Essex Town Administrator’s Report |April 7


Board of Selectmen’s Meeting of March 27, 2023

Report covers from March 11, 2023, to March 24, 2023

Steps involved in setting up a municipal aggregation program include:

Town Meeting votes to authorize proceeding to set up a municipal aggregation program; hire a consultant to prepare a municipal aggregation plan in consultation with DOER; allow an opportunity for citizen review of the plan; submit plan to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for review and approval.  Importantly, the operation of a municipal aggregation rests with the municipality, which includes outreach to potential customers and coordination with a hired consultant, state agencies, and any other involved parties.  The DOER Municipal Aggregation Manual & Best Practices Guide states: “Aggregation requires administrative effort for the municipality, especially to launch, but also on an ongoing basis.  Even if a using a consultant to assist with the aggregation process, municipal staff will need to allocate resources to launch and maintain an aggregation”.  Further, given the currently high price of electricity as a commodity, even if the Town desires to move forward, it would not be advantageous to anyone to do so until the market settles in the future.  The process to approval is very long and the market might settle in the meantime.  However, our issue remains one of staff capacity.

Procurement of Transfer Station Compactor(s)

The Department of Public Works is ready for the procurement of a new solid waste compactor to replace the existing, old unit and for the procurement of up to two, smaller compactors to assist with recycling operations.  The TA developed an Invitation for Bids (IFB) for this equipment since there does not appear to be a good source on the State Contract.  After review of the draft IFB by the Superintendent of Public Works, we commenced the advertising process, and the project was included in the Massachusetts Goods and Services Bulletin on March 27, 2023.  The TA is also advertising via local posting, in the newspaper, and at CommBuys online.  Bids are due by 10 a.m. on April 20, 2023, and the Board will consider awarding a contract on April 24, 2023.  The base bid will be for the large, solid waste compactor and bid alternates one and two will be for identical, smaller, recycling compactors.

Town Hall Split System HVAC Repair

After extensive repairs, including the replacement of one of three compressors in 2022, the Town Hall split system HVAC again experienced a malfunction during the week of March 13, 2023.  A technician investigated the situation and found that a rodent had nested in one of the units over the winter and had damaged some internal components.  The technician ordered the necessary parts, and we expect to have the system up and running again soon.

Fiscal Year 2024 Finance Committee Booklet

Now that the Finance Committee has finalized its recommendations for the fiscal year 2024 operational and capital budgets for the Town, we will be working with the Town Accountant to assemble the usual Town Meeting booklet.  We expect that the booklet will be at the printing shop by April 7, 2023 (with an on-line copy posted even before the printed booklet is completed).

Draft Figures for FY24 Transfer Station Stickers and Bags

Based on the Board’s discussion with the Board of Public Works at the last meeting, Mr. Zubricki has been working with the Superintendent of Public Works and the Town Accountant to arrive at preliminary figures for both transfer station stickers and pay-as-you-throw trash bags as of July 1, 2023.  Both boards had agreed that 35% of the total transfer station budget (approximately the portion needed to run the station itself) should be defrayed by stickers and the remaining 65% (the portion needed to pay for hauling and disposal) should be defrayed by pay-as- you-throw bags.  After estimating the total required expenses for the transfer station for fiscal year 2024 (about $370,000) and factoring in the per-bag cost that our bag vendor will keep, it appears that the sticker will be about $125, each large bag will cost around $4.75, and each small bag will cost approximately $2.50.  The Board of Public Works will soon review the data and will announce final recommendations for Town Meeting, including whether or not to allow a senior citizen discount for the sticker.

Final Annual Town Meeting Warrant

Mr. Zubricki has developed the final version of the Annual Town Meeting warrant in accordance with the Board’s guidance.  The warrant includes two citizens’ petition articles (one to repeal the Stretch Energy Code and another to abolish the Board of Public Works).

Revised Language for Remote Working in Personnel Rules/Regs

At the last meeting, the Board reviewed in its capacity as Personnel Board a suggested policy addition to the Personnel Rules & Regulations on remote work authorization.  The TA has revised the draft policy in accordance with the Board’s guidance.

Rural and Small-Town Development Fund Grant Application Status

The TA visited the Centennial Grove along with the Executive Director of the Ipswich YMCA and David Clark of D.F. Clark contracting on March 15, 2023.  David is an experienced sewer and septic system installer, and he has since provided a ballpark installation cost of $35,000 for two tight tanks to serve the Town’s facilities (one at the cottage and one for a new restroom facility at the picnic grove).  Prior to this site visit, Rollins Well Drilling visited the Grove and provided a cost estimate for the installation of a drilled, bedrock well to serve the cottage (approximately $15,000).

On March 16, 2023, the Executive Director returned with his whole team to review the project from a much wider perspective.  We walked the entire site and reached agreement about the scope of the grant application in addition to discussing how the volunteer effort to replace the Folsom Pavilion is taking shape.  Further, discussion turned to the siting and construction of public restroom facilities and changing rooms.  We are exploring both on-site construction and prefabricated construction.  Presently, the estimated cost of a prefabricated unit (not including plumbing and wiring connections) is around $275,000.  Since the restrooms are the most critical infrastructure in the grant application, we may have to scale down what else we desire to achieve with the grant.  The TA has completed the second iteration of the draft, on-line grant application and it is presently being reviewed by the Town Planner and YMCA personnel.

Community Planning Grant Quarterly Report

Mr. Zubricki developed and submitted the quarterly report for the subject grant for the quarter ending March 31, 2023, during the week of March 20, 2023.  The grant has allowed the Town to retain the services of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to recommend changes to the Town’s zoning bylaws for the Fall Town Meeting this coming November, based on public and Planning Board input.  MAPC has been conducting much background work to date and is providing the Town with $15,000 of in-kind services, which, together with the $75,000 grant, brings the project total to $90,000.  The first community forum regarding the project was held on March 22, 2023 (see item J3, above) and two others are planned (in May and in July 2023).

Urban Agenda Grant (Off-Season Event) Quarterly Report

Mr. Zubricki developed and submitted the quarterly report for the subject grant for the quarter ending March 31, 2023, during the week of March 20, 2023.  The grant is funding an off-season event on the weekend of May 19-21, 2023, to stimulate patronage of local businesses.  The event is known as “Spring into Essex: Essex in Bloom” and the Town has retained the consultant Civic Space Collaborative (CSC) to assist with the planning and implementation of the event.  The Event Working Group includes representatives from the Economic Development Committee, the Greater Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, and the Essex Merchants’ Group.

Town Administrator Leave

Mr. Zubricki was out of the office, on leave, for portions of the day on March 13, 14, and 20 2023.

This report is available at on the morning after any regularly scheduled Essex Board of Selectmen’s Meeting.

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