Town Meeting - Nov 30th, 2020
Special town meeting, night #4. Conducted via remote participation.
Article 23 - DPW Yard. This article involves an additional $8.9M capital expense for the DPW yard renovation.
(Timur Yontar, Capital Planning Committee Chair) Mr. Yontar urges approval of the article.
(Jeff Alberti, Project Designer, via recorded presentation) Mr. Alberti says the majority of buildings in the DPW yard were built in the early 1900s, and there have been few updates since the 1970s. The buildings are not code compliant, and there's inadequate space for staff and vehicle storage. There are also issues with the building envelopes.
2018 estimates for the renovation included $25.5M in hard costs, plus associated soft costs, for a total of $29M. That estimate included only the department of public works; since then, we've decided to relocate the IT and facilities departments to the DPW facility (these department offices are currently in the high school). These additional requirements required time to address, as well as coordination with the high school reconstruction project.
The revised project scope includes renovation of four buildings, building a new operational facility and a salt shed. This comes to $34M in hard costs, plus soft costs and contingencies, for a total of $38.9M. The increased costs are attributable to a market spike in the cost of construction, additional requirements, and change in the form of construction management.
The work will start in April 2021. It will take place in two phases, and should end in April 2023.
(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says this is a difficult site on a difficult piece of land. The area is prone to flooding and DPW equipment is stored outdoors. The place is a dump. We've renovated the schools and other town buildings, and it's time to renovate the DPW yard. Mr. Jamieson asks for town meetings support.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks for an explanation of the construction management practices: design, bid, build (the old model) vs construction manager at risk (the new model).
(Mike Rademacher, DPW director) Design, bid, and build is basically what it sounds like -- you design buildings, put the design out to bid, and the construction company builds it. The construction team isn't involved in the design process, and there's a risk that they might run into issues with the plans. Construction manager at risk gets the construction manager involved in the design phase. This gives the construction manager an opportunity to raise issues early in the process, and they also assume part of the risk.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak reiterates what was said during the video presentation. The DPW's buildings were built in the early 20th century, and haven't been updated since the 1970s. The facility is kind of a mess, and is really due for an upgrade. He hopes town meeting will support the article.
(David Levy) Mr. Levy says the 2019 capital planning report made reference to these cost increases. The DPW yard renovation will provide connectivity to the thigh school. He asks how the $8.9M appropriation will be funded.
(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar says the money will be bonded, and they're expecting a 30-year term. Interest rates are very low right now, which makes it a great time to borrow money. Debt service will be about $400,000/year. Payments will fit into the existing capital budget and there will be no increase in property taxes. It will be about 4.6% of the total capital budget.
(Scott Lever) Mr. Lever asks if we've considered contracting out some of the work that DPW does.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine says that he and the DPW manager regularly talk about what to contract out. We currently contract for tree work and cemetery maintenance. He doesn't think there's much more to contract out right now, but that's something they periodically re-evaluate.
(Scott Lever) Mr. Lever asks if the IT build will include a data center.
(Michael Rademacher) Mr. Rademacher says there will be a data center.
(Scott Lever) Mr. Lever asks if we've considered a cloud model for IT needs.
(David Good, Director of IT) Mr. Good says that Arlington hosts a variety of core applications in the cloud, and some are hosted locally. The town's core networking infrastructure currently resides in the high school and will be moved to the DPW facility. That's our most important IT asset, which provides network service to every town building.
(Scott Lever) Mr. Lever asks how much of the IT facility will house town staff.
(David Good) Mr. Good says there are 22 people in the IT department. Seven are currently housed in the school, and will move to the DPW department.
(Scott Lever) Mr. Lever asks if these staff can be placed elsewhere, perhaps by renting commercial space.
(David Good) Mr. Good says he wants to keep the core team together, and that's what drew him to locating in the DPW facility.
(Caroline Murray) Ms. Murray says she's a construction professional. In her opinion, an at-risk management approach is the most responsible thing to do here.
(Alex Bilsky) Mr. Bilsky moves the question.
Motion to terminate passes, 217--22--3.
(Charlie Foskett, Finance Committee Chair) Mr. Foskett has a point of order. He says this article requires a 2/3's vote, because it involves bonding.
Article 23 passes, 237--9--0.
Article 24 - Community Preservation Fund. This article is to approve annual expenditures under the Community Preservation Act.
(Eric Helmuth, CPA chair, via recorded presentation) Mr. Helmuth says that three CPA projects are proposed for this year. They fall into the categories of open space and recreation, and historic preservation.
The first project involves the Minuteman bikeway. It would study long-term needs for the bikeway, and propose conceptual ideas for improvements.
The second project is an archaeological survey. The idea is to understand and document archaeological resources in town -- cemeteries and certain parts of the Mill Brook area. This is part of a plan to preserve these resources.
The final project will document municipally-owned historic resources. This will allow those properties to be eligible for future historic preservation funds.
(Nancy Bloom) Ms. Bloom asks if the minuteman study will involve a liaison to other towns that the minuteman passes through.
(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth says there will.
(Jenny Raitt, Director of Planning and Community Development) Ms. Raitt says there will be engagement with abutting communities.
(Nancy Bloom) Ms. Bloom asks if the study of historic buildings will include former school buildings that were sold and turned into condominiums.
(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth reads the list of buildings that will be studied. The study will only include parcels that are currently owned by the town.
(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon asks what "APS" means.
(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth says it stands for "Arlington Public Schools".
(John Worden) Mr. Worden asks if the Parmenter school building will be studied.
(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth says the Parmenter school building is not on the list.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that the video presentation included a picture of the High School's Collumb building. He asks if there are plans to preserve that facade.
(Eric Helmuth) Mr. Helmuth says it's not on the list.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden says it should be.
(Priya Sankalia) Ms. Sankalia has a question about the archaeological survey. She asks if the town is planning construction in any of these areas.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there isn't any construction anticipated. These are recreational and landscaped areas, which were identified by the survey master plan.
(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe moves to terminate debate.
Motion to terminate debate passes, 210--27--5.
Article 24 passes, 236--6--2.
Article 15 - Retired Police Officer Details. Town Meeting deliberations continue on Article 15.
(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon acknowledges that the article has changed, but wishes to bring up a number of concerns. She's concerned with the term "Special Police Officer" and asks why we can't use the term "flagger" instead. The finance committee report stated that crime in Arlington is down, and Ms. Memon asks why we need flaggers who carry guns. People of color are asking for reduced police departments. The Finance Committee report says that the majority of calls to APD are due to behavioral and substance abuse issues. Ms. Memon believes that officers need additional training to handle these cases, and this bylaw doesn't specifically require such training. Ms. Memon asks why we can't use civilian flaggers when there's more detail work than the APD can handle. Given the high rate of unemployment, she'd like to see jobs given to civilian flaggers. She asks why there are two police unions, and states that civilian flaggers wouldn't cost more than police officers; they'd cost slightly less. She says that civilian flaggers could be paid for hours worked, without a guaranteed four-hour minimum. She says that flaggers are more inclusive, and not armed. She believes that guns and firearms training are cost prohibitive.
(Al Tosti) Mr. Tosti urges support. If this article fails, detail work that can't be filled by APD officers will be done by out of town police. Mr. Tosti says the town manager supports police officer details: they expand the reach of the police department and expand police officer pay with no cost to taxpayers. Mr. Tosti says he's never seen a poll that says people want to reduce police departments. Police officers deter crime. He says that Arlington will get lower-quality recruits if we can't offer competitive pay. Utility companies pay us $1.1M for detail work; if it weren't for utilities, that money would have to come out of other parts of the budget. The pay difference is $5/hour. Police officers are medically trained first responders, and they are often the first people to respond to medical emergencies. Mr. Tosti says that a no vote on Article 15 won't replace detail officers with civilian flaggers; it means that we'll have to hire detail officers from out of town.
(Timur Yontar) Mr. Yontar would like to correct a statement he made in the previous meeting. He said "the town could save money by using civilian flaggers, and that money could be used to give police officers a raise". That's not quite true. Detail work is paid by utilities and the capital budget, and police officers are paid out of the operating budget. So, we would not be able to use the savings to increase police salaries.
(Ed Tremblay) Mr. Tremblay says he used to wonder why we used police details, and then got a job where he had to work on the street. Now he appreciates them. He says they make work sites run better. When detail officers aren't available, we have to wait until they are, or work without them. Out of town officers know how to direct traffic, but they're not able to answer questions about the town or give directions. He thinks this is a common sense solution to a public safety issue.
(Frank Ciano) Mr. Ciano has a point of order. He says that a previous speaker was allowed to speak again in order to correct a statement. While doing so, he made an argument, and that's not right.
(John Leone, Moderator) Mr. Leone says the earlier speaker is the chair of the Capital Planning Committee, and mis-spoke about budgeting. That's why he wanted to give him the opportunity to correct his statement.
(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham moves the question.
Motion to terminate fails, 143--90--7 (requires a 2/3's vote).
(John Worden) Mr. Worden urges town meeting to have respect for those who wish to speak. He says we're deleted to debate things and make a reasoned decision. Mr. Worden says he's never voted in favor of terminating debate, and that it's unheard of for a select Board member to make a motion to terminate. He asks town meeting to let the debate go on.
(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman is in favor of article 15. She'd prefer to have retired Arlington officers doing details, rather than going to out-of-town officers. She sees advantages to using civilian flaggers, but that's outside of the scope of this article. No one has made a substitute motion to allow civilian flaggers.
(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham has a point of order. As entitled as people are to share their opinions, people who feel they've heard enough are similarly entitled.
(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin thinks this is a common-sense solution, but it does make him suspicious. He asks if detail officers will cooperate with ICE.
(Julie Flaherty, Police Chief) Ms. Flaherty says that the Arlington Police Department does not cooperate with ICE.
(Guillermo Hamlin) Mr. Hamlin asks if detail officers would participate in a clean sweep operation.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says no.
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman asks if there are hard numbers behind the number of times where detail officers served as a force multiplier.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says she doesn't have hard numbers on hand, but can site examples. She talks about a medical emergency where a detail officer administered CPR, and another case where a detail officer assisted in a bank robbery call. She routinely hears detail officers responding to calls via the radio, and says they've helped many times.
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says he'll take Chief Flaherty's answer as a "no". He says he sympathizes with Mr. Tremblay but believes these are just anecdotes.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone tells Mr. Ruderman he should have provided this question in advance of the meeting, so the chief would have the opportunity to provide the details he was asking for.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett believes that a no vote will not allow the town to employ civilian flaggers; other actions would have to take place first. He asks if that understanding is correct.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says yes, that's correct.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett asks if the use of civilian flaggers would make a difference in police officer wages, and whether that would become an issue in collective bargaining talks.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says it would.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett asks if we'd have to give police officers a raise, to compensate for the lack of detail work.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that in broad strokes, we'd be leveraged to pay police officers more. And, we would have to pay the civilian flaggers too.
(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett asks town meeting to vote in favor of Article 15.
(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton says she realizes this is Ms. Flaherty's first year as police chief. She'd like to give her the opportunity to run her department. She asks what data the police department considered when proposing this article.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says this article doesn't affect police officers in the department; it only allows retired APD officers to perform detail work. She thinks this would be good for the town. Ms. Flaherty says that there can be requests for up to 20 details per day, and about 75% of them are filled within the department. She says this has worked okay, until other communities started using their own officers for their own details. Ms. Flaherty says that retired officers are familiar with Arlington, and there have been many instances where utilities had to cancel work because a detail officer was not available. She cites an example where Verizon brought in state police officers for detail work, because no one else was available.
(Barbara Thornton) Ms. Thornton says she'll vote in favor of the article.
(Roderick Holland) Mr. Holland supports this article. He found the presentation about detail officers being a force multiplier compelling, and doesn't believe Arlington is over policed.
(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy asks what portion of details are paid by the town, rather than private companies.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says if varies according to what kind of work being done in town.
(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy asks if the chief can give an estimate.
(Julie Flaherty) Ms. Flaherty says that out of 20 details/day, about 75% come from details or outside contractors.
(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy is surprised that no one has presented any figures about cost savings. She asks if retired police officers could be hired as civilian flaggers.
(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says this article does not address civilian flaggers.
(Sandy Pooler, Deputy Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says he's looked up figures on the amounts paid to detail officers. 16% was paid for by town details, and 84% was paid by other entities. The amount for town-paid details includes details for parades and public events.
(Kevin Koch) Mr. Koch notes that Section 2 of the warrant article mentions a number of state laws. He asks what these laws are.
(Doug Heim, Town Counsel) Mr. Heim says that Chapter 31 refers to civil service protections, which these officers won't be entitled to. 85H refers to disability and retirement; it doesn't apply because these officers are already be retired. 99A, 100, and 111F refer to indemnification and don't apply here. 150E covers collective bargaining, which these officers would not be subject to.
(Peter Gast) Mr. Gast said that during the last meeting, he understood that the town would be able to hire civilian flaggers, but he's hearing something different now. He asks for clarification.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says there are two types of detail work: civilian flaggers can be used for one type but not the other. Civilian flaggers are only able to direct traffic. They can't work parade details, and they can't be used on roads where the posted speed limit is 45 miles/hour or greater.
(Peter Gast) Mr. Gast asks why we can't use civilian flaggers where they're allowed to be used.
(Adam Chapdelaine, Town Manager) Mr. Chapdelaine says that the former Gov. Patrick proposed a set of reforms ten years ago that would have expanded the use of civilian flaggers. The legislature gutted it, and made it hard for local governments to use them. Mr. Chapdelaine says that 27 of 351 Massachusetts cities and towns use civilian flaggers. Arlington has chosen not to take this up as a collective bargaining issue because we're more interested in negotiating on other reforms. He says the article is trying to be focused and limited in what it allows.
(Peter Gast) Mr. Gast says this is one of the longest warrant article he's seen, and asks why it's so detailed and specific.
(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim says when we submit requests for special legislation, the warrant article must be detailed enough to outline everything associated. For example, the clean heat article was written more broadly in order to give us more latitude. He says this is basically model legislation with a few Arlington-specific details. It's about what powers we're asking the legislature to confer to us; the request is intended to be narrow and specific, which means it has to be detailed.
(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray has a point of order. She'd like clarification on something Mr. Pooler said earlier.
The moderator says that isn't a point of order.
(Mark McCabe) Mr. McCabe motions to terminate debate.
Motion to terminate passes, 185--53--4.
Article 15 passes, 158--78--9.
Article 16 -- Definitions Related to Open Space. This article proposed to rename several zoning bylaw definitions related to open space.
The recommended vote from the redevelopment board is no action.
No action vote passes, 228--7--6.
Article 17 -- Notice of Demolition, Open Foundation Excavation, New Construction, or Large Additions. This article proposes to add zoning bylaw requirement that the "Good Neighbor Agreement" is complied with before issuance of a building permit. The Redevelopment Board voted no action but Michael Ruderman has a substitute motion.
(Beth Melofchik) Ms. Melofchik says she's confused about whether Article 15 required a 2/3's vote.
(John Leone) Mr. Leone said it required a majority vote.
(Michael Ruderman) Mr. Ruderman says his substitute motion is like the original warrant article language, but worded in the affirmative. He says that town meeting formed the residential study group in 2016 to look at the disruptive nature of development. They found that notice and a point of contact would help. The residential study group proposed a set of bylaw amendments in 2017, which were called the Good Neighbor Agreement. It requires abutter notice for large project. This article is asking for a cross reference in the zoning bylaw, so that anyone who consults the zoning bylaw will be aware of it. The goal is to prevent anyone from not knowing about the good neighbor agreement. Mr. Ruderman claims this doesn't expand the good neighbor agreement; it merely provides another point of notice. Town meeting heartily accepted the good neighbor agreement in 2017. Since then, it's provisions have often been forgotten, ignored, missed, or not carried out. Mr. Ruderman claims that the compliance rate is under 40%, and says he'd like a greater level of compliance. He says that this doesn't change the criteria for issuing a building permit, and that the $200/day penalty has never been assessed.
(Paul Schlictman) Mr. Schlictman says this is unnecessary in theory, but can't hurt. He'll vote yes.
(Christoper Heigham) Mr. Heigham asks if someone from the ARB can explain the rationale behind their no action vote.
(Rachel Zsembery, Redevelopment Board Chair) Ms. Zsembery says there were two reasons why the ARB voted no action. First, they felt a circular reference was unnecessary. Second, the set of activities covered in the zoning bylaw is more expansive than that covered by the good neighbor agreement. The board felt that if the goal was increased enforcement, then it would be more appropriate to modify the good neighbor agreement itself.
(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo would like to read a statement from Don Seltzer, who is an Arlington resident. Mr. Seltzer claims that the good neighbor agreement is ignored by the town body responsible for enforcing it. Mr. Seltzer's letter states that the building department approves driveways that are too steep, because of an ambiguity in the way that driveway slope is defined. It also claims that the redevelopment board failed to take action on the lack of enforcement.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak understand that Mr. Ruderman's substitute motion will add a reference from the zoning bylaw to Title VI Article 7 of the town bylaws, without adding any new requirements. Title VI Article 7 paragraph (D) already requires compliance with the good neighbor agreement before a building permit is issued. Mr. Revilak understands that inspectional services has a set of checklists they use when handling an application for a building permit. He asks if anything in this process would be changed by the passage of Article 17.
(Michael Byrne, Director of Inspectional Services) Mr. Byrne says there won't be any changes to their process.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks if Inspectional Services was aware of of any challenges in enforcement of the good neighbor agreement, and what those challenges looked like.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says he isn't aware of any enforcement issues. He says that compliance with the good neighbor agreement is on their checklist of requirements for issuance of a building permit. He says his department reviewed the set of permits where the good neighbor agreement applied, and the required notifications were sent in all cases.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak would like to clarify something that Mr. Byrne said earlier. He asks if good neighbor agreement compliance is already on the building department's checklist.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says yes, it is.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks Mr. Byrne if Mr. Ruderman has spoken to him about enforcement of the good neighbor, or how to increase compliance.
(Michael Byrne) Mr. Byrne says that Mr. Ruderman contacted him about 827 Mass Ave, and whether the good neighbor agreement was used there. He says that 827 Mass Ave was considered emergency work, and had to be done because the building facade was getting ready to fall off. Other than that, there haven't been any other conversations.
(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak says he understands and respects what Mr. Ruderman is trying to do, but doesn't believe a cross reference will make a significant difference. He'd like to see town meeting take a pass on this article, so that Mr. Ruderman can work with the building inspectors and bring a better article back in the spring.
(John Worden) Mr. Worden says that when the good neighbor agreement was discussed in 2017, Mr. Byrne ensured us it would be enforced. According to a planning department survey, enforcement was less than 40%. The planning department wrote a memo in support of this article, but the ARB found problems with it. Mr. Worden says that anyone can ask for enforcement of requirements in the zoning bylaw, and that tool isn't available now. He asks for a yes vote.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon notes that several speakers have referred to a planning department survey, where 38% of respondents didn't get the notice required by the good neighbor agreement. Mr. Hanlon asks what the response rate to that survey was.
(Jenny Raitt, Director of Planning and Community Development) Ms. Raitt said the survey was sent to 1200 abutter households, and 125 responded. 48 said they hadn't gotten the notifications, 48 said they had, and the rest were not sure or did not answer.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks if there was an effort made to look at responses by address, to see if particular projects were not noticed.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that level of analysis wasn't done.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon believes that the claim of under 40% compliance is a stretch.
(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt would concur.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks if someone from the ARB could speak to inconsistencies in the language.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the number and types of projects listed in 3.1(B) exceed the number and types of projects listed in the Good Neighbor Agreement in the town bylaws.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon asks if this would incorporate town bylaw definitions into the zoning bylaw.
(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says the redevelopment board voted no action due to inconsistencies in the good neighbor agreement and the language proposed for the zoning bylaw. They preferred to see changes made in the good neighbor agreement.
(Pat Hanlon) Mr. Hanlon is skeptical about this article, but doesn't think it can hurt. He doesn't think the accusations of non-enforcement are strong enough, but wants the community to feel comfortable with the good neighbor agreement.
(Elizabeth Pyle) Ms. Pyle says she was a member of the residential study group. She thinks the amendment is a welcome addition and a good step for enforcement.
(Kristin Pennarun) Ms. Pennarun is in favor of this article. She generally supports redevelopment, and likes the good neighbor agreement. Regarding enforcement, Ms. Pennarun says that there were three major renovations done near her home, and that she was never notified. She would favor increased enforcement.
(Note: After the meeting, Ms. Pennarun sent an email to town meeting members. Upon further investigation, she discovered that none of the three major renovations were subject to the good neighbor agreement).
(Susan Stamps) Ms. Stamps is confused as to the need for this article. She says it reminds her of the tree bylaw. Before a protected tree can be removed, the property owner needs to submit a tree plan to the tree warden. She says there's been no problems with enforcing the tree bylaw. She reads a portion of Title VI Article 7, and thinks the notice requirements couldn't be clearer. The building inspector said that good neighbor agreement compliance was already on their checklist for enforcement. She thinks this should be an easily solvable problem.
Meeting adjourned until Wednesday night.