Town Administrator’s Report | July 7


Report covers from June 3, 2023 to June 23, 2023

MA DOT Follow-up Concerning Crosswalk at Goodwin Court

In the past, Mr. Zubricki reported to the Board that MA DOT was not inclined to leave the crosswalk that crosses Route 133 at Goodwin Court in place as part of the upcoming sidewalk project.  The agency had indicated, however that personnel would take another look at the prospect of providing a crosswalk in a different location but still in proximity to Goodwin Court. The TA participated in a virtual meeting with DOT personnel and Chairman Pereen on June 21, 2023, and DOT explained that a solution had been found.  The solution involves a new crosswalk about 100 feet toward Gloucester from the old crosswalk location and will incorporate pedestrian-activated flashing signs, a short piece of sidewalk connecting it with Goodwin Court, and tree trimming within the MA DOT right of way.  The TA has provided the interested residents in the neighborhood with the details of the new solution.

Discussion Regarding the MERSD Annual Operating Budget Apportionment

Chairman Pereen and the TA met with Manchester Town Administrator Greg Federspiel and Manchester Select Board Chair Ann Harrison on June 20, 2023.  We discussed generally the relative proportions of various factors in the Manchester Essex Regional School District Agreement used to set annual operating budget apportionments and how the pupil count factor can create wide variation, even if averaged over three years.  We also discussed the prospect of asking the District to bill the two towns as a one-time capital charge for the expected turf field work, with each town determining how to pay the bill (cash, borrowing, or a combination of the two).  The group plans to meet again on July 11 for further discussion.

Continued Review of Draft Fall Town Meeting Articles List

Mr. Zubricki has revised the draft list of possible Fall Town Meeting article topics by the Board’s guidance from the last meeting.

June 26 Special Town Meeting Discussion

The Board will attend a Special Town Meeting immediately after the present Selectmen’s meeting.  The warrant contains a single article that asks voters to consider ratification of the vote taken under Article 4 of the Annual Town Meeting warrant, which approved an amount of funding for the Manchester Essex Regional School District for fiscal year 2024 that is within the Town’s tax levy capacity.  As the Board is aware, Article 3 at the Annual Town Meeting involved the consideration of an operational override for additional School District funding and it was approved.  However, Article 3 was contingent upon a referendum at the Annual Town Election and that referendum failed.

The Board is proposing tonight’s Town Meeting vote since it will give the District more immediate feedback than simply waiting for the constructive approval clock to run out in late-July and may avoid the institution of a 1/12th budget by the State.  The warrant article has been worded in such a way that will not allow for any amendments.  Town Meeting may vote to approve the ratification, to disapprove the ratification, or to indefinitely postpone the article (Which is the same as a disapproval).  If the ratification is not approved, the original approval of the within-levy-limit figure back in May is nullified.  The TA has prepared a motion for the article for the Board’s review.

Possible Resumption of License for Paglia Park

Now that the Route 133 Essex River Bridge project has been completed, the small pocket park on the south side of the bridge known as Paglia Park may be in place again.  The Town had a license with the property’s private owner for the use of the area as a park prior to the bridge project.  However, since the State temporarily needed the land for the project, the owner entered into an agreement with the State for the last two years.  It is again possible for the Board to enter into a license agreement with the owner and the owner is inclined to resume that relationship pending more details on the park's design.

Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) National Settlement

PFAS compounds have been used in many products and are highly persistent in the environment once introduced.  PFAS has impacted many public water supplies and now must treat water specifically to remove it, as a health concern.  In Essex, although we have not detected PFAS as yet, it certainly could show up in the future.  A national lawsuit was initiated against PFAS manufacturers and a settlement has been reached.  Town Counsel has recommended that Essex register for the settlement (which has been done) if the Town needs to step up monitoring or detects PFAS in the future. 

The law firm handling the settlement provided an agreement that required signature before the present meeting, and Chairman Pereen executed the document as recommended by Town Counsel.

Proposed Indemnification Document for Future YMCA Programs

The YMCA would like to explore with the Town the possible signature of an agreement that will indemnify the Town should the YMCA offer a program on Town property.  As an example, the Essex Riverday organizers asked the YMCA to provide some children’s activities during the event and the YMCA would like to be able to offer this type of service in the future as well.

Ipswich River Watershed Association NOAA Grant

Through the PIE-Rivers partnership, the Ipswich River Watershed Association (IRWA) has received $1.3M in funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  These project funds will further the work of IRWA and area communities to update man-made barriers such as culverts and road crossings to improve stream flow, reduce climate risk, and restore 104 acres of salt marsh.  In Essex, IRWA has identified four culverts that need attention, including the crossing of Ebben Creek beneath Route 133 and out into the adjacent salt marsh.  While the Ebben Creek crossing needs to be evaluated for possible future coastal flooding, the three other crossings are susceptible to the prospect of more frequent, much more severe precipitation events.

The Superintendent of Public Works met with IRWA’s program coordinator for this grant program on June 7, 2023, and we provided her with all of the information we have on the areas of interest.  We explained that the Town is now occupied with the Apple Street Project but that the Ebben Creek crossing, which would have to be addressed by MA DOT, will soon also become a priority.  The grant program will review the four areas and develop conceptual designs for each area to deal with predicted events.

Closeout of the Urban Agenda Grant for an Offseason Event

As the Board may recall, the Essex in Bloom event was funded by the Urban Agenda Grant and the event occurred between May 19 and May 21, 2023.  The Event Working Group met virtually on June 9, 2023 and the TA was in attendance along with Chairman Pereen, Town Planner Dana Menon, and Economic Development Committee Chairman Jodi Harris (among other participants).  The group discussed what went well, what could use improvement, and how the event could be adapted to be repeated each spring, without grant support.  The TA is now in the process of compiling the final report on the project and applying for full reimbursement of the project costs.

Gap III Energy Efficiency Grant Quarterly Report

The Gap III Energy Efficiency Grant will provide funding for the replacement of water and sewer equipment and building systems.  The Town is under contract with Weston & Sampson for the project to be designed and constructed and the cost will be defrayed by the grant and by utility rebates and incentives.  The Town Planner has filed the first quarterly report with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and will continue to manage the project.

Essex Placemaking Plan Technical Assistance Grant Closeout

Chairman Pereen and Mr. Zubricki participated in the wrap-up meeting of the Essex Placemaking Plan technical assistance grant (Massachusetts Downtown Initiative grant program), along with the Town Planner and others.  Our consultant, Civic Space Collaborative (CSC), went over the draft final report, which will be presented to the Board at its July 10, 2023, meeting.  CSC took final input from the meeting participants and has completed the Plan.

Town Administrator Leave

The TA was out of the office, on leave, for portions of the day on June 12, 13, and 15 and all day on June 14, 22, and 23.

Juneteenth Holiday

The office was closed on June 19, 2023 in observance of the subject holiday. This report is available at on the morning after any regularly scheduled Essex Board of Selectmen’s Meeting.

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