January 4 2019,  Saugus

The Advocate Asks: Four Board of Selectmen members reflect on 2018’s important town events, anticipate 2019’s major issues

THE ADVOCATE ASKS: Four Board of Selectmen members reflect on 2018’s important town events, anticipate 2019’s major issues

   Editor’s Note: For this week, we continued to seek comment from the Saugus Board of Selectmen on what members consider the town’s major accomplishments as they look back on 2018. We also asked them to share their expectations for the new year. In last week’s edition, we published the responses from Board of Selectmen Chair Debra Panetta. This week, Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Jeff Cicolini and Selectmen Scott Brazis, Mark Mitchell and Jennifer D’Eon responded to our questions. Following are the responses we received. (Selectman D’Eon gave an extensive interview for “The Advocate Asks,” which was published in our Dec. 21 edition.)

 

Board of Selectmen Vice Chair Jeff Cicolini

Jeff Cicolini
Board of Selectmen Vice Chair

   Q: What do you consider the most significant events that happened in Saugus during 2018?

  A: I feel there were many significant happenings in 2018 which are the result of a lot of hard work and planning from our Town Manager and his team working in conjunction with (in no particular order) the School Committee, Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee, Town Meeting, Planning Board, PTOs, Town employees, volunteers and our residents. Here are some key items to note:

  • Breaking ground on the new middle/high school – it is taking shape quite nicely.
  • Renovating and Restoring the entire exterior of our town hall to its original beautiful state.
  • Continued improvements to parks and playgrounds including security cameras monitored by the Police Dept. to protect our taxpayers’ investments. Planning for the new basketball courts near the Evans school is in the design phase.
  • The addition of new fire apparatus and DPW equipment.
  • A $250k green communities grant received by the town.
  • Further planning for betterments and safety improvements to the rail trail.
  • Moving forward with the town wide traffic study to not only suggest reductions in speed limits throughout town but also safety enhancements such as raised crosswalks, signage and road narrowing. We already have some speed limit reductions in place in 2018 and I look forward to our public hearing on January 9th for four of our main streets to continue the trend. I thank my fellow board members for unanimously supporting my motion.
  • Economic development is ongoing throughout our town. (P.S. It was exciting to see our beloved landmark cactus renovated and relit after over a decade of being dormant.).
  • Continued fiscally conservative policies allowing for additions to our stabilization funds and additional improvement to our bond rating which sits at a level one spot from the very top. This is the highest it has ever been in Saugus.

  Q: What do you see as the major issues facing the town in 2019?

  A: We, like all other communities, have several issues facing our town. Here are some that are front of mind:

1) Our local aid being level funded year after year (with no increase to speak of) as our costs to operate the town continue to rise puts a significant burden on our tax levy and the need for economic growth and other sources of income such as permits, fees and excise taxes.

2) The state’s formula for the several million dollars in tuition/fees we pay to the vocational school for children who attend from Saugus needs to be revisited. Saugus having to pay the exorbitant fee per student compared to other communities puts a significant strain on our operating budget.

3) The above items and rising costs in general are reasons why our new growth in the form of economic development is critical to our continued financial success. We realize much of the most visible development has been on Route 1 and we all share the same concern as to the impact it will have on the already congested roadways. I feel we need to work with our state delegation to make certain the Copeland Circle Project (which was on the table years ago but stalled) becomes a reality. Anything that can be done to alleviate the traffic is a benefit in my opinion. I also look at it like this, at least when the project happens in Saugus as opposed to Lynnfield, Peabody, Danvers, etc., Saugus residents benefit from the economic growth in the overall tax levy. If these developments are built elsewhere, Saugus wouldn’t experience the economic benefit but would still have to absorb the Route 1 traffic as cars would still head south to work in the morning and north to head home in the evening.

4) I am a strong supporter of reducing the speed limit in town and also making sure we have the public safety personnel necessary to enforce the traffic laws. I agree with the Town Manager when he said we can lower the speed limit and put signs everywhere throughout town but without the much needed traffic enforcement it will not have the overall effect on public safety that we are looking for. I feel the 2019 budget needs to support appropriate traffic enforcement.

5) I share many of the concerns of others in town regarding the 40B project proposed to abut Prankers Pond. I realize with our being under the 10% target for affordable housing inventory it makes us more vulnerable as a community for 40B projects; however, that location in my opinion is not appropriate. Besides it taking up much of the area abutting the beautiful Prankers Pond, which is habitat to many species of wildlife, it also will add to the existing heavy traffic flow on route 1. I am also concerned on the strain it will cause on the town’s resources such as public safety and our schools.

In closing I would like to wish everyone a happy and safe new year. I hope 2019 is a year of luck, health and happiness for all.

 

Selectman Scott Brazis

Scott Brazis
Selectman

  Q: What do you consider the most significant events that happened in Saugus during 2018?

  A: There were many significant and positive events that happened in Saugus throughout 2018. Several noteworthy events include the construction groundbreaking on our new Middle-High School, important capital investments such as new fuel dispensers at our DPW and Public Safety Building and a new fire engine to prioritize the safety and security of our first responders and residents. I am also proud that the Town was named a four-time recipient of the Green Community grant program for energy-efficiency projects in Town and has been awarded and received an estimated $750K in total.

  Q: What do you see as the major issues facing the town in 2019?

  A: In my opinion, the major priorities facing the Town of Saugus in 2019 are the town-wide safety improvements for pedestrians and traffic. The completion and recommendations of a Town-wide speed limit study from the Town’s expert traffic engineers, implementation of the great grant opportunities for our trail crossings throughout Town, the continued healthy economic growth and development on Route 1, and the continued construction and progress on our new Middle-High School.

 

Selectman Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell
Selectman

 Q: What do you consider the most significant events that happened in Saugus during 2018?

  A: I would have to say seeing the new high school/middle school being built is the highlight of 2018. I graduated from Saugus High School in 1988 and a new school was needed then. I definitely feel we played a small part in helping galvanize citizens in Saugus. People in town saw what could be accomplished in 2015 working as a team and many other citizens came out to really push the initiative. It’s really a special time to be a citizen in Saugus. We are seeing history in the making,

  Q: What do you see as the major issues facing the town in 2019?

  A: In 2019 I would like to revisit the traffic issue on route 1. A few years ago I spoke to our State Senator about shutting the traffic light in Peabody down. At the time Senator McGee said it would cost millions of dollars. I’m not an expert on highways but I can’t imagine it costing that much to simply shut down a traffic light. I’m not saying the traffic light is the main cause for the traffic but it is definitely a contributor in the evening commute. I think the state needs to focus on infrastructure improvements in our town sooner than later. The Walnut St. and Main St. overpasses are in constant gridlock along with route 1.

 

Selectman Jennifer D’Eon

Jennifer D’Eon
Selectman

  Q: What do you consider the most significant events that happened in Saugus during 2018?

  A: Breaking ground on the new High School Middle School was a major event in 2018, I was extremely proud to be present for it.

  Q: What do you see as the major issues facing the town in 2019?

  A: We will have to wait and see what comes online in 2019!

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