Dowgiewics proposes responsible property owner initiative
By Thomas D’Agostino
WEBSTER - Town Administrator John McAuliffe presented the Board of Selectmen with the past year’s accomplishments. Mr. McAuliffe started by expressing his feelings on working as town administrator: “I am very fortunate to work with the bulk of the same board that hired me. I mean, that’s actually an unusual thing in this business, so I feel very fortunate… Quite candidly, I say this a lot off camera, so it’s nice to say on camera, that it really is a pleasure and an honor to serve Webster. This has been a tremendous Board of Selectmen…This is a welcome relief for a town administrator, working with a board that doesn’t care about the petty nonsense, that really cares about the big stuff and the goals in making the community a better place to live, and work, and raise a family…”
Among the many accomplishments over the past year, the one Mr. McAuliffe was most proud of was the Town being removed from the Moody’s watch list. This is a negative or positive outlook assigned the town’s bond rating. Webster is in a category called single A-1. Webster, for years was in an A-3 category. The next step is AA level. Webster was in danger of going in the other direction but has since moved into a better rating.
Full hours were restored to the library, senior center and veteran’s services. In public safety, the Webster Police Department earned accreditation for dispatching quality. Webster is the first town in Massachusetts to receive this accreditation. The implementation of a new marked code enforcement vehicle and restaurant inspection coordination with other departments was also on the list.
A significant reduction in water-sewer abatements was due to close scrutiny of the particular properties. The Highway Department completed almost ten miles of road resurfacing, which, according to Mr. McAuliffe, is quite a lot for one year. Engineering services for the solar farm are in the process of going out to bid. Phase II contract for the waste water treatment plant was awarded to Hart Engineering Corp of Cumberland, Rhode Island. There was no increase in water-sewer rates for the second year.
Corrosion control design for the Water Department was also addressed, including systems put in place at the Number One Pumping Station, chemical treatment, flushing program for water quality and the repair and upgrade to the Park Road storage tank.
Organizational structure included the successful merger of the rescue and fire departments and a new Recreation Committee
The town website and facebook page are updated daily, helping to get information out to the community in a timely manner.
Twelve structures were removed in the past year, North Village has been an issue and the owners of the properties have been cooperative in the town’s initiative to upgrade the conditions of the area.
In Capital Projects, The A.J. Sitkowski School is fully funded and the new police station project is moving forward. Mr. McAuliffe explained why the project takes so long. “One of the many common questions we get is why is Price Chopper so quick and the police station so slow. One of the things we do, we can’t have a basic set of plans and then come up with ideas later…You have to have every possible detail outlined in a set of professional documents, in a set of blueprints.”
Mr. McAuliffe also pointed out that all the trades have to be broken down separately and awarded to a general contractor.
The new animal shelter opened, a new boat ramp was put in place and the Civil War monument was refurbished.
In regard to the community events, the auditorium in the town hall has seen more use over the past year, including the Halloween Health Fair, Business Expo, Community Baby Shower, AIDS quilt, senior dances, wrestling, and boxing events. The town also hosted a classical concert, a Civil War reenactment, October Harvest Festival, second annual boat races on the lake, farmer’s market and Main Street Sidewalk Sale.
Selectman Mark Dowgiewicz asked Mr. McAuliffe, “How did you have time to work?”
Board Chairman Donald Bourque stated, “This is extremely impressive…you got a lot accomplished.”
In other business, Selectmen Dowgiewicz suggested an initiative to make absentee landlords accountable for their properties in regard to neglect and lack of care. “Webster as a whole is a great town but you have little areas here and there that are causing us some issues.”
Mr. Dowgiewicz suggested bringing the property owners in front of the board to answer to their negligence in regard to upkeep and proper tenant screening. This would also expose the property owners to the public and perhaps give them some initiative to make improvements on their properties. “They don’t care, as long as they get their check in the mail, they’re fine. You go down Prospect Street and you’ll see some really nice houses, that their whole life, people owned these houses, they keep them up, and then you see these houses that are real bad. And, those are the people who need to come in front of us and explain their actions.”
The board agreed with Mr. Dowgiewicz, who also stated that the community is on an upswing and should continue to move forward. Vice Chair Deborah Keefe suggested that the initiative should also include private residential properties as well.
In a public hearing, a transfer of license, change of location for Price Chopper was granted by the board for Price Chopper Company of Massachusetts, Inc. The location of the new super store will be at the intersection of Worcester Road and Gore Road.
Charlotte Costen was reappointed to the Board of Registrars.
Town Administrator presents accomplishments to selectmen
The property at 64 Chase Avenue was deeded to Arthur Matte.