Martin optimistic about 2014 in Greenfield
GREENFIELD — The mayor says he is optimistic that 2014 will be a good year for Greenfield.
“I think revenues will continue to increase and our police department will become much more stable than it has been,” said Mayor William Martin as he looked ahead to a new year quickly approaching.
Martin said he hopes to see food, room and excise taxes increase and hopes that parking revenues stay steady and stable.
“I’d like to see the town collecting enough in those areas to alleviate some of the burden from our taxpayers,” he said.
“We also want to continue on the path of a sustainable operating budget,” said Martin. “All town departments have been working for several years on reaching a point where they are rebuilt, reshaped and running efficiently.”
Martin said this year will be the school department’s turn.
Also the chairman of the School Committee, Martin said the town’s school department will review its budget this year, looking for ways to make the department runs more efficient.
“We’ll be looking more at site-based funding,” said Martin. “That means we will look closely at the individual needs of each of our schools separately and then as a whole.”
Martin said looking at schools will take a couple of years, because first the budget will need to be reviewed and then changes, if there are any, will have to be implemented.
“You can’t do both in the same year,” he said.
“The schools will be looking at the same things other departments had to look at: where they are, what they are doing, what they need to do and how much it will all cost,” said Martin.
Martin said the impact grants have on school funding will also be closely analyzed.
“We want to see how grants have and will affect the school department’s operating budget,” said Martin.
He said at the same time he and others will be working with the school department on next year’s budget, they will also be searching for a new superintendent.
“We’d like to have someone chosen by March or April and have them start July 1, 2014,” said Martin.
“I think now that we have a new, permanent police chief, we’re going to start seeing a well-run, efficient police department,” said Martin. “I will be going through the budget with Chief (Robert) Haigh and we’ll be looking at how to improve the department and at performance.”
Martin said police will be hiring a couple of officers this week.
“The department may not yet be where it was in 2000, when there were 40 officers,” said the mayor. “The department is at about 34 at this point, so it’s going to have to prioritize calls, but police departments always have to do that. This one has done well with that.”
Martin said a department that has been in a “state of flux” since former Police Chief David Guilbault retired for health reasons in 2011, is now back on its feet and ready for action.
“We’ve got some good, solid people there, like lieutenants Burge, McCarthy, Dodge and Gordon,” said Martin. “They’ve done terrific jobs and, I’m sure, will continue to do so.”
Martin said he will be looking at the structure of the department with Haigh this year.
Buildings and infrastructure
Martin said the town will also be looking closely at facilities, including whether it makes sense to build a public safety complex that would house police, fire and other emergency services, library needs, and the waste water treatment plant and what might eventually be mandated by the state.
“That’s why I’d like to think about purchasing the Meadows golf course,” said Martin. “If the state says we have to build another tank, I’m not sure where it is going to go.”
He said the town will also take a inventory of its roads, water and sewer systems and its bridges.
“We may not be able to take care of everything all at once, but we can at least know what we are dealing with,” said Martin.
The mayor said he hopes the town’s only covered bridge will be repaired and back on its abutments by fall.
Martin said the bridge will be open to vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
“It’s something to really look forward to,” he said.
Lunt and Bendix
Martin said he has no idea what will happen with the former Lunt property at this point, or whether the town will ever take possession.
“We’re going to wait and see what the federal Environmental Protection Agency says about contamination on and off the property,” said Martin. “Until then, we’d like to make sure the fields can be used by our Minor League baseball teams.”
He said the town has been marketing the former Bendix-Repal property on Laurel Street extension — the federal EPA cleaned that property up already — and has had a “couple of bites,” but said he cannot discuss them at this point.
“All I can say is that we have a business, which would bring about 50 to 60 jobs to Greenfield, that is interested,” said Martin. “That business wants to build an 80,000- to 90,000-square-foot building there.”
He said another business, which he will also not name at this point, is interested in building a 10,000-square-foot building there.
“We’ll continue to work with these businesses and hopefully draw them here,” he said.
Planning Board and Sustainable Master Plan
Martin said he would like to have a five-member Planning Board intact shortly after the first of the year.
Former member James Allen was not reappointed to his seat last fall after Town Council denied Martin’s reappointment, basically saying the board needed new blood and someone who would listen to and respect everyone who goes before it.
Then, Martin tried to appoint former Town Councilor Isaac Mass to the position, but Town Council denied that appointment also.
“Three people have expressed interest,” said Martin. “I’d really like to have the final board member sitting within a few weeks. I’d also like to have two alternate members chosen and approved.”
Martin said any large project that comes before the board in 2014 will need a five-member board review.
“We can’t leave large projects waiting for a full board for their reviews,” he said.
Martin said he looks forward to the completion of Greenfield’s updated “sustainable” master plan.
“The new plan, I understand, has all sorts of ideas, implementation strategies and ways to improve the town,” he said. “We’ll have to take some time to go through it and see how it is going to work for the town.”
Martin said he has heard some say that parts of the new plan should eventually be turned into ordinances.
“I’m not sure that’s the best approach,” said Martin. “The master plan is a plan that is meant to guide the entire town. Ordinances based on the town’s master plan would take what the plan suggests out of the town’s hands and put it into the council’s hands. I don’t think that’s the best way to implement a master plan.”
Martin said he thinks there will be a lot of discussion about that in the coming year.