Town lays off some employees, due for $4M in U.S. aid
Citizens have one immediate task and much to consider down the road in situations related to Covid-19.
Town officials suggest voters act now, before the June 6 election, and mail in their ballots. Taxpayers are urged to keep a wary eye for the state of town finances by fall as the state faces a $4 billion to $6 billion shortfall.
As other Massachusetts towns face layoffs, some have already occurred here, even as word came this week about a new round of federal funds, topping $4 million.
But, first, vote. By now, all registered voters should have received a postcard-sized ballot application card in their mailboxes to fill out and return to the town. Once the application is received, the town will send an official annual election ballot to then fill out and send back.
Voters are encouraged to return the application as soon as possible by mail (postage is prepaid). Ballots may then be mailed or put in the town’s three conveniently located drop boxes (full explanation here >>):
- East Arlington – 175 Mass. Ave., in front of the Fox Branch Library;
- Center – In front of Town Hall; and
- Heights – Corner of Mass. Ave. and Park Street.
“We’re working to provide outreach and safe voting,” Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine told the Select Board on May 18.
The pandemic led to a town election delayed to June, and officials are adapting to those conditions with mail-in ballots. At some point, the crisis will cast its spell more decisively on town finances.
Asked whether in the past two months the town has laid off or furloughed any of its employees, Caryn Malloy, town personnel director, wrote May 18 that one full- and four part-time seasonal employees were let go a couple of weeks earlier than normal in connection with the operation of the skating rink.
Three full-time employees associated with the Menotomy Weatherization Program were let go. The program relies on the ability to take in receipts from performing work and with the pandemic, activities were shut down by the state.
The rink employees' employment would have ended with the usual ending of the ice rink season, she noted.
Nothing else formal is planned at this time, she said. She declined to name the individual employees.
New funding coming
On the plus side, Patch has reported, without citing a specific source, that Arlington is to get $4,022,564 in the latest CARES Act funding.
Asked to confirm, Chapdelaine wrote last week: "I cannot confirm that exact figure, but I can confirm that it is within the approximate range that has been shared with us by state leaders. Generally, these funds can be used for expenditures related to the town's response to Covid-19. However, they cannot be used to supplant already budgeted funds or to back-fill revenue losses. We are currently working with all departments to account for expenses related to the pandemic and we are also working on projecting future pandemic response-related costs.
"We will know more in the coming days as we work through this process."
Meanwhile, the Select Board on May 18 took these actions:
Three warrant articles approved
The board unanimously approved the following budget-related warrant articles for the June annual Town Meeting:
- Article 50 – Endorsement of CDBG Application – Federal funds aimed at offering rental assistance for low-income residents in need due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in addition to traditional resources and supports offered through CDBG funding
- Article 51 – Revolving Funds – Funds to repair public and private ways; rentals for Town Hall, Robbins Library, Fox Library, Robbins House and cemetery chapel; and fees for Uncle Sam, Board of Health, life support services (ambulance), Council On Aging, Conservation Commission, library vendor, Gibbs School energy, field user and white goods recycling.
- Article 52 – Endorsement of Parking Benefit District Expenditures – To pay for operating and capital expenses
FY 21 budget outlook drops due to Covid-19
Next year’s state aid to Arlington will likely be cut because of the state’s expected $4-billion to $6-billion revenue shortfall. Read the budget-related document >>
“I expect significant impacts in the ensuing year, and it will be hard to adopt a budget,” Chapdelaine said. Working with the town’s revenue working group and Long Range Planning Committee, Chapdelaine is investigating a range of scenarios.
“We’re discussing the impact of our expectations, including state aid, and how much surplus to use. We hope to present to the Finance Committee our FY 21 budget recommendations before the June 15 Town Meeting,” he said.
“The state has approximately $5 million in CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) for distribution to cities and towns, but that money can be used only for the Covid response, not to backfill revenue loss or already-budgeted expenses. A large amount of CARES money is available to the town, but we need to determine how much can be accessed,” adds Chapdelaine.
Hurd said, “The numbers are bleak but not unexpected. It gives me hope that the town is being proactive in the potentially hard times to come.”
Curro added: “If the state’s outlook is as dire as it looks, it will impact one or more commitments we made to prioritize one of last year’s overrides because the math doesn’t add up.”
Member Steve DeCourcey said, “Projections are challenging, because we don’t know what the state government will do, and the state doesn’t know what the federal government will do. We need to get as much information as we can, and to continue pressing for federal help because state and local governments need balanced budgets.”
Dan Dunn said, “Adding to the unknowns is what school will be like in the fall. Distance learning could dramatically affect school budgets.”
Mass. Ave., Lake St. trees to be replaced
This summer, trees will be replaced in the following locations, as recommended by Michael Rademacher, director of public works, and unanimously approved by the board:
- Mass. Ave. sidewalk (Pleasant Street to Franklin Street) and Broadway Plaza – Replace a honey locust at 420 Mass. Ave., which wouldn’t survive the construction of a driveway apron, with a red maple 10 feet from the driveway opening. Additionally, plant nine red maples and green vase zelkovas in front of 309 Broadway (Brickstone Pizza), along Broadway adjacent to the American Alarm building parking lot and along Franklin Street adjacent to Play Time.
- Minuteman Bikeway at Lake Street – Replace six trees with eight lindens, hop hornbeams, hornbeams, tulip trees and Princeton elms in the immediate vicinity. The bike path at Lake Street is widened, so pedestrians and cyclists can have their own lanes when crossing the street, impacting the current trees. The DPW also commits to plant additional street trees in adjacent neighborhoods during the next available spring and fall planting programs.
“This is a great tree replacement program, and I appreciate that Michael Rademacher consulted with the tree committee and warden,” says Curro.
“I’m excited for both projects, especially the sidewalk project, which is a long time in coming,” says Hurd.
DeCourcey agrees. “These are two great projects, and I look forward to their implementation.”
Susan Stamps, tree committee member, also supports these projects, adding, “Michael Rademacher doesn’t need permission from the tree committee because Mass Ave is a state highway, and trees on the bike path aren’t in the public way.”
AHS graduation banners to display on Mass. Ave.
From now until June 21, be on the lookout for banners along Mass. Ave. celebrating the Arlington High School Class of 2020.
With the current pandemic, AHS graduation will not take place as normal, and this is a way to honor the graduating seniors. The banners will include photos of each AHS senior.
“It’s a great idea and way to recognize the achievements of high school students,” said DeCourcey.
Mahon concurred: “Kudos to the school administration and staff. I appreciate people adapting to the current times we’re in.”
Mugar Woods fire addressed
A “very disturbing” fire involving propane tanks occurred Saturday, May 16, in the woods at the Mugar site, in East Arlington, Chapdelaine said.
“We’re currently working with the Police Department, town counsel, homeless task force and other town organizations to develop the right next steps. I plan to put a lot of effort into working with this group because we need to focus on creating a safe environment,” he said.
Hazard-mitigation plan accepted
The board unanimously approved the town’s hazard-mitigation plan. This plan proactively identifies actions that will reduce dangers to life and property resulting from natural hazard events, such as flooding.
“This plan meets several regularity guidelines to better protect ourselves against future hazards,” Chapdelaine said.
New committee appointments
The board unanimously approved the following committee appointments (all terms expire Jan. 21, 2023):
Disability Commission – Paul Parravano
- Parravano, blind since infanthood and former president of the Housing Corporation of Arlington, said, “Arlington’s Disability Commission gives the town a good opportunity for folks with disabilities of many types. I’m delighted to use the town’s voice-output voting machine, and want to address transportation, sidewalks and streets.
LGBTQIA & Rainbow Commission – Maura Albert, Leonard Goldstein, Susan Ryan-Vollmar
- Albert, a retired elementary school teacher, said, “I’m a proponent of inter-generational connections, and excited to better know my Arlington community and help with LGBTQIA issues.”
- Goldstein, chief financial officer for an LGBTQIA nonprofit, says, “I’ve been doing this work on a professional basis, and thrilled to be joining this commission and give back to my community.”
- Ryan-Vollmar, a media and communications professional, is “thrilled to be joining this commission. Arlington is a wonderfully welcoming town, yet there’s always room for improvement in collaborating between different groups.”
New election worker
Savannah Curro is now a town election worker, as approved by the board (4-0, Curro recused because she is his daughter).
Keno To Go available at Giles Wines & Spirits
Giles Wines & Spirits, 137 Mass. Ave, now sells Keno to Go, a game that gives players the chance to win cash prizes, as unanimously approved by the board.
This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Sunday, May 24, 2020. Bob Sprague contributed.
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