Cohasset Town Meeting spends $45 Million in 3 hours

Cohasset Town Meeting Voted $45 Million in a blink

When there is little and no conversation about money, it means the town manager has done his job.

Accordingly, Cohasset voters passed an almost $45 million budget in short order and with little discussion. The budget had been discussed for over three months by the budget planning committee, capital budget, advisory and the selectmen. There were no surprises. Capital budget, chaired by Jack Keniley, was better than outstanding.

When news commentators smirk that the budget passed with no discussion, and a 45 minute discussion took place over whether the selectmen should be required to utilize a citizen search committee as opposed to a professional recruiter – let’s just say it’s a stupid comment.

Cohasset worries about its money every damn day.

Last January Town Manager Chris Senior entered Town Hall and like a monster sponge, cleaned up the political and financial messes he had inherited. He may not have changed any minds, but he calmed things down big time. Immediately, selectmen, who formerly were attacking one another in public and behind the scenes, were now having birthday parties and cupcakes and flowers. And, they were laughing. What a difference a professional town manager makes.

TM Chris Senior has said to many townspeople that the town has its priorities straight: “Three bakeries and three pizza parlors.” Selectman Martha Gjesteby has now begun to watch his weight.

You, reader, can credit Select Chair Fred Koed for the reach for calming. He was a soldier in all respects. Several members of his board wrote weekly commentaries in another newspaper about his lack of leadership. The acting town manager tried to blind side him with a new controversy at every meeting.

In all respects, Fred Koed had been the town manager since he took over the chair of the board in 2013 and up until the day Chris Senior arrived. It’s interesting that of all the people in town, Fred may be the only one who is actually qualified to be a town manager. He has a degree in public administration and he knows how government works and how it should work. He’s a very private person and a good chess player. He doesn’t broadcast all his moves. And he can put together an Excel spreadsheet rivaling any accountant.

Fred has been an up-front guy for the town for so many years. He didn’t take the peach jobs. He became chair of the advisory committee when the chair got p-oed over something or other and quit. Fred was there to pick up the pieces and move the committee forward. He did it and he did it well.

The 1994 the board of selectmen and others urged Fred to run for water commission. Many water commissioners had resigned and were depressed over the poor job they were doing.

Shortly after Fred was elected the water stopped on Jerusalem Road and all hell broke loose.

Fred quietly and methodically began to fix the water department; he hired a consultant to examine the frozen open and frozen closed valves. Water commissioners met 3 and four times a week in those days. The Tinytown Gazette had just commenced publishing and four writers covered the water news incessantly: myself, Pete Kasperowicz, John McNabb and Mark Bell. For about a year the only thing we covered was the water news. We threw in some blonde jokes to satisfy readers. During that time our paper increased circulation. Everyone everywhere seemed to want to read the water news and our editorials.

In fall 1994 the Tinytown Gazette named Fred Koed our first (and last) person of the year. We actually held a dinner for Fred at a restaurant on Marina Bay.

But we digress.

During a brief presentation at the start of annual town meeting Senior spoke about the strides made in the budget and told members why the union contracts looked higher, they still only represented 2 ½ percent increases. The budget also showed a 30 percent increase in the reserve funds.

Senior, like many others over the years, has promised a new town web page in the near future. He even showed us a picture of what it will look like. He added that GIS information will go online in May and that residents will be able to order all-facilities stickers there also. Eventually, we will be able to see detailed views of the zoning and sewer maps.

We’re lov’n it.

Senior told the meeting that FY2016 has already begun.

Koed told the meeting that this year (Article 3) had not been a normal budget seasons and that there had been many moving pieces. “Early in year budget planning worked out spending between schools and the town side; not everyone was totally happy. Some members of advisory committee are concerned about structural issues in budget.”

Koed noted that Cohasset was named as the 13th best high school in the state in the US News and World Report. “It’s a good school system. It’s managed to provide Cohasset kids with a first class education. He added that the board of selectmen has recognized the delicate balance between the town and the schools and had worked together to achieve that balance with a 5-0 vote for the budget.

he advisory committee voted 5-4 to not approve the budget.Advisory chair Peter Pescatore said the majority of the membership felt the budget put too much money in the operating budget. “Our revenue stream comes from taxes. Only 7 percent comes from a commercial base. At some point our cost line and revenue line will intersect. We feel this budget brings us closer to a change in services and overrides.”

While Pescatore applauded the town manager to move the number downward, he said the budget still reflected a doubling of the use of free cash going into department budgets.

“The revenue increase is real but the question is are we spending it in the best way?” Pescatore asked, noting that in the near future the town was talking about a new town hall, reaching for a triple AAA rating and other expenses.

All of the articles passed with the exception of the citizen articles covered in separate articles.

Meeting voted $9,025.00 to pay unpaid bills.

Voted 288,545.27 to supplement specific departmental budgets and deficits.

One million dollars will go into the Stabilization fund.

One hundred thousand dollars will go into the OPEB Trust fund.

Two hundred thousand dollars will go into the Town Stabilization fund

And to meet the above appropriations, one million three hundred thousand dollars ($1,300,000) will be raised and appropriated from taxation and other general revenues of the town.

Voted: $944,332.17 to be appropriated and spent by the town manager with the approval of the board of selectmen for the purpose of purchasing certain terms or services for public works, project management, finance (software) fire, police, harbor master, and IT monies for the schools including $75,000 or bus acquisition (lease) for the schools.

One hundred thousand dollars was voted for the facilities stabilization fund projects (windows, painting, HVAC components at town buildings, etc.) For the first time the town doesn’t have to go to town meeting to replace a window or paint the library.

A Sewer District Bylaw was established.

A reauthorization of an inter-municipal agreement with South Shore Recycling Cooperative was signed.

The meeting voted $150,000 to be utilized on repairing private way roads.

$150,000 was voted to be spent by the town manager on town building repairs and a performance management program for town operations.

Funds for dredging the harbor: $41,345.95; on advice of town counsel, voted a liability article (11) to make dredging the harbor possible and make removing dredging material (sand) to Sandy Beach. Sandy Beach will be elevated to two feet higher as a result of this project and Sandy Beach officials are delighted.

Voted $65,000 for a town hall restoration study. Capital budget thinks the $10 to $11 million estimate to restore and renovate town hall is not sustainable. This study will look at alternatives.

Meeting voted to add additional real estate exemptions (Article 14) and established a stabilization fund for the South Shore Regional School.

And…Meeting voted to allow Registered Marijuana dispensaries; the town was required to establish an area by the state. Meeting member Owen O’Malley said that would come back to bite us and he’s right.

Community Preservation Projects were all voted.

See your warrant.

© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed