Board of Selectmen Meeting: Regular Business with a Side of Green
Selectmen tackle business topics, as well as some green policies and events in town.
In the wake of Earth Day, a few green items slid across the desks of the Board of Selectmen in last night's meeting. First among them, the annual Arbor Day celebrations.
“I'm here to confirm a rumor: Spring has actually arrived,” joked Tree Warden Tom Brady.
Brady went on to submit the Arbor Day Proclamation, which declares April 29 as Arbor Day. The Proclamation helps spread the word about Arbor Day, and is a requirement for the Tree City USA program. The Lincoln School will host the Arbor Day event this year, at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Two new heirloom apple trees will be planted to the Lincoln School Orchard started last year. The procalamtion was unanimously accepted.
In a similar vein, the Board also looked at two plans which address the outstanding elements of the Green Communities designation: a vehicle policy and an energy reduction plan.
The vehicle policy determines that, where practical and commercially available, the town would purchase fuel-efficient vehicles–ideally hybrids– for municipal use. In some situations, a hybrid vehicle may not make sense, or may not exist, such as police cruisers or fire engines. The policy allows for these exceptions, but also commits to purchasing the vehicles as manufacturers produce ones which meet the criteria.
The energy reduction plan calls for a 20% reduction of energy use, after establishing a baseline. Fiscal Year 2009 was determined as the baseline, taking into account some buildings which already meet the EPA criteria needed for the Green Communities certification.
The Selectmen voted to unanimously accept these outstanding policies, as well as to submit the application to become a Green Community.
“It's a plan and a committment, but we are not tying our hands in terms of funding,” Selectwoman Jesse Mermell explained. “I'll be so excited when we can check off all five of the boxes, and get the application in.”
Department of Public Works (DPW) Commissioner Andrew Pappisturgion reports that the Town has also recieved a $100,000 grant for the single-stream recycling program. The grant was handed over today at 10 p.m. outside of Town Hall.
In a simultaneous meeting of the Advisory Committee, a decision was reached about the Budget, which was listed among the Warrant Articles scheduled for voting tonight. Deputy Town Administrator Sean Cronin recommended voting favorably on the Budget agreement. There are, however, still some questions which need to be answered before some members of the Board are fully comfortable taking action.
"This is a big deal decision that you're putting before us tonight." DeWitt stated, "I absolutely feel we're being pushed to do something. I don't know why the rating agency should be in charge with what we do with our budget. They screwed up the national economy, I don't want them to screw up the town."
The question of budgeting has been pushed off to a special meeting scheduled for Thursday of next week. Also pushed back to a later meeting were votes on the Lawrence Local Historical District and Legislation to remove Brookline from Norfolk County.
Of the latter, Selectmen Kenneth Goldstein noted, "In some respects, I think the petitioner is tilting at windmills. On the other hand, I think these windmills are worth tilting at."
Goldstein noted that there is "something wrong" with the current county system, and volunteered to work on the wording of the Warrant Article, number 21.
The Board did vote favorably on Warrant Article 2: Collective Bargaining Agreements, Warrant Article 14: Davis Path Special District, and–with the word "detrimental" instead of "objectionable"–Warrant Article 16: Fencing Requirements.
The Board of Selectmen voted no action on the unpaid bills and 2011 Budget Amendments (Warrant Articles 5 and 8, respectively) because there are none.
On the agenda were two new Articles, as well. Number 18, honoring former Governor Michael Dukakis and his wife Kitty Dukakis by naming a public building or monument to the Brookline natives. Through a committee, petitioner Brian Kane, 4 Lincoln Road, hopes to come up with a plan for the Fall town meeting to honor what he calls the "First Family" of Brookline.
Selectwoman Mermell commented that she'd heard about a school in Southborough named for the former Governor.
Mermell added, “I remember, number one thinking that’s great; but two, I was embarassed that it wasn’t Brookline first.”
While it wasn't on the list to vote tonight, the Board voted favorably on this Warrant Article.
The other new Warrant Article is number 19, about the design review process for traffic calming initiatives. The petitioner, Hugh Mattison of Pond Avenue, observed that the language behind any traffic calming mentions forming a Design Review Committee, but it does not seem that the method has been used.
"It seems to me that there are really two elements here: one is dealing with the fact that the Transportation Board’s policy–it might even be a DPW policy–requires the appointment of a design review committee. The policy has not been followed, apparently for years. Multiple projects have not followed that policy. There's the more a general question of saying either 'get rid of the policy or follow the policy.' The other questions is whether, where policy hasn't been followed, we should essentially not go forward with traffic calming projects," Selectman Richard Benka summarized.
Transportation Administrator Todd Kirrane explained, “I believed it was more of a guideline, not a firm policy. It created a backlog of projects that weren't being addressed."
The Board did not vote on this article tonight.
Three job openings were also approved by the Board. The Department of Public Works is seeking a new Park Ranger, a new position created to help with initiatives later in the year. They are also seeking to replace a Park Maintenance Craftsperson, Scott White, who transferred to another division within the DPW. Finally, the Recreation and School Departments need to replace a Bus Driver, for whom the schedule no longer works.
A new car-sharing service, similar to Zipcar, is planning to come to Brookline. Todd Kirrane, Transportation Adminisatrator presented a contract with the new service, iCar. iCar's contract sets aside two spaces for their vehicles on the Beacon Street median strip. In exchange, the town recieves $1000 per year, as well as excise tax on the vehicles. iCar had requested 10, but were told to find eight of them privately.
Selectman Benka observed that excise tax was a past issue for iCar's competitor, Zipcar, who reportedly had confusion over the number of vehicles on which they need to pay taxes.
Said iCar General Manager Pat Walsh, “For whatever number are garaged in Brookline, that is the number which will pay excise tax.”
Selectwoman Nancy Daly noted, “When we had the Zipcar debate, the room was filled with people who would want to use a service like yours.”
The Board unanimously accepted the contract.
Continuing a similar thread, a number of Common Victualler, Entertainment, and Alcoholic Beverages licenses were assigned to new businesses and old. Both Rod Dee Thai Cuisine and YoBro, a new pay-by-weight frozen yogurt establishment, were granted licenses to serve food at 1422 and 1424 Beacon Street, and 141 Cypress Street respectively.
A license to host Children's Music Hours at Finagle-A-Bagel at 1240 Boylston Street also given, allowing live guitar and a singer between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. YoBro was also allowed to play radio, television and taped music. A similar license was granted to a new Manager at the Putterham Grille. George Gianarris presented the request to operate, and serve wine and malt liquors at the 1012 West Roxbury Parkway restaurant. The Board noted some issues with the paperwork, but provided the licenses.
Selectwoman Daly had a warning for both of the liquor license applicants: "We take liquor laws very seriously in this town, because there are a lot of students."
She added that the Police Department occasionally do sting operations to check on liquor license holders.
Having sorted out some of its paperwork after a denial at another board, The Upper Crust was the other liquor license applicant. They were granted the license, and acknowledged Daly's warnings.
Dr. Robert Weinberg presented a public comment about proposed changes to the BU Bridge. Given his experience crossing the bridge regularly, he was concerned that the plan didn't properly address the needs of commuters, as it favored single-lane entrances on both sides. He urged the Board to try and get involved.
Chairwoman Betsy DeWitt noted that town representatives had been at the meetings when the project was with the Mass Department of Conservation and Recreation. However, the Mass Department of Transportation took over, and the public meetings stopped.
The Selectmen did not take action on this comment at this time.
Director of Veterans' Services William McCroarty requested a total of $35,000 from the reserve fund. $30,000 of which will go to supporting veterans returning to Brookline. McCroarty explained these are not intended to be permanent, and 75% will be reimbursed by the state. The remaining $5000 is needed for the Memorial Day celebrations.
Unanimously, the request to transfer these funds from the reserve fund was approved.
McCroarty added, "I appreciate the support of the Board of Selectmen and the Town of Brookline. It doens't happen everywhere, but it happens in this town and we always appreciate that. The vision of honoring the greatest generation of the 19th century so they can inspire the greatest generation of the 21st century."
Three substantial amendments were added to the Home One Year Action Plan, one reprogramming funds to the Olmsted Hill Condominiums project, and one adding funds to the Brookline Housing Authority project at 86 Dummer Street.
The Board also approved a $500,000 Housing Trust to deal with possible foreclosures of affordable housing. This move comes because of a couple of rather serious defaulting cases in town, and the funds will be set aside to handle these. Roger Blood, Chair of the Brookline Housing Authority, noted that the last time a situation like this arose, it sorted itself out.
These motions were approved, as was the One Year Action Plan, which will be submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.