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Selectmen and School Committee members pick their top stories for 2022 and discuss their priorities for the new year

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  Editor’s Note: For this week’s column, we reached out to each of the members of the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee and asked them if they would like to name their top story in Saugus during 2022 and talk about their top priorities for the new year. All five selectmen responded. Two of the five School Committee members participated. Here are their individual responses.

  Q: What do you consider the top story in Saugus during 2022? Feel free to elaborate. Also, What are your top priorities for the new year?

Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano

  For me the top Saugus story of 2022 was the creation of the Host Community agreement with WIN (Waste Innovations). An agreement that will bring in excess of 30 million dollars to Saugus while lowering the emissions in the process. After years of watching endless court battles where we lose time and time again the Town of Saugus finally has scored a victory with WIN. I believe this is the beginning of great things to come in the future. Having a positive working relationship with WIN will yield long term benefits to Saugus and our surrounding communities.

  I also think the zoning change that I proposed and 2/3 of the Town Meeting members approved to allow for the sale of recreational Marijuana will bring in millions in new tax revenue to Saugus on a yearly basis. Revenue that we greatly need.

As for my top priorities

  I would like to see Saugus work, and I will lead the charge to change our charter in 2023 and finally become a city. It’s time, our form of government is outdated and In my opinion, we can and should be doing better. If all goes well, we could have a question on the November ballot to change the charter and form a charter commission. Should everything go to plan, we could have our first election for Mayor in 2025, which also goes along with the expiration of the current Managers Contract. I believe the top official in Saugus should be elected by the people and not simply reappointed by 3 members of the Board of Selectmen. I would imagine a Mayoral race in Saugus would be quite interesting…. something I would definitely be interested in.

Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta

  There are a few ‘top’ stories that come to mind in 2022, including the proposed redevelopment of the Kowloon site, the purchasing of properties in Cliftondale Square, and Town Meeting voting to allow recreational marijuana sales in Saugus. However, I think the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) clearly stating that WIN Waste Innovations cannot expand the life of their unlined ash landfill is most significant. I also think the passing of the Northeast Metropolitan Regional School was a top story considering the antiquated condition of the current school as well the financial impact on our community.

Question 2:

  My main priority this year is to do the best job I can representing the Saugus residents. Keeping our Town as a full-service community with long-term sustainability and ensuring our Police and Fire Departments are fully funded is of the utmost importance.

  My priorities/vision include the following:

  • We finished the Master Plan in 2022, which is the framework for making informed decisions which will include goals and policies for future land use, including housing, recreation, commercial development, transportation, and open space. We need to prioritize the elements in this plan and move forward with the recommendations.
  • Increasing our reserve funds and continue improvement of our bond rating,
  • Continue our Traffic Study analysis,
  • Continue efforts to revitalize Cliftondale Square,
  • Research additional opportunities to supplement Town services by supporting community objectives relating to safety, infrastructure, and transportation,
  • Continue our discussions and research about building a West Side Fire Station,
  • Focus on the environment and the health and safety of our residents, and
  • Continue our open public discussions regarding the closed schools.

  Wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year!!

Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini

  The top story in 2022 or one of the top stories that gathered a lot of chatter is the amount of development specifically on Route 1. Obviously, there are a couple of large projects in process or slated to begin soon. I understand and share many of the concerns as more inventory is added in Saugus. It is important to point out that the Collins Ave development (Essex Landing) and the project to be developed on the current Kowloon site are both restricted to studio and one-bedroom units. These restrictions significantly reduce the impact on town infrastructure, public safety and have little to no effect on our schools. Also, the new zoning regulations (which I supported) significantly reduce the number of units that can be built and require a higher percentage of commercial/retail be present as well as expanding parking and green space. I feel all of these factors in addition with our current economic outlook, will help curb the rate of new developments being permitted in town.

As for my top priorities

  In 2023 I will continue to support the efforts to revitalize the Cliftondale Square area of town. I spoke in the town forums about the need to acquire property in the square for open parking and was very vocal when the 2 properties owned by the bank became available about the town needing to step up to make it happen. I was excited that the Town Manager with the support of Town Meeting was able to acquire the Saugus Bank building (the old Brooks pharmacy) a couple of years ago. Then, in 2022, the town acquired the property adjacent to the bank building. These acquisitions are key to having the parcels available for municipal parking lots etc.

  I will also continue to lead the efforts along with the rest of the members of the Saugus Dog Park Committee and support and assistance from the town Manager to lead the effort to bring a full-service dog park to Saugus. The wheels are turning, and progress has been made in identifying the potential site for a park as well as preliminary schematic designs being in progress. The committee has also established the corporation that will eventually become the Nonprofit fundraising entity to help pay for the costs that are not covered by the grant as well as costs for the long-term maintenance and upkeep of the park.

  I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy, prosperous, and safe 2023!!!

Selectman Corinne Riley

  It’s hard to choose just one story, but a few significant stories that come to mind are the improved working relationship with WIN and initial steps toward revitalization of Cliftondale, specifically the purchase of two adjacent properties for parking or other municipal uses. I am proud to have supported both. Another very significant story for 2022 was that we were mostly “back to normal” regarding COVID and related restrictions. It’s great that students were back in school buildings, seniors could return to the senior center, government meetings could be held in-person, and other town activities like Saugus 411, the tree lighting, and Founders Day could be held in person. Having that sense of normalcy has been a great relief to me, and I am sure many others as well.

Q: What are your top priorities for the new year?

  My top priorities for 2023 are continued steps to revitalize Cliftondale, next steps toward a west-side fire station, improved communication for residents, and continued exploration for funding other than property tax. This includes reaping benefits of a host-community agreement with WIN, reaping benefits of marijuana tax dollars, and economic development to fill our empty commercial properties while increasing our commercial tax base. I’d like to wish everyone a healthy, peaceful and happy New Year.

Selectman Mike Serino

  For me personally, I consider the top story of 2022 to be the final completion of the Towns’ two and one half (2 ½) mile rail-trail. In 2012, as a member of the Board of Selectmen, the entire Board consisting of Scott Crabtree, Debra Panetta, Steve Horlick, Steve Castinetti along with myself, signed a ninety nine (99) year lease agreement with the Massachusetts MBTA to take control of the railroad right of way for a walking/bike trail. In April of 2012, pursuant to the lease agreement, the Board of Selectmen had to notify the MBTA of the Town’s intention to proceed with the removal of the old railroad tracks within sixty (60) days, in order to install the then walking/bike trail consisting of recyclable asphalt material. The work was being performed by a non-profit organization at no cost to the Town. As the then Chairman of the Board, at that time, I did oversee the day to day operation of the project to its completion.

  Several years ago the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) notified all the communities that the Northern Strand Rail-Trail runs through Everett, Malden, Revere, Saugus and Lynn, that the DCR would be making major improvements to the rail-trail including asphalting the Revere, Saugus and Lynn sections.

  Some ten (10) years later after the completion of the original rail-trail construction in 2012, I am thrilled to see the improvements that have been made to the rail-trail. As a current member of the Board of Selectmen, I am honored to have had the opportunity to be part of the rededication ceremony recently held by the DCR. The rail-trail is probably one of the most significant recreational projects ever completed in Saugus’s history. The rail-trail is enjoyed by people of all ages and is truly very popular among the residents of our community.

Q: What are your top priorities for the new year?

  My top priorities for the new year would be to continue completing as many future projects as we can financially according to the five (5) year Capital Improvement Plan which has been recently updated by the Town Manager in September of 2022 and reviewed by the Board of Selectmen.

  What I would like to see is a Town Green built somewhere in the vicinity of Saugus Center. A Town Green in Saugus Center could also be accessed by people walking the rail-trail. Unfortunately, Saugus does not have a Town Green for residents to sit, relax, enjoy and meet their neighbors. I would propose tearing down the Evans school and converting the entire area into a Town Green.

School Committee Chair Vincent Serino

  Many events and stories took place in 2022 that affected Saugus. As it pertains to the schools and our students, teachers, parents, and support staff, I would go back to the beginning of the year and say Covid. We were still experiencing large numbers of student and teacher absences due to Covid. We voted early in the year to end the mask mandate. I feel after the mandate was lifted our students became more engaged and relieved. The teachers and paraprofessionals were able to better communicate in the classroom and with the students.

Q: What are your top priorities for the new year?

  As far as top priorities for the new year. It would still be student achievement. With that said I would like to get our teachers, paraprofessionals, and support staff the resources to help them in their jobs. This includes an increase in pay and more help in and out of the classroom. Our teachers and support staff are our greatest resource and need to be treated that way. My last priority is to get better communication for our parents and caregivers.

School Committee Member Ryan Fisher

  Biggest new story for Saugus in 2022? It’s reassuring to me that for the first time in three years I had to think when you asked me that question. Life getting back to normal is probably the biggest new story for me. We’ve had budgetary challenges as a district and I’m hopeful for a smoother 2023. We have exciting opportunities as a town to repurpose the closed school buildings that are just starting to ramp up. But mainly, putting the day to day disruptions of covid behind us as a community has been one of the biggest events of 2022 for me.

Q: What are your top priorities for the new year?

  For top priorities as a school committee member? Budget season is just getting started, and we’ll be funding the halfway point of our five year commitment to raise academic achievement as a district. We can’t get there without giving our teachers and support staff the resources and pay they need to do their jobs, provide stability to our district, and deal with the continued impacts of the pandemic over the next few years. In addition working on the finance subcommittee with Chairman Serino, Mr. Hatch and I will continue negotiations with all three unions. We need school resource officers, another bus, sustainable after-school enrichment, Chromebook reliability, and support for music and drama. You need a longer column and I need more coffee. Lots to do.

THE NEXT CHAIR School Committee Vice Chair Vincent Serino is the most likely successor of former School Committee Chair Thomas Whittredge, who resigned this week-2

Happy New Year from Saugus: The Saugus Board of Selectmen and Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree gathered around the Christmas tree on the first floor of Saugus Town Hall at the town tree lighting ceremony earlier this month. Sharing their holiday hopes and best wishes to town residents for a Happy New Year, were, pictured from left to right, Selectman Mike Serino, Board of Selectmen Chair Anthony Cogliano, Selectman Corinne Riley, Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Debra Panetta, Selectman Jeffrey Cicolini and Town Manager Scott C. Crabtree. (Saugus Advocate photo by Mark E. Vogler)

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