Town Meeting - May 10th, 2021
Fifth night of annual town meeting, held via remote participation. Materials were available from https://www.arlingtonma.gov/town-governance/town-meeting.
- 1 Announcements
- 2 Article 3 - Reports of Committees
- 3 Article 55 - Town Budgets
(Alex Bagnall) Mr. Bagnall announced a haiku project that the Arlington Commission for the Arts is doing in Arlington Heights.
(Len Diggins) Mr. Diggins reads his own Haiku
- Hear me town meeting
- Deliberations this spring
- When will they end?
Article 3 - Reports of Committees
Article 3 is taken off the table, to receive reports.
(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar moves acceptance of an updated report from the capital planning committee.
The report is accepted, and Article 3 goes back on the table.
Article 55 - Town Budgets
(John Ellis) Mr. Ellis has an amendment to article 55, which would remove $43,000 from the police department budget. He explains that the police department has budgeted this amount to store footage from body cameras. The amount doesn't include the costs of the cameras themselves, or money paid to unions -- it just covers the cost of video storage. He wants to remove this amount until the Department publishes policies related to the use of body cameras. He thinks that policies are just as the important as the cameras themselves, the issues are complex, and require regulations that are fit to our police department.
(Beth Ann Friedman, Point of order) Ms. Friedman points out that we skipped article 53.
(John Leone, Town Moderator) Mr. Leone explains that we tabled articles 35--54 in order to take up the budget.
(John Ellis, Point of order) Mr. Ellis asks how to hold the police department budget for discussion.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone explains the process.
Town manager's budget
(Nancy Bloom) Ms. Bloom asks about an increase to the town manager's budget.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine says the expenses are related to the town website.
(Nancy Bloom) Ms. Bloom asks where deputy town counsel is listed.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine explains that one of the legal department staff changed responsibilities and titles.
Board of Registrars
(Betty Stone) Ms. Stone asks if there's a section of the budget where poll workers are paid.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine explains that election costs are paid from the Select Board's budget.
Department of Planning and Community Development
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if the planning department has enough resources to devote to important town goals, like finding opportunities for new growth and gradual expansion of tax revenue.
(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says they do.
Department of public works
(Leah Broder) Ms. Broder asks about the school sustainability coordinator position.
(Michael Rademacher, Director of Public Works) Mr. Rademacher says that position was funded by the school department this year.
(Kevin Koch) Mr. Koch asks how much salt was used on the roads this year.
(Michael Rademacher) Mr. Rademacher says the DPW spread 6,600 tons of salt this year.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks about the line items for waste diversion and curbside enforcement.
(Michael Rademacher) Mr. Rademacher says it's to help with enforcement of recycling policies, and to help us negotiation our next waste collection contract.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks if that position will pay for itself.
(Michael Rademacher) Mr. Rademacher says the position is not likely to pay for itself, but it will help us get a more effective contract a year from now.
(Beth Melofchik) Ms. Melofchik believes the DPW had a budget surplus of $90k last year. She asks where the money went.
(Charlie Foskett, Finance Committee) Mr. Foskett explains that surplus funds are returned to free cash.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks about the status of body camera deployment with APD, and how the Ellis amendment would affect that.
(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty says that after George Floyd's death, people asked the APD to use body cameras for transparency. She's been researching best practices. The department is still drafting a policy, which will go to the select board for approval. The Massachusetts Police reform bill established a commission on body-worn cameras, and they're charged with establishing a set of best practices. There will also be training and technical standards, retention policies, and sanctions for tampering with recordings.
(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks how the removal of $43k would be absorbed.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says that the department would not move forward with body cameras this year, if that $43k were removed.
(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar understands the intention is to withhold funds until the police department develops a policy for body worn cameras. He asks if it could be proposed as a contingent budget item.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says no, town meeting cannot condition a budget on the passage of a specific policy.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray supports the Ellis amendment. She says it's not about liking body cameras. Instead, it's about process and fiscal responsibility. The policy doesn't exist, and we don't know the total cost of body cameras.
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse asks why APD's social worker position was reduced.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says the department has a full-time clinician and a full-time social worker. The social worker position is partially funded by Health and Human Services.
(Lynette Culverhouse) Ms. Culverhouse asks if the chief has solicited policy feedback from residents.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says that department has between working with professional organizations, and there are no plans for community input yet. The policy will be brought to the select board.
(Charlie Foskett, Finance Committee) Mr. Foskett says there were concerns about body worn cameras at the finance committee. There are risks and benefit, and the fincom voted 16--1 to approve the police budget. He believes that setting police department policy is not the task of the finance committee. The chief made a commitment to transparency and to the police reform bill. We'll have to live with cameras eventually. He asks town meeting to take no action on the Ellis amendment.
(John Mahr) Mr. Mahr wants to emphasize and approve of Mr. Foskett's comments. Town meeting doesn't set policy; we appropriate funds. Cameras are important for transparency. He asks for Adam Chapdelaine's position on the Ellis Amendment.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine prefers that the Ellis amendment not pass. He believes that body cameras would be a benefit to APD. If the Ellis amendment passes, the police department would not consider them until 2022.
(John Ellis) Mr. Ellis says the policy for cameras hasn't been developed, and we don't know what the union will want in exchange for wearing them. He asks how the Select Board will go about approving the policy.
(Steve DeCourcey, Select Board Chair) Mr. DeCourcey says the board plans on having a public meeting to receive the policy, but no other specifics at this time.
(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein supports the Ellis amendment. Body cameras are not one-size-fit-all, and may not be the best use of department funds. He thinks the police department is putting the cart before the horse, and he's aghast that the police chief has no plans for public input.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone notes that Ms. Flaherty said they have no plans for public input yet.
(Brooks Harrelson) Mr. Harrelson opposes the Ellis amendment. He's pleased with the way APD has approaches policies, and expects they'll do well here. The Arlington Police Department is at the forefront of community policing. He doesn't see any benefit to waiting a year.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks about the fund that's paying for the cameras.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says the $43k is paying for video storage. The cameras themselves are being purchased with an asset forfeiture fund.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks about the balance and past uses of this fund.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says the cameras would be purchased from an asset forfeiture fund. The money is controlled by the department of justice, and used for training and equipment. The current balance of that fund is $153k.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks when the police department will be presenting their policy to the Select Board.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says she still has to work with the unions and complete the policy draft. They'd like to move on to deployment in September. She can't speak to collective bargaining agreements yet.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson understands the need for training and camera maintenance. He's against the amendment and supports the deployment of body cameras. He notes that $43,000 is a tiny part of the town's overall $180M dollar budget.
(Mustafa Varoglu) Mr. Varoglu asks about the social worker position. He doesn't see the funding listed under the HHS budget.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says the funding appears on page B-19, under budget E, AYCC Enterprise funds.
(Mustafa Varoglu) Mr. Varoglu asks how many social workers the department has had in the past.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine believes it's always been one full-time position.
(Sandy Pooler, Deputy Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says that in the past, the reporting of where that money came from was not always very accurate. He believes this budget is a more accurate reflection of the funding source. It's always been a consistent 1.0 FTE.
(Bob Jefferson) Mr. Jefferson motions to terminate debate on the APD budget.
(Gordon Jamieson, Point of order) Mr. Jamieson wants to clarify that the vote is to terminate debate on the police budget and Ellis amendment, and not the article as a whole.
Motion to terminate passes, 184--49--2.
(John Worden, Point of order) Mr. Worden thinks it's time for a recess.
(Brooks Harrelson, Point of order) Mr. Harrison asks if we'll vote on the Ellis amendment at the end.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says Mr. Harrelson is correct.
(Beth Benedikt) Ms. Benedikt asks what school credits are.
(Kevin Kelly, Fire Chief) Mr. Kelly says they're an incentive for firefighters to go to school and earn college credits, up to an associates degree.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman asks about the 1.6 FTE's for building inspector.
(Michael Byrne, Director of Inspectional Services) Mr. Byrne says that the department's workload hasn't decreased because of the pandemic. They're using more part-time staff, and that seems to be working out.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman asks where fines for violations of zoning bylaws go. For example businesses that violate the 25% limit of window display signs.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says the idea is generally to get compliance, before getting in to fines. The building inspectors periodically try to go around town, and they do respond to complaints. Fines are usually $25 or $50 per day.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman believes he sees a lot of violations of the sign bylaws. He asks if inspectional services needs more staff.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that the reduction in building inspectors was accompanied by an increase in support staff. It means the building inspectors can spend less time doing administrative work.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman asks if we could get Gentle Dental to comply with the sign ordinance, if there were more staff.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says that new growth is a critical part of town revenues. He asks how long it takes to get a building permit.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says it's taking longer than normal right now, due to COVID.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if the department can start keeping metrics on the length of time it takes to obtain a permit, given the importance of new growth. He'd like Arlington to be a town where it's easy to build something.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says the finance committee asked if inspectional services were overloaded, but never received the data to justify another building inspector. They department also uses very little of its overtime budget.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if there's enough staffing to deal with the construction of the new high school.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says that one of the inspectors is there almost every day, and it's been going well.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks what the department would do, if it had another inspector for enforcement. For example, would the inspector drive around town asking businesses to take signs out of their windows, or telling people they can't park with two wheels hanging off the edge of their driveway; or, would they do something else.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says that if he had another inspector, he'd like to spend more time on plan review, and spending more time on the inspections themselves.
(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon asks about step designations under employee compensation.
(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says that steps are part of the pay system. Basically, more experience means more pay.
(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy asks about sign enforcement. She says it seems like there's not enough manpower to regularly enforce sign compliance.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says the department has priorities, which are plan review and building safety. Sign enforcement is secondary to safety.
(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy asks if it would be helpful for residents to write in about non-compliant businesses.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says that kind of enforcement is more complaint based. He prefers to speak directly with owners about their violation, and get them to address it voluntarily. He asks people to email inspectional services if they believe they see a violation.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks why the library has budgeted $60k/year for overtime.
(Andrea Nicolay, Director of Libraries) Ms. Nicolay says the overtime is to support Saturday and Sunday services.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks if librarians are paid overtime to work on weekends.
(Andrea Nicolay) Ms. Nicolay says there is overtime pay for "non-usual hours". This varies by union, and it's part of their collective bargaining agreement.
(Elizabeth Carlton-Gyson) Ms. Carlton-Gyson asks a question about how the librarian positions are listed.
(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says there are four children's librarians who work part time. The staffing isn't a round number, because of the part-time positions.
(Elizabeth Carlton-Gyson) Ms. Carlton-Gyson asks for an explanation of "night differential".
(Andrea Nicolay) Ms. Nicolay says that's union pay for working after 5:00 pm.
(Betty Stone) Ms. Stone asks how part time hours are set. For example, why do we have 0.54 FTEs instead of 0.5?
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says the hours are determined by the department manager and job. They're based on need.
(Betty Stone) Ms. Stone asks how an FTE is defined.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says it's based on a 35-hour work week.
(Sandy Pooler) Mr. Pooler says the number of hours is based on contract. Hourly workers generally have a 40-hour week, and salaried workers generally have a 35-hour week. That's common for most departments, but police and fire have their own staffing policies.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano says he hasn't received a school committee report.
(Kathleen Bodie, Superintendent) Ms. Bodie says the report is available from the town website. She was under the impression that this information had been sent to town meeting members.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone confirms that the report is on the town website.
(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman asks why the school budget lists 39.6 new hires.
(Kathleen Bodie) Ms. Bodie says a fair number of those are reserve positions. She's not sure how many students will be coming back, so they built in more reserve positions. There are more social workers and support positions. The school department added these positions to meet the needs of students.
(Terrance Marshall) Mr. Marshall asks who developed the plans to open or close the schools, in the early stages of the pandemic.
(Kathleen Bodie) Ms. Bodie says there were intensive meetings about this last summer. The schools relied on guidance from the Department of Education and and Department of Public Health. Part of the in-person schooling was based on desk spacing; they wanted to have 6' between student desks. The decisions were not made by a single person; numerous people and departments were involved.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks if there are translation and interpretation services for families where English is a second language.
(Kathleen Bodie) Ms. Bodie says there is money set aside for English language programs, under the special education section of the budget.
(Michael Mason, School Department CFO) Mr. Mason says the budgets for translation are under special education and personnel. They're not specified in a dedicated line item.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks if there's interpretation in addition to translation.
(Michael Mason) Mr. Mason says yes, translation and interpretation both fall under "translation".
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray asks if the school handbook has been translated.
(Kathleen Bodie) Ms. Bodie believes so, but we'll have to look into it.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone reminds town meeting that the school committee determines how the schools spend their money. He suggests that detailed spending questions be brought to the school committee.
(Jennifer Mansfield) Ms. Mansfield asks why the special education budget decreased.
(Kathleen Bodie) Ms. Bodie says there are two-parts to special education: Arlington public schools, and out-of-district. The former went up, and the latter went down.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano asks why a hard copy of the school report wasn't mailed to town meeting members.
(missed the moderator's response)
(Dganit Cohen) Ms. Cohen asks if the department has the money to retain teachers.
(Michael Mason) Mr. Mason says that staffing budgets are based on contractual obligations.
(Michele Phelan) Ms. Phelan says that Arlington is below average for per-student spending. She asks where we sit in relation to the rest of the state.
(Kathleen Bodie) Ms. Bodie says that Arlington has always been below the state average. She says the department has great staff, meet the needs of students, and manages money conservatively.
Health and Human Services
(Terrance Marshall) Mr. Marshall asks about COVID-related positions and compliance officers.
(Christine Bongiorno, Director of Health and Human Services) Ms. Bongiorno says her department added two health compliance officers, with federal funding. They were hired to do contract tracing and vaccination. She'd like to keep those positions on, but will continue to evaluate.
(Bob Jefferson) Mr. Jefferson wants to thank health and human services for everything they've done this year in response to the COVID pandemic.
(missed a question here)
(Christine Bongiorno) Ms. Bongiorno says she tried to show more detail about how different positions are funded, including funding from grants and offsets.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says that when the town received a AAA bond rating, the rating agency's only concern was the investments of the retirement board. He asks if that's been worked on.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says that the retirement portfolio is managed at the state level, via PRIM.
There's no further discussion on individual budgets.
Ellis amendment fails, 45--171-6.
Budget passes, 213--10--6.
(Christian Klein, Point of order) Mr. Klein asks where we'll start on Wednesday night.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone says we'll start with the minuteman budget, and then Article 56.