Town Administrator’s Report
This report was presented by Essex Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki at this week’s Board of Selectmen meeting on September 13, and it covers topics of interest for town business from August 21to September 10.
Review of Preliminary Draft of Fall Town Meeting Warrant
Mr. Zubricki has developed a preliminary draft of the Fall Town Meeting warrant in accordance with the Board’s guidance from past meetings. The Board will be considering signing a final version of the warrant at its meeting of October 18, 2021.
Renewal of Parking and Pedestrian Licenses at Village Restaurant
Every two years, the Town and the owner of the Village Restaurant consider the renewal of licenses that allow the public to transit across the Village Restaurant property to and from the municipal parking lot and the Village Restaurant to allow patrons to park on a small section of its parking lot that happens to be on Town property. These licenses are now up for renewal and the owner of the Village Restaurant has signed them.
Engagement of Subject Matter Experts, Local Rapid Recovery Grant
As the Board may recall, the Local Rapid Recovery Grant Program (LRRP) is presently assisting both Essex and Manchester to review the regulatory and planning/promotional environments in each community versus the needs of local businesses. A group consisting of business leaders and personnel and officials from both towns has arrived at a series of focus areas for additional work to occur in. The planning firm of Dodson & Flinker has developed a draft “project sheet” for each focus area and has worked through the grant program to line up a “subject matter expert” for each area. Thus far, the new Town Planner Dana Menon and the TA, along with Manchester personnel and business leaders from both towns have participated in discussions
with subject matter experts in the following categories: 9/1, 2-3 p.m.: Shared Marketing/Branding (Laurie Zapalac, Zapalac Advisors).
9/2, 11 a.m.-noon: Cultivating Desired Businesses (Jeff Levine, Levine
Planning Strategies). 9/2, 2-3 p.m.: Lighting (Laurie Zapalac, Zapalac Advisors). 9/7, 11 a.m.-noon: Shared Economic Development Position (Heather Gould, BSC). 9/8, 11 a.m-noon: Winter Events & Placemaking (Jonathan Berk, Bench/Patronicity). 9/8, 2-3 p.m: Wayfinding (Amelia Casey & Jason Schriber, Stantec). 9/9, 11a.m-noon: Debrief from subject matter expert sessions and plan next steps. The various discussions were very helpful and will be used by each subject matter expert to update the project sheet for each focus area. Dodson & Flinker has coordinated a second, remote public forum for the evening of September 29, 2021, at which all of this work will be presented to the public for input and discussion.
Press Coverage of Conomo Point Seawall Replacement Project
A reporter for the Boston Globe reviewed the recent announcement by Governor Baker of projects that were funded as part of the fiscal year 2021 Dam & Seawall Replacement or Removal grant program. The reporter decided to highlight the Conomo Point Seawall Replacement Project in Essex and sent a photographer to capture the area after interviewing Selectman Phippen and the TA about the project. Chairman Pereen and Mr. Zubricki were present for the photos. The Town is presently under contract with GZA Geoenvironmental to kick off the construction bidding process in the near future, with the hope of commencing work in early November. The Globe story was set to run on September 12, 2021.
Massachusetts IT Grant Application
At the last meeting, the Board agreed that the Town should seek an award under the Massachusetts IT grant program for the installation of equipment in the Town Hall auditorium that will allow for cable TV coverage, interactive coverage, and improved local audio for public meetings held there. The TA met virtually on August 24, 2021 with personnel from 1623 Studios with respect to applying to the IT grant program for this installation. The application window opens on September 15, 2021 and closes on October 15, 2021. 1623 Studios plans to fully develop the application and provide it to the TA for submission early during that time period.
FEMA Grants Webinars
Mr. Zubricki participated in a FEMA grant overview webinar on August 31, 2021, which highlighted a number of Federal grant programs that will soon become available for the new grant cycle. Of particular interest are the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant program and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP). Both of those programs are possible funding sources for the elevation of the Apple Street roadbed at the Southern Avenue end of Apple Street (which floods during extreme storm tides). The TA also participated in a BRIC webinar on September 8, 2021. This presentation provided more specific information with respect to BRIC, including important milestones and prerequisites. Also see the FEMA Statement of Interest (SOI) in item L6, below.
Award of Community Compact Grant for Zoning Bylaw Study
The Governor’s office has funded the Town’s application for a Community Compact grant for a study of the Essex zoning bylaws, in the Town’s full requested amount of $45,150. The Commonwealth has presented the grant award paperwork to the Town for signature and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has presented its own contract to the Town for engagement in this important work. Work on this project is expected to begin in October.
Statement of Interest, BRIC and HMGP Grants
As the Board may recall, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) did not encourage the Town to apply for the subject grant program last year. MEMA is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine if FEMA will allow the use of predictive data as a basis for completing the necessary Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA) – a prerequisite for both the BRIC and the HMGP programs. Last year at this time, FEMA did not allow the use of such data and, while the flooding on the Southern Avenue end of Apple Street does not happen often now, State data predicts that the frequency will rise sharply in future years. The TA has filed the required Statement of Interest (SOI) with MEMA and we will learn soon whether we can include future predictions in the cost analysis this year. If not, we will likely have to wait again, until FEMA does incorporate such inclusion.
Update of FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps and Associated Products
Since changes and exceptions to FEMA flood maps and associated products are always ongoing, FEMA periodically releases updates to documents that have experienced changes over time. FEMA has reached out to the Town and will hold a remote Consultation Coordination Officer (CCO) meeting with appropriate Town personnel on October 5, 2021. The meeting will go over any changes with respect to Essex products and personnel will have a chance to ask questions or provide any other input.
Town Administrator Leave
Mr Zubricki was out of the office, on leave, on August 30, 2021 and September 3, 2021 and
for portions of the day on August 24-26, 2021.
Labor Day Holiday
The office was closed on September 6, 2021, in observance of the subject holiday. This report is available at www.essexma.org on the morning after any regularly scheduled Essex Board of Selectmen’s Meeting.