This report was presented by Essex Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki at this week’s Board of Selectmen meeting on March 22nd, and it covers topics of interest for town business from March 6th to March 19th.
Procurement of Grinder Pump System Preventative Maintenance Services
As the Board may recall, the Board of Public Works is working on retaining the services of a vendor to perform preventative maintenance on the Town’s aging sewer grinder pump inventory. Work will chiefly involve replacing pumps and associated equipment within the grinder pump system before the pumps reach end of life. The TA has worked with the Superintendent of Public Works and the Board of Public Works’ consulting engineer to develop an invitation for bids that will be released on March 24, 2021, with an April 8, 2021 bid opening. Due to the value of the anticipated, three-year contract, the award will need to be signed by the Selectmen, in addition to the Board of Public Works. Mr. Zubricki anticipated making a recommendation for an award at the Selectmen’s meeting of April 12, 2021.
Discuss Future Options for the Folsom Pavilion
At the last meeting, the Board and the Finance Committee agreed that $10,000 should be added to the Centennial Grove Maintenance budget for fiscal year 2022 in order to cover some work that will be necessary to address the state of disrepair of the Folsom Pavilion at the Grove. The Building Inspector will not certify the pavilion for public use for the upcoming season without substantial structural repairs and it may not be worth the cost of repairing. For the upcoming season, the pavilion will need to be fully repaired, boarded up to prevent use, or demolished. With respect to options moving forward, if the Board desires to repair the structure, it will be necessary to have a structural engineer provide a full description of required repairs. Even if that effort is desired, the structure needs to be boarded up while evaluation is going on and the Town waits to see if Community Preservation funding, YMCA assistance, volunteer assistance/fundraising, or a combination thereof will be possible. If demolition is desired, since the structure is over 100 years old, the Board will have to go through the demolition delay bylaw process, and boarding up may still be required. The YMCA can utilize a temporary tent this summer or can utilize the Centennial Grove Cottage.
Fiscal Year 2022 Town Operating and Manchester Essex School District Budgets
The two boards of selectmen and the two finance committees from Essex and Manchester were to have met jointly with the Manchester Essex Regional School Committee on March 11, 2021. However, that meeting was postponed, to allow representatives of the various entities to further refine the scope of discussion. The purpose of the meeting was to determine if consensus could be reached on whether to study a restructuring of the District’s programming to keep the town apportionment-funded portion of the District’s budget at 2.5 percent each year (versus planning for periodic Proposition 2 ½ overrides to accommodate larger annual increases). Further, the School Committee had kept open the possibility of the District using additional reserves in fiscal year 2022 to reduce the apportionments. Beyond the ongoing Manchester Essex Regional School District budget discussion, items on the municipal side of the budget have settled and we are preparing the Finance Committee Report/Town Meeting booklet to go to print. If the school district budget is reduced by the School Committee after the booklet is printed, the lower number will simply be inserted into the motion for that article at Town Meeting and the voters will be informed that the figure in the booklet is being amended. The school budget collaboration group will meet on March 24, 2021 to discuss next steps toward an overall review of the major questions.
Fiscal Year 2022 State Budget Funding Priorities
As is the case when we are approaching each new fiscal year, Senator Tarr provided the Town with a form asking about the Town’s priorities for assistance with projects from the State. Mr. Zubricki returned the form during the week of March 15, 2021 and highlighted the need for the funding of the Conomo Point seawall grant, future funding for the Apple Street roadbed elevation project, and future assistance with dredging of the navigable channel in the Essex River.
Marijuana Establishment Site Plan Review And Special Permit Hearing Summary
On March 17, 2021, the Planning Board held a public hearing for a Special Permit Application from BB Botanics to open both cultivation and retail sales marijuana establishments at 242 John Wise Avenue. The Special Permit consideration also covered all of the requirements of a Site Plan Review. The TA attended the hearing, along with two members of the Board. After a presentation from the applicant, the Planning Board members had a time for questions. Board Selectmen provided input and the general public was also invited to do so. The Planning Board decided to continue the hearing until after the Chief of Police separately reviews the security plan for the establishments (which the applicant has not yet provided to him).
Continued Discussion of a Potential Cape Ann Regional Vaccination Site
Senator Tarr hosted a third meeting involving all four Cape Ann communities, plus Ipswich, about the possible establishment of a regional vaccination site on Cape Ann on March 10, 2021. As the Board may recall, all four communities had provided letters of interest to the Addison Gilbert Hospital concerning whether the hospital campus could accommodate the site if qualified municipal personnel and volunteers staffed it. At this time, the hospital is not able to offer its campus for this purpose, even if the communities provide all of the staffing. The hospital is able to share its site at the Gloucester Elks, for a limited time, if the various communities provide separate staffing for non-hospital patients and the State is willing to provide additional vaccine for municipal administration. Discussion was held on the ability of the communities to provide adequate staff, with the smaller communities being more tentative about doing so. The group discussed how Conley’s Pharmacy has already run various vaccination clinics locally and might be willing to run a larger regional clinic on Cape Ann as well. That prospect is dependent on Conley’s being provided with enough vaccine by the State and whether the State will allow only residents of the participating communities to register (versus setting up a local clinic and having all State residents compete for available appointments). The group will convene again in the near future.
Great Marsh Symposium
The subject, annual symposium was conducted virtually this year, on March 17, 2021. The symposium featured a variety of both research and innovative coastal resilience implementation projects. The Apple Street roadbed elevation project that Essex is working on with funding from various grants was one of the featured projects. Selectman Phippen was recognized for his professional contributions to some of the projects.
Conomo Point Rowing Craft Storage Regulations
At the last meeting, the Board provided comments on a draft set of rowing craft regulations that the Harbormaster and the TA worked on together. The Board preferred exploring taking all existing racks away at Clammers’ Beach and, instead, offering new, galvanized racks, for a fee, at a Town-owned parcel along the Essex River. Mr. Zubricki checked with the Fire Chief about whether that parcel still functions as a fire lane. He commented that it does. However, as long as the racks are placed to one side and no parking is initiated at the parcel, locating the racks there does not pose an issue for the Fire Department. As requested by the Board, Mr. Zubricki reached out to the president of the Conomo Point Association for feedback about the Board’s contemplated actions. Generally, the Association is not in favor of the relocation, since the new storage parcel is presently a greenspace for the area and since it may actually be more difficult to move and launch boats from Front Beach (which is across the street from the new parcel) than it is at Clammers’ Beach. The Board also received individual comments from people who would like to see Clammers’ Beach remain as the storage and launching area and who have need to continue to store dinghies at that location, in order to reach moored boats (dinghies will not fit on the new storage racks). Further, the Harbormaster and the TA have completed revisions to the document based on the Board’s guidance from the last meeting. The documents may be revised again based upon the discussion at the present meeting.
State Review of Work Products for Apple Street Roadbed Elevation Grant
Our consulting engineering firm (TEC) recently completed work on a Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) Coastal Resiliency grant with respect to planning for the elevation of the roadbed along the second of two low areas on Apple Street at the Southern Avenue end of the street. The work produced a feasibility study and a PowerPoint presentation that will help with public engagement in the project. Mr. Zubricki discussed the various draft work products with CZM personnel on March 10, 2021 and received comments on several fronts with respect to the feasibility study. Mr. Zubricki relayed CZM’s questions and requests for additional information to TEC and all parties will discuss again on March 22.
Congressman Moulton’s Call for Local Project Funding Requests
Congressman Moulton’s staff recently reached out to area communities to understand which local projects could be considered for Federal earmark funding through what is now known as the Community Project Funding (CPF) program. Given that the Town is working on the prospect of elevating the Apple Street roadbed to stay up above the coastal storm surge elevation, Mr. Zubricki provided the Congressman’s office with information on our work completed to date and our exploration of future funds for construction (through the CPF portal). Our project has regional significance and is aligned with the Federal Government’s focus on climate change and sea level rise.
Town Administrator Leave
Mr. Zubricki was out of the office, on leave, all day on March 15 and 16, 2021, and for a portion of the day on March 19, 2021.