Saturday, February 6, 2021

Town Council Meeting recap - 02/03/21 - town finances in great shape, storm water fee discussed, ambulance fee gets 1st approval

Quick Recap:
  • Scout leader Bill Murphy recognized for 30+ years of service for Troop 126
  • Valuable information in the presentation/discussion on Finance and borrowing. Town at great credit rate, recognition of fiscal management over the years
  • Difference between excluded borrowing and non-excluded borrowing explained. "Excluded" are those school building debt exclusions approved by voters. Over next several years only the new FHS will be left to pay for. Meanwhile, the "non-excluded" borrowing has paid for the Senior Center, fire stations, Library, etc. There is capacity for funding projects within the current operational budget for non-excluded projects over the next several years
  • Long impassioned discussion on the proposed storm water utility fee, not the last time for this discussion. For some councilors they appeared to have missed all the opportunities to participate in informational sessions as the proposal developed last year. Planning Board Chair took offence at not being included last year either
  • Ambulance fee increase approved for second reading. (Oh and one councilor who complained about 'death of thousand cuts' on the storm water fee approved this without raising a question)
  • Town ready to distribute vaccine to approved order of individuals but needs supply. Still supply/demand issue. Hope on horizon with possible increases in supply coming. Patience for now
Photos captured during the meeting and shared via Twitter can be found in one album
As with most meetings in this pandemic period, I took my notes via Twitter during the meeting reporting in real-time via the virtual session.
The Twitter hashtag can be found online  #tc0203

  • Swivel seat to real time reporting for the Town Council meeting at 7, agenda doc here With connection info and details on topics. #tc0203
  • Moving to approval of minutes, Dec 16, seconded, via roll call passes 8-0-1 (Pellegri absent) Motion to approve, second, via roll call same 8-0-1 (Pellegri absent) #tc0203
  • Phone number available to join #tc0203
  • Moving to approval of minutes, Dec 16, seconded, via roll call passes 8-0-1 (Pellegri absent) Motion to approve, second, via roll call same 8-0-1 (Pellegri absent) #tc0203
  • Proclamation for Bill Murphy, Troop 126 leader over 30+ years. Proclamation read by Councilor Bissanti. #tc0203
Finance and borrowing presentation/discussion
  • Moving along to presentation on finance and borrowing #tc0203
  • Slide captures, #tc0203
  • Non-excluded vs excluded (prop 2 1/2 like FHS) #tc0203
  • Opportunity to leverage the debt funds to pay for the long term expenses i.e do the sewer interceptor without any additional funding. #tc0203 we are at AA+ only one step down from highest rating (AAA).
  • Note an addition to the Council chambers to the right of councilor Jones, one of the new air filter units. #tc0203 floor mount, black cover white sided...
  • Non-excluded debt competes for interest expense in the ops budget, not so much an issue with number of projects, relates to the dollars associated with the projects and then with the interest for the bonds per project #tc0203
  • #tc0203 Bissanti not getting the dollar flow for the bonding, "rainbows and puppy dog tails", things change and they don't always change for the best. Stay within the budget so we can get the funding and maintain the rating.
  • Excluded debt comes from the prop 2 1/2 question and ballot choice, i.e. FHS the school required $100m of which the state reimbursed approx 60% so we bonded the 40% and that rolls off when done #tc0203 the rating is high due to the behavior of the Town Council in fiscal mgt
  • Kelly refuting the Bissanti comment, the town Council report card is AA+ hence we have been doing great. Are we about to change? I have no doubt future Council will do similar for our fiscal future. #tc0203
Storm water discussion
  • Chair Mercer summarizes similar comments, Bissanti still not getting it. #tc0203 Moving to the storm water topic, utility fee, etc. Presentation copy here, we did sue the EPA and got concessions on timing and effort discussion only tonight
  • Pros/cons on the utility fee proposal #tc0203
  • We have the infrastructure that needs 2 be paid for, we either do it with the fee or taxes. #tc0203 Bissanti confused; the EPA and MA DEP, are government agencies not a private entity, Secretary level agency at the Governor's office. He's glad 2 hear that, was hearing otherwise
  • #tc0203 the utility fee provides for leeway (via exemption and credits) not available from property tax funding. Also the non-profits and state agencies pay the fee where they are exempt from the property taxes. How will credits work? List to be our together
  • Sidewalk and roads are part of town responsibility. The per 1000 SQ foot makes it easier to manage and calculate. Gravel road today is impervious. Could we change it? A choice to make. Where did the up to 50% come from? Why not a higher max? Majority of Communities do #tc0203
  • The end of the day, it goes back to the money raised for us to do the work. If x doesn't pay, someone else would. #tc0203 options to provide credits, etc. don't exist if property tax revenue is to be used. An ongoing discussion, not to be solved tonight.
  • Churches, non-profits are exempt from property taxes due to legislative decision. Attny Cerel chimes in on Q if legislative body could exempt them on this, apples to oranges; other municipality have enacted these, in MA also. Kelly argues that it is tax on commercial #tc0203
  • #tc0203 the utility is proposed because it is the most equitable way. The infrastructure here was put in over time and needs to be managed (paid for) we either do it this way equitably or via taxes, ultimate decision. The older building still needs to be covered with this code
  • #tc0203 from a Council side, I know we need the money, from a resident side they are going to be upset. We have a rebate program on rain barrel today. Can we get feedback on the MS4 permit? We need to push to get someone from the EPA to talk with us.
  • Kelly can go for a flat fee but not for an escalation fee. (Actually counter to what he said on the fiscal responsibility he talked of before) #tc0203 admits he is on soap box. Chair Mercer interjects that this only a discussion, moves on to another.
  • Not just about storm water, there are other things in the MS4 permit coming down the road, we are only talking about the implementation for the first phase. #tc0203 Padula disappointed if any Council member would vote for this. Planning Board was not asked to be part ...
  • Planning Board is the storm water manager per prior decision. #tc0203 this is the just the beginning. Putting salt into our water, and not cleaning catch basins so we are saving money. Now trying to generate more with this? Reconsider this
  • Chandler what happens if we don't do this? EPA thinks this is a palatable thing. There is not a lot of support for this, I get that. The requirements will increase year to year. If we don't do this fee, it will come from the tax revenue. And compete with other expenses #tc0203
  • Do we sacrifice other services? Or wait for the EPA to force and fine you. When, not sure but it will come. #tc0203 like OPEB, it needs to be funded, how are we going to do this. This will be on future agendas, it is a lengthy discussion.
  • The permit requires more than what we are already doing. So what we have been doing is in the budget. The question is where will the future come from. Tax or utility fee. #tc0203 the interest rate varies but one bonded remains the same. Future discussion, not any more tonight
 Subcommittee reports
  • Subcommittee reports: Budget, no meeting. Capital, not yet. EDC met just before this meeting, another listening session on food truck, craft brew bylaw. Report to be sent out on TA review prior to next subcommittee meeting. #tc0203
 Legislation for action
  • Next up, legislation for action. Ambulance fee schedule changes. Adjusting rate to maintain level in comparison with other Communities #tc0203 adjusting yearly to avoid major changes
  • Motion to move to 2nd reading, majority required, via roll call 8-0-1 (1 absent) Town Administrator report, vaccine now, call BoH or Senior Center. We don't have doses available. #tc0203 we are preparing to deliver 100 to seniors over 75, supply/demand issue
Town Administrator report
  • FHS is an approved site, we are ready to go, we just need supply. #tc0203 the vaccine rollout is our #1 Economic Development effort, we are ready to go. It is frustrating not getting supply. Over 75, call senior center to get on list. be patient
  • #tc0203 we prepared to answer questions. If on listing, still working on the oldest and working back. 90+ for first round, only getting 100 doses. Looking at how many we can get? It is not just Franklin, everyone across the state has same issue
  • #tc0203 are you prepared for second lists to use all the doses? Yes, already covered. Even if it is one dose, we don't want to loose it. Budget calendar. Neutral for Town at this point with governor's release, probably early March for first view and hearings re: memorial day
  • Request for trail info. Tech review meeting possible item for Depot plaza, garage, etc. Conversation on density zoning with planning board. Look at study of bylaws re: equity (based on roundtable discussion) #tc0203
  • Frongillo touting video on roundtable on race in Franklin recorded in November available now Alert on spam email as if from Chair Mercer, cautioned, checked with him before opening #tc0203
  • #tc0203 heart wrenching story from Jones who can't attend wake for pastor he had worked with in Haiti missions, a great loss for so much that he had done. For veterans, if you call Bedford VA can call to get one. Wishes for Pellegri
  • Speedy recovery to Ronni Pellegri, motion to adjourn, seconded, via roll call 8-0-1 ( 1 absent) #tc0203


Town Council Meeting recap - 02/03/21
Town Council Meeting recap - 02/03/21

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