- Public Comment
- Farmers Market – Closing Spring Street Parking Lot (6:45)
- Taxi License (6:50)
- Special Liquor Licenses
- Complaint Management System (6:57)
- Public Works Update – Atkins Corner (7:12)
- Public Works Update – University Drive (7:22)
- Public Works Update – Middle Street Stop Signs
- Public Works Update – Downtown Sidewalks and Trees (7:49)
- Town Manager’s Report – Budget Update (8:11)
- Review of Town Meeting Article List (8:12)
- Liquor License Renewal – Cherry Hill (8:17)
- Committee Appointments (8:18)
(3/12/08) The Select Board met Monday, March 10th at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall. Anne Awad, Alisa Brewer and Hwei-Ling Greeney were present; Gerry Weiss and Rob Kusner were absent. Town Manager Larry Shaffer was present, and Kate Seaman took the minutes of the meeting.
David Keenan expressed appreciation for the Select Board office providing Select Board meeting packets to the Select Board candidates. He said the practice of having the packets delivered to the homes of Select Board members by the Police Department is a “gross misuse” of Town resources, and said that was something he had spoken against when he was on the Select Board in the past. He noted that most of the packet material was generated on computer and could probably be distributed electronically, and he suggested posting those materials on the Town web site so that the public could access them as well. He said that he had requested that the packet that gets mailed to him as a candidate instead be held at Town Hall for him to pick up. He suggested that changing the practice of the Police delivering packets could result in cost savings, and asked the Select Board to consider that and inform him about a decision on the issue.
Ted Jarowski of Hazel Avenue talked about concerns related to parking, emergency vehicle access, snow removal access and protection of the new landscaping work that Amherst College has done on that street, which he said is a dead end with access to the bike path. He had brought his concerns to the Select Board in October after having sent a letter on the same subject. He was seeking “No Parking” signs for certain areas of the street, which required coordination with other property owners. Mr. Shaffer said that he and Department of Public Works (DPW) Superintendent Guilford Mooring would meet with Mr. Jarowski to determine the best way to address the concerns with the new information provided regarding lack of agreement among the property owners on the street for making one side a “No Parking” zone. Ms. Greeney expressed appreciation for Mr. Jarowski’s patience, and concern that the issue wasn’t being addressed promptly, which she said highlighted the need for a complaint tracking system.
The Select Board approved the request to close the Spring Street parking lot for the Farmers Market on Saturdays from May 3rd to November 15th, for 7:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The vote to approve the request was 3 in favor, 2 absent.
The Select Board approved a taxi driver and chauffeur license for Bob Thun. The vote to approve the license was 3 in favor, 2 absent.
The Select Board approved special liquor licenses for four events at Hampshire College, seven events at UMass, and one event at Amherst College. The single vote to approve all the licenses was 3 in favor, 2 absent.
Information Technology Director Kris Pacunas talked about the “request tracker” system that would be part of the Town’s new web site. He said that the request tracker would include complaints as well as other questions and issues, and said it would allow those submitting requests to be able to track them, see who was assigned responsibility for handling them, and receive status updates. He said the Select Board would be invited to give feedback on the system, and said he hoped it would debut June 20th.
Mr. Pacunas explained, as he had at the December 10th Select Board meeting, that those using the system would choose from a list of categories and check boxes that would route their issue to the appropriate person and department, and that all parties would receive e-mail status updates, and would also be able to access the status on-line using the number assigned to the request. He spoke again of the ability for Town staff to enter requests received by letter or phone into the system, and how that was not expected to represent an increase in workload over the current system of processing such requests.
Mr. Shaffer praised the system and the work of Mr. Pacunas and the I.T. Department. He said that work still needed to be done, and that a complicating factor is routing and coordination of issues that involve multiple departments, such as public right-of-way issues which he said can involve the Police Department, the DPW, the Select Board and the Town Manager’s office and others. He said consideration of how to handle such issues in the new system is still underway.
Mr. Pacunas said that the request tracker is part of a comprehensive make-over of the Town web site, which he said was necessary to address accessibility compliance issues.
There was discussion about various meetings for the new system that Select Board members might opt to participate in, and that the system would debut at a Select Board meeting before its official public launch.
Mr. Mooring presented visuals to illustrate the status of the Atkins Corner redesign project. He had made the full presentation on the project to the Select Board on January 14th, but technical difficulties precluded access to the visuals that night.
Mr. Mooring sought a letter from the Select Board to Mass Highway, expressing support for the project, the desire for it to be done promptly and to come in within budget. There was discussion about how communities involved in State-funded projects such as this one need to agree to cover cost overruns, and how working closely with the State can help prevent the delays that lead to such overruns.
The vote to authorize the Select Board Chair to notify Mass Highway of the Select Board’s support for the project and plan was 3 in favor, 2 absent.
Mr. Mooring repeated his explanations from the January 14th meeting regarding University Drive work, and how it is divided in to three sections – the Big Y entrance, the Amity Street intersection, and the middle span between the two. He said that final design plans are complete for the Big Y part, redesigning that to a “T” intersection with a traffic light. He said that conceptual plans for adding left turn lanes at the Amity Street intersection rather than creating a roundabout there were complete, but that there were still issues to finalize there. He said that there was not agreement yet on a recommendation for the middle section, which he thought would ultimately be a hybrid of the “boulevard” concept with a treed center island, and the center turn lane concept, but that consideration of those options was ongoing. He said that going forward with the Big Y and Amity Street plans would not impact or limit the options for the middle section.
There was discussion about the goal of the Amity Street intersection redesign being to address issues of severe back-ups caused by vehicles making left-turns from University Drive as traffic leaves UMass in the afternoons. Mr. Mooring said the new configuration would help that, but would not affect morning traffic en route to UMass going through neighborhoods, because he said that is a result of people seeking alternate routes to bypass Route 9 back-ups of cars turning left on to University Drive.
The Select Board voted to approve going forward with the plans to redesign the intersection of Big Y plaza and University Drive, and to support continued development of the plans for left-turn lanes at the intersection of Amity Street and University Drive, in a vote of 3 in favor, 2 absent.
Ms. Awad said that consideration of Middle Street stop signs would be deferred until Mr. Weiss could be present.
Ms. Awad said there had been concern about downtown trees, and that one in front of the Post Office had died. She spoke about structural soil and larger root areas, and said she was concerned that the Select Board had authorized a design with flawed tree wells.
Mr. Shaffer noted that Tree Warden Alan Snow was present, and would be addressing the Select Board. Mr. Shaffer said that Town administration, including the DPW Director, was “in 100% agreement” with the Tree Warden’s recommendations. He said that all involved are committed to strong, healthy trees to beautify downtown, and he said that he looked to the Tree Warden to determine what was needed to ensure that. He said that Town administration is committed to carrying out the Tree Warden’s recommended course of action, and said “I think it’s important for the Select Board to hear that message.”
Mr. Snow said the he and the Public Shade Tree Committee had worked with Mr. Mooring and Town Engineer Jason Skeels on sidewalk reconstruction plans, and he said that all the elements they discussed were incorporated into those plans. He talked about structural soil and continuous soil volume extending beneath the sidewalk to allow tree roots to grow laterally. It was noted that the surface opening of the tree well is approximately the same size as in the past, but that the soils extend to a larger area underground.
Ms. Awad asked about the trees in front of the Post Office. Mr. Snow said one showed some decline and that a small gas leak had been identified nearby, which he said is “very detrimental to trees.” He said that one tree was dead and would be replaced in the spring, and talked about the importance of follow-up care for the first three years of a replanted tree’s life, in terms of extra watering and mulching. He said that current DPW staffing would only allow for adequate follow-up care for ten new trees, and said that as more trees are planted, community volunteers will be recruited and trained in how to water, mulch and prune new trees. He said that the Public Shade Tree Committee will be kicking off this “Neighborhood Tree Steward Program” on Arbor Day, Saturday, April 26th.
Ms. Awad asked if Mr. Snow felt that the design plan was adequate to address the stresses on trees in a downtown environment. Mr. Snow said that it is a “great plan for street trees,” and said that Mr. Mooring had been very cooperative in these efforts.
Ms. Awad asked if the previously-planted trees could be dug up to have structural soils added, and Mr. Mooring said that that would not work.
Mr. Snow said that there is no money available yet to purchase new trees for this section of North Pleasant Street. He talked about pursuing fundraising and other capital options, and said that a campaign seeking 250 trees for the town’s 250th anniversary would also be launched on Arbor Day. Ms. Awad noted that Nancy Gordon had established a small tree fund to assist with tree purchases for the west side of North Pleasant Street.
Mr. Mooring said that plans are underway for the west side. He noted that there is not much opportunity to plant trees from the Amity Street corner down to Amherst Brewing Company, and that three trees are planned in front of the former D’Angelo’s/Via-Via building. He said that discussions are still underway with property owners to the north, for the CVS and Roberts buildings.
Ms. Greeney asked about the planters in front of CVS, which she said were an “eyesore.” Mr. Mooring said that they were slated for removal in spring of 2009, and Ms. Greeney recommended that the Select Board consider accelerating that removal plan. Mr. Shaffer said that he would like to discuss the matter with the DPW and bring back a recommendation, noting that there were related issues such as patching the pavement for pedestrian safety that needed to be considered.
Mr. Shaffer said that the Budget Coordinating Group (BCG) is working on a process for fact-finding and gathering public input to create a long-term financial plan covering three to five years. He said that the BCG would make a presentation at the next Select Board meeting and would be seeking the Select Board’s input and endorsement before moving forward.
Ms. Greeney asked about the status of the social host nuisance bylaw proposal being reviewed by Town Counsel, noting that it was not included on the list of Town Meeting articles. Mr. Shaffer said he would check on that. Ms. Greeney and Ms. Awad both emphasized that the UMass Campus Community Coalition had intended that the article be on the spring warrant.
Ms. Brewer asked when the Select Board would start hearing from different departments regarding the budget. Ms. Awad said that would begin in the next week or two, and that Mr. Weiss was working on it. Ms. Awad noted that the Fire Chief and Firefighters Union were scheduled for the next meeting, and thought that the fire budget might be handled then. Ms. Brewer said that that would be March 24th, and that there would be no meeting on March 17th. [Note: this is now in question, and the expectation is that there will be a meeting on March 17th.]
The Select Board voted 3 in favor, 2 absent, to renew the seasonal wine and malt license for Cherry Hill Golf Course.
Ms. Brewer recommended the appointment of Tony Maroulis to the Town Commercial Relations Committee. The vote to approve the appointment was 3 in favor, 2 absent.
The meeting adjourned at 8:19 p.m. The next meeting of the Select Board is expected to be Monday, March 17th at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
-- Stephanie O’Keeffe