This email today from the now defunct Suburban Coalition. Too bad, as I found their meetings really interesting and informative (to say nothing of convenient, as they were often held at the Newton Marriott). The Town of Medfield was a member for a number of years. Former Senator Timilty always used to say the real divide at the legislature was city reps versus towns reps, not so much Republican versus Democrat.
At our last business meeting, on July 10, 2017, a vote was taken to dissolve the Suburban Coalition. This action took place after several years of efforts to sustain our work with a very small number of active volunteers. While we believe our mission is as important and relevant as ever, we simply no longer have the capacity to carry out the mission in a meaningful way.
The Suburban Coalition was founded in the 1980’s in response to Proposition 2 ½. The mission of the organization has been to ensure that smaller municipalities have a voice on Beacon Hill. We strove to ensure that every community had the funding, resources and support from the state to deliver the essential services of life safety, education and infrastructure maintenance to its citizens. We believe that thriving communities contribute to a strong commonwealth. During the past several decades, our efforts have made a difference. The Suburban Coalition was the first organization to advocate for the Senior Circuit Breaker, bringing property tax relief to seniors. More recently, we advocated for changes to Municipal Health Insurance and have been active in efforts to both establish the Foundation Budget Review Commission and to ensure that the recommendations of the FBRC are implemented.
Thanks go to many people and organizations for efforts and support over the years. Most of all, thank you to all who attended our meetings and took our message back to your boards and communities, and to your legislators. Without your input and participation, we would not have been as successful as we were. Please continue to advocate for your communities, your citizens and your students.
Thank you to the boards and committees who joined the Suburban Coalition. You made us stronger by adding your names to the list of those supporting our positions and efforts.
Thank you to the many legislators who welcomed us into your offices or came to our meetings and listened to our views. Listening to our views and sharing yours helped all of us move forward productively.
Thank you to the organizations who partnered with us over the years. Several organizations supported the efforts of the Suburban Coalition by providing data, sharing expertise, participating in our meetings and publicizing our meetings to their members.
The core workers of the Suburban Coalition has always been a relatively small group of dedicated, passionate volunteer advocates. Some have come and gone as circumstances in their lives dictated; others have stayed the course for a very long time. These people spent countless hours identifying and debating the issues, developing positions, meeting with legislators, planning events and trying to build a sustainable structure for the organization. To all those who have, at one time or another, been a key part of the Suburban Coalition, thank you so much for all your time, knowledge, passion, and willingness to stay the course as long as you did.
Advocating and participating in government is no less important today than it was in the 1980’s when the Suburban Coalition was founded. Our government, our democracy, works best when many voices are heard. Our Commonwealth is healthier and stronger when the resources are available for all communities and citizens to thrive. The core group of volunteers who have steered the Suburban Coalition over the years will continue to participate and advocate on behalf of their communities and fellow citizens. We trust that those of you who have followed and supported the organization will too.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions.
From Chair Kaldy, Chair of the Lyme Disease Study Committee, and along with Frank Perry, the leader of the remarkably successful Town of Medfield deer culling program, which the state reportedly considers as a paradigm –
Great article on the issue of funding tick/lyme research.
Beneath the midsummer Martha’s Vineyard sun, the gentle wind breathes waves of motion into a flag-sized swath of white fabric laid out on a large rock. Suddenly, an eye-catching bit of motion: a black, eight-legged speck on the move. Tick scientist Sam Telford pounces. He snatches it with his tweezers and tucks it into a small plastic vial with a satisfying pop.
There, the deer tick, endemic carrier of Lyme disease and other infections, lands in a comfy habitat of green leaves Telford has prepared for it. “I need these ticks to stay alive,” he says.
Telford will gather dozens of them in the course of a Chilmark morning, as part of research that has brought him tick-hunting to Martha’s Vineyard so many times that he’s lost count. For 30 years, Telford, a professor and epidemiologist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, has been working to understand ticks and the diseases they spread to humans.
These years have brought some progress: We have widely accepted practices for personal tick-bite protection, from repellents to body checks. But the biggest and most important question remains unanswered: How do we stop the spread of Lyme?
The $20,000-per-year study showed that cutting the number of deer worked to cut the number of ticks, which depend on sucking deer blood during their life cycle. But it lacked definitive proof that the drop in ticks also brought a drop in Lyme disease, because the modest funding did not cover a study big enough to draw a clear conclusion.
Deer studies like Telford’s illustrate a central problem with Lyme and tick-borne disease prevention: We don’t know the most effective recipe to reduce tick populations and prevent Lyme because the studies that would definitively answer questions like that have not been done. Should your town follow Telford’s advice and cull deer populations? Spray public spaces? Trim back trails? Do all of the above?
The problem is complex, too complex for a simple answer.
“For a very long time, people have been looking for that silver bullet or the magic answer to make Lyme disease go away,” says Catherine Brown, the state’s public health veterinarian. “We’ve known for a while now that’s just not going to happen.”
“For a very long time, people have been looking for that silver bullet or the magic answer to make Lyme disease go away. We’ve known for a while now that’s just not going to happen.”
Catherine Brown, the state’s public health veterinarian
Put another way, trying to fight Lyme is like “trying to solve a multivariate equation with 18 variables and only knowing two of them,” says Henry Lind, the co-chair of the Barnstable County Lyme/Tick-Borne Diseases Task Force.
Ideally, when scientists do a study, they control all important factors, then change just one or two and observe the impact. But in an environment as complex as what surrounds tick-borne diseases, many factors affect the ecosystem.
We know deer, white-footed mouse and chipmunk populations are important in the tick life cycle. We know if they have a lot of food one year, they have more babies. We know ticks like warm, humid areas like leafy underbrush, and thrive in warm, wet summers but their numbers dwindle in drought.
Then there’s what humans do — whether we wear personal protection, put on repellent, spray our lawns, treat our pets, check our bodies for ticks. And while we can control our own behavior, we can’t control the whole ecosystem, especially the weather and food supply for rodents.
Finally, we can’t just count the number of ticks at the end of a study because what we really care about is the number of human infections. Some studies show impressive reductions in the numbers of ticks, but don’t show much impact on the number of infections.
In the face of this complexity, scientists have to do high-quality studies to give more certainty to the results. But that means large studies that span years and large areas to be more sure the results aren’t just due to weather changes or other things outside our control. All of that costs a lot of money.
Take, for example, a recent high-quality study led by Alison Hinckley, a CDC scientist. The researchers sprayed yards once a year with tick-killing chemicals and looked for the effect on tick bites and infections.
It was a two-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. It’s tough to get higher quality than that. It looked at over 2,700 households in three states. And it went further than most studies by looking not just at the numbers of ticks but also the number of tick-borne infections.
All of this cost about $3 million, a huge sum in the world of entomology and ecology.
And it didn’t work. That is, tick numbers dropped by 63 percent but tick sightings and infections didn’t change. Maybe people got ticks from the areas of their yards that weren’t sprayed, like gardens. Or maybe they got infected while on hikes. And, since it was only a two-year study, maybe rainy spring weather made spraying less effective.
An editorial in the same journal, headlined in part “Still No Silver Bullet,” lamented: “Unfortunately, this study confirms that effective prevention of tick-borne disease remains arduous and will likely rely on multiple methods.”
But the study wasn’t a waste. It answered an important question and offers opportunities for digging deeper in the next study.
Richard Ostfeld, a senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, wants to do that next-step research. He and his co-director, Felicia Keesing of Bard College, have been encouraged by a recent trend toward “integrated tick management” that includes multiple ways to reduce tick populations, then checking the impact on rates of Lyme disease.
Their randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study will look at the effect of two interventions: a sprayed fungus that kills ticks, and bait boxes that drop a tiny amount of tick poison on small mammals. Because ticks don’t respect property boundaries, the study examines whole neighborhoods instead of just treating single yards.
It will track four groups of neighborhoods:
Where yards are sprayed with the tick-killing fungus
Where bait boxes with the tick-poison are installed
Where both are done
“Control” neighborhoods that get placebos (water spray and/or bait boxes with no tick poison)
The researchers will then compare the tick encounters and infections of each group. The goal, as the study puts it, is to “answer once and for all whether we can prevent cases of tick-borne disease by treating the areas around people’s homes.”
Follow The (Lack Of) Money
Thus far, Ostfeld and Keesing’s five-year study, called the Tick Project, has raised only $5.5 million of the $8.8 million it needs — 90 percent of it from the Cohen Foundation, and the rest from various donors and state and federal sources.
Such high-quality studies do not come cheap. “Those studies are very difficult and expensive to do,” says Dr. Ben Beard, chief of the bacterial disease branch in the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. An additional challenge: Funding is often allocated for specific diseases, he says, but the problem is broader — tick-borne diseases in general.
From 2006 to 2010, about $370 million in federal research money went to tick-borne diseases, according to an Institute of Medicine report, with over half of it spent on tularemia, an uncommon disease but cause for concern because of its potential use in bioterrorism. Funding dropped off dramatically as concern about bioterrorism waned.
Most money spent on Lyme goes to basic biology research, relatively little to research trying to understand the best tick reduction and prevention strategies. Today, according to an analysis of the NIH grant database, almost two-thirds of 2016 research funds for Lyme disease went to study basic biology. Another third went to studies looking for better diagnostics. Research of the kind done by Ostfeld and Telford was less than 10 percent of the 2016 total: only about $1.2 million.
Even in a state like Massachusetts, where Lyme is so widespread, state funding for research is highly unlikely. “State government quite frankly doesn’t have the money to be funding medical research,” says Rep. David Linsky of Natick, who chaired a legislative commission on Lyme. “I’d like to see the federal government that is really the source of funding for extensive research put some more money into Lyme disease.”
And funding is always tight for ecologists who study ticks and the animals they crawl on. For example, Telford doesn’t have research funding that supports his tick-gathering trips to the Vineyard. Like virtually every scientist, he’s had grants denied, including his most recent proposal to try to bring back Lymerix, the Lyme disease vaccine that was pulled from the market in 2002.
The limited funding means the science on preventing ticks is filled with smaller studies, many without controls, with small sample sizes, small geographic areas, that don’t look at the impact on human infections.
The result is a plethora of studies with confusing results, like the deer studies: Some, like Telford’s, show deer reduction works. Others seem to show it doesn’t work as well. None of the studies have conclusively linked deer reduction to effects on human cases of Lyme disease.
Scientists simply just don’t have the funds to do enough high-quality studies. As Ostfeld says, “the obstacle is more financial, not intellectual.”
Falling Between The Funding Cracks
Research on preventing Lyme also falls between the cracks in scientific funding. The National Institutes of Health fund research on better diagnosis and treatment of human disease, so they are not likely to fund field ecology research, even for Lyme disease, Ostfeld says.
The National Science Foundation funds ecology research, but its budget is much smaller than the NIH budget. An $8 million study could be as much as 10 percent of their ecology budget in any given year. And they do not tend to focus on public health.
The CDC would be a logical funding source, but it does not have a large external research program in this area. CDC researchers are helping with Ostfeld’s study, he says, but there’s “no way in the world they could fund an $8 million, five-year project.”
“We always have a wish list of unfunded studies, but there are a lot of competing disease issues,” Dr. Beard of the CDC says. Some recently announced funding for “vector-borne diseases” may help.
To sum it all up: “With over 300,000 new cases each year, the scope of the problem definitely hasn’t been addressed by the scale of the funding,” says Dr. Tom Mather of the University of Rhode Island. “I’m not sure when and if we can change that — maybe when there are 500,000 new cases of Lyme every year. Or maybe when ticks fly.”
So, no magic bullet. Little money. No simple answer to a number of questions about what communities should do. But Telford of Tufts, perseveres — still pushing for deer reduction, among other anti-tick tactics, and still arguing that communities and neighborhoods need to join forces to address the problem together.
He keeps his lab afloat from a hodgepodge of sources — a small grant here, some funds from collaborations there — and with the help of his wife, Heidi Goethert, also a trained scientist, who works in the lab full-time but only gets paid half-time to stretch the money as far as possible.
In early June, he submitted another National Institutes of Health grant to study a Powassan-like tick-borne virus, but it will be months before he hears the results.
“I remain hopeful,” Telford says. “I remain also very guarded in my optimism.”
David Scales MD, Ph.D., is a physician at Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School. He can be found on Twitter @davidascales.
This emailed memo came today from the now former chair of the Medfield Energy Committee, Fred Bunger, who is moving to Wellesley to be nearer to family. Medfield benefited hugely from Fred’s excellent, thoughtful, and persistent stewardship of the MEC. Fred engineered the town becoming a Green Community last year, with all that entails, including the receipt of a $148,000 DOER grant and the development of a plan to reduce the town’s future energy consumption by 20% – a reduction which is over an above the 30% reduction that the MEC had already helped the town achieve under the original MEC Chair, Marie Zack Nolan. That grant money is now being used to undertake a recommissioning of the HVAC controls at the Medfield High School and the Blake Middle School, the town’s two biggest energy users, so as to make both operate more efficiently.
TOWN OF MEDFIELD
TOWN HOUSE, 459 MAIN STREET MEDFIELD, MASSACHUSETTS 02052-2009
TO: Select Board, Town Administrator and Facilities Director
DATE: July 12, 2017
SUBJECT: New Energy Committee Chair
This letter is to confirm that the Medfield Energy Committee has chosen Lee Alinsky as Chairman, by vote of the members in attendance at the June 8, 2017 Energy Committee meeting.
I will be moving from Medfield in September 2017, so can no longer serve on the Energy Committee.
Please make Lee welcome and give him the excellent support you have given me for the past two years. Your ongoing support of the Energy Committee will continue to help the Town achieve its efficiency goals.
Medfield netted $135,123 for FY 16 (the last year for which we have the complete yearly figures) from our meals tax, which our annual town meeting (ATM) enacted a few years ago. I think of the meals tax as the town’s chance to tax the residents of our surrounding towns for enjoying our excellent restaurants. At the Tuesday meeting of the Board of Selectmen Mike Sullivan shared his historic record of our net since the ATM adopted the meals tax. I especially like the trajectory and the rate of growth. I also especially like seeing documentation that our restaurants are doing increasingly much more business year over year.
New Beginnings and Milestone Moments at New Life Home Refurnishing
New Life Home Refurnishing had great reason for celebration last month in welcoming its ONE THOUSANDTH client! For three and a half years, the New Life furniture bank, a Medfield nonprofit organization, with a warehouse in Walpole, has been connecting gently used furniture and household donations to help individuals and families emerging from homelessness. These donations have a tremendous impact on clients who have fallen on hard times, providing them not only with much needed furnishings, but also the hope of a fresh start. As volunteer Barbara Yates reflected, “Today’s 1000th client milestone was a very special one for me and for the other volunteers at New Life. It has truly been a privilege to play a small role in providing individuals and families with a comfortable chair, a pretty lamp and best of all, a bed for them and their children.”
The 1000th client was a single mother, referred to New Life by a Metro-West shelter, who has now transitioned her family to a subsidized apartment in the area. For a month, she and her son lived in their new home with only two beds and two beach chairs. “I’m so happy to have a job in the area and that my son has his own room”, she said. “He plays in his room a lot – he so enjoys having a space to call his own.” Her positive attitude and pride showed as she talked about being able to walk to work to her job at a local restaurant. As she discussed her apartment, she described the joy of sitting in her chair, breathing the fresh air, appreciating the quiet of the neighborhood, listening to the birds and reading from her Bible. Her enthusiasm was even greater after she left the warehouse expressing her hope for the future – the goal of New Life for all of its clients. Her moving truck departed with a kitchen table and chairs, a couch, an armchair, bedroom furniture, linens and a wide array of kitchen items. These items are more than home furnishings; they are symbols of the new beginnings at the core of the New Life model, which would not be possible without the generosity of supportive communities and donors.
If you are interested in getting involved with New Life, as a donor or volunteer, we welcome your service and ask you to visit our website newlifehr.org.
The Board of Selectmen received the following memo from the Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee at last night’s (really long – 4+ hours) meeting. I am an abutter to an abutter of both Hinkley and Lot 3 (in blue above), so I recuse myself from any discussions about either.
After hearing from Chair Nolan and his fellow committee members, the Selectmen agreed last night to allow the Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee process, as planned, to proceed to its expected January special town meeting (STM) to consider the rezoning and disposition of the Medfield State Hospital land, instead of doing either an immediate disposition and/or a commercial use disposition.
At your meeting on June 20, 2017, Mike Marcucci raised the possibility that Lot 3 on Ice House Road (“Lot 3”) and the adjacent Hinkley property (the “Hinkley Property”) be removed from the purview of the Medfield State Hospital Master Planning Committee (the “Committee”) and instead assigned to the newly-created Affordable Housing Trust (the “Trust”). I raised this subject for discussion at our Committee meeting the following evening. After further discussion at our meeting on July 5, the Committee voted unanimously to recommend to Board of Selectmen that Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property remain as part of our charge, with the understanding that two members of our Committee would be designated to work with one or more members of the Trust and/or the Affordable Housing Committee on an RFP for disposition of Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property to one or more developers for the following uses: 42 units of senior affordable rental housing (40B compliant) on Lot 3 and approximately 15 small single-family units on the Hinkley Property. Our thought process is set forth in more detail below.
Intended Use of Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property.
The consensus that has emerged from our public sessions, our meetings with the Council on Aging and the Senior Housing Study Committee and Committee deliberations is that the most desirable use for Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property is senior housing. The principal reasons for this are twofold: access to The Center and the possibility that a senior housing development could happen on a more expedited basis than the re-development of the MSH core campus because infrastructure is more readily available and the properties are distinct enough from the core campus to be susceptible of proceeding on an independent track without pre-determining other uses at the core campus that are still under discussion. The Council on Aging has expressed potential willingness to cede a small portion of the land at the corner of The Center adjacent to Hinkley for purposes of enhancing the development potential of the Hinkley Property. In addition, our consultant has advised that more intense commercial uses at Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property are likely to negatively impact The Center and overload Ice House Road.
Concern has been expressed by some, including Mike Sullivan and Gus Murby, about using a commercially zoned property for residential purposes, but the overall MSH master plan is likely to include not only a site on the MSH property for a recreational facility (whether Town-owned, private or public-private-partnership is a subject to be addressed by the Town) but also other commercially-designated parcels at the core campus that are more likely to draw interest from commercial users due to their favorable location in midst of a vital redevelopment project. Given the proximity of the MSH property to McCarthy Park and the fact that there are no restrictive covenants applicable to that land (unlike the covenants that the Town is subject to under the Kingsbury Club lease), the MSH property is a more favorable site for a recreational facility. And we have heard from the Economic Development Committee that the only serious proposal for a commercial use at Lot 3 that came out of their request for expressions of interest was a recreational facility, the other potential use being senior housing. If other land at the MSH property is being proposed for such a use as well as other commercial uses, the Committee does not see any disadvantage to changing the zoning of Lot 3 to residential, effectively swapping this commercial land for other more-suitable commercial land at the MSH property.
Advantages to Keeping Properties within MSH Master Plan.
The biggest reason for keeping Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property as part of the charge of the Committee is that by doing so they can be rezoned as part of the overall re-zoning of the MSH property. Such re-zoning will significantly enhance the value of the properties because a developer will not be required to obtain a Chapter 40B comprehensive permit, which is both time-consuming and expensive, even if it is a “friendly 40B”. In addition, the Committee believes that moderately-priced single-family homes are in demand by Medfield seniors and such units would not qualify for a comprehensive permit. So without including the Hinkley Property under the MSH re-zoning, those units would not be feasible at the Hinkley Property. The Committee is also looking at possible creation of a Chapter 40R district that would encompass Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property, possibly resulting in financial incentive payments to the Town.
An additional consideration is that the MSH master plan is more likely to succeed at Town Meeting if it draws upon the broadest coalition of supporters, including seniors and advocates for maintaining safe harbor status under Chapter 40B. The Committee believes that if key parts of the redevelopment plan are removed from our scope and made stand-alone proposals, the MSH master plan is less likely to pass due to the loss of constituencies who might otherwise be expected to vigorously support the master plan. This dissipation of support through segmentation of the plan poses a real risk to our ability to muster two-thirds support at Town Meeting.
Finally, in examining the financial impact of the MSH redevelopment, the location of senior housing at Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property, rather than at the core campus, will produce a net shift of positive economic benefits from the core campus to Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property due to (i) senior housing being a net revenue generator because of the lack of school children and (ii) a relatively higher purchase price for those properties because of lower infrastructure costs. On the other hand, the possibility of family housing around the core campus and the higher infrastructure costs are likely to make the financials at the core campus more challenging. For these reasons we prefer to keep Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property within our scope.
Potential Disposition Process and Timing.
Finally, the issue of speed needs to be examined in light of other affordable housing efforts in Town. We look to the Selectmen, the Affordable Housing Committee and the Affordable Housing Trust for guidance in this area. We are aware of multiple efforts on the affordable housing front, including Tilden Village (42+ units), the American Legion property (42+ units), Lot 3 (42 units) and the core campus (undetermined number of units, but likely at least 50 units). The combination of these units would bring the Town over the 10% mark. Managing the delivery of these units so as to keep within safe harbor will be a complicated task, but given the difficulty of getting projects permitted and funded, it seems to us better to be pro-active and have multiple irons in the fire rather than trying to stretch out efforts in order to avoid overlap. If one of the proposed projects were to slip for unanticipated reasons and another wasn’t well along in the process, the Town could fall out of safe harbor, and be vulnerable to unfriendly 40Bs. In addition, the seniors in Town are impatient for progress on the goal of providing alternative housing options in order to avoid losing more of their number to out-of-town options.
Because Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property are Town-owned properties, they require a public disposition process in addition to re-zoning. We would propose that the Town proceed on a parallel track to prepare a disposition RFP that would allow for selection of a preferred developer/purchaser, subject to re-zoning and Town Meeting approval. This would allow for a potential disposition shortly after Town Meeting in January. We have already done significant planning work with respect to Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property, including wetlands mapping and infrastructure analysis, and as a result our Committee is familiar with the constraints and development potential of the two sites. Because our planning consultant is working with us on possible lay-outs of Lot 3 and the Hinkley Property and because, as stated above, we believe it makes sense to keep the properties under the MSH master plan, we suggest our Committee proceed to work on an RFP for the disposition, either as a single project comprising both the affordable senior rentals (40B) and the moderately-priced single family units or as two separate projects. We would consult with the Affordable Housing Trust and Affordable Housing Committee as we draft the RFP and we would welcome their input. A recommendation on disposition as one single or two separate projects would be made by the Committee, once it digs into the substance more thoroughly and examines the merits of both approaches.
Ofc Keleher, Ofc Brienze, John Godino, Chief Meaney, Chris Bonadies, Ofc Roy, Sgt Geary, Sgt Anderson and Deputy Chief Wilhelmi at appointment
Christopher Bonadies and John Godino Appointed as Police Officers
Christopher Bonadies and John Godino were appointed police officers last night at the Board of Selectmen meeting. Both Chris and John grew up in town and both will attend the police academy in October. A third new police officer, a woman, is currently in the vetting stages and expected to be brought to the Board of Selectmen for appointment soon.
I started this blog to share the interesting and useful information that I saw while doing my job as a Medfield select board member. I thought that my fellow Medfield residents would also find that information interesting and useful as well. This blog is my effort to assist in creating a system to push the information out from the Town House to residents. Let me know if you have any thoughts on how it can be done better.
For information on my other job as an attorney (personal injury, civil litigation, estate planning and administration, and real estate), please feel free to contact me at 617-969-1500 or Osler.Peterson@OslerPeterson.com.