Jun 24

From the Town Administrator's Desk - June 24, 2022

Posted on June 24, 2022 at 9:26 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Your Top Town Priorities?
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The Select Board typically holds a workshop session in the summer to assess how the preceding year went, see what refinements to process and meeting formats might be helpful, and to identify what the priority projects are for the coming months.  In preparation for this year’s workshop, it would be helpful to hear directly from residents how you would respond to these three categories.  

The number of issues that the Select Board and Town staff deal with seems to grow every year.  The past fiscal year (July through June) was certainly in keeping with this trend.  COVID persisted after taking a break last summer.  Mask mandates or advisories?  Outdoor dining or on-street parking? Continue to meet virtually or in person?  Hopefully COVID is turning more into more of a nuisance cold rather than a life-threatening disease but we cannot know for sure and thus must continue to monitor developments closely.  

The proposed 40B project went from the LIP negotiations to the formal comprehensive permitting processes before the ZBA.   A new spotlight has been shone on affordable housing.  A final decision on the current 40B project could take many years.  In the meantime, we will likely see continued interest in constructing affordable housing in town.  Past community surveys have shown a high degree of interest in diversifying our housing stock.  Do you agree that this should remain a high priority? If so, what specific approaches to you favor?  More flexibility in how and where ADU’s (accessory dwelling units) can be built?   Allow higher density in certain parts of town? In the Village?  What about the Affordable Housing Trust  partnering with the Manchester Housing Authority to renovate and expand the number of available affordable units?  They are moving forward with requests for proposals for doing an innovative public/private partnership including some market rate housing to subsidize affordable units.  

While a more diverse housing stock is desired, there is also a desire to protect the Town’s small town character and natural resources.  Having 30% of a community’s land base preserved is often cited as the desired standard for communities.  We are fortunate that we are already above this threshold.  However, there remains high interest in protecting a bigger portion of our watershed and other important environmentally sensitive lands.   What lands would you prioritize to protect?  More of the “western woods”?  More watershed lands?  How best do we achieve greater conservation? 

The future sustainability of our utilities is often cited as a big concern.  We know that our sewer treatment plant is vulnerable to flooding from storms and sea level rise.  Should we assume the plant is going to remain where it is and thus focus on fortifying it against flooding or do we look at alternatives, either within town or with our neighboring municipalities? All options here will be very expensive.

And what about other threats from changes induced by climate change?  Flooding in certain parts of town will be a major problem, including the core Village area.  How do we best control flooding?  Do we build higher seawalls?  Is a storm gate at the mouth of the harbor a viable option?  Are there ways to channel water away from the built environment or otherwise harness nature’s strategies to mitigate the threat of floods?  Are there areas we will not be able to protect?  How important a priority is all of this to you?

While our water supply remains good there, it is not unlimited.  Currently the Water Resources Task Force is undertaking a complete review of our system and will be making recommendations for how best to protect our water going forward.  Should this include phasing out the use of good drinking water for irrigation purposes?   Should we proceed now with plans to treat our water for a group of manmade chemicals knows as PFAS that have shown up but so far remain below treatment thresholds?  Again, what are the priorities in the face of limited financial resources?

There is no lack of topics to confront.  Indeed, the challenge is to decide which issues should be on the top of the priority list and the focus of our time and financial resources. And the process by which we make decisions as a community needs constant fine-tuning.  How information is shared through what venues in a changing media landscape deserves attention as well.  

Drop us a note here at Town Hall to share your thoughts on these and any other priorities you feel are needed.

Jun 17

From the Town Administrator's Desk - June 17, 2022

Posted on June 17, 2022 at 8:39 AM by Tiffany Marletta

New Household Hazardous Waste Collection Program
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The Board of Health is implementing a new process for the collection of household hazardous waste. The disposal industry continues to go through significant changes, including consolidations and we have had to adapt along the way as well.  Our previous vendor for collecting hazardous waste is no longer available, but the good news is that, thanks to some resourceful work by BOH staff Ellen Lufkin, a new vendor has been secured and will be offering more frequent and more convenient service.

The first of three household hazardous waste collection days for this year will be held Wednesday, June 22.   This new service will provide direct pick-up of the waste from your home.  Our new vendor, ACV Environmental will provide this new door to door service, eliminating the need for residents to transport their items. Pre-registration is required and can be done on-line (link is also available from the BOH page on the Town’s website):

https://ACV-TEST-FORMS.formstack.com/forms/manchester_hhw_pickup_request_form_june_22_2022

The new collection service will be jointly funded by both the Board of Health and participating residents.  When you register for a pick-up, you will be asked to identify the type of waste you have (e.g.: old oil based paints, solvents, oils, fuels, pesticides, etc.) and the estimated quantity either in gallons or pounds.  Resident payments are based on the quantity of waste you have to dispose.  The cost is $40.00 for 1-3 gallons or pounds, $52.00 for 4-10 gallons or pounds and $70.00 for 11-25 gallons or pounds.  You pay on-line as part of your registration.  The Town is covering the set-up and administrative costs involved for each of the collection days.    

The new service has worked quite successfully in other communities.  While more expensive than our previous vendor, the new service is significantly more convenient and is being offered multiple times a year rather than just once.  

Properly removing household hazardous waste from the environment is an important responsibility of every household.  Many household products are quite toxic and can cause environmental harm if improperly thrown out.  Take a look at the items that are listed for hazardous waste collection – you might be surprised to see what is there.  

Throwing something “away” is a bit of a misnomer.  “Away” is a place – away from you but not someone else.  And pollution travels -- in water, up and down food chains, in the air we breathe. By properly disposing of any hazardous materials you have in your home you are doing your part to help keep toxic waste out of the environment.   The Board of Health is please to be offering a more frequent and more convenient way for you to manage your hazardous waste.

Residents who have questions regarding this new household hazardous waste collection program may reach out to Ellen Lufkin at the Board of Health Office at 978-526-7385 or lufkine@manchester.ma.us

Jun 14

From the Town Administrator's Desk - June 10, 2022

Posted on June 14, 2022 at 5:01 PM by Tiffany Marletta

Construction, Dispatch and Zoning Update
By Gregory T. Federspiel

With summer nearly upon us it also means that municipal construction season is also here.  New England weather, municipal funding cycles and school schedules often make it challenging to time projects well.  

First, a success story – the new floats and ramp off of Tuck’s Point are ready to go.   Harbormaster Bion Pike put the finishing touches to the project this week.  The new system, funded through a state grant, is a big improvement over what was there previously.  The floats are further out and thus will no longer bottom out at low tide.  The new pilings replace the former anchors and are extremely strong, designed to withstand significant storms. The ramp is ADA compliant and is no longer putting a strain on the Rotunda itself.   Congratulations to the DPW, the Harbormaster and the contractor for a job well-done!  No more wet shuttling out to the floats in the yellow dingy.

The big construction project for the summer is the relining of the water main on School Street.  The main will be relined from Central Street up to the Essex Country Club.  The old main is heavily tuberculated, meaning it has become incrusted with mineral deposits, thus the pipe capacity is reduced.  The pipe will be cleaned out and relined restoring the pipe to its original capacity. New valves serving each property will be installed.  While the project does not require digging up every inch of the pipe, the project will still cause a fair amount of travel disruption.   Detours will be needed.  We are hopeful the bulk of the work will be completed by the fall though the contractor has up to four months to complete the project.  Regular updates will be provided throughout the course of the project.  

While not our construction project, another road project that has the attention of the Select Board is Hamilton’s plans to pave Chebacco Road.  Voters came close last fall to garnering the 2/3rds majority required to relocate the road further away from our water supply but the vote came up short.   Hamilton is moving ahead with plans to pave the existing gravel road.  While this will lead to some water quality improvements it poses some new water quality challenges and the Board hopes to work with their counterparts in Hamilton to minimize any new risks.  

Regarding public safety dispatch, the Select Board has begun discussing next steps now that voters have weighed in, expressing a preference for keeping dispatch services “in-house” on the non-binding ballot question. At their meeting on June 6 the Board discussed the results for the first time and revisited some of the details of what it would take to bolster our in-house operations to match the capacity levels that the North Shore Regional 911 Center could provide us.  One train of thought was that we would benefit from a methodical series of improvements, making strategic changes one step at a time.  The reality is improving our operations will take time.  And, similar to the split vote amongst voters, a majority of the Board may still decide that longer term a move to the regional center is in the best interest of the community.  Staff are researching some additional options as well.  The Board plans to continue their discussions and make decisions regarding next steps at their meeting on June 21 (Monday the 20th is the Juneteenth holiday.)  

Another major topic discussed at the June 6th Select Board meeting was how to move forward with the slate of zoning amendments that the PB has advanced.   Originally a June 11 Special Town Meeting was targeted as the date to have voters make the final decision on the proposed changes.  This date was postponed over concerns about assembling a quorum on a Saturday afternoon in June.  A later date in June was debated but in the end the Planning Board recommended, and the Select Board agreed that waiting until the fall would be the best decision.   Not only is vacation time and other special events avoided otherwise causing people to miss the meeting, but time is gained to allow the Planning Board to conduct more public outreach and a more thorough vetting of the proposals.  A stronger turnout and a more informed public should produce a better result.  

A drawback to delaying a vote on the proposed zoning changes is that it potentially holds up applications for permits.  Applications can proceed after the Planning Board’s public hearing held last month following the current by-laws and can be acted on by the ZBA or PB as appropriate.   However, the applicant has some risk in that if the zoning changes are eventually enacted and impose stricter requirements that the application does not meet, the applicant would have to come back before the permitting body for a second review.  Most of the proposed changes are reformatting in nature and keep the current regulations essentially as they are.  There is some proposed loosening of the regulations and a handful of instances where the regulations are more restrictive.  This handful of changes could be cause for a delay in a small number of projects.  The Boards felt that the benefits of waiting until the fall outweighed this drawback.

Keep an eye out for additional updates on these topics and many more in the weeks and months ahead.