Select Board: Two Weeks of Work in One Night

Faithful readers will recall that there was no Select Board meeting last Monday, November 8, 2021.  The November 15, 2021 meeting boasted as Chair Tina Hein said, “a very packed agenda” starting at 7:01pm.

Update from “Envisioning Future Holliston”

Envisioning Future Holliston (formerly know as the Comprehensive Long-range Planning Committee) Chair Staci Raffi (above right) provided the Select Board with a status update:

  • The Committee has met several times since its inception
  • It is targeting a report out to the Town at the May 2021 Town Meeting.
  • Sub-groups have been formed.
  • One sub-group is collecting survey data.  This link will take you to the Envisioning Future Holliston website where a link and QR code will take residents to the on-line survey -> https://www.townofholliston.us/envisioning-future-holliston-clrpc
  • The data collection sub-group is also working to facilitate input from residents who may not be able to easily access the on-line survey.

Division of Local Services (DLS) – Presentation of Financial Management Review (FMR)

Melinda Ordway (left above) and Frank Gervasio (right above) presented a high-level presentation of the 23-page report prepared by DLS following their review of Holliston’s financial management practices.

Below are the slides included in the presentation.  A link to the entire report on the Town’s website is below the slide images.

See the entire report -> Dept Local Services Financial Management Review Report for Holliston

Town Administrator Ahern pointed citizens to the State’s website to see similar reports from other Massachusetts communities -> Massachusetts Division of Local Services Financial Management Website

Governance Committee (GC) Chair Sam Tyler (above right) expressed his committee’s disappointment in the lack of detail in the report.  He also pointed out that the GC had many more questions than could be handled during this meeting.  Town Administrator Ahern will set up a meeting for the GC to meet with Ms. Ordway and Mr. Gervasio to get answers to questions and more of the details that seem to be missing.

Finance Committee member Vin Murphy, a CPA and skilled in audits asked why the report had no specific recommendation regarding auditing.  The DLS representatives shared a variety of ways that the audit function could be conducted, depending on what other recommendations were enacted (charter or by-laws).

COVID-19 Community Update / ARPA Programmatic update

Fire Chief Michael Cassidy had been asked by the Board to provide a snapshot of who is eligible for a booster and when.  Below is his presentation:

  • Holliston currently has 34 Active COVID cases
  • About 4% of the 5 – 11-year-olds have received the first COVID vaccination (not bad since it started late last week)

Warrants – The Board approved the weekly warrants totaling: $831,640.85

Public Comment:

  • Mr. Cronin:
    • Thanked all involved in conducting the Veterans luncheon held at the Sr. Ctr. on November 11, 2021
    • Holliston is looking for Snowplow drivers – contact the DPW 508.429.0615
    • Reminded everyone that there is a COVID booster clinic scheduled at the Senior Center on December 8th from 1 – 2 pm.
    • All Holliston residents who qualify can receive fuel assistance. 
    • Contact the senior center 508.429.0622 to schedule a booster shot or learn more about fuel assistance.
  • Mr. Sparrell:
    • Also thanked all involved in the Veterans luncheon
    • Thanked Josh Mann for organizing the No Place for Hate rally held last Thursday afternoon.  Sparrell was encouraged to see the turn out.
  • Mrs. Hein:
    • A new rapid-flashing beacon will soon be installed at the new Woodland St. crosswalk from the Rail Trail to the school complex.
    • Planning has begun by the Holliston Highway Dept to improve traffic flow / safety at the intersection of Highland and Hollis streets.
  • Public: None

Update on 260 Woodland Street Property / Plans

As a follow up to the survey the Board returned to see what progress, if any, has been made in turning the town-owned vacant property into a resource for public enjoyment.  A pump (bike) track was a leading idea.  Resident Josh Solberg had begun work with the Park Department to find a suitable site.  Mr. Solberg is leaving Holliston.  A new champion for such an installation is needed.  If you are interested, please contact Town Administrator Ahern.  No other plans for the Woodland property are on the drawing board – yet.

Comments from Town Administrator:

Mr. Ahern had several scheduling updates and he shared his time with Facilities Manager James Keast for updates on several projects around town.

  • The annual Tax Rate Hearing is planned for next Monday, November 22, 2021 during the Select Board meeting.
  • The annual Humanitarian Awards will be presented in Upper Town Hall on November 29, 2021 at 6:15pm.
  • At the December 6, 2021 SB meeting, Stantec will present final reports from their Sidewalk and Water studies.
  • Ahern has sent a letter to MassDOT requesting highway and sidewalk repairs on State owned roads in Holliston.
  • Cost Benefit Analyses of three dams needing attention will begin next week.
  • The Fire Dept. Organizational Assessment has already begun.

Next up, James Keast (above) shared the status on seven facilities-related projects going on:

  • Work on the new Town Hall septic installation will begins any day and will be completed within 30 days (depending on the weather, some sidewalk work along the side of Town Hall may be in the Spring).\
  • The Town Hall storm window installation is about 80% done.  The window and septic workers will coordinate efforts to complete both projects on schedule.
  • New Town Hall keys and electronic card key readers will be up and running by the end of December 2021.
  • 9 Green Street demolition is outlined below.
  • Quotes for the design of a new bathroom facility at Goodwill Park are due in by December 3, 2021.
  • The entrance at 1750 Washington Street will be rebuilt starting this week.
  • The DPW feasibility study is moving along with the final report due in February 2022.

General Finance Discussions:

  • Financial Policies – Biennial Update (continued discussion)

Mr. Ahern reviewed the most recent draft of the policies (including input from the SB and FinCom).  The Board approved the amended policies with the next review set for 2023.  The policies will be posted on the Town’s website.

  • FY23 Budget Schedule Discussion – Mr. Ahern presented his plan for preparing the FY 23 operating budget (see below)

The goal is to make the FY 23 budget preparation process as transparent and understandable as possible.

  • FY23 Preliminary Revenue Assumptions (local receipts and State Aid)

I must admit at this point, my limited capacity for tracking a lot of large numbers and acronyms put me at a great disadvantage.  Below are the spreadsheets that Mr. Ahern shared demonstrating how he has projected FY 23 revenue.

Below is a chart that tracks historical local receipts which are reported to the State and used for revenue projection.

The Board thanked Mr. Ahern and the financial staff for their expert input in preparing these exhibits.

Board Business:

  • Approved the appointment of Travis Ahern to Board of Metro West Veterans’ District through June 2022
  • Approved the establishment of a “Blair Square Project” Gift Account for the project as defined in Article 31 of the May 2021 Town Meeting.
  • Approved the placement of the Chabad Center Menorah 11-21-21 to 12-12-21 in front of Town Hall
  • Approved the Cub Scout Pack 2 snowman scavenger hunt that MAY be on some Town properties (the exact locations are obviously secret).  These snowmen will be 7 feet tall!

Other Business:

  • Mr. Cronin:
    • The Town has received a $6,600 grant from the Sustainable Materials Recovery Program. Thanks go to Sustainability Coordinator Matt Zettek.
    • Don’t forget: Winter Parking Ban, Leaf Pickup Nov 29 – Dec 3, Flu Shot THIS Saturday, Town Hall
  • Mrs. Hein:
    • Downtown traffic flow update coming soon.

The meeting adjourned at 9:41pm.

Chris Cain

1 Comment

  1. Travis Ahern (Town Administrator) on November 16, 2021 at 9:32 am

    Thank you for the excellent coverage as always! Note on the Blair Square Gift Account (re: 2nd bullet-point under “Board Business”):

    Please note: As stated, this gift account is for the express purpose of the supporting the scope of work for the Blair Square Project (as defined by Article 31, May 2021 Annual Town Meeting); outside of this gift account, support for the Rail Trail in Holliston can be directed to the “Friends of the Holliston Trails” which is a 501c3 with a mission to support the Rail Trail, financially and programmatically. The Friends have a broader mission and longer term/duration than this gift account is intended to have.

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