Lessons Learned and Priorities Moving Forward
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The Selectmen met for their annual workshop this past Saturday, 8/14, during which they review how the past year or so has gone and identify new initiatives for the new Fiscal Year. These sessions allow for some self-reflection as well as thinking more strategically about the future.
The past 18 months have been especially challenging. For weeks on end COVID and the Town’s responses to the pandemic dominated the Board’s time. We did amazingly well transitioning to remote work and meetings. Town services have continued without interruption despite all the changes the pandemic has imposed. Staff deserve high praise for their efforts.
Getting up to speed and dealing with the initial round of the proposed 40B project on Upper School Street and the hours spent in negotiations with the developer in public was another unusual and time-consuming effort. So, too, has been the question of how best to provide public safety dispatch services. While the latter should be decided within a couple of months we will have to see if the state allows the 40B project to move into hearings before the ZBA. We face many months of hearings if the project is allowed to proceed to the Comprehensive Permitting stage.
Long, involved meetings on Zoom have at times tried everyone’s patience. But the virtual platform has allowed many more people to easily attend Board meetings and provide input. The Board is committed to using the virtual platform even when they start meeting in person again. The Chairperson will continue to strive for that “sweet spot” of conducting efficient and crisp meetings while allowing time for public input from residents.
Toward this end, going forward the Board often will be hosting hearings and other public forums separate from their regular meetings. The thought is to dedicate one Thursday evening a month to these types of meetings. And to better inform the public, agenda materials will be posted along with the actual agenda.
There is a long list of projects that are in the works – the new floats at Tuck’s, water and sewer pipe replacements, the reconstruction of the dam and culvert on Central Street, determination of the status of the Water Resource Protection committee, the renovation of Sweeney Park to name a few. Many of these are well underway and are being managed by the appropriate department.
The Selectmen also identified new initiatives for the coming months. This includes:
- Reviewing and expanding Community Policing efforts and Traffic Calming measures;
- On-going COVID management coupled with Economic Recovery efforts for our local businesses;
- Expanding our housing diversity/affordability;
- Training Board and Committee members including creating a new Code of Conduct;
- Deciding on where to build a new DPW facility;
- Working on Climate Change resiliency and adaptation measures.
In the months to come, you will hear much more about each of these initiatives as well as the usual slate of topics ranging from annual liquor license renewals to zoning amendments.
Hopefully the coming months will not be quite as challenging as the past year and half has been. No doubt there will be surprises that will present new challenges – there always are. But we adjust and keep working toward building the community we desire. As I recently commented at my mother’s funeral, I believe the over-arching arc of history is one toward a more just and equitable world, despite our shortcomings and the many setbacks along the way. Each of us has a role to play in mending the imperfections. Like Mom, we will be doing well by focusing on making our small corner of the world a better place. Her lesson is one that sustains me.