Saturday, May 29, 2010

FM #69-B Scott Mason - Part 2 of 2

This is part two of two, the conversation with Town Council Chair Scott Mason. We covered the whole gamut of issues around the special election coming up June 8th on the $3 million override.

Time: 29 minutes, 47 seconds

MP3 File

Show Notes and Quotes:

Part 1 of this interview can be found here:

This segment picks up right where that one left off.

Franklin faces multiple issues
Override this year, potential shortage again next year, and then the high school renovation later next year

$100 million dollars is a wrong number for the high school
Three years ago when we started there was an estimate that if we did build a new school, it would be in the neighborhood of 100. But there was never any concrete pricing for that. I won't hold anyone on the committee to this but I think a renovation of the scope needed for this school would be in the neighborhood of $50-60 million with a state reimbursement of 50%

a debt exclusion is a different animal, an override is forever, a debt exclusion is for a set period, in this case for a school, 20 years. The actual taxes wouldn't actually hit our tax bills until 2014 or 2015 when the project is done

If we don't pass the debt exclusion on the states time line, we end up losing the 50% reimbursement, we would have to pay the full 100%.

Well unfortunately, there is not much of a decision to make, we have been on the brink of loosing our accreditation, that affects the ability of our kids to get into good colleges.

That school is 40 years old. “I was speaking with an owner of a bio-tech company, he goes to visit schools and he says Franklin is by far the worst.” He brings in equipment and the people don't even know what it is. We need to update the science labs, we need to make it ADA access compliant, the field house roof leaks, the floor tiles are asbestos and at the time it was okay to use, but when a tile is touched for construction like this, the state requires you remove them all. We do need some additional classrooms to handle the growth.

Bid packets have gone out to 23 architects to date so we expect to have some good responses, it is a long time line. Construction isn't slated to begin until the end of 2012. We're looking at the vote for debt exclusion would be about Nov 2011.

Moving to a more positive note as we don't want to keep asking the taxpayers for increases, there are efforts underway to foster the growth of businesses to Franklin

The Council just voted to lessen constraints for bio-tech companies to come into the Industrial Park where we have empty space. Franklin is advertising with trade and industry groups. Planning and Community Development is working hard.

One of the benefits we have here is a single tax rate, one of the best ways to attract business is with the single tax rate, one of the least likely ways to attract business is with a dual tax rate

There was a recent example of a company moving here
As reported in the Milford Daily News a week ago about a company in Forge Park, Congressman McGovern was touring the facility and asked why he chose Franklin, he decided to come here based upon the quality of the schools. “This speaks volumes to how important our educational system is and to maintaining it.” Here is a guy who could have saved a boat load of money going elsewhere. He has 200 employees, now living here, spend money here, support our community.

The Downtown Improvement Project is coming from State and Federal grants
About five or six years ago, we received $5 million from the Federal Government and another $1 million from the State to make improvements to the downtown. We hope to by redoing the streetscapes, to attract more businesses and people to congregate downtown.

The museum is kind of another one of those hot topics of late. There are a small contingent of people who say that was a complete waste of money. I would argue vehemently with them that not only was the timing perfect, the contractors bid lower than they would have been 2-3 years ago, we came in under budget. We were able to preserve town history, we were able to renovate a building and put it to use, where it would not have been salable, it's too small a parcel. We were going to let the building fall apart. Our historical artifacts were deteriorating, and the building they were in was not really safe to be in.

“My response is, you have a photo album at home, put it out on the street and leave it there for a year. That is effectively what we were doing.”

“Everything came together and it is a perfect example of what makes us a better town”

The building is open Thursday 5:00 – 8:00 PM, Saturday 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM, Sunday from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM.

Materials on display that are absolutely amazing, arrowheads from before recorded history, the mill store complex was one of the first places that did uniforms for the Civil War. The pilot of the plane that dropped the bomb on Nagaski lived on Southgate for 20 years.

“I view it (museum) as the key stone of that whole project. It is going to draw people to it for educational and entertainment purposes and the best part of it it is free!”

“People get a little fuzzy when it comes to the general operating budget and the capital budget.” Capital money can only be used for certain things; purchase of vehicles, renovation of buildings, technology, equipment, can not be used for salaries.

In each department if there is excess funds in the budget over the year gets put into 'free cash'. The State certifies that and then we can use it for our capital budget. We buy 2 or 3 police cruisers to refresh the fleet. Put some toward a new fire truck.

To summarize at least to this point we have talked about DPW, police, fire, schools, the 2 ½ override decision, the long term growing the pie, is there anything else we need to cover

“There is a lot of misinformation surrounding the override, that is frustrating”

I hear things like “The Town is mismanaged, the town wastes money”, anyone that has looked at this data, that is just not possible.

You hear “you never do what you say you're going to do” That is not true, when we have an override, we shout from the top of our lungs to hear what our needs are and get the opportunity to ask questions, but then when it comes time for the layoffs, those are done behind closed doors. We have less people working for the Town this year, and last year, and so on and so forth.
Some say “We always find the money” we don't, we have pickle jars in the back of Town Hall, we had received money from a lawsuit, $6 million, but that was used overtime to avoid overrides. That money is long gone. We don't find money. We are well aware of what we have and what it is earmarked for. We don't ask for something we don't need. Excuses from people where they are misinformed or plain don't want to get the information.

We suffer from a great deal of voter apathy. 16% voted in our town elections, 80% voted for the president.

On June 8th don't go to vote alone. This is not unimportant stuff we are dealing with.

The affordability of the override is important.

I don't downplay the cost of the override to the average citizen. For the average household tax bill, it amounts to about 66 cents per day, 66 per thousand of assessment.

The people who come forward and say they can't afford to pay this and yet they would be the ones to stand to loose the most.

Tina Powderly did a great deal of work to make acceptance into the programs for the seniors broader. We have done telemarketing campaigns, the senior center newsletter highlights these, yet there is a small percent of people who actually take advantage of it.

If the override fails, we loose one fireman which reduces our ability to staff one ambulance. We are not happy about being put into that position.

June 8th high school field house between 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM
Contact the Town Clerk for details

Contact any of the Town Councilors (email contact info is available on the website).

Information available on the Town website, on Franklin Matters

“If there is something, I don't know, I will get you the answer.”

As I close this session this week, let me remind you that
If you like what I am doing here, please tell your friends and neighbors
If you don’t like something, please tell me

Thank you for listening!

For additional information, please visit

If you have questions or comments you can reach me directly at shersteve @ gmail dot com

The music for the intro and exit was provided by Michael Clark and the group "East of Shirley". The piece is titled "Ernesto, manana"  c. Michael Clark & Tintype Tunes, 2008 and used with their permission

I hope you enjoy!

Note: email subscribers will need to click through to listen to the audio recording

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