In Town Report 3 15 2009


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In Town Report 3 15 2009

  1. 1. 03/15/2009
  2. 2. SIGNS OF THE TIMES ... Can Chelmsford make money from billboards in town??? If so, who gets the money??? What do the candidates for Selectmen have to say on the billboard subject? CLICK HERE TO HEAR THEIR ANSWERS RELATED STORY Chelmsford group states billboards equal revenue By Rita Savard, 02/25/2009 CLICK HERE Politically Incorrect, Tom Christiano On discussES billboards in town with his guests. CLICK HERE FOR SEGMENT
  3. 3. Six candidates hold second debate By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Chelmsford Independent Fri Mar 06, 2009 CHELMSFORD - This year’s Chelmsford Business Association’s Candidates’ Night offered little in way of surprises as the six Board of Selectmen candidates answered the usual questions about tax classifi- cation, town finances and Chapter 40B developments. None of the six men would support splitting the tax rate or a Proposition 2 1/ 2 override to balance the fiscal 2010 budget. Each agreed, given the current budget issues, officials should push for wage freezes from all town employees. And they all commended the billboard proponents for devel- oping a creative way to raise rev- enues. As the debate went on, it be- came clear the candidates were able to differentiate themselves only in subtle ways they labeled CLICK HERE TO WATCH fresh or unique. THE ENTIRE CBA DEBATE “I’m bringing a fresh perspec- tive,” said Jim Murray. “I’m a fiscal conservative and I don’t like to waste money.”Murray said the town should stop focusing on issues from year to year and develop a long-range five- or 10- year plan. Steve Roberts also said he brought a fresh perspective to town. Roberts, who moved to Chelmsford two years ago, said a new point of view could help the town improve on quality of life issues, such as a push to repeal 40B. “I come in with fresh eyes but also with an appreciation of what attracted me to town in the first place,” said Roberts. For Chelmsford native George Dixon Jr., a sense of history and knowledge of the town’s various boards would prove to be vital tools for the next selectman. “I feel I’m very well qualified,” said Dixon. “I have longevity in town and have worked on var- ious committees. I have made a lot of relation- ships in Boston that could open some doors.” Sean Scanlon said he believes his military back- ground provides him with unique leadership skills. Rather than over-rely on emotional pleas, Scanlon said problem solving is accomplished only by using facts. Donald Van Dyne said he believes his experience as a member of the Finance Committee makes him the slate’s unique candidate. “I understand our budget and I have met with all department heads,” said Van Dyne. Candidate Matt Hanson said he would always approach every issue objectively and look at every side before making any decisions. He also believes the board could use a member who residents feel is ap- proachable. “One criticism I hear is people don’t feel the board is accessible,” said Hanson. Hanson made that comment after each candidate was asked to point out one criticism he had of the current board. Roberts said he would like to see the board as a group publicly support Town Manager Paul Cohen more often than it does. Scanlon believes the Board of Selectmen should attempt to foster a better relationship with the School Committee through communication. “There is a wall there that is us vs. them,” said Scanlon.
  4. 4. Both Murray and Van Dyne criticized the board for what they labeled ineffectiveness when it comes to dealing with Chapter 40B affordable housing projects. “Why does the Board of Selectmen always seem to be steamrolled?” asked Murray. “That’s why I’m running for selectman. I don’t think they push the developers hard enough.” Van Dyne countered that, at least with the Hillside Gardens 40B, the selectmen’s failure comes from demanding too much from a developer. “The Board of Selectmen failed with the LIP (Local Initiative Project) process,” said Van Dyne. “The whole thing just exploded.” Dixon, who said his campaign is all about bringing people together, said he thinks the selectmen have done a pretty fair job over the years. One area he hasn’t agreed with, he said, is when the board derails a proposal based on a study committee’s recommendation. Although committee recommendations are important, said Dixon, it is always better to get input from as many resi- dents as possible. “You put a committee together that makes a recommendation and that should be taken seri- ously,” said Dixon. “But things should also go to Town Meeting.” Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at ********************************************* Selectman hopefuls back wage freezes By Rita Savard, Updated: 03/06/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Town finances topped discussion in the first debate for two open selectman seats last night, with all six candidates saying they'd support a wage freeze for municipal employees in tough economic times. With nearly all of the town's 16 union contracts set to expire this year -- and the majority of Chelms- ford's budget going toward salaries and benefits, candidates across the board said it wasn't unreason- able to ask unions to forgo raises for at least one year. quot;To take a cut is difficult but we need to ask to see where we can save,quot; said Steven Roberts, a 29- year-old software engineer. Jim Murray, 60, a longshoreman and union member, said his own union contract is currently under negotiation and that sometimes making such sacrifices quot;needs to be done.quot; George Dixon Jr., 62, an eight-year Town Meeting representative, praised the Chelmsford Highway Department for giving up a 2 percent raise and certain benefits to save two jobs and the town about $40,000. Candidates Sean Scanlon and Don VanDyne took the issue a step further, saying pay cuts need to start at the top. Air Force veteran Scanlon, 28, said if a co-worker gets laid off because finances are strained, then the people left on the job get a larger workload. Resources become strained. But administrators, he said, can lead from the front and take the first cuts. VanDyne, 43, who currently serves as vice chairman on the Finance Committee, agreed. quot;Examples should be set from the top... I would recommend wage freezes to the town manager,quot; he said Town Meeting Representative Matthew Hanson, 20, who is pursuing a master's degree in regional, economic and social development, said quot;unions were created to make the lives of all workers bet- ter... we're going to have to explore (wage freezes).quot;
  5. 5. The six candidates fielded several other questions on local issues at the forum hosted by the Chelms- ford Business Association, including the state's 40B affordable housing law, imposing a meal tax, and the town's uniform tax rate. VanDyne drew his line in the sand on the 40B issue. While all of his challengers favor scrapping the state's affordable-housing law and starting over fresh, VanDyne said that would cause even more chaos, and instead supports amending the law that hasn't been changed since it was created in 1969. VanDyne and Hanson said they would support a 1 percent meals tax down the road if it meant gen- erating enough revenue for the town to save jobs, adding that paying an extra dollar on a meal wouldn't deter people from eating out. Their challengers opposed the idea, arguing that regardless of the cost, it was still asking already overburdened taxpayers to pay even more. quot;The idea of taxing is kind of getting out of control on some things,quot; Scanlon said. quot;You just have to work within the budget you have.quot; Murray said the thought of taxing food quot;kind of freaks me out.quot; All of the candidates said they were against making businesses pay a higher tax rate than residents. Throughout the night, there were a few laughs from the crowd, especially during the segment where candidates were allowed to ask their opponents questions. Scanlon asked Dixon, who's been touting his connections on Beacon Hill, who his connections were and what they could do to help. quot;I'm not going to sit here and mention everybody's name,quot; Dixon said, adding that he knew about 50, including a quot;senator from Lowell.quot; Hanson asked Murray, who's only issue so far has been fighting 40B, what his next priority would be after affordable housing. quot;Whatever the next hot potato was,quot; he said. The debate, moderated by Doug Hausler, was held at the Radisson Hotel. The town election is April 7. ********************************* LOWELL SUN POLITICAL COLUMN 3/1/09 IMAGINE IF the six candidates running for two open Board of Selectmen seats in Chelmsford had their own reality show. If that was the case, then candidate Jim Mur- ray might be able to teach his competition a thing or two about survival. Sort of. In 2004, Murray, 60, appeared on the Real Gilligan's Island, a short-lived reality show (running only two seasons). One part Survivor, one part Gilligan's Island, contestants dressed up and acted like their 1960 TV show counterparts. The white-bearded Murray was quot;Skipper Jim,quot; who survived the initial first round of the show, in which two teams of castaways were pitted character against character to stay on the show. Murray, who is now 60, beat out his competition, Skipper Bob Fahey, a small-business owner from Plum Island. Murray, a real-life longshoreman who unloads ships on the boating docks of Boston, made it to the show's finale, but was ultimately voted off Voodoo Island. The question is, will Murray's campaign platform -- taking on the state's 40B afford- Jim able-housing law -- be enough to keep him from getting voted off the island in Murray Chelmsford?
  6. 6. Q&A with the Selectmen Candidates ************************************** QUESTIONS: 1. Do you favor or oppose a limited number of billboards, in specifically designated areas of town, as a new way to raise much needed revenues? If you DO favor these new billboards, which town departments do you think should receive these new revenues, and why? 2. quot;Do you think that Town Meeting Representatives should beheld more accountable to their precincts as to how they vote and also in their attendance?quot; Why or why not ? (responses from candidates in order as received) Candidate for Board of Selectmen George Dixon Jr. 1. Do you favor or oppose a limited number of billboards, in specifically designated areas of town, as a new way to raise much needed revenues? If you DO favor these new billboards, which town departments do you think should receive these new revenues, and why? I'm for the billboards, as long as they don't hurt the integrity the town. It will bring much needed money to town. We have to be careful about where billboards are allowed, and have some control over the content. Revenue from the initial billboards should go toward the football field project, but subsequent revenue and revenue from additional billboards should go to the general fund. 2. quot;Do you think that Town Meeting Representatives should be held more accountable to their precincts as to how they vote and also in their attendance?quot; Why or why not ? The Town Meeting Representatives should be more accountable to the people of their precincts as to how they vote. The votes should be published and on the real sensitive issues a roll call vote should be used. Town Meeting Representatives should make every effort to attend each and every Town Meeting and stay until the end. Thank you, George Dixon Support the campaign on FACEBOOK CLICK HERE
  7. 7. Candidate for Board of Selectmen SEAN SCANLON 1. Do you favor or oppose a limited number of billboards, in specifically designated areas of town, as a new way to raise much needed revenues? If you DO favor these new billboards, which town departments do you think should receive these new revenues, and why? Billboards have potential as a creative way of revenue generation in lieu of other options that I consider more obtrusive to taxpayers’ wallets, such as a meals tax. As Chelmsford does have excellent locations for billboards along two major highways, we should consider the option as long as they would not hurt the community’s image and the town retained a level of control over the boards and the type of adverts posted. At this time, I cannot think of a way that the billboards would hurt town image any more than the current sound barriers do, and I consider highways in general to be unappealing to the senses anyway. I am however, still open to viewpoints on the issue. I do not currently have a specific department in mind that would receive generated revenue. The money should be allocated to allow for the most flexible use possible. As I have said before, my priorities will al- ways be public safety and education, but if those services are in tact and there is an alternate use, I am in favor of exploring it. Understanding this is a slightly different but related issue, the one example where I could see a preconceived spend plan for revenue from adverts would be if we were to place adverts on school buses. In such a case, I would recommend the money be used to offset the cost parents cur- rently pay in fees for their children to ride the buses. 2. quot;Do you think that Town Meeting Representatives should be held more accountable to their precincts as to how they vote and also in their attendance?quot; Why or why not ? Town Meeting Reps are ultimately held accountable by the voters that elect them. Naturally, there will be times when life gets in the way of attending a meeting, and I understand that a rep might place their full- time job over being a rep since being a rep is a volunteer position. That being said, if someone is not representing their precinct well, or not attending meetings, it is in the interest of the voters to elect someone else in the future who has the time and energy to do a better job representing those they serve. I cannot think of a better measure of accountability. Thank you, Sean Scanlon Support the campain at
  8. 8. Candidate for Board of Selectmen MATT HANSON 1. Do you favor or oppose a limited number of billboards, in specifically designated areas of town, as a new way to raise much needed revenues? If you DO favor these new billboards, which town departments do you think should receive these new revenues, and why? I do favor a limited number of billboards as a way to raise new revenue. We are constantly looking for ways to create new sources of income and at 50k dollars or possibly more per billboard, the town needs to explore this possibility. Chelmsford has enough locations along major highways that these billboards could be put up with very minimal aesthetic impact on the town. I think we can all agree that every town department is struggling right now but if the revenue for these bill- boards could go to only one department I would pick the school department. I believe that having a strong and competitive school system is a large part of what has made this town so great in the past. Keeping the school system competitive is crucial for the long-term welfare of the town. Right now a family can pay up to $950 per child per year in fees. This tremendous cost has stopped many students from being able to participate in afterschool sports. The class sizes are now exceeding 30 students across many grade lev- els. I believe the revenue from these new billboards could lift some of these burdens while helping to en- sure the long-term success of the town. If in a few years time, Chelmsford starts receiving its targeted Chapter 70 funding, I would be open to the possibility of the having the funds moved back into the general fund or allotted for other specific projects. 2. quot;Do you think that Town Meeting Representatives should be held more accountable to their precincts as to how they vote and also in their attendance?quot; Why or why not ? Town Meeting Representatives are already held accountable to their precincts by the residents who vote for them every year. TMR who do not show up to the town meetings will be removed and new candidates can pull papers to run every year. However, there are more avenues of communication that could be used to improve accountability. As a member of the Board of Selectmen I will promote the communication of residents and their TMR’s. I will also encourage both residents and TMR’s to bring their concerns to myself and the other BOS mem- bers. As a current TMR, I have already worked diligently on specific issues that affect the residents of my precinct as well as other residents around Chelmsford. Communication and involvement between all town boards, town residents, and elected officials is para- mount to the successful governing of the Town of Chelmsford. An email address should appear alongside each elected official’s phone number on the town website; further encouraging communication between the residents of the town and its elected officials. Email is also an inexpensive form of communication and could possibly replace some mailings, helping to reduce town expenses. I look forward to hearing and responding to your concerns. I respectfully ask for one of your two votes on April 7th. Matt Hanson Support the campaign at
  9. 9. Candidate for Board of Selectmen JIM MURRAY 1. Do you favor or oppose a limited number of billboards, in specifically designated areas of town, as a new way to raise much needed revenues? If you DO favor these new billboards, which town departments do you think should receive these new revenues, and why? Undecided - need to see plans, locations, lighting times (not 24 hours a day) Might be amenable to scool bus signs. 2. quot;Do you think that Town Meeting Representatives should be held more accountable to their precincts as to how they vote and also in their attendance?quot; Why or why not ? This another volunteer job, correct? Don't see a need for attendance. Accountability? No thanks Jim We will have web page up next week. quot;skipperjim.comquot; Candidate for Board of Selectmen DONALD VAN DYNE 1. Do you favor or oppose a limited number of billboards, in specifically designated areas of town, as a new way to raise much needed revenues? If you DO favor these new billboards, which town departments do you think should receive these new revenues, and why? I oppose the erection of billboards to generate revenue for our town. However, I believe if after the Planning Board (PB) hearings, the PB makes a positive recommendation to the Board of Selectmen (BOS), the BOS should send it to Town Meeting, allowing our legislative branch to exercise their right to vote. I believe issues that deal with the character of the town should be decided upon by the town as a whole. As a Selectman, I will respect the wishes of the Town Meeting Representatives. My opposition to the billboards is because I feel we would be irresponsibly instituting a long term policy for a short term need. We will make it through this recession and come out a stronger community without the billboards. It is not wise to spend one time monies on recurring expenses. Likewise it is not wise to sell 354 years of Chelmsford’s character to satisfy our short term fiscal needs. Chelmsford will be sad- dled with long term leases possibly for up to 30 years and the liability is not worth the risk.
  10. 10. 2. quot;Do you think that Town Meeting Representatives should be held more accountable to their precincts as to how they vote and also in their attendance?quot; Why or why not ? Ultimately, it is up to the voters of each precinct to decide if their Town Meeting Representatives have rep- resented them appropriately. There is no higher authority in our town than the voter, and therefore no higher accountability than to be voted in, or out, of the position. We can, however, improve the tools of ac- countability in regards to both voting record and attendance. Town Meeting Representatives perform an important role in the delivery of fair and balanced government. I have served as a Town Meeting Representative and I believe TMR’s are passionate about Chelmsford and love serving our town as legislatures. Many Reps take the time throughout the year to attend the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Panning Board, and Finance Committee meetings. This effort is necessary and should be encouraged. It is difficult for our legislative branch to convene twice a year with- out proper preparation. As a selectman, I will work with the TMR’s and will assume the responsibility as outlined in Section 3 of the Town Charter to better facilitate the legislative body to complete their goals. In accordance with this section I will “prepare reports of town business and distribute such reports to all Town Meeting members.” Good government is for the people and by the people. I will also work with the nine precincts to produce a Town Meeting Representative handbook for all new representatives and the more senior members. I envision this handbook organized to address expecta- tions, responsibilities and to include copies of our Charter, Robert Rules and Town Bylaws. Another goal for Town Meeting should be the implementation of technology in the accounting of Town Meeting votes. I would like for all votes to be counted electronically and recorded for all residents to re- view. This idea will garner heightened interest in the operation of Chelmsford, support increased participa- tion from all residents and implement the accountability taxpayers’ demand. The efforts of the executive and legislative branch working in harmony to implement responsible policy, encourage participation, and disseminate information to the broader community will strengthen our town. On April 7th I ask for one of your two votes for Donald Van Dyne. Then on April 8th we will begin our work together to close the gaps, fill the holes and build the bridges for an even stronger Chelmsford. I’m the last name on the ballot, but hopefully your first or second vote. Van Dyne in 2009. Thank you and I will see you at the polls on April 7th. Support the campaign on FACEBOOK CLICK HERE
  11. 11. Candidate for Board of Selectmen STEVE ROBERTS 1. Do you favor or oppose a limited number of billboards, in specifically designated areas of town, as a new way to raise much needed revenues? If you DO favor these new billboards, which town departments do you think should receive these new revenues, and why? The biggest concern I have with the billboards is that the town will not have control over the content put up on them. Far too many times I have seen inappropriate advertisement and this would be a problem es- pecially near the schools. I do not personally favor having billboards, but I would support a 'limited num- ber' of billboards if placed along our major highways (I495 & RT3), guarantee that they could only be placed along the highway, and only if the town had a way to control the content. It is however, ultimately a decision of our Legislative Branch (Town Meeting Reps) to determine if it is appropriate. Though I don't personally want to see billboards in our town, if the proposal is sound, then the Board of Selectmen should allow it to go to vote in Town Meeting and let the people decide. By law, the money must go directly into the town local receipts and not a specific department. We should look for ways raise funds for departments like the schools. I commend efforts if non-profit or parent groups to raise funds for our youth programs & schools. As selectman, I would support groups looking to raise funds to support their efforts like the good work we've seen with the the Chelmsford Schools Foun- dation. 2. quot;Do you think that Town Meeting Representatives should be held more accountable to their precincts as to how they vote and also in their attendance?quot; Why or why not ? The Town Meeting Representatives are voted by the residents of their precinct and must be held account- able for their actions. I do not feel there is a good way to control their vote in Town Meetings. It is the re- sponsibility of each resident to vote for someone who they feel will listen to their concerns and respond accordingly. It is however, difficult for residents to know how their Town Meeting Representative vote. I do feel there should be a requirement for attendance and we should look for ways to record and publish a town meeting representatives attendance & voting records to make residents more aware. Not knowing how a representative votes causes a resident to lose interest because they do not feel connected to the process. I would like to explore a more consistent way for residents to provide input to their Town Meeting Reps. In my campaign, I have proposed a more formal development of neighborhood advocacy groups that are or- ganized by the Town Meeting Reps to allow residents to give their input in an open discussion. I would also encourage one of the 5 Board of Selectmen to attend each of these neighborhood advocacy groups to represent the town and help to proactively get ahead of issues & keep the issues in perspective of the overall town needs. Steve Roberts Support the campaign at Campaign Party: When: Saturday March 21st Time: 4:00 - 7:00pm followed by a Jazz Band @ 8pm Where: The Java Room - Ginger Ale Plaza next to Bertucci's Restaurant
  12. 12. With 672-unit project, Billerica housing debate resurfaces By Chris Camire, Posted: 03/01/2009 BILLERICA -- From North Billerica to Pinehurst, a slew of housing projects built in the past five years has nearly doubled the town's affordable-housing stock from 3.2 percent to 6.1 percent. Even with these construction projects, town officials still face pressure to create more affordable housing to meet the state's goal of 10 percent in each community. That could change soon if a 14-building development on the Chelmsford line is approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals. Located on Rangeway Road, the proposed complex consists of 672 housing units on 38 acres, which would be the largest development in town. The project, known as Aspen Apartments, would push Billerica's affordable stock over 10 percent until at least 2020, according to its developer, Eli Pechthold. quot;That's a great thing because it saves the town from smaller 40B projects,quot; said Pechthold, of Garden Homes, the New Jersey company behind the project. quot;It's an advantage because you're doing it in one shot.quot; Not everyone agrees. Critics of Aspen Apartments argue the development is too large. Fifty-five Chelmsford residents hired attorney Dan Hill, of Charlestown, to represent them. The group pre- dicts their property values will decline and their way of life disrupted. quot;The big concern is the coverage of the site and whether it's going to result in greater flooding,quot; Hill said. quot;They already experience storm-water runoff. They're very concerned about the impact.quot; Hill said the project will likely add significant light and noise pollution to a nearby Chelmsford neighborhood. He also criticizes the developer for not submitting enough details on the project's storm-water management system. quot;We don't have a lot of details,quot; Hill said. quot;What's been submitted is really deficient.quot; Billerica has been at the center of numerous fights over affordable housing. Residents throughout town have fought repeatedly to block projects, or reduce their size. The town's state representative, William Greene, has attempted to have the law modified. Critics of the law argue that Billerica has plenty of affordable housing -- via apartments and a trailer park -- that the state does not count. A public-relations campaign against Aspen Apartments began when a pamphlet, sponsored by the anti- 40B group Coalition to Repeal 40B, was mailed to every home in Billerica recently. In fiery language, it criticizes Billerica's town manager, Bill Williams, for praising the project and links him to 40B projects in Mansfield, where Williams was town manager in the 1990s. Williams called both charges false. quot;There were no 40Bs developed when I was in Mansfield,quot; said Williams, town manager there from 1991 to 1997. quot;The only 40Bs in Mansfield came years after I was gone. After you're gone when things happen how can they be attributed to your legacy?quot; quot;The fact remains that this project is not going to help Billerica,quot; said John Belskis, chairman of Coalition to Repeal 40B. quot;It's going to put a strain on town services and create traffic hazards.quot; The units are 633 square feet to 1,611 square feet. The site will feature a clubhouse, swimming pool, ten- nis court, recreational area and walking trails. Primary access will be directly from Rangeway Road near the Chelmsford line. The buildings will be wood-framed, four stories high and contain 48 units each.
  13. 13. The projected rental price for the one-bedroom affordable units will be $1,071 per month; $1,284 for two bedrooms; and $1,484 for three bedrooms. About 25 percent, or 162 units, of Aspen Apartments must be designated as affordable to families earning 80 percent of the median area income, as required under the state's Chapter 40B law. That affordable- housing deed would remain in effect for 30 years Passed by the state Legislature in 1969, 40B allows developers to bypass many local zoning requirements in communities that have not met the state-mandated 10 percent affordable-housing threshold. The de- velopers must set aside a portion of the development as affordable. The state Department of Housing and Community Development sent a letter to Billerica's former town manager in 2007 giving the town permission to count the affordable units in the project at once. The project is anticipated to be built in phases stretching over several years. Founded in 1958, Garden Homes has built a half-million rental units mostly in New Jersey, Pechthold said. It also has developments in Connecticut and New York. Pechtold said this would be the first in Massachu- setts. Selectmen voted unanimously not to recommend the project, saying the town's water-treatment facility and wastewater-treatment facility may not be able to handle it. ZBA Chairman Doris Pearson has said the board will not comment on the merits of the proposal until it has heard all testimony. The next public hearing before the ZBA is scheduled for March 18. The board has 180 days from the first public hearing, which took place on Dec. 3, to vote. ******************************* Eric Dahlberg's Blog One Selectman's occasional thoughts on news and issues impacting Chelmsford... Posted by Eric Dahlberg at 6:17 AM SUNDAY, MARCH 8, 2009 Yes we can . Bring some common sense to 40B? The state's affordable housing law, known as quot;40B,quot; is invasive, outdated and counterproduc- tive. The housing developments that have been spawned by this law, and the manner in which they are rammed down local communities' throats, are an insult to cities and towns across the Commonwealth. Last week, I met with state Senator Bob Hedlund's housing adviser at the State House. My purpose in requesting this meeting was to learn more about current legislative proposals that, if passed, would add some com- mon sense to what we can all agree is a totally nonsensical law. Senator Hedlund has been an admirably outspoken critic of 40B during his tenure in the Senate. He has filed several relevant bills this year, including such measures as: An Act relative to tracking affordable housing projects (Senate Docket 590) This bill, should it become law, would require the state's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to maintain a regularly-updated inventory of 40B projects proposed and built statewide. Amazingly, this is not currently a requirement under state law.
  14. 14. An Act relative to 40B cost certification (Senate Docket 1325) This bill, should it become law, would establish a strict cost certification process for 40B projects and would impose tough penalties on developers who hide profits. It was filed at the request of the state's Inspector General, Gregory Sullivan. An Act relative to the oversight of affordable housing developments (Senate Docket 579) This bill, should it become law, would require DHCD to strictly enforce all condi - tions of a 40B project's comprehensive permit once occupancy permits have been issued. Current state law is stunningly lacking on this front. I will work to see what can be done to encourage passage of these and other important leg- islative proposals that would bring some common sense to 40B. Please contact me if you would like to see copies of the bills I mention above (they are not yet available online). ************************************************************************************************************* REPEAL 40B— Inspector General testifies about the failures of the Chapter 40B Law (Affordable Housing) CLICK HERE FOR TESTIMONY
  15. 15. Chelmsford Slow Growth Initiative takes aim at selectman By Rita Savard, 03/05/2009 CHELMSFORD -- After tempers flared at a public meeting, the same group behind a controversial anti-40B mailing is sending another message -- this time, for Selectman Bill Dalton. Alleging that Dalton's conduct at a Feb. 23 board meeting was quot;libelous,quot; the Chelmsford Slow Growth Initiative sent a letter to town officials asking for a public apology from the veteran selectman during the last televised meeting before he leaves office. The letter was sent via e-mail to all five selectmen, Town Manager Paul Cohen, Community Development Director Evan Belansky and each of the six selectman candidates running for two open seats on the board. SGI Assistant Director Craig Chemaly said the e-mail was fueled after the last selectmen meeting, when the board took turns commenting on a mass mailing by SGI that slammed town officials for not taking a hard stand against the state's 40B affordable-housing law. Dalton said the content of SGI's mailing, which was sent to about 1,400 homes, was quot;despicablequot; and that quot;there's lies all through their brochures.quot; Selectmen later denied SGI Executive Director Fred Marcks the opportunity to respond to the board's comments because the half-hour time slot for public comment was finished. SGI was invited to return to the next meeting to speak in open session on March 23. quot;You can't call people liars and then not give them the chance to respond for a month,quot; Chemaly said. Chemaly and Marcks said they not only felt stonewalled by the Board of Selectmen, but that Dalton's comments crossed the line. quot;Nothing in the letter was factually untrue and to say that we are quot;liarsquot; and that our literature is full of lies on public television is libelous,quot; Chemaly wrote. quot;All we ask for from Bill, not even from the entire board, just Bill, is a public apology during the next open session before he leaves office.quot; Dalton, who is not seeking re-election after serving 15 years on the Board, said yesterday he has no plans to oblige. CLICK HERE quot;I stated facts,quot; Dalton said. quot;They put information in there that was not true and they put people's names with it who didn't all endorse the message in that mail- FOR VIDEO ing.quot; The original SGI mailing blasted the town manager and Belansky for quot;rubber-stampingquot; 40B projects in Chelmsford. quot;Assaulting (Cohen and Belansky's) character and professionalism to me is unac- ceptable,quot; Dalton said. quot;They have no business doing that. The town manager has bent over backward to work with anybody and everybody since he's come into Bill this town.quot; Dalton Contrary to the SGI mailing, Chairman Philip Eliopoulos said the Board of Selectmen has fought and continues to fight on behalf of the town, having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits over the years while taking on big developers. One of those lawsuits included a 48-unit affordable-housing project on Riverneck Road that was tied up in court for six years. In the end, selectmen say there is only so much they can do under the confines of state law. SGI said that while it recognizes the efforts described by Eliopoulos, those efforts are independent of the group's action plan suggestions, such as establishing a 40B advisory committee, which would cost the town zero dollars. quot;For two years, we've been waiting for town officials to take action,quot; Chemaly said. quot;We're still waiting, and when they're ready, we are more than willing to work with them.quot; Chemaly said all of the information in the original mailing is supported by the state Department of Community Develop- ment and can be proven on paper. SGI, he added, represents the will of a majority of Chelmsford residents concerning 40B, not a few people. Selectman Clare Jeannotte said that while she supported many of SGI's point in years past, she did not support any mail- ing slamming Cohen and Belansky. quot;The mailing was unfortunate,quot; added Eliopoulos. quot;Because it took a more personal approach than keeping it fo- cused on the issues, and let's face it, we all have an issue with 40B being a broken law.quot; To view the complete version of SGI's letter to town officials, visit
  16. 16. Power Plant Buzz Please share with your friends, family, and neighbors. 25 February 2009 At its February 12, 2009 meeting, the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) confirmed its decision to site the Billerica power plant, with conditions. The actual decision must still be formalized in document form. The EFSB’s decision is only one step in a process. The charter of the EFSB is to site power plants based on a certain set of criteria, some more subjective than others. The plant proposal must still be evaluated and blessed by several additional entities, especially at the local level in Billerica, before its fate is determined. This process is a long way from over and by no means a slam dunk. Strong letters of concern and opposition were submitted to the EFSB by many Merrimack Valley legislators and governing boards. Click on the names below to read the letters that were submitted on behalf of area constituents. Representative William Greene Representative James Miceli Senator Susan Tucker Chelmsford Legislative Delegation Representative Thomas Golden Representative David Nangle Representative Cory Atkins Representative James Arciero Senator Susan Fargo Tewksbury Board of Selectmen Tewksbury Board of Health Let your officials know you appreciate their awareness and action on this issue. Click here to access their contact information. Newly elected Billerica Senator Ken Donnelly has asked specifically to hear from his constituents regarding their concerns with the power plant proposal. E-mail Senator Donnelly and share with him your perspective. Encourage him to join his Merrimack Valley colleagues in opposing this proposal. The Massachusetts Slow Growth Initiative released a white paper about the Benefits of Upgrading the Northeast Electrical Grid. Issues discussed include the continued misconception that more fossil fuel-burning power plants are needed, and that the cost to upgrade is prohibitive. Click here to read the report. In a startling development, the testimony of the water expert for the opponents of the Russell Biomass plant was disal- lowed by the DEP. Comments regarding concerns about the water withdrawal permit for the plant and its potentially damaging effects on this pristine, salmon-supporting river in central Massachusetts, should be of concern to us all. Click here to read the article. Something is not right when we are putting clean resources at risk for the benefit of entirely for-profit ventures that are unnecessary and damaging to the environment and residents’ quality of life. ****************************************************************************************************************************** Lowell Sun Political Column 3-8-09 BILLERICA MAY need to build a power plant if the town is to avoid layoffs and sustain services. That's what Town Manager Bill Williams says. quot;The town cannot sustain its services in the short run and keep its quality of life unless it considers things like the power plant,quot; said Williams last week. quot;If the town has opportunities and doesn't look at them objectively, it's going to threaten its sustainability.quot; Estimates show the project could inject as much as $1.5 million in revenue to the town's coffers annually. The $200 million, 348-megawatt gas-fired peaking power plant was recently issued a permit by the state's Energy Facilities Siting Board. On the local level, the plant must now go through the Board of Health, Conservation Commission and Planning Board. The plant has generated strong opposition and led to the creation of Billerica Watchers, which is fighting the plant Williams said the town needs to seek a quot;long termquot; solution to prevent more layoffs and cut backs to services, which may include the power plant. quot;The cost benefit of the dollars is huge,quot; said Williams. quot;It's my job to tell them they're going to be in trouble.quot;
  17. 17. POWER PLANT expects to break ground in the next year Power plant receives final approval By Chloe Gotsis/Chelmsford Independent Fri Mar 06, 2009 Billerica - After the state’s Energy Facilities Siting Board issued its final approval for the Billerica Energy Center this week, the power plant is now one step closer to being built. Lisa Capone, press secretary for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environ- mental Affairs, said the board’s final decision imposes 21 conditions on the proponent, DG Cleanpower, including measures to alleviate visual, noise, and water impacts. Capone said the conditions also require the company maintain the site’s appearance over its lifetime and ac- quire an additional site buffer. Capone added that the decision is reflective of the board’s tentative Feb. 12 approval. Ed Camplese, co-founder of the Billerica Watchers Group, a citizens’ group concerned with the plant, said in an e-mail, the group is currently reviewing the decision and “plans to weigh their options on their next appropriate course of action regarding various impacts.” The facility is slated for construction on 16 acres of a 134-acre parcel owned by Baker Com- modities on Town Farm Lane in North Billerica, bordering Tewksbury and Chelmsford. The plant will be a 348-megawatt peaking plant, will not operate more than 1,500 hours per year. The six turbine operating facility will operate with natural gas as their primary fuel and ultra-low sulfur diesel oil as a backup fuel, according to the decision. Joe Fitzpatrick, CEO of DG Cleanpower said there is still of a lot work left to do because they are waiting on permit approvals from both the Department of Environmental Protection and from the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. Fitzpatrick said DG Cleanpower would submit the decisions of the DEP and EOEA to the town’s local boards, which will make their own conclusions. He added the decisions of the DEP and EOEA were pending the siting board’s vote and final approval. The eight member siting board held four hearings concerning the power plant. The Billerica Watchers Group presented its case at the first meeting followed by a presentation by the de- veloper, the New Hampshire-based DG Cleanpower. Fitzpatrick previously said he expects to break ground in next year. According to Capone, the Billerica Watchers Group, has to file a petition for appeal with the siting board within 20 days of the March 3 decision. Within 10 days after the petition is filed, they must also file on appeal with state’s Supreme Judicial Court, which will hear the case for appeal.
  18. 18. Town manager's comments ripped Power-plant foes say Williams overstated proposal's benefits to Billerica taxpayers By Chris Camire, 03/10/2009 In an interview with The Sun last week, Williams said the proposed Billerica Energy Center could help Billerica avoid lay- offs and sustain services, and would generate about $1.5 million in annual revenue for the town. Williams' comments did not sit well with several opponents of the 348-megawatt, gas-fired peaking power plant pro- posed for Billerica Avenue. During the portion of the meeting open to public comments, they argued that any financial benefits are dwarfed by potential health risks they think the plant will create. With her two young daughters standing by her side, Janet Morris of Tercentennial Drive asked Williams if he would feel comfortable living next to a power plant. quot;I'm concerned your comments might mislead residents,quot; said Morris, adding that if the power plant were not an op- tion, town officials would have to quot;roll up their sleevesquot; and find other ways to maintain services. Ed Camplese, president of Billerica Watchers, a group that opposes the proposed plant, called Williams' comments quot;very subjectivequot; and asked the town manager to retract his statement. quot;Smart growth is the only way to stabilize the taxpayers,quot; Camplese said. quot;A glutton industry is not a way to solve the problem.quot; Williams had said the town quot;cannot sustain its services in the short run and keep its quality of life unless it considers things like the power plant.quot; Ed He added that if the town does not look at opportunities to generate revenue, like the power Camplese, plant, quot;objectively,quot; it will quot;threaten its sustainability.quot; president Selectman Marc Lombardo, who publicly opposes the power plant, said the town's administra- of Billerica tion should not quot;set forth a positionquot; on the project. Watchers quot;I was a little disturbed to read that a power plant could be the saving grace Finance Committee member Peter Greeley defended Williams, saying it was quot;foolhardyquot; for town officials to come out against the proposal before all the facts are in. quot;As elected leaders, to say you're for or against something and dismiss it out of hand is foolhardy,quot; Greeley said. After the meeting, Williams stood by his comments. Several selectmen also defended Williams. quot;I don't see anything wrong with his statement,quot; said Selectmen Vice Chairman Bob Accomando. quot;He's right. We could use the money.quot; quot;All he said was keep an open mind,quot; Chairman Jim O'Donnell added. In other news, selectmen received a letter from Edward Liston, executive vice president and chief operating officer of plant proponent DG Clean Power, saying the plant will no longer need municipal water for its daily operations. The primary use of water will now be treated wastewater from the Waste Water Treatment Plant in North Billerica. Mu- nicipal water will only be used in an emergency, wrote Liston. It remains unclear what would constitute an emergency. Representatives from DG Clean Power did not attend the meet- ing. Previous proposals called for the plant to purchase 40 million gallons of water from the town each year to control pollu- tion and cool the plant's turbines. It has been estimated that the gas-fired power plant, proposed for land owned by Baker Commodities, will need 60 mil- lion gallons of water annually, trucking in the remaining 20 million gallons. Critics said the town would not be able to provide enough water to meet the demands.
  19. 19. CEO VOWS Drinking water used rarely at power plant By Chris Camire, 03/14/2009 BILLERICA -- The town's drinking water supply will only be used to run the Billerica Energy Center in rare circumstances, according to a new proposal put forth by the power plant's proponents. Joe Fitzpatrick, the CEO of DG Clean Power, the company looking to build the power plant, said the facility will mostly use treated wastewater from the Billerica Wastewater Treatment Plant to control pollution and cool the plant's turbines. The maximum amount of municipal water that can be used under the new proposal is four million gallons per year, down from 40 million. Municipal water will only be used if the wastewater treatment plant is shut down for an extended period of time, said Fitzpatrick. quot;Even if the wastewater treatment plant wasn't running, we could use a million gallons of water that we will have stored on site,quot; Fitzpatrick said. quot;There could be instances where the wastewater treatment plant is shut down and we wouldn't use municipal water.quot; The fight over the Billerica power plant has centered on water use for about a year. A water conservation program that was being set up when DG Clean Power planned to dip into the town's water supply has now been abandoned. quot;There was an undercurrent in the town that the conservation program wouldn't work,quot; said Fitzpatrick. quot;It became a credibility issue.quot; It has been estimated that the 348-megawatt gas-fired power plant, proposed for land owned by Baker Commodities, will need 60 million gallons of water annually if operating at a maximum capacity of 2,300 hours per year. Fitzpatrick said the plant will operate for only half that amount of time. Ed Camplese, president of Billerica Watchers, a group that opposes the proposed plant, has criticized plans to use munic- ipal water. He said the group plans to further investigate DG Clean Power's new proposal. quot;As far as we're concerned it seems like the proponents keep jumping around,quot; said Camplese. quot;The question we have is what happens if they turn around and say this wastewater is dirtier than they figured? Then do they have to go back to using municipal water?quot; Fitzpatrick hopes the new water proposal will make the power plant less distasteful to residents who were concerned about water use. quot;For most people who have an open mind it should take the water issue off the table,quot; said Fitzpatrick. The power plant was recently issued a permit by the state's Energy Facilities Siting Board. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs must also issue permits. On the local level, the plant must go through the Board of Health, Conservation Commission and Planning Board.
  20. 20. 13 February 2009 At its February 25, 2009 meeting, the Billerica Conservation Commission finally had the op- portunity to hear the developers discuss details of the plant proposal relative to questions raised in the Commission’s July 16th meeting. This time around, hours before the meeting, the Commission was handed information that it had requested in the July 16th meeting and in subsequent exchanges. Chair, Jo Ann Giovino, clarified that the Commission’s policy re- quires materials to be presented a week in advance of meetings to afford members the time for review. The lack of a specific stormwater management schematic, the use of roads on the Baker Commodities property and their attendant impacts, the entire extent of the footprint of dis- turbed vegetation, failure to design within the town fifty-foot buffer zone requirements, and a wedged-in design suggestion for moving the building were all discussed. One need not be an engineer to see that this project is just too big and ill-suited for the proposed site. Chair- woman Giovino, citing numerous issues, scheduled the next Conservation Commission hear- ing on the proposal for May 13, 2009. The EFSB’s Final Decision for the Billerica site, with conditions, has now been formalized. Click here to read the document. The EFSB stated that comments from legislators and inter- veners contributed to their inclusion of additional conditions on the project, which must be met by the developer. The Massachusetts Sierra Club quarterly publication, The Sierran, published an article this month about the power plant free-for-all in Massachusetts, and specifically addresses the pro- posed Billerica power plant. Click here to read the article. The article points to over- whelming evidence that the additional power the Billerica plant would offer (and the power from many other, similar proposals) is simply not needed to supply the New England grid. Two articles surfaced this week revealing that DG Clean Power, and the financial entity that backs it, are experiencing some discomfort in advancing their business. First, DG Clean power admitted that the soft credit market and reduction in demand for peak power has de- layed their decision to pursue a large power plant project in Uxbridge. Click here to read the article. The second article concerning Navasota Energy, the Texas energy investment firm behind the Billerica proposal, explains that the firm has experienced a delay in another of its projects. A 550MW gas-fired power plant proposal in Texas has been placed under scrutiny by the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality due to concerns about air quality impacts. Click here to read the article about the delayed Madison Bell project. Press Click on the News tab to access recent articles.
  21. 21. A second look at the news ... ****************************************************************************************** Chelmsford water decisions controlled by handful of voters By Rita Savard, 02/15/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Every year, they rake in hundreds of thousands of dollars in money for drinking water. The residents buying the water have the last word on how the money is spent. But in nearly all three of Chelmsford's independent water districts, voter turnout at annual meetings last year was less than 1 percent. quot;Think about it,quot; said former Selectmen Peter Lawlor, who unsuccessfully championed an effort to regionalize water in years past. quot;A room full of 10 people deciding how to spend a $5.7 mil- lion dollar budget. This system of having three separate water districts has an obvious flaw.quot; As the economy worsens and funds to run local governments dry up, some say it's time to re- think the way local water sources are managed. But commissioners in each water district argue that the current system is a well-oiled machine, carefully safeguarding every dollar. Ron Wetmore, chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Center District, said smaller districts are more transparent districts because it's the water customers who vote on how to appropriate budgets. quot;The ratepayers always have the final say,quot; Wetmore has said. quot;And all the money goes back into water, nothing else.quot; Wetmore also stresses that each district, which draws water from wells, has its own unique problems that require different solutions, making regionalization a costly and problematic task. In all three water districts the water customers function like a legislative body, approving policy and spending. The problem, say supporters for regionalization, is that the system is antiquated and no longer works. quot;The evidence is in voter attendance at these meetings,quot; Lawlor said. Last year, during the Chelmsford Water District's annual meeting, seven people voted on a budget of $5.7 million. In North Chelmsford, voter turnout was 10 for a budget of $898,082. In the East District, the smallest of the three with 627 customers, turnout was the largest with 46 people, nearly 8 percent, voting on a $1.1 million budget. Kathleen McGonigal, office manager, treasurer and water commissioner for the East Water Dis- trict, has said the customers in East Chelmsford are very involved, quot;and they watch where every penny is spent.quot; In each district, the commissioners, the superintendent, district employees, and in some cases, spouses and family members, make up a big slice of the tally. Commissioners say the annual meetings are publicly posted, and it's each water customer's choice on whether they want to at- tend. Wetmore has said it often comes down to trust, with customers putting faith in the commission- ers they elect to vote for them. In North Chelmsford, voter lineup at the annual meeting didn't change much during the past two years, going from 11 people in 2007 to 10 in 2008. Accountability came under fire last year, when a group of water customers hired a lawyer over bills they received for a new water treat- ment plant. The water customers allege that commissioners failed to adequately inform them about a vote to approve a $7.8 million water-treatment facility.
  22. 22. Chelmsford tests bounds of laws on revenue raising on its mobile home community The Lowell Sun Posted: 03/01/2009 06:42:43 AM EST By John Edward I had a political science professor who often said, quot;Great men are born of times of great need.quot; I think it is also true that desperate actions are born of desperate needs. I am not talking about President Obama's economic-stimulus package. I am speaking of the decision to impose property taxes on trailers in the Chelmsford Mobile Home Park. The Chelmsford Board of Assessors dramatically increased the property taxes on the mobile home park based on an assigned value for the 255 trailers that rent space there. This action appears to violate the spirit of the law, and perhaps the letter of the law. Frank Reen, Chief Assessor for the town, admits that Massachusetts law his- torically has been interpreted to protect trailers from property taxes. How- ever, the board contends that because some homes have attached decks they are taxable as permanent homes. If a huge multinational firm like Sodexho spends money improving their com- mercial property they can save tens of thousands of dollars on their Chelms- ford property taxes. If a few people decide to spend a little money to modestly improve their living conditions, the entire community becomes sub- ject to a new tax. There are 251 manufactured home communities in the state. According to the Massachusetts Manufactured Housing Association, Chelmsford is the only town taxing trailers as real estate. The chief assessor in Littleton was asked why he is not taxing the trailers inhis town as permanent residences. His re- sponse: He is going to abide by the law. There seems to be a fatal flaw in the justification used in Chelmsford. In one instance, the courts upheld taxing a mobile home that takes on the character of a permanent home. That case involved a manufactured home with a per- manent foundation and a basement. In the Chelmsford Mobile Home Park, there are no permanent foundations, no basements. The case is being contested in court. Last week, a Superior Court judge rejected the owner's request for a temporary injunction to stop the Board of Assessors from changing his tax assessments. However, his ap- peal with the Tax Appellate Board is pending and the merits of the case as a whole have yet to be ad- dressed in court. In the meantime, the mobile home park owner is paying over $100,000 a year in additional taxes for property he does not own. The town does not even plow the streets in the park. The park owner will have little choice but to pass some of the cost on to the owners of the trailers for the spaces on which they park. If he passes on all of the tax increase, each mobile home owner will have to pay an additional $400 in rent per year. Lack of affordable housing is still a serious problem in Greater Lowell. Why make it worse? When the Board of Selectmen voted against using tax classification to restore fairness by shifting more of the property tax levy back onto big businesses, they said, quot;Now is not the time.quot; The obvious implication is that you do not want to increase the tax burden in tough economic times. Is now the time to increase taxes for low-income earners who are really feeling the burden of tough eco- nomic times?
  23. 23. According to Sandy Donovan, who runs the food pantry in Chelmsford, quot;People are really hurting.quot; Her business has picked up substantially and she is now distributing food for about 325 people per week. The town of Chelmsford provides relief to some commercial and residential property taxpayers. The trailer owners will not get any. The assessor's office makes available applications for property tax exemptions for the elderly, disabled, and for hardship. However, the mobile home owners are not actually paying property taxes, so they cannot qualify. A Senior Tax Rebate Program allows residents over 60 to work in return for a property tax rebate up to $500. It is not even means tested -- you do not have to be low-income. Again, it is not available for resi- dents of the trailer park. Many wealthy homeowners in Chelmsford save thousands of dollars on their federal income tax by deduct- ing property taxes. No savings for the mobile home owners. The mobile home owners can take a rental deduction on their state income tax. At best, that would save them $21. Senior citizens could do a little better with the Circuit Breaker Credit -- a provision of the state tax code that less than half of eligible taxpayers take advantage of. The assessor's method of raising revenue has other problems. It seems rather odd that the town is taxing the mobile home park owner for property he does not own. The town can assess a value to each trailer, but they are not his property. Moreover, the town is not assessing the value of each trailer. Every trailer, regardless of size, condition, or whether they have actually added a deck, is assessed the same value. Mr. Reen says he did a drive through. He should have noticed that there is considerable variability among the trailers. State Rep. James Arciero represents the mobile home park residents. He is looking into the issue to deter- mine what the Legislature needs to do to provide the protection that lawmakers thought they had enacted over 50 years ago. The state Attorney General's office is aware of the situation, but they have a policy of not issuing statements regarding ongoing investigations. Meanwhile, Chelmsford is paying lawyers to defend the town in court, putting us in a precarious position. If the town loses, Chelmsford taxpayers may have to pay everyone's legal fees. The town manager and the Board of Selectman did not have any say in this decision, and not much to say about the Board of Assessors' action. Mr. Reen has stated the Board is quot;comfortable in our decision.quot; The town needs revenue. The town is cutting services, laying off workers, and another attempt at a Propo- sition 2 1/2 override is not forthcoming and would probably fail anyway. These are desperate times. Raising taxes on the backs of those least able to afford them is a desperate act. Now is not the time. We should not be comfortable with this decision. The town of Chelmsford should be embarrassed by it. John Edward earned his master's degree at UMass Lowell and is an adjunct professor of economics at Bent- ley University. He lives in Chelmsford.
  24. 24. Fire, DPW building committee picks locations By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Chelmsford Independent Thu Feb 26, 2009 CHELMSFORD - With shovel-ready the new Washington mantra, the Consolidated DPW and Fire Depart- ment Facility Plan Committee recently agreed on possible locations to construct the two municipal head- quarters and could proceed with either if funding becomes available. Committee members voted to use town-owned property on Wilson and Chelmsford streets for a Center Fire Station and to purchase land off Alpha Road for a consolidated Department of Public Works facility. Fire Chief Jack Parow, who serves on the committee, said a new drive-through Center Fire Station could be built on about 2 acres of the land, which is now home to softball fields. Parow said committee members and several firefighter units have consulted with engineers on a basic layout of the new building. That could be turned over to an architect and quickly converted into blue- prints. “We could break ground in a few months,” said Parow. A new fire station would cost about $12 million, said Parow. The town would try to qualify for part of the federal stimulus package. Under the government’s stimulus plan, about $210 million has been allotted for fire station construction. Communities across the country will vie for those grants, which will be paid out to about 20 localities in grants not to total more than $15 million each. “We have the need and we can meet any grant requirements,” said Parow. Although originally created to see if one building could be built on Richardson Road to house both de- partments, the committee quickly realized the needs of such a facility would make the cost prohibitive, said Parow. Instead, members decided to pursue joint projects, which led them to the Old Mother Hubbard site on Alpha Road, off Billerica Road near Route 3, as their choice for a new DPW facility. Parow said the site is large enough to accommodate the various DPW units currently spread around town. The town would have to purchase the property, but $11 million for the land and new facility is much less than the $30 million estimate the committee was looking at to turn the DPW’s Richardson Road site into the new headquarters. Parow expects the committee to make a presentation to Town Meeting in April. And, according to Town Manager Paul Cohen, a report is probably all that is going to happen at this point. “Barring federal stimulus money, there will be no action on either project this spring,” said Cohen. Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at
  25. 25. Residents push for more library funding By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Chelmsford Independent Wed Feb 25, 2009 CHELMSFORD - If it were up to Andy Leuper, the library budget would not be in line for a 10 percent reduction for fiscal year 2010. “I’m a very frequent user of the library — maybe a couple of times a week,” said Leuper. “I think the library is an efficient use of town money. I understand times are tough, but you got to find other things to cut.” Leuper is exactly the kind of person Chelmsford Friends of the Library member Betty-Mae Flaherty hoped to speak with Monday at a table she set up near the library’s front door. On his way out of the building Leuper stopped to add his signature to a growing list of residents who want to see more library funding in the budget. The letter Leuper signed basically asks the town man- ager, Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee to add enough funding back to the budget to ensure the library keeps its accreditation. Without accreditation, patrons cannot borrow materials through the interlibrary loan program. No accreditation would also mean a loss in $55,000 in state aid. For fiscal 2010, most town budgets are being cut any- where from 3 to 5 percent except for the library’s, which will see a 9.75 percent drop for 2010. “There has to be equality in the cuts,” said Flaherty. “We are just asking them to take another look.” The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners accredits libraries based on three main criteria, said Chelmsford Li- brary Director Becky Herrmann. Commissioners look at how much a town budgets for the library, how many hours the facility is open and how much money the town allots to purchase new materials. This year, the Chelmsford Library falls short in all areas. Although it is possible to use private donations to supplement book purchases, Herrmann said the commissioners would look at how much the town budgets for the library when deciding whether to grant an accreditation waiver. Questions remain about what the commissioners will use as a baseline for the budget. Fiscal 2010 is a 10 percent drop from fiscal 2009, but only about a 5 percent reduction from the mid-year cuts town de- partments were asked to make, said Herrmann. Commissioners are also likely to consider the size of cuts to other municipal budgets. “If everybody takes the same kind of hit, we have a chance at it,” said Herrmann. “If we get $50,000 restored to the budget we would be assured a waiver.” Herrmann said the library would apply for a waiver in October and find out if one was granted by February 2010. Town Manager Paul Cohen understands residents’ concerns about the library but believes after seeing its budget increase each year it’s the library’s turn to absorb a cut. “The library has been hit the hardest on the municipal side,” said Cohen. “Is it difficult? Yes. But, it’s difficult all over now.” Which, to Chelmsford Friends of the Library President Madeleine Needles, means it will be residents who rely on the library for entertainment and information who suffer. Needles was expected to present the signed letters to the joint meet- ing of the Board of Selectmen, Finance and School committees Wednesday night. “The library is such a smart portion of the budget and they do so much with it,” said Needles. “And now, for them to take such a huge amount of a cut is unacceptable.” Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at
  26. 26. Selectmen candidates agree: Nobody's exempt By Rita Savard, 03/11/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Faced with the country's highest job losses since World War II, selectmen candidates said no town employee should be exempt from a possible wage freeze -- including the town manager and su- perintendent of schools. With nearly all of the town's 16 union contracts set to expire this year, and the largest piece of Chelms- ford's budget going toward salaries and benefits for public employees, all six candidates vying for two open seats on the Board of Selectmen said temporary wage freezes should be on the table to help save the town money, especially for the town's top earners. quot;If the administrators take a wage freeze, it shows they're serious that these are tough times and that they're willing to lead by example,quot; said candidate Sean Scanlon, a 28-year-old Air Force veteran. Candidate Donald VanDyne, 43, currently the vice chairman of the Finance Committee, agreed. quot;Your examples come from the top,quot; he said. quot;Nobody should be insulated. It would be a contradic- tion for anybody to say take a cut and not share some of the burden themselves.quot; Town Manager Paul Cohen, who is in discussions with unions about new contracts, said he is not looking for a pay increase for himself this year. But the Board of Selectmen, which sets Cohen's salary every year, has not sat down with the town manager yet to discuss his pay and most likely will not until the new board is established. Unions taking voluntary pay freezes have made headlines across the country. Last month, it happened in Chelmsford when the Highway Department Union forfeited a 2 percent pay increase and certain benefits to save jobs. Candidate George Dixon Jr., 62, an 8-year Town Meeting representative, praised the Chelmsford Highway Department for setting an example. Candidate Jim Murray, 60, a member of the International Longshoremen's Association, said his own con- tract is under negotiation. No one ever wants to take a pay cut, but given the economic situation, he said, quot;sometimes it needs to be done.quot; Some say unions will now have no other choice but to start making concessions in order to survive. For Chelmsford, that means looking at making the best of what resources the town has, including its health care coverage plan, said candidate Steven Roberts, 30, a software engineer. Besides taking a long hard look at step increases and merit based pay, Roberts said health insurance is one of his biggest priori- ties. quot;We need to know why the unions are holding back on joining the (state's Group Insurance Com- mission) plan,quot; said Roberts. quot;Joining a better health care plan would save the town thousands of dollars.quot; Candidate Matthew Hanson, 20, a full-time college student majoring in political science, continued the theme. quot;Everybody,quot; Hanson said, quot;whether you're in the public or private sector, is feeling the effects of this economy. We all have to do our part.quot; CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO CLIP CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO CLIP “POLITICALLY INCORRECT” SELECTMEN DEBATE: PANEL SPEAK ON WAGE FREEZES CANDIDATES EACH SPEAK ON WAGE FREEZES
  27. 27. Town Meeting makes adjustments to budget By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Chelmsford Independent Wed Mar 11, 2009, 09:09 AM EDT Chelmsford - What a difference a year makes. Town Meeting convened Monday night and approved cuts to the current budget and agreed to transfer more than $1 million from the Stabilization Fund in order to end the year without a deficit. “This is an historic time,” said Town Manager Paul Cohen. “Unfortunately, it is a negative historic time. We are con - fronting the worst economic conditions since World War II.” Adjustments are necessary, said Cohen, because when Town Meeting passed the fiscal 2009 budget in April 2008, U.S. economists’ biggest concerns were about keeping inflation in check. “Instead the economy went into free fall,” said Cohen. “That became evident in October.” Cohen said Town Meeting’s actions would be part of a long-term approach to solving the town’s monetary woes. Article 1 reduced the town’s current budget by $235,474. Article 2 adopted a legislative change allowing localities to assess late fees on tax payments. And Article 3 approved a transfer of $1,133,441 from the Stabilization Fund. The largest budget reduction was in the school department, which absorbed a Paul $591,000 cut in personnel, technology and textbook costs. Cohen “Last June we reduced the budget $2.3 million,” said Superintendent Donald Yeo - man. “We did it to be frugal, to be proactive and to save the town money.” Town Meeting representative and former School Committee member Sheila Pichette wanted to know how students’ learning would be affected by reductions in the text - book budget. Assistant Superintendent Karen Mazza said the school department would no longer be able to replace textbooks every eight years as it currently does. “It will become protracted over a longer period of time,” said Mazza. Mazza said teachers would have access to supplemental printed and electronic mate - rials in order to fill in the textbook gaps. Although most municipal budgets were decreased, a few earned substantial increases including $173,303 for em - ployee benefits and $620,000 for snow and ice removal. Town Meeting representative Brian Latina asked why Cohen didn’t push the snow and ice budget’s overage into the 2010 budget. Cohen said since he’s been in Chelmsford, he has requested Town Meeting approve changes to the snow and ice budget before the end of the fiscal year. “My effort has been to address this upfront,” said Cohen. “We need to address the snow cost as soon as possible so we can close out the books without a deficit.” The escalating price of salt, which Cohen said has increased 60 percent over the last three years, was driving the need for additional money in that budget. Town Meeting unanimously passed Article 1. Article 2 passed with only a handful of dissenters who seemed to take Town Meeting representative Tom Moran’s words into account when voting. Moran said the town should not assess a $30 fee to residents who are delinquent in paying their taxes. “A fee is a tax and that’s all you see now is increased fees or increased taxes,” said Moran. “I recommend you don’t vote for this. It’s a tax. It’s not a fee.” There was little debate over transferring money from the Stabilization Fund. After Town Meeting approved the trans - fer, the fund still has more than $2.4 million in it. Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at
  28. 28. Schools present three budget options: 'Difficult' 'Destructive' and 'Last Resort' By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Wed Mar 11, 2009 Chelmsford - School Business Manager Bob Cruickshank presented three possible fiscal 2010 budgets that each in- clude system-wide cuts ranging from $1.2 million up to $2.8 million to the School Committee Tuesday night. The three budget scenarios were labeled “Difficult,” “Destructive” and “Last Resort.” “Difficult” cuts would not affect the elementary schools, which took the brunt of last year’s reductions, said Cruick- shank. At the middle schools, some of the “Difficult” cuts were made at Monday’s special Town Meeting with the reduc- tion of support staff personnel. Other line items cut from the middle schools at this level include two library assistants and cafeteria aides. The “Difficult” reductions at the middle schools total $249,781. Hit hardest at the “Difficult” level would be Chelmsford High School, which would see nine teaching jobs eliminated. Teaching position cuts will come from the English department, math, fine arts, science, social studies and a half full time equivalent each in physical education, health and foreign language. There would also be a reduction of special education personnel including one teacher at the “Difficult” level. “The biggest impact at Chelmsford High School would be on class size,” said Assistant Superintendent Karen Mazza. Staff reductions would also force doing away with the Writing for High School course each student now takes in ei- ther their freshman or sophomore years. Mazza said the plan calls for only enough sections of this class for students who require extra help. “Difficult” cuts at CHS would total $579,782. Elementary schools would lose four classroom aides at the “Destructive” cuts level for a savings of $92,000. “Destructive” cuts at the middle schools would include eliminating two and a half music teacher positions, one guidance counselor at McCarthy and one nurse. Those cuts would provide an additional savings at the middle school level of $238,536. At CHS, “Destructive” cuts would come from eliminating two special education aides and by wiping out $80,000 currently available for Principal Al Thomas to use at his discretion to pay teachers extra if they pick up an extra sec- tion. Total “Destructive” savings at CHS are $114,000. “Last Resort” cuts at the elementary schools would result in eliminating two guidance counselor positions for a sav- ings of $132,708. Middle school cuts in the “Last Resort” budget includes losing two physical education teachers, three of the sev- enth- and eighth-grade split team positions at McCarthy and four of the fifth- and sixth-grade teachers. Class sizes at McCarthy and Parker would increase to between 28 and 31 students. Lost positions would also change the current team teaching system at the middle schools. Currently teams of teachers work in tandem with one teaching math and science and the other offering instruction in language arts and social studies. The school day is structured around a huge block of time that allows additional teaching of math and language arts skills. Fewer teachers would require changes in how the teams are structured and how instruction time would be spent, said Mazza. “This is not a good situation,” said Mazza. “This is the way the budget undermines all the good work we have been doing.” “Last Resort” at CHS would bring additional teacher cuts include a business instructor and the elimination of courses on the Holocaust and advanced placement social studies as well as advanced placement math classes. CHS cuts in the “Last Resort” budget total $229,000. District-wide cuts at the “Destructive” level include restructuring of the administration after eliminating three jobs. It would also mean less spending on textbooks, library materials and technology. “All the decisions are difficult,” said Mazza. “One change in one program leads to another change in another program.” “It is a significant change,” said Superintendent Donald Yeoman. The School Committee meets next Tuesday to continue tweaking its budget before it presents a final version to the Finance Committee on March 19. Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at
  29. 29. Nashoba Tech budget rising slightly The Lowell Sun 03/12/2009 By Pierre Comtois WESTFORD -- Nashoba Valley Technical High School will operate next year with just a slight budget increase. On Tuesday night, school representatives from the district towns of Littleton, Westford, Townsend, Groton, Chelmsford, Pepperell and Shirley unanimously approved $10,192,619 for fiscal 2010, about 2 percent more than the $9.9 million budget for fiscal 2009, ending June 30. With the new budget coming in with $247,472 in new spending, school Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz said an aggressive pursuit of grants and other outside funding will hope- fully help to make up the difference. Another budget-cutting strategy is an attempt to keep the fixed cost of utilities steady from previously negotiated service contracts. A last-minute amendment offered by Chelmsford representative Samuel Poulten to reduce the bottom line by $100,000 failed when no other representative seconded the motion. quot;I'm very pleased with the vote,quot; said school district Chairman Kevin McKenzie of Groton. quot;I was not in favor of lowering the budget because it would not have changed the min- imum contributions of the towns.quot; Calling the proposed budget quot;adequate,quot; McKenzie joined other regional school committee members in looking forward to possible added revenue originating with the federal stimulus bill. An estimated $800 million is expected to be pumped into the Massachusetts education system. Klimkiewicz said Nashoba Tech is able to meet the challenge of a weakened economy and subsequent cuts in aid by beginning to streamline budgets as far back as 2003. Klimkiewicz said common sense dictated that revenue could not climb indefinitely. As a result, Nashoba was ranked 28th in school spending while coming in second among dis- tricts whose supporting communities have the highest revenues. School officials are bound by law not to add to the approved budget, but may still cut it within 45 days. Klimkiewicz said there are no plans to revisit the budget. The budget now faces scrutiny by voters in town meetings in the seven-member communities. CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO CLIP “POLITICALLY INCORRECT” PANEL SPEAK ON NASHOBA TECHS BUDGET
  30. 30. No stimulus money coming for Chelmsford’s road projects By Kevin Zimmerman/Staff Writer Chelmsford Independent March 13, 2009 Chelmsford - Chelmsford may have its shovel-ready project list complied, but it doesn’t appear the town will receive any federal stimulus money for transportation projects. Lt. Gov. Tim Murray’s office sent out an e-mail Friday afternoon which stated spending guidelines from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) would not be as flexible as state offi- cials had hoped. When the stimulus package was first announced, the governor’s office suggested it would disperse funds through the Chapter 90 highway fund programs to ensure every locality in the common- wealth would receive money. But, according to Murray’s e-mail the stimulus plan would not allow payments to be made that way. “While the state will be receiving hundreds of millions of dollars for transportation infra- structure, due to the legal requirements in the ARRA, we will not be allowed to distribute the money through a formula at every city and town,” the e-mail stated. The stimulus money will only be available to projects that qualify for federal funding through the State Transportation Improvement Program, which is made up of projects submitted by the state’s 13 Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Murray added. Under that prerequisite, the only project in the Greater Lowell area to qualify is a Westford project on Route 110/Route 225. “It looks like the whole area is being shut out,” said Town Manager Paul Cohen. “It’s disappointing.” Cohen said town officials generated a list of shovel-ready road projects they had hoped to fund under the federal stimulus plan. The projects include $825,000 for traffic signals and improvements at Billerica and Riverneck roads, $360,000 for sidewalks on Boston Road near South Row School and $80,000 for traffic im- provements at Kate’s Corner in South Chelmsford. “None would be eligible for federal money,” said Cohen. “We’ll do some, but not as much as we had hoped.” Kevin Zimmerman can be reached at
  31. 31. Chelmsford sells off unneeded vehicles By Rita Savard, 03/15/2009 CHELMSFORD -- Cash-strapped Chelmsford is choosing necessity over luxury. The verdict: Cut the number of vehicles for public employees. After auditing town-owned cars, Town Manager Paul Cohen is selling some of the vehicles, and requir- ing public employees to share cars instead of receiving their own. Cohen said he hopes to save about $65,000 by the close of fiscal 2009, ending June 30. quot;Any place we can save money, we're going to,quot; Cohen said. quot;We've basically gone to a pool of vehicles instead of a vehicle for each person because not every department head needs a vehicle every day.quot; The building inspector, the chief assessor, the community development office and the engineering de- partment have all been using town cars on an as-needed only basis since the fall, Cohen said, in an- other approach to trim the town's budget. Chelmsford sold six cars at an auction in October, and plans to unload eight more the same way next month. Cohen said weeding out the fleet has also saved the town money on insurance and maintenance. quot;Everything has to be looked at in the times we're facing now,quot; said Selectmen Chairman Philip Eliopoulos. quot;If there is a more cost-effective way and that means doing things differently, then we will do things differently. Nothing is off the table.quot; The town began cutting back on vehicle expenses around 2003, when the selectmen decided to switch out then-Town Manager Bernie Lynch's vehicle for a travel allowance instead. That trend con- tinued with Cohen, who still receives a travel allowance only. Public employees still assigned individual cars were whittled down to those on call 24 hours a day, in- cluding the police and fire chiefs, four superior police officers and three superior fire officers. The town health director and the maintenance supervisor also take cars home. An audit of town vehicles was taken last year following a request by Selectman Clare Jeannotte, who thought the town's fleet might be larger than needed. quot;A motor pool is a great idea,quot; Jeannotte said. quot;There are certain jobs where having a vehicle is neces- sary but services have been cut way back. If we're losing people, we have to lose some cars.quot; Budget cuts have slashed the average number of police cruisers per shift from five to four. Often, older model police cars will be retired, and moved to other departments that may need them. But with de- partments shrinking across the board, Cohen said it was time to reexamine the fleet and only keep what they were going to use. The six vehicles sold at the October auction, including a mix of older model Ford Crown Victorias, a van formerly used by the Council on Aging, and vehicles seized in drug busts that were reused by under cover detectives as unmarked cars in investigations, brought in $46,600. After eight more vehi- cles are auctioned in April, Cohen anticipates the total insurance savings will be about $5,000. quot;Every little bit helps right now,quot; Cohen said. quot;We're doing everything we can to explore ways to be more cost-efficient.quot;
  32. 32. POLITICALLY INCORRECT CLICK HERE with TOM CHRISTIANO 3/10/09 FOR VIDEO Topics: Wage Freezes Billboards in Chelmsford Nashoba Techs Budget Increase Candidate Review Panel includes: Nick DeSilvio -School committee candidate Laura McGuigan -Town Meeting representative precinct 1 candidate for re-election Bob Joyce - Planning Board Sam Poulten - Town Meeting representative precinct 8 candidate for re-election
  33. 33. Planning Board & Master Plan Committee member Jim Lane talks with Dennis Ready about the Master Plan and Vision Quest 2020 on the local cable show “Town Talk” CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO Upcoming Debate Showings on Chelmsford Telemedia : Dem = Democratic Chelmsford Independent CBA = Chelmsford Business Association Candidate Poll. LWV = League of women voters Poll: What do you think about the 3/16 (Mo) Dem (9AM-Channel10, CBA (10PM-8) selectmen candidates? CLICK HERE 3/17(Tu) CBA (9AM-Channel 10) Time for YOUR preliminary VOTE 3/18 (We) LWV (7:30PM-Channel 10- LIVE) LIVE 3/19 (Th) Dem (9AM-Channel 10) 3/20 (Fr) LWV (9AM-Channel 8), LWV (7PM-Channel 10) Saturday 3/21 (Sa) CBA (9AM-Channel 8), LWV (10:45AM- Channel8), April 4, 2009 LWV (7PM- Channel10) 9 a.m. to 4 p.m 3/22 (Su) Dem (2:30PM-Channel 8), CBA (9AM-Channel 10) (NOTE: extended hours to accommodate residents with a lot of brush due to the harsh winter). 3/23 (Mo) LWV (10PM- Channel 8) Brush Drop-off at Community Tree, 3/24 (Tu) CBA (10PM- Channel 8) 163 Billerica Road. 3/26 (Th) Dem (10PM-Channel 8) 3/27 (Fr) CBA (8PM-Channel 10), LWV (8:45PM-Channel 10) VOTE 3/28 Marathon TUESDAY (Sa)-LWV (9AM-Channel 8), CBA (11AM- Channel 8), Dem (12:45PM-Channel 8), Dem (1:30PM-Channel 10), APRIL 7th CBA (3:05PM-Channel 10), LWV (4:50PM-Channel 10)