Each week, the Abington News is asking the three residents running for the board of selectmen a question to help voters better understand them as candidates. Election Day is Saturday, April 24.
This week’s question was: What do you see as the top three challenges facing Abington over the next three years? And how do specifically plan on addressing them?
(Responses are provided in the order they were received)
1) Budgeting – As Federal and State aid patch up the budgets temporarily, we can’t lose sight on the fact that these bills are going to come due sooner rather than later. We will need proven leadership with creative thinking to maintain our services moving forward.
2) Affordable housing – During my first term we created an Affordable Housing Trust and Commitee. In the next three years we will need to take more action, that’s why we have requested $50,000.00 to hire a consultant to work with the Affordable Housing Trust to facilitate the creation of affordable, and specifically senior housing. We need to find out the feasibility of using the North and Center schools and/or properties for affordable housing.
3) Staffing – Before the pandemic hit we were in good shape to hire a Town Planner and Human Resources Director, both are much needed additions. With current loss of revenue we are forced to think outside the box. That’s why we recently requested $300,000.00 from the state budget to establish a regional planning office to be shared with the towns of Whitman and Rockland.
I have identified three areas below as important challenges facing Abington over the next three years. In each category, the Board of Selectman will need to partner closely with the Town Manager. As part of that team, I propose that we:
1. COVID RECOVERY PLAN
a. Identify deficits and carefully allocate additional sources of revenue, such as Federal/State relief funds and future revenue from marijuana dispensary companies in a fiscally responsible manner; and b. Identify community relations and outreach programs to celebrate the “Grand Re-opening of Abington”.
2. EASE TAX PAYER BURDEN
a. Attract and retain commerce to produce additional revenue, but with a keen eye toward not overdeveloping and loosing the hometown feel of Abington; and b. Carefully scrutinize costs of Capital Improvement Projects, to include, but not limited to: physical and environmental infrastructure, potential water shortage or quality concerns, and the fire station replacement.
3. AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Work in conjunction with the Trustees of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to provide for the creation and preservation of affordable housing in accordance with the provisions of GL Chapter 44B
Abington faces 3 specific challenges in the near future: economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, budget deliberations to ensure we continue to properly fund our Town’s departments and services, and keeping our promise to our senior citizens with more affordable senior housing.
As your next Selectman, my mission is to serve for A Better Future, A Better Abington. I am determined that together we can face the challenges head on and achieve the success our Town, residents, taxpayers, seniors, students and employees deserve. Throughout my experience in the private sector and as Abington’s Vice Chairman of the Board of Health, I have been dedicated to my goals and commitments. I will search all avenues to guarantee Abington reaches the best solutions.
Economic Recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic:
Abington has been hit hard by not only the health effects of Covid-19, but the economic effects as well. Our small businesses, local restaurants and eateries lost revenues due to occupancy control, lack of foot-traffic, shutdowns from the State and other various obstacles to keep their doors open and their employees employed. The loss of revenue for our Abington businesses ultimately hurt Abington’s tax revenue. In total, Abington lost an estimated $600,000 in revenue (meals taxes, excise taxes and other fees) as an effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully there is a silver lining. Abington will receive $1.6 million in CARES Act federal funding over the next 2 years to hopefully allow the Town to make up any revenue shortfall as we are in discussions for budget FY22 currently.
When Abington’s businesses thrive, so does the town. As Selectman, I will proudly work alongside our Town manager Scott Lambiase, State Representative Alyson Sullivan, and State Senator John Keenan for economic recovery programs to aid our local businesses to encourage growth. As Selectman, I will be advocating for the growth of Abington’s economy. We need to have Abington’s businesses thriving again and better than ever before. There are additional federal and state programs our town can apply for to grow our small businesses and lessen the hardships our economy endured in 2020.
While applying for additional economic recovery programs and funds, I will make it a duty of mine to promote our local businesses. The power of communication and promotion is a mighty tool to help grow Abington’s economy. Just as I have while I was on the Board of Health, I will continue to promote our local businesses.
Budget Deliberations to ensure we continue to properly fund our Town’s departments and services:
While working in the private sector as a manager, I learned the key to a successful budget is fiscal responsibility. As Selectman, it will be one of my responsibilities to make sure the Finance Committee is proposing a Town Budget that maintains the town’s services while making sure that we keep the tax burden on our citizens as low as possible.
The $1.6 million of CARES Act federal funding over the next 2 years, means the town should have a balanced budget for FY22 according to Town Manager Scott Lambiase.
Additionally, I would like to see Abington move forward with Union Point to develop commercial properties on Abington’s land. Depending on what commercial properties pop up in Abington’s portion of Union Point, they could bring in large amounts of tax revenue for the town. Lastly, I would like to see the North and Center Elementary School lots developed. As it stands now, Abington still owns the properties and there are several issues with the standing structures. I am in favor of the Town doing a project in those locations or selling them.
Keeping our promise to our senior citizens with more affordable senior housing:
One of the loudest calls to action in Abington is for more affordable senior housing. Our seniors citizens love Abington and the strong community we have built. As Selectman, I will advocate on their behalf for more development of affordable senior housing. I think this would be a good use of the North and Center Elementary School lots. I will also work in conjunction with the Affordable Housing Trust Committee.