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What’s Town Government Up To? - Select Board

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By Tara Hughes

July 17, 2023.  Monday night’s roughly four hour Select Board meeting consisted of a goal-setting session, executive session and regular business. During regular business, the Select Board was introduced to and heard from three students from our sister town of Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

They also heard the town manager’s report. Town Manager Beth Rudolph, gave an update on the Lake Street bridge closure and the town’s communication plan around the closure. She discussed the cost escalation for the Muraco School culvert project from $9.1 million to $10 million, which will require both the state’s Department of Revenue and Fall Town Meeting approval to increase the borrowing authorization. The town is working to get an engineering consulting firm under contract to assess flooring issues in Winchester High School. Staff will also be meeting with town counsel to discuss next steps in potential liability for the issues. The town has received an FY24 Community Planning Early Action Grant in the amount of $50,000, which will be put towards an update of the town’s Housing Production Plan. Washington and Cross Street bridge repairs were put out to bid and both projects came in over bid. The town is working with the state Department of Public Works to determine if it can use Chapter 90 funding to complete one of the projects, and will look to go back to Fall Town Meeting for additional funding. In addition, the Town’s archivist, and longtime Daily Times-Chronicle historian Dr. Ellen Knight was recently among the recipients of this year’s Star Award from the Massachusetts History Alliance (MHA). To read the full Town Manager’s Report go to: https://www.winchester.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/4541?fileID=13558

The Select Board voted favorable action on a memorial for former longtime town moderator John Sullivan, which will be funded by a donation. They also voted in favor of the Utility Box Decoration Project presented by Peter Engeldrum of Winchester Cultural Council, the All Hazard Mitigation Plan adoption and the reappointment of Allan Eyden to the Wildwood Cemetery Advisory Committee, new term to expire May 31, 2026. While they supported the update and proposed actions by the Permanent Street Tree Committee presented by David Miller, the board did not take a vote pending Town Counsel’s review of a bylaw.

The Select Board also approved the use of $51,500 from the Hospital Gift Account to pay the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston pursuant to a proposal to the town to develop a Communications Plan, Social Media Policy and make improvements to the Town’s website. Said work was recommended as part of the Communications Study Committee’s final report to Town Meeting last fall.

Finally, the developer of the 40B project at 87-89 Cross Street notified the Select Board of their intention to change the project from 9 rental units, including two affordable units at 50% area median income (AMI) and 7 market rate units, to 8 condominiums (homeownership) with 2 affordable units at 80% AMI and 6 market rate units. Because the project is being changed from rental units to condo, only the affordable units will count towards the Town’s Subsidized Housing Inventory (SHI), while under the original proposal all units would have counted towards the SHI. The new proposal also decreases the affordability of the two affordable units. While the Select Board had voted to endorse the original proposal, Chair Richard Mucci said he felt like this was a “bait and switch.” The developer disagreed and indicated that the changes are necessary due to financial constraints due in part to the recent increases in construction loan interest rates. No action was taken pending further information.

To view the meeting in full go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q--uvSZvJkY

Tara Hughes is president of Winchester News Group, a town meeting member and former member of the Communications Study Committee.

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