Sep 22

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 22, 2023

Posted on September 22, 2023 at 11:31 AM by Tiffany Marletta

September 22, 2023
A Busy Monday Night
By Gregory T. Federspiel

This past Monday, September 18, 2023 saw a particularly packed agenda for the Select Board. While there is usually a full slate of topics to cover at the Board’s regular meetings, this meeting seemed particularly charged with high impact topics. We had a full house in attendance plus some 50 participants logging in through the Zoom option.

First up was a continued discussion on water rates. The Water Resources Protection Taks Force completed a comprehensive study on our water system and crafted a report with over a dozen specific recommendations for how we can better manage and protect our drinking water. One of the recommendations is to work toward lowering our per capita daily water consumption. Due to a high use of drinking water for irrigation purposes, our daily per capita consumption is above the state target – we are at 78 gallons per day per person vs the target of 65 gallons or lower per day per person. While our supplies are adequate to meet demands under normal to wet rainfall years, drought conditions stress our system. A proposal to charge a much higher rate for the highest consumers of water as a way to encourage lower consumption was debated. While there was general support for conservation efforts of what ultimately is a limited resource, the Board held off for now approving a new rate structure, wanting to focus first on greater outreach about the proposed rates, education about ways to conserve water, and providing time for property owners to adjust their consumption habits. The Board remains extremely grateful for all the good work the Task Force performed and plans to keep moving forward on their many recommendations.

The Board reviewed the options for repairing the Rotunda at Tuck’s Point. Three public forums had provided important community input into the preferred option. The Board voted to advance the plan that calls for raising the pier and Rotunda keeping the same footprint but elevating it to a height of 19 feet above Mean Low Water in a single construction project. The engineers will get to work finalizing this design and securing the necessary permits. Grant funding for the project will be pursued next winter and spring with the aim of securing 100% grant funding for a construction project late fall, early winter of 2024-25.

In preparation for a joint meeting with the Select Boards and Finance Committees from both Essex and Manchester along with the regional School Committee, the Select Board conferred on their desires for the District. The Board expressed strong support for maintaining a high quality educational system. To help maximize efficiencies in school operations, particularly regarding non-programmatic costs, the Board recommends that the District bring in a third party to help scour potential areas for savings. With District costs typically increasing in the 3 to 3.5% range and local tax increases limited by Proposition 2 ½, occasional overrides may be needed in order to ensure a high quality District. This overall increase can translate to an even higher increase for one town or the other depending on enrollment patterns from each of the towns. A particular challenge arises when one town rejects a needed override. The Manchester Finance Committee also affirmed their support for a high quality school system and support for the needed funding to ensure the District’s success. Three or four meetings of the five boards/committees are planned for the upcoming budget cycle to see what strategies can be agreed upon to ensure the District can continue to thrive.

The Select Board next turned their attention to a possible Fall Special Town Meeting. While not confirmed that such a meeting will be held, the Board targeted November 13th for the date. The articles for a fall Town Meeting will be developed over the next few weeks and the plans finalized in October.

The last “hot topic” of the evening was a discussion about the Community Center, run by the local private non-profit. The building, owned by the non-profit, sits on land leased (for a nominal fee) from the Harbor Point Condominium Association. They have been operating with a month to month lease arrangement and the Association has decided to end the lease. The Select Board endorsed moving forward with negotiations with the Association whereby the Town and the Community Center would team up to provide expanded use of the building, allowing the Community Center to continue their operations and adding additional services that the Town could provide. Hopefully this approach proves to be a win-win for all concerned.

Sep 22

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 15, 2023

Posted on September 22, 2023 at 11:26 AM by Tiffany Marletta

September 15, 2023
New Emergency Alert Provider for Residents
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The Town is switching vendors for the provision of emergency notifications to residents.  All households should have received a postcard in the mail recently announcing the change and providing instructions regarding how to register your preferred phone number(s) for receiving emergency alerts.   Residents are encouraged to take advantage of this service and to register as many phones as you wish. There is no charge to register, and all information is secure.   

Smart911, a service from Rave Mobile Safety, based in Framingham, Mass. is the emergency alert platform our regional dispatch center is implementing.  The platform is quite robust and offers a suite of enhanced features that our previous vendor did not provide.  Residents can choose which features they want to utilize, including an optional app that can be added to your smart phone.  Once fully deployed later this year through the regional dispatch center the Town will not be paying for this service, adding to the savings we are realizing through our new partnership with the North Shore Regional 911 Center.  

Phone numbers that residents specifically provided the former vendor have been transferred over to the new vendor.  However, given the menu of optional features from which residents can choose and the number of years (over 10) that it has been since the start of an emergency notification service in town along with the continued switch from land lines to cellular services, all residents are requested to register anew to ensure the most up-to-date information.  A household can register as many phone numbers as they like and can create emergency information profiles for themselves and family members, again, as you choose.  To register, visit   Anyone needing assistance registering can fill out a form on the Town’s website or by visiting and a staff member will be in touch.  

Emergency notifications or “reverse 911” calls are an important tool in letting people know of a critical emergency situation.  We have used these to let people know of severe weather, utility disruptions (specific neighborhoods can be alerted), and emergency closings.  While we hope never to have to provide such alerts, they can literally be life savers in extreme situations.  

Maintaining Civility:   On another topic, a discrepancy was recently realized between the instructions for the placement of resident stickers on vehicles and what the directive says in a Town Bylaw.  The old bylaw, which governs, states that the stickers should be placed on the driver’s side rear window. At the request of the Police and Beach staff, it was recommended that a better placement would be the front windshield on the driver’s side due in part by the rise in the use of deeply tinted side windows through which a sticker could not be seen. Until the bylaw is changed, no tickets can be given for not complying with the instructions and any tickets given in the past for improper placement will be nullified and any fines paid refunded.  

This situation is readily cleared up and the inconsistency will be corrected. It really is as simple as that.  However, as is all too common on social media, the situation seemed to take on an outsized life of its own.  We enjoy a great deal of freedom to say whatever we want to in this country.  I respect this freedom as it can lead to productive, robust community dialogue and better outcomes.  But I also have a deep appreciation for how words matter and how misleading statements or incorrect inferences can be hurtful, especially to those striving to do good work for the public.  Sometimes mistakes happen. We correct them and move forward.   My hope is that we always remember to be considerate of one another as we work through whatever issue is at hand.   

Sep 13

From the Town Administrator's Desk - September 8, 2023

Posted on September 13, 2023 at 8:40 AM by Tiffany Marletta

September 8, 2023
Rotunda Forum set for September 14
By Gregory T. Federspiel

The third public forum on the needed repairs to the Rotunda at Tuck’s Point is set for Thursday, September 14 starting at 7PM at Town Hall and via Zoom.  Three options (down from 4) will be reviewed, and new 3-dimensional modeling of the options will be presented to help to visualize the appearance of each alternative.

Four options were on the table but the option to extend the pier and place the Rotunda further out toward the channel has been dropped due to permitting challenges.  Building within the existing footprint or placing the Rotunda on land present easier and quicker permitting paths.  With the project being time sensitive given the deteriorating conditions, any delays should be avoided.

The options to be presented on the 14th are:

  1. Rebuild the pier in its current location but raise everything up about 5 feet to 19 feet MLW to better protect the pier and Rotunda from bigger storm surges and rising sea levels. Estimated Cost of $2.25 million.
  2. Rebuild the pier with a new viewing deck at the end all at a raised elevation of 19’ MLW and relocate the Rotunda to the picnic knoll just to the north of the entrance to the existing pier. Estimated cost of $1.75 million.
  3. Rebuild the pier in its current location but raise everything up in two phases – initially to 17’ MLW and then, assuming necessary, to 19’ MLW in about 25 years from now. Estimated cost of $5.75 million for both phases (Phase 1 at $2.16 million and Phase 2 25 years later at $3.59 million- escalated for assumed inflation)

The Rotunda was originally built in 1896.  At the time, the Chowder House was located at the water’s edge and the Yacht Club had just built its facility, blocking the Chowder House’s view to open water.  The harbor at the time was mostly a large mud flat at low tide.  The pier and Rotunda were built to reclaim the view beyond the Yacht Club.  

With the understructure of the pier in poor condition, a rebuild is needed.  New steel pilings will replace the rotting wooden ones and a new steel frame for the pier is proposed.  The steel framing will be hidden by wood trim thus the look will be very similar to what is there today.  Of course, raising the pier and the Rotunda up 5 feet will alter the appearance but as the modeling shows, this only becomes evident at low tide.  On the plus side, using steel means fewer pilings are needed as the spans can be longer.  Going up to 19’ either directly or in 2 phases is a permitting requirement based on sea level rise projections.

Most comments to date have favored the first option – raising the structures up in their current location to the 19’MLW elevation.  Some advocate relocating the Rotunda itself to land to better protect the historic structure from storm damage.  Giving up the on-water location of the Rotunda is not an easy sell even if a viewing deck replaces the Rotunda.  

The Select Board needs to decide which option should be advanced to final design and permitting soon.   After taking additional public comment on the 14th, the Board plans on making a final decision at their meeting on September 18.  This will keep the project moving forward.  Once plans are finalized and permitting underway the Town will apply for grant funding to pay for the work.  Given that we have received grant funding for the current design work we are optimistic that grant funds for construction will be secured.  The goal is to have the reconstruction work done next year in the fall and into the winter of 2025.  This means the rehabilitated pier and Rotunda should be ready for the 2025 season.