Jul 03

From the Town Administrator's Desk - July 3, 2020

Posted on July 3, 2020 at 10:37 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Welcoming Fire Chief Cleary to Manchester

By Gregory T. Federspiel

We welcome Fire Chief Jason Cleary to Town this week.  A formal swearing in ceremony takes place Thursday, July 2 at 11:30 at the Fire Station.  The event will be streamed live on the Town’s Facebook page.

Chief Cleary comes to us from Durham, NH where he served as Assistant Fire Chief.  He is a paramedic and is a graduate of the Executive Fire Officer Program sponsored by the National Fire Academy, the premier program for the fire professional executive.  His background includes serving as a fire instructor, a call firefighter as well as a police officer.  He received high praise from his colleagues and former supervisors.  His past work includes working with multiple public safety agencies forging new collaborative efforts – experiences that will be useful as we look toward greater regional sharing.  And his extensive experience in training and building a leadership team from within will enable us to enhance further the professionalism of our department, including new leadership training for future in-house promotions. 

He has begun the process of purchasing a home in the area and will be relocating in the coming months. 

Choosing a new Chief encompasses many factors.  The search process solicited a good number of applicants, locally as well as from further afield.  Each applicant brings a unique set of skills and experiences.  It is always a challenge to decide who is best suited to lead a department and the search committee was pleased to receive a talented field of applicants.  But in the end only one person can get the nod.  Weighing all the factors, including experience, formal and informal training, personality and career goals with an eye toward stability for the department, we believe Chief Cleary to be our best choice. 

As we move into this next chapter of leadership for the Fire and Rescue Department, many important challenges lay ahead.  Obviously, continuing to deal with the pandemic and all that entails, particularly for the ambulance service, remains.  Continuing the upgrades to our public safety communications systems (radios and dispatch), ensuring the readiness of our equipment and infrastructure to deal with fires and other emergencies and, most importantly, making sure sufficient staffing is in place to respond to medical, fire and other emergencies will require strong leadership from our new Chief. 

We were fortunate to have the services of Interim Chief Al Beardsley.  This was the second time Al was able to step in to assist us while we took the time to assess our needs and undertake a search process for a successor.  Al once again brought a steady hand in managing the department – candidly if Al was not past the mandatory retirement age, we would have been very happy to keep him with us!

Chief Cleary and Chief Beardsley have similar attributes. They are both engaging and approachable, quite skilled in the technical aspects of fire and rescue and have a real passion for their chosen profession.  After a week overlap Chief Cleary will be well positioned to take the department forward.  Please join me in welcoming our new Fire Chief to Manchester. 

Jun 26

From the Town Administrator's Desk - June 26, 2020

Posted on June 26, 2020 at 10:54 AM by Tiffany Marletta

Responding to Shifting Policing Expectations
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The newly invigorated national discussion on the role of police and the promotion of equitable treatment for all regardless of their skin color has important lessons for every community, large or small. I am a firm believer in the value of reflection and civil discourse to ensure all our public institutions and services are truly the best that they can be.  Understandably, the current focus is on police departments, but many other segments of public life could benefit from examination.

Bringing fresh thinking and possible new approaches to fostering community harmony is a positive step. And for us here in Manchester with a strong public safety foundation in place, moving forward will not be as difficult as in other communities. Some of the changes being advocated by the Black Lives Matter movement and others are already in place within our police department. We have excellent police professionals on staff who are committed to working with community members in developing further changes as needed. 

Our strong foundation begins with being a fully accredited department through the rigorous program of the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.  Only 28% of all police departments in the state have achieved this high professional standard.  The standards cover a wide range of police procedures from handling evidence to use of force protocols, from reporting standards to minimum annual training standards.  These training standards are on top of the requirement that all full-time officers complete the 24 week intensive state-run Police Academy training program before being sworn in.  The accreditation process is on-going – if a department does not maintain the standards, which are frequently updated (for example, use of force), then accreditation is lost.

One important aspect of the accreditation standards is the requirement that all complaints about an officer is investigated.  Our internal affairs procedures include the option of using third-party investigators to determine wrong-doing and prescribe corrective action.

During the Obama Administration, the Presidential Task Force on 21st Century Policing issued its comprehensive report detailing six pillars of success for police departments.  The report remains on point to today’s debate on best practices for police.  The MPD has incorporated the six pillars into their operations with specific tasks aimed at each:  Building Community Trust; Clear Policies and Oversight; The use of Technology and Social Media; Fostering Community Policing (resident engagement and interaction); On-going training & Education; and Officer Wellness & Safety.

Another recent initiative by Chief Fitzgerald is the One Mind Campaign.  This program, developed by the International Chiefs of Police Association, creates a partnership between the police and mental health professionals.  About a fifth of all calls for police assistance involve mental health issues.  Todd has created a new team approach with Lahey Behavioral Health in Beverly to better respond to calls involving mental health concerns.  Similarly, we have a new Overdose Outreach Follow-up Team that Sergeant Stephen Louf is heading up in conjunction with Chief Francis in Essex.

This past year our Police Department teamed up with the School District to provide a dedicated School Resource Officer.  Patrolperson Andrea Locke was assigned to this new, important role and, while COVID shortened her time in the schools this past year, she has made excellent progress in connecting with young people in town and continues to do so through virtual activities.

These important aspects of our current operations provide a strong foundation on which to build comprehensive community safety services that are fair, transparent, impartial and compassionate.   I know that the Chief, the Selectmen and I welcome ideas from residents on how best to make our services and operations even better whether within or alongside our Police Department.   

Jun 19

From the Town Administrator's Desk - June 19, 2020

Posted on June 19, 2020 at 12:25 PM by Tiffany Marletta

By Gregory T. Federspiel

Finally, it is here!  Our Annual Town Meeting, delayed from the usual early April date, will be held on Monday, 6/22, at 6:30PM (check in begins at 5:30) on the turf field at the high school (rain date is 6/24.)  Moderator Alan Wilson and Town Clerk Christina St. Pierre, with thoughtful guidance from our Board of Health and state guidelines, have spent considerable time mapping out a safe, detailed set of procedures and layout for the meeting (see related article.) 

Meeting outdoors is not the only unique aspect of this year’s Annual Town Meeting.  Moderator Wilson will be utilizing a “Consent Calendar” to efficiently deal with non-controversial articles, namely Article 1, acceptance of the annual reports,  Article 2,  setting the salary of the Selectmen and Moderator at $0, Article 9,  approving the funds for the annual contribution to the retiree health insurance fund (OPEB), Article 10, approving the annual revolving fund for Park and Recreation programs,  and Article 11, removing the requirement that the names of the trustees of the  Manchester Affordable Housing Trust be recorded in the Registry of Deeds in Salem.  Unless someone places a hold on any of these articles, the 5 articles can be approved under one simple vote.   

Nearly all the other articles are budget related.  The one exception is Article 14, which seeks voter approval to purchase a 12-acre parcel in the “Western Woods” for conservation purposes. The assessed value and purchase price are $60,000.  An additional $5000 is requested to cover acquisition costs.  Funds for this purchase have already been set aside in a previous Town Meeting vote allocating $100,000 in Community Preservation funds for the purpose of land conservation.  The parcel is part of a large, 500-acre undeveloped area in the northwest corner of Town.  Over 300 of the 500 acres are already permanently preserved as open space.  This acquisition is contiguous to other preserved lands and is another step in preserving this corner of Town, protecting important watershed lands, wildlife habitat, recreational trails and a needed carbon sink.

The budget related articles start with Article 3 where voters are asked to approve the Town’s contribution to the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School District.  The number of students attending from Manchester has about doubled in the past few years to 9.  The requested appropriation is $169,045, a 10% increase due to the higher enrollment.

Article 4 is the Town’s operating budget for all Town Departments.  A revised “Plan B” budget will be presented.  This is $190,000 less than the original budget that was developed by the Selectmen and Finance Committee and represents a 1.5% increase over the current year’s expenses.  The Plan B budget is presented in the supplemental handout (Page 2a) that has been distributed to all households. The originally proposed budget is contained in the Finance Committee’s Report.

Article 5 is the Town’s proposed capital budget for FY21.  This, too, underwent revisions after the COVID 19 pandemic’s impact on the economy.  The Plan B capital budget is also presented in the supplemental handout (page 2b).  Some $650,000 was removed from the capital budget that was developed prior to COVID 19 hitting.  Various projects were either removed, deferred to another year, or reduced in scope.  The supplemental handout summarizes the changes made. 

Article 6 request voter approval for a capital exclusion to help fund improvements to the water system.  The request is for $750,000 which will be used to replace the water main along Boardman Avenue.  This is the fourth year we are using a capital exclusion to help with capital projects.  We are increasing our capital exclusion requests at or just below the amount that our annual debt service is decreasing.  In this way we are not adding to the tax burden. 

Article 7 is the School District’s funding request.  Their request from the Town is up 2.9%.  However, the District is anticipating at least a 10% reduction in state aid thus their total expenditures for the new year will be reduced by some $360,000 from their previously proposed new budget.

Article 8 is the vote on the proposed Community Preservation Committee projects.  See the related article for a summary of these projects.

If all budget requests are approved as presented and our conservative estimates for new growth are met, then the tax rate for the new year will not increase – in other words, the proposed budget assumes a 0% increase in the tax rate.

Finally, as part of the effort to keep this outdoor meeting as brief as possible, Articles 12 and 13, related to utility bills and a room tax on short term rentals will be proposed to be passed over and taken up at another time. 

Please bring the materials that were delivered to your door to the meeting.  And you might want a bottle of water along with some bug repellant just in case.  If the weather does not cooperate a Reverse 911 call will be made to all households along with social media postings.  See you on the football field!