Essex Town Administrator’s Report


Board of Selectmen’s Meeting of November 15, 2021

Report covers issues from October 30, 2021 to November 12, 2021

Cyber Security Awareness Training Grant Application

The Massachusetts Office of Municipal and School Technology is offering cyber security awareness training for all municipal employees through a grant program.  The application for the program was recently released and I filled it out and electronically submitted it on behalf of the Board.  This training will complement the social engineering and phishing testing that we already undertake with a third-party consultant.

Essex River Bridge Replacement Project Update

The Town Administrator (TA) attended a construction meeting concerning the subject project on November 9, 2021, along with the Superintendent of Public Works.  The contractor for the project plans to start work during the first week in December and will begin by preparing for the installation of the bypass bridge. Prior to the virtual meeting, the principal engineer for the contractor walked the project area with the Superintendent of Public Works to review some utility issues.  He also walked the area behind the tennis courts at Memorial Park with the Superintendent and Mr Zubricki since the contractor would like to use that area as a laydown area for temporary bridge components through February.  The Superintendent will allow the use of the area for that purpose.

Old Fire/Police Station Site Restoration Update

Chairman Pereen and the TA attended construction meetings relative to this project on November 2 and 9, 2021.  After our contractor brought in a pipe locator company to better understand the site drainage problem better, the site subcontractor was able to dig down to the broken drainage pipe on the east side of the project area to allow the site to start draining.  Subsequently, the subcontractor dug down on the west side of the site and found the other end of the drainage pipe.  Once that pipe end was also opened up, water began to flow from the areas behind the ball field backstop toward the project area.  The subcontractor allowed that flow to continue through the project area while a final trench and new pipe connecting the two ends were being prepared.  Ultimately, the new pipe was installed from the drainage structure under Shepard Memorial Drive to the east side of the project site, to avoid any problems with reuse of old pipe in that area (which was very brittle and likely already partially collapsed).  The subcontractor will later install a subdrain system to pick up groundwater and infiltration on the project site (which had formerly been conveyed to the main drainage pipe via foundation drains around the old building).  After new site drainage work has been completed, the contractor will look toward the trench necessary for a new, buried electric line.  National Grid replaced the utility pole that will feed that buried line on November 9, 2021.  Further, while the provision of a prefabricated building that will display the Town’s antique fire pumper is still a long way off, the item has a long lead time and the Board should begin to focus more on that building’s final design.  To that end, the TA was able to use an on-line tool to develop detailed drawings with respect to what the building could look like.

Monthly Pothole Log

Mr Zubricki received the pothole log for the month of October from the DPW during the week of November 8, 2021.  The log is intended to document reported potholes and swift repairs.  No potholes were reported during October.

Freeze-up Prevention Inspections

Each year, personnel from the DPW and the Police Department conduct weekend temperature checks in each of the Town buildings to ensure that heating systems are running (preventing pipe freeze ups).  The TA has distributed this year’s recording forms to the Chief of Police and the Superintendent of Public Works.  Participation in this program prevents expensive repairs and provides the Town with a discount on our property liability insurance premium.

Senior Center Furnace Replacement

Even though it had appeared at the end of the week of October 25, 2021 that the furnace at the Senior Center could be repaired by replacing a motor, we learned after the printing of the last report that the entire system requires replacement.  Two separate contractors have now come to that conclusion and we requested quotes from three contractors for the replacement project.  The lowest quote was $10,950 and work has been completed.  Funding will be considered by the Fall Town Meeting this evening and the Finance Committee’s Reserve Fund will be utilized if Town Meeting declines.

Annual Fire Extinguisher Inspection and Replacement

As is the case each year, the Selectmen’s Assistant has contacted our fire extinguisher contractor to inspect and replace as necessary any fire extinguishers in the Town Hall/Library and the Senior Center.  The Fire Department and DPW arrange for separate annual inspections of the extinguishers in other Town buildings.

Selectmen, Finance Committee, and School District Joint Mtg. Summary

The Board met jointly with the Essex Finance Committee and personnel and officials from the Manchester Essex Regional School District on November 3, 2021.  The meeting featured a primer for new Finance Committee members as to how the school budget development process works each year, along with primary drivers.  The group also discussed future strategies to maintain a predictable and reasonable overall apportionment increase and how each community might be able to plan for pupil enrollment-related apportionment spikes.

Addison Gilbert Hospital Triennial Community Health Needs Assessment

Addison Gilbert Hospital (AGH) assesses the health needs of the Cape Ann communities once every three years. Part of that process involves interviewing local officials concerning those needs.  The TA participated in that process via a virtual meeting, along with Board of Health Administrator Erin Kirchner on November 8, 2021. Generally, we provided background with respect to a number of related topics ranging from general Town characteristics to the Town’s response to COVID.  AGH will use the information collected from the four Cape Ann communities to tailor future programs and services.

Zoning Bylaw Review Kickoff Meeting and Town Tour

Chairman Pereen and Mr Zubricki joined members of the Planning Board, the Town Planner,

and personnel from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) on November 2, 2021 with respect to the Town zoning bylaw review process. MAPC personnel reviewed project objectives with the group and then we all boarded a small bus for a comprehensive tour of the Town. In the coming weeks, MAPC plans to provide the Town with some overall, initial observations and to eventually work with the Town to set up a public forum for discussion of various concepts and public input.

Discussion of Final Fall Town Meeting Motions

The TA has developed final motions for tonight’s Fall Town Meeting, in accordance with the Board’s guidance from the last meeting.

Further Exploration of the Establishment of an Affordable Housing Trust

The Board discussed in the past the concept of establishing an Affordable Housing Trust with a new Town bylaw in the future.  The Board desired at that time to explore the concept further and the Essex Housing Coalition also supports this exploration.  Chairman Pereen and the TA discussed the potential formation of a trust with Shelly Goehring of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership (MHP), the Town Planner, and Dana LeWinter of the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA) on November 2, 2021.  Generally, a new Town bylaw could be proposed in the spring of 2022 that would establish an Affordable Housing Trust, define its membership, and set parameters for its operation.  Both public and private funding could go into the care of the Trust and the Trust would decide which types of housing-related projects to use the money on.  Presently, MHP is willing to offer their public information sessions entitled “Affordable Housing Trusts 101” and we have arranged for that to occur, via remote conference, on December 6, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.

Green Communities Grant Program Annual Report

In order to remain eligible to compete for additional Green Communities Grant funding in the spring of 2022, the Town is required to provide an annual report to the State by November 19, 2021.  New Town Planner Dana Menon has been working on completing the report and expects to submit it in advance of the deadline.  We are presently collaborating with the Manchester Essex Regional School District to finish up a building automations system installation with this

year’s round of funding.

Town Administrator Leave

Mr Zubricki was out of the office, on leave, from November 3, 2021 through November 5, 2021 and on November 12, 2021.

Veterans’ Day Holiday

The office was closed on November 11, 2021, in observance of the subject holiday.

This report is available at on the morning after any regularly

scheduled Essex Board of Selectmen’s Meeting.

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