Five Things You Need to Know About the May 24 Selectmen’s Meeting
A Fire Department promotion was announced, a golf club project received the board's OK, and other business was conducted this week.
The Needham Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, May 24, with topics ranging from Bottle Bill expansion to the town’s bond rating to the future of local cable operations. Catch up on town business with this rundown of what happened:
1. Selectmen gave Needham Golf Club the green light.
As the licensing board for an establishment serving alcohol in town, the Board of Selectmen must approve any alterations to the business. On Tuesday, they approved changes at the Needham Golf Club, 49 Green St., where the previous clubhouse was demolished and a new clubhouse was built. The new two-story building includes space for golf cart and bag storage, a cooler and freezer area for the kitchen, men’s and women’s locker rooms and a pro shop on the first floor and a function room, bar, grill, kitchen, restrooms and exterior deck on the second floor, according to a letter provided by the architect.
Owner Martin Malone said the clubhouse would open this weekend.
“It’s been a long six months,” he said. “All the members are excited and the place looks great. We’re pretty excited about the whole thing.”
Selectman Dan Matthews said the board supports the Needham Golf Club, but he also wanted to make sure they maintained a solid reputation where alcohol service was concerned—particularly in a town that has was “historically dry.”
“The club is a great institution with a long history of contribution to the town,” he said. “The board strongly supports the club. But we want you to follow the rules and we want that to continue to be the case going forward.”
Selectman Jim Healy recused himself from the conversation, and from the room, saying he was in the process of joining the club as a social member.
Healy said his involvement with the club had been raised in 2006 when he was previously on the Board of Selectmen and also a member of the Needham Golf Club, because the club leases land from the town. The state Ethics Commission ultimately ruled that a selectman could be involved with both entities, Healy said, but by then he had already left the club and had not considered returning as a member until recently.
2. Needham welcomes a new deputy fire chief.
Needham Fire Chief Paul Buckley introduced the newly promoted Deputy Chief of Operations Donald Anastasi on Tuesday.
“I’m thrilled to have him in this new position, as a colleague and a friend and a very dedicated individual to the town of Needham as a whole,” Buckley said of Anastasi, who is in his 25th year with the Needham Fire Department.
Anastasi replaces former Deputy Chief Al Delulio, who retired recently.
Selectmen commended Anastasi on his promotion and called his resume “powerful.”
“It’s really outstanding to see the amount of courses you’ve taken, the amount of extra educational and professional improvement that you’ve done, which just makes you a better prepared firefighter who is able to do many more things for our town,” Selectman Jim Healy said.
Also Tuesday night, Buckley acknowledged the return of Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Robert Murphy, a firefighter who had been on leave for a year while serving with the Wounded Warrior unit here in Massachusetts.
Murphy, who was wounded during a deployment in 2005, said he was one of the soldiers who benefitted from the Wounded Warrior program.
“The military medical system was overwhelmed with the amount of wounded that we had, so they created a unit back here in Massachusetts that allows soldiers to come home and get civilian care, but the military still pays for it,” Murphy explained. “They actually live at home and recover there.”
Murphy, a Reservist for 17 years, thanked the town for making it possible for him to take leave for a year to serve active duty and aiding in a smooth transition back to his position with the Fire Department.
“I just wanted to recognize the town, the selectmen and [Town Manager] Kate, [Fitzpatrick] as well as our department in supporting me and my family while I was deployed,” he said.
Murphy read a certificate from the U.S. Secretary of Defense recognizing the town as a “patriotic employer.”
But selectmen said it was Murphy who should be commended.
“We’re very proud of the kind of work that you were doing with Wounded Warriors,” board chairman Moe Handel said. “That’s very, very important work.”
3. Director of Finance David Davison annouced that the town had maintained its stable AAA bond rating with Standard and Poor’s, which has enabled Needham to secure an 18-year bond to borrow $11,750,000 for town projects.
Needham received five competitive bids for the bond, which Davison said was “a reflection of the town’s overall credit quality.” The lowest bidder, Fidelity Capital Markets, offered an interest rate that ranges from 2 percent to 5 percent over the course of the bond’s 18-year life.
Selectmen commended Davison, Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick, the Finance Committee and others who helped the town establish such a solid rating.
“This documentation from Standard’s and Poor is such a validation for what [town officials] are doing,” Selectman Jim Healy said.
4. The town manager shared that the Department of Public Works employee union had agreed through contract negotiations to switch over to the Rate Saver health insurance plan, which officials should save the town money over the long term.
The new contract includes a 1 percent wage increase and a three-year health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) designed to help employees make the transition to the higher out-of-pocket and lower premium health insurance plan, according to Fitzpatrick.
She said it was similar to the agreement recently reached with school employees.
With the DPW contract, approximately 75 percent of town employees are now enrolled in the Rate Saver plan, Fitzpatrick said.
5. The Needham Channel’s lease is still up in the air, as the Cable TV Advisory Committee awaits word from Comcast as to whether the company is willing to extend their 10-year lease or whether they will sell the property.
Meanwhile, Comcast’s license to operate in Needham will expire on Sept. 10 of this year—an agreement that will not go forward until the building’s status is determined, according to Jonathan Tamkin, who sits on the Needham Channel board of directors.
If Comcast decides to sell the building, the local cable station would have the right of first refusal to either make an offer or reject purchase of the building, Tamkin said.
He said Comcast had not responded to efforts from the local advisory board to determine the company’s plans for the building. But he did not think it was a matter of Comcast ignoring the town—rather “a disconnect” in communication between the real estate and business arms of the telecommunications company.
Other items of note that were approved and discussed on May 24 included:
• Utility change: Selectmen unanimously approved a request from NSTAR to install about 19.5 feet of conduit at a utility pole on Scott Road to provide underground service for a new home.
• Beer and wine licenses: Selectmen approved two separate one-day special wine and malt beverage licenses for Needham Pool and Racquet Club to host a new member reception on Friday, June 17 and a Summerfest event on Saturday, July 16. The board also approved a one-day special wine and malt beverage license for Christ Episcopal Church to host a cast party for Longwood Opera on Sunday, June 5.
• Donations: The board accepted the following donations: $100 from First Parish in Needham for the Health Department’s Gift of Warmth fund; $600 to the Park and Recreation Department for Arts in the Park from the Needham Cultural Council; tennis equipment for the parks department from the U.S. Tennis Association, New England; a wheelchair for Rosemary Pool from the Needham Community Council; a painting for the Rosemary camp property from Matt and Melissa Hughes; $4,840 to the Needham Revitalization Trust Fund to purchase banners from the Needham Tercentennial Committee; two new U.S. flags for the Town Common and Needham Heights Common for summer use from the members of Norfolk Lodge, AF and AM; and $700 to Needham Youth Services for the Youth Commission’s Project VAN from the Needham Community Council.
• Bike ride in September: The board granted permission for a fundraising bicycle ride through Needham on Sept. 16. The Braking the Cycle three-day ride will benefit the HIV/AIDS services of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of New York. About 130 riders will pass through Needham that morning.
• Block parties: Selectmen granted permission for residents to hold block parties on the following dates: Fairfield Street on Friday, June 17 from 12:45-4:00 p.m.; Mills Road on Saturday, June 18 from 4:00-9:00 p.m. (rain date June 24); Park Avenue on Saturday, June 18 from 10:00 a.m.-10:00 p.m. (rain date June 19); and Lawton Road on Saturday, June 18 from 3:00-9:00 p.m.
• An across-the-pond invitation: Selectmen are inviting members of the town council in Needham’s sister city, Needham Market in Suffolk, England, to participate in the town’s tercentennial celebration activities this summer and fall. According to the letter of invitation: “The town of Needham was founded on Nov. 6, 1711 by a collection of about 250 farmers and their families who named their new settlement after the English village of Needham Market. Needham Market’s namesake has strengthened and grown into what 300 years later is a sought-after community full of civic pride.”