With Zoning Amendment Votes Postponed, Council Addresses Routine Matters Expeditiously

Photo: Amherst Media

Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Town Council meeting December 13, 2021

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. It can be viewed here

Councilors Alisa Brewer (At large), Sarah Swartz (District 1), and Darcy DuMont (District 5) were absent, and Shalini Bahl-Milne (District 5) attended briefly.

Staff: Paul Bockelman (Town Manager) and Athena O’Keeffe (Clerk of the Council) (O’Keeffe was tasked with managing IT and taking minutes for this meeting.)

Members of the public: 18 (including the six newly elected councilors) 

This meeting followed a two-hour orientation for the new councilors and began at 7:30 p.m. Several matters were raised, and almost all passed unanimously with little discussion. No one in the audience offered a public comment.

Gray-Mullen Appointed To Jones Library Building Committee
The town manager’s nomination of former Planning Board and Downtown Parking Working Group Chair Christine Gray-Mullen was approved as part of the consent agenda.

The council also unanimously rescinded the section 3.15 of the general bylaw which imposes a $200 fine for playing ball or similar amusements on public streets or the Town Commons. According to police chief Scott Livingstone, this provision has not been enforced in his memory. The Bylaw Review Committee recommended its removal, as did the Governance, Operations, and Legislation Committee of the Council.

Parking And Traffic Near Kendrick Park To Be Altered
A plan from the Town Services and Outreach (TSO) committee recommends that traffic on North Pleasant Street between McClellan and Triangle Street be made one-way from south to north with back-in angled parking spaces along the park. The Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) advised this change. Superintendent of Public Works Guilford Mooring said he would get feedback from the Disability Access Advisory Committee as to the best placement and number of handicapped spaces.

Cathy Schoen (District 1) asked why the traffic would be northbound and not southbound. TSO Chair Evan Ross (District 4) said that this was a recommendation from TAC because southbound traffic would encourage cut throughs on the narrow street for those wishing to avoid the roundabout on East Pleasant Street. Mooring said that, at most times, making a left turn onto Triangle Street to go to UMass would not be a problem and that if traffic was heavy, cars could turn right and go through the roundabout to head north.

The traffic redesign was approved 10-0.

Unanimous Vote Approves Alternative To Policing Agency And Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Mandi Jo Hanneke (at large), chair of the Community Resources Committee (CRC), thanked the Community Safety Working Group (CSWG) and the Amherst Police Department for their efforts to develop the Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service Program (CRESS), a civilian alternative to the police for responding to nonviolent situations. She also thanked the town manager for listening to these recommendations. The town manager’s recommendation to create the CRESS program was approved by a 10-0 vote.

The town manager’s recommendation to create a Department for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) had been unanimously advocated by TSO on December 9, and passed by a 10-0 vote at this meeting.

Performance Goals for Town Manager Approved
A revised draft of the town manager’s goals was passed by a 9-0 vote with minimal suggestions. The council wanted the mention of a fund for downtown parking improvement to be deleted, since it is part of the Transportation Enterprise Fund and does not need a separate fund. Also, the council wanted Amherst and Hampshire Colleges to be added to UMass in the goal of fostering the relationship of the town to area colleges and universities.

The town manager goals passed 9-0 (Bahl-Milne was absent at this point).

Town Manager Contract Renewed

The terms of the extension of Town Manager Paul Bockelman’s contract until August 31, 2025 with cost of living raises was approved without discussion. The vote was 8-0-1 with Schoen abstaining.

Bockelman thanked the council and said he loves working here. He also announced that Amherst will be receiving 7,500 rapid home testing kits for COVID-19. The town will be working with the school system and health director to distribute these kits to low-income families to promote safe holiday gatherings.

The meeting adjourned at 8:40. The council will meet again on December 20, when the zoning amendments for mixed-use buildings and a downtown parking garage will be on the agenda.

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