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News

New tax rates set

On the average, homeowners will pay more; businesses less, under plan approved by selectmen for FY2017

The owner of an average single-family home in Saugus – valued at $372,900 – will pay $249 more in taxes. The tax bill for an average commercial property – valued at $1,351,500 – will decrease by $700. Those scenarios will take effect on July 1 as a result of the new tax rates for the 2017 fiscal year approved unanimously Wednesday night by the Board of Selectmen.

“Historically, the selectmen have chosen the maximum allowable shift factor, thereby affording residential taxpayers the lowest possible share of the tax burden allowed under state law,” Board of Assessors Chair Michael Serino said, citing highlights from a report he presented to selectmen.

“Saugus is a pretty hot community … Property values have gone up,” Serino told selectmen. Serino also noted that “Saugus still remains one of the lowest” in residential property taxes among surrounding communities.

Selectmen voted unanimously to adopt a plan calculating the lowest possible residential factor – a plan that would tax commercial, industrial and personal (CIP) property at a maximum share of the tax levy for the 2017 fiscal year at 175 percent.

Minimizing tax impact for homeowners

Overall, residential tax rates in Saugus will decrease from $12.20 for $1,000 of assessed valuation to $12.05 – a 1.23 percent decrease, effective July 1. But the value of the average single family home will increase from $347,990 to $372,900. The current average residential tax bill of $4,244 will increase to a projected $4,493, according to the report compiled by the Board of Assessors, assisted by Deputy Assessor Ronald J. Keohan Jr. and Assistant Deputy Assessor Tamara Sands.

Overall, CIP tax rates in Saugus will decrease from $26.51 for $1,000 of assessed valuation to $25.77 – a 2.79 percent decrease, effective July 1.

The average commercial property value of $1,340,700 will increase to $1,351,500. The current average commercial property tax bill of $35,542 is projected to decrease to $34,842, according to the Board of Assessors report.

The Full and Fair Cash Value of all taxable property – real and personal – within the town of Saugus has been established as $4,160,018,449, according to the Board of Assessors. Residential property accounts for $3,348,745,642 or 80.5 percent of that amount. But CIP property will account for nearly $21 million or 34 percent of the tax base in the 2017 fiscal year, according to the plan approved by selectmen.

“Residents pay a lower average tax bill than most of the other communities,” Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree said, noting that the town’s commercial and industrial taxpayers make that possible by assuming a greater percentage of the tax burden.

Compared to the Fiscal Year 2016 residential tax rates of other area towns, Saugus’s will remain considerably lower, the Board of Assessor’s report noted:

Saugus (FY17) – $12.05,

Lynnfield – $14.50,

Melrose – $12.33,

Reading – $14.50,

Stoneham – $12.70,

Wakefield – $13.49.

The report also noted that the residential share of the Saugus tax base was also lower compared to Fiscal Year 2016 residential percentages of other area towns:

Saugus (FY17) – 65.87 percent,

Lynnfield – 83.68 percent,

Melrose – 91.79 percent,

Reading – 91.75 percent,

Stoneham – 82.48 percent,

Wakefield – 74.74 percent.

The residential share of the town’s tax base has ranged from a low of 57.44 percent (1995-96, 2000-01) to a high of 67.75 percent (2008) over the last 30 years, according to the Board of Assessors report.

Tax hikes and tax cuts

The Board of Assessors included sample residential and commercial parcels to show value and tax changes. A two-family home on Essex Street that is valued at $217,600 will see a $628.91 increase in its tax bill – or a 23.69 percent increase – for the 2017 fiscal year because of a 25.23 percent increase in its property valuation to $272,500. Meanwhile, a homeowner on Candlewood Court whose property is currently valued at $666,700 will pay $302.44 less in property taxes effective next fiscal year because of a 2.52 percent decrease in the property valuation to $649,900. Lowe’s, which will pay $425,466.94 in property taxes during the current fiscal year, will pay $11,715.99 less next year because of a lowering of the tax rate. The property value ($16,049,300) remains the same. The tax bill ($214,617) for the Pet Supply/Pier 1 Property – valued at $8,095,700 – will be $5,909.86 less next year. The property value remains the same.

Serino noted that about half of the town properties were reassessed this year.

 

RiverWalk Talk

Town schedules hearing for next Thursday night to get public comment on Saugus River waterfront project

Do you have any ideas on how the Saugus River waterfront could be improved to become a greater asset for the community – from a standpoint of tourism, recreation and economic development? If you’re a resident, a business owner or a town official who has some views you want to share, Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree said he, the Planning and Development Department and the Town Manager’s Economic Development Committee want to hear them.

Crabtree has scheduled a public hearing on the progress of the Saugus RiverWalk project for next Thursday (Dec. 15) at 6:30 p.m. at the Fox Hill Yacht Club. “We hope that those who are interested will join us to discuss the latest developments in this exciting project, which is a vision for the future of the town of Saugus,” Crabtree said in a statement this week.

The RiverWalk project, which encourages mixed-use development along the harbor, serves as a way to encourage visitors to the Saugus River waterfront and boost the Town’s economic growth. The project aims to provide direct waterside access, as well as to pinpoint locations for future access upon build-out under the zoning overlay. It will also provide a safe pedestrian crossing to the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s restoration of the Rumney Marsh.

The “vision” that Crabtree and other local officials rave about is fueled by a $120,000 grant that the Seaport Economic Council (SEC) awarded Saugus last year to fund planning and design for the future RiverWalk. It initially developed during a series of resident visioning sessions in 2013. Crabtree said he hopes the process will usher in a new era for the historic Saugus River waterfront and the lobstermen based there.

Last month John McAllister of engineering firm APEX Companies, LLC led officials on a tour of the proposed RiverWalk site. Next week McAllister will lead the discussion on the project’s progress.

The town hired the New Bedford-based consulting firm last spring to conduct a feasibility study and develop a preliminary conceptual plan. That first phase study is nearly complete and its findings will be presented to the public at next week’s meeting.

The first phase of the RiverWalk project will cover about a third of a mile, from the site of the future Belden Bly Bridge to Tom’s Bait & Tackle on Ballard Street, according to McAllister. He said it would take at least a year to complete the design phase of the project and obtain the required permits.

“The basic plan is to bring in more people and support the lobstering community,” McAllister said in an interview after last month’s walk.

“It involves tourism and recreation, people coming here in boats or renting boats here to go out on the river. It’s people coming here to visit from other communities, with this being a regional destination,” he said.

In an interview later, Crabtree said he would personally like to see “a nice seafood and lobster restaurant in this area.”

“The vision is really to attract some vibrant commercial, residential and recreational development for the community and residents of Saugus … It’s really about identifying what the community doesn’t want and attracting what fits into that vision,” Crabtree said.

Crabtree has urged anyone who has questions about the project or upcoming hearing to contact the Planning and Development Office at 781-231-4044.

   

Selectmen deny transfer of Sully C’s liquor license to pizzeria

Termination of the license made official

A majority of selectmen don’t think Frank Perry has the right kind of experience to hold a liquor license for the pizzeria he planned to open on Route 1. The board voted 4-1 at its meeting last week to deny Perry’s request for a transfer of the liquor license for the now defunct Sully C’s to Sebastiana’s Brick Oven Pizza at 1539 Broadway. After reviewing Perry’s resume, board members said they didn’t feel comfortable allowing him to serve beer with pizza to his future customers.

When asked if a liquor license was necessary for his business, Perry answered “if it weren’t granted, I would have to think about moving forward.”

“When you go out for a pizza, wouldn’t you want to have it with a beer?” he asked.

Board of Selectmen Chairmanb Debra Panetta noted that Victor’s Italian Cuisine “was very successful at that location without a liquor license.” She was referring to the 1539 Broadway spot where Sebastiana’s planned to open

“You just said ‘beer goes hand in hand with a pizza’ … I just feel responsibility comes with a liquor license,” Selectman Scott Brazis told Perry.

Brazis made a motion to deny the transfer, “due to the lack of experience and the extensive experience you need with a liquor license.”

The board’s denial of the transfer ended Elaine Byrne’s hope of selling the license that she once held for Sully C’s, which closed more than a year ago because of a fire and never reopened. “It belongs to the Town of Saugus and you have to reapply for it … Your license has been revoked,” Brazis told Byrne.

Selectmen voted unanimously back in July to cancel the full liquor license, but delayed the revocation, allowing Byrne the opportunity to sell the license. At last week’s meeting, Byrne asked the board to reconsider its vote and allow her to work with Perry. She called the board’s denial “mind boggling.”

Sully C’s has been closed since a May 2015 fire damaged the building, which is owned by Suleyman Celimi. Town officials had expected that Sully C’s and Boston Market – which also rented space in the building – would reopen within weeks of the fire. But a year-long legal dispute over who should be responsible for making the necessary repairs to satisfy town inspectors forced selectmen to schedule a show cause hearing on the liquor license in July. That’s when they voted to revoke the license, but delay its enforcement to allow Byrne a chance to find a buyer.

Byrne told selectmen at Wednesday night’s meeting that said she paid $5,100 for renewal of the license, which is now invalid. “I am very disappointed,” she said, before leaving the selectmen’s meeting.

   

THE SOUNDS OF SAUGUS

H

ere are a few tidbits that you might want to know about this week in Saugus.

A farewell tribute to Deputy Don

A two-sided flyer featuring a colored photograph of a Saugus fireman sleeping on top of an office, with his head resting on a Mickey Mouse doll, has been circulating around town since Monday. The caption reads “VERY HARD AT WORK!” Then there’s a reassuring message to the recipient: “Keep calm, the retiring Deputy Shea has this.”

“Please join us in celebrating 36 years of service to the Town of Saugus on Dec.16, 2016 at 10 a.m. upstairs in the training room at Central Station, 27 Hamilton Street” – the flyer was authored by Michelle Wendell, the Fire Department’s administrative assistant. And the Mickey Mouse doll that Deputy Don seems to be using as a pillow – or that somebody propped under his head as a joke – probably came from the extensive collection of Mickey Mouse dolls that Wendell has on display in her office.

Whatever, the coffee hour that town employees plan to hold in his honor may draw a lot of town residents, too, especially after Selectman Scott Brazis made the flyer public at Wednesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. Brazis cited Shea’s long and extensive dedicated service to the community in wishing the deputy a long and happy retirement.

Hats off to Deputy Don!

Christmas Trees for a good cause

Selectman Jennifer D’Eon publicized another flyer that’s been circulating recently – one announcing the annual Christmas Tree Sale by Boy Scout Troop 62. D’Eon told viewers of Wednesday night’s selectmen’s meeting that Troop 62 has opened its Xmas tree lot on Route 107 at the Ballard Street lights near the GE Bridge.

The lot will be open through Christmas Eve or until the trees sell out. The hours of operation are Monday through Friday (4 to 10 p.m.) and Saturday and Sunday (9 a.m.to 10 p.m.).

D’Eon said the trees will range in size from Table Top to 8-feet tall. The scouts will take custom orders for larger sizes. Fresh wreaths and kissing balls will also be on sale.

Residents who buy the Christmas trees for their homes will also help send the scouts of Troop 62 on a trip to the Grand Canyon this summer.

The memory of Joseph W. Pace

It was 75 years ago this week – on Dec. 7, 1941, that a Saugonian became the first casualty of World II. Joseph Wilson Pace, a Radioman 3rd Class, was asleep aboard the USS Pennsylvania when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Pennsylvania was in dry dock at the time, but opened fire on the Japanese dive bombers and torpedo bombers.

While the ship survived the attack, Pace was struck by flying shrapnel from Japanese planes as he climbed the ladder to his radio post on the upper deck. He died that day from the wounds he received in the attack. He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.

His memory lives on at several locations in Saugus. The Genealogy Room at Saugus Public Library is dedicated in his honor. There’s a marker dedicated to Joseph W. Pace Square, at the corner of Pace Road and Fairmount Avenue. The East Saugus Methodist Church has a Bible that presented to the church in his memory. Pace also has a grave marker at Riverside Cemetery.

Christmas Tree Festival continues

There are two more days left to the 6th Annual MEG Christmas Tree Festival – today (Friday, Dec. 9) and tomorrow, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the MEG Foundation Building, which is located at 54 Essex St. Visitors can view the donated trees at the festival. Raffle tickets will be sold and each tree will get a new home. There are dozens of Christmas trees designed and decorated by local businesses, organizations and families supporting the MEG Foundation in preserving the former Cliftondale School. Gift cards, lottery tickets and goodies fill the trees.

Admission is free to this holiday event that began last weekend.

Anger management for Arthur

Looks like Saugus School Committee Member Arthur Grabowski caught a break from court. He was due to go to trial recently to face a charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for allegedly striking 73-year-old Martin F. Graney with a bag of frozen fish during a May 17 incident at the Saugus Senior Center. The veteran School Committee member would have faced up to 10 years in State Prison, or up two and a half years in the Essex County Jail in Middleton or a fine of up to $1,000 if he were convicted.

“Mr. Grabowski’s case was continued without a finding for six months,” Essex County District Attorney Carrie Kimball-Monahan told us this week. “He was ordered to stay away from the victim and to attend anger management class.”

As part of the court order, the Senior Center is still off limits for Grabowski.

Without the threat of jail time hanging over his head, Grabowski can now concentrate on being an effective School Committee member and all of the self-improvement that goes along with anger management.

Saugus River Watershed Council’s Annual Meeting

The Saugus River Watershed Council (SRWC) will hold its Annual Meeting and Dinner on Monday (Dec. 12) from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Spinelli’s on Route 1 South, near the Peabody/Lynnfield line. Paul DePrey, Superintendent of the National Park Service, will give a keynote presentation on “Hammersmith: Pasts, Present and Futures.” DePrey will provide a keynote presentation about the unique history of Hammersmith, as the Saugus Iron Works area was formerly known.

“In addition to its national significance as the birthplace of the iron industry in Colonial America, the Saugus Iron Works also featured a Native American settlement, and has played a central role in the ecological functions of the Saugus River watershed throughout history,” according to a flyer released by SRWC publicizing Monday night’s event. “Come learn about the unique history of the area and how management of the resource has shaped our perspectives of community and geography.”

SRWC also plans to present River Stewardship Awards, highlight its 2016 accomplishments and elect board members for next year. This year’s annual meeting will also feature handcrafted holiday centerpieces for sale and a variety of holiday gift baskets as raffle items.

A $25 ticket covers a dinner buffet, dessert and coffee.

Compost/Recycling Drop-off Site closing tomorrow

The Town of Saugus Compost/Recycling Drop-Off Site will close for the winter season tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.). This site will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the final day.

The site will re-open for recycling on the third Saturday of the month from January through March, weather permitting.

Please contact Solid Waste/Recycling Coordinator Lorna Cerbone at 781-231-4036 with any questions.

Flu shots still available for residents

The influenza vaccine is still available for town residents. A limited supply of the vaccine will be administered by appointment on a first-come, first-served basis. It will only be available while supplies last. Residents who wish to receive a flu shot should contact the Saugus Board of Health at 781-231-4115 to schedule an appointment.

From the Saugus Public Library

This just in from Brian Hodgdon, director at the Saugus Public Library:

· Borrow a Roku, 50+ movies in one! Saugus residents can now take home a Roku kit and choose from more than 50 feature films, TV shows and more to enjoy. You provide the internet connection and television with HDMI port. Stop by and pick one up, or reserve yours today at www.sauguspubliclibrary.org/roku.

· There’s a Polar Express Pajama Storytime, Wednesday (Dec.14) at 6:30 p.m. This is for Kids ages four and older. Get in your PJs and climb aboard the Polar Express for a special evening storytime! Library staff will read this classic holiday story – then enjoy cookies and a craft.

· Check out your holiday favorites on Hoopla. Whether it’s the new holiday album from The Voice winner Jordan Smith, “The Polar Express” on audiobook, a cookbook for entertaining or your favorite holiday movie, Hoopla has what you need 24/7. Saugus residents can check out 10 items per month – get started at www.sauguspubliclibrary.org/hoopla.

· The library’s Annual Food for Fines program runs through the end of the year. Library staff encourages people who owe money for overdue books to bring in nonperishable food items to donate to local food pantries in time for the holidays. Every item donated will reduce your overdue fines by $1. This does not apply to lost items/replacement fees. No expired items will be accepted.

Holiday plans at Square One Mall

Pet Photo Nights with Santa have returned to the Square One Mall at 1201 Broadway, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Come visit the Simon Santa Photo Experience and receive a fun-filled activity sheet and a custom The Secret Life of Pets holiday headband, and watch highlights from the movie.

The popular Pet Photo Nights add a magical element to visiting with Santa, as many pet owners view their pets as important members of the family. Pets will have their own turn to sit on Santa’s lap on Sundays throughout this month.

Pet Photo Nights are hosted after the mall closes, and the set gets an extensive cleaning following the event to remove any potential risk to allergy sufferers. All pets must be leashed or crated while walking through. Reservations can be made by visiting www.simon.com/petphoto.

Children and their families can experience the joy and magic of the holiday season with a visit to the Simon Santa Photo Experience. Children will have a chance to visit and have their picture taken with Santa. For a complete list of Santa’s photo hours visit www.simon.com/squareonemall.

Save time, avoid the line with Santa by Appointment! Now you can reserve your magical moment with Santa online by visiting http://simon.noerrsanta.com. Photo packages and pricing vary; visitors can get more information at the Santa set.

The Simon Santa Photo Experience is again sponsored by The Gymboree Corporation, which is a specialty retailer operating stores selling high-quality apparel and accessories for children under the Gymboree, Gymboree Outlet, Janie and Jack, and Crazy 8 brands. The 2016 Simon Santa Photo Experience and Pet Photo Nights are also sponsored by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, which is celebrating the highly-anticipated release of “The Secret Life of Pets,” available on Digital HD on November 22 and on Blu-ray and DVD on December 6.

Guests to every Simon Photo Experience will have another opportunity to share Santa’s heart by making a donation via The Noerr Programs to Save the Children. For nearly 100 years, this nonprofit has given underserved children in the United States a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Since this program began five years ago, Noerr has collected over $1,000,000 largely due to the generosity of Simon shoppers.

Holiday Gift Wrap

Now through Saturday, Dec. 24; hours will vary. Lower Level by Macy’s: Students from Saugus High School will provide holiday gift wrapping through Christmas Eve during select mall hours. Funds raised through the gift wrapping will support Saugus High School.

Square One Mall is located at 1201 Broadway in Saugus, Mass. For more information and up-to-the-minute event updates, please visit www.simon.com/SquareOneMall. Follow Square One Mall on Twitter at @ShopSquare1Mall and on Instagram at shopsquare1mall.

Looking for a few good men and women

The Saugus Board of Selectmen is accepting applications for appointment to the Cultural Council in the Town of Saugus. These are volunteer / non paid positions for Saugus residents. Those interested may submit letter of interest / resume no later than January 7, 2017 to:

Saugus Board of Selectmen

Saugus Town Hall Suite #4

298 Central Street.

   

A $375,000-plus Omission

Former Saugus Town Manager Bisignani pleads guilty

to filing false tax returns and failing to report income

Former Saugus Town Manager Andrew R. Bisignani admitted that he failed to report more than $375,0000 of his income on federal tax returns he filed over several years. Bisignani, 70, of Nahant, pleaded guilty last week in U.S. District Court in Boston to four counts of filing false tax returns. Bisignani, who served nine years as Saugus town manager before leaving in December of 2011, admitted that from 2010 to 2013 he collected rental income from three real properties in Revere.

During the same years, Bisignani collected interest and loan income by making multiple, private, short-term loans that were secured by Massachusetts real estate. Bisignani underreported his total rental real estate income when submitting his individual tax returns to the IRS in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. He also underreported the interest income he received in connection with his private loans for 2010, 2011 and 2012.

U.S. District Court Judge Leo T. Sorokin has set sentencing for Feb. 14, 2017. Bisignani faces a prison sentence of up to three years, one year of supervised release and a fine of up to $100,000. However, United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office has recommended a prison sentence and a fine at the lower end of the federal sentencing guidelines range.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristina E. Barclay of Ortiz’s Public Corruption Unit is prosecuting the case.

Bisignani began working as town administrator in Nahant in February 2012. But he only had the job for two years before resigning in June 2014 over accusations that he had given public contracts to people or entities that he favored. An Essex County grand jury indicted him in December 2014 on 14 counts related to his improper handling of contracts while he was Saugus town manager and continuing to tenure as Nahant town administrator.

Four of the charges relate to his actions as Saugus town manager and occurred between Jan. 1, 2009, and Feb. 1, 2012. They include two counts of procurement fraud that cite Bisignani for spending $92,425 to purchase seven vehicles from Brothers Auto Body in Revere without waiting for potentially lower outside bids, according to Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office.

Bisignani’s alleged illegal actions as Saugus town manager also include one count of knowing violation of laws relating to the incurring of liability and expenditure of public funds and one count of failure to provide public notice of competitive bids.

The violations that led to the Nahant charges occurred between Feb. 1, 2012, and June 30, 2014, according to the district attorney’s office. They include “destroying public records, unlawfully intercepting oral communications and misleading person(s) in connection with a criminal proceeding.” Bisignani was also accused of procurement fraud and failure to provide notice of competitive bids, as was the case in Saugus. He is scheduled to go on trial Feb. 21 – one week after his sentencing in federal court.

   

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