Ward 3 Talks Budget Crunch, Traffic, Roads, Recycling
Also at Ward 3's ResiStat meeting, the mayor discussed Somerville's budget and lauded Assembly Square development.
Traffic, trash pickup, community policing and road conditions were some of the issues residents addressed at the Ward 3 ResiStat meeting held Monday night.
Mayor Joseph Curtatone used the meeting to outline the city's efforts to close a budget shortfall for next year. He promoted his vision for the development of Assembly Square, applauding this month's Board of Aldermen vote to issue a $25 million bond for that purpose.
Ward 3 Alderman Thomas Taylor and Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello also spoke about issues in the community.
ResiStat community meetings are being held throughout the city this spring, with one meeting for each of Somerville's seven wards. Monday night's Ward 3 meeting took place at Somerville High School.
Here's a short list of some issues discussed at the meeting:
In reference to the $25 million bond, Taylor said, "There's been a lot of misconceptions … out there as to how this works." Money to pay off the bond, he said, will be derived strictly from new buildings in Assembly Square itself. In other words, residents' property taxes will not be used to pay off the bond, he said.
Curtatone said the bond vote was the most important in the city's history. He said, "Assembly Square is under construction, believe it or not." Current projects focus on infrastructure, which is "not the sexy stuff," but such projects are nonetheless important.
He also said Assembly Square will bring $17 million in "net new" property taxes. "Your property tax bill in your house is not negatively impacted by this," he said.
It's budget season, and as of a few days ago the projected budget shortfall for fiscal year 2012, which begins in July, was about $7.1 million. Curtatone said the city's budget team has now whittled that figure down to about $5 million.
Most revenues are getting "sucked up" by health care costs, he said. At the state level, legislators on Beacon Hill are currently addressing the issue of municipal health care costs with various proposals.
The results of that political process will ultimately have a large impact on Somerville's budget, Curtatone said.
He said the budget will continue to take shape over the next few weeks, and he is aiming to submit a revised fiscal-year-2012 budget during the second week of June.
Pasquarello said crime is down across the board, but the important indicator is "how safe do you feel?" In addition, he said, "I'm looking for transparency in the police department." To that end, Somerville's police department is considering getting a Facebook page so the department can "better use social media to get the message out."
Anyone who drives in Somerville has had bad experiences with potholes. Curtatone said the past winter didn't help. Bad roads got worse, and good roads also took a hit. He said the city will be repaving roads this summer, but many roads are bad due to utility work. When roads are ripped up for utility work, they need to sit for a year to resettle before getting paved over again.
Outdoor restaurant seating
The mayor said, "We are constantly … trying to create lively sidewalks" throughout Somerville, and that effort includes advocating for more outdoor restaurant seating and petitioning for more beer and wine licenses.
After a trial period in Ward 5, Somerville would like to explained single-stream recycling to the entire city. Single-stream recycling would allow residents to put cardboard, glass, metal and other recyclable goods in one big blue bin as opposed to sorting them out into separate small bins. The city is currently exploring the costs and logistics of implementing this plan.