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Globe West Community briefing

Town meeting OK’s new taxes

November 22, 2009

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Arlington
Town Meeting members passed a local-option tax on restaurant meals and an increase in the local hotel tax during Monday’s session. The meals tax will tack on 0.75 percent to the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on restaurant bills. The Board of Selectmen chairman, Kevin Greeley, said the tax will generate $200,000 annually for the town. By increasing the hotel and motel tax from 4 percent to 6 percent, the town can expect an additional $60,000, Greeley said. Vince Barrett, a representative from Arlington’s lone hotel, Homewood Suites on Massachusetts Avenue, spoke against the tax increase, saying he might have to lower the hotel’s rates to stay competitive. Town Meeting also voted to place a binding question on the town election ballot next spring that would allow selectmen to license the town’s three package stores to sell liquor in addition to the beer and wine they now offer. The change would also require approval by the state Legislature. - Brock Parker

MEETING OVER DILBOY FIELD NOISE - State Senator Ken Donnelly is scheduled to meet with town officials and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to address complaints about noise coming from Dilboy Field in Somerville. The location of the Dec. 7 meeting had not been determined last week, said Cindy Friedman, the Arlington Democrat’s chief of staff. Noise from the stadium’s speakers has been bothering residents along Sunnyside Avenue, which runs along the Somerville line, and Donnelly has asked state and Somerville officials to address the problem. Town Manager Brian Sullivan said he plans to attend the meeting as well. “Hopefully, we can get this issue resolved once and for all,’’ he said. - Brock Parker

BELMONT
POWER SUBSTATION DEFEATED - Town Meeting scuttled plans by the town’s electric utility to build a power substation near the Cambridge line. The 112-to-85 tally Monday fell 20 votes short of the two-thirds majority approval required for the $34 million project, said Town Clerk Delores Keefe. In other articles, Town Meeting members approved a local meals tax of 0.75 percent, a move that is expected to put about $102,000 annually into town coffers. Initiatives to allow for voters to petition to have elected officials recalled and to extend greater powers to the town’s police chief over personnel and departmental rules were also approved. - Christina Pazzanese

NO DELAY FOR WELLINGTON PROJECT - A recent discovery of mold and water damage to town-owned modular units intended for use by Wellington Elementary students will not disrupt the school’s renovation timetable. Mark X. Haley, chairman of the Wellington Building Committee, said a consultant found that water had seeped between the walls of the units, causing mold and damaging insulation and their exterior. The contractor in charge of reconfiguring some leased modular units into classrooms has agreed to remove the mold and make other repairs, a project expected to take up to a month and $50,000 to $75,000, Haley said. The added expense will be absorbed by the $39 million project budget, though the committee may seek reimbursement from the town. The units have been used as extra space for school and town projects since they were acquired around 2002, he said. An industrial hygienist hired by the committee will test the air quality in all of the units before they’re used, said Haley. Starting in January, Wellington’s 470 students are slated to attend classes in the modular units while their old school is demolished and its replacement is constructed. The new school is expected to open in September 2011. - Christina Pazzanese

Brookline
CEREMONY TODAY AT JFK BIRTHPLACE - It was 46 years ago today that President Kennedy was shot in Dallas. To mark the anniversary, Kennedy’s birthplace at 83 Beals St. is open today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a ceremony planned for noon. Also, the National Historic Site’s staff hope anyone who attended a memorial service there on Nov. 25, 1963, will share their memories. The house museum closed for the winter on Nov. 1. For information about the property, visit www.nps.gov/jofi. - Andreae Downs

LITERARY LIGHTS AT FIRST LIGHT - A lineup of published Brookline authors will read from their own works at Brookline Booksmith from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 3 to coincide with First Light, the commercial area’s annual holiday kickoff. Among the highlights: best-selling mystery novelist Sarah Smith, who will read from her new young adult novel, set in Brookline; poet and journalist Susie Davidson, who has written about Holocaust survivors and their liberators; Wendy Lement, author of a children’s book, “Keri Tarr: Cat Detective’’; and David Prerau, who will read from his book, “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.’’ The readings are organized by the Brookline Library Authors’ Collaborative. - Andreae Downs

FORUM ON HUNGER - Why are there people here, and across the country, without enough food? A Dec. 9 forum exploring the issue will include panelists from the Brookline Food Pantry, Greater Boston Food Bank, and the local schools. The event, sponsored by the Brookline Democratic Town Committee, will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. in the Devotion School library. People are asked to bring personal-care items for clients of the food pantry. For details, call 617-742-1836. - Andreae Downs

AN ART TREASURE - The owner of an upscale Washington Square restaurant will be named an Art Treasure on Dec. 13 for his culinary contributions to the Brookline Arts Center’s fund-raising events. The ceremony honoring Jim Solomon, owner of the Fireplace, will take place during a benefit brunch (10 a.m. to noon, $35) at the center, 86 Monmouth St., and will cite his “intense desire to support educational opportunities for low-income children.’’ Solomon also hosts literary readings, jazz and Latin musicians, and a summer music festival at the Fireplace, and caters the annual Gala Preview before the center’s annual crafts showcase. This year’s gala is Dec. 2, 6-9 p.m., at the center. Details at www.brooklineartscenter.com. - Andreae Downs

Lexington
TAX MEASURES APPROVED - Town Meeting approved a tax on restaurant meals and an increase in the levy on hotel stays in Lexington on Wednesday, as the three-day meeting wrapped up. The local option meals tax will tack on a charge of 0.75 percent to restaurant bills. Norm Cohen, selectmen chairman, said the tax would equal a charge of 23 cents on the average restaurant bill of $30 in Lexington. Town Meeting also approved an increase to the hotel and motel occupancy tax from 4 percent to 6 percent, but the body voted to delay the increase until July 1 . Combined, the two measures are expected to generate about $500,000 in tax revenue for the town each year. Members voted Monday to postpone an article indefinitely that would have allowed selectmen to sell or lease the former Munroe School building, which houses the Munroe Center for the Arts. Lexington officials estimate the building needs about $2.3 million in repairs, but Town Meeting members debated whether the town should sell the building, and what the sale price should be, said Town Clerk Donna Hooper . - Brock Parker

LIGHTING UP THE HOLIDAYS - Two local groups are working together to light up luminaria along the town’s streets and business areas on Dec. 4 as part of a nondenominational holiday celebration. The event will be hosted by LexFun, a group that provides educational and recreational opportunities to families with children under 5 years old, and the Lexington Historical Society. The two organizations are selling luminaria kits to area residents and businesses for $15. Proceeds will go to LexFun’s preschool scholarship fund and the Lexington Historical Society’s education programs on Colonial life and the American Revolution. Luminaria kits include 12 white bags and 12 tea candles, and will be available Friday and Saturday at the Buckman Tavern at 1 Bedford St. and Nov. 30 through Dec. 3 at the Depot Building at 13 Depot Square. Sand to weigh down the bags and keep them in place will be available at the Department of Public Works building. - Brock Parker

NEWTON
TAXES FOR INFRASTRUCTURE - The Board of Aldermen voted Monday to set aside 25 percent of revenues brought in from new restaurant and hotel taxes for city maintenance and infrastructure projects. Aldermen voted earlier this year to impose a 0.75 percent local option tax on restaurant meals and to increase the tax on hotel rooms from 4 percent to 6 percent. Alderman Ken Parker introduced the item for the special infrastructure fund. - Calvin Hennick

TAX SPLIT STAYS THE SAME - Aldermen voted last week to keep the same tax rate split for residents and businesses that the city has maintained for several years. Board members voted 16 to 6, with two members absent, to tax businesses at 175 percent of what they would pay under a single tax rate. The approved tax rates for this year are $10.41 per $1,000 in valuation for residences and $19.94 per $1,000 in valuation for businesses. The median residential property tax bill will be $7,140 this year, up $214 from last year. The median commercial property tax bill will be $14,513, up $677 from last year. - Calvin Hennick

WATERTOWN
WINTER PARKING RULE - Police caution that the town’s seasonal street parking ban goes into effect next Sunday. During the ban, vehicles may not be parked on town streets for more than an hour from 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. Violators will be issued a $15 citation; those parked on the street during a snow emergency will be towed. The restriction ensures that plows, sanding trucks, and emergency vehicles are able to move about freely at a time when streets are often narrowed by snow. To accommodate visitors or residents with nowhere else to put their vehicles, the town will allow overnight parking in all five public school lots; behind the Philips School Administration building and the Watertown Public Library; at Victory Field; in the Watertown Square and Coolidge Square municipal lots; and at a town lot at Boylston and Mt. Auburn streets. Vehicles can be left up to 72 hours, but must be moved after a snowstorm to make way for plows. Those using school lots are required to remove their cars by 7 a.m. on school days. - Christina Pazzanese

VACANT LIBRARY BRANCHES - The Town Council will revive the issue of what to do with the town’s two vacant library branches at its Tuesday night meeting. A hot-button topic in 2006 when the town permanently shuttered the east and north branches of the Watertown Public Library in order to focus its resources on constructing a new, larger facility on Main Street, the topic largely faded after an ad hoc committee and citizens forum took up the reuse issue in early 2007. Though the St. James Armenian Church has repeatedly expressed interest in acquiring the former East Branch, council president Clyde L. Younger said the council hasn’t made any decisions on whether to sell or lease the buildings. The town is required by state law to issue a public request for proposals before disposing of a property, he said. - Christina Pazzanese

WELLESLEY
COLLEGE GRAD WINS EPA GRANT - Recent Wellesley College graduate Catlin Powers was awarded a $10,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to continue her work with the One Earth Designs company she cofounded. Powers’s award was given for her work on the SolSource 3-in-1, which uses solar energy for cooking, power generation, and heat. The award was presented through the P3 Awards run by the EPA, a competition for students focusing on “people, prosperity, and the planet,’’ according to Wellesley College. The P3 award is not the first for Powers this year - she also won the St. Andrews Prize for the Environment, which carries a $75,000 award. - Adam J.V. Sell

WESTON
AFFORDABLE LOTTERY - Highland Meadows, a new 62-unit condominium project on Boston Post Road, has at least two and perhaps as many as four units available for purchase by those who meet income standards. The three-bedroom and two-bathroom condos will be sold as affordable housing, with a discounted price of $192,000, to qualified buyers selected in a lottery to be held on Dec. 21 at Town Hall. Prospective homeowners have until 1 p.m. Dec. 15 to submit applications for the drawing. Organizers will hold an information session to answer questions about the project on Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Weston Middle School. They’ll also host an open house on Dec. 6 from 3 to 4 p.m. Applications can be picked up at the selectmen’s office in Town Hall or Weston Public Library, or downloaded from the town’s website, weston.govoffice.com. For details, call Beth Rust at 978-639-3388. - Christina Pazzanese

Around the Region
Ashland
FILM ON RELATIONS WITH IRAN - “Iran (is not the problem),’’ a documentary that examines how well the American news media provides accurate information regarding relations between the United States and Iran, will be shown Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Ashland Public Library on Front Street. The free screening, part of the library’s documentary film series, will be followed by a discussion. For more information, visit www.friendsoftheapl.com or www.iranisnottheproblem.org. - Rachel Lebeaux

CARLISLE
SCHOOL CHIEF RESIGNING - The local district’s superintendent, Marie Doyle, tendered her resignation to the School Committee last week just before the panel voted to restructure the kindergarten-through-Grade 8 system’s administration. The board’s 4-1 vote created a combined superintendent and principal position that a consultant has estimated will save $169,000 per year. Doyle’s resignation is effective June 30. In her sixth year as superintendent, Doyle told the board that “it is time to pursue other opportunities that will challenge me to stretch my mind and spirit in new ways.’’ - Nancy Shohet West

PLAINVILLE
MARCHING TO NATIONAL PRIZE - The King Philip Regional High School marching band won first place in its division at the annual US Scholastic Band Association National Championship. The nearly 100-member band traveled to Maryland to compete against 100 other bands during a three-day weekend, where they were led by the school’s music director, Peter Tileston. - Michele Morgan Bolton