This report was presented by Essex Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki at this week’s Board of Selectmen meeting on October 18, and it covers topics of interest for town business from October 2to October 15.
FEMA Consultation Coordination Officer (CCO) Meeting Summary
The FEMA CCO hosted a remote meeting on October 5, 2021 to review with personnel and officials from Essex County cities and towns a variety of changes to the FEMA flood maps. Changes resulted from a recent analysis of flooding potential in various river basins in our area. Personnel from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), FEMA, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) participated in the meeting. Mr Zubricki has reviewed the proposed map changes for Essex and there do not appear to be any substantial changes (primarily since the Essex River was not specifically studied). In fact, all changes in Essex appear to be reductions in some flood areas, as opposed to any increases. FEMA’s work will culminate in a requirement for all cities and towns to adopt new local floodplain bylaws that also reference the new designations and effective dates for any flood map panels that are changing. It is likely that the bylaw change for Essex will be considered by the Town Meeting in May of 2022.
Chebacco Lake Coalition Meeting
Mr. Zubricki attended the subject, remote meeting on October 13, 2021. The Coalition was organized by Senator Tarr and periodically brings together a diverse group of stakeholders to discuss environmental improvements for Chebacco Lake and its surrounding watershed. The group is still focusing on clearing out the stream channel for the Alewife Brook to provide better flushing for the lake and better passage for the Annual Alewife Fish Run. To that end, I will be working with the group to identify an appropriate engineering firm to complete permitting for stream clearing in the more complex, upper reach of Alewife Brook. A total of $30,000 exists for that effort (between Town and State funding that has already been put aside). The group will continue to monitor the threat from toxic, blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and is working to expand its size and reach by possibly partnering with the PIE-Rivers Partnership, which is a subsidiary of the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA). IRWA is also working presently to apply for a state grant that could allow the Coalition to have the benefit of a paid project manager for a period of time.
Greater Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce Essex Division Meeting
Mr. Zubricki participated in the subject meeting along with Chairman Pereen, Police Chief Francis, and Fire Chief Reader on October 13, 2021. The meeting featured a discussion with respect to the upcoming Route 133 Essex River Bridge replacement project and personnel from the bridge contractor and the MassDOT were on hand for the discussion. He also provided Chamber members with updates on ongoing Town projects and initiatives, including a wrap-up on the Local Rapid Relief Program Grant that will soon release its final report.
Final Fall Town Meeting Warrant
Mr. Zubricki revised the Fall Town Meeting warrant in accordance with the Board’s guidance from the last meeting and it is ready for signature.
Quarterly Review of Executive Session Minutes
Each quarter, the TA reviews with the Chairman whether any matters discussed in executive session should be released. No such matters were identified this quarter.
Application for ARPA Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Grant
At the last meeting, the Board agreed that the Town should pursue Federal American Rescue Plan Act competitive funding for the installation of decorative lighting the downtown area. As such, Mr. Zubricki researched the ARPA Travel, Tourism, and Outdoor Recreation Grant (offered through the United States Economic Development Administration – EDA) and contacted the EDA representative for our region. The regional representative referred the TA to a local contact at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) and that individual has commented that, while the improved streetscape may entice more visitors to visit Essex businesses, the project’s tie to COVID recovery is not strong enough to be competitive for the Federal funding. MAPC will research some opportunities for lighting installation within several State grants that would have a better chance of funding that work.