WVN #275: Shared saving with Sudbury?
- Dear Wayland Voter,
The dismal economic outlook is forcing many of Massachusetts' 351 cities and towns to consider sharing or regionalizing functions. Wayland and Sudbury have already had promising discussions.
Also in this newsletter: A new proposal in the contentious plan for access to the Jewish cemetery near Concord Road.
SEEKING SHARED SOLUTIONS
In preparation for a Dec. 22 Sudbury/Wayland Selectmen's dinner meeting at Sky Restaurant to consider ways of enhancing revenues and cutting costs, the chairs of the two boards met with Wayland Town Administrator Fred Turkington and Sudbury
Town Manager Maureen Valente on Nov. 19 to consider an agenda.
They agreed on seven promising topics: alternative energy, transfer station operations, recreation services, Geographic Information Systems, dispatch and lock-up facilities, library hours of operation and the jointly managed Septage Facility.
By the time they met for dinner, more topics were added: Sudbury's Landham Road intersection, school regionalization, and Council on Aging. The joint board discussion brought out some basic differences in approaches, current operations and
demographics between the two towns.
Sudbury Selectmen came to the meeting also armed with recommendations in a comprehensive preliminary report issued on Dec. 15 from their Budget Reduction Task Force (BRTF), posted on the Sudbury town website:
With a theme that repeated itself a few times that evening, Town Manager Valente pitched that Sudbury already has a new high school building (with capacity for more students and a building that can be expanded) but the superintendent is retiring.
Wayland seeks a new facility and has a superintendent.
Discussion of possible school consolidation (facilities and/or administration) was beyond selectmen's jurisdiction, according to Wayland Selectman Tichnor, but they assured their Sudbury counterparts that Wayland Superintendent Gary Burton has
received a copy of the Sudbury BRTF report.
Wayland's High School Building Committee has been plugging away, hoping for the state's green light to move forward. The School Committee submitted a warrant article for the April town meeting seeking $900,000 for project design. Who knows
what school officials and residents will think of Sudbury's "outside the box" idea of regionalizing some of our school facilities and/or administration.
Library trustees in each town are also known for their passionate independence. Sharing hours of operations and offering more total coverage between two libraries that are just three miles apart seems like "low hanging fruit" for generating savings,
but the bolder concept of combining facilities is more complicated.
When Sudbury Selectman Larry O'Brien asked if Wayland's new library construction was imminent, he was told the site has been secured (Town Center project property), but actual construction could be up to five years away.
Sudbury currently seeks to hire a recreation director while Wayland has one. Recreation services is another area both towns' populations feel passionate about. The demands of popular athletic programs require hands-on attention, and detailed-
oriented and quick responses. There are high expectations for maintaining and enhancing popular athletic services.
Wayland Administrator Turkington indicated that Parks and Recreation functions will be separated under the new Department of Public Works as of July 1, and Wayland is looking to keep its two fee-based recreation employees. Sudbury Town Manager
Valente is considering establishing an Enterprise Fund for recreation similar to their management of the Atkinson Pool.
The existing resources, facilities, inventories, capital plans, etc. of both towns need to be carefully evaluated and compared in order to understand where collaboration makes sense. Streamlining Septage Facility bookkeeping, sharing transfer station
and library hours, occasionally sharing recreation equipment, and investing in green energy technologies (methane gas and solar panels at the former landfills) seemed earmarked for priority consideration.
Implementing some of the ideas might require Town Meeting approval. Wayland's spring Town Meeting warrant closed on Dec. 15 and Sudbury's warrant closes at the end of the month. Both boards recognized that expecting quick implementation and
revenue may be unrealistic for July 1, the beginning of Fiscal 2010.
Not mentioned, however, was that warrants can be opened again in the weeks ahead to add a Special Town Meeting within the spring Town Meeting. A promising idea does not have to wait a year for lack of a procedural step.
Differences between the communities worth considering evolved during the meeting.
The Sudbury BRTF report is the work of a large appointed committee; the majority of the committee members are residents. Selectman O'Brien described how the Finance Committee provided the initial training a municipal finance 101 crash course
so the volunteers would have a better understanding of what brainstorming avenues would be feasible to pursue.
In contrast, Wayland's Fiscal 2007 and Fiscal 2010 ad hoc budget advisory committees have consisted of just three members the chairs or a representative of the selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee. Senior staff serve as ex-officio
members. When the Fiscal 2010 committee started meeting in September, requests to allow interested town residents to serve on the committee were rejected.
One example of different operational structures is the financial management of the two adjacent transfer stations that handle solid waste disposal. Sudbury's facility has an Enterprise Fund, so the residential sticker fee of $120 plus the cost of "pay as
you throw" bags are clearly documented. They take care of their own hauling off-site, and solid waste costs of other municipal facilities are handled separately, so the residential sticker fee does not reflect those added costs.
Wayland's unprecedented Fiscal 2009 $320 sticker fee was a 30 percent increase and resulted in hundreds of lost customers this year. The higher than anticipated lost revenue necessitated a Finance Committee warrant article at last month's special
Town Meeting transferring $188,000 from the General Fund to cover the shortfall.
Wayland's Board of Health held a well-attended public education forum on Dec. 9 on implementing "pay as you throw." Later that evening, the Board voted to implement "pay as you throw" for Fiscal 2010.
That was followed by a Dec. 12 letter to the selectmen and Finance Committee asking support for efforts to allocate the costs of solid waste disposal more equitably. The Board's goal is sustainable and equitable Fiscal 2010 residential sticker fees to
retain and attract back paying customers.
For Wayland and Sudbury residents to share use of each other's transfer stations, compatible fee structures appear to be needed.
Officials were reminded that the towns' demographics also vary. Wayland's school population has been declining while the number of senior citizens keeps increasing, now more than 22 percent of the town's population. Sudbury's data show just the
Sudbury Selectmen made their case later in the evening for Wayland to provide funds towards improving safety at their Landham Road intersection. They believe Wayland's Town Center project traffic impacts will extend to their intersection and warrant
Selectman O'Brien explained the work of their town's intersection improvement committee, another large group with a majority of resident volunteers, along with First Parish, Herb Chambers' car dealership and town staff and officials.
Sudbury asked Wayland for $50,000 for engineering services.
Wayland Selectman Bill Whitney asked what improving the Landham intersection would do to help address cut-through traffic using Glezen Lane. Selectman O'Brien does not believe safety improvements would affect Glezen Lane traffic because the
latter's origins are regional, with vehicles also coming from Hudson and beyond, heading for Route 128 and the Mass Turnpike. He added that calibrating and coordinating the lights along the entire Route 20 corridor could help all the towns.
Wayland Selectman Tichnor seemed willing to add consideration of that $50,000 request to Wayland's ongoing discussion for how to spend the $3 million "gift" from the Town Center developer. Wayland Selectmen were very interested in learning more
about Herb Chambers' plans to bury utility wires in front of its property. Wayland Town Center developer's latest cost estimates for burying wires in Wayland's Historic District ran in the millions, which a majority of the Board found prohibitive.
As they wrapped up three hours of discussion, Selectman Tichnor concluded there is still a lot of exciting work to do. Selectman O'Brien indicated that taking such initiatives to cut costs without cutting services is what constituents expect them to be
working on during these challenging fiscal times.
Sudbury's BRTF and town manager are focused on ideas that will generate a half million dollars or more. Sudbury Selectman John Drobinksi felt that Lincoln, Sudbury and Wayland are more similar than other groups of towns.
WayCAM volunteers filmed the joint meeting, which will be broadcast at noon and 6 p.m. on Friday Jan. 2 and Sunday Jan. 4. See http://www.wayland.ma.us/WayCAM/listings.htm%c2%a0%c2%a0%c2%a0
Wayland and Sudbury were once one town, known as Sudbury Plantation. It split in 1780 because of the difficulty of crossing the Sudbury River at flood times to attend church services and Town Meeting. After more than 225 years, with modern
bridges, perhaps some things are starting to come full circle.
-- Linda Segal
(Linda Segal is a former Wayland selectman.)
NEW CEMETERY PLAN
The Jewish Cemetery Association of Massachusetts has presented to the Wayland Conservation Commission a modified plan for access to the East Beit Olam Cemetery.
Although JCAM and approximately 20 neighbors from Holiday Road and East Road present at the Dec. 18 meeting were enthusiastic and hopeful, ConCom was skeptical. The project has generated much controversy and a lawsuit.
JCAM has two parcels which might provide access to the cemetery. One, at 22 Holiday Road, would require funeral processions and visitors to traverse all of Holiday Road and East Road. The other, at 48 Concord Road is a wetlands property with five
vernal pools. Its advantage is that it is on a major highway, not a small residential side road.
The modified plan would have access on the southern edge of the 48 Concord Road property. It would be outside the 50-foot buffer for vernal pools and it would not fragment the property, disturbing wildlife corridors as previous proposals for access
on this property did.
JCAM has purchased a sliver of land from one of the abutters to 48 Concord Road and has gotten shared driveway agreements to make this possible.
The entrance at 22 Holiday Road would be kept for service vehicles and for construction of the cemetery itself. Neither 22 Holiday Road nor 48 Concord Road would be housing lots.
The plan calls for cutting 88 trees which absorb flood waters and provide cooling. Cutting trees changes water flows. It is hard to duplicate the previous hydrology and the thermal cooling even when planting new trees and shrubs as required.
Applicants must demonstrate that the water balance in the vernal pools is unchanged.
Also, there will be a 67,000-square-foot disturbed area in the environmental buffer zone around the wetlands. By state law, applicants must show there is no overall adverse impact on the buffer zone.
Several ConCom members objected to the new plans and expressed their preference for the 22 Holiday Road access. They reminded JCAM that the state requires alternatives analysis and that the 22 Holiday Road access was, in their opinion, the better
choice. Even if ConCom approves the new plans, the state Department of Environmental Protection could reverse that judgment.
The Holiday Road and East Road residents and JCAM were not moved by these objections.
-- Betty Salzberg
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor