Monthly Archives: May 2011

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending May 27, 2011

Senate Passes $30.5 Billion Budget

This week the Senate voted to approve its version of the $30.51 billion FY2012 budget bill after a condensed two days of debate on the 599 amendments filed. The budget does not include any new taxes and dramatically reduces the use of non-recurring revenues. In contrast to previous budgets (the FY2011 budget relied on $1.75 billion in onetime revenues) the budget passed by the Senate last night reduces the use of one time revenue to $440 million. According to Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer (D-Barre), the Senate budget represents the smallest year-over-year increase in state spending in 10 years. The House and Senate versions of the FY12 budget will now move to conference committee, where the differences between the two bills will be reconciled. Conference Committee members are expected to named next week.

 

Municipal Health Reform Goes to Conference Committee

Because both the House and Senate budgets included different approaches to municipal health reform, the specifics of that reform will be worked out in conference committee negotiations before the budget is finalized. Both branches claim their versions will save municipalities $100 million in health care costs. Public employee unions issued a more measured response to the Senate’s version of the budget, in contrast to the House plan which enraged public employee unions.  Both the House and Senate versions would give municipalities more autonomy in designing health insurance plans, including the setting of co-payments and deductibles, and limit collective bargaining.

Potential Democratic Challenger to Scott Brown Approached

US Senator Patty Murray of Washington State, director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, confirmed this week that the Democratic Party was in talks with a number of potential candidates to unseat US Senator Scott Brown for the 2012 election. The New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid approached Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren about her candidacy.  Most recent polls have shown Brown with a significant lead over potential Democratic opponents for the 2012 election. In a Suffolk/7NEWS poll from April, 55% of voters believe Brown deserves to be re-elected. Brown presently has $8.3 million in his campaign account. The Democratic primary is scheduled for September 18, 2012.

 

Consumer Confidence Index Down

Consumer confidence fell for the first time since July 2010, dropping significantly in the 2nd quarter of the year. The Massachusetts consumer confidence index is currently at 67, down from 74 in the first quarter. Any score below 100 indicates that consumers are more negative than positive. According to Mass Insight President William Guenther, high unemployment and concerns over housing continue to undermine consumer confidence in the state. For the past two years, the consumer confidence index in Massachusetts has been above nationwide consumer confidence measures.

John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
Executive Director, AIA MA
jnunnari@architects.org
617-951-1433 x263
617-951-0845 (fax)

MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects
The Architects Building
52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301
www.architects.org

Massachusetts Municipal Association Alert – re municipal health insurance

May 27, 2011

SENATE PASSES ITS MUNICIPAL HEALTH INSURANCE REFORM PLAN

SEVERAL LAST-MINUTE CHANGES SPEED PASSAGE BY SENATORS

SENATE ADOPTS $30.5 BILLION STATE BUDGET, ADDS TO SEVERAL LOCAL ACCOUNTS

The Senate completed deliberations on its $30.5 billion version of the fiscal 2012 state budget at 11:58 p.m. on Thursday, May 26, including passage of a municipal health insurance plan that remained mostly intact even after days of heavy union lobbying against the measure, although several last-minute changes were made. The House of Representatives adopted a stronger version of reform in April as part of their state budget proposal.

The House and Senate versions of the state budget and municipal health insurance reform now head to a joint House-Senate conference committee that will agree on a final bill by late June. The MMA will be advocating for passage of the strongest possible reform plan, and we encourage all municipal leaders to call on their legislators to publicly support strong, meaningful and powerful reform that discards all impediments and hurdles to achieving real savings for taxpayers.

This Senate reform proposal is somewhat similar to the House-passed measure in allowing for plan design changes and joining the GIC, yet it sets up a process that provides unions and retirees with a more structured framework. Some elements of that framework may be impractical or costly, so close examination will be necessary. At the end of the day, the Senate proposal gives unions a voice but not a veto over changes in plan co-pays and deductibles, or joining the state GIC, and requires that no more than 33% of the first-year savings be shared with employees, compared to the House’s 20% level.

As we reported last week, the process established by the Senate plan differs somewhat from the House, yet the bottom line is closer than expected – cities and towns would be able to implement plan design changes or join the GIC in order to achieve savings that would be used to protect services and preserve municipal jobs, all while giving municipal employee unions more collective bargaining power over health insurance than state employees. The reform proposal would also require all municipalities to enroll all eligible retirees into Medicare.

SENATE AMENDMENT MAKES LATE CHANGES

Senators adopted an amendment that included a significant number of changes to the original language offered by the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The MMA will be carefully analyzing all of the amendments to determine their full impact to ensure that they do not impede or interfere with reform. Upon initial examination, these changes include:

1) Changing the local acceptance of the statute from a one-time vote of the Board of Selectmen in a town, or a one-time approval of the Mayor (or Manager) and Council in a city, to a vote to accept each time the community seeks to use the new law to change health insurance benefits.

2) Requiring that communities using this new local-option law must adjust, if necessary, the percentage contribution paid by retirees, surviving spouses and dependents to the average percentage contributed by active employees to their plans. This is the same requirement that exists in current law for any community wishing to enroll in the GIC. For some communities, this may not be an issue, but for a very large number, this new requirement could be extremely expensive and prohibitive, devouring most or even all savings from plan design changes. Many communities do not offer coverage for surviving spouses. For example, if a community has an average 80-20 contribution ratio for active employees and an average 70-30 or even 50-50 contribution ratio for retirees, the community would need to shift to an average 80-20 ratio for retirees in order to implement plan design changes under the new law. This could be a major issue in the conference committee, as the House has no such language.

3) Clarifying that the plan design changes that municipalities can initiate under the legislation include increasing co-pays, deductibles and tiered provider network co-payments up to the median amounts in the GIC plans. It appears that this would exclude communities from using the new law to introduce new plans with different provider networks. This section needs additional review to determine whether it would prevent other desired changes as well.

4) Allowing cities and towns to use the new law to transfer its employees and retirees into the state GIC, however, communities would be required to document that the savings realized by entering the GIC would be at least ten percent greater than the amount that would be saved by increasing co-pays, deductibles and tiered network provider co-pays to the maximum allowable level in the community’s existing plans. The MMA supports allowing communities to make the decision to join the GIC regardless of the savings level, and will be analyzing this new threshold requirement to determine whether it would impose a costly barrier.

5) Clarifying that cities and towns may adopt health reimbursement arrangements to mitigate the impact of any plan design change or decision to join the GIC (currently the GIC does not allow HRAs for new entrants). This provision does not mandate HRAs, but does allow them.

6) For all communities that have adopted Section 19 or have enrolled in the GIC, the proposed law would allow communities and public employee committees to request all claims data from the state group insurance commission and all insurers, third party purchasing groups or administrators.

7) Clarifying that for those communities in regional purchasing groups, the participating cities or towns must ensure that their proposed plan design changes presented to the PEC are consistent with the standards set by the joint purchasing group, intended to facilitate the challenging process of making group-wide plan design changes under the proposed law.

8) Addressing the constitutional standard that prevents any new law from interfering with any existing public or private contract, the Senate adopted language as follows: “Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, changes made to health insurance benefits (under this new law) inconsistent with specific dollar amount limits on co-payments, deductibles or other health care plan design features that are included in a collective bargaining agreement in effect on July 1, 2011 or an agreement under section 19 of said chapter 32B between an appropriate public authority and a public employee committee in effect on July 1, 2011 shall not take effect until the expiration of the initial term of such agreement.” While this may be necessary language for those few communities that identify specific co-pay and deductible amounts in current contracts, this language could be highly problematic for any community that has adopted Section 19.


THE SENATE’S GENERAL FRAMEWORK FOR REFORM

  • Each time a community wishes to increase co-pays, deductibles or tiered provider network co-pays or enroll in the GIC, the Board of Selectmen or Mayor/Manager and Council would vote to use the new law.
  • The municipal executive would then propose a plan to modernize the design of their employee health plans or join the state GIC, with a guarantee that all municipal and school employees would still have health plans with co-pays, deductibles and tiered provider network co-payments that are at or lower than the median co-pays and deductibles offered by the GIC.
  • Communities attempting to make plan design changes with the new law would be required, if necessary, to reduce the amount that retirees, surviving spouses and dependents contribute to their premiums, as outlined above. This would be a very costly (and potentially too costly) burden for many cities and towns.
  • The municipal executive’s plan would include 1) the desired plan design changes or entrance into the GIC; 2) the projected 1-year savings (or avoided costs) that the plan would generate; and 3) a plan to mitigate or moderate the impact on retirees, low-income employees and those with very high out-of-pocket costs (such as through a health reimbursement account, through a temporary subsidy of rates, or other proposals).
  • Communities would then convene a Public Employee Committee (PEC) identical to the make-up of the PEC in Section 19 of Chapter 32B. If a community already has adopted Section 19, then that would be the PEC. If a community has not adopted Section 19, then a temporary PEC would be established just for the purpose of negotiating on the proposal offered by the municipal executive.
  • The community and the PEC would have 30 days to reach agreement on the municipality’s proposal.
  • If no agreement is reached, the impasse would be referred to a three-member “municipal health insurance review panel” that includes a municipal representative, a labor representative, and an “impartial” third party from a list of experts in dispute mediation, municipal finance or municipal health benefits that is provided by the Secretary of Administration and Finance. If the community and labor representative cannot decide on the third member, the Secretary shall make the choice.
  • This review panel would have ten days to review and decide four matters: 1) whether the plan design changes for co-pays and deductibles proposed by the community are at or lower than the median level offered by the GIC; 2) what the one-year savings amount would be; 3) for those communities seeking to transfer into the GIC, the panel would certify that the savings would be 10% greater than the savings the community could achieve by implementing plan design changes in its existing plans; and 4) whether the proposal to mitigate or moderate the impact of the changes on retirees, low-income workers and subscribers with high out-of-pocket costs is sufficient.
  • If the municipality’s proposed changes do not exceed the GIC median, the panel is required to approve the immediate implementation of the plan design changes. If the community documents that it would save an additional 10% by joining the GIC, the panel is required to approve the transfer into the GIC.
  • The panel would also confirm the projected savings amount, and would determine whether the mitigation proposal is sufficient. The panel could require additional savings to be dedicated to health reimbursement accounts, premium reductions, or other arrangements, but in no case can the panel designate more than 33% of one-year’s savings to the mitigation plan.
  • Cities and towns would still negotiate any change in the employee-employer premium share, giving municipal unions more bargaining authority over health insurance than state employee unions. Any new co-pays or deductibles higher than the GIC median would have to be approved in collective bargaining.


While the House of Representative’s municipal health insurance reform plan is stronger than the Senate plan, it is important to note that the Senate passed a version that is a huge improvement over previous years. That progress was made possible by the dedicated work of Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer, Vice Chairman Steven Baddour, Vice Chair Jennifer Flanagan, Public Service Chair Katherine Clark, and was facilitated by the support of Senate President Therese Murray. Their efforts are deeply appreciated.

IN BUDGET NEWS, THE SENATE INCREASES SEVERAL LOCAL ACCOUNTS

During the Senate budget debate, Senators voted to increase several local line items as follows:

  • Added $8.5 million to the Special Education Circuit Breaker;
  • Added $3 million to Regional School Transportation;
  • Added $2 million to Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes
  • Added $1 million to the Shannon Grant Program


Board of Selectmen draft minutes from 5/17/11 – http://wp.me/pwOp1-8c

Board of Selectmen – draft minutes for 5/17/11

Meeting Minutes
May 17,2011
Chenery Meeting Room draft
PRESENT: Selectmen Osler L. Peterson, Ann B. Thompson, Mark L. Fisher; Town Administrator
Michael Sullivan; Assistant Town Administrator Kristine Trierweiler; Administrative Assistant
Evelyn Clarke
Chairman Peterson called the meeting to order at 7:00 PM
TREASURER GEORGIA COLIVAS
Ms. Colivas reported to the Selectmen that the June 2009 Annual Town Meeting voted to
appropriate $400,000 to make repairs to the flotation thickeners at the Wastewater Treatment
Plant. This project qualified to be financed through DEP and the MASS Water Pollution
Abatement Trust. However, the Trust at this time cannot give us a date on the first debt service
payment. As the Town has spent about $6500 to date on the project and will continue to spend
in order to complete the project, the Town is able with the cooperation of the Trust receive an
interim loan. The $400,000 loan will bear an interest rate of .24% per annum. Principal and
interest will be payable upon the closing ofthe permanent loan. Ms. Colivas went on to say that
the documents she has that require the Board’s signatures have been reviewed by the Town’s
bonding legal counsel. She is requesting a vote of the Board to approve the issuance ofthe
notes and bonds. On a motion made by Selectman Thompson, seconded by Selectman Fisher it
was
VOTED unanimously to approve and execute related closing documents for the issuance of
bonds in an aggregate principal amount not to exceed $400,000 pursuant to Chapters 29C
and 44 of MASS General Laws and as a vote of the Town in June 2009 authorized a total
borrowing of $400,000 for construction of flotation thickeners and other water pollution
control facilities at the Wastewater Treatment Plant and in anticipation of the issuance of
the Bonds, the Treasurer is hereby authorized to issue an interim loan note not to exceed
$400,000 at .24%.
BLACKSMITH SHOP, JANES AVENUE 1957-1998
Richard DeSorgher remarked to the Board that he and his guest Myron McLane are here to
discuss the donation and a proposed location to display an anvil used in the Blacksmith Shop.
Robert McCarthy, a blacksmith and grandfather to Bill Kelly of Lord’s Department Store owned
the building and operated the business. Mr. McLane served as an apprentice farrier beginning
in 1967 for about eight years. He went on to have his own shop that he continues to operate in
Mansfield. Mr. McLane had a very high regard for Mr. McCarthy and not only learned how to
blacksmith but many life lessons that guided him through the years. He has an anvil that was
given to him by McCarthy and Mr. McLane would very much like to donate it to Medfield and
hopes that the Selectmen will agree to a plan he has in mind to setup sort of a memorial to Mr.
McCarthy. The anvil would be positioned near the location of the shop, which is where the
Janes Avenue parking lot was constructed after the demolition of the blacksmith’s building.
May 17,2011
Page two
He would like to see a plaque placed in the front so that people could read a bit of history and
why this memorial was erected. Mr. McLane offered that he is willing to pay for all costs
involved. Mr. Sullivan said that it would be a very generous tribute to McCarthy who was very
gracious to work with at the time the sale of his building was negotiated. He said that
Superintendent Feeney has offered the highway departments help in any way with the project.
Sullivan said that the Selectmen need to vote authorizing to proceed with the project.
VOTED unanimously to accept the anvil on behalf of the Town of Medfield as a gift
VOTER RE-PRECINCTING
Town Clerk Carol Mayer reported to the Board that there is no change in precinct lines or
boundaries; it remains the same. A vote of the Selectmen is necessary for certification. On a
motion made by Selectman Thompson, seconded by Selectman Fisher it was
VOTED unanimously to accept as presented by the Town Clerk, the 2011
Re-Precincting Plan for the Town of Medfield
MEETING MINUTES
Selectman Peterson requested an amendment to the April 25th minutes; adding the words
“both the substance”. On a motion made and seconded it was
VOTED unanimously to accept the April 25, 2011 minutes as amended and to
Approve the minutes of May 3, 2011
LICENSES & PERMITS
VOTED unanimously to grant permission to the Relay For Life pUblicity Chair to place signs
for two weeks promoting the annual event that will take place June 10-11 in Medway
VOTED unanimously to grant permission to the Medfield Garden Club to put up signs
Advertising their annual Plant Sale on Saturday May 22, 2011
VOTED unanimously to grant permission to the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary
to sell poppies during the Memorial Day Parade, May 30,2011
VOTED to grant New In Towne a one-day wine and beer permit for June 6,2011
Event to be held at the CENTER
VOTED unanimously to grant permission to Medfield Youth Soccer organization to post
Signs announcing registration for the fall 3 v 3 tournament on Sunday October 16, 2011
May 17, 2011
Page three
VOTED to grant permission to MEMO to place signs advertising annual Medfield History Day
On Saturday June 11, 2011
Selectman Thompson abstained from the vote as a member of MEMO
PENDING – MAILBOX REPLACEMENT POLICY
As Selectman Fisher was absent from the May 3 meeting where resident Joe Collins requested
that the Selectmen reconsider their position not to replace mailboxes damaged by snowplows,
Selectmen Peterson and Thompson agreed to discuss the issue at the May 17 meeting. Mrs.
Thompson proposes that Town Meeting decide. Mr. Peterson queried if a survey could be put
on the website for residents to give their opinion. Ms. Trierweiler said that surveys could be
done. Mr. Fisher remarked that during these difficult financial constraints for the Town, a
survey would get a sense of how the townspeople feel about the situation and the replacement
cost. Mr. Collins said that he agrees survey comments would be helpful. Ms. Trierweiler was
advised to set up the survey on the Town’s website.
MEDFIELD STATE HOSPITAL UPDATE
Chairman Peterson announced that the newly appointed DCAM Commissioner Carole
Corneilson has accepted our invitation to attend our meeting on Tuesday June 7. As an arrival
time of 7:30 PM was suggested to her it should allow the Selectmen to take care of business
items before and then devote the meeting to the Commissioner. Mrs. Thompson queried how
we will conduct the meeting. Mr. Sullivan suggested that perhaps individuals could write their
questions on cards and get them here before the meeting so that the Commissioner has an idea
of where to begin. Kristine will talk with Marybeth Clancy for her input.
John Thompson, Chairman of SHERC remarked to the Board that the comments on the Interim
Phase II Report focuses on gaps that his Committee feels warrant explanations. He said that
they are concerned with several areas, the VOC plume, C&D area and we want to make sure
the public water supply is protected. Oil sheen was observed in the Charles River where none
was expected. This water leads into our aquifer so it is a major concern. We want to know
more about the VOC’s discovered to identify the nature of those chemicals and where they are
coming from. VOC can travel in underground utilities like storm drains and maybe these pipes
came from the laundry and boiler and headed into the river. More sampling and testing needs
to be performed to show the extent ofthe contamination. DCAM has worked hard on the
salvage yard to bring it to closure; however, they need to react in a timely fashion when new
parts are discovered. Mr. Thompson was asked his opinion on DCAM’s work so far and the
length of time he feels the cleanup would take. He responded that he feels DCAM will properly
do the work but feels it could take more than five years. However, he said that he thinks it will
not affect the development area. Ms. Trierweiler remarked that recently it was discovered that
a breakin had occurred in the Chapel building to which John Thompson said that is an alarming
situation. We have to caution people, particularly kids to stay away from the buildings as they
May 17,2011
Page four
are not safe. The Selectmen VOTED unanimously to sign the May 17 letter and send to DCAM
with the summary of comments on the Interim Phase /I Report.
It was announced that the PIP meeting is posted for Thursday May 26,2011, 7:30 PM in Town
Hall, second floor. Also announced, the Release Abatement Measure Status Report, Salvage
Yard, is available at the Medfield Library.
SELECTMEN REPORT
Mrs. Thompson attended a Lions Club meeting and listened to the owner of Blue Moon Cafe
describe how his business got started; the Mother’s Day Pancake Breakfast was a good success;
attended the MEMO monthly meeting held at Glen Ellen. She said that she has received
comments about how much the Board of Selectmen may disagree with each other while
remaining civil. She said that she has always felt that it is good to agree to disagree.
Mr. Fisher remarked that as he was out of town attending his son’s college graduation, he has
no report.
Mr. Peterson remarked that the Council on Aging Volunteer recognition event was ~njoyable
and very well put together. Mr. Peterson commented on a proposed COA Caregivers Program
that COA Director Roberta Lynch discussed with him. He is of the opinion that this is very
worthwhile to have in Medfield. A fee of $27.00 for a 9-3 day would cover some of the costs.
Mrs. Thompson agrees as she has had some insight to just the number of people who are
caregivers and really need assistance. Mr. Sullivan mentioned that there are state
requirements to be met and he has concerns that we may bite off more than we can chew.
The Selectmen agree that Ms. Lynch should move forward with a plan for the scope of the
project to present to the Board.
I N FORMATIONAL
Mr. Sullivan said that the Town has received notice from the Attorney General’s Office that
Warrant Articles 23 and 29 have their approval.
He reminded the listening audience to vote on Monday May 23 at the CENTER 6AM to 8PM.
ADJOURNMENT
On a motion made by Selectman Thompson, seconded by Selectman Fisher the Board voted to
adjourn the meeting at 8:50 PM.
Respectfully submitted,
Evelyn Clarke

Weekly Political Report – Week Ending May 20, 2011

Week Ending May 20, 2011

Senate Committee on Ways and Means Releases Budget

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released its $30.5 billion FY2012 budget, which is within a few million dollars of the budget passed by the House and proposed by Governor Patrick earlier this year. The Senate’s recommendations require $1.5 billion in spending cuts from FY2011 levels, $440 million in non-recurring revenues and $209 million in rainy day funds to close the deficit. Amendments to the budget are due at noon today and debate is expected to begin on Wednesday, May 25th. Last month the House approved their own version of the $30.5 billion budget bill, which contained cuts across almost every line item.

Municipal Health Reform Included in Senate Budget

The Senate included municipal health reform as part of the Senate budget process by offering a proposal that would give unions a larger negotiating role than in the House approved plan, while maintaining $100 million in health care cost savings.  The House approved a plan last month as part of the budget that would give municipalities more autonomy in designing health insurance plans, including the setting of co-payments and deductibles, and limit collective bargaining. The House plan enraged public employee unions, who vowed that Democratic members who voted in support would face political consequences. The Senate version establishes that if an agreement between labor and management cannot be met on health care issues, then a three member committee must be established to continue negotiations.  In compassion to the House plan, the Senate proposal increases the time for negotiation from thirty to forty days and sets aside 33% instead of 20% of first year savings that can be used to mitigate the impact on municipal health care subscribers. Public employee unions issued a more measured response to the Senate’s proposal. Given the differences between the House and Senate proposals, this matter will be subject to conference committee negotiations before the budget is finalized.

Committee Holds First Hearing on Governor’s Payment Reform Legislation

On Monday, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing listened to testimony for six hours on Governor Patrick’s health care payment reform bill. The Governor’s bill, HB 1849, An Act relative to improving the quality of health care and controlling costs by reforming health systems and payments, would move Massachusetts away from a fee-for-service model of payment and towards an integrated patient care model that creates incentives for doctors and hospitals to focus on preventive medicine and global health outcomes. Governor Patrick and members of his administration testified, along with health care providers, insurers, and consumer and public health advocates. Among the concerns raised were over-regulation of the health care industry, concerns about jobs losses, consolidation of providers and increased market power and loss of market innovation. The Committee on Health Care Financing will hold a series of hearings on this bill across the state over the next two months. Speaker DeLeo said earlier this year that he expects action on this issue to be completed before the end of the two year legislative cycle.

 

Court Reform Bill Passes Unanimously in the Senate

Following the passage last week by the House of HB 3395, which would reorganize the Massachusetts Trial Court and reform the Probation Department, the Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to pass the bill with some changes. A Boston Globe series on alleged corruption and a report last year by an independent counsel detailing hiring patronage precipitated the bill’s passage. Neither the House nor the Senate version included the Governor’s proposal to merge the probation department into an agency within the executive branch and instead leaves the agency as part of the judiciary. The bill will now go to conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions.

Massachusetts Unemployment Below 8% for First Time in Two Years

Unemployment in the state was down .2% in April to 7.89%, according to a Patrick Administration jobs report.  Massachusetts gained 19,500 jobs last month, as the statewide unemployment rate fell below 8% for the first time since 2009. The highest gains were in the accommodations and food services sector, which added 6,400 jobs.

Tax Collection Figures for first half of May Released

Following last month’s dramatic increase in tax revenues, on Wednesday the Massachusetts Department of Revenue released the tax collection figures for the first half of May.  The state collected $61 million less during the two week period compared to one year earlier. According to Navjeet Bal, the state revenue commissioner, she attributed the decrease to processing and timing factors and said that the large surplus in April appears to have been borrowed from May. Previous supplemental budget spending this fiscal year has erased much of April’s benchmark gains in revenue.

John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
Executive Director, AIA MA
jnunnari@architects.org
617-951-1433 x263
617-951-0845 (fax)

MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects
The Architects Building
52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301
www.architects.org

Thoughts about the votes yesterday on the overrides – http://wp.me/pwOp1-84

DPW Garage Vote

Someone kindly reached out to ask me some questions about the vote on the DPW garage, as has the press, so I will take my response and tweak it here to serve both my fellow  residents and the press.

The contrary votes yesterday on the DPW garage and the budget override indicated to me that Medfield voters are making real choices between issues.  It also indicated to me that the planning for the DPW garage needs to continue anew.  There is no question but that we need to build something new for a town garage, we just need to determine what that will be.  So that planning process should start right away.

I believe that making improvements in town governance is more akin to a marathon than a sprint, so based on our recent town meeting I have already put together and shared with the town administrators, my colleagues on the Board of Selectmen, and readers of this blog a list on things that I think the town should be doing differently to make town meeting next year work better, and much of that has to do with getting people better information in advance of town meeting about the issues upon which they are asked to vote.

As regards the DPW garage, first, I see my role as a selectman as being to gather information on behalf of the residents by reading materials and attending those many nightly meetings that residents cannot attend (last night it was about how to reduce Lyme disease in town), synthesizing that information, making evaluations, and then reporting back to the residents what I have learned.  I profess no greater abilities to make decisions, only a willingness to do the work.

Second, as regards my comments on the DPW garage, I had followed my usual procedures, but I did not hear the answers to my concerns before the town meeting, and so I stated those concerns briefly at the town meeting.  After town meeting, because I had spoken against the garage, I was asked by Richard DeSorgher to create a series of bullet points of my concerns about the DPW garage to assist Medfield High School students debate the issue, which I did.  Once that list was drafted, I then decided to share it with the town as a whole, so that my thinking could be better understood, as part of that reporting back function as a selectman.

Third, my position is that I am skeptical about what has been proposed, but I am willing to be convinced that the proposed building, or any other one, is the proper one for the town – I just want to see the case get made.  My understanding is that once we vote the monies, we will get that precise building.  In my experience, it is not a process similar to what Jim Munz posited, were we constructing a building  for ourselves or our businesses, where there could be a tweaking of the design once it is voted.  Medfield cannot do as Google just did, to bond monies now and decide later what to do.  If we could have voted the monies now and decided on the building details later, I would have supported that idea.  That reality was why it was important to me to make sure we were getting the right building details, and we can only be sure it is the right building after the case has been made and all questions answered.  The cost of the garage is a function of its size, so we need to be comfortable with its size, and size is driven by the details I questioned.

Fourth, I agree that it is an opportune time to build municipal buildings for the reasons you cite, low interest and few other construction projects.  Also, I was educated that the cost per square foot was in the ballpark, as Greg Sullivan, an architect on the Warrant Committee, assured me at a meeting a month before town meeting that the then price, I believe of $212/sq. ft., was what town garages really cost.

Fifth, I think that now we need to have this or some other DPW garage building explained to the town, and if that is done, perhaps the town will then vote to build it.  If the driver is taking advantage of the current financing and construction climate, then we can hold a special town meeting sooner that the next annual town meeting.