Tonight’s meeting started with a closed-door executive session. The stated purpose was to “discuss complaints or charges against a public officer, employee, or staff member, or individuals, and to discuss litigation.” There was no word given about who the subject of the complaints and charges is, or who is leveling said complaints and charges.
The public session resumed at 7:42 p.m. No announcement was made regarding whether any votes were taken during the executive session meeting.
MOMENTS OF SILENCE
Chairman Kevin DiMarzio led the board in a moment of silence for Howard Cullinan, a former custodian in Abington schools, who died in January, and Susan Boerman, who died last Thursday in a house fire on Linwood Street.
HAGERTY COMMENDS HEALTH DEPARTMENT AND MARTY GOLIGHTY
Selectman Alex Hagerty extended his appreciation to the Health Department and volunteers that helped distribute COVID-19 test kits earlier this month. The test kits were part of a bulk purchase made by Plymouth County and distributed to the county’s 27 cities and towns. Abington was allotted 11,000 test kits. Hagerty thanks Town Manager Scott Lambiase, Selectman Alex Bezanson and state Rep. Alyson Sullivan for picking up and bringing back the test kits.
He then extended his “deep, deep appreciation” to past Public Health Director Marty Golightly who left his position earlier this month. “Having served on the Abington Board of Health from 2019-2021, I saw the tremendous work Marty did and put into his job,” he said. “Being a public health director is not an easy position, especially when given the biggest pandemic since 1918.”
Golightly cited threats from the public as a factor in his decision to leave. “Bullying, harassment, and threatening town officials in this community, I do not tolerate,” he said, adding “just be kind to one another.”
Finally, Hagerty pointed out that along with it being Valentine’s Day, it’s also Frederick Douglas Day.
BOARD OF HEALTH VACANCY
The board voted unanimously to place a fourth Board of Health seat on the Town Election ballot.
“I think the people should decide,” said Selectman Alex Bezanson. The board could have chosen to have the seat filled during a joint meeting with the Board of Health.
DELPAPA GIVES APD UPDATE
The ranks of Abington’s police department remains about 30 percent understaffed but reinforcements are slowly on their way, Chief David DelPapa told selectmen. Two officers have left since he started as top cop: one officer transferred to another department, and Deputy Chief Chris Cutter retired. However, two officers will be finishing the police academy in the coming weeks and he’s made conditional offers to seven others. Meanwhile, he acknowledged, the current staff is still being forced to work a lot of overtime. “To say we’re doing more with less is putting it mildly,” he said, while thanking the town’s officers.
Other department-related updates included progress on a new department website, work on procuring new firearms, and the start of the switchover to a regional dispatch center.
TOWN LAND MOVING TO CONSERVATION
Abington’s rediscovered push to conserve more public land will take a big leap forward this week. Selectmen voted unanimously to ask the Conservation Commission to take control of multiple parcels of land off Oakland Street, Chestnut Street, and Rockland Street. The Conservation Commission is expected to take up the matter at a joint meeting with the Open Space Committee Tuesday night.
“It’s imperative of us to start reserving this land for future generations,” Board Chairman Kevin DiMarzio said.
The Chestnut Street and Rockland Street parcels were originally slated to be auctioned off this past summer. The Chestnut Street parcel was pulled off prior to the auction. The Rockland Street land was auctioned off, but title problems were uncovered during the closing, and the town took back control.
Lambiase said the town hopes to go after some grants to create paths through town-owned land.
TOWN MEETING WARRANTS CLOSED; BUDGET UPDATE
The board voted to close the annual and special town meeting warrants. Town Manager Scott Lambiase said he hopes to post a draft version on the town website by the end of the week. Some of the language may change, he warned, as the town is still finalizing its FY ‘23 operating budget and capital plan, as well as other articles. Lambiase said the budget is in better shape, and they are looking at adding a couple new positions, such as a new DPW laborer and additional children’s librarian. The town also has about $1.3 million in free cash – or its budget surplus from FY 21 – as well as federal stimulus dollars to help fund capital needs. Lambiase did say that the town will need to have a “serious conversation” about its trash program, as the cost continues to grow faster than other areas of the budget. Towns like Hanson still have a transfer station; other towns require residents to buy trash bags in a pay-as-you-throw format. In 2008, the town passed a $650,000 override to cover the cost of trash budget, but the actual cost is now double that amount.
The board discussion got testy at the end when Hagerty, who acknowledged this is his first budget cycle, questioned the role of the Board of Selectmen in preparing the annual budget. “What role as chief executive officers do we play going into the budget knowing what we’re looking for in the next fiscal year,” he asked, adding he didn’t feel the Board had specifically scheduled agenda items in previous years to discuss details of the annual spending plan.
Other board members told Hagerty he was wrong, that the process is spelled out in the charter, and that they discuss the budget regularly.
“Every single year we’ve done this,” board Chairman Kevin DiMarzio said
“You’re just wrong,” Selectman Tim Chapin said.
Under the town charter, the Town Manager is charged with preparing the town budget “with the advice and consent” of the Board of Selectmen, and submitting it to the Finance Committee, which then meets with each department head.
“If you have concerns you certainly can bring them up,” Selectmen Alex Bezanson said.