The Board of Selectmen tacked a full and varied agenda: A resolution to update bottle deposit laws, a plaque recognizing the Emerald Necklace parks, funding from the Historical Commission to name a few of the items.
Executive Director of MassPIRG, Janet Domenitz summarized the current Bottle Bill: "The bottle bill is the nickel deposit that you pay on a soft drink. The original law was enacted in 1982. Many other kinds of beverages have come onto the market since then."
The update will add a $0.05 bottle deposit to a number of beverages which don't currently have them, such as plastic water bottles, sports drinks, and glass juice or iced tea bottles.
“If those beverages existed back when the law was penned, of course we would have included them,” Dominitz quoted the bill's original sponsor, Lois Pines, a former State Senator.
The statistics she presented tell a compelling story. Of recyclable bottles, nearly 80% are recycled--71% of which are redeemed for the five cent deposit. According to Dominitz' statistics, it is almost the reverse for non-deposit containers.
Money from these deposits once went back to the distributors, but now go into the Commonwealth. Until 2002, the money was set aside in a fund specifically designated for green projects. One of the hopes for this updates is to bring that fund back.
A number of other communities have signed onto this resolution. The goal is to demonstrate a groundswell of support for this measure by speaking to a number of Massachusetts communities.
“I believe, if you do it tonight, you’ll be number 160,” Dominitz added.
The Board of Selectmen approved this resolution unanimously.
Arlene Mattison, president of the Brookline Greenspace Alliance presented the Selectmen with a plaque from the American Planning Association (APA), and read a letter in which they described it as an "undisputed park jewel."
"We all know how important the Emerald Neclace is, and the fact that it connects us, in a lot of ways to nature, and to other communities. As a regular at both Olmsted Park and around Jamaica Pond, it's wonderful to do that. I'm never alone when I'm walking there, there are always other people there," DeWitt remarked.
The plaque currently reads "Boston" only, but as Brookline's is undoubtedly part of the chain, Mattison contacted the APA in hopes of getting a plaque naming both communities.
Selectman Kenneth Goldstein added, "We're in the top ten without the Muddy River project even commenced. I can't even imagine where we we're going to be once it's finished."
Massachusetts Historical Commission also honored Brookline with a significant contribution to the 's plans for the Fisher Hill Gatehouse. In addition to the $4,000 from the BPC, MHC is offering a matching contribution of $16,000. The funding will pay for a study to determine the conditions and feasibility of acquiring the Gatehouse.
The board interviewed two potential candidates for the Transportation Board and the Retiree Healthcare Trust. Fran Peters is a consultant with Meketa Investment Group who has done similar work on a Healthcare Trust in Wellesley, Mass. Pamela Zelnick is a returning member of the transportation board.
“I notice things that could be improved, and I’d like to improve them. What drew me to transportation in the first place was the ‘parking mess.’” Zelnick said.
One issue the Selectmen seemed particularly interested in was that of taxi drivers, an issue Zelnick seems to have given a lot of thought to.
Said Zelnick, “we’ve talked about some programs every cab driver will have to take, every other year, so that they’re made aware again of what they’re supposed to be doing.”
What they're not "supposed to be doing" includes socializing while awaiting fares and often littering. She also commented that she's often called for a cab the night before, and had a driver have no idea where her destination is or how to arrive.
There were also questions from a couple of Selectmen about some cab drivers having broken credit card machines, or pressing customers not to use the machines there, sometimes even demanding extra tips because of electronic fees. Zelnick has not yet heard reports of this behavior in Brookline.
No vote was taken on either candidate at this time. They will hear from the Board in writing shortly after the vote.
The Board did appoint a Construction Oversight Committee, consisting of Longyear Trustees Gill Fishman and Wayne Saker who represent the neighborhood, two more neighbors share the role of alternate members: Mike Oates and Pam Lodish. In addition, Board of Selectmen Chair Betsy DeWitt, Building Commission member David Pollack, and the Building Commissioner Mike Shepard, and one at-large member. The at-large role will be shared by Kathy Spiegelman and Steve Heiken.
DeWitt addded, about the construction sounds, “Although it was noisy, it was not ear-piercing, penetrating, bone-shaking noise.”
A request for $21,160 was approved by the Board for work on the traffic lights at the intersection of Babcock and Harvard Streets. The light currently operates on a timer, giving green-lit time to each of the directions regardless of vehicles there. Replacing it with a traffic light which operates on sensors is expected to improve traffic flow. The request was approved unanimously.
To save time, the Board also approved three one-day drinks licenses for upcoming events as a single vote. As a result, a PTO fundraiser (March 26), a Boston University banquet (Apr 8) and a gala (Apr 9) will all serve alcohol.