BBA Elects New Board, Receives Update on Town News
Newly elected BBA officers and members of the Board of Directors
Like many other organizations, the BBA usually finds itself scrambling to fill vacancies on its board, but this time, there were actually more candidates than openings, so in a change of policy, Joe DeWolfe of The Musicutter and Sean Coyle of Milford National Bank were named alternate board members. They will step in when a quorum is needed for a vote and to fill a vacancy if someone should leave the board.
Town Administrator’s Update
Board members and business owners were given a brief update on the “state of the town,” if you will, by Town Administrator Denis Fraine. He briefly shared some of the good developments taking place in Bellingham. He said that construction has begun on the new $6 million police station on Blackstone Street, completion expected in 2015.
Fraine said that the additional parking needed at Stall Brook School will come in the creative and unique form of canopies under which vehicles may be parked and on top of which solar panels will be installed by Solaire Generation, who will pay for removing the portables, eliminating the septic system and connecting to sewerage and paving. An added benefit of this arrangement? Stall Brook School will be locked in at a rate of 8 cents per kilowatt hour—National Grid currently charges17 cents per KWH—for 20 years with a 2% annual escalator.
Fraine also said that the town will be making $100,000 per year (with a 3% annual escalator) for the next 20 years by leasing the site of the former landfill on South Maple Street to Sundurance Energy, where they will also install solar panels.
Lastly, Fraine discussed the contract that the town has with Next Sun Energy, which owns a solar farm in Douglas. A 20-year contract has the town locked at a rate of just 9 cents per kilowatt hour, with a 2% annual escalator. All of these programs will result in saving the town many thousands of dollars over the next 20 years.
Town CFO’s Update
Bellingham Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Chris Laviolette spoke about the upcoming 2014-2015 town budget, indicating that the total $49,376,616 budget reflects an increase of $2.1 million over last year’s budget. This breaks down to $27,123,219 on the municipal side and $22,253,397 on the school side.
According to Chris, he’s in the rather unique position of managing both the municipal and school sides of the town’s annual budget, since Bellingham is one of the only towns to have combined the positions of CFO and School Business Manager. When asked if being responsible for two of what can sometimes be contentious opposing sides (at least in some towns) caused him any stress during the budget process, he replied, “No, not at all. Bellingham has a very good relationship between the municipal and school departments. Both sides always try to work together to keep what is best for the town overall first and foremost.” He also indicated that there is more money in the proposed budget for infrastructure repairs so that some of the most damaged roads in town can be improved.
Laviolette explained that Bellingham’s recent upgrade to a Standard & Poor’s AA+ rating is good news; it benefits the town in obtaining lower borrowing costs. For example, the improved rating allowed the town to get a 2% interest rate from the MA Water Pollution Abatement Trust for the upcoming town-wide water system repairs.
He briefly mentioned that the town has finally completed a long-overdue and very complicated system upgrade. One result of the upgrade is the change in trash and water billing cycles.
As far as challenges go, Laviolette cited the ever-increasing cost of employee benefits, which the town partly addresses by being self-insured through a group insurance trust program. “Cost is a function of experience—when participants are healthy our costs should be lower since they typically don’t often seek or require medical attention. However, as our work force ages, we may see costs increase as claims increase,” he explained.
The meeting concluded with John Orthman thanking outgoing board members Marjorie Turner Hollman, Ann Irons and Jason Carozza.
The BBA’s next meeting will be held on May 14 at N.E. Country Club. Guest speakers will be State Senator Richard Moore and State Rep. Kevin Kuros. Business owners who either live in Bellingham or have their business located here are invited to attend and check out the organization. The BBA (www.bellinghambusinessassociation.org) welcomes potential new members.
story & photos by Pamela Johnson,