Feb 16

From the Town Administrator's Desk - February 16, 2024

Posted on February 16, 2024 at 4:56 PM by Tiffany Marletta

February 16, 2024
Parking Discussions On Tap
By Gregory T. Federspiel

A major focus of the Select Board’s meeting scheduled for Tuesday, February 20th is parking – regulations, utilization, and enforcement. Parking often ranks high as a topic of concern at least for some. It tends to take up a fair amount of staff time as well.

Voters approved amendments to the Town’s parking bylaw which authorized the Select Board to approve annually the list of streets restricted to resident cars only from May through October. The list used to be part of the bylaw which meant every time a change was needed a town meeting vote had to take place. Now adjustments can be made by the Select Board after taking public comment at a Select Board meeting. The Select Board will be reviewing the list and approving it after taking public comments at their meeting on the 20th.

Voters also approved removing from the bylaw the location of where the resident sticker is placed on a car. This is now up to staff and the Select Board to decide. The bylaw used to specify that stickers were to be placed on the rear, driver-side window but with most cars having heavily tinted side windows seeing a sticker in this location became too difficult. Resident stickers should be placed on the front windshield on the driver’s side.

In the village core area parking is generally limited to two hours. For most of the year there are ample parking spaces but on hot, sunny summer weekends the Town can fill up. (Certainly, Singing Beach lacks enough parking for all who want to park there but that is a somewhat separate issue.) While a recent parking study completed for the Town shows that the majority of cars do not exceed the 2 hour limit, certainly some do, and how best to enforce the limits is a perennial challenge.

Using traditional parking enforcement officers has become more difficult lately as fewer individuals are stepping forward to do this seasonal work. Alleged violators sometimes want to challenge the accuracy of the officer’s work leading to more staff time spent on appeals of parking tickets.

To help alleviate some of these problems many communities turn to some type of parking fee payment system. Most communities with timed parking have gone to parking kiosks rather than meters at every parking spot. Police Chief Fitzgerald will present a few options that could be deployed here in Manchester if that is a direction the Select Board decides to take. The kiosks have grown in sophistication and can, for example, allow for free resident parking when license plate numbers are entered. However, moving in this direction represents a pretty big change from how the Town has managed parking in the past. Discussions on the pros and cons are needed.

The parking study completed in 2022 concluded that, with close to 500 parking spaces in the village core area there are almost always available parking slots. However, how these spots are managed could be improved and messaging about where parking is allowed and for what duration could be clearer. And there is the particular problem of employees of local businesses taking up prime on-street parking, moving their vehicle every couple of hours to avoid ticketing. Eliminating this alone could improve the availability of on-street parking.

Other parking issues involving mooring holders, care takers, and other guests of residents pose issues as well. The intent of Tuesday’s meeting is to review many of these parking related challenges and to

develop clear procedures and approaches that make for smooth enforcement and efficient use of the parking we have.

Feb 09

From the Town Administrator's Desk - February 9, 2024

Posted on February 9, 2024 at 2:17 PM by Tiffany Marletta

February 9, 2024
Public Safety Updates; Resident Stickers
By Gregory T Federspiel

Many improvements in the Town’s public safety operations have taken place over the past 12 months. Both the Police and Fire Departments are running smoothly under the strong leadership of Police Chief Fitzgerald and Fire Chief McNeilly. Concerns that were circulating a year ago have been addressed and public satisfaction appears to be high.

The transition to the regional dispatch center in Middleton, while cause for worry for some, has been a quiet success story. The staff at the regional center went the extra mile to work closely with town staff in making the switch. It has been a seamless move that has provided a high level of professional service and advanced new technology. Our Police Department can focus 100% of their energy on policing. Some of the savings realized has been redirected to additional police officers adding to the Department’s ability to respond effectively to multiple incidents at once while still providing good coverage to the Police Lobby. We have not had any incidents related to an empty station. As an extra precaution, the lobby serves as a lockable safe room and is fully equipped to have audio video communications with the dispatch center should an emergency ever arise when all officers are out of the station. Both fire and police personnel seem quite satisfied with the new service, as do the public.

The Fire and Rescue Department has benefited from a new Chief and a boost in staffing. We have benefited from the professionalism and local ties Chief McNeilly has brought to the position. As an Essex resident and volunteer for the Essex Fire Department, Jake has implemented new shared arrangements between the two departments that enhance responses for both towns.

Voters approved four additional full-time Fire Fighters/Paramedics for the Department over the last few years bringing the total to 16 plus the Chief. This allows four crews of four unless someone is out on leave time. With four on-duty, simultaneous medical calls can be handled, and an active fire immediately attacked from the interior while adhering to the “two in, two out” protocol. Further adding to the ability of the department is the re-establishment of a call fire fighter rooster. Four call-fighters/paramedics are available to assist as needed. Again, there was some skepticism about how successful the Department would be in recruiting “call” personnel but the department has been successful to date and hopes to bring on four more call personnel next year.

A new ladder truck for the Fire Department will be arriving this summer. Fire staff worked hard to get the new truck here in much less time than the typical 24 months. In the meantime, we have benefited from housing one of Lynnfield’s ladder trucks as they go through a station renovation project. A new fleet replacement schedule has been drawn up and, barring any unexpected major breakdowns, should serve the Department’s needs well for the foreseeable future.

On the parking regulation front, most car owners should have received by now their 2024 resident parking stickers in the mail at no charge. The stickers are being distributed again using the vehicle excise tax data base. (Yes, each sticker is mailed separately even to the same household, just like the excise tax bill is. It is actually quicker to process and less expensive to do it this way.) Voters approved changes in the local bylaw regarding the stickers, including taking out of the bylaw where stickers are to be placed. Based on the recommendations of the Police, resident stickers should be located on the driver’s side of

the front windshield. (Often times side rear windows are now tinted preventing clear visibility of the stickers.)

As part of the same bylaw change, the list of streets restricted to resident vehicles only has been removed from the bylaw and will now be approved annually by the Select Board to make updating much easier. The Board plans to review and vote on the list at their meeting on February 20th (Tuesday, due to the President’s Holiday on Monday.) Resident parking restrictions begin in May.

Similar to last year, beach tags must be purchased for those wanting to get onto Singing Beach in the Summer. Soon tags can be ordered on-line through the Park and Recreation Department’s web page. You will also be able to stop by the P&R office on Tuesdays and Thursdays to purchase the tags in person though we encourage everyone to order on-line. Order before April 30 and save $10.00. Starting May 25th tags will only be available for purchase at Singing Beach for $35.00. Ahh, but it is still early February!

Feb 09

From the Town Administrator's Desk - February 2, 2024

Posted on February 9, 2024 at 2:13 PM by Tiffany Marletta

February 2, 2024
ATM Set for April 24th; Local Elections May 21st
By Gregory T. Federspiel

This year’s Annual Town Meeting (ATM) will be on Wednesday, April 24 starting at 6:30PM. Voters approved a change in the Town’s bylaw moving the ATM from the first Monday in April to the fourth Monday. However, this year, the fourth Monday coincides with the religious holiday of Passover thus the Select Board has exercised its authority to alter the date to avoid the conflict. The extra time will enable more certainty on various proposed budget items.

During the next three months budget proposals will be finalized both for town and school operations. It is shaping up to be a more challenging year to craft the annual spending proposals given the pressures caused by higher inflation the past couple of years and increasing demand for some departmental services. The Finance Committee meets weekly in order to review all departmental requests in detail and to prepare their recommendations for voters.

Typically, there are articles dealing with bylaw amendments as well as the occasional citizen petition article. The Planning Board may have additional amendments to the zoning regulations to propose but the proposals for complying with the state’s MBTA zoning mandate will most likely be considered at a Special Town Meeting later in the year as the MBTA Task Force continues their due diligence in vetting various options. Once the Task Force finalizes their recommendations the Planning Board will review them, finalize any proposals and schedule formal public hearings on possible new zoning that complies with Chapter 40A, Section 3a. Only then is the proposed new zoning ready to go before voters who have the final say at a Town Meeting.

Citizen petition articles are due in the Select Board’s Office at least 60 days prior to the ATM. Thus, the deadline for this year is February 22 (the 23rd is a Friday when Town Hall is closed.) Petition articles for the ATM need to have the signatures of at least 10 registered voters. Blank petition forms are available on the Town Clerk’s page of the Town’s website.

Town Elections are held on the third Tuesday of May – May 21st this year. Nomination papers are now available from the Town Clerk’s Office. Elections will be held for Town Moderator, Select Board, School Committee, Planning Board (2 positions) and Library Trustee.

Of course, it is an extra busy year for elections. There is the presidential primary on March 5, the state primary on September 3 and the state and national elections on November 5. Election day voting takes place at the Memorial School from 7AM until 8PM. Early voting is offered as well as voting by mail. Again, see the Town Clerk’s page of the Town’s website for details.

New Planner: In other news, please welcome to Town Marc Resnick, Manchester’s new town planner. Marc started working for the town a couple of weeks ago and is getting right to work helping the Planning Board start the review process for the proposed new biolab Cell Signaling Technology is proposing up by the MAC and assisting the MBTA task force, among other projects. Marc comes to us with many years of experience in the planning profession including working for Lakeville, Foxborough, Brockton and Salisbury. He has worked on complex projects which often had competing interests to resolve – experiences that will serve him well as he helps Manchester deal with various challenges. Marc is looking forward to learning more about the Town and working with many of you. He also is looking forward to settling into the old family home in Gloucester.