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Medford Mayor touts new security systems in schools, capital improvements in State of the City

Posted by Jarret Bencks  March 11, 2013 11:58 AM

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Mayor Michael McGlynn touted recently undertaken projects and those on the horizon in his State of the City address last week.

While he annually speaks at a Medford Chamber of Commerce event dubbed "The State of the City," last Thursday's address at City Hall was only the second time McGlynn hosted an official State of the City address since taking office in 1988. He last held one in 2001.

Here are some of the highlights (quotations are from a copy of the speech provided by the city of Medford):

Public Safety

  • The city hired seven new firefighters last year and will add another eleven this year, while five new police officers were added in 2012 with plans to add six more
  • New security camera systems at schools are being implemented that will "provide clear viewing of individuals requesting access to our schools," and allow real-time monitoring and 24/7 recording.

Capital Improvements

  • The firm Weston and Sampson has been selected to design an overhaul of the city's condemned public works yard, the design work was previously estimated to cost $1.3 million
  • A total of $1.8 million will be spent to "refurbish" city fire stations. The city also plans to purchase one new fire engine and three new thermal cameras
  • A $2.4 million renovation of the Medford High School pool is expected to be completed by October 2013. The pool has been closed since 2008.
Real Estate Development

  • Criterion Development plans to build a 163-unit apartment complex on Mystic Valley Parkway at the former site of Sentry Mercury-Lincoln car dealership. The project will bring the city $341,000 in building permit fees and $573,000 in linkage fees.
  • North Shore Construction has agreed to buy the former General Electric plant site at 320 Middlesex Ave., with plans to remediate the land and construct a 175-unit housing complex
Here is the text of the speech in its entirety:

Citizens of Medford, honored guests, friends and family. We are blessed by the strength of our home, a city with a proud history. As well as, an immense contemporary vitality.

The course we charge for the coming years will bear the mark of our traditions, as well as, the creativity of our aspirations. We are guided always by a singular principle - To make Medford a living city, as well as a livable city - wehere work and recreation, living and learning, not only co-exist, but thrive and enrich one another.

Medford citizens have always been courageous, civic-minded and forward thinking people, who have stood tall in the face of adversity, conflict and unpopular positions.

We must continue to build on our strengths and to keep Medford moving forward with integrity, civility and compassion.

Tonight, we join together as citizens of this great city to address the question: What is the State of our City?

This past year was one of progress, new initiative, accomplishment and cooperation. We put Medford in action to improve the delivery of services and to enhance the quality of life for all.

We did it facing the threat of a fiscal cliff and while we recovered from the greatest recession since the great depression.

Medford is a community of continued progress. Abraham Lincoln once said, "You can not escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today."

Changes in the way we communicate, how we educate our children and how we protect our environment compel us to adapt with fresh ideas and vigorous effort.

We find our strength in the diversity of our citizens. Medford High School educates students from 31 different countries speaking 31 different languages. The diversity of our families offers us the opportunity to explore the world through shared experiences.

Local government is judged by the quality of public safety offered to its citizens, as well as, the support offered to its fire and police officers in carrying out their duties. This administration has always accepted these responsibilities, and believes that the essences of community safety lies in preparedness and prevention. An incident avoided is a life spared.

We continue to strengthen our public safety sector. We graduated seven firefighters from the training academy and are presently hiring an additional twelve.

Of these 19 positions, we received a SAFER grant for $1.4. million to cover 8 positions, including their benefits, for the next two years.

We are about to embark on a $1.8 million refurbishment of our fire stations. We will purchase a new fire engine and have purchased three new thermal imaging cameras.

The police department recently graduated five new officers from the police academy and will hire an additional six. We plan to purchase five new police cruisers. Also, the department has distributed 110 new radios, which will enhance interoperability between emergency responders.

Medford has collaborated with the attorney general's office to take control of abandoned run down properties. They are rehabilitated and sold under court supervision. $288,000 in back taxes have been recovered while eliminating blight in our neighborhoods. The building department has also demolished 22 illegal apartments.

Energy and environmental issues have our full commitment. Medford has become a community that citizens, state agencies, and utilities look to as a leader in the conservation movement.

Due to Medford's outstanding green initiatives, the city received a city livability award from the US Conference of Mayors and the Kenneth M. Pickard Innovation Award from the Massachusetts Municipal Association, for a record fifth time!

For the second consecutive occasion, the EPA issued energy star plaques to the middle and elementary schools for their outstanding energy conservation measures.

Medford stands along as the only community to have received over $250,000 in both rounds of the green commmunities grant funding, for implementation of energy efficiency measures.

We have changed hundreds of city owned lights to LED lighting, saving the city nearly $16,500 a year in electric cost. National Grid awarded the city over $22,000 in rebates toward this project.

Great attention has been placed on the high school with a goal to retrofit the building.

National Grid contributed over $100,000 towards energy efficient upgrades in C-building. The city also received $22,500 in grants to complete a study of the heating system at Medford High School, including solar thermal for the pool.

Our plan to help outline environmental goals for the next five years will be accomplished through the grant from the metropolitan area planning council. One of the first initiatives we will undertake is a residential outreach program that encourages homeowners to have an energy assessment followed by energy efficiency upgrades.

In 2010, we set a very amibitous goal for ourselves to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by the end of 2015. We are pleased to announce this evening that we have surpassed this having reduced emissions already by 30 percent.

Along with energy efficiency, the promotion of job creation and economic growth requires investment in transportation, housing stock, and land use planning. The city strives to create a sustainable economy by maximizing opportunities for existing and new businesses, encouraging the creation of affordable and decent housing, while stimulating economic activity in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Boston Magazine has just listed Medford as one of the best places to live in 2013. It references our happneing restaurant scene, the city's open space, its single-family homes and if that were not enough, it also stated that Medford is a third less expensive than neighboring communities.

Our resident market is strong with several major projects in the pipeline. All will capitalize on mixed-use projects and their proximity to public transportation.

Criterion Development, recognizing the superb location and amenities of Wellington Station, has purchased the former site of Sentry Lincoln/Mercury. Criterion expects to break ground in April on a 163-unit premium apartment complex. This project will expand our economic base, create 16 affordable housing units, generate $341,000 in building permit fees, $573,000 in linkage fees and generate additional tax revenue.

North Shore Construction has signed a purchase and sales agreement for the former GE site at 320 Middlesex Ave. The company has made a significant investment to remediate this brownfield site and intends to create 175 housing units.

Nearby, another phase of the Rivers Edge project is in the planning stage.

It is no surprise that RedFin, a national real estate website, named Medford as among the country's hottest, up and coming neighborhoods for 2013.

The city is working with state and federal officials to begin the feasibility study of creating a water taxi on the Mystic River. The project's primary goals are to provide an alternative mode of transportation, provide access to the Mystic River and foster economic development. The city has received a federal grant in the amount of $780,000 for this project.

We are able to accomplish these endeavors due to our financial strength. This past fall, Moody's investors service assigned Medford an A1 bond ration, increaing our outlook from stable to positive. Due to this rating, city bonds were purchased at market for 1.99 percent. Moody's highlighted the city's strengths as:

1. History of structurally balanced operations

2. Low debt burden

3. Stability of local economy

4. Large, favorable located tax base with redevelopment potential

5. Increased reserves

Per Moody's, "The city's positive outlook" reflects the city's improved strengthened position. Our recent bond issue, part of the city's capital plan entitled "Chart the Course," includes the following projects at a cost of $8.8 million:

Hormel turf field, $360,000; sidewalks, $500,000; school technology, $3.3 million; high school pool, $1.925 million; fire station upgrades, $1.8 million; storm drainage, $1 million.

Last June, Hormel's turf field and refurbished track project was completed. We anticipate rental revenues to cover the cost of the bond. 

This year we have implemented a $3.3 million technology plan throughout the school system. This investment is providing universal wireless connectivity and multimedia instructional avenues for enhanced learning for all learners. Our plan, when fully complete, will install and distribute over 5,000 educational tools to our students and faculty.

We have received a special $50,000 technology grant from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropy group, in memory of his mother, Charlotte, who was a distinguished and beloved member of our community.

On Jan. 30, 2013, the Massachusetts School Building Authority voted to approve a $13.8 million total renovation of our high school science laboratories. This will provide our high school and our vocational school students with state of the art facilities to study the critically important area of science, technology  and engineering. Medford will receive up to $8 million in grants from the state to offset the cost.

There will be an updated infrastructure, which includes a new roof, windows, new heating, ventilation, plumbing and lighting. The program's plans will enable us to explore new vocational programs for biotechnology, environmental science and robotics.

The Medford High School pool renovation is expected to start this May and be completed by October 2013. This investment of $2.375 million will enable us to recapture this important resource for both our schools and community programs.

A million-dollar storm drainage project is in process. This project will relieve severe flooding issues occurring in the Wright's Pond neighborhood and throughout the Lawrence Estates area down to the Mystic River.

We want to thank all of the citizens that have participated in the public process for these projects as well as the city council and school committee for moving the capital program forward.

There has been much discussion about the DPW yard. Recently, we selected Weston and Sampson as the designers. We must continue to move aggressively to capture the favorable interest rate environment that presently exists to finance our new DPW facility.

As elected officials, we have a responsibility to ensure a safe learning environment for our children to flourish.

The Medford Public Schools have been working with our police department, the Middlesex DA, and other area schools systems to review all our security protocols and systems. Each school has an emergency plan and has participated in simulations to prepare for any threat.

Additionally, we have taken steps to upgrade our school's security cameras. These enhanced cameras will provide real time and seamless security monitoring with 24/7 recording operation. This system will be fully integrated with the Medford public safety E-911 system to provide prompt responses to critical requirements.

As part of the upgrade, new high visibility monitors will provide clear viewing of individuals requesting access to our schools. This feature allows for "entry and exit door control" for authorized persons only.

As Vince Lombardi once said, "People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society."

I pride my time as mayor as embodying this philosophy.

Therefore, we have created many partnerships such as the one we have with the J.F. White Construction Company, who last summer, replaced 14 bridges on Route 93. Medford residents had to listen to constant noise for months. Mr. White agreed to help Medford residents by performing mitigation work that included resurfacing the parking lot at Hormel Stadium, Webster Street, Lauriat Place, Oakland Park, and Oakland Place.

In addition, he did extensive landscaping improvements at various locations and agreed to donate $60,000 for a future dog park. In its entirety, the value of savings is approximately $600,000.

Two weeks ago, clear channel presented the city a check for $450,000 as part of structured settlement for the conversion of two static billboards to electronic. In addition to the $1.475 million agreement, the city also receives free advertising space on the boards for municipal messages and community events.

We have developed a partnership with Verizon and brought FiOS to 100 percent of our residential community. Medford was the only community to be completely connected, despite Verizon's moratorium on expansion.

Just weeks ago, we proudly partnered with our state delegation who passed legislation relieving the city of a $1.2 million debt.

To ensure that the LoConte Rink is operating efficiently, we formed a partnership to install an energy saving ceiling and dehumidification system. National Grid Contributed $40,000 and DCR provided $200,000 for the project, helping to save the city's utility costs into the future.

We are proud of our partnership with our many citizen volunteers who work tirelessly to improve the quality of life in our community,including, the Medford Farmers Market, MACI-the artist group, Circle the Square, Medford's New Bicycle Commission and CACHE.

Shortly, we will begin discussions on a new pilot program with Tufts University, who partners with us in so many ways.

In the fall, we will honor our Medford veterans who have answered the call to duty, to fight for freedoms around the world. We will add to the monuments at Honor Roll Park, the names of those Medford veterans who fought in Operation Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom.

The first construction contract associated with the Green Line expansion to Medford starts this spring. The primary work consists of reconstructing the Harvard Street bridge, constructing new concrete retaining walls and placement of noise barriers along a portion of Winchester Street.

The work includes relief to the chronic flooding that occurs under the Harvard Street bridge. The new bridge will be higher, so the grade of Harvard Street will be raised.

In short, the state of our city is vibrant, with a solid foundation built upon the diversity of its people, their talents and their desire to work in harmony to better our city. Our world today is consumed with discord that results from an emphasis on what divides us and where common good is ignored by self-interest. In our city, we celebrate the uniqueness of all individuals, all faiths and all perspectives.

You need look no further to find a model neighborhood than Magoun Avenue and Washington Street.The neighbors came together to ask how they could help to welcome his holiness, the Dalai Lama. Offers came pouring in to rake leaves, paint the trim, put out the trash and even to tearing down the fences that separated their yards, to transplanting shrubs, trimming trees, to agreeing to close down streets within their neighborhood in order to safely welcome the Dalai Lama.

Thousands turned out to greet his holiness, and who were they? They were young and old, black and white, Jewish, Catholic and Protestants. They were gay and straight. They are the faces of Medford.

Medford works.

Medford works, because of the commitment and sacrifice of its public employees. Medford works, because of the vision of its business leaders. Medford works because of the compassion of its people. And Medford works, because together, the children, young adults, the middle aged, and the elderly, believe in a vital future for our city and the promise of our potential.

Our Medford is a city of hope and of opportunity, of neighborhood networks and community cooperation. Our Medford is not simply a haven to hang one's hat, but a city that accommodates both a robust industrial base and secure and attractive residences. Medford is not only a living city, but a livable city.

As our citizens are diverse, so are our activities. This is our tradition, this is our future. These are the reasons we, and generations yet to come, will proudly say: "We are Medford!"

Jarret Bencks can be reached at bencks.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on twitter @JarretBencks.

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