Feb 13

From the Town Administrator's Desk - February 13, 2020

Posted on February 13, 2020 at 10:15 AM by Tiffany Marletta

375th Town Anniversary Celebrations Underway

By Gregory T. Federspiel

The Town’s rich history and pride of place are on full display this year as we celebrate the 375th anniversary of the establishment of Manchester as an official town of the Commonwealth.  Thanks to the hard work of the 375th Celebration Committee, each month will bring new events and a reason to gather together as a community.

Committee Co-Chairs Sue Torne and Tom Kehoe, no strangers to making things happen in town, have been working with a team of some 25 residents – even more when you count subcommittee members - to coordinate a series of events throughout the year.  Staff support, especially from Executive Assistant Sonja Nathan and Parks and Recreation Director Cheryl Marshall, has provided valuable assistance to the committee.

The first two events drew good crowds.  Over 300 people attended the bonfire to kick things off (albeit after a couple of weather induced delays!) and some 175 people attended the Family Fun Day held at the American Legion Hall this past Sunday.  Next week there are events planned at the Library (create your unique Manchester based story) and at the Sacred Heart Parish Hall, where a special presentation will be given on Native American life in the area sponsored by the Manchester Historical Museum.  Complete event details can be found on the Town’s web site: www.manchester.ma.us.

The 375th celebrations have been a community wide affair from the start.  In addition to the work of the Committee, the logo design was an effort that Erika Brown and video/graphic design teacher Caroline Epp initiated with her high school honor students.  The selected logo, designed by than freshman Isabel Lundstrom, graces the mugs and shirts that are available for purchase as well as event posters.  The nautical themed logo has been a hit from the start.

Contributions in time and in cash continue to come in.  Sales of the heirloom quality anniversary puzzle have been steady.  Ticket sales for the Gala planned for March 7th at the Essex County Club are progressing nicely (available at Town Hall.)  Cash donations, which are off to a good start, will allow most events to be low cost or free. Donations are greatly appreciated to supplement the town funds voters approved at last year’s Town Meeting for this special anniversary year.  

Celebrating community along with our unique history and place is a vital part of making our town a special place.  Indeed, it is an important part of building the social capital that enables us to come together to tackle the challenges of the day, whether it be investing in our infrastructure that serves residents daily or how best to manage future growth that respects our town character while providing a tax base that funds our needs.  When residents can interact with each other during fun events, common bonds are formed that make it easier to gather for more serious work like debating and voting on budgets and other important town decisions at a Town Meeting. 

So venture forth, have some fun at any number of anniversary events, get to know your fellow residents and appreciate the many wonderful aspects of our small corner of the world.   

Feb 06

From the Town Administrator's Desk - February 6, 2020

Posted on February 6, 2020 at 10:22 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Preparations for the Annual Town Meeting & Elections
By Gregory T. Federspiel

Yes, it is only the beginning of February but boards, committees and staff are very busy getting ready for the April 6 Annual Town Meeting as well as Town Elections scheduled for May 19.  (By Town Bylaw, the Annual Town Meeting is held the first Monday in April and the Annual Town Elections the third Tuesday in May.) 

Over the next few weeks, the final touches will be made to the proposed budget that voters will be asked to approve as well as the various articles.  As noted previously, the deadline for any citizen petition article is February 6.  Another public forum on the draft town budget will be held during the next Selectmen’s meeting on February 18.  The Finance Committee, which is meeting every Wednesday evening, will wrap up its recommendations by early March in order to get their report off to the printer in time for delivery to all households by the end of March.

Budgets adjustments to date have lowered total expenditures slightly from the preliminary budget released in December. The proposed budget assumes that voters wish to see the same level of services continue and that they are willing to shoulder a 2.5% increase in taxes to sustain these services.  No new debt is anticipated though we will be continuing our efforts to reinvest in the town’s neglected infrastructure on a cash basis.

Non-budget related articles for Town Meeting are in the early stages of being developed and will be finalized by early March as well.  Topics include authority to bill property owners for unpaid utility bills by their tenants, charging a local room tax on short term rentals, simplifying the process for appointing new trustees to the Town’s Affordable Housing Trust, and moving the date for the Annual Town Meeting and Town Elections a few weeks later.  (Our dates are relatively early and require proposing new budgets before various costs are known.)  These will articles will be more fully vetted at the next two Selectmen’s meetings.

Regarding Town Elections, nine positions will be on the ballot.  The nine are: Town Moderator, two Selectmen, one School Committee member, a Library Trustee, three Planning Board members (two for a three year term and one for a two year term,) and a Housing Authority member.  Nomination papers for each of these nine positions are now available at the Town Clerk’s Office.  In order for your name to appear on a Town Ballot, you need to return the nomination papers with at least 32 signatures from registered voters.  The deadline for submitting nomination papers is 5:00PM on March 31st.

Serving as an elected official can be a very rewarding way to contribute to the vitality and smooth functioning of our community.  No, it is not a ticket to riches (no elected officials are paid) but you do have the opportunity to shape policies and direct the future direction of the town. Maybe it is your turn to serve! Interested? Have questions?  Feel free to stop by Town Hall and we would be happy to talk to you about the positions.      

Jan 30

From the Town Administrator's Desk - January 30, 2020

Posted on January 30, 2020 at 1:47 PM by Tiffany Marletta

Grants Update: Advancing Our Master Plan Priorities

By Gregory T. Federspiel

The recently adopted Master Plan for Manchester, with its focus on preserving our natural resources, diversifying our housing options, and expanding our tax base to fund our infrastructure needs, provides a road map for actions to be taken by our boards, committees and staff.  To help further these efforts, a number of new grants, totaling more than $400,000 have been awarded to the Town. 

A grant through the state’s Housing Choice Program will enable us to explore the feasibility of repurposing the site of our wastewater treatment plant.  If a new approach to treating our wastewater can be developed (e.g.: connecting our collection system to Beverly’s) then the site could potentially be utilized for new uses – residential, commercial, open space.  While a long term project, this eventually would have the dual benefit of moving critical infrastructure away from the threats of sea level rise and enhancing our core village area.

Through the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Program, we have received additional funding to continue on to the permitting phase for the re-establishment of Sawmill Brook as a free flowing stream as it enters the inner harbor and the reconstruction of the stone embankments upstream of the Central Street culvert.  This effort is in conjunction with the planned reconstruction of the dam and culvert at Central Street and will restore the natural flood mitigating properties of Sawmill Brook. We hope to receive future grant funding for the reconstruction of the streambanks.

As part of a new initiative to preserve a large swath of forest land in the western corner of the Town, we have been awarded a small grant from the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation to complete a forest stewardship plan for roughly 500 acres of open space.  Much of this area of town is already under town or land trust ownership and, with a stewardship plan in place, we position ourselves to be eligible for future funding to preserve lands that are currently privately held. 

While this important preservation effort is underway, a complementary effort has begun to see how we might encourage new commercial development in our Limited Commercial District.  The LCD lies to the north of Route 128. Creating strong development standards that ensure protection of the natural resources in this area while allowing for a greater variety of uses could allow for new development.  Bolstering our tax base in this way would provide important financial support to the Town.  The Planning Board is moving forward with an exploration of creating a 40R (mixed use) overlay district and the state has offered to provide technical assistance to us as we undertake this initiative. 

Another Planning Board priority is to analyze parking in Town. Before new development takes place we want to make sure we have a solid game plan to better manage the flow of cars in and around our village core.  We expect to receive assistance from the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission to conduct a parking study with recommendations for traffic flow and parking improvements. 

We are also in line for grant funds to improve access to our Town facilities.  Through a state ADA grant we will identify needed improvements and put together an action plan for these improvements. Having the plan in place makes us eligible for implementation grants.  And speaking of Town facilities, we anticipate the receipt of FEMA funds to help keep flood waters out of Town Hall and the Sewer Plant.