The Select Board Hears Encouraging News from Our State Legislators

The Holliston Select Board conducted its weekly meeting on Monday, March 8, 2021.  Chair John Cronin led the Board through a robust agenda that ran for a little over three hours.

Legislative Update with Sen. Spilka and Rep. Dykema

State Senate President Karen Spilka (left) and State Representative Carolyn Dykema shared quite a bit of information with the Board and the almost 30 residents who joined the meeting.  Below are the highlights (the meeting recording can be viewed on the Town’s website):

  • Spilka and Dykema commended Holliston’s leaders for their efforts during the past year
  • Spilka’s priority is to get students back into classrooms – safely
  • Our legislators have supported the establishment of a regional vaccine consortium that includes Holliston with seven other Metrowest communities.  The request is pending State review / approval
  • Several new committees have been established to tackle COVID; racial justice; cyberthreats; reimagining post pandemic Massachusetts; and a proposed committee to plan for the Mass Pike construction in Allston.
  • The State’s FY 22 budget development process is expected to follow the ‘normal’ timeline with final votes in June.
  • Amazingly, revenue into the State coffers is exceeding projections
  • The FY 22 budget includes a 3.5% increase in aid to local municipalities – that means about $1.7 Million for Holliston
  • Holliston has received $1,517,602 from the Federal Government in COVID aid and $86,850 from the State
  • It is expected that Holliston will receive an increase of $78,000 in Chapter 70 funding
  • Two earmarks are available for Holliston access: $250,000 for pool testing and contact tracing; $250,000 for unmet mental health needs
  • $53 Million is available for one-time grants for behavioral health and $3.5 Million is for a pilot utilizing telehealth for students
  • MassDOT has notified the Senator that the Heavy Commercial Vehicle Exclusion for Woodland Street has been approved. (The Board gave a heads up that a similar request will be forthcoming for South St.)
  • FY 22 Chapter 90 funding to Holliston should be level with FY21 roughly $500,000.
  • Senator Spilka is hosting a virtual session on Social / Emotional health on March 19, 2021.  More info can be found at ->https://karenspilka.com/sel

School Committee Chair Stacey Raffi (above) summarized the thoughts / feelings of the various Town Boards / Committees by thanking Senator Spilka and Representative Dykema for all their hard work to help Holliston’s citizens.

Governance Committee Update

Governance Committee (GC) Chair Sam Tyler (above) provided an overview of the Committee’s work (they’ve held 22 meetings to date) on new and revised by-laws for consideration at the May Town Meeting.  It is interesting to note that the Committee members discovered that the last time Holliston did such a thorough review was over 40 years ago!

Committee member Paul LeBeau (above) summarized feedback the committee has received during a listening tour of other Town Boards / Committees and the Town’s Finance departments; Town Clerk; and Town Moderator. Still to come are meetings with the Town Administrator (who figures prominently in the proposed new budget process) and the School Committee. The GC is continuing to refine its draft Town Meeting articles and will be holding public sessions prior to Town Meeting so citizens can learn more about the proposed changes.  The draft documents can be viewed here -> https://www.townofholliston.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif706/f/uploads/complete_set_of_gc_recomend._2.16.21.pdf

The Board commended the GC on its very thoughtful and thorough research behind their recommended by-laws additions and changes.  Board Chair John Cronin reminded citizens that the GC charter is a 3-year term.  The GC will look in “all four corners of the Town’s government.” Board Clerk Ben Sparrell encouraged the dialogue to continue so that we’re “making sure that Holliston’s government functions at the highest level – independent of who is elected to Boards / Committees at any point in time.”

Coronavirus Community Update: Emergency Management Director, Fire Chief Michael Cassidy (sorry no picture this week) gave his weekly update:

  • We continue to trend downward in case count
  • Holliston is still on the Yellow State’s map
  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be supplied through the State sites beginning in early April (it is now being administered through the Federal pharmacy program)
  • Frustration with vaccination scheduling continues
  • The CDC released guidelines for people who have completed the vaccination process (some good news for grandparents!)

Holliston’s positivity rate of 2.0% was slightly higher than the Statewide average for the first time in many weeks.

Chief Cassidy asked eligible citizens to be patient with the scheduling process / system.  He recommended the following document as an aid to navigate the various sites that administer vaccinations. https://www.townofholliston.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif706/f/uploads/massachusetts_vaccine_angels_resource_page.pdf

CARES Act Programmatic Update

The Board approved the following requests for use of CARES Act funds. Click here the Rent / Mortgage guidelines -> https://www.townofholliston.us/youth-and-family-services/news/holliston-rent-mortgage-relief

Youth and Family Services Director Jackie Winer reminded residents that the State has programs that may help if a need does not meet the CARES Act requirements. Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA) and Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT).  Information about both programs is available at this website ->Mass RAFT Program 

Warrants: The Board approved the weekly warrant of $641,768.72.

Public Comments:

Comments from the Town Administrator: Mr. Ahern shared the following with the Board:

  • The citizen’s petition for Town Meeting articles is now able to be filled in electronically and e-mailed to Mr. Ahern -> https://www.townofholliston.us/sites/g/files/vyhlif706/f/uploads/petition_for_article_for_town_meeting.pdf
  • The May 10, 2021 Town Meeting Warrant closes on March 29, 2021 at 4pm.
  • Nest week’s Board meeting will include finalizing plans for the Front Street traffic / parking plan.
  • The Par firm hired to develop plans for 9 Green Street will soon present its demolition plan for possible consideration at the May Town Meeting

FY22 Budget & Revenue Review:

  • Fire – The Board approved the proposed FY22 fire budget = $932,454
  • Ambulance – Following a lengthy discussion, the Board approved the FY22 ambulance budget = $578,851
  • Review any previously approved budgets:  Mr. Ahern shared the following snapshot of where the proposed FY 22 budget stands (excluding the Fire and Ambulance budgets just approved).

Board Business: The Board:

  • Approved the Meeting Minutes of February 22, 2021 and (approved but not released) Executive Session Meeting Minutes: 6/30/20, 9/9/20, 9/29/20, 10/2/20, 10/5/20, 10/26/20, 11/2/20, 11/12/20, 12/7/20, 12/18/20
  • Accepted $100 donation to the Senior Center from Phyllis Higgins for meals
  • Accepted $100 Senior Center donation for meals.
  • Approved Event Permit – Senior Car Parade May 23, 2021
  • Approved Event permit – Hazardous Waste Day July 10, 2021 (while maintaining public health measures)
  • Appointed – Open Space Committee Ms. Emanuelle Schwarz; Term expires June 2023

Other Business:

  • Mr. Sparrell asked to have a DPW facilities discussion on a future agenda.
  • Mrs. Hein has asked Mr. Ahern to get CRG Integrated Real Estate Solutions (555 Hopping Brook developer) on a future Board meeting agenda.  No date / time was specified.

The Board adjourned to Executive session at 10:05pm.

Chris Cain

1 Comment

  1. Chris Pierce on March 9, 2021 at 4:05 pm

    The “lengthy” discussion about the fire/ambulance budget glosses over some serious issues. We don’t currently pay our EMTs a livable wage to go on ambulance calls. I applaud Chief Cassidy for coming up with a brand new pay scale in 10 days so we can try and shore up recruitment/retention of EMTs. Chief Cassidy got increased funding for EMT stipends, EMT training, a new part time clerical assistant and he got back a part time fire inspector position that was cut 16 years ago! These positions should grow to full time IMO. The Chief shouldn’t have to wear all these “hats” alone. While he didn’t get all that he asked for, the SB seems open to having a serious discussion about HFD’s future. I agree with the SB and Chief that an outside review of HFD fire and EMS operations is a good start. I encourage all to watch the SB meeting of 2/25 and listen to HFD budget talks that continued last night.

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