Town Administrator’s Report |August 4


Board of Selectmen’s Meeting of July 24, 2023

Report covers from July 8, 2023 to July 21, 2023

Signature of State Revolving Loan Fund Documents for Water Plant Work

The Massachusetts Clean Water Trust administers the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) via the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.  Now that work on the Essex Water Filtration Plant is set to commence, it is necessary for the Board and other Town officials to sign a variety of documents associated with the loan (which will be made to the Town at zero percent interest).  The Town Meeting authorized up to $2,600,000 for this project and, after bidding, including contingency, the SRF loan will be for $2,498,980.

Manchester Essex Rotary Club Meeting

The TA attended the subject meeting on July 12, 2023 to provide the club with an update on various projects and initiatives going on in Essex.  Club members had the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.  It is possible that the club may want to contribute to some future improvements in Essex (like at the Centennial Grove or at Paglia Park).

Managed Retreat Discussion

Mr. Zubricki participated in a webinar hosted by the UMass Boston Urban Harbors Institute on July 18, 2023 with respect to the concept of “managed retreat”.  The concept includes a variety of scenarios such as relocating roads and even moving houses or buying out private properties.  In Essex, the Apple Street Roadbed Elevation and Culvert Replacement Project is a type of retreat in that it represents an adaptation to sea level rise and climate change that requires improvement of a more inland route.  Generally, the concept of retreat will become increasingly relevant as sea level rise becomes more pronounced.

Condemnation of Dwelling at 92 Southern Avenue

The structure at 92 Southern Avenue includes two, separate condo units. One of the two units has been the subject of complaints by tenants living in that space and the matter was taken to District Court recently by one of the tenants.  The unit is not in compliance with the Minimum Standards for Human Habitation and, despite the recent court filing, the situation has not improved.  As such, the Board of Health is in the process of seeking to have the unit vacated and boarded up until such time that the owner can present a viable plan for rehabilitation.  To that end, the TA participated in a conference call involving the Board of Health Administrator, Town Counsel, Chairman Pereen, the Chief of Police, and Sergeant Bruce on July 17, 2023.  Presently, we are working with an abutter’s testimony regarding the fact that the unit at 92 Southern Avenue is being occupied despite a recent court ruling that people can only be in the dwelling to undertake cleanup and improvement efforts.

Risk Management Grant Application

Each year, our insurer (the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association – MIIA) offers a Risk Management Grant that is aimed at preventing insurable losses.  The maximum amount of the grant remains at $10,000 and the Police Department is interested in obtaining four additional body-worn cameras and associated equipment to expand the Department’s inventory and have spare units available (a total cost of $9,375).  We have developed the grant application and it is ready for submission.

Potential Grant Funding for Housing Production Plan

The Town Planner and Mr. Zubricki discussed grant opportunities associated with the future work of the Essex Affordable Housing Trust with the Massachusetts Assistant Secretary for Communities & Programs on July 20, 2023.  The Trust is interested in getting some baseline planning done that will be helpful in charting a course forward for affordable housing in Essex. We learned that State grant programs are much more likely to support the development of a Housing Production Plan than a Resident Selection Plan since the latter usually gets put together by the developer on a project-by-project basis and the former is a base level plan.  To that end, there does not appear to be a need to just do basic information and statistics collection work without using it for a Housing Production Plan.  The Trust will discuss this matter at its next meeting on July 27, 2023 and the next opportunity for grant funding will come in the spring of 2024.

Regional Community Wildfire Protection Plan Proposal

The City of Gloucester is interested in engaging the other Cape Ann communities and local non-profit land management organizations to work with a consultant to develop a Regional Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).  The City has received a proposal from a consultant and has already agreed to fund Phase 1 of the work at a cost of $25,000 (toward an overall $135,000 effort).  The Essex Fire Chief is in support of this regional approach and the total cost that Essex will likely be asked to contribute toward Phases 2 and 3 of the work will not exceed $9,000.  That amount will likely be reduced substantially once private landowners in the area are asked to also contribute.

Hazard Mitigation Plan Update Kickoff Meeting Summary

Mr. Zubricki attended the subject meeting on July 17, 2023 along with Selectman Phippen, the Town Planner, the Chief of Police, the Fire Chief, the Superintendent of Public Works, the present Executive Director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, and a representative of the Essex County Greenbelt.  Also invited were the former Executive Director of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and one resident at-large (the latter four participants sought in accordance with Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines).  The Town is in the process of updating its Federal Hazard Mitigation Plan and this virtual meeting was hosted by our consultant, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). Those who could not attend will be able to watch the meeting as a recorded Zoom session.

Generally, the process will involve several team meetings and two public forums and will culminate with the submission of the plan to State and Federal reviewers in March of 2024.  It is important for the Town to keep the Plan up to date since an expired plan would make the Town ineligible for Federal hazard mitigation funding (such as funding that may be sought for the implementation of the Apple Street Roadbed Elevation and Culvert Replacement Project.  At this first meeting, MAPC personnel went over the information in the expiring plan and asked the group about progress, updates, and changes.  The TA had reviewed MAPC’s preliminary update worksheet in advance and had provided his input to the group.  The meeting was very productive, and all team members were able to provide input that will get the Plan update off to an efficient start.


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