Select Board Meets Late Into The Night

The February 10th Select Board meeting began right on time at 7:00pm

The Select Board members prepare for a hefty agenda.

Board Clerk, Tina Hein read the weekly warrants totaling: $2,033,545.60. The warrants were approved.

Only Board Chair, Mark Ahronian offered a comment during Public Comment. He attended the Department Heads meeting held last week by Town Administrator, Jeff Ritter.

Mr. Ritter presented the following during his Town Administrator’s report:

  • He and Town Treasurer and Accountant met with Standard & Poors rating company in hopes of raising our Bond Rating to AAA from AA+ which would gain us more favorable borrowing rates – hope to hear in the next few days what our rating will be.
  • Online training for Conflict of Interest avoidance is now available to Town employees and Board / Committee members
  • Mayflower Medicinal, a marijuana grower in town paid $118,380 to the town as part of its HCA (Host Community Agreement). To date, $486,760 has been collected by the Town from HCA’s
  • Holliston has received a $100,000 State grant for MVP (Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness) work in our Town.
  • Annual Department Head performance reviews have begun.
  • Held a successful monthly meeting with School Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson
  • Good progress is being made at removing a derelict building on Woodland Street.
  • Mr. Ritter announced publicly (he had informed the Board earlier) that he will be retiring in July of this year – giving the Board several months to find a replacement.
Building Inspector Chris Canney and Library Director Leslie McDonald discuss how the Town might acquire / utilize the vacant TD Bank building.

Library Director, Leslie McDonald and members of the Library Board of Trustees began a dialogue with the Select Board about the feasibility of the Town acquiring the TD Bank building along with the several parking places that come with that building. Building Inspector, Chris Canney has toured the building and it is structurally sound and has ‘a lot of potential.’ The building – IF acquired – would add 4,900 more square feet to the existing 9,200 square feet of library space.

The recent survey conducted by the Library indicated that most respondents wanted the library in the center of town and that more space is needed for children’s books, resources, and activities. Mr. Cronin asked Mrs. McDonald to provide stats on how many use the library on a regular basis (BTW – 7,000 library cards have been issued)

The Board asked Mrs. McDonald and Library Board to collect: cost estimates for bringing the bank building up to snuff for use as a library, and bring the soon-to-be-released (early April) report from the consultant outlining what options are available to optimize the space in the existing library building. Their work should be done prior to Town Meeting for probable discussion / decision then.

Facilities Manager Interview

Mr. James Keast being interviewed for the new Facilities Manager position.

As planned at last week’s Board meeting, Mr. James Keast of Holliston was called in for a second interview for the new Facilities Manager position. As with Mr. Keast’s first interview, Mr. Cronin recused himself from the meeting as he has a personal relationship with the candidate.

Mr. Ahronian and Mrs. Hein questioned the candidate about his education (civil and environmental engineering degree from what is now Clarkson), his experience (facilities management and planning in large corporations – and current work in the building trades), and his approach to building consensus. He listed effective communication, using analytics, being decisive, and being tech savvy (using relevant software) to be the keys to success in this role. He had previously shared a packet of information about how he would get started if selected for the position. He was a real estate inspector earlier in his career and knows how assessment of our physical assets and planning for their maintenance lead to proud citizens.

The Board will decide between Mr. Gregg Lefter and Mr. Keast at next week’s meeting – which will be held on Tuesday, February 18th due to the Presidents’ Day holiday.

Proposed FY 21 Budget Reviews

Y&FS Director Jackie Winer, Catherine Sugarman and Melissa Stacy present the Y&FS FY21 proposed budget that includes an item to hire a grant writer so that Holliston could apply for a Drug Free Community grant in early 2021.

Y&FS Director, Jackie Winer was joined by members of Hdaac to present her proposed FY 21 budget. Ms. Winer, Catherine Sugarman, and Melissa Stacy shared a presentation on the Drug Free Community (DFC) program used by many other communities to increase collaboration and reduce drug use (alcohol, tobacco/nicotine, opioids, and illicit prescription drugs). The grant to fund the DFC program would provide the town with $125,000 annually with a requirement for a town match. Police Chief Stone, Police Lieutenant Leurini, and Fire Chief Cassidy were present in the audience to lend their support for this powerful program.

Mrs. Hein pointed to the increasing volume of service provided by Y&FS and commended Ms. Winer for using her current budget so well.

The Board approved the proposed budget of $158,254.

Senior Center Director Linda Marshall, Senior Center Asst Director Linda Sotille, and Council on Aging Vice Chair Bob Hopkins present the CoA proposed FY 21 budget.

Linda Marshall began her FY 21 budget presentation by handing out a full-sized spreadsheet instead of the one-pagers that compressed the text to microscopic numbers. She went on to highlight the increases in Sr Ctr services over the past several years: Visits up 50%; Program usage up 90%; Meals up 54%; and Rides went from 400 to over 4,500! There was a brief discussion about how planned repairs will be funded. The Board approved the proposed FY 21 budget of $255,277.

DPW Director Sean Reese presents the proposed FY 21 budgets for the Highway and Water Departments.

Sean Reese, DPW Director, presented proposed budgets for the Highway and Water Departments. He thanked the folks who helped him to prepare the budgets. The Highway Dept proposed FY 21 budget of $1,378,579 was approved by the Board.

The proposed FY 21 budget for the Water Department of $2,304,096 was approved by the Board after some discussion about the current balance in the Retained Earnings account of $993,788.77. Mr. Cronin suggested that perhaps water use rates might be lowered to slow the growth of this emergency fund in the future.

Mr. Reese also received approval for a reserve fund transfer of $21,035 to replace a well pump and clean the well at the same time.

The Board, with Mr. Reese’s guidance, approved the AP Associates engineering contract – $146,200; the generator at well 4 – $25,900; and the water main construction on Cedar Street – $1,199,044.30 (to JP Hayes who successfully did the recent Mudville water main project).

Fire Chief Michael Cassidy presented proposed FY 21 budgets for the Fire, Ambulance and Emergency Management departments.

Finally it was Chief Cassidy’s turn in the hot seat. It was getting very late at this point and the Chief’s proposed budgets for his Departments were approved following a few questions: Fire – $884,562; Ambulance – 484,259, and Emergency Management – $11,389 (which may be offset by grant monies).

Other Board Business:

  • Meeting minutes from the Jan 21 and 27 meetings were approved
  • The Board approved the Presidential Primary Warrant (BTW – sample ballots are posted in Town Hall and can be viewed on the Town Clerk’s website)
  • Mr. Cronin provided an update on the Finance Director job description which is now being reviewed by Town Counsel
  • Stephen Bradford, Steven Napolitano, and Walter McGrath were appointed to the Memorial Day Committee for 2020
  • A Tri-board meeting – Select, Finance, and School – will be held on Saturday, February 29th. Details to follow.
  • The Board approved revised liquor licensing regulations from the State
  • The annual Newcomers and Neighbors Touch-a-Truck event to be held on June 14, 2020 was approved
  • The Board received a letter from Town Clerk Elizabeth Greendale related to a salary error that slipped through the cracks at last year’s Town Meeting. Mr. Cronin will follow up with the Finance Committee to pursue a remedy. A decision will be made at next week’s Board meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 9:56 pm. Good night!

Chris Cain

2 Comments

  1. John Losch on February 11, 2020 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks for an excellent report of a complicated and extensive Select Board meeting. (I do have trouble getting used to that name after having served a number of years as a “Selectman.”) I am concerned with the subject of land adjacent to the right of the front of the Holliston Library. Several times I have pointed out that the vacant space should be acquired by the town, and attached to the library property. Frequently the response to my proposal is that the owners do not want to sell the property. It doesn’t matter. Under the laws of Eminent Domain, if it can be shown that the best use of the property serves the use of the town, Holliston can acquire the land at a fair price. If the adjacent properties left and right of the current library were acquired by the town, the library can be made into the accessible and important asset every town should have. (If there is argument, I will gladly continue my reasoning.)

  2. Erica S Plunkett on February 14, 2020 at 9:16 am

    To John’s point, then we should certainly be able to prove that with the eyesore that is the Gulf station.

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