Q&A with candidates round Two from ITR 03 10-13 Document Transcript
MATT HANSONITR:What is your opinion (based on cost and revenue production)of the turf field warrant article and the use of communitypreservation funds for the project?MH:The new synthetic turf fields at the McCarthy MiddleSchool and Chelmsford High School will be a terrificasset to both our school system and our community.Chelmsford is ideally located along Interstate 495 andRoute 3, which makes Chelmsford a desirable locationfor hosting sports tournaments. However, withoutsynthetic turf fields, many sports leagues will not hosta tournament in Chelmsford. Synthetic fields havebecome the norm for many reasons: They are safer touse, contribute to fewer sports injuries, they can beused continuously every day of the year without a“resting period”, and they require less maintenancethan grass fields.When parents are considering moving to a new townto raise their children, one of the most importantfactors in their decision is the strength of the schooldistrict. Chelmsford’s great schools are the reason thatmy parents moved to Chelmsford to raise me and mysiblings. Having a superb school system requires a continued investment. In the past, we have seen theinvestment of the new High School auditorium, for example, and the synthetic turf fields are also smartinvestment for our community.I currently serve as a member of the synthetic turf field committee. One of our main goals from thebeginning has been to ensure that the town does not ask the tax payers for additional money to fund theturf fields. The current proposal will utilize Community Preservation funds for approximately half of project,while the remainder of the cost will be offset by field rentals and fundraising. The Community PreservationCommittee voted to support this project at Town Meeting and I support their recommendation. The townalso has an aggressive goal of raising $500,000 by the end of April, and I have confidence that we canachieve that goal by working together as a community.ITR:What is your opinion of licensing stores (grocery, convenient, specialty) other than liquor stores to sell beer and wine?MH:The town has a limited number of liquor licenses that it can issue as mixed use beer and wine licenses. As aSelectman, it is my job to review every application on its merits before making my final decision. Before making adecision, I listen to all of the public input from the community and consider a number of other factors, such as theproximity of the applicant to other liquor stores in the area. As a Selectman I have voted both for and against mixeduse beer and wine licenses in town. I voted to support a mixed use beer and wine license for the Meat House, however,that was voted down by a majority of the other Board members. I also voted with a majority of the Board ofSelectmen against two other applications. One applicant was a grocery store in Drum Hill located directly across thestreet from one of the town’s other liquor license holders. The second application I voted against was proposing toopen a package store close to many residential neighborhoods and the abutters were not in favor of issuing the license.My record demonstrates that I am an independent voice on the Board, that I take public input seriously when makingmy decisions, and I review each application on a case by case basis. If reelected, that is how I will continue toapproach the issue of mixed use beer and wine licenses.
ITR:What is your opinion of the work done by the Oak Hill Study Committee?And do you think the town meeting should accept their recommendation to put the land under the control ofthe Selectmen for three years first before turning it over to the control of the Conservation Committee?Why or Why Not?MH:The work done by the Oak Hill Study Committee is commendable and I would like to thank every memberof the committee for their hard work. As a member of the Board of Selectmen, I voted to create the Oak HillStudy Committee for the purpose of soliciting public input on what the town’s people would like to see doneto the parcel and to review the possible uses of the parcel. The Committee held multiple public hearingsand invited the abutters to their meetings to discuss every possible use for the land. The Committee usedthis input to make a series of recommendations to the Board of Selectmen.The Board of Selectmen has been in control of the Oak Hill parcel for over 20 years. The Oak Hill StudyCommittee recommended that the Board of Selectmen remain in control of the land for up to three years atwhich time it will be transferred to the Conservation Commission. The purpose of the three year period wasto allow the Board of Selectmen time to create a dirt parking lot on town owned land that would connect toOak Hill via a walking bridge. Some of the walking paths on Oak Hill cut across private property and theBoard of Selectmen also need to make sure that the areas of private property are properly marked. Thiswork needs to be completed before Oak Hill can be adequately used as conservation for the purpose ofopen space and recreation. That is why the Committee recommended that the Board of Selectmen remainin control until this work is completed. I agree with this recommendation and I will work hard to ensure thatthe land is transferred to the Conservation Commission as soon as the necessary work is finished.ITR:In your opinion how is Town Manager Paul Cohen doing?What would you want him to do differently, if anything?MH:When Paul took over, we were using $2 million a year from our stabilization fund to operate our towngovernment. It was difficult, but Paul reversed that trend when he was hired and we now have more than$6million in our stabilization fund. Through the remarkable efforts of Paul and his financial team, the town’sbond rating has improved twice in the last two years and is now AA. This bond rating increase will save thetown more than $650,000 in interest payments on our current debt and reduce the cost of borrowingmoney for capital improvements in the future. Paul also had the foresight to make Chelmsford one of thefirst Green Communities in Massachusetts. This resulted in a 50% state reimbursement on the ByamSchool roof and High School window projects, immediately saving the town $1.5 million.Every year the Board of Selectmen establishes an agenda and the Town Manager implements it. How heimplements this agenda is how I evaluate his performance. Last year the Board of Selectmen madereopening the South Fire Station a priority and Paul achieved that goal. The Board of Selectmen alsomade tax relief a priority and after some compromise, Paul developed a budget that placed $900,000towards tax relief. The Board of Selectmen sets goals and Town Manager Paul Cohen achieves thosegoals every year.Paul has done a good job at increasing transparency with the community through his round table televisionshow and social media activities. Paul constantly keeps the Board of Selectmen and members of thecommunity aware of activities that occur in town. If elected, I will work to ensure that Paul continues theseefforts and enhances them. I will also continue to listen to public input from the residents when settinggoals and priorities for the Town Manager on a weekly and monthly basis.Your input is extremely important to me. If you would like to contact me with your priorities for our town,please contact me at (978) 319-5383 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for reading my responsestoday. I respectfully ask for one of your two votes on Tuesday, April 2nd.
JANETASKENBURGITR:What is your opinion (based on cost and revenueproduction) of the turf field warrant article and the use ofcommunity preservation funds for the project?JA:As I have stated throughout my campaign, Ibelieve quality of life is extremely important to ourresidents. We have utilized CPA funds topurchase open space and restore both historictown halls which are now used for a multitude ofcommunity purposes for hundreds of ourresidents. With the addition of turf fields we willnow provide for outdoor community uses forseveral thousand residents to enjoy. In addition,our children will now be playing on a safersurface that helps prevent injury.I believe this warrant article should be fullysupported and approved at town meeting and is a good use of community preservation funds. The articleappropriates money to convert the two locations (CHS and McCarthy fields) into turf fields including newtracks. This is an opportunity for us to upgrade our fields to make them safe for our kids and everyone whowill use them. Currently our fields are in conditions that limit our ability to use them, with some of our ownteams renting fields in other communities for practices. We also have to alternate "resting" our fields inorder to maintain their integrity and future use. These current conditions prevent us from using our fields totheir full capacity for our local athletes. It also prevents us from renting them for state and youthtournaments, which is an opportunity for a revenue stream for our community. Passage of this article is agreat opportunity for our town and one that I believe should be supported by the community.ITR:What is your opinion of licensing stores (grocery, convenient, specialty) other than liquor stores to sell beer and wine?JA:I believe in competition and providing options to the community. However, I believe granting grocery,convenient, and specialty stores a beer and wine license is an issue that could change the integrity of ourcommunity and a decision that should not be taken lightly. If elected to the Board of Selectmen, I wouldactively seek input from the community as well as the Chief of Police to determine what is in the bestinterest of Chelmsford.
ITR:What is your opinion of the work done by the Oak Hill Study Committee?And do you think the town meeting should accept their recommendation to put the land under the control ofthe Selectmen for three years first before turning it over to the control of the Conservation Committee? Whyor Why Not?JA:The Board of Selectmens decision to study the parcel before making a final decision was a great move.This allowed for a detailed study of all options for the land and for the inclusion of public input.The Oak Hill Study Committee should be commended for their hard work and for their active solicitationfrom the community for their input on their desires for this land. The citizens of Chelmsford continue to showthat they value open space and the quality of life that it provides. Yes, I believe town meeting should acceptthe recommendation to put the land under the control of the Selectmen for three years before turning it overto the Conservation Committee. There is still work to be done at Oak Hill to make this a useable open spacefor the public, including parking and access, and the Board of Selectmen should have the authority tooversee this process before handing it over to Conservation Committee for continued oversight of the land.ITR:In your opinion how is Town Manager Paul Cohen doing?What would you want him to do differently, if anything?JA:I believe the Town Manager is doing a good job for our Town, including making decisions that he believes isin the best interest of our town. I have personally found Paul to be very responsive to my emails and phonecalls, as a citizen and as a committee member.Anything that I would like for Paul to do differently is under the control of the Board of Selectmen. As thegoverning board, the Board of Selectmen should determine the priorities of the town and create clear andmeasurable goals for the Town Manager to address these priorities. For example, everyone is talking aboutproviding property tax relief. Should the Board of Selectmen decide that this is a priority, then this should bea goal given to the Town Manager and the Selectmen should work collaboratively with him to support hisefforts.
PAT MALONEYITR:What is your opinion (based on cost and revenue production) ofthe turf field warrant article and the use of communitypreservation funds for the project?PM:I believe that anything that promotes the Town and itscommitment to the community is a good thing. This isyet another example of the Town stepping up to takecare of its own, leading the way by creatively finding away to provide another asset and amenity that makesthe entire community proud. Chelmsford has a historyof providing for all its citizens with all different interestsincluding academics, the arts, sports and recreation.So, I don’t see this as a special interest, I see this asjust another opportunity to make Chelmsford a betterplace to live and to enhance the value of the Town as awhole.The Town, through its use of the Community Preservation Act, has purchased open space, rehabilitatedhistoric structures, and enhanced recreational areas, all worthy projects providing for a better Chelmsford. Isee this project as a worthy endeavor for the Town. From the information I have seen, the revenuegenerated from the fields will ensure its future maintenance. The fact is that the fields combined with ourfavorable geographical location makes Chelmsford a desirable community to hold tournaments and otherathletic events that will benefit our restaurants, hotels and other local businesses. That will also generateadditional income to the town via meals and hotel taxes.ITR:What is your opinion of licensing stores (grocery, convenient, specialty) other than liquor stores to sell beer and wine?PM:The Town of Chelmsford has had a long standing policy of maintaining strict control of alcohol sales. Itallows the sale of alcohol for convenience, but limits availability of all spirits to liquor stores only thatgeographically cover the Town. Considering the fact there are still towns in the area that are dry, I believethis type of policy has worked for Chelmsford because it allows the sale of beer and wine, with a commonsense focus on public safety.The problem with expanding the availability of alcohol is that, from a legal point of view, as soon as youallow any deviation in policy and grant a grocery or convenience store a license, you start down a slipperyslope opening the Town up to legal challenges from other entities. I don’t think anyone wants every grocery,convenience, and specialty store in Town to supply alcohol, and I know that our public safety officials wouldbe deeply concerned and burdened if such were the case.
ITR:What is your opinion of the work done by the Oak Hill Study Committee?And do you think the town meeting should accept their recommendation to put the land under the controlof the Selectmen for three years first before turning it over to the control of the Conservation Committee?Why or Why Not?PM:For me it is hard to fathom why this is even an issue. It breeds from what seems to be a general mistrust inlocal government. To say that the work of the Oak Hill Study Committee is anything less than excellent is toimpugn the integrity of the hard working, professional individuals assigned the daunting task of researchingall the various uses and potential involved with this property. They have worked diligently to provide asound recommendation that is completely in the best interest of the Town.I do think Town Meeting should accept the recommendations of the Committee. It makes sense for theTown to ready the property for its final and pre-determined use by installing the roads and parking lotnecessary for this property to be used and enjoyed by all of the residents of the Town. I further believe thatthree years is a generous amount of time for the Town to complete the work and I can foresee thepossibility of expediting the transfer of control to Conservation.ITR:In your opinion how is Town Manager Paul Cohen doing?What would you want him to do differently, if anything?PM: I think the Town Manager is doing a good job. Since coming on board in 2007, he has managed to rebuild the Stabiliza?on Fund to 5-‐10% of the overall budget resul?ng in two bond ra?ng increases, thus saving the Town money when borrowing, and puIng the Town in a posi?ve posi?on when being reviewed for ﬁnancial stability. He has taken advantage of various opportuni?es including having Chelmsford designated as one of the ﬁrst Green Communi?es in the State, again saving taxpayer dollars. He works well with the employees and has been fair and forthright in his dealings with all the various cons?tuencies in Town.Having said that, whether running a town, a business or a school, there is always room for improvement. It is up to the Board of Selectman and the Town Manager to determine goals moving forward and to ensure those goals are met. And at all ?mes, it is important for those of us who represent the community to consider all posi?ons and sides of any given issue and cons?tuency with an open mind.