Town Manager Report for March 6, 2023
Editor’s note: Town Manager Paul Bockelman submits a comprehensive report to the Town Council at the first Town Council meeting of each month. The reports, usually 9 to 12 pages in length, provide up-to-date information on what is happening within and across town departments. The Manager’s Report is usually one of the last items on the agenda and is often taken up late at night, leaving little time for Bockelman to do more than mention a few highlights and this is usually all that gets entered into the Council minutes. What follows is a complete, unedited version of the Town Manager’s Report. All Town Manager Reports are available here on the Town’s website
TOWN MANAGER ·
o Cuppa Joe with Paul: The next Cuppa Joe will be Friday, March 24th from 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. with Councilor Schoen, chair of the Elementary School Building Committee.
o Tibetan Uprising Commemoration: Town staff are helping to support the annual march to Northampton on March 10th at 9:00 a.m. in front of Town Hall.
o Board/Committee Vacancies: We will be recruiting for vacancies that come due on July 1st AND for existing vacancies. A list of all vacancies on Town boards and committees can be found here: Board – Committee Vacancy List. Residents may apply to serve on a vacancy by filling out a Community Activity Form here: Community Activity Form
o Professional Development Day: Town Hall will be closed on Thursday, March 9th from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. so all Town staff can participate in a quarterly training on various topics.
o Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA): Several Town officials have been tapped to serve on one of the five MMA policy committees https://www.mma.org/advocacy/policy-committees-of-the-mma/
▪ Fiscal Policy Committee: Councilor Steinberg
▪ Municipal and Regional Administration: Councilor Hanneke
▪ Public Works, Transportation, and Public Utilities: Paul Bockelman
o Massachusetts Municipal Management Association (MMMA): Town staff have been tapped to serve on the following MMMA committees:
▪ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee: Paul Bockelman ▪ Form of Government: Paul Bockelman
▪ Nominating Committee: Paul Bockelman
▪ Women Leading Government: Brianna Sunryd ▪ Program Committee: Briana Sunryd
▪ ICMA 2024: Brianna Sunryd
▪ ICMA Digital Strategies: Brianna Sunryd
o How Residents Can Stay in Touch: The Town has a variety of ways that residents can stay connected, from emergency notifications to meeting and news announcements, and more. Residents may receive timely emergency and parking ban notifications directly to their email or phone by subscribing to these alerts.
▪ Emergency & Parking Ban Alerts: The Town can send emergency alerts as well as parking ban notifications. The service sends immediate alerts to community members who are subscribed to the system and have joined a particular group.
▪ You can sign up for Emergency Alerts or
Parking Ban Notification by clicking here If they wish to subscribe to Emergency Alerts via SMS text messages on their mobile device only, they can text the word Amherst to 38276.
▪ All users have the ability to customize their notification preferences after signing up. Alerts can be sent via email, text, and/or phone call so you never miss important communication about emergency events. Messages can also be received in a variety of languages. It is important to fill out a profile so the Town can target notices to the user’s immediate neighborhood when necessary.
· Colleges and University:
o University of Massachusetts: Pointing to his record of innovative leadership and embrace of public higher education’s historic mission, the UMass Board of Trustees, acting on President Marty Meehan’s recommendation, has selected Dr. Javier Reyes to be the next chancellor of UMass Amherst. There were opportunities for invited Town officials to meet the two finalists.
· Administration and Finance o Finance:
▪ State Budget: The Governor released her budget proposal on March 1st. For Amherst, the proposal includes a 2% increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) and a ½% increase in Chapter 70. It also includes a 10% increase in PILOT payments to Amherst related to the Town’s share of State owned land. You can find a more detailed analysis of the Governor’s Budget Proposal at https://www.mma.org/gov-healey-releases-fy2024-budget-proposal/
▪ Annual Audit: The Annual Audit has been completed with no comments or management letter. This is a remarkable achievement in an organization this size. Total credit goes to our excellent finance team and – really, Comptroller Sonia Aldrich. The audit will be reviewed with the Finance Committee on Tuesday.
▪ Health Insurance: The Town’s health insurance provider – MIIA Health Benefits Trust – provided us with our rate changes for FY24. The health insurance increase will be 7.94% , in line with what we had been projecting.
▪ Retiring Comptroller: Comptroller Sonia Aldrich’s last day of full employment with the Town was March 3rd. But, she will continue to support the Finance Department and Town Manager and will, in fact, present the FY22 Audit to the Finance Committee on March 7th.
o Town Clerk:
▪ Award! Congratulations to Town Clerk Sue Audette who earned her Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) designation.
▪ Census: Town census forms were mailed to all households in mid-February and should be returned to Town Hall.
▪ Election Equipment: The new election tabulators are scheduled to be delivered by the end of March. We will be
training for our office staff and then have two larger trainings closer to the election for election workers.
▪ Unfunded Mandate: The Town will be receiving $18,850.91 from the State for early voting costs that were certified by the State Auditor’s office as an unfunded mandate.
▪ Ethics Training: The State Ethics Commission hosts free training seminars for municipal employees on the restrictions imposed under the conflict of interest law, G.L. c. 268A. These two-hour seminars present an opportunity us to have new hires and newly appointment officials to receive important training on the on the law. Seminars are conducted remotely via Zoom video conference and are scheduled every other month on the 4th Thursday of the month at 10:00 a.m. unless otherwise indicated. The next training is Thursday, March 30th.
▪ Dog Licenses: Dog licenses expire on March 31st. People may obtain dog licenses in-person, by mail, or online. Licenses must be renewed before June 1st .
▪ The Town prepares quarterly reports on ARPA funding which are posted online here: https://www.amherstma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/63921/Quarterly-Expenditure-Report—Period-Ending-93022 This is the report for the period ending September 30, 2022. The report for the period ending December 31, 2022 is in the works.
o DEI Department: ▪ Events:
· Black History Month events included a flag raising ceremony and reading of the Town Council proclamation on February 1st.
· Black History through Music event at the Middle School on February 26th. · Lunar New Year event in January.
· Working with the CRESS Department, the Town hosted a Processing Grief Group on February 6th.
· DEI staff will be offering trainings during the all-staff professional development day scheduled for March 9th.
▪ Flag Raising Policy: The Department developed a policy on flag raising in light of the recent court ruling against the City of Boston. The policy is being reviewed by the Town Attorney.
▪ Police Resident Oversight Board: The Director has developed a draft timeline that would have a Resident Oversight Board begin in FY24. We will be seeking outside consulting support to create this new body. The development and implementation of such a Board would have budgetary implications that would be included in the FY24 Town budget, if approved by the Town Council. The Request for Proposals for consulting services to design a Resident Oversight Board is nearing completion.
· Big Payback: There will be a special showing of the moving, The Big Payback, on March 30th at Amherst College. See flyers to the right.
· Survey: The Town contracted with the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute to conduct a survey of residents regarding reparations. The survey will be ready at the beginning of April.
· Letter: Congressman McGovern sent a
to President Biden calling on him to use his executive authority to establish a commission to study reparations for slavery in the United States. Amherst’s efforts were central to his appeal and his office worked in consultation with the AHRA to draft the letter.
o Economic Development:
▪ Luminaria, Fire & Ice: The BID’s Luminaria and Fire & Ice festivals held a merged due to the cold temperatures this weekend. Both were held on Saturday, February 11th including live ice sculpting of a magical menagerie of ice sculptures, hot cocoa and ‘smore kits over fire pits, tie dye crafting under a tent with the Amherst Recreation team. All came to a grand finale with a performance by the MATICA Circus FIRE performance at 5 PM.
· Public Safety
o Emergency Management:
▪ Numerous staff attended the Emergency Management Institute on January 11th. The session was held at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst Police Training Facility. Town staff,
including police, fire, community responders, information technology, communications, and others attended the day-long workshop. The workshop was put on by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and focused on basic emergency operations center functions.
o Police Department:
▪ The Police Department announced several commendations to officers and dispatchers who performed exemplary service in the course of their regular
duties and for exceptional and professional service to the Amherst Police Department and to the Town of Amherst.
▪ Seven Amherst police officers earned letters of merit related to responses they made in the past couple of years, which included arresting a man brandishing a pistol, coming to the aid of a man in cardiac arrest and assisting a suicidal person.
▪ Patrol Officers Felipe Feliciano and Kasey Nagle earned their awards for a Dec. 21, 2020 medical incident in which Bruce Cuddy went into cardiac arrest. They performed CPR until paramedics arrived. Mr. Cuddy survived and, last holiday season, came to the police station to thank the officers again on the second anniversary of his medical episode.
▪Patrol Officers Tyler Martins and Joseph Worthley earned their awards for a September 11, 2021 incident on Nutting Avenue in which a gun may have been discharged. “The multiple responding officers were able to safely and effectively gain control of a very chaotic and complex scene,” their letter of merit states, noting that they soon after identified and arrested the suspect.
▪ Sgt. Jesus Arocho and patrol Officers Matthew Frydryk and Scott Soverino received their awards for the April 15, 2020 incident in which a man with a lacerated foot barricaded himself in a bathroom in South Amherst, impaling himself in the chest with a knife. They were able to breach the door, subdued the man and got him to a hospital.
▪ Co-Response: We are very proud that the Police Department’s Co-response Clinician will be serving on a panel with the CRESS Director to discuss “Co-response and Alternative Policing Practices in Amherst” on March 9th. Amherst is the only community in the nation utilizing both a tradition co-response model in policing as well as an alternative dispatch department of unarmed civilians to address mental health challenges and other calls. The two approaches will be discussed and along with the collaboration and difference in the two approaches at the intersection of behavioral health and public safety.
▪ New Officers: Three new officers are working their way through their 14 weeks of field training. Four new officers are projected to graduate from the Academy on April 14th. They will then begin their 14 weeks of field training.
▪ Retiring Chief: Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone announced his retirement after 46 years of service to the Town of Amherst. His last day of employment will be May 27th.
o Scott began a long and distinguished career in 1977 when he was hired as a Community Service Officer. He became a Special Officer Trainee in 1979, then a Police Officer Trainee in 1981, which led to his appointment as a Patrol Officer that same year. Scott quickly rose through the ranks becoming a Sergeant in 1988, Lieutenant in 2000, Captain in 2008, and was selected to serve as Police Chief in 2009.
o In announcing his retirement, Chief Livingstone said, “This has been just an incredible journey over the last 46 years. I have been blessed with unwavering support from my wife Rhys and my children. The individuals I have worked with, both past and present, are absolutely the best people I know, who have chosen a profession that is more rewarding than frustrating. They have all played a role in the reason I have remained as a police officer in the Town of Amherst for this extended period. To the Amherst community, I would just like to say thank you for all the support I’ve received and continue to receive to this day. Amherst can be a difficult town to police in, but we have always been supported by the vast majority of you and for that, I will always be grateful.”
o Chief Livingstone has introduced numerous initiatives such as addressing quality-of- life issues with community-based policing, crisis intervention teams, and a community outreach officer; developing specialized response programs such as in-house civilian advocates on domestic violence and mental health issues; and establishing canine units and the transition to hybrid police cruisers.
o Some of the professional achievements Chief Livingstone noted he was most proud of include being named to the Police Chief position in September of 2009, his graduation from the FBI National Academy that same year and being named the Police Executive of the Year by the Western Massachusetts Police Chiefs in 2019.
o The Town will initiate a search process for a new Chief of Police immediately. More details on the process and how the public can be involved will be forthcoming.
o Community Responders Department:
▪ As mentioned above, the Town’s Director of Community Responders for Equity, Safety and Service (CRESS) & the Police Department’s CSO Co-response Clinician will be serving on a panel discussing the Town’s efforts. Amherst is the only community in the nation utilizing both a traditional co-response model in policing as well as an alternative dispatch department of unarmed civilians to address mental health challenges. Both approaches will be discussed together and the panelists will touch on both the collaboration and differences in these approaches at the intersection of behavioral health and public safety.
▪ The Department continues to develop its protocols, policies, and to respond to certain requests. we are still in training mode and learning from interactions that the responders encounter. The protocols for 911 calls are being reviewed by the Town.
Attorney. ▪ CRESS
Responders participated in reading to children in the Amherst Public Schools.
▪ CRESS Responders provided an information session for the community on March 2nd.
CRESS provides community safet services in situations that don’t involve violence or serious crime. It creates a civilian, unarmed alternative to calls that might otherwise require a response from the Police Department. Its purpose is to ensure that any public safety response is anti-racist, equitable, just, and fair and that preventative services that get a the root of assisting our community members are offered to avoid necessitating public safety involvement in the first place. In the words of CRESS director, Earl Miller, CRESS is defined as an alternative to traditional police response and is defined as “co-equal department,” meaning that it is not subordinate to any other emergency response team.
o Senior Center:
▪ The Senior Center has secured a grant to re-engage, re-energize, and recognize volunteers. The $5,000 grant will improve volunteer recognition and retention efforts. The Senior Center will be hosting a volunteer appreciation dinner during the national volunteer appreciation week. Later this spring they will also be doing a volunteer fair for the senior center and our affiliate organizations.
▪ The Senior Center has hired a part-time van driver and will launch the Silver Shuttle transit program later this spring.
▪ The Senior Center is again offering AARP Tax Preparation on Tuesdays at the Bangs Center. The program is open to tax payers of all ages. Appointments are still available but must be booked in advance. To register call: (413) 259-3060.
▪ Senior Spirit: The latest edition of the Senior Center’s newsletter can be found here: https://www.amherstma.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/15205 If you haven’t reviewed the newsletter in a while, click the link to see the new look with easy to read text and a million activities.
▪ CR Café: The Senior Center is continuing its weekly CR Café, which stands for “Can’t Remember” café! Every Wednesday from 10am – 12noon, Town residents are invited to the Senior Center to enjoy company, entertainment, and some good treats!
o Recreation Department:
▪ Winterfest: Recreation staff worked with the Business Improvement District and Chamber of Commerce to bring light and activities to the darkest days of winter with a two-week celebration began January 28th with a kick-off event at Cherry Hill, This was followed by Luminaria and Fire & Ice on the Town Common on February 11th.
▪ Permanent Shelter Site: The Town took ownership of 457 Main Street, formerly the site of the Amherst Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), for the purposes of developing a shelter for the unhoused, providing space for supportive/transitional housing and services, and building affordable housing with some directed toward veterans.
· We are conducting an assessment of the building and site as we prepare to demolish the 1960s-era structure and have the site redeveloped for both affordable housing and a permanent homeless shelter.
· The work will take several years.
· The purchase price for the property was $775,000, less than the $833,800 appraised value for the two-story building. The transaction includes the associated land, most of which is parking for the facility that included a banquet hall and bar, kitchen and dining area and pool tables.
· The Town Council at its Jan. 9 meeting authorized the money for the transaction, coming from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.
· Conservation and Development o It is getting close to the Big Night, the annual spotted salamander migration from their year-round forest territories to their breeding pool. Working with the Hitchcock Center, residents can join in helping the little creatures cross through the Henry Street salamander tunnels!
▪Community Survey: Amherst Historic Preservation Plan Community Survey is seeking respondents. The Town has a variety ofhistoric and cultural resources for residents and guests to enjoy. By responding to this 18-question survey, you will help the Town gain insight about what you value most of Amherst’s history and cultural heritage. The survey results will inform the update of the Amherst Historic Preservation Plan that is being drafted by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission in collaboration with the Amherst Planning Department and Amherst Historical Commission. The survey deadline is April 30th.To access the survey in English or Spaish, please see below:
· https://forms.gle/qmZ2UYpn7uH5UqHd8 -English
· https://tinyurl.com/2p8rh3zy – Spanish
▪ East Street/Belchertown Road:
· The Tn is working with the chosen developer on a land development agreement. The work on the development is moving forward nicely. They are well underway on the due diligence and moving forward with the design documents.
· The Amherst CPA Committee recommended and Town Council approved $400,000 of FY24 funds for the development.
· The Land Development Agreement is nearly complete. Way Finders submitted a signed document in the fall and has been working with legal and the Town for agreeable Ground Lease language.
· Way Finders and their design consultants met with the Town Department heads in October to discuss the project. They initiated the Enterprise Green Communities and Passive House certification process in the fall for a sustainable/ green design objectives.
· Wetland Delineations occurred at the sites were completed in late fall. · Property Boundary Surveys at both sites have been received.
· Architectural Design continues to be developed. We still anticipate 72 Units Total across both sites. 29 at South East Street and 43 at Belchertown Road.
· The Landscape Architect has been to the site and continues to work on developing the plans and the Civil Engineer has been engaged for the site plan design.
· Phase 1 – Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) is underway and field work has been performed within the last few weeks.
· The Hazmat Environmental survey and field work of the buildings has occurred in the last few weeks.
· The Traffic Studies are nearly complete and in for final review with our consultant.
· Geotechnical Borings are scheduled for next week.
· We anticipate soil evaluation test pits will occur in March to further develop the site plans.
· With the due diligence work and designs well underway, we anticipate submitting the Project Eligibility Letter application to DHCD this spring to move the 40B process forward!
▪ Other Sites: Town staff are exploring other Town-owned property to determine its suitability for additional affordable housing.
▪ Community Engagement activities related to the Community Solar Survey and Solar Assessment are scheduled as follows:
· Monday, March 13th 7 PM – Virtual Presentation via Zoom (details will be sent shortly)
· Saturday, March 18th Noon to 2 PM and again on Saturday, March 23rd 6-8 PM – Woodbury Room, Jones Library: An interactive workshop on solar for Amherst residents. Self-paced fun and engaging activities in a non-threatening atmosphere to help collect and gauge residential attitudes, opinions and preferences for solar development in town. Childcare, light refreshments and interpretation will be provided. Information gathered will be used for the final consultant report. Other platforms for engagement will be shared when finalized.
· The Director of Sustainability recently participated in interviews for two summer Fellows through the University of New Hampshire’s Sustainability Institute to work on two sustainability initiatives. One Fellow will develop a municipal building/mechanical systems inventory and will develop a transition timeline for moving respective buildings away from fossil fuel systems. The other Fellow’s project is to update the town’s greenhouse gas inventory with an associated narrative on where the town is in meeting the Council’s 2025 goal of 25% carbon emissions reductions below baseline level. Fellows will be engaged in these projects from June through August. Ms. Ciccarello noted that all the potential candidates were exceptionally qualified.
· An RFQ for securing a consultant for the residential heat pump program is being finalized and will be sent to procurement within the week.
· Staff are currently working on an agreement with the consultant to begin development of a community dashboard that will house information pertaining to Amherst’s sustainability and climate change initiatives.
· The CCA effort is moving forward under the existing MOU between Amherst, Northampton and Pelham. The consultant is currently updating the application. The JPE effort is stalled due to some unresolved contract details but is anticipated to be launched in FY’24. This will not slow the CCA application process.
· The final draft of the community survey on solar was approved by the Energy and Climate Action Committee and the Solar Bylaw Working Group. Extensive changes to the original draft were made with input from both committees.
· The Fort River Farm Community Garden Circle continues to meet bi-weekly and is discussing the upcoming season with more direct leadership from community members.
· Staff are promoting the PACE financing program to the business community and will be working with the Chamber of Commerce on scheduling a breakfast session with a representative from Mass Development.
· Staff are working with the IT Department on obtaining the information for green house gas emissions analysis of the Town’s vehicles. Two different data collection systems are involved, making the effort more complex to ensure the additional data is consistent.
· Planning efforts continue for the 2023 Amherst Sustainability Festival scheduled for Saturday, April 22nd from 10 AM – 4:30 PM.
· Public Works
o Grease – NOT the Musical: We all know that putting grease down the drain causes significant issues for our sewer pipes. The solidifying of the grease and oils in the sewer system causes back-up and clogs the flow of wastewater. It ain’t pretty.
▪ DPW staff devote significant time to cleaning the sewer lines, but they can’t get to every line. Here is a photo of one of our employees taking a hunk of grease out of the drain on the Amherst College campus. We are seeking to educate the public, educate businesses and institutions, and ensure that restaurants are complying with the requirements to possess and maintain their grease traps.
▪ We are taking a team approach with DPW, Health, Inspections, Communications, and the Chamber and BID.
▪ We initiated this effort in November and continue to develop our program of education, correction, and remediation.
· Rail Trail: Intermittent lanes closures on Snell Street by the Norwottuck Rail Trail pedestrian bridge were required to allow for maintenance work by the State.
· Roads: Work has shifted to repairing potholes by public works crews.
▪ Northampton Road: Caracas Construction has closed down major operations on Northampton Road for the winter. This project is part of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation roadway reconstruction project that extends between University Drive and South Pleasant Street.
▪ West Pomeroy Lane: Looking for the road to be paved in the first half of 2023.
· Sidewalk Snow Removal:
o Snow and/or ice removal from sidewalks is the responsibility of the property
owner. Depending on storm conditions, the Town may send a sidewalk plow around on major sidewalks to assist residents with this task. Once the Town machine has passed, the resident is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in a passable condition.
· Short-Term Event Uses of Town Commons (Section 1a of the Town Council Policy): o Sustainability Festival by Town Staff (South Common): April 22, 2023
· Short-Term Parking Requests (Section 2a of the Town Council Policy):
o University of Massachusetts Off Campus Student Life – Spring egg-hunt with season craft activities – reserved metered parking on North Pleasant Street between Hallock and McClellan Streets – April 1, 2023 (rain date April 2nd) from 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. held on Kendrick Park
o ARPS hosts Multi-Lingual Heritage Celebration on the South Common with performances, small vendors, and some food – April 29th – from 2:30pm – 5:30pm –
· Short-Term Public Way Closures (Section 3b of the Town Council Policy):
o Western Mass 10 – Hartford Marathon Foundation – November 5, 2023 – 8:30 – 10:00 a.m. – Triangle Street to North Pleasant Street to College Street to College Street to Main Street to Dickinson Street to Norwottuck Rail Trail
· Placement of Road and Temporary Signs (Section 3d of the Town Council Policy):
MAJOR CAPITAL PROJECTS · Jones Library:
o Up-to-the-minute updates can be found here: https://www.joneslibrary.org/buildingproject
· DPW Building/Fire Building:
o Staff continue to explore multiple options for a new site for the Department of Public Works.
· Elementary School Building Committee:
o The Town Council has called for a Special Election on May 2nd and is reviewing the borrowing authorization.
· Hickory Ridge: Work is underway to prepare the site for the installation of solar panels.
· Pomeroy Village MassWorks Grant: Caracas Construction has halted work for the winter season. · North Common Restoration/Main Street Parking Lot: The Town is putting the final touches on
the plans for the North Common with the goal of putting a package out to bid in the coming weeks.
· North Amherst Library: The building is taking shape. Work continues and is close to being on schedule. The weather has proven to be cooperative to allow progress to continue.
UPCOMING MEETINGS AND EVENTS
ØMarch 20th – Town Council Meeting ØApril 3rd – Town Council Meeting ØApril 17th – Patriots Day Holiday ØApril 24th – Town Council Meeting ØMay 1st – Town Council Meeting ØMay 15th – Town Council Meeting ØMay 29th – Memorial Day Holiday ØJune 5th – Town Council Meeting ØJune 12th – Town Council Meeting ØJune 19th – Juneteenth Holiday ØJune 26th – Town Council Meeting ØJuly 4th – Independence Day Holiday