Recap of the February 26th Select Board Meeting

(2/28/07)  The Select Board met February 26th.  Anne Awad, Robie Hubley, Rob Kusner, Gerry Weiss and Hwei-Ling Greeney were all present, as was Town Manager Larry Shaffer.

Ms. Awad opened the meeting with the public comment period.  No one wished to comment.

Ms. Awad announced a PVTA public hearing at the Belchertown Town Hall to be held Tuesday, February 27th at 7:00 p.m.  She said the hearing would address the Belchertown express bus route and its diversion through the Echo Hill/Gatehouse Road area.  She urged people to attend the meeting and show support.

Mr. Kusner said that people could use that bus to attend the meeting, and that it leaves UMass at 5:40 p.m., arriving in Belchertown at 6:20 p.m., with a 7:45 p.m. return to Amherst.  He said there would be a later local bus as well, and Ms. Awad suggested that people getting the later bus might support the local restaurants on Belchertown common while they wait.

Untimed Item:  Flag Illumination – Chamber of Commerce

Ms. Awad offered a statement of appreciation to the Chamber of Commerce for illuminating the flag on the Common, across from Town Hall.  She said that about a month ago, the flag ceased being illuminated at night, and it was found that the lighting was controlled by a switch at the Chamber, which no one had realized also controlled lighting for the flag.  She said that now that it is known that they control the switch, the Chamber is illuminating the flag as a contribution to the Town, which she said is much appreciated.

Miscellaneous: Article 41 Update 

Ms. Awad said that several inquiries had been received regarding Article 41 from last spring's Town Meeting.  She said it had been a two-part article, with one part calling for the Select Board to create a 5-year financial plan, and the other part calling for a strategic plan with recommendations and a report to Town Meeting this spring.  She said that the 5-year plan is in place.  She said that John Musante had the capacity to do financial projections when he became Amherst's Finance Director, and that the Select Board asked the Town Manager to have him prepare a 5-year plan.  He has, and she says those plans have been very helpful.  She said that the Select Board is working on the strategic plan part and intends to make a report at Town Meeting.  She said that she hopes the Board will finish its report in time to be included in the Finance Committee's first mailing to Town Meeting members, and that they would determine the outline and component parts for that report at upcoming meetings. 

Kate Troast said that discussion of this article was why she was at the meeting.  She said that she is very idealistic and meant what she said at the previous meeting about being willing to attend more often to assist with the economic development effort.  She said that she is interested in the Board developing alternative strategies for revenue production, which she suggested might include having a point person identifying parcels of developable land.  She said that she and other Town Meeting members often don't understand the economic development impact of zoning decisions, and would like that information to be available before Town Meeting.  She said she would like this topic to be a consistent agenda item for Select Board meetings, to show the community that we aren't just looking for short-term bail outs.  Ms. Awad said that the strategic plan won't solve everything because the situation is complex.  Ms. Troast agreed and said it would show positive steps forward.

Mr. Weiss said that he met with Chamber of Commerce President Cinda Jones several weeks ago, and they agreed that Town Hall and the Chamber's Governmental Affairs committee should meet regularly, and that Mr. Hubley and Mr. Shaffer had already met with the group to discuss what Town Hall and Town Meeting might do to assist them, and help with zoning needs.

Ms. Troast said that small businesses are compatible with the pattern of living in this area, and suggested that if 40 small businesses could triple in size, that would have a revenue impact for the town.  She suggested that the town might help with resources, and said that small business owners might know how to run their business, but not how to grow it.

Ms. Awad said that the Select Board has been developing expertise in assisting businesses through tax incentive financing and using different state models to help small businesses grow, and that it is a learning process.

Ms. Greeney said that she thinks the 5-year plan part of article 41 has been done, but that the second part was more troubling because it calls for supporting level services funding for that time period.  She said that at FY07 levels, that would anticipate a cumulative $32 million shortfall in five years.  She questioned continuing “business as usual,” and said the feasibility of level services funding should be considered when they report on Article 41 to Town Meeting.

Ms. Awad asked that all the Select Board members consider the report issues this week, and that next week they would plan the report and each member's assignments.

Mr. Kusner said in the context of long-term financial planning, he hopes the Board will spend time in March figuring out what role the override will play in that discussion. He said that would require more than one meeting.  Ms. Awad said this meeting would have been premature to talk about it because the Governor's budget would come out Tuesday; and they could then spend the next few meetings on the override.

Ms. Troast asked if it might be useful if she were to come up with any strategic planning models.  She said she felt sorry for the Board, because they were expected to deal with something that was not necessarily in their fields of expertise.  She suggested that other people in town might be good resources, and that she would see who might be available. 

Mr. Hubley said that this concept is not a new idea and has been going on for a long time.  He said that he saw people working with a bunch of maps related to this topic in a different meeting room earlier in the evening, and that there is on-going research as to where things are and where things can be placed.  He called Amherst one of the “outstanding GIS municipalities” in Massachusetts.   He said he appreciated Ms. Troast urging the Board along.

Mr. Kusner said that economic development possibilities between the Town and the University were discussed at the last meeting, and that he is involved in some discussions as well.  He said there is behind-the-scenes work being done.

Ms. Greeney said she would like to put out a call for participation in the Community Dialogue Task Force, which will engage renters and homeowners in discussions about the Town's financial future.   She said that a couple of people have already shown interest in the committee, but that a couple more are needed.  She encouraged people to submit Citizen Activity Forms in order to be considered for appointment.  Ms. Awad said the task force would be a good way to provide community service without making a long-term commitment, because its work will be done by May 1st.

Public Hearing – Amity Street Parking Lot

Ms. Awad said that problems have arisen for cinema patrons who park at the meters in the Amity Street lot, which only have a two-hour limit, while some movies run longer than two hours.  She said they would consider whether changes would be possible, and said there was a constituency of people worried that increasing the meter time would negatively impact library patrons.  She said the purpose of the hearing was to see if they could determine how to make the small lot function best.

Mr. Shaffer said that he had spoken with Carol Johnson, Executive Director of the cinema, and discussed the problem of people being ticketed when their movie ran longer than their meter time.  He said that having them come out to find a ticket on their cars leads to an atmosphere that is counter to what a thriving downtown would want to foster.  He said he met with the Parking Task Force and said that is made up of staff and Mr. Weiss and Mr. Kusner.  He said that they discussed a number of scenarios that included neighboring lots and on-street parking, and how turn-over might be increased to assist library patrons, and that ultimately they wanted to help the cinema and that they recommended changing the meter time to three hours.  He said that Mr. Kusner had abstained from the vote but had participated in the discussion.  He said the DPW Director confirmed that the meters can be reprogrammed and that it could be done quickly.

Mr. Weiss said that he had missed the meeting, but had a number of questions.  He asked Ms. Johnson if the problem was primarily Saturday afternoons.

Ms. Johnson began by recapping the opening of the cinema last November and said it has been well-received, selling an average of 3,000 tickets per week, and that it is “creating a spark for downtown.”  She said the parking ticket problem isn't just on Saturdays.  She said there is demand for afternoon movies with a 2-3:00 start time, especially among older patrons who prefer to get home before dark.  She said that “Letters from Iwo Jima” is two hours and twenty minutes long, which makes it a problem, and that the meter time is even inadequate for shorter films, if people want to also get a cup of coffee or a meal.

Mr. Weiss said he had submitted suggestions to the task force, and said he was only offering alternatives in case the 3-hour plan would not work, as that lot isn't reserved for the cinema.  He suggested possibly increasing the hours at the Spring Street lot.  Ms. Johnson said that could work for some, but many can't walk that far.  She said different lots with longer parking hours are encouraged for cinema patrons, but those don't work for everyone.

Mr. Weiss asked if cinema employees were using that lot, or if they were using parking permits.  Ms. Johnson said that in addition to employees walking, bicycling and taking the bus to work, there were some permit users.  Others park wherever they can, and have to go out and move their cars sometimes.  She said that Bank of America and PeoplesBank have both given the cinema use of their lots outside of bank hours, which Mr. Weiss noted doesn't solve the week day problem.

Mr. Kusner said that permits could be purchased inexpensively in bulk and are only available to residents and employers, which he suggested would free up parking spaces for cinema patrons.  Ms. Johnson said that would be considered.

Ms. Greeney asked how many spaces were in the Amity Lot and whether it meets the needs of the movie goers.  Ms. Johnson said she was uncertain as to the number of spaces, and that it couldn't be known if this change would work until it was tried.  Ms. Greeney said she thought the number of spaces in the lot would be inadequate for the cinema capacity, and that people might then park in the CVS lot and want the time increased to three hours also.  Ms. Johnson said the afternoon shows are not sold out and sometimes are sparsely attended, but that it is upsetting for one of those patrons to get a parking ticket.  She said she wasn't trying to solve all the parking problems of the town, but was trying only for a creative solution to one particular problem.

Mr. Kusner said he wanted to try to balance transportation expenses with revenues.  He said he would be happy to endorse the plan if the parking rate was increased and made equivalent with the Boltwood garage.  He said he wants to make sure the cinema thrives but doesn't want to rob the Transportation Enterprise Fund of funds.  He said that with cinema patrons paying $8.50 for a ticket, paying an additional dollar for parking wouldn't seem to be a burden.  Ms. Johnson said she wasn't looking to create a hurdle for patrons, and said that one person using a space for three hours would be the same as two people using it for two hours, and that she just wanted to see if this solution might work.

Mr. Kusner said that fees and fines were both revenues, and that people sometimes leave a space with time in the meter, and said that having one person use the space longer wasn't necessarily equivalent to multiple people using it.  Ms. Johnson said that Mr. Kusner is the mathematician.  

Mr. Hubley moved to extend the hours on the meters in the Amity lot to three hours to benefit cinema patrons, effective March 15th. He said he chose that date to allow for adequate time, but said that could be changed.  Mr. Shaffer said the meter change could be made very quickly, as soon as possible.

Mr. Weiss seconded the motion and made a point of order, saying that this lot is not in the public way and hence the change was the Town Manager's prerogative.

Ms. Greeney suggested that as the discussion was about 2:00 issues, and the meters start at 9:00, perhaps the start time should be changed to reflect the proposed three hour interval, for better turnover in the mornings.     

Mr. Shaffer said it was not possible with the current meters to split the time allotments during the day, but that the new meters being looked at could do that, which he thought was a good idea.  He said that there was some ambiguity as to that lot being under his authority, and as such, he thought it prudent to bring the matter to the Select Board.

Mr. Kusner suggested removing the wording from the motion about “for the benefit of cinema patrons,” because that is not the lot's purpose, and all agreed.  He also suggested adding a phrase about approving signage explaining the change, and extending the enforcement time to 8:00 p.m. to keep revenues balanced.  He said that would align its enforcement hours with those of the CVS lot and the garage. 

Mr. Weiss said he thought that suggestion would substantially alter the intent of the public hearing.  He said he didn't accept it under his seconding of the motion, but that the idea might be worthy of discussion. 

Mr. Shaffer said they would make signs, and so that didn't necessarily need to be in the motion.  Mr. Kusner said he added the language because the Select Board would need to authorize signs in the public way.  He said he had suggested extending the enforcement time as a friendly amendment, and felt it was integral to the motion, and said he wouldn't vote to support it otherwise.  Mr. Weiss said he understood, but didn't agree.  Ms. Greeney said that she thought making those two separate motions would be impossible, and expressed concern about the confusion of having different enforcement times in different lots.  Mr. Kusner explained again that this would make the Amity lot the same enforcement time as the CVS lot and the garage, and said that the one on the Common and the one behind Town Hall are both enforced until 6:00, and he said that although he would like to add that to the motion also, he wouldn't.

Mr. Weiss said that he thought this was a separate idea and that it has a bit of a “coercive feel.”  He said it should go back to the task force as part of the list of parking issues and ideas.  Mr. Kusner said it was not intended to be coercive, and said that different things need to be mixed together to create legislation.  He said he wanted to accommodate cinema patrons without negatively impacting the Transportation Enterprise Fund, and wanted to make the new plan “revenue neutral.”

Ms. Greeney said she would abstain from the vote because she disagreed with a “patchwork” parking solution, and preferred a “holistic view.”  Ms. Awad said the Parking Task Force was trying to do that, but might never have a completely holistic view because adjustments are needed to accommodate change downtown. 

After more discussion about whether language about signs was necessary in the motion and Mr. Kusner's expectations and intentions of the proposed enforcement time change, it was ultimately approved in a vote of 3 in favor (Awad, Hubley, Weiss,) 0 opposed and 2 abstentions (Kusner and Greeney) to recommend changing the meters in the Amity Street lot to allow three hours of parking.

Mr. Kusner then moved to extend the enforcement hours in that lot to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Ms. Greeney sought and received confirmation that this change would only add two hours of enforcement, not change the days.  Mr. Hubley asked if it required more hours by enforcement personnel – it would not.  Mr. Shaffer noted many issues, concerns and possible solutions for parking in that area, and suggested that the extension to a three hour limit is a stop gap measure to fix a specific issue, while more comprehensive changes could be dealt with later.  Mr. Weiss said he was not prepared to vote for it tonight because it was a new idea, and wanted it addressed at the next Parking Task Force meeting.  Mr. Weiss also said he agreed with Northampton's parking philosophy, which he said was to first make sure the parking works, then look to maximize revenue from it.  Mr. Kusner said he wasn't looking for additional revenue, and was trying to be revenue neutral, and said that increasing enforcement time might yield better parking availability because people going to the bars might reject spaces they had to pay for, leaving them open for willing cinema patrons.  Ms. Greeney suggested ending the long discussion and voting.

The vote to increase the enforcement hours of the Amity Street lot meters to 8:00 p.m. was 1 in favor (Kusner,) 2 opposed (Awad and Hubley,) and 2 abstentions (Greeney and Weiss.)

Comprehensive Planning Committee Update

Eric Nakajima, Chair of the Comprehensive Planning Committee gave an update on the status of the Master Plan process. 

Mr. Nakajima said the idea gathering sessions in October were successful, attracting a wide cross-section of citizens, and that follow-up outreach sessions were held to include underrepresented groups.  He noted that all the Select Board members had attended.  He said that in December the group added many new members and delayed the start of the work group workshops in order to get those members fully acclimated into the process. He said that was valuable and the group met almost weekly with excellent attendance by members, including the Select Board liaison.  He noted that there are two vacancies on the committee – one at-large member, and one representative from the Public Transportation and Bicycle Committee.  He said that the body has functioned well together and in subcommittees.  He said the they are now in the working groups stage, and that those have been organized around the elements required by Massachusetts General Law, which he said address different substantive areas necessary for a Master Plan to pass muster with the state.  He said those areas are:  housing, transportation, economic development, facilities, cultural and historic resources, natural resources and conservation, and land use. He said that since the end of January, more than 70 members of the public have been participating in those groups with a “great level of dedication.”  He also praised the work of the consultants, the Planning Department, the liaisons and other Town staff.  He said the second working groups workshop would refine goals and ideas, ask critical questions and “refine some set of deliverables” to be presented to the community at the Community Choices forum. That Community Choices forum will be held March 29th at 7:00 p.m. at the High School.  He said he hoped people who participated in the idea gatherings would be engaged for this step and that new people would become interested in the process as well.  He said it would identify refined goals and ideas and emerging land use patterns illustrated with maps and data.  He said the big step after Community Choices will be a scientific survey conducted to test the goals and objectives identified by the process to ensure that they are on the right track and to correct as necessary.  He said that although the Planning Board has statutory responsibility over the final plan, it needs to be embraced by the community.  He said that there is currently a big display – created by committee member Alan Root – about the process at Jones Library, He said that how the different boards and bodies collaborate and communicate about the plan now sows the seeds for the community's acceptance.

Ms. Awad said that the Select Board took two actions last fall – expanding the committee to engage more people in the process, and creating a second group to coordinate the process and provide support for the transition to the plan's acceptance and implementation.   She said that group hadn't been activated yet, but would include representatives from the Select Board, the Planning Board, the Comprehensive Planning Committee and perhaps Town Meeting, and she said it would help make the final product a real plan and not one that gets shelved.

Mr. Kusner praised the presentation and said he was concerned about the checks and balances of the system as it moves forward, and asked about who does the vetting and refining of feedback after the Community Choices forum.  He was concerned about potential conflicts of interest, and asked how the committee is handling that issue.

Mr. Nakajima said that because the group was doing the public's business, it had a responsibility and moral obligation to follow conflict of interest laws.  He said people will need to be reminded of that and may need to recuse themselves from parts of the process, and to document that through minutes and other means so that there is a paper trail.  He said the Planning Board has been fully documenting and making available all minutes and records so the process is open and reviewable in case there are concerns.

Ms. Awad asked if this would be a good time to get the other group together, and Mr. Nakajima agreed that it would soon be useful, reiterating the point about communication among the different bodies being necessary for successful acceptance of the plan. He said he wouldn't want official concerns and issues to come forward for the first time in the fall when the public should be celebrating the acceptance of the plan, and Ms. Awad agreed, and said that dialogue among the bodies can be clarifying.

Ms. Greeney said that she was impressed with the organization and work of the group, and asked about progress with UMass and how they have been drawn into participation.  Mr. Nakajima said that UMass and the colleges have ex-officio members on the committee and all have had good attendance and participation.  He said they are good liaisons for their communities.  He said he expects them to become more vocal as implementation of strategies is discussed, which he expects will involve the schools.  Mr. Shaffer said that he has been part of meetings with the heads of the schools on this subject and all have committed fully to the process and understand its importance.

Mr. Kusner asked again about the checks and balances aspect of the process and Mr. Nakajima said the scientific survey was part of that, to test public opinion, ensure that participation has been representative of the broader community, and to have the opportunity to re-think solutions if necessary. 

Chapter 61 Release – Bay Road

Conservation Director Dave Ziomek presented information about releasing a house lot off of Bay Road from Chapter 61 status, as part of ongoing efforts by the Town to purchase and preserve Holyoke Range land owned by David and Phyllis Smith.  He said that acquiring the Smith land is a partnership between the Town and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR.)  Several parcels are part of this transaction, including the one Mr. Ziomek said that the Smiths are seeking to carve out for a frontage lot.

Mr. Kusner raised concerns about the sequencing of the process, and making sure that it is done in a way that binds each party to the intended actions.  Mr. Hubley asked about the tax obligation consequences to the Smiths and whether the transaction is conditional on that obligation being met.  Mr. Ziomek said he didn't think there was time sensitivity to the release of the parcel's status, and that he would come to a future meeting with answers to the Board's questions.

Mr. Ziomek explained that a local trail crossing part of the parcel to be released would be relocated, so as not to encumber that property. 

Kimball House Issues

Mr. Shaffer said that progress has been made in Boston with the House passing approval for the necessary legislation for DCR to release the intended building lot from APR status, and that it is due in the Senate within a week or so.  He said that all the pieces, including the mitigation and compensation agreement were in order, and that thanks to the hard work of Mr. Ziomek, other Town staff, the Select Board and Mr. Hubley, this deal is on the cusp of successful completion, and could be done by the end of the week. 

Mr. Hubley spoke to the process being difficult because APR land is intended to stay that way, and said that they had made a convincing case to skeptical people.  He said that it reflected favorably on those people that they recognized this as a good case being worth the trouble.

Mr. Shaffer said it couldn't have happened without the work of Stan Rosenberg's and Ellen Story's offices.

Public Transportation and Bicycle Committee – TEF mission statement

Jane Ashby, Vice Chair of the Public Transportation and Bicycle Committee (PTBC) said that the committee had voted to add words to the Transportation Enterprise Fund mission statement specifying that it also be used to support public transportation.  She said that reflects the intentions of Town Meeting, the Finance Committee and the PTBC when the TEF was founded.  She said that an action of Town Meeting in 2000 made it very clear that supporting public transportation would be included once the TEF was profitable.  She said the change in wording reflects that intent and the current usage of TEF money, which she said fully-funds the PVTA assessment without tax money.

Ms. Awad said that there was ambiguity as to whether the Town Manager was the one with authority to make changes to the wording of enterprise funds.  Mr. Shaffer credited the PTBC with noting that the change might be under his authority and that they and he wanted it done publicly, not surreptitiously.

Mr. Kusner moved that the TEF mission statement be updated “to provide a parking and public transportation system that meets the needs of Amherst residents and businesses and that can be supported through the fees and other alternative non-tax revenue sources” and that this language appear in all documents circulated at Town Meeting, etc.   The vote to approve the change was unanimous. 

Ms. Awad requested that the PTBC consider a new representative to the Comprehensive Planning Committee.

Neighborhood Quality of Life Issues

Ms. Greeney said that in October, residents of the Lincoln/Fearing/Sunset neighborhood had presented concerns regarding litter, noise and traffic and so forth, and that the Board had instructed the Town Manager to suggest solutions.  She requested that he update the Board with his recommendations so that they might offer feedback. 

Mr. Shaffer apologized for not getting his memo to them sooner in order to be included in their packets, and said copies were available to them here.  He summarized the memo which described the attributes that supported quality of life in strong neighborhood.  He said that strong neighborhoods resist blight, sustain property values, support downtowns and enhance the tax base.  He said that issues challenging strong neighborhoods include traffic volume and speed, pedestrian safety, lifestyle issues like late night parties, petty crime, parking and zoning violations.  He said that was a thumbnail sketch.  He said many communities use traditional enforcement tools such as code enforcement and the police, and that that is a reactive model.  He said new paradigms deal with community preservation and address core causes of blight through partnerships and cooperation with neighbors.  He cited a community-based non-profit organization in Syracuse, NY which he said was equal partner with the municipality to address issues on a proactive basis.

Mr. Kusner referred to the George Lakoff book “Whose Freedom?” which he has mentioned at a previous meeting, and talked of how it described progressive versus conservative freedom.  He said enforcement of bylaws was an example of conservative freedom, while progressive freedom focused on enhancements to the community and its values, and noted his experiences in different west coast communities.

Ms. Greeney thanked Mr. Shaffer for his information, which she said was a good beginning and a good framework.  She said she wants something that can be put into action.  She said she had spoken with a housing complex manager who feared that with the fraternities gone and the new dorms, students lacked a place to party, so he hired extra security to protect his complex, which Ms. Greeney said several apartment complexes were doing as well.  She said we have been lucky to have no deaths so far result from student rioting, and that she doesn't want to wait for a tragedy to occur before taking action.  She said the warm weather is coming and something should be in the pipeline now, such as strict enforcement to send message.  She said it was problematic that we can't ticket for quality of life violations, and she wants to be able to tell neighbors that some action is being taken.

Yuri Friman, a resident of the Lincoln/Fearing/Sunset neighborhood, said he was interested that no University representatives were at the meeting, and wondered if they'd been invited.  Ms. Awad said that this meeting was to determine how to approach the issue, and that contacting UMass might be an outcome.

Mr. Friman suggested that the University consider making Mass. Ave. a social hub, perhaps by turning the visitors' center into a place for coffee or ice cream in an effort to keep kids on campus.  He said the streets are wider, brighter and safer there, and would be easier to police.  He suggested that UMass also consider creating a party location on campus, which would be more easily-controlled than off-campus venues. 

Mr. Kusner said that was the sort of amenity he was talking about, and said that if you balance enforcement with positive alternatives, less enforcement is needed.

Ms. Awad said that the Select Board has received complaints about problem areas all over town, not just the Lincoln/Fearing/Sunset neighborhood, and that an approach is needed that allows for pilots and interventions at each neighborhood level.

Mr. Shaffer said the students who would be attracted to coffee or ice cream wouldn't be the ones causing the problems that were being discussed. 

Mr. Hubley said that an effort should be made to identify the various neighborhoods of the town and their distinct issues and that it might be more effective to deal with the problems from a unified neighborhood perspective.  He said that he thought that should be part of the comprehensive plan, but that instead of a focus on neighborhoods, that was focusing on different interests and sectors of the economy.

Ms. Greeney recommended taking action first in neighborhoods like hers, where students and families border each other, around the University or other areas of student density. 

Ms. Awad said that Mr. Shaffer, Mr. Weiss and Mr. Hubley would soon be meeting with the Police Chief and might be able to make enforcement part of that discussion, and said code violations were another option. 

Mr. Friman said that involving the University helps to invest them in the problem and solution as well, encouraging creative solution, instead of putting out fires, which he said has been the longtime practice.  He suggested encouraging the development of University Drive as a student area also, with housing and attractions.

Ms. Awad suggested that a pizza truck parked on campus could be an attraction after the bars close downtown.  She asked for two volunteers to work on the neighborhood quality of life issues.  Ms. Greeney suggested a model similar to the Parking Task Force, whereby they would work with Mr. Shaffer to bring proposals back to the Select Board.  Mr. Shaffer agreed. 

Mr. Hubley said the issue of students leaving downtown to return to campus through neighborhoods dovetails with Jonathan Tucker's downtown enhancement plan, and should be made part of that.  He said that he had emphasized the need to make McClellan Street part of the Mutual Aid Agreement, and referred to the recent sting operation that found a number of establishments serving alcohol to minors.

Mr. Kusner was willing to work with Ms. Greeney and Mr. Shaffer on this task force.  Mr. Friman noted that the neighborhood committee would be meeting Friday morning at 9:30 in room 802 at the Campus Center. Mr. Weiss said that he was having encouraging conversations with a University official whom he didn't want to identify regarding enforcement issues and more University presence around fraternities, and said it was encouraging but he couldn't elaborate beyond that.

Phil Jackson, a resident of the Lincoln/Fearing/Sunset neighborhood, said that his neighbors have repeatedly attended meetings, filling rooms, seeking action on these matters.  He said that the YouTube videos of the recent UMass riot showed the potential for danger if that were to occur off campus when Amherst police were busy in another part of town.   He said that the Mutual Aid agreement was a logical tool for assisting with an intelligent application of resources.  He spoke of his neighborhood being a route for emergency vehicles, and said that Lincoln Avenue has a volume of 10,000 cars per day.  He said that since the neighborhood presented a proposal to the town July 31st, almost 2 million cars have gone down that street, with over ¾ of a million of them speeding.  He said it is time to do something and that more talk is not the answer.

Peter Blumberg, another resident of the Lincoln/Fearing/Sunset neighborhood, said that he echoed Mr. Jackson's sentiments and that it was time for action and he was frustrated with the delay.

Tax Work-Off Guidelines Increases

Mr. Shaffer said he had met with Maura Plante and Nancy Pagano who suggested increasing the income limits for the senior tax work-off program.  He said that Amherst has a $30,000 income limit for either single or married people, and that Ms. Plante's and Ms. Pagano's research showed that comparable communities have limits of $36,531 for single people and $54,797 for married couples.  He said that raising the limits would attract more participants but wouldn't cost the town more money, because that is governed by the number of available slots for the program, which is 30, for a total potential cost to the town of $22,500 per year.  He said that given current tax challenges and the desire to provide relief to elderly tax payers, this was appropriate, because at the current limits the program only has 15 participants. 

Mr. Hubley said there was nothing to argue.  Mr. Kusner made a motion to put the higher limits on the Town Meeting warrant.  Mr. Weiss asked about the 30-slot limit, and Mr. Shaffer said that was due to how much money was appropriated for the program, and that that could be increased.

Ms. Awad asked if participation was low because the program wasn't being marketed well enough, and Mr. Shaffer said those efforts could be improved.  Ms. Awad said she wants to support the program, but had a concern.  She said she has been told by one of the participants that it was a big relief to be accepted into the program three years ago, expecting to save $750 per year off her property taxes, but that she was called in to work only enough to earn $150 off her tax bill.  Ms. Awad said that it was important to be sure the Town had the capacity to absorb that labor in a systematic way so that people wouldn't be disappointed.

Mr. Shaffer said the Town had needs and would have to be more creative in filling them.  Ms. Awad said a plan for marketing the program, identifying viable work options, and the ability to track its effectiveness were all needed.  Mr. Shaffer said that he heard the concerns and will make sure the program works better.  

Ms. Greeney said it would take 3000 hours of work to fully accommodate 30 participants, and questioned that likelihood.  She asked if working in the schools could be included in the program.  Mr. Shaffer said he didn't know but would find out.  Ms. Awad said the schools might particularly welcome grandparent-types in the libraries, because they had been forced to cut the paraprofessionals. Mr. Kusner said that that many volunteers would require management, and suggested that could be a position for one of them.

The vote to support raising the income limits for this program was unanimous.

Town Meeting Schedule

A request had come to the Select Board to move the start of Town Meeting from April 30th to May 7th.  This was because having Town Meeting on April 30th followed by the special election on May 1st, followed by another night of Town Meeting on May 2nd would be unduly taxing on the Town Clerk's office.  Once that reason was made clear, objection ceased and the vote to move Town Meeting's start date to May 7th was unanimous.

This raised questions of the deadline for citizens to submit petition articles for the warrant.  There was uncertainty as to the legal requirements for moving it up a week to March 9th, versus leaving it at the original March 2nd date, and it would be too late to learn more and then make the decision at the next Select Board meeting.  Ultimately it was decided that moving the date to March 9th made for the least ambiguity, and it was acknowledged that if that was deemed to not be a legal motion, it would be disregarded.  The vote to support moving the petition article deadline to March 9th was unanimous.

Sign Annual Town Election Warrant

The Select Board signed the Annual Election warrant.

Special Municipal Employee Designation Request Letter

After some discussion about language and proposed edits that were not in front of the body and could not be recalled, the members approved the explanatory cover memo that will go out with the new Special Municipal Employee Status procedure.  The gist of the memo was that current SME status expires on June 30th and that boards and committees desiring renewal of that status should apply sufficiently in advance of that date that the Select Board can consider and decide on the application.  All boards and committees will receive the memo and application materials.

Consent Calendar

The Consent Calendar contained minutes of the February 12th meeting and several dates for special alcohol licenses for UMass.  It was unanimously approved.

Committee Charge:  Community Dialogue Task Force

Ms. Greeney presented draft charge for the Community Dialogue Task Force. After some tinkering, it was agreed that the Task Force's purpose was to engage renters and home owners in a dialogue about the Town's financial future; that meetings for that purpose would be held in different parts of town; that five at-large members would comprise the task force; and that it would disband as of May 1st.  The vote to approve the charge was unanimous.

Committee Appointments

Ms. Greeney recommended two nominees for the Community Dialogue Task Force:  Irv Rhodes and Chris Hoffmann.  Both were unanimously approved.

Common Victualler License – Carle Café

The Common Victualler license for the Carle Café at the Eric Carle Museum was unanimously approved.

Town Manager's Report

Mr. Shaffer reported that the ACTV contract has been executed.  He said it includes a number of new elements, including live broadcasting of Planning Board meetings; a process for other boards and committees to apply to be broadcast live; a new process for acquisition of capital improvement items, whereby the town maintains the funds and ACTV submits purchase requests, and the acquired capital items get marked and insured as Town inventory. 

Mr. Hubley moved to adjourn to Executive Session to discuss compensation for non-union employees, and said that open session would not reconvene.  Open session was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

 -- Stephanie O'Keeffe

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