Q: The news story on Channel 5 has rejuvenated interest in the water leaks that the DPW has been working to correct. What is the current status of the leaks?
A: Hopefully you've been able to follow this story over the past several years while the Selectmen, DPW Director, Water Department and I have worked on this issue, including several long Board of Selectmen meetings where we encouraged residents to ask questions.
Let me talk about the Channel 5 report. I agreed to be interviewed for that report for two reasons, I'm confident that we have made tremendous progress towards improving the water department and because the Selectmen and I have always and will continue to be open with all of our challenges and issues that we are trying to resolve. You may have noticed that no other towns were willing to be interviewed for this story
Like most news stories in today's media only several sentence fragments were used out of an interview that went on for 20 - 25 minutes. Several people have commented on my reference to a "cocktail" and that we have inadvertently contributed to this problem.
The "cocktail" that I spoke of was a term that one of the consultants had used last year during a presentation to the town at a Selectmen's meeting. The cocktail consists of a combination of the makeup of the raw water, the PH level of the water and the sequestering agent that we were using to address raw water impurities such as iron and manganese. After reviewing the information from our consultant as well as a report of the American Water Works Association "AWWA" that was published in March 2008 the DPW proposed changes to our water treatment to the Department of Environmental Protection. The changes would address one of the possible contributing factors to the pin hole phenomenom.
The report that was published by the AWWA can be found on the AWWA website, http://apps.awwa.org/WaterLibrary/showabstract.aspx?an=JAW_0066132. The report references the many different contributing factors of pinhole leaks including "microbial activity, material imperfections, cabonaceous manufacturing residues on the pipe surface, stray currents, soldering flux and other factors. As is apparent from these different theories, no single best theory has emerged, and each theory has weaknesses that illustrate the complexity of localized copper corrosion. Some of the discrepancies in these theories may be associated with differences in experimental approaches among electrochemical, bench scale, and full-scale observations.
Most likely, pitting has multiple causes, and no single all-encompassing theory would be applicable."
The level of PH and amount and type of sequestering agents that we use is all highly regulated by the DEP. Any changes that we make are only after we receive approval from the DEP. We, as is every public water supply, are required to report on a regular basis the results of our water quality tests.
During this time we were working to fix the leaks that already existed. Some people, including the Channel 5 reporter, have asked why doesn't the town pay for the repairs. This is something the Selectmen considered but ultimately decided that it wouldn't be fair fo the rest of the water takers. The Water department is run as an "enterprise fund" meaning the revenues from the water bills pay for the water department expenses. Taxes do not contribute to the water department budget. So one way of looking at the question of should all water takers pay for the repairs on a single homeowner's property? The Selectmen reviewed other town policies and questioned several association groups and all of our consultants and engineers. We could not find a single instance when a town or water department
paid for the repairs on homeowner property. The Selectmen were concerned for the people who had these sudden, unanticipated repairs so they decided to create a funding mechanism that would allow homeowners to pay for their repairs over 5 - 10 years.
While we worked to repair all of the leaks as quickly as possible, we needed the homeowners to participate in the repairs. In some circumstances homeowners were reluctant to make repairs and didn't respond to our requests. These leaks, that went unrepaired for upwards of a year, leaked 1,000s to 10,000s of gallons per day. Multiply that by the number of open leaks and we had a huge unaccounted for water problem. Eventually we were able to get all of the homeowners on board with making their repairs and as of today only have two repairs that need to be made, and those are scheduled to be repaired.
We have established a program of leak detection twice per year and have recently been awarded a $15,000 grant by the DEP for assistance in leak detection and we are mandated under the DEP water withdrawal permit to limit our unaccounted for water at industry standards of 10 - 16%. Obviously we are looking to make that number as low as we can so that we can continue to lower our expenses.
Finally, someone asked why aren't we working on alternative water sources. We are. We've just completed a master plan that was presented to the Selectmen. Water sources is the main topic of the report and we present many different options. We've added two sources over recent years that were approved by Town Meeting. These were additional wells near our two existing wells. Unfortunately we are also slowly losing one of our older sources. It has been going through a period of reduced water production requiring us to take it off line and perform maintenance. This returns it to high production for a while, but each time we go through this cycle it more rapidly returns to slower production. We are currently exploring a new site, we will conduct some test drilling and we are also working on
intertown agreements with all of our abutting towns.
Q: What happened to Gumps Farm?
A: The Building Department has been working with the owners of Gump's farm for some time in order to address some safety concerns. The owners expanded a building on the property that was used as a store front. Obviously with this type of setup, the public was invited in to this building. The Building department and the owner's engineer have worked with the owners to identify the building's shortfalls and we were hoping that they would implement those changes. Unfortunately they have not decided to make those changes.
The Selectmen have reached out to the owner's in an effort to assist, whether to help with communication or to pursue long term solutions, but it appears that the family has decided to seek other options.
Please don't hesitate to give me a call if you have any additional questions.
Q: Why do we need an HR Director?
A: The town's services, and operating budget, is all about people. Having an HR Director will help me manage those resources, manage benefits for those people and control our costs.
There are three main functions that this person, if we are able to hire someone within our budget;
1) Assist me and other department heads in the hiring process. This will include standardizing advertising, interviewing, negotiations, and all other aspects of hiring.
2) Assist me in the negotiation of the union and individual contracts. We currently have 5 unions, 4 of which are under the jurisdiction of me and the Board of Selectmen.
1. Teachers - Under the jurisdiction of the School Committee
3. Police Officers
We also have the personnel employees, non union, who work for me and / or other department heads but receive benefits and compensation under the authority of the personnel board.
Finally there are a number of individual contracts including me, DPW Director, Police Chief, Fire Chief and Finance Director, as well as a number of contracts in the School department including the Superintedent, Principals, Asst. Principal and Business Manager.
3) Secure benefits. We annually have to secure benefits for our employees, which currently include medical, dental and life insurance as well as flexible spending accounts and optional insurance for disability. The health insurance products have been transforming and keeping up with the new products that could be cost savings to the town and / or enhanced products to our employees is important.
These are just some of the duties that would be assigned to a new human resource person. These tasks have traditionally been covered by the town administrator and the assistant town accountant, but because of the importance and the potential for cost savings I believe it is important to fill this position as soon as possible.
This position was created by a Personnel committee two years ago that consisted of Personnel Board members, Selectmen and others (non-employees). Town meeting approved this position.
Q: Where can I find out more information about the Public Safety Project?
A: There are several ways
The best way is to call the Police or Fire Department and tell them you would like to see the station. They will schedule a time or likely just tell you to come down. The trouble we have is the building looks fine from the street, but you have to go inside to see the problems.
Other ways are to stop by the table at Norfolk Community Day and talk to the Chiefs. They will have some pictures and concept drawings available to see. Community Day is sponsored by the Lions on Saturday, June 7 from 10:30 to 4:00 at Holmes field on Myrtle Street.
Q: When will Street sweeping begin?
In an effort to keep you informed, the DPW has begun the Street Sweeping process for Spring 2008.
Over the next several weeks the Department of Public Works will be sweeping the streets throughout town. Fire hydrants will be utilized to fill the equipment during this process. Please be advised that some residents may experience dirty water and are advised to check washing machine water prior to use. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our water users. This information has also been posted on the DPW home page.
Please let us know if you have any questions.
Department of Public Works
Norfolk, MA 02056
Q: What is the status of Verizon providing TV service in Norfolk?
A: The Selectmen have reached agreement with Verizon and they are now offering service to Norfolk residents. They currently are able to provide service to over 82% of our households. Unfortunately, they cannot offer service to those homes with a 384 exchange. Verizon expects to be able to provide that service within the next 12 - 24 months, pending negotiations with Wrentham, where the exchange originates.
July 18, 2007
The final report from generated by the MAPC (Metro Area Planning Council) on the development analysis funded through a technical grant received by Norfolk and Walpole is available here.
Q: Has Norfolk approved, or will it be approving soon, the addition of Verizon FIOS TV service in town? (I am eagerly awaiting it.)
Is there a time frame for this approval to go through and the service made available?
A: A representative from Verizon will be attending the BOS meeting on 4/9/07 to discuss their plans. They have not begun the process of receiving approval for Cable TV rights in Norfolk, so our sole provider remains Comcast.
The timeframe is up to them at this point. Depending on when they begin the process, will determine how long until we reach a deal. The rules for approving cable access in municipalities is currently being considered by the State Legislature. There is the potential that Town's will lose much of their current authority, but this is a highly debated topic.
Q: I just moved to Norfolk from Franklin and was wodering if you could give us a update on the status of the proposed Stop & Stop. I have heard they would like to be open by the fall of 2007. Also, I heard rumors that the train station was going to be relocated to the other side of Main Street by the MBTA lot near the proposed Stop& Shop Site. Thank you
A: Welcome to Town. Stop & Shop continues to move through the planning board and other land use boards regarding their proposal. They continue to inform us that they plan to be open for Thanksgiving 2007.
I have spoken to several of the land use board / committee members who have told me their are no stumbling blocks from the Town's point of view, so S&S's progress appears to be solely upon their shoulders at this point.
We have had some discussions with the MBTA about potential changes to the MBTA station. They are hesitant to move the station West bound because of the lack of accessability by handicapped riders. We are continuing to work with the MBTA on this and the overall need for more parking in Town.
Q: I read in the Country Gazette that a committee will be formed to review the finances for the Town. Has this committee been formed and what is the process to be involved? - Thank you!
A: The Selectmen are looking to form a committee that reviews all of the Town's operations, with an eye toward saving money through creating more efficient processing or regionalizing services with other towns. You should send a letter to the Board of Selectmen at 1 Liberty Lane, Norfolk, MA 02056 if you are interested in helping.
Q: How do I place articles on the Town Meeting Warrant?
A: This information is provided by the Town Clerk:
I am responding to your question related to submitting articles to be placed on the Warrant. Chapter 39, Section 10 of the Massachusetts General Laws is the reference for placing articles on the Warrant. In summary, Chapter 39, Section 10 states that "The Selectmen shall insert in the warrant for the annual meeting all subjects the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by ten or more registered voters of the town and in the warrant for every special town meeting all subjects the insertion of which shall be requested of them in writing by one hundred registered voters..." To view Chapter 39, Section 10 in its entirety, you may go to www.mass.gov, search general laws and choose ch.39, sec. 10. This is also the Chapter and Section that
outlines the requirements for posting town meeting warrants. Article I, Section 5 of the Town of Norfolk General Bylaws provides for a more restrictive notification to voters by requiring that, in addition to the statutory posting requirement, a copy of the Warrant be mailed to each residence. The mailing is not a statutory requirement; it is a Town Bylaw requirement, which provides a copy of the Warrant be delivered to each household so that voters attending town meeting will be aware of the items to be discussed. The cost to mail the Warrant for the upcoming town meeting was $468.25.
Additional information you may find helpful can be found in Article I of the Town of Norfolk General Bylaws which outlines the Town's requirements for Town Meetings and Elections. You can view Article I in its entirety on the Town of Norfolk official website www.virtualnorfolk.org.
Section 1 of Article I of the Town of Norfolk General Bylaws states that the Annual Town Meeting is always held on the first Tuesday in May, as Article 1 of our Annual Town Meeting Warrant is always the Town Election of officers. All other matters are considered at an adjourned session which is always the second Tuesday in May. A petition to place an article on the Warrant for this meeting would require the signatures of 10 registered voters as it is the Annual Town Meeting.
Section 4 of Article I of the Town of Norfolk General Bylaws states that the Fall Special Town Meeting shall be held annually on the fourth Tuesday in October. This meeting is considered a "special" town meeting simply by its placement on the calendar. By statute, any town meeting held after June 30th in any given year is considered a special town meeting. A petition to place an article on our Fall Town Meeting Warrant would require the signatures of 100 registered voters as it is a Special Town Meeting.
Q: My neighbor just told me about this process. I have two permits for my cars but I never received any type of notice about this new system or that you were going to charge for parking at the old Town Hall.
Was there a notice put up at the Old Town Hall on the big sign at the parking lot, or even mailings sent to residents who had permits? I didn’t get one and I’ve had my passes for about 4 ½ years? I don’t usually check the town website so I am not sure how else I would have known about this. I park at that lot somewhat regularly in good weather so I would have noticed if you had put up a sign announcing the change, and I definitely would have read something from the town if you sent me a notice of the change in the mail. Can you tell me how this was marketed?
I am not happy that the town is doing this which is why I also cc:d all of you. I’m not active in town politics, I use the dump (another nice place to promote changes like this), and I commute to Boston every day, and outside of that I am a simple homeowner who pays his taxes and goes about his business – but I thought I’d write because I feel like this is disappointing. As is your FAQ
Not knowing about it is bad enough but in your FAQ you say that the reason this is happening is in part because…” People are parking in the town’s lot, receiving a benefit at the cost of all tax payers.”
Perhaps I will be the only one insulted by such a remark, but it’s a bit funny that you would use that as a reason. After all – we all pay taxes and not all of us have water, or sewer, or use Pond St. or have kids in school, or use the senior center or the library – but we all have the opportunity to. Just as if we need to take a train into town- we all have the opportunity to get a permit for parking ( until now) and take a train to town.
I don’t mind a $75 fee for a year of parking, but I hope it will allow me to park in those quickly filled spaces outside the library or behind town hall also ( will it?)
Too bad you didn’t set aside 50 spaces in the MBTA lot. I bet a lot of people will enter your lottery and still pay the $2 to park there most of the time but have a nice decal saying they can park in the free lot if they choose.
That’s my piece.
Anyways, if you don’t have 50 people can you email me back so I can put in for any open slot. As annoyed as I am I’d still rather give the town my money that the MBTA or some private lot operator.
A: I am sorry that you are dissappointed in this change to our parking policy. We did have 67 applications for the spots and are not notifying the 50 "winners". I will add your name to the waiting list. If spots open up, we will contact you.
We placed notices on the parking spots 2x per week during the last 3 weeks prior to the drawing.
We also talked about it at the Selectmen's meetings, my cable show and put notices in the Boomerang, and I believe the Globe West ran it in the notices section. There was also a tremendous amount of discussion about the subject on Norfolknet. We did not mail out to all of the prior permit holders because there were over 600 permit holders.
The comment in the FAQ that you referred to is mine. My point was that a very small portion of the population is using that parking lot. As with the recreation programs, water, (we don't have sewer - except for those connected to Franklin's system) and transfer station - those that use the services, pay for it. Many towns have municipal lots that are limited to two hours, like our spots in front of the library, and there are towns that have metered parking lots. I recommended the sticker parking to the Selectmen because I didn't want to invest in parking meters when we don't know the long term use of that lot.
I don't understand your comment about the MBTA parking lot. I would hope that the people who pay the $75 will park in the municpal lot.
Perhaps this solution won't be the best one. For $3,000 of revenue, I've spent a lot of time on it. I plan on soliciting comments about parking this Spring, to see if people have suggestions on how to make improvements.
6/14/06 The Following items are responses to questions that have been forwarded to me. If you have any comments or questions, please do note hesitate to contact me at email@example.com.
The Selectmen and I will always respond to direct questions, either through e-mail, phone or in person. We are happy to share your questions and the answers with others, or keep the conversations private, it is your choice.
Q: Why do we currently lease a street sweeper? Why would the town want to buy one? Why are they buying the other vehicles?
Why doesn't the town hire a company to come in and sweep the streets twice a year? It would be a heck of a lot cheaper that owning a $120,000 piece of equipment. There would be no maintenance costs, insurance, fuel, storage.
Why doesn't the town lease the police and highway vehicles? It might cost more in the long run. But the savings on upkeep and depreciation should out way that.
BTW, does anyone have any idea what is going to be built on the Holbrook and 115 land? Hopefully some retail and restaurants.
A: We look at lease schedules periodically. In fact, we have one lease vehicle - the 2006 Ambulance. There was an advantage to having a lease, because the lease company helped us negotiate a favorable outcome when we returned the ambulance that was delivered in 2005. Financially however, leasing a vehicle does not pay back for municipalities because we do not receive an income tax benefit, like corporations receive, and we can borrow money at better rates through the municipal bond market.
We have tried to educate everyone on the finances related to the sweeper - at Town meeting among other places, and I'll try again. This last year we did contract with a company to sweep the streets in the Spring. The cost was approximately $30,000. So the payback for just the annual sweeping is approximately 4 - 5 years when you figure in fuel, maintenance and insurance costs. The other important consideration is that if we purchase a sweeper we will have it available to use after storms, like last week, after car accidents and after road construction projects.
Holbrook and 115 is being developed as a mixed use development. A restaurant, several small offices and residential units which are zoned as 55 and over age restriction. The development is called Village at River's edge if you want to visit the planning board to see the layout.
Q: ...For example, the Advisory Committee approved the painting of the church and everyone was happy, except the taxpayers. I wonder how many of them have children in special education classes at NPS?
A: I am not sure what the church painting has to do with special education at NPS... but let me take a shot at the rest. The funding for the Church was from the Community Preservation Fund. Community Preservation expenses follow a long approval process. First a group or committee applies for funds from the Community Preservation Committee "CPC". The CPC then debates it and then votes to support or refuse the request. The CPC then makes a presentation to the Advisory Board, who develops their own recommendation. At Town Meeting the CPC reads their recommendation, then the Advisory Board reads their recommendation - then the Town Meeting takes a vote.
The comments about pulling the groups in front of the citizens are interesting, for lack of a better word. All of the Town Committee and boards host public meetings. You can contact the Town Clerk to find out when their meetings are, and ask them questions. If that doesn't satisfy you, I would contact the Chair of the committee you have questions for and discuss your concerns with them. If that still doesn't work for you or you just prefer - you can always contact me. I would be happy to answer your questions or help you get the information you are looking for.
By the way - of the 9 Advisory Board members, here's what I know about their interest in NPS:
2 - I don't know how old their children are or if they have any
1 - Retiree, children were raised in another state
2 - Have children that have graduated NPS
1 - Children are too young to attend NPS
1 - Highschool age children in private school
2 - Children in NPS and KP systems.
Q: The problem with the fiscal management of the town should be addressed in an open forum with all of the leaders. The selectmen, the school board, the public works officers and anyone else who is responsible for the budgetary issues need to gather with the town and those affected and answer some basic questions. It is there duty as paid employees and given the mandate of the last override. Such as, do we put form first (clocks, mail sorters and assorted other trivial expenses, yet illuminating of thought patterns) or function (the children, elderly, public safety) first? This question will not go away anytime soon unless this addressed as a community.
Maybe a town watch group is warranted. It would be easy to peruse the spreadsheets, if they were online and available. The current files lack detail and one has to ask for such specific information. Voting out people lacking common sense is ideal, but then the seats need filled with the willing and sensical. That takes time and we could see one or two more threatening overrides by then. Calling the paid employees of Norfolk to the carpet to account for their lack of foresight during a particularly tight budgetary period is a straightforward way to get to the bottom of the differences in values. If common sense lacks within the ranks, these people can be let go, for the good of the citizens of Norfolk.
I ask the Selectmen. Are you capable of leading this town, calling bad decisions to the carpet, and then reporting on this to the citizens of Norfolk? Are you capable of holding town meetings with the citizens to discuss this very issue? If so, I will be there.
PS: ... a town with over 20 million in revenue should be able to afford 300,000$ for vehicles without a problem. The fact that they can't afford this signals a problem.
A: As much as I have asked people to send me questions or call me, I only get 2 - 3 questions per month on the budget. As the Town Administrator and as the former Finance Director - I have a very good idea of what is in the budget of each department, and certainly can get you the information you seek. I would encourage you to contact me with your questions. The Selectmen are also willing to meet with large or small groups upon request.
The Town does hold two Town meetings per year (at least) and the Selectmen meet every other week in a public meeting at Town Hall. You are always welcome to attend or send in a question and the board or I will respond. The budget process begins in September, when Department heads are asked to begin creating their requests for the next fiscal year. Public meetings begin in November when the Advisory Board and Board of Selectmen hold meetings with each department manager. These meetings are open to the public and are posted on the Town's website and at the clerk's office (by State law).
The vehicle cost this year was $810,535. The $300,000 was the level of funding we needed in order to pay for the vehicles through a combination of debt and cash purchases. Without the fund, we will need to borrow money for all purchases.
Q: ..what do you suggest we do when we have no more to cut out of our monthly budgets and we still can't afford another tax increase? Many people are on a very tight budget already with the price of gas being so high, interest rates going up, etc. before adding on a higher tax bill. This town has become much too expensive to live in as it is.
A: No one is happy with rising taxes, the Selectmen, all of the committee members, and many of the town employees (including me) live in Norfolk and obviously feel the impact of the tax increases as well. The Vehicle Stabilization Plan was created for the sole purpose of reducing the cost of vehicles for the Town. The Fire Truck the town bought in 2004 was the real eye opener - we paid $340,000 for the truck, but now we're paying an additional $60,000 in interest costs. The stabilization fund allows us to pay cash for a large portion of our vehicles, rather than finance them.
Some people have referred to the vehicle stabilization fund as "Thinking outside the box". I prefer to explain the VSP as the Town's ability to budget their expenses ahead of time, rather than try to budget their credit card debt, after the bills come in.
There are many factors as to why we needed an override for fiscal 2006. If you would like to talk about that or have me post a detailed explanation, please contact me. The last operating override was in 2001, other recent tax increases have been from debt exclusions for building projects (King Philip Jr and Sr High Schools, Norfolk Library, H.O. Day Addition, Senior Center, etc). While the debt exclusions help us pay for the construction of these facilities, they do not provide any additional revenue to run or maintain them. So we as a Town have added facilities and spread our resources thinner with these expansions.
Q: ...Thanks for your post. I appreciate your cutting through the noise and articulating that the key to changing the ways things happen isn't by focusing on the specific expenditures, but by questioning the process by which priorities are set and decisions are made. (I for one can't stand hearing about the clock, which has become a symbol for everything wrong with Norfolk's town management. It's just a clock. But critics are justified; did we need that clock? Hardly.)
Here's the trick, though. While it is reasonable to ask that Selectmen or town employees take the time to provide detail about the way funds are spent, the reality is that 90 percent of us are not going to have and/or take the time to pore over it and watch over the day-to-day details of town operations. That is why we elect people we presumably trust to do the job of spending our money. A citizen's watch group is a great idea, and I would love to participate. But, I still want to know that the people I VOTE for to make these decisions share my values, and are capable of understanding the complexities of municipal budgets, should I be preoccupied by say, my own job! Responsible government is a great idea, at all levels, and a worthy goal. Any way we can encourage it, I am all for it. Maybe a more lively and open exchange between
candidates in future elections? Maybe a debate with a citizen's panel of questioners, selected by lottery?
A: Norfolk Community League hosts a candidate night every year prior to the election. The candidates are permitted opening and closing remarks. The Town Moderator asks the first set of questions while audience members are encouraged to submit questions anonymously on pieces of paper. Frank then reads the questions for each candidate until all of the unique questions are read. If you don't know who Frank is, you should definately come to the Fall Town Meeting.
I'm tired of the Town Clock discussion as well. That was approved by a former board of Selectmen - so the current board really has nothing to do with it. I personally wouldn't have approved it if it was up to me, but I don't like to spend any money unless I see a return. Having said that, I am glad that I wasn't making the decision about the clock, because I think the clock adds a great finish to the Town Hill, and we will enjoy it for many many years.
Several postings have referenced the Gazebo. I am 99% sure that the Norfolk Community League donated the Gazebo. Likewise the bricks for the walkways were bought through fund raising.
Q: ..NOGO hears your concerns loud and clear. We have plans to ramp up again at the end of the summer. We will have much better organization and a strategic plan that will broach these matters in an organized, comprehensive and respectful fashion.
I must say this: as a sanity check (my own), I drove to town hall parking lot after church on Sunday to inspect its condition.
With all due respect, there is no urgent work needed on that parking lot. While the lines are not fresh, they are clearly discernible and the condition of the pavement is perfectly fine. This, my friend, is an orange in the apple cart that needs to be removed.
This is a small example of the things we can do as an organization to help the town prior to it making decisions.
The Advisory Board (AB) and other decision makers essentially are limited to (please correct me if I'm wrong) seeing presentations, reviewing documents presented to them, and hearing oral arguments on capital requests. NOGO would like to assist the community by being many sets of eyes for the AB and others. We will attempt to get into the nuts & bolts of these spending requests and offer our opinion to the boards and at town meeting. With your help (all interested), we can become a very effective citizens' action committee. Often times, a priority is a matter of opinion. NOGO would like to ensure that our opinions are heard before articles are drafted and at town meetings.
That said, the Selectmen will discuss vehicles tomorrow evening at their 7:30 meeting. I encourage all to watch. But regardless of what is said, please keep in mind that an opportunity existed for $200,000 from the prison mitigation money to be spent on vehicles this year and in years past.
A: NOGO has been encouraged to work with the Town boards and committees, and we are both hopeful to have a productive working relationship going forward. As a quick FYI though, because of requirements of publicizing the warrant - Fall Town Meeting articles are due on August 24th. So if NOGO or anyone is interested in reviewing, approving, or submitting information for the Fall Town meeting, you can't take the summer off.
NOGO won't let go of the Town Hall parking lot. Think about this before you criticize the $3,800 expenditure for the Town Hall parking lot. Take a look at the driveway at the Public Safety building (Police and Fire building). Most of the driveway behind the building is about 20 - 30 years old. The Town Hall parking lot is 8 years old and we are trying to protect it. Would you rather spend $3,800 now, or end up with a parking lot like the PS building has. Ask a driveway specialist when you should sealcoat a new driveway.
May 15, 2006
Q: When are the lottery for the affordable units within Norfolk Town Center Condominiums?
A: The information below is from the Community Housing and Planning Website, for more affordable units check here
Homeownership: Norfolk Town Center Condominiums, Norfolk, MA
Community: Norfolk, MA
Unit Information: 11 affordable units: (4) two-bedroom, 1.5 baths for households 55+; sales price: $153,280; (7) three-bedroom, 2.5 baths; sales price: $168,609.Each unit will have 1800 -2100 square feet of living space, and a one car garage. All kitchens will have major appliances provided and laundry hookups will be included. Heat will be provided by gas.
Income Guidelines and Preferences: Income eligibility as follows:
1-person household: $46,300
2-person household: $52,950
3-person household: $59,550
4-person household: $66,150
A Public Workshop will take place at the Norfolk Public Library, Norfolk, MA at 7:30 PM on June 22, 2006.
Deadline: Application Deadline FRIDAY, JULY 21, 2006. ALL APPLICATIONS SHOULD BE MAILED TO JWO CONSULTANT SERVICES, P.O. BOX 323, WESTWOOD, MA 02090. For more information, call (781) 446-7540 (VOICEMAIL).
March 20, 2006
Q: We saw the sign for "upcoming Stop & Shop" go up at town center, then the big "retail land for sale" sign go up next to it. Then the land for sale sign came down.......then it went up again! What gives? Is the "land for sale" different then the future Stop & Shop land? Is Stop & Shop trying to get out of the deal?
ALSO..... NOW what's going on down by "Kids's Place" playground? I thought they were done tearing up the woods down there!
A: Stop & Shop put the sign "Future Home of Stop & Shop" at the request of the Town. We were glad they agreed to that commitment, and hoped that progress continues. Stop & Shop and Eastern Development are continuing their application process with the Planning Board. The other signs are part of their efforts to obtain tenants for the property. They originally had one sign, but that needed to be revised due to our building codes.
The DPW has been doing some maintenance and clean up at Kid's Place. There is a drainage pipe that needed upgrading, and the parking lot was expanded. Kid's Place has become very popular and we were running into situations where people were parking on the street.
March 20, 2006
Q: This may not seem important in light of the major discussions about the schools but our other major issue in Norfolk is how much it costs to own property here. The "Override" word is again being mentioned in the papers. I read here that 8000 Excise Tax bills were sent out on the 14th. I received mine today but I am not here to complain about paying it.
I have 3 vehicles in my family (mine, one for the wife and one for my son). I received one mailing for each. Just some quick math and estimates - 29 cents for postage, 10 cents for the return envelope, probably 15 cents for the window envelope - that's 54 cents per bill, not including the labor costs. I bet most homes in Norfolk have at least 2 cars so let's say we put the 2 bills in one envelope. We could cut the 8000 at least in half to 4000 - that's a savings of $2160, again, not including labor.
$2,160 will not solve all of our money woes but this is only one small example of potential savings. I think it is important local leaders and residents begin to do some thinking like this - it can add up.
There is probably a state regulation that prohibits placing 2 excise tax bills for the same address in one envelope - that would make too much sense !! If that is the case perhaps we can get Sen. Brown and Rep. Ross to work on changing it.
A: I greatly appreciate the suggestion. I have done some investigation into the numbers and unfortunately I don't think this one makes economic sense.
First, let me provide some feedback on the estimates. We only pay 5 cents per envelope, so saving 2 envelopes will save 10 cents per bill reduced. However, we would have to think about whether we would only include 1 return envelope with two bills. Some people may not want to pay both bills at the same time, so at a minimum, there is an argument that we would have to include 2 return envelopes with two bills. With two bills and two return envelopes in one outgoing piece of mail, the postage rises by 10 cents. So the actual savings is 5 cents for one outgoing envelope and a net 19 cents on postage (29 cents savings, plus a 10 cent increase), for a total of 24 cent savings. With your other assumptions on bill volumes that would provide a savings of under $1,000.
Unfortunately we won't see even that much of a savings. We would only be able to "household" those bills that have identical addresses and registrations. This is a result of privacy laws that impact excise bills. While we could introduce legislation to allow for more flexibility in this process, we would likely run in to a number of scenarios where 2 people in the same household don't want their bills combined and believe me we would hear about those types of situations. Not only are there cases where people don't want their mail shared such as in a divorce, or others where a young adult may be listed on one bill and the parent(s) on a different bill, the one bill might be forwarded to a new address. You might think I am stretching here, but believe me we quickly run into some issues that are very important
to our residents.
We don't send out all of the town's excise bills in one mailing, while you received your bills at the same time, some people do not. The Registry of Motor Vehicles sends us files "commitments" for the bills based upon registrations, we have approximately 13 commitments through out the year. The biggest one is in February, but they are scattered through out the year, based upon when vehicles are purchased.
Finally, you mentioned savings related to labor. Our current process is very automated, from the bill printing, to stuffing to sorting for mailing. The addition of a step that would include householding would require someone to intervene to pull out the bills that could be combined. This would require some system coding changes to the process to identify the items that could be combined and we would then have to find the bills to be combined. Based upon the limited savings we are talking about, it would be years to recover the investment and I suspect the cost of manually pulling the bills alone would not justify the savings.
In summary - best case scenario we could save $2,000, more likely about $500 in postage and supplies - based upon registrations and staggered bills. In addition, we would increase manual labor costs and also increase the opportunity for error. So, we won't be making any changes to this process today, but might if we have a need to replace our billing process in the future we will add householding into the wish list for automated processing.
Again, I appreciate the suggestion and hope that more suggestions come forward in the future.
February 17, 2006
Q: What is the status of the FY07 budget?
A: It is early, because we are still gathering information. We need to put information together from a variety of sources:
- State Budget: So far we know what the Governor's budget proposal is, now we will see what the House and Senate propose, then the final budget.
- Town Departments - all of the department heads have submitted their requests to maintain level services.
- Vendors: We have started to receive quotes from a variety of our vendors (Health Insurance, General Liability, etc.) that impact some of our overhead costs. We have sought out competative quotes for these and will incorporate the best quotes into our budgets.
- King Philip - The King Philip School Committee has submitted their recommended budget to the advisory board.
- Norfolk County Retirement - The Town's liability for current and retired employees is assessed each year. Our assessment this year is up 16% from last year, just over $132,000.
The next steps are:
- Finish compiling all of the data
- Budget reviews will be conducted by me, the Selectmen and the Advisory Board over the next month
- Work with our legislatures to obtain sufficient funding for Norfolk
There is a lot of work to do over the next few months. As the numbers start coming together, we will be discussing them at many public meetings. If you are interested in the budget, you should attend the upcoming Selectmen and Advisory board meetings for more information. Refer to the Town Calendar for information.
February 17, 2006
Q: Does the town have an ordinance for requiring dog owners to "curb their dog?" Now that the snow has melted, there are 14 dog piles at the corner bus stop. This poses a public health problem (stepping into and bringing into the home), environmental problems (storm run-off into lakes, ponds and streams), and is plain wrong, inconsiderate and disgusting.
If there is no ordinance, how does one go about getting one passed?. Will it be enforced?
On an similar community appearance issue, the web cam should be faced back towards the library. We used the web when trying to get a sense of towns to which we would consider moving. While funny, the current image is not too appealing.
A: The Town does have a bylaw regarding dog curbing:
It is Article XIII - Animal Regulations, Section 3. D. 2.
2.) Dog excretions on either public or private property must be removed and disposed of immediately by the owner(s) or keeper(s) of the dog or the person(s) under whose care and control the owners have placed the dog. In any event, if this section is violated, the dog shall be deemed to be a public nuisance and such violation shall be considered a violation by the owner(s) or keeper(s) of the dog subject to a non-criminal fine listed in Section 3H. (10/22/02)
The full town bylaws can be found on the website, under public documents...
Regarding the webcam, we pointed it towards the private portion of town center, trying to inspire our neighbors to improve the area. If they make some progress, we'll try to show off a better portion of Town.
December 21, 2005
Q: What is the deal with the proposal at the Freeman Centennial School? Is the Town serious about this proposal.
A: It is one of the options that we are exploring. I regret that we "sprung" it on people, but we have talked about it at the Board of Selectmen's meetings and other place and I wanted to get it out in the open so there would be some discussion about the options. We need to keep moving forward on our long term plans for the School, Public Safety Building and Recreation facility. I brought these plans forward to bring the issue into the forefront.
I would be happy to talk to anyone about these plans and we will be having more discussion about these plans and other possibilities in the near future. I realize there are some negatives to these plans for the abutters, as there are with any development. We will work to address the neighbors concerns and work towards the best solution for everyone.
November 4, 2005
Q: Jack: First let me say that I greatly admire and approve of the road work at the town center but I note that the Contractor seems to have folded his tent for the season.
The steps to the hill at at the welcome sign seem to lead nowhere. What is planned and will it be completed this year?
Also, the base skirts of several lamp posts are unsecured and have been since last spring. Will they be taken care of by snowfall?
And finally, the crunched road signs at the round-about and approaches. What's happening, are peaple really driving over them and does the town plan to leave them in that condition?
A: I'm a little late responding to this question and a couple below, but here's my answers.
Thank you for the appreciation of Town Center. Butch and I have been talking about putting together a little information session about the transformation of the center. It is amazing to look back 10 years and compare the center from then to now. I think the next 5 years will be just as interesting, hopefully with some help from the commercial developers next door.
There has been some work done by the contractor over the last couple of weeks, finishing up the punch list of items for Town Center. We are pushing him to finish this fall, and hopefully that will happen. The stairs will be completed and will connect to the new bricks on town hill that are to be installed over the next couple of weeks. The brick walkways were funded by the Brick Sales (Thank you NCL and Norfolk Garden Club) as well as from Community Preservation Funds that were voted last Spring.
The base skirts of the lamp posts have either been secured, or if they were broken, removed. They will be replaced next Spring, hopefully we'll have a light winter and the snow removal team and winter drivers will be gentle with our new lights.
Yes, people have driven over the signs in the center of town. We have been frequently reminding the contractor to repair them. We have held off replacing them on our own, because we don't want to pay for them. The State is paying the contractor, so we have limited bargaining power with him, but we are trying to encourage him along. As I've written about previously we are going to review all of the signs down town, and hopefully reduce some of the sign "noise".
I wish I could give some more precise dates, but we are somewhat at the mercy of the contractor to finish the project before we take over. Just like when you build a house, you don't start touching up the contractor's work until he's done, because you want him to fix it with his money.
Q: What is going in at the corner of Boardman and Main? Also, is it true that the train station is going to be relocated?
A: The developer hasn't finalized plans yet, but something will be going in that location. Potentially a restaurant, but not definitely.
We are exploring moving the train station westward. It wouldn't really have anything to do with this property, but would require the trains to stop closer to Franklin, which would allow the railroad gates on Rockwood Road to stay open while the train was loading and unloading. This will take some time to work out with the MBTA.
We're trying to solve several problems at once and we're just at the brainstorming stage. We want to reduce the gate closing time for loading/unloading - this creates a public safety issue at the center of town when cars back up into the roundabout and the fire trucks can't get through, consolidate MBTA parking into one area and free up some area in the center of town that is now used for MBTA parking.
Q: The Town of Natick, where I lived for 33 years, is offering its residents compost bins at cost or below cost. Does Norfolk offer these, and if not, who can I contact in Norfolk about this town offering the same? The prices in Natick are:
$21 for the Brave New Composter
$27 for the Earth Machine
Offering rain barrels at cost would be great too.
A: The Transfer Station has conducted programs like this in the past, without much interest unfortunately. The Transfer Station does offer compost to sticker holders, details can be obtained by calling the Transfer station at 508-528-7545. The Station also provides a host of other services that many people are probably not aware of - I recommend visiting their site for details.
We are also looking into offering a Rain Barrel program. I will provide more details when the program is established.
October 24, 2005
Q: I noticed a lot of activity off of Seekonk this week across from Stop River road. I took a walk back in the woods and it looks like a developer has done some preliminary work. Some trees have been knocked down and several lots look like they've been staked. As an abutter to that land, I was surprised that there has been no notification. Do you have any information on development plans or can you tell me where I can go to get more information?
A: (From the Building Commissioner) A developer is doing some preliminary perk tests in the hope of building a 4 lot subdivision off Day St. He has the right to take down trees to access the property, dig the holes and perform engineering work. If you have any further questions you can call the Board of Health since they oversee the testing @ 508-528-7747.
October 20, 2005
Q: Do you know what is planned for the property at the corner of Boardman and Main? The building was recently resided, and it looks like a new septic is going in now.
A: I was warned that there was a lot of good "stuff" on Norfolknet about this property. I spoke to the developer and he has some ideas, but doesn't have a tenant yet, or a home grown project finalized. He is considering applying for a liquor license, but hasn't yet.
October 16, 2005
Q: Does Norfolk allow for burning leaves during the fall? If so are there restrictions or permits required?
A: Permits are required for burning. The fire department does not allow burning in the fall, permits will be issued again in January.
October 9, 2005
Q: Yesterday, Saturday, October 8th the lightposts in the Town center were still alight at 8:00 a.m.
I have also notice that there are lights left on in the library overnight. Not just simply "night lights" for security, but several large rooms fully lit.
With energy costs rising and the Town fuel budgets increasing, perhaps conservation measures should be in place as Town policy.
Is there a current Town policy regarding conserving energy?
Regarding the Town center lightposts; could the lights be timed to turn on at sundown and turn off at 12:30 a.m. ? (I believe this is the last commuter train arrives at the platform.)
Also thermostats in all Town buildings should be programmed and locked in order to conserve heating fuel.
A: We are controlling our energy expenses using technology, where possible. Where we don't have the technology we have procedures in place, such as at town hall where we shut off the lights as we lock the building.
The lights in the center of town have photo-sensors so they go off and on automatically. The Police department provides feedback to the DPW regarding how much light is needed for safety purposes. We have had several discussions regarding the amount of light and may cut some of the lights back - particularly late at night as you suggested, but we want to go through the dark months first.
The library has a very sophisticated lighting system, for the very purpose of saving energy. Some of the switches were not set properly to go off automatically, but the Library Director has notified the Project Manager and the problem should be resolved very quickly, if not already. The lights in the library are controlled by motion sensors so they shut off if there is no activity in a room for a few minutes.
The heating and air-conditioning in the town hall and library are controlled by computers. There are thermostats in each of the rooms, but the high and low limits are controlled by computer settings defined by the Facility Manager. The computer also automatically limits the heat and air-conditioning in the buildings shortly before closing time, and then the controls are returned to the thermostats shortly prior to the next business day opening.
October 6, 2005
Q1: Now that the KP Jr High is complete, or as complete as it is today, when will the truck route signs on King St be taken down?
A1: I will ask the DPW to take those signs down.
Q2: Also, does Norfolk have a by law regarding the posting of signs on private property?
In other words when driving around town its not uncommon to have someone who is performing work on a house to place a sign in front of the house to advertise the company. How long are these types of signs allowed to stay posted.
I have driven by some houses where the signs have been posted for up to 3 years with no show of work, just the free advertisement for the company.
A2: Norfolk does have a bylaw for signs on private property. The bylaw can be located here, refer to Article IX, and any questions about the specific regulations can be directed to the building department, as the Building Commissioner is the enforcement officer.
There are a number of different circumstances that the bylaw addresses. I would send your specific complaints to the Building Commissioner and he will address them. The signs that you seem to be referring to would fall under the temporary sign regulations and those can only be displayed for a "limited period of time".
October 6, 2005
Q: Is there a posting/list somewhere that shows when debt (obviously not a specific debt, but overall) will be retired in Norfolk? We are being asked for more money and I would like to know when existing debt is retiring to help me make my decision on this upcoming vote. Thanks.
A: The pdf file located here, shows schedules for all of Non-Exempt debt and all of our Exempt debt. The Non-Exempt debt is paid from from the Town's operating budget and Exempt debt is paid for with tax revenue that the Town has voted to raise on above of our usual taxes. This exempt revenue is raised each year for those debt obligations that have been voted, for the life of each debt schedule.
You will see from the schedule that the non-exempt debt obligations are decreasing each year and FY07's obligation will be $409,390, 2008 = $398,437, 2009 = $348,604.
The Exempt debt obligations have a 2 more years of increases while we start realizing the full impact of both King Philip projects (Junior High and High School). In 2007 the schedule requires an estimated payment of $2,000,517, then 2008 = $2,305,408, 2009 = $2,209,853, 2010 = $1,967,654, etc.
While the non-exempt debt numbers are really set in stone at this point, the exempt numbers are very good estimates, but will fluctuate. There are two reasons for the fluctuation. The Town's assessment of our portion of the King Philip debt changes each year as Norfolk's relative enrollment changes with the 2 other towns. The other factor is that the King Philip debt is all short term debt at this point. Towns and school districts borrow money on a short term basis while a project is being completed than when the final construction costs are known and the state has audited the project they borrow the final number through long term bonds.
I hope this information is helpful, please let me know if you need more information.
October 3, 2005
Q: I've noticed that not all job opportunities for the Town of Norfolk are posted on the website. Will the Town look at posting ALL job opportunities in the future?
A: All jobs should be posted on the town's website, I realize they have not been. We will do a better job at this going forward. In reality we don't get many applicants from advertising on our website, we get responses when we post openings on some of the industry or organization websites. I do think it is a benefit to the Town to have an idea of what jobs are available, so we will improve our consistency regarding our postings on virtualnorfolk.
October 1, 2005
Q: Will the centers of the roundabouts eventually be landscaped? Also, is there anything that can be done to cut down on the quantity of signs on/approaching the roundabouts?
A: The roundabouts will be landscaped and there is a sprinkler system on each that was installed connecting to the well on Town Hill. The DPW will be working with the Garden club on the plantings, which will happen this Fall or next Spring, depending on the weather and some of the other "punch list" items that have to be completed down town.
There certainly is room for improvement with the signs. It appears to be unanimous that there are too many and we (Police and DPW) will have to determine the right number that won't detract from the center, but will help warn the drivers of any safety hazards. I'm sure we can come up with a more attractive, but safe, solution. The DPW Director suggested that we look at this next Spring, after we have a winter season with the Roundabouts and see how we do in the snow and ice.
September 30, 2005
Q: What are the future / current plans for the old Town Hall. Has there been any discussion among Town officials or other groups as to the best use of the property (sell off, refurbish, etc...)?
A: The old Town Hall was recently rented to the State's contractor as office space while they work on the center of Town project. Other parts of the building are being used by the Recreation Department for some of their programs. We have had several discussions about the future of the building and land, but nothing has been decided because we need to get some more information about the limitations that may or may not exist with the land. One of my objectives this fall will be put together some options for the Selectmen regarding this land. We will consider sell off, refurbish, tear down and rebuild or any other options that come to light.
September 29, 2005
Q: Can you give an update on the retail development on town hill, particularly the status of the Stop & Shop and CVS?
A: My favorite question, now that the Miller Street bridge is up and running. The developer continues to progress with his filings with the planning board. They have stated that they are within a month of filing their final sub-division "definitive" plan with the planning board and then they will start submitting the individual site plans such as the Stop & Shop lot and CVS lot.
The timing is aggressive, but the developer's representative has told me and other town officials that they would still like to have the stores OPEN by the holidays in 2006. They are going to have to move very fast to meet that deadline, but I know we are all hoping for that to happen.
If you're interested, keep an eye on the planning board's calendar to see when Eastern Development or Stop and Shop appears on it. They are the parties that control this development.
September 29, 2005
Q: What exactly is a debt exclusion and what will it mean for tax rates/payments?
A: When the Town borrows money, we issue bonds in return for the use of the investor's money. We pay that money back in principal and interest payments over a defined period of time (typically semi-annual payments for 1, 5, 10, 20 or 30 years). The Town can decide at Town meeting and then at the ballot if we want to pay that money back from within our operating budget or if we want to charge additional taxes specifically for the purpose of repaying the debt. If the Town decides to repay the money by charging additional taxes, we refer to that as excluded debt, because the Town has excluded that debt service from the limitations of proposition 2 1/2. The bottom line is, if the Town votes to exclude debt from proposition 2 1/2 our taxes will temporarily increase until we pay that debt back.
We currently have remaining excluded debt on the library, the H.Olive Day school and the King Philip Projects.
There is a complete explanation on the State's website here. You will need adobe acrobat to read this pdf document.
September 29, 2005
Q: How many overrides has the town voted on?
A: We have a pdf file showing all of the overrides, click here.
September 27, 2005
Q: Why are we building a sidewalk on Medway Branch and not on some of the other roads in town?
A: A very popular question these days. The Medway Branch sidewalk is being funded by money that a developer was required to deposit per a condition of the planning board. The Town requires a sub-division to have sidewalks on both sides of a street. The planning board will allow the developer to install one sidewalk, if he/she will deposit the money that would have been spent on the other side into a Town account for the purpose of building a sidewalk somewhere else. When this policy was originally established the developers and Planning board earmarked the money for a particular road, which is how the money was deposited for Medway Branch. In recent years the money has not been earmarked so that the Town has some flexibility in deciding where the sidewalks are most needed.
The DPW is currently working on the final pre-construction tasks for the Medway Branch sidewalk and is also having the engineering done for some of the other sidewalks that will be built with the earmarked funds, described above. The next task will be to review the prioritization for other sidewalk development and to secure funding. As many of you know, the Town rejected the Sidewalk override question in the Spring of 2005.
September 27, 2005
Q: When will residents be involved in the budget process?
A: There's a short answer to that and a long answer.
The short answer is - late December, January. I will have the budgets back from the Department Heads and all of the schools (Norfolk Public, King Philip, Tri-County) and will start discussing the department budgets with the Board of Selectmen at their meetings, and then we will discuss the consolidated budget. The Board will challenge me and the department heads and require us to defend our requests. Shortly after the Board of Selectmen review the budget they will send a budget to the Advisory Board, where we will go through a similar process. All the while, we will be gathering information from the State regarding State Aid and calculating our local revenues.
The long answer (short wasn't really short, was it) is that residents can be involved in many different ways. There are a number of committees (Advisory, Capital Outlay, Personnel) that have a lot of say in the budget process. Residents can either attend their meetings, or better yet, join them and help lead the town. We are always looking for people who are interested in helping lead the Town.
September 27, 2005
Q: When does the Town's new year start and when will the budget be created?
A: All Massachusetts Cities and Towns use a fiscal year of July 1 - June 30. Our next fiscal year begins July 1, 2006 and will be called Fiscal Year 2007 or FY07. The budget is just being started for FY07. I will be sending out instructions to the department heads and will ask them to create level service budgets and level funded budgets. Level service budgets will assume the same services that are currently being provided, at a new cost. A level funded budget assumes the same budget as the previous year and will list the services that need to be cut.
September 27, 2005
Q: How do I submit a question to the Town Administrator?
A: Follow the link on the Town Administrator's web page, or click here. Your question will be posted to this page, with an answer. You can also send an email directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will respond directly to you.
September 27, 2005
Q: When is the next town meeting?
A: The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25, 2005. There are 18 articles on the warrant, which can be downloaded by clicking here. The Advisory Board recommendations are included with the warrant and they will be mailed to all Norfolk addresses in early October.
You should also know that there is an Election scheduled for November 1, 2005. The Town will be asked to decide whether we want to pay for the interest and principle payments for the debt service needed for the additional money required on the King Philip High School project. The Town approved the question at the Town Meeting in September.