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2017: A Year in Review

Library project — There has also been much discussion about the possibility of a new library. In a presentation to the selectmen, Library Director Holly Mercer said a new library should be built in a way that would prevent voices from echoing throughout the building. She also said the current space constraints require that furniture be rearranged an average of three times a day. Board of Selectmen Chairman Christopher Barrett spoke in support of building a new library. “It’s impressive what you’re able to do every day in spite of the restrictions,” he said. “Great job, it has been an exciting year.” Selectman Philip Crawford agreed. “We commend you for all the time and effort you put in,” he said. However, Dalton felt differently about the project, citing the possibility of monetary complications. “My concern early on has been fiscal restraints; it’s always a balancing act,” he said. “I’m sure you and the trustees think that it’s warranted, but I think the overall budget has to reflect the reality.”

 

New Town Manager hire, Rail Trail vote highlight 2017

By Christopher Roberson

 

Perhaps one of the most memorable Town Meetings in Lynnfield’s history took place in 2017, when residents voted 342-341 in favor of the controversial Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project. The vote allowed the Board of Selectmen to sign a 99-year lease, for $1 per year, with the MBTA, the owner of the abandoned Newburyport Rail Line.

During the April 24 meeting, Patrick Curley of the Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail reminded residents that the rail trail would essentially come at no cost to the town and would offer a myriad of recreation and transportation benefits. In response, James Gerace of the Citizens Against the Lynnfield Rail Trail cited the potential for traffic problems, an uptick in crime and hidden costs that would ultimately fall on the taxpayers.

Robert Almy and Leah Hook of the Lynnfield Recreational Path Committee said they had objectively studied the project proposal at length. “Our mission is to be objective with everyone,” Hook said. They also said the $7.1 million project would be covered by the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).

However, the rail trail was not supported by the Board of Selectmen.

Vice Chairman Richard Dalton cited a “lack of due diligence” on important parts of the proposal. “Let’s not abandon process and due diligence on such an important decision,” he said.

Lynnfielder Keith Noble returned the volley. “We need a place where people can safely recreate,” he said. “Many people I speak to are afraid just to ride their bikes in town.”

Lynnfielder Stephen Sorrentino then countered Noble’s argument. “I am concerned about the value of my home,” he said. “Would you gamble with the value of your home? Will you reimburse me if the value of my home decreases? I doubt it.”

 

Marijuana legalization

The statewide legalization of recreational marijuana also caused waves in 2017.

“This is a nightmare for town counsels throughout the Commonwealth,” said Town Counsel Thomas Mullen to the Board of Selectmen, adding that the law did not address things such as regulation and driving under the influence.

To prevent marijuana companies from setting up shop in Lynnfield, Mullen recommended that the town respond with a pair of ballot initiatives. One would be a general bylaw and the other would be a zoning bylaw. Although this is the best way to prevent lawsuits, Mullen said, it is still an unorthodox approach. “It’s awkward as hell, but it is meant so that it can be upheld in the event of litigation issues,” he said.

Barrett agreed that this is the best option. “It’s a good way to go; the law itself is a mess, and it is a big challenge for communities in the Commonwealth,” he said.

 

New town administrator

After nearly three years as Lynnfield’s town administrator, James Boudreau left town to take the town administrator position in Scituate. Although he thoroughly enjoyed his job, he missed spending time with his family – 42 miles away in Norwell.

Therefore, the selectmen hired Bernard Lynch, the owner of Community Paradigm Associates, to assist with the search process.

From an original pool of 38 candidates, two of them made it to the final interview with the selectmen. They were Robert Curtin, Lynnfield’s assistant to the administration, and Robert Dolan, the mayor of Melrose for 16 years. Although the selectmen were impressed with both candidates, Dolan’s financial experience gave him a slight edge over Curtin. The board ultimately voted unanimously to offer Dolan the job pending contract negotiations.

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