Monthly Archives: January 2012

Vine Lake Preservation Trust’s new website

Vine Lake Preservation Trust has been doing an excellent job of preserving and restoring the Vine Lake Cemetery, while making the whole process uncannily interesting.  Follow them by subscribing to their monthly newsletter (also excellent), and visit their new website

Also see my nephew Jack Farrell’s two excellent winning photos in their ongoing photo contest – nice job Jack!

Idea 2 of 5 – town to resident communication

The second idea from the MMA’s annual convention is the technology from myGrapevine, which was created last year for Weston to allow the town communication to better get to the residents, and for the residents to be able to filter out all but just what they want to receive.

myGrapevine allows many authors/writers from different town and school departments to write the messages, but also allows the residents to only subscribe only those topics that interest them.  For example, one could sign up to only get the messages about the Medfield High School, the Board of Health, and the DPW, and not all the rest of the town departments.  Delivery can be by SMS (text messages), Facebook, Twitter, or email.  Residents can opt to receive messages as they are written, consolidated in a daily or weekly summaries, or only in urgent situations.  Customized daily summaries  are available, with the new messages, event lists for the day, and reminders.

This from their website –

Informed citizens

myGrapevine provides smaller towns with the communication infrastructure they need to keep their citizens informed.

myGrapevine is a web-based service, so pretty much anyone can access it. Town residents set up a free account and identify the topics in which they’re interested (say, everything about third and fifth grades, and also environmental conservation). Staff from the schools, the town government and from town organizations classify their messages by topic.

And myGrapevine makes sure every message gets to the right group of people – via email, text message, even Twitter or Facebook.

The cost for Medfield to subscribe would be $3,000/year.  That’s a lot of communication bang for the buck, both for the town government and for our residents.

Governor’s proposed local aid for next year

At the opening session of the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting that I attended last  Friday morning, the Lieutenant Governor told us the Governor’s proposed local aid figures for the next fiscal year (FY13) that will be in the Governor’s upcoming budget, which budget I believe will be released tomorrow and which becomes HR-1 (House bill #1).  All local aid is proposed to be funded at last year’s levels, except the Governor proposes to add $145 m. to the education funding levels, so we may get somewhat more.

Secretary of A&F Jay Gonsalves and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Demsey both emphasized that even though the state’s revenues are expected to be up, that the health care costs and some other parts of the state budget will more than eat up those increased revenues, such that they are proposing a tight FY13 budget, with many cuts to make things balance.

The Governor’s local aid summary hand out, with my hand notated local aid numbers for Medfield is attached.

Butt kicking

Patch is running a mock election, and I am getting my butt kicked.

Idea 1 of 5 from the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual convention – merit pay

I attended the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual convention at the Hynes Convention Center this past Friday and Saturday, and learned at least  five excellent things that Medfield should look to implement.  I will relate them this week as I am able.

The first idea is to institute a system of merit pay for the town’s employees.  Performance based compensation, or merit pay, was the topic of the Massachusetts Selectman’s Association’s Annual Meeting held at the Hynes Convention Center on 1/21/12.

Towns that are already using it include Andover, Natick, and Danvers – Natick has been using it for years.  The presenters opined that there was no perfect system, and that one should just pick one and get going with it.

It boils down to asking

  • what do we expect?
  • how did you do?
  • how will we reward you?

I have attached the materials that were handed out.

DCAM to town, last night, “no to your changes”

Last night DCAM held the continued technical meeting (continued from last week) by means of its newly enlarged (five LSP’s) collection of environmental clean up experts, and we still did not get through all the town’s issues.  A second continued technical meeting will be held at 7 PM on 2/9/12, with a PIP meeting announced by DCAM for 3/8/12.

What I heard through all the lengthy presentations by DCAM was first and foremost that they are not budging one iota at this time on the town’s main request, that the hospital refuse that was dumped by DMH for decades into the Charles River  be removed where it is below ground water levels – the town is concerned for the long run about having those waste materials located under water within the aquifer that serves town well #6.

If I were to bet, based on the trajectory of the current process, unless DCAM is willing to discuss with the town other resolutions, I would guess that DCAM will only agree to one of the town’s secondary requests, that being to re-build the river bank with a bio-engineered solution, instead of the with granite blocks.

However, if DCAM is willing to continue informal talks, I am hopeful that if we can both have real discussions, instead of what feel like these pre-litigation meetings we have been having, and also that the town and DCAM can come to an agreement that works for both sides.  DCAM told me months ago that the costs of our removal solution ($5m) was not that different than their capping solution ($1.5m), once the cost of monitoring ($2.6m for the first 30 years) the capped site forever is added in – I am assuming that the cost to monitor from 30 years out to forever makes up the difference.

Massachusetts Municipal Association’s annual meeting

I am attending the MMA’s annual meeting for the next two days, and I was just reviewing the three concurrent session options to see what interested me most.  I thought that I would post the schedules of those concurrent sessions, in case anyone has ideas on ones that they think would most benefit the Town of Medfield:

2-3:30 p.m.
CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS – Friday, 1st session
• Complying With the New Open Meeting Law
• Down the Drain: Dealing With New Stormwater Permits
• Everybody’s Talking: Effective Use of Social Media in Local Government
• House of Pain: New Tools to Target Problem Properties
• Implementing the New Municipal Health Insurance Reform Act
• Liquor Licensing and Innovative Policies To Reduce Underage Drinking
• Making Money While the Sun Shines
• Property Tax Relief is Alive and Well
• State and Local Economic and Budget Outlook
• The Candidate Experience

3:45-5:15 p.m.
CONCURRENT WORKSHOPS – Friday, 2nd session
• Code of Conduct: Can’t We All Just Get Along?
• Film Production in Your Community
• Getting Your Head in the Clouds: Cloud Computing for Municipalities
• Hurricanes, Blizzards, Tornadoes and Floods: Municipal Preparation, Response and Recovery
• Investments That Pay: LED Streetlights and Practical Energy Efficiency
• Labor Law Update
• Structure of Government Reform: Getting It Right and Getting It Done
• Sustainable Road Designs for Your Neighborhoods
• What You Should Know About Working With Your Retirement Board

2-3:30 p.m.
• Capital Planning: Affording the Big Stuff
• Clean, Green and Lean: Procurement of Renewable Energy Projects
• From Ad to Offer: Hiring by Committee
• Making the Case for Regional Emergency Dispatch
• Municipal Ethics Test: What You Need to Know
• Municipal Law Update
• Overview of National Health Care and State Health Payment Reform
• The Road Less Traveled: Maximizing Your Transportation Dollars
• Your Options for Procuring Designer Services