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WVN #283: WayCAM finances, septic system failure, home sales

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  • waylandvoters1
    Dear Wayland Voter, WayCAM tells the selectmen it will get its accounting in order. Also in this newsletter: -- The septic system that serves  Starbucks and
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 29, 2009
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      WayCAM tells the selectmen it will get its accounting in order.

      Also in this newsletter:

      -- The septic system that serves  Starbucks and other businesses failed, though it was relatively new. A look at the complicated process of issuing permits and later dealing with problems.

      -- There are still a few units available at the affordable housing  development in north Wayland.

      --Wayland home sale prices plummet.

      BUDGET DECISIONS NEAR

      The Finance Committee and the School Committee  hold separate meetings Thursday Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. as deadlines near for proposing budgets for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

      The FinCom was recently presented with a proposal to provide Advanced Life Support emergency services. The immediate cost would be about $28,000 for equipment and  $57,000 in annual operating costs.

      The School Committee hasn't yet disclosed plans for cutting its proposed Fiscal 2010  budget to deal with expected cutbacks in state aid.

      The FinCom will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Monday Feb. 2 to present its Fiscal 2010 budget recommendations.

      WAYCAM'S  ACCOUNTING PROBLEMS

      WayCAM and the selectmen have had contentious relations in  recent months, but during a public hearing on  Jan. 22 they agreed on at least two things:  the local public access cable channel is a valuable and successful resource, but its bookkeeping
      has been substandard.

      Susan Koffman, who became WayCAM treasurer  in September,  told the Board of Selectmen she struggled to bring order to records dating back several years and sometimes written on the back of envelopes.

      Creating a computer spreadsheet required hand-entering data from 1,300 checks.

      Accounting procedures have been substandard and will be changed as soon as possible, said Ken Isaacson, WayCAM's board chairman. He said WayCAM  doesn't have a CPA.

      The selectmen said they are concerned about what appears to be deficit spending, the use of capital funds for operating expenses and whether WayCAM can cover its expenses in the next few months.  Koffman, a lawyer, denied the selectmen's
      contention that the transfer of capital funds was illegal, but agreed that it was unwise.

      WayCAM is an independent nonprofit corporation like those in other municipalities with cable TV service. Comcast and its new rival, Verizon, provide a part of user fees to support local programming including broadcasts of local government meetings.
      WayCAM employs one person and does most of its work with local volunteers.

      The Board of Selectmen claims oversight authority because it approves the cable franchises.

      The hearing turned up that fact that WayCAM had invested some money in a Vanguard LifeStrategy mutual fund that financial planners  recommend only for investments  that won't be needed for a specified number of years. The fund not only lost
      value recently but couldn't be used for a quick cash infusion because withdrawals are limited.

      The selectmen asked for a long-range capital plan.

      Isaacson promised to  begin with a clean slate.

      While other selectmen criticized WayCAM and demanded improvements,  Steve Correia showed familiarity with the financial records, recommended accounting software and volunteered to help.

      Payments from Comcast and Verizon are made  at long intervals, which complicates the question of how  WayCAM can pay its bills over the next several months.  The money is paid to to the town and must ultimately be used for local programming,
      but the selectmen control the release of funds to WayCAM.

      -- Michael Short

      STARBUCKS, CONCOM AND FAILED SEPTIC SYSTEM

      When  the Conservation Commission reviews construction plans for projects, it often issues an Order of Conditions which specifies actions which must take place.

      Since around 2001, applicants have been required to post "performance guarantees" (money) which will be returned if the items in the order of conditions are satisfied. At this point, the ConCom will issue a Certificate of Compliance.

      (It is the responsibility of the applicant to request the Certificate of Compliance.  Concom does not automatically review the project after construction without this request.)

      But sometimes this process just doesn't happen. The project is built, the conditions are not met, the town keeps the performance guarantee money (if there was any) and no Certificate of Compliance is issued. This is what happened with the project
      including Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels and the pet shop at the corner of Route 30 and Route 27 (44 Main Street).

      The 44 Main Street shops were built in 1996 and 1997. The parking lot near the pet shop borders a wetlands area. Four permits were given to the project over the years by the Conservation Commission. No certificates of compliance were requested
      until this year, when the owner of the property needed them to obtain bank financing.

      Because the project did not in fact comply with all the conditions, certificates of compliance cannot be issued. Instead letters of "partial compliance" will be issued with non-conforming features pointed out.

      The four permits were (1) the original one for building the project (2) one for a telephone box which was never installed, (3) one for moving the dumpster to a safer location and (4) most recently, a permit for a new septic system.

      The septic system failed  last year and has been replaced. Sewage had leaked onto the parking area and the Board of Health required repairs.

      At the Jan. 22 ConCom meeting, the applicant claimed that the Board of Health had required that the septic system be paved over. However, Health Director Steve Calichman said that was not the case.

      The septic system is partially under the parking lot. It has to be protected from being crushed by cars driving over it. But there are other methods for doing this.

      ConCom members pointed out that the current Title Five (state septic system regulations) discourages pavement over septic systems. ConCom had originally specified that there would not be pavement there and they requested that the pavement be
      removed to the original plan line. This is one reason that no certificate of compliance to the original permit from 1996 can be made.

      Several current ConCom members were on the board in 1996 and recalled the original discussions.

      Other issues which arose involved snow removal,  maintenance of the dumpster and a new vegetated stormwater basin.

      The dumpster lid is often open. Since the dumpster was moved closer to the wetlands, it is important that a protocol be established for closing the lid. When the lid is open, rainwater washes garbage from the dumpster into the wetlands. ConCom has
      requested a maintenance plan.

      At the edge of the parking lot, beyond the pavement, is an area covered with gravel-like peastone which allows water to permeate the surface. However, when the parking lot snow is shoveled,  peastone  and parking lot debris are dumped into the
      wetlands. Parking lot debris can contain road salt, sand, litter and automotive pollutants such as oil.

      ConCom requested that physical markers be placed so that plows do not dump snow  into the wetlands. The plows should stop short of the  peastone boundary. A snow removal policy should be specified.

      Since there is more pavement than originally specified, a new vegetated stormwater basin was built. But it is unclear if the plants survived because they were planted late in the year. The basin is now under snow and cannot be inspected.

      The ConCom hearing will be continued to another meeting.

      -- Betty Salzberg

      NIKE HOUSING OPPORTUNITY

      Since there were not enough qualifying families at the Jan. 21 lottery to fill the 16 new affordable housing units  at the former Nike missile site in the north part of town, Wayland families are encouraged to inform interested potential residents that 5
      condos remain and will be sold first-come, first-serve.

      The units are  high quality environmentally efficient attractive condominiums with two or three bedrooms. Applicants must make less than 80 percent of Average Median Income  for some of the units and less than 100 percent  for others. The
      mortgage price is based on family income.

      Relatives of Wayland residents, Wayland town employees, including employees of the school system, and Wayland METCO families had preference.

      Kevin Maguire of 89 Oxbow, the developer of the Nike site affordable housing, said in an email that he believed that all the  Wayland-affiliated or local preference applicants  who applied were placed.

      For information: Phone (508-304-1248) or email Toni Rodrigues (toni.rodrigues@...).  Rodrigues will also arrange inspections of the available units and prepare potential buyers to file quickly when  applications are ready in early
      February.

      -- Betty Salzberg

      WAYLAND HOME SALE PRICES DOWN 20 PERCENT

      A Boston Globe statewide survey comparing sales in 2007 and 2008 shows Wayland home prices  dropping 20 percent.
       
      That isn't in the top ten in  declining value but is well above the state median of -12 percent.

      Wayland's median 2008 sale price was $505,000.

      At the other extreme, Weston real estate was up 8 percent, the tenth highest gain. The median sale price was $1,317,500. 

      Cambridge and  Marion led that list with 16 percent gains.

      Many of the largest declines were on the Cape and in cities such as Chelsea, Lawrence, Brockton and East Boston.

      Some  nearby communities, with median sale price:

      Sherborn +10.6 ($710,000)
      Lincoln -6.5 ($1.045,000)
       Sudbury -9.3 ($594,000)
       Concord -10.6 ($697,000).

      In those communities as well as Wayland, sales declined in 2008.

      The survey covered all municipalities with at least 25 sales in 2008.

      The Globe story and table are at:
       
      http://www.boston.com/realestate/news/articles/2009/01/28/its_all_a_matter_of_zip_code/
       
      http://www.boston.com/realestate/specials/mass_housing_gains_losses/
       
      INDEPENDENT LIVING MEETING SCHEDULED

      The Independent Living Options Taskforce (ILOT), a group of Wayland and Lincoln citizens working to develop an organization similar to the Beacon Hill Village concept, will hold meetings on Tuesday, Feb. 10. 

       ILOT hopes to add an independent living-at-home option  for Wayland and Lincoln residents who might otherwise have to leave their homes.
       
      There will be two identical meetings in the large hearing room at the town building to accommodate people's schedules, at 2 and 7 p.m. 
       
      The discussion will center around forming committees to begin the designs of a formal organization.  
       
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor
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