Monthly Archives: April 2014

MSH bill’s legislative hearing – check

At 2:30PM this afternoon I attended the totally uneventful  legislative hearing at the State House, Room B-2, before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight for the Medfield State Hospital bill (H4050).  That is the special legislation that will allow the state to sell the Medfield State Hospital to the Town of Medfield.  Per Representative Denise Garlick , only this one public hearing is required, but the bill still needs to move through several other committees before it can be voted.  The town is hoping for passage of the bill before the end of July.

Representative Denise Garlick, who took time out from her reported twelve hour day budget hearing duties this week, introduced the town officials to the committee, having already done her homework ahead to explain the bill to the committee members.

Testifying at the hearing for the Town of Medfield were

  • Assistant Town Administrator, Kristine Trierweiler
  • Chair of the State Hospital Advisory Committee, Steve Nolan

Attending from DCAM were:

  • Carole Cornelison, Commissioner
  • Dana Harrell, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Real Estate Services,
  • Mary Beth Clancy, Senior Project Manager
  • John Billera, Director of Business Impact Services
  • Martha McMahon, Deputy General Counsel

The hearing lasted all of ten minutes, with the only real question being posed to the Commissioner, and that being what is happening to the purchase money.  The answer was that it is going to the secretariat, the Executive Office of Human Services’ (EOHS), for capital purposes.  That is dealt with in the first section of the bill, so it would appear the member had not read the bill.  The committee was composed of about seven Senators and representatives, who asked to see maps – and Kris had brought them maps, which were explained by Steve Nolan.

Interestingly, the Committee chair mentioned that he had written the reuse plan for the Northampton State Hospital.

There were two other bill hearings scheduled for this afternoon before this committee.

Also in attendance were

  • Elizabeth Broda, Legislative Director from the Office of Senator James E. Timilty
  • Amanda Bernardo, Aide to Representative Garlick

A lot of people power was brought to bear for what turned out to be a very quick hearing – however, better to be safe.

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ATM results – 41 out of 45

At the three hour annual town meeting (ATM) last night all but one article passed, with the adoption of the stretch code for buildings being the only article that was defeated.  By my ear, I noted that article lost by about 60% to 40%.  Defeat of that article prevents the town from becoming a Green Community under the Massachusetts Green Communities Act, and therefore claiming the $148,000 state DOER grant that we would have been awarded as a Green Community.

Leasing authority to the Board of Selectmen for lot 3 on Ice House Road passed by about 70% to 30%, again to my ears.

The 0.75% local option meals (about $100,000 per year for the town) tax passed, also to my ears, by a 70% to 30% margin.

Three articles were dismissed:

  • Article 27 – Medfield Park & Recreation Commission seeking to have lot 3 transferred to them.  MPRC now has its sights set upon land at the Medfield State Hospital site instead.
  • Article 38 – seeking $80,000 to build out and create the Straw Hat Park was dismissed after the Warrant Committee recommended its dismissal due to other budget constraints this year.
  • Article 39 – seeking to create a walking path from Wild Holly Lane to the Wheelock School was dismissed after the Conservation Commission’s agent raised questions about whether the proposed path was in wetlands.

All other articles passed by unanimous votes, including the following highlights:

  • The town’s operating budget came in at $53,491,540.
  • $500,000 of free cash was voted to be used to reduce property taxes.
  • $6m. to build the new water tower and water mains to it at the former Medfield State Hospital site.
  • $850,000 to complete design drawings for the new public safety building.  It was the decision to pay for that cost out of the operating budget that made the budget tight this year.  That public safety building is expected to cost about $19m.

With only two articles remaining, a gentleman stepped to a mike to question whether there was still a quorum.  It was clear to anyone in the room that there were no longer 250 people in the Medfield High School gym at that point.  If the man had invoked the magic words “quorum call,” the ATM would have had to grind to an early end, adjourn, and reconvene this evening if 250 residents would attend.  Luckily the moderator first assured the man that it seemed to him that there were enough residents.  Then the moderator effectively finessed the question, the man sat down, and then fifteen minutes later the ATM successfully concluded.

Cultural Council get $4,250 at ATM

The Cultural Council got a first time $4,250 budget out of our annual town meeting (ATM) last night, a request that was so modest for a return that is so big, that it made that decision easy for me even in a year of self-created tight budget decisions.  The Cultural Council gets $4,250 from the sate each year, so they will now have double the budget going forward.

My summary I had written out, if the Board of Selectmen needed me to speak to it, was going to be:

  • Small money
  • Big Value
  • Huge addition to quality of life

I have come to believe that the quality of life in town is the sum of the many small things that happen that are interesting and good, and all the items supported by the Cultural Council are high on that list.  Their new grant awards ceremony this past month is the newest one of those.

I want to believe in the idea that spending on the arts redounds to the community economically as well, as I have heard, but I am still not sure about that in my mind.  Regardless, I feel it is still worthwhile spending even if we do not get a direct financial return out of our spending on the arts.

Shawn Dooley is on board

Representative Shawn Dooley emailed me back that he thinks he is 100% on board with the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s budget positions.  I both like that he agrees with the MMA’s positions and that he actually had positions on all the MMA’s issues, given how many issues the MMA sent out.

Emailed Reps about budget issues

I just emailed our Representatives to ask them to support the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s priorities as they vote this week on the budget issues.  The MMA set forth its positions on those House budget issues in an alert to me (a copy of the alert appears below) –

Monday, April 28, 2014

HOUSE DEBATE ON FY 2015 STATE BUDGET BEGINS TODAY – CALL YOUR REPS.

Lawmakers Will Decide the Fate of 1,175 Amendments

Please Call Your Representatives Today on the Budget Amendments that Impact Key Municipal and School Priorities

The House of Representatives will begin debating the $36 billion fiscal 2015 state budget today (Monday, April 28).  The deliberations are expected to take several days, as Representatives have filed 1,175 amendments to make changes to H. 4000, the House Ways & Means Committee’s budget recommendation that was released earlier this month.  

Many of these amendments would directly impact cities and towns, including a number of welcome amendments that would increase funding for municipal and school aid accounts, and several unwelcome amendments that would have a negative impact on municipalities.  This Legislative Alert describes the most important amendments that will be debated. 

Please Call Your Representatives Today

Please call your Representatives as soon as possible today to secure their support for those amendments that would help your community, and ask them to oppose those amendments that would be harmful.  Lawmakers must hear from you on these issues.  Because of the great number of amendments, the summaries here are very brief.  Please contact MMA Legislative Director John Robertson at jrobertson@mma.org or 617-426-7272 x122 at any time if you have questions or need more details.

Read the proposed budget and amendments here: The House budget committee recommendation (H. 4000) and all proposed amendments are posted on the Legislature’s website at: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2015/House/WaysAndMeans

No amendments allowed on UGGA or Chapter 70 funding.  Because of the Budget Order adopted by House members earlier this month, amendments and debate will not be allowed on proposals related to the two main Cherry Sheet accounts, Chapter 70 school aid and Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA).  When the Budget Order was adopted, House leaders said that funding levels for these essential aid programs were determined by the Local Aid Resolution adopted by the House in March.  Thus, H. 4000 would provide a $25 million increase in UGGA funding, and appropriate the same Chapter 70 amount that the Governor filed in January, an overall increase of $99.7 million, with most cities, towns and school districts receiving anemic minimum aid increases of $25 per student.  

Amendments related to all other municipal and school aid accounts and to law changes are allowed under the Budget Order, including the following amendments that are highlighted below:

KEY BUDGET AMENDMENTS ON SCHOOL AND EDUCATION FUNDING

Support Funding for Reimbursements for Charter Schools Losses
Under state law, cities and towns that host or send students to charter schools are entitled to be reimbursed for a portion of their lost Chapter 70 aid.  The state fully funded the reimbursement program in fiscal 2013, but is underfunding the reimbursements called for in state law by approximately $28 million this year.  The Governor’s budget would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $75 million, which would guarantee a shortfall of $29 million in fiscal 2015.  The HW&M budget would increase reimbursements by $5 million, to a total of $80 million.  This represents slight progress, but the program would still be underfunded by $24 million.  

Shortfalls in the charter school reimbursement program cause major fiscal distress in every community that has a significant charter school presence.  Only a small fraction of the public school students attend charter schools.  Underfunding this program would force cutbacks for the vast majority of students who remain in the traditional school setting.

Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 993 filed by Rep. Malia and 26 others to fully fund charter school reimbursements due to cities, towns and regional school districts by providing the full $104.3 million necessary to meet the state’s obligation.  The MMA also supports Amendment 124 filed by Rep. Moran and others, and Amendment 412 filed by Rep. Peisch, as each of these amendments also intend to fully fund this essential account.  

Support Funding for McKinney-Vento Homeless Student Transportation Costs
The HW&M and Governor’s budgets would level-fund reimbursements for the transportation of homeless students at $7.4 million, which is $7.5 million below the full reimbursement called for under the state’s unfunded mandate law.  Two years ago, the State Auditor ruled that the adoption of the federal McKinney-Vento law imposed an unfunded mandate on cities and towns.  The program was funded at $11.3 million in fiscal 2013 and cut to $7.4 million in fiscal 2014.  Level-funding the program would continue to impose a significant burden on those cities and towns that are providing transportation services to homeless children who have been placed in their communities by the state.

Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 999 filed by Rep. Heroux and 38 others, Amendment 772 filed by Rep. Stanley and others, and Amendment 747 filed by Rep. Poirier and others.  All of these amendments would fully fund the $14.9 million in reimbursements due to municipalities and school districts for the cost of transporting homeless students from temporary shelters to school.  

Support Net School Spending Equity Under Chapter 70
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 1166 filed by Rep. Fennell and others to allow all municipal and regional school districts, at local option, to count spending on health insurance for retired school employees toward the “net school spending” requirement under Chapter 70.  Unfortunately, current rules exclude these costs from net school spending in some districts, but allow the costs to count in others.  This year, there are harsh financial penalties facing many cities, towns and school districts unless the law is changed to provide parity for all communities.  This amendment would ensure equity by providing all cities, towns and districts with the ability to count insurance costs for their retired school employees.

Support Funding for Regional School District Student Transportation
Funding for school transportation costs is vital to regional districts and member cities and towns, particular in sparsely populated parts of the state. The HW&M budget would provide $53.5 million for regional school transportation reimbursements, which is $2 million more than this year and an improvement over the Governor’s level-funded budget, but is still nearly $7 million below fiscal 2008 levels and is far below the $78 million required for full funding. Decades ago, the state promised 100 percent reimbursement as an incentive for towns and cities to regionalize, and the underfunding of this account has presented serious budget challenges for these districts, taking valuable dollars from the classroom.

Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 266 filed by Rep. Turner and 38 others, Amendment 493 filed by Rep. Naughton, and Amendment 619 filed by Rep. Kuros.  All of these amendments would increase transportation reimbursements to regional school districts by an additional $4 million to bring fiscal 2015 funding to $57.5 million.

Support Funding for Out-of-District Vocational Education Student Transportation
The fiscal 2014 state budget included a $3 million item to reimburse communities for a portion of the state-mandated cost of transporting students to out-of-district placements in vocational schools.  This account recognizes the significant expense of providing transportation services for out-of-district placements, as these students must travel long distances to participate in vocational programs that are not offered locally, and state law mandates communities to provide the transportation.  The HW&M budget would reduce this funding level by 50%, down to an underfunded level of $1.5 million (the Governor’s budget eliminated all funding).  

Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 543 filed by Rep. Lombardo to fully fund the $3.8 million cost of transporting students to out-of-district placements in vocational schools.

Oppose Automatic Approval of Regional School District Stabilization Funds
Please ask your Representatives to oppose Amendment 151 that would establish a system of automatic approval of the establishment of stabilization funds in regional school districts.  Chapter 71 of the General Laws provides a fair and reasonable approval process through which member cities and towns may authorize the establishment of a stabilization fund in the local regional school district.  Amendment 151 would allow a fund to be established if a member city or town did not call a Town Meeting within 60 days to reject the proposal.  Most stabilization funds are capped at a reasonable level, but the stabilization funds in regional school districts are allowed to grow at a huge level up to double the levy ceiling in member communities.  Because of the enormous amount of taxpayer dollars at stake, this automatic and expedited approval mechanism should be rejected, and towns and cities should have a full say in the process.
 
Support the Formation of a Foundation Budget Review Commission
The foundation budget school spending standard that guides Chapter 70 funding was first enacted as part of the landmark 1993 education reform law and has largely remained unchanged since that time.  In addition to the need to adjust the foundation budget to reflect the many substantial changes that have occurred in public education over the past 20 years, the current foundation budget structure clearly understates many key education expenses, and does not fully reflect the cost of operating modern school systems, as evidenced by the fact that cities and towns spend $2.1 billion more to run their schools than the amount called for in the foundation budget.

Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 243 filed by Rep. Ehrlich and 33 others, and Amendment 771 filed by Rep. O’Connell and others, to re-establish the Foundation Budget Review Commission under Chapter 70 for the purpose of reviewing the way that the foundation budget is calculated.   

KEY BUDGET AMENDMENTS ON MUNICIPAL AID ACCOUNTS AND MUNICIPAL MANAGEMENT POLICY

Support and Preserve Municipal Decision-Making Authority on Health Insurance
Outside Section 32 of the HW&M budget would unilaterally extend a 3-year freeze on changing retiree health insurance contribution percentages by an additional two years.  Under existing law, any city or town that used sections 22 or 23 of Chapter 32B (the 2011 municipal health insurance reform law) to implement plan design changes or join the GIC is prohibited from changing retiree health insurance contribution percentages until July 1, 2014.  Section 32 would extend that freeze for two more years, until July 1, 2016, for any municipality that adopted or is planning on adopting provisions of the 2011 municipal health insurance reform law. This proposed change would reverse planned contribution changes that have already been adopted by some cities and towns, and would delay the ability to take action on retiree contribution percentages in many others.

Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 498, which would strike Section 32 from the HW&M budget and preserve the decision-making power of cities and towns to determine health insurance contribution percentages for retirees.  Municipal officials have been operating in good faith under the current law, and it is unfair and unwise to interfere with their authority to act in the best interests of local taxpayers, employees and retirees.

Oppose Attempts to Circumvent and Weaken Municipal Personnel Laws
Please ask your Representatives to oppose Amendment 804, which would significantly weaken the smoking prohibition for public safety employees.  

Because of special provisions in state law that established a work-related presumption for heart and lung disease for public safety personnel, state law mandates a no smoking rule for public safety employees.  Under Chapter 32 of the General Laws, any police officer or firefighter with heart disease and any firefighter with lung disease or lung cancer is automatically eligible for a disability pension, but the enactment of these presumptions included an absolute ban on the use of tobacco products because smoking and tobacco use is the primary and overwhelming cause of heart and lung disease and cancer. Under Section 101A of Chapter 41, employees who violate this strict prohibition are subject to dismissal.  This has been the law since 1988.  

But Amendment 804 would reverse 26 years of standing law and personnel policy, and instead mandate that cities and towns offer a smoking cessation program to those who violate the policy and keep the presumption in place for these employees in spite of their use of tobacco products, with only a subsequent violation being grounds for removal.  All public safety personnel are aware of the no smoking rule, and violations must be addressed fully because the special treatment and protections that are in place were granted only on the condition that these employees refrain from tobacco use.  Amendment 804 would remove a very important taxpayer protection, and should be rejected.

Support Funding for Payments-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT)
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 753 filed by Rep. D’Emilia to add $3.5 million to increase funding of payments to cities and towns in lieu of taxes for state-owned land (PILOT).  This is a particularly important Cherry Sheet program for the cities and towns that host and provide municipal services to state facilities that are exempt from the local property tax.  The Governor’s proposed budget would cut $500K from the program, and the HW&M budget would restore the $500K to level-fund the account at this year’s level of $26.9 million.  Amendment 753 would bring the account up to $30.4 million.

Support Funding for the Shannon Anti-Gang Grant Program
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 383 filed by Rep. Brady and 43 others to increase funding for the Shannon anti-gang grant program that has helped cities and towns respond to and suppress gang-related activities.  This amendment would add $4 million and bring total funding up to $8 million, which is the same level proposed by the Governor.

Support Funding for the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 386, filed by Rep. Brady and others to increase funding of the Safe and Supportive Youth Initiative from $4 million to $9.5 million. The program seeks to reduce youth violence through wraparound services for those most likely to be victims or perpetrators, and is vital to violence prevention efforts in dozens of communities.
 
Support Funding for Summer Jobs for At-Risk Youth
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 427 filed by Rep. Fox and others, and to support Amendment 1144 filed by Rep. Conroy and others, to increase funding for youth summer jobs from $8 million to $12 million. This funding is critical to providing employment opportunities for at-risk teenagers in our cities and towns, especially with youth unemployment rates climbing.

Support Transparency in Water Management Regulations
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 70 filed by Rep. Peterson to require the Department of Environmental protection to appear before the Legislature’s Committee on the Environment, Natural and Agriculture to explain the terms and implementation of proposed regulations governing water management before the regulations can be finalized.  

The state’s Sustainable Water Management Initiative proposes dramatic changes to permitting under the Water Management Act by establishing new biological categorizations and basing water withdrawal thresholds on new and unprecedented stream flow criteria. This regulatory scheme would limit water withdrawals, the main source of water system revenues, and at the same time increase costs for water suppliers by imposing additional mitigation measures.

KEY BUDGET AMENDMENTS ON CAPITAL SPENDING PRIORITIES

Support Funding for Dam and Seawall Repairs
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 1155 filed by Rep. Cantwell and others to appropriate $10 million for the Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Fund.  There are approximately 3,000 dams in Massachusetts, most of which are in disrepair and causing damage to the environment and posing public safety risks. In 2011, the State Auditor reported that the state’s aging and neglected stock of dams poses a “significant threat to public safety’’ and requires an estimated $60 million in repairs.  Additional funding, along with the law enacted last year limiting the amount of nutrients in fertilizers, would go a long way toward improving the health of our lakes, rivers and streams.

Support Brownfields Redevelopment Funds
Please ask your Representatives to support Amendment 915 filed by Rep. Walsh and others and Amendment 121 filed by Rep. Moran and others to increase available funding for Brownfields redevelopment projects.  This funding is critical to the successful redevelopment of former industrial sites and will enhance local economic development efforts across the state, and improve the environment.  Amendment 915 would allocate up to $45 million from the fiscal 2014 year-end surplus to Brownfield projects, and Amendment 121 would provide a $30 million appropriation in the fiscal 2015 state budget.

Please Call Your Representatives Today on the Budget Amendments that Impact Your Community!

Library survey

From the Medfield Memorial Library –

Strategic Planning Survey

The Medfield Library is undergoing a planning process to drive its vision and direction for the coming five years. A committee comprised of community members, library staff, and library trustees is leading this five-year vision planning. The process seeks to better align services and programs with the needs of the Medfield community and its residents. We invite you to participate in this survey to guide this process. Please note that your responses will remain anonymous. Thank you for your input – it will help improve your library! This survey takes approximately five minutes to complete.

LIBRARY SURVEY

$6m. for new water tower & lines

These emails from Mike and town’s Water & Sewer consultant last week laying out the expected $6m. cost of the new water tower and new water mains at the former Medfield State Hospital site.  The $6m. figure will be what is used at the annual town meeting (ATM) tonight –

Gus, Pete, Richard, Mark and Scott. Bids for water mains opened this afternoon and results attached. Revised estimate for town meeting appropriation also attached. Based on this estimate, I’ll prepare a motion to appropriate $6 million for the State Hospital water tower and mains, of which $160,000 will be from North and Green St bond funds and $5,840,000 will be authorized for bonding. Let me know if that’s okay  and I’ll have Evelyn put it in the motion folders. Please do not post the results on your blogs, as the Water and Sewer Commissioners have not yet had a chance to see or to review this information. Thanks Mike

From: “Paul C. Millett”
Sent: Wednesday, April 23, 2014 5:02 PM
To:
Subject: Updated: Medfield Water Project: Hospital Rd. Water Main and Tank Cost Estimate

Update:

We received and opened 12 bids this afternoon for the watermain project.  The bids ranged from $1.65M to $2.265M.

The apparent low bidder is Oliviera Construction Inc. Somerset, MA.

The next three bids were $1.780M, $1.794M and $1.799M.  A copy of a portion of the bid results checklist is attached.

EPG will review all bids for math errors, accuracy and completeness and issue a letter of recommendation by the end of the week.

I spoke with Mike Oliviera from Oliviera Construction this afternoon around 4:30 p.m and he is comfortable with his bid of $1.65M.

I updated the total project cost table using the low bid amount of $1.65M.  The revised table is attached.

The total project cost is now $6.018M…say $6M.  This includes 10% contingency and 10% for engineering services during construction.  The tank cost estimate is based on quotes from 3 tank contractors.

There are costs for CSX fees during the pipe jacking construction under the tracks that are unknown at this time. CSX will not provide a firm price for the # of flagmen, inspectors etc. or the total cost. These costs may be in $25-50k range and will be taken from contingency.

Conclusion:

This total project cost estimate is now $0.4M less than last week’s (April 18) estimate of $6.4M.

For overall budgeting purposes, I would recommend that $6M be used as the total project cost at this time.  If a 5% contingency is used, then the total project cost drops to about $5.8M. However, until the additional soil testing at the tank is completed (we are still waiting for DCAMM approval for Round 2 of sampling), I would recommend against reducing the contingency at this time.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Regards,

Paul