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News

Voters face tough choice in expensive repairs to fields

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With Town Meeting just days away, voters in Lynnfield have a lot to think about, and fields will take an outsized space among those considerations. According to the Master Plan survey, fields and open spaces were high on the priority for voters, second only to the desire for improvements to sidewalks and roadways.

Unfortunately, it’s going to come at a cost. At the April 4 meeting of the Board of Selectmen, the Fields Committee Chairman pegged the cost of improvements to fields at around $6 million. Voters will have to wade through the long list of items proposed to determine which are most important to them.

Officials at the meeting had some suggestions. Selectman Phil Crawford characterized updates to the town’s middle school track as the “best bang for the buck,” and stated that improvements would be a morale boost since the dilapidated complex hasn’t been utilized to host a home meet in five years.

Superintendent Jane Tremblay said that improvements to the elementary school fields were also high on the list, citing safety concerns. But nearly all said that not all of the articles could be approved. Town Administrator Jim Boudreau put it bluntly. “We don’t have the cash,” he said.

Many of the fields are out to bid, so selectmen could not announce formal recommendations; however, they did heed the superintendent’s calls and made unofficial recommendations that the track and elementary school improvements be prioritized.

Fields Committee Chairman Arthur Bourque advised that if cuts are made, they should be done after “thorough” consideration. Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay echoed Bourque’s feelings, stating that it would be “nearly impossible” to choose which elementary schools to prioritize over others, since they involve safety issues. “It’s incredibly difficult to answer,” she said. “It would involve putting one kid’s safety over another.”

The reports of tight budgets are especially difficult for voters to swallow, since the estimated $2.5 million the Fields Committee was supposed to fundraise never came through. Bourque attributed the shortfall to reasons specific to himself and did not elaborate. The committee will still attempt to raise these funds, but not until a later date. Crawford suggested that the funds raised go towards improvements to Jordan Park.

Summer Street School

The costs for the Summer Street School fields are still currently out to bid. According to Bourque, the items that need to be addressed include the following:

–Installation of a deep well irrigation system

–Repairing the paved playground area

–Repairing the field at the rear of the school.

–Removing the softball/t-ball field which is located on the northwest side of the school. The report states that the field is “no longer needed for youth sports.”

–Re-sod the space where the field once stood. They would also install “pavers or hardscape surface,” which would feature a seating area. Apparently the installation would replace an area of the field that is frequently destroyed due to high foot traffic.

–Complete extensive repairs to the “all-purpose field.” The field itself would be “slice seeded,” which would ameliorate the rapidly deteriorating grass. The clay surface of the softball field would be removed and blended using town-approved clay mix to create a new infield, and a home plate would be installed. The sprinkler system would also be brought “up to standard.” A pad and storage shed to house equipment would be installed, and benches would be replaced.

Huckleberry Hill

Upgrades to the Huckleberry Hill School’s fields would include the all-purpose field and the paved playground area. For the field, a deep well would be installed on the southwest side of the school near the chain link fence

–All of the grass on the all-purpose field and in the area of the parking lot would be replaced with “new soil and sod surface,” and a drainage and irrigation system would be installed.

–Replace the asphalt playground, which is “beyond repair”

Middle School

The report calls for upgrades to the track, in addition to the softball and baseball fields. The softball field would receive the following:

–Pitcher’s mound and home plate

–Replace the clay infield with town-approved clay mix.

–Reseeded infield; also the grass of the infield is to be removed and replaced with new soil

–New irrigation system

–Addition of bullpens and storage sheds

–Reparations to batting tunnel

–Infrastructure installed for a pitching machine

–A foul line marker and safety netting


Changes to the baseball field would include the following:

–New scoreboard in the right outfield

–Small storage shed

High School

The town must also consider upgrades to the tennis courts, which many agree are in terrible condition. The upgrades would include a fifth court in addition to complete reparations. The report also calls for installing a 30’ net along either the east or west side of the stadium field.

Newhall Park

The report also calls for upgrades to Newhall Park, which include installing new control for existing lighting that allows lights to automatically shut off when they are no longer in use. Currently some teams are forgetting to shut off the lights after using them. A well and new irrigation would be installed on both fields, and drainage would be installed to mitigate drainage issues. An announcer stand and PA system are called for the larger baseball field, along with small bleacher seating along the first and third baselines. The small baseball field would also receive small bleacher seating. Finally, a new playground would be installed with a rubberized base, rather than the current woodchip structure which is “not in good shape,” according to Bourque.

Jordan Park

Article 27 calls for possible upgrades for Jordan Park, which would include upgrades to the soccer field, playground, parking lot and Alan Jordan memorial. The playground would be also removed to increase space for a new parking lot that would provide space for an additional 60 cars, bringing the total number of spaces up from 41 to 101. The new parking lot would include additional drainage, have a “new and improved” entrance to address congestion issues, and have shrubbery installed to protect the view for neighbors on both Pillings Pond Road and Wildwood Drive. Finally, the memorial to Vietnam War Veteran Alan Jordan would be moved to a more prominent area. The total estimated cost for upgrades to Jordan Park stands at $1.5 million.

By Melanie Higgins



 

Selectmen chart new beginning with goals, pledges

Board heeds calls for attention to fields, roadways

With the reelection of Phil Crawford and the reorganization of the Board of Selectmen to make Chris Barrett chair and Richard Dalton vice chair, the three leaders also took the opportunity to reaffirm their commitment to Lynnfielders. Led by Barrett at the selectmen’s meeting on April 11, the board outlined three main tasks for the road ahead: 1.) maintaining its “code of conduct,” 2.) setting out goals, and 3.) presenting an “action item list.” The latter will be available on the town website for the public to view.

The code of conduct was established by Crawford and former Selectman David Nelson in 2013. It “reaffirms our code and our expectations for one another and focuses on our team effort,” as said by Barrett. It also “helps to ensure a solid foundation of how we operate as a town.”

The selectmen then committed to the following items, dignified with a signature of the document and a vote:

–“Realize ‘number one’ that we work as a team and abide by the support and carry out the decisions we make. Remember that each member represents the entire community, resident and neighborhood.”

–“Every board member must be ‘unselfish in service’ and humble and not benefit personally or politically from any of our activities, and to do what is in the best interest of the town.”

–“Abide by the ethics guidelines established by Massachusetts and Lynnfield. Always maintain confidentiality of privileged information we maintain.”

–“Always keeping the Town Administrator ‘in the loop.’”

–Make sure than any information shared with the chair is shared right away with fellow selectmen.

–“Make no statements of promises or heartache.”

–“Weigh the pros and cons and give each issue the respect it deserves.”

–“Treat with respect the rights of board members’ differences of opinion.” Barrett added, “We’re not always going to agree, but we’ll do our best.”

–“Never publicly criticize an individual employee.”

Barrett then outlined his goals for the upcoming year. He added that as the town moves along, the list will expand. Before launching into the town’s goals, he provided a “mission statement”: “Provide the community with leadership to ensure quality of life through the promotion of professional, quality service, responsiveness to community issues, growth management,” he began. “Long term financial stability, atmosphere for a good and local economy, environmental stewardship, preserve the character of the community, promote programs and policies that preserve our friendly, welcoming, and small town community atmosphere. Review, modify, and establish sound and clearly defined policies that will direct and support the administration to effectively deliver public services. Provide effective leadership to facilitate public policy discussions and foster the sharing of factual information.”

The mission statement also included pledges to “adopt best practices” as defined by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, remain “responsive to the community,” “ensure selectmen’s meetings are available to the public,” “promote resident participation in town government and volunteering,” “preserve and maintain the beauty of our natural setting,” “review the town charter,” address the substance abuse crisis, bring in senior tax relief by exploring possible tax abatement, maintain school buildings, make sure the town manager remains “apolitical” and ensure that town department heads maintain a “culture of teamwork, mutual respect, and accountability, most importantly to the residents of Lynnfield.

The goals and objectives for Lynnfield in the coming year are as follows:

–To charge the department heads with “developing a plan to develop services and mission statements and goals including measurable objectives.”

–To maintain a “working list” of “issues and projects” headed by the town manager. The list will be, in the words of Crawford, a “living document” so that visitors will be able to see what the town manager is working on in real time. The document will be available on the town website.

–To have “enhanced communication between the board, Town Administrator, department heads, boards, committees, and public.”

–To “develop a quarterly update for department heads.”

–To “develop a town wide strategic information technology plan” that will include “inventory” and “assessment” features to better determine each department’s current and future technology needs.

–To develop a “social media policy that will drive the communication of this community, to create a vibrant webpage that our residents [will] look to for information.” Moments later at the meeting the town adopted a social media policy and will be implementing a new Facebook page in the coming days.

–To “take all necessary stems to increase the bond rating to AAA.” Again, moments later the board adopted measures to try to increase the town’s bond rating. Board members also pledged “to focus on transparency and accountability with our finances and independently review when necessary our town documents.”

–“To implement policies and procedures that will ensure strong financial condition,” which includes “standardized budgeting proposals by the department heads.”

–To develop a plan for Other Post-Employment Benefits funds (OPEB).

–To ensure quarterly updates from department heads.

–“Strengthening the forecast for our financial study.”

In terms of capital facilities, Barrett remarked that the town has a “great group” (Capital Facilities Advisory Committee, led by chair Ted Caswell): “We want to do everything we can to maintain the town’s public buildings in a manner that strengthens our capacity to produce quality service.”

The board also pledged its commitment to working on its “10-year strategic plan” in order to “better forecast our finances,” according to Barrett.

Goals also included the following:

–Possible relocation of DPW.

–Improve fields and parks.

–Sidewalks and streets – Barrett acknowledged the public’s zeal for this particular item, as shown through the results of the Master Plan public survey issued at the beginning of the year.

–Possible public safety complex.

–Clubhouse at King Rail, although one that fits within the town budget. Previous estimates listed the cost at around $3 million, which selectmen have previously dismissed as exorbitant.

–Work on a performance evaluation system.

–Work on the Master Plan.

–Lastly, “making sure town government is the best it can be.”

There also remained the “action item list.” Barrett explained the list as a working document that will be set in place to ensure that “nothing gets forgotten.” So far, the list includes the following:

–Announcing town administrator, department head goals (which will be accomplished in the coming weeks)

–Consolidating the working budget document

–10-year capital expenditure use

–Improvements to the MUNIS account

–Community Compact

–Relocating the DPW

–Developing a new town webpage, social media

–Issuing a summary of streets impacted by flooding

–Taking action on Capital Facilities Advisory Committee agenda items

– And finally, developing a “Market Street Advisory Committee,” which Barrett described as a “working group” that includes community members as well as private citizens. At a selectmen’s meeting earlier this month residents complained that the proposed group would likely only have one private citizen. The announcement at this meeting to “get a good number of residents” to ensure “proper representation” is the latest change.

“It’s more than just a list,” said Dick Dalton, noting that the “action item list” will have a “target completion date,” name of the person assigned to the task, and remaining actions to be taken.

“It’s a good way of keeping track of things so they don’t get forgotten,” Crawford chimed in. “It goes hand in hand with our working objectives.”

By Melanie Higgins

 

Lynnfield native Bill Wilkinson honored at warship launch

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Back story

On a cold, snowy April 1 this year, the new 509-foot-long Guided Missile Destroyer USS Thomas Hudner was christened at the General Dynamics Shipyard in Bath, Maine. Navy Captain Hudner, for whom the ship is named, had been awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions in trying to rescue his friend, Ensign Jesse L. Brown, during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in Korea in December 1950.

At Chosin some 300 Marines had held Hill 1542 for six days so that 9,000 battle-weary Marines could make their fighting withdrawal along the road below. Now the surviving Marines needed help. They were about to be overrun. The Navy answered their call when F4U Corsairs from the Carrier USS Leyte bombed the enemy. The Corsairs attacked day after day until the Marine columns reached their base in Hagaru.

It was during these missions that Captain Hudner crashed his plane in an unsuccessful attempt to save Ensign Brown. In his recent best seller, “Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice,” Adam Makos outlines the relationship between Hudner, a privileged Philips Academy Andover grad, and Jesse Brown, a sharecropper’s son.

Lynnfield’s Bill Wilkinson

In addition to the above incident, the best seller “Devotion” tells the story of the other 24 Navy pilots who served with Hudner and Brown on the Carrier USS Leyte, including Lynnfield native Bill Wilkinson. In a recent telephone interview, Bill shared a few memories of growing up in Lynnfield before following his dream of becoming a Navy flyer, and later a commercial pilot. “Wilkie,” as he was known in the service, grew up at 259 Main St., where his father owned a contracting business. Bill mentioned a few local “old timers,” including Raymond Pope, who worked with his father, and the latter’s daughter, Edith, with whom Bill went to Wakefield High. The Pope family owned the farm that was later taken to build the Summer Street School.

Wilkie then enrolled at the Severn Prep School near Annapolis, an institution originally founded to prepare students for the Naval Academy. He was totally focused on a flying career. After a two-year matriculation at Yale, he spent two years in flight training in the V-5 Naval Cadet Program at Pensacola. The program was designed to replace World War II aviators. Candidates had to agree not to marry until they earned their wings. Wilkie, 22, and his bride, Mary, 20, from Virginia, married in July 1950 shortly following his graduation.

After his military service in Korea and a stint in the Naval Reserves, Wilkie became the youngest pilot at American Airlines at the age of 24. Meanwhile, in 1961 he and Mary bought a new house at 13 Daventry Court in the Grant, where they raised their three children. In 1977 the Wilkinsons moved to Punta Gorda, Florida, while maintaining a summer residence in Northeast Harbor, Maine. Bill retired after 35 years with American Airlines.

Launching the USS Thomas Hudner

Bill Wilkinson is one of only three flyers left in the original squadron that flew with Captain Hudner during the Korean War. The honoree, Thomas Hudner, is in frail health and did not speak at the ceremony. During the festivities Bill participated in a moving Navy tradition by placing his dog tags, along with the small mementoes of others, in a box to be “welded in place forever in the ship’s mast.”

Since it is rare for a battleship to be named for one still living, Captain Hudner and fellow aviator Wilkie were duly feted with Navy hospitality during the launch weekend. Bill’s wife, his daughter and granddaughter were also present to see Captain Hudner’s wife, Georgea, christen the ship, adding, “May God bless this ship and all who sail on her.” To the strains of “Anchors Aweigh,” confetti “streamed through a biting wind,” according to a Boston Globe account, as the celebration ended.

(Thanks to Wilkie’s friend and former neighbor, Bill Munroe of Lynnfield, who also attended the Hudner launch, for sharing this story. Send comments to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

By Helen Breen


   

Lynnfield celebrates Patriots’ Day with first of many ceremonies

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In what Veterans Affairs Director Bruce Siegel hopes will be “the first of many”, Lynnfield held a memorial last Monday for those who died fighting for American independence more than two centuries ago.

The memorial, which featured veterans from American Legion Post 131 and local boy and girl scouts, was held at the Old Burial Ground across from the Meeting House. As a group of spectators looked on, Father Paul Ritt read a prayer for the fallen soldiers.

Attendees especially paid homage to Daniel Townsend, the first man from Lynnfield to be killed in the Battle of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. Townsend is buried at the grounds.

Almost 500 men from the Boston area fought in the battle that fateful day, which would claim 49 lives but would provide the impetus for the war that led to the declaration of independence from the British Empire. The occasion holds special significance for New Englanders, although the holiday is observed throughout the country.

By Melanie Higgins


 

Beacon Hill Roll Call

THE HOUSE AND SENATE: There were no roll calls in the House or Senate last week.

As the first order of business back in January, the Legislature approved an $18 million pay raise package including hiking the salaries of the two leaders who filed the bill, House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) and Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst), by $45,000 from $97,547 to $142,547. The measure also hikes the pay of the Legislature’s two Republican leaders, Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and Rep. Bradley Jones (R-North Reading) by $37,500 from $85,047 to $122,547. Another provision hikes the salaries of the governor and the other six constitutional officers by raises ranging from $30,048 to $47,083; and hikes the pay of the state’s judges and court clerks by $25,000.

The only part of the package that applies to all 200 legislators increased the annual general expense allowance for each member from $7,200 to $15,000 for members whose districts are within a 50-mile radius of the Statehouse and to $20,000 for districts located outside of that radius. Prior to this increase, the most recent increase in the general expense allowance was a hike from $3,600 to $7,200 in 2000.

According to the state treasurer’s office, the mileage from a legislator’s home to the Statehouse is calculated “using the standard of quickest route (time to destination).”

The expense allowance is used at the discretion of individual legislators to support a variety of costs including the renting of a district office, contributions to local civic groups and the printing and mailing of newsletters. Legislators are issued a 1099 from the state and are required to report the allowance as income but are not required to submit an accounting of how they spend it.

Beacon Hill Roll Call has obtained the list of how much each senator and representative is receiving as an expense allowance under this new system.

When each legislator received a flat $7,200 under the old system, the total spent was $1,440,000. Under this new system, the total spent will be $3,174,052. That’s an increase of $1,734,052.

Nine legislators decided against taking the raise and are still collecting only the original $7,200. Another 136 asked for and are receiving the raise from $7,200 to $15,000 while 53 legislators are receiving $20,000 because they said they live more than 50 miles from the Statehouse. One legislator decided to take $9,252. Another decided not to take an expense allowance.

The package also put an end to legislators collecting per diems which are travel, meals and lodging reimbursements collected by the legislators.The amount of the per diem varies and was based on the city or town in which a legislator resides and its distance from the Statehouse. In 2016, 103 or more than one-half of the state’s 200 legislators were paid per diems totaling $278,601.

Under current federal law, the same 53 legislators who live more than 50 miles from the Statehouse are eligible for a special federal tax break that has been criticized for years. A 1981 federal law allows them to write off a daily expense allowance when filing their federal income tax return. The complicated system determines a daily amount, ostensibly for meals, lodging and other expenses incurred in the course of their jobs, which can be deducted for every “legislative day.”

Under the Massachusetts Legislature’s system and schedule, every day of the year qualifies as a legislative day. The Legislature does not formally “prorogue” (end an annual session) until the next annual session begins. This allows these legislators to take the deduction for all 365 days regardless of whether the Legislature is meeting or not. Legislators do not even have to travel to the Statehouse to qualify for the daily deduction.

The amount of the deduction is based on the federal per diem for Massachusetts. It varies from year to year. The daily per diem for legislators for 2016 varied in different parts of the state and is seasonal. It ranges from $162 per day to $366 per day or between $59,130 and $133,590 annually.

The 53 legislators who took the $20,000 state expense allowance are eligible for this federal deduction because they said they live more than 50 miles from the Statehouse. Each legislator who takes advantage of this deduction will have paid, and continue to pay, little or no federal income tax on their legislative salaries for many years.

HOW MUCH EACH LOCAL LEGISLATOR WILL RECEIVE IN EXPENSE ALLOWANCE

Here is the amount of an expense allowance each legislator will receive annually.

Rep. Stephan Hay       $15,000

Rep. Bradley Jones     $15,000

Rep. Theodore Speliotis           $15,000

Rep. Thomas Walsh    $15,000

Sen. Joan Lovely        $15,000

Sen. Thomas McGee   $15,000

HOW LONG WAS LAST WEEK’S SESSION? Beacon Hill Roll Call tracks the length of time that the House and Senate were in session each week. Many legislators say that legislative sessions are only one aspect of the Legislature’s job and that a lot of important work is done outside of the House and Senate chambers. They note that their jobs also involve committee work, research, constituent work and other matters that are important to their districts. Critics say that the Legislature does not meet regularly or long enough to debate and vote in public view on the thousands of pieces of legislation that have been filed. They note that the infrequency and brief length of sessions are misguided and lead to irresponsible late night sessions and a mad rush to act on dozens of bills in the days immediately preceding the end of an annual session.

During the week of April 10-14, the House met for a total of 22 minutes and the Senate met for a total of one hour and 22 minutes.

Mon. April 10

House11:03 a.m. to11:18 a.m.

Senate 11:15 a.m. to12:24 p.m.

Tues.April 11

No House session

No Senate session

Wed. April 12

No House session

No Senate session.

Thurs. April 13

House11:01 a.m. to11:08 a.m.

Senate 11:02 a.m. to11:15 a.m.

Fri. April 14

No House session

No Senate session

Bob Katzen
welcomes feedback at
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