Kelly Ross in July

Rosses Debate Over Feasibility of New Fire Station In 2015

The following is part of the transcript from the Board of Selectmen meeting on Sept. 30, 2014. For other parts of the meeting, click here.

9:00 p.m. – The agenda then went to the performance review of Town Manager Jodi Ross.

Peraner-Sweet said that Ross got a really good review, but in general the leadership skills of Ross had been recognized and that she got praise for her budgetary prowess getting through a few difficult years without cuts.

Peraner-Sweet also praised Ross for her work during the Pan-Am train derailment earlier in the year and that she was critical in regrouping after the warrant article for the Boston Road Fire Station was defeated last fall.

Selectman Kelly Ross said Jodi Ross was making it harder to find this to complain about and that she had hired good people.

Kelly Ross in July

Kelly Ross in July

Siriani didn’t comment on the Pan-Am crisis since he was not a Selectman then, but he was pleased that nothing worse happened and that the staff literally got on the track during the incident and dealt professionally under difficult circumstances with Pan-Am.

Hazelton also praised Jodi Ross for standing up to Pan-Am, who he said often tries to bully communities citing federal law.

He also said that Jodi Ross was very goal-oriented in a good way and that Westford actually met those goals.

Jodi Ross thanked the Selectmen for their positive comments and she said they made it easy to do her job since they gave her direction and got out of her way.

She also thanked the staff for their assistance doing what she does.

9:08 p.m. – Kelly Ross said that the Hunting Policy Committee has completed its work and that a draft policy will come to the Oct. 14 Board of Selectmen meeting.

There was also a request from Kelly Ross about the Capital Planning Committee addressing issues at Town Farm Road and the Roudenbush.

Peraner-Sweet said that would be addressed after town meeting, but Town Farm Road would need to be addressed soon.

Siriani then talked about a visit by Jodi Ross to the Graniteville Fire Station and thanked her for letting him and other Selectmen into the building.

9:12 p.m. – The agenda then went to 12 goals Jodi Ross is presenting for 2015.

#2 was on there last year, #3 is due to new federal regulations regarding “Cadillac health plans.”

Jodi Ross asked if he wanted them to keep going. Peraner-Sweet did.

Jodi Ross said #4 would need to be addressed after Town Meeting, as addressed a few minutes earlier.

Kelly Ross asked where the fire station was. It was not included, originally there was 20 items and it was cut off. It will be put back in.

Kelly Ross said he wanted to make the fire station goal more challenging, saying it is a “must-do” item, such as when town hall broke.

He also said it cannot be put up to a debt exclusion vote and he challenged town staff to not make this a choice between public safety and tax increases.

Peraner-Sweet agreed overall without making it absolute, since things can occur over the year making it a requirement not feasible.

Hazelton and Siriani then added comments, with Jodi Ross saying that the March Town Meeting for the fire station would be just for the design, and that construction of the building couldn’t be tied just to the design and that the town hall was a $4 million project and this could be $10 million.

She added that she does not feel comfortable guaranteeing a fire station in 2015 without some exceptions.

Kelly Ross hoped that Jodi Ross is not looking at future budgets in a vacuum, Jodi Ross said that she could not commit tonight to get this during 2015 under the levy limit.

Peraner-Sweet then talked about looking at expenses from other capital expenditures, and that Jodi Ross talked about the facility study and a plan that was given for bundling and bonding.

She said the town needed to make choices and that the fire station is important, but she does not feel comfortable guaranteeing the fire station this year.

Jodi Ross then talked briefly about goal #5, #6, and #7. #8, the EDSAT program, might not be addressed immediately due to the impact on staff.

Peraner-Sweet also asked what the value of an EDSAT would be and was not convinced the value from it would be the time and effort.

Jodi Ross said that the Economic Development Committee really wants to do this. Some towns don’t do anything with EDSATs and some towns really use them. But if NMCOG is willing to fund it and the staff can spend the time, if the Selectmen want to support the EDC, they should support this.

They are starting village meetings, with Wednesday night being the first one in Forge Village.

If this is every going to be done, it should be done now.

Kluchman said that Barry Bluestone has his graduate students do the work, so it’s a win-win there and Westford gets compared to 80 other communities across the country.

Peraner-Sweet said as long as staff is comfortable with it, she’s fine.

#9 and #10 are currently placeholders.

#11 is the same as last year, and Jodi Ross said this would take a lot of her time.

#12 related to revisiting traffic in the Town Center after it was not addressed last year and she said an additional goal for the Graniteville fire station may need to be added.

Kelly Ross asked if Selectmen had approved any recommendations in #12, they had not, that is for future recommendations.

Siriani then said that the Master Plan Committee would like more direction on that one.

Jodi Ross said that she was comfortable with any of the goals being taken off, but if not, she was okay with this and the staff would be busy.

9:33 p.m. – Jodi Ross then asked to change her request to approve submission for a Community Innovation Challenge Grant for the CrossTown Connect program to requesting to submit for multiple Community Innovation Challenge Grants since she had been getting more requests.

Kelly Ross made a motion to approve as long as there was no cost involved in the grants.

Jodi Ross then talked about a new unfunded mandate regarding food waste, and she was working with NMCOG on this.

Westford has already approved four CIC grants, and Kluchman indicated that they are all regional efforts and Westford is not a leader on any of these.

Bob Price then asked about staff impact regarding the grants.

Jodi Ross said that staff is already involved and a new grant request regarding ticks and the food waste request could be spread out in terms of workload with the help of NMCOG.

9:38 p.m. – Jodi Ross announced she has been going to Middlesex 3 Coalition meetings. It costs $2,000 to join and Ross was budgeting that out of her budget and will in the future.

9:39 p.m. – A health insurance renewal from blue Cross and Blue Shield came in at a higher amount than expected, but it was negotiated down to 5.1% maximum increase, a 4.1% increase for the Medicare Supplemental Plan and a 7.8% maximum increase for the Blue for Seniors plan, which is limited to three people.

There was then a request to waive the reading of correspondence and then talked about going into executive session and possibly coming back out of executive session.

There was a discussion on what should be done regarding the executive session, with Kelly Ross concerned that any public votes should be taken while recorded by Westford CAT.

The board agreed to go into executive session and return into session just for the vote.

10:02 p.m. – The meeting readjourned after executive session. There is a public vote to take regarding the FY’ 15/16 Westford Police Association which passed 3-1-0, with Kelly Ross opposing.

The board went back into executive session only with the purpose of adjournment.

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