union workers, who are in the second year of a three-year contract, agreed to forego previously approved 2 percent pay increases, longevity payments — given to employees with more than 10 years service — and wellness bonuses provided to employees who do not use their allotted sick time with one caveat: the four supervisors also had to refuse longevity payouts. “We think it was fair,” said Department of Public Works Director Jim Pearson. “The people who would have been cut have names and families.” Pearson, Superintendent John Long and the two foremen, Larry Fer- reira and Joe Eriksen, agreed to give up the longevity checks, which are annual payments available to town employees. Someone with 10 years on the job earns $725. At 15 years, the payout bumps up to $925. And the bonus maxes out with a $1,125 payment once someone hits the 20-year mark. In addition to the returned money, a Highway Division employee scheduled to retire in December agreed to leave earlier, saving about a half-year’s salary. Town Manager Paul Cohen said he welcomed the union’s proposal which ensures the department would continue to have a full staff to deal with snow and ice re- moval. Turning down increases saved the town $100,000, which will cover for one year the salary and benefits of the two employees slated for termination, said Cohen. Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at chelmsford@cnc.co
    • From: Eric Dahlberg <ericrdahlberg@gmail.com> Date: February 8, 2009 9:49:59 AM EST To: Tom Christiano <tchristiano@comcast.net>, Roy Earley <re007hq@comcast.net> Subject: Blog Hi Tom and Roy, I've decided to launch a new blog - available at: http://ericdahlberg.blogspot.com/ As the subtitle states, it will be a place where I will post occasional thoughts on news impacting the town. I intend to keep it pretty low key (no bells and whistles), and I don't foresee posting on a strict schedule - just as news items grab my attention. Feel free to spread the word. Best ***************************************** Eric N EX T ON Politic ally Incorr ec t Panelists include Sean Scanlon - Selectman Candidate Colleen Stansfield - Planning Board Member & Candidate Bernie Ready - TM REP Candidate - Precinct 7 Danielle Evans - TM Rep, re-election candidate, Precinct 9 Al Thomas - TM Rep, re-election candidate, Precinct 5 Topics Include Why did Sean Scanlon decide to run for the Board of Selectmen this year? FEB 9th Selectmen’s meeting: Thoughts on converting Old Town Hall and the North Town Hall into Affordable Housing. Also, the proposed 40B (672 unit Aspen apartment complex) just over the Chelmsford border in Billerica, off of Rangeway Road . . . and the approximately 40 unit townhouse 40B development on Boston Road in Chelmsford. POLITICALLY INCORRECT: Tuesdays & Wednesdays 8:30 PM; Thursdays 7:00 AM; Sundays 11:00 AM Chelmsford Cable TV Channel 8
    • Town pride spices Chelmsford's party By Keith O'Neil, Lowell Sun Correspondent Posted: 02/08/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Mother Nature made the weather bearable just in time for the town to come out and cel- ebrate the season yesterday. From the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church on Westford Street to the Senior Center on Gro- ton Road, Chelmsford's annual Winterfest brought out the feeling of community all over. There was a host of activities for the whole family to enjoy as well, from sled rides to face-paint- ing. At Roberts Field on Old Westford Road, people could play hockey, go cross-country skiing or walk around in snowshoes. Boy Scout Troop 77 has sponsored this portion of Winterfest for more than 10 years. Scout leader Paul Doiron sold candy, soda and hot chocolate to raise money for the troop. Doiron recalled his favorite Winterfest. quot;Five years ago we had a really big crowd here,quot; he said. quot;The sun was out, the ice was still frozen and people were still skating. It was a good time.quot; Troop 77 also sponsored the outdoor activities on the Center Common, where people could get sled rides and eat chowder to help raise money for its trip to Nantucket. Over at the Central Baptist Church on Academy Street, visitors could travel back in time to the 1950s and hit the Malt Shop. Here, Girl Scout Troop 215 dressed up in poodle skirts and wore pony- tails with ribbons as they served customers hot dogs and frappes. Visitors could also try out the hula-hoops, play with a Mr. Potatohead and listen to music from as Dion and the Belmonts, Ricky Nelson and, of course, Elvis. quot;Part of the proceeds will go to making blankets for the homeless,quot; Kara Souci of Troop 215 said of the Malt Shop charity. quot;It also teaches the girls how to speak in public, how to run a business and how to put an event together.quot; Winterfest, Souci said, quot;helps to bring the community together. I think it is a safe environment for the girls to spread their wings and it is very supportive of the girls.quot; Across Westford Street at the First Parish Church, there was the WinterRest sponsored by the Chelms- ford Friends of Music. Here, people could eat sandwiches, get their faces painted and listen to the Chameleons perform. Jo Morse, who oversaw the WinterRest, said her favorite part of the town celebration was quot;seeing people who come through year to year, and meeting new people.quot; Also at the First Parish, Kristy Medina of Chelmsford taught visitors to her booth how to make deco- rations out of recycled plastic bags and other materials. Some of the items Medina made included purses and notebooks. quot;For me, it is all about showing people what they can do in their own home to recycle,quot; she said. Three miles north on Groton Road, the Senior Center hosted ChowderFest, where everyone could enjoy chowder, home-baked goods, ice cream and listen to big-band music from six members of the Comeback Kids. Becky Trepanier, the program and food coordinator at the Senior Center, said her favorite part of the WinterFest is the interaction with grownups and children. quot;The whole point of intergenerational programming is bringing in families with grandparents and children,quot; said Trepanier. quot;With the seniors interacting with the kids, we are trying to attract what we call 'the younger seniors' -- the 50- and 60-year-olds. When they come in, that is the best part.quot; Trepanier also noticed a difference in the crowd this year. quot;Usually a lot of people eat and leave,quot; said Trepanier. quot;But this year people are staying and hang- ing out.quot; *******************************************
    • Down the drain That's where money goes when regionalization is rejected The Lowell Sun Updated: 02/01/2009 By John Edward Towns across the region are considering the advantages of merging schools, housing authorities, public-health offices, and other services. The towns of Hamilton and Wenham have talked about merging into one municipality. Meanwhile, in Chelmsford we have three separate and independently operated water districts. One town with three water districts is an accident of history. No one would set out to design it this way. At- tempts to consolidate in the 1980s and 1990s failed. Perhaps now times, and minds, have changed. Last April, Chelmsford voters rejected a Proposition 2 1/2 override by a 3-to-2 margin. The failed override sent a clear mandate to town officials -- make do with less. Voters believed the town should cut costs and increase efficiency before asking for more money. Now the town is facing a multi-million-dollar budget shortfall in the middle of a severe recession. Another override attempt is unlikely. However, water- district customers have a chance to demand lower costs that will put money in their own wallet. How efficient can it be to have three water-district superintendents? The East Chelmsford Water District serves fewer than 700 customers. Each district has its own staff, equipment, and rate schedule. There are economies of scale that could save ratepayers money. The potential savings are significant. The three water districts in Chelmsford employ a total of 30 people. The water department in Lowell has about the same size staff and serves four times as many people. The counter-argument is that separate districts allow tighter control over how money is spent. The chair- man of the board of commissioners of the Chelmsford Water District told The Sun: quot;The great thing about a small water district is you know exactly where your money is going.quot; Commissioners say the money all goes back into the water. These claims are hard to justify given that turnout for water-district votes is often under 1 percent. I wonder how many people attended the meeting that approved spending on the two very impressive granite signs at the Chelmsford District headquarters. Having small water districts does not promote communication. Customers of the North Chelmsford Water District expressed surprise at new fees to fund building a $7.8 million water-treatment plant. The fact that customers say they were unaware of the proposed plant might explain why only about 10 people showed up to vote on it. Having multiple water districts does not promote transparency. Customers had to hire a lawyer in an at- tempt to get the North District to reveal how it decided to spend almost $8 million on a new plant rather than just buy water from Lowell. The water district may have valid concerns about relying on Lowell for water. However, we already send all our sewage to Lowell. A regional solution should not be so easily dis- missed. Another issue is why the North District waited so long to submit design plans but started collecting fees before approval of the plans. A Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection deadline for avoid- ing a fine has come and gone. DEP extended the deadline, but the plant is still months away from construc- tion. One supporter of the North District's plan warned that a legal battle would cost ratepayers money. Yet this same district is suing the town, which, according to Chelmsford Town Manager Paul Cohen, has already in- curred $50,000 in legal fees. Water district customers get to pay twice, as ratepayers and as taxpayers. If the districts consolidated, water fees would still go for water, or whatever customers approved. Customer fees would be lower. That is why the DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourage consol- idation. Putting the water districts under town control would bring even more benefit. Combining a water depart- ment with a public-works department that services the sewer system makes a lot of sense. They can share equipment, vehicles, staff, and use town functions, such as billing and payroll. Tewksbury, with roughly the same number of customers, provides both sewer and water services with nine employees. The counter-argument here is that the town would use water payments to fund other services. This argu- ment does not hold water either. The state effectively prohibits using water fees as general revenue. Chelmsford has already proven it can handle isolating funds. The town established an quot;enterprise fundquot; to set aside sewer-project revenue. Putting the water districts under town control would increase visibility, transparency, and accountability. It would introduce operational coordination by a professional management team appointed by elected offi- cials where people actually show up to vote. The town could help the water districts enter the 21st century. Two of the three water districts do not even have a Web site. Would not most people go online to find out about meetings, votes, rates, or even to pay bills? The water districts must approve consolidation. The water-district commissioners are opposed. But cus- tomers have the final say. Water ratepayers should seriously consider what, and how much, they are getting for their fees. The good thing about tough economic times is that people tend to focus more on the potential for saving money. John Edward earned his master's degree at UMass Lowell and is an adjunct professor of economics at Bentley University. He lives in Chelmsford.
    • “QUOTE OF THE WEEK” “A spoonful of honey will catch more fl ie s tha n a g al l on of v in ega r .” —Ben Franklin A Trip Down Memory Lane*** Question: Were you ever a guest? ***Must be over 40 to fully appreciate this C L IC K P HO T O FO R V IDEO C L IP If you have friends, family or neighbors who would like to be added to this news update list, just have them drop me a line at re007hq@gmail.com