Essex Town Administrator's Report | February 24


This report covers the period between January 22 to February 4, 2022.

Replacement of Compressor in Town Hall HVAC Condenser

As the Board may recall, the Town Hall split-mechanism heating and cooling system utilizes three large condenser units to support air exchangers in each of the various offices and rooms in the building.  The compressor in one of the condensers failed this past summer and the system was running on just two of the units (since a replacement compressor was not available due to supply chain issues).  The system continued to run in air-conditioning mode into the fall and also did provide heat for a short period after we switched over from air conditioning. However, the system malfunctioned again in its two-unit configuration and has been out of service for months (we have been heating the building exclusively with our ultra-efficient gas furnace).  Now that the replacement compressor has finally arrived, our HVAC contractor will visit Town Hall on February 7, 2022 to size up the logistics of actually getting the old compressor out and the new compressor installed.  When the system was initially installed, a crane was used to lift the various components in place.  Also, a stockade fence runs around the units, making it difficult to access.  Even so, our contractor was fairly confident at the time of printing of this report that he will not need a crane or to take down the fence.  Further, our contractor will take a look at why the system was now not capable of running on even just the two condenser units.  While all of the parts involved in this repair are provided at no charge due to the system’s warranty, labor is not included in the warranty.  Mr. Zubricki will have more information by meeting time.

School Budget Collaboration Group Meeting Summary

Selectman Bradford, Finance Committee Chairman Buttrick, and the TA participated in the subject meeting on January 28, 2022.  The meeting featured a discussion regarding whether the district is able to reduce the overall fiscal year 2023 school district operating budget further than what has been discussed to date.  On January 25, 2022, the School Committee supported budget revisions that would bring the overall increase in the apportioned part of the budget down to about 2.78 percent, which would bring Essex’s specific apportionment increase down from 4.97 percent to about 4.22 percent.  The group’s discussion on January 28 was centered around bringing the Town’s increase down closer to 3.5 percent.  Subsequently, at the School Committee meeting of February 1, 2022, the Committee decided to consider possible ways to make additional cuts to the fiscal year 2023 operating budget proposal and took no vote on the budget at that time.  A vote on the final budget proposal is expected at the Committee’s meeting of February 15, 2022.

Addison Gilbert Community Health Needs Assessment Listening Session

Every three years, the Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester conducts its Community Health Needs Assessment to get a good sense of how health priorities in the surrounding communities may have changed.  The TA participated in a virtual listening session that the hospital coordinated on January 25, 2022.  The program included an overview of the process and participants were then divided into break out groups to discuss issues in more depth.  The TA highlighted how transportation is a key element in community health, especially for senior citizens.  Discussion was also held concerning the importance of good mental health resources. The hospital will take all of the input provided at the listening session and from an online community survey to eventually develop a report with action steps.

Draft Affordable Housing Trust Bylaw from Essex Housing Coalition

At the last meeting, the Board began to review recommendations from the Essex Housing Coalition with respect to the development of an Affordable Housing Trust Bylaw.  The Board indicated that additional discussion would be held at the present meeting, in order to give the Coalition feedback in advance of its February 9, 2022 meeting.

Preliminary Draft of Annual Town Meeting Warrant

At the last meeting, after the Board reviewed the draft Annual Town Meeting article topics list, Mr. Zubricki indicated that he would put together a preliminary draft of the actual warrant for review at the present meeting, which he has done.

Town Hall Energy Efficiency Grant Scoping Study

As was mentioned previously, the Town Planner and Mr. Zubricki are working with National Grid to better understand whether the Town could retire old equipment (such as water and sewer pumps) to generate enough savings to be competitive for new energy grants.  We are also working together to understand whether additional efficiencies might be realized at Town Hall, even though it was completely renovated in 2017.  The Green Communities Grant Program and the Massachusetts Gap Energy Grant Program both pay 100 percent of the cost for upgrading to more energy-efficient equipment if the projected savings is appreciable enough. The Town Planner, National Grid, National Grid’s energy efficiency consultant, and the TA toured Town Hall on January 27, 2022 in order better understand the building’s systems.  The consultant will now work up some estimates on energy savings for various upgrades and scenarios and we will learn within a few weeks if any particular upgrades will be competitive.

Regional Evaluation to Improve Water Supply Resiliency Grant

The Town of Hamilton has received a Water Management Act (WMA) Grant Program grant for just over $107,000 (total project cost over $155,000 including local match) to evaluate how area communities could work together to improve water supply resiliency in the future.  The grant is administered by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), with Hamilton as the lead community and with support from the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) and consulting engineers at Dewberry. The project’s kickoff meeting was held on February 1, 2022 and Selectman Phippen was in attendance for Essex. The scope of the project builds on the findings of the 2018 WMA report with the primary goal of exploring the feasibility of various alternatives specific to Hamilton and its immediately surrounding communities to increase water supply resiliency and to reduce their dependency on the Ipswich River, particularly in the summer. Major tasks include:

1) Exploring the feasibility of obtaining alternative water supplies from the Salem‐Beverly Water Supply Board to supplement the water needs of Hamilton and the participating communities on a regional/seasonal basis.

2) Examining the required infrastructure, interconnections, system hydraulics and water quality/blending issues from augmenting Hamilton and the participating communities with supply from the Salem‐Beverly Water Supply Board including possible regionalization of the community water systems.

3) Examining the feasibility of obtaining alternative water supplies for Hamilton and other interested communities to meet 100‐percent of their water supply needs, thereby eliminating the need to utilize their wells and treatment facilities at all.

4) Exploring partial regionalization between the Towns of Manchester and Hamilton, and the other interested communities.

5) Exploring the feasibility of and issues associated with sharing and wheeling current and future sources of water to/through Hamilton and its immediately surrounding communities on a Mutual Aid and potentially routine basis.

6) Identifying regulatory and cost considerations for the water supply alternatives evaluated.  Grant personnel will interview Superintendent of Public Works Michael Galli in the near future to discuss the details of possible future interconnections and water compatibility and the Town will provide eight hours of in-kind service as a match to the grant.

Expression of Interest, Community One Stop for Growth Program

Personnel from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) developed a draft of an Expression of Interest (EOI) document for the Town to be able to begin the process of consideration for a second zoning bylaw grant, via the Community One Stop for Growth (OSG) portal.  As the Grant Administrator for Essex on the OSG portal, Mr. Zubricki officially submitted the EOI on February 4, 2022, after Chairman Pereen and Planning Board Chairman Drake also both reviewed the draft document.  The Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) uses the OSG portal to understand the needs of Massachusetts communities and to best match those needs up with appropriate grant programs. In our case, the Community Planning Grant seems to be the best match and MAPC personnel will assist us with a full grant application for that grant after EOHED provides feedback to the Town with respect to the EOI that has been submitted.


Town Administrator Leave

Mr. Zubricki was out of the office, on leave, for a portion of the afternoon on January 25, 2022.

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

ipswich river, town planner, buttrick, metropolitan area planning council, massachusetts department of environmental protection, michael galli, bradford, essex housing coalition, salem‐beverly water supply board, superintendent of public works michael galli, phippen, addison gilbert hospital, pereen, ipswich river watershed association, zubricki, essex town