The Winthrop/Quincy Ferry: Is it worth keeping afloat?
I came to the decision to write this after perusing “Leadership on the Line” a book that the Town Manager recently presented to each councilor. The principal message is real leadership speaks to higher values, and should make a difference in people’s lives. But, real leadership is risky because it challenges entrenched beliefs, leads to conflict and demands a hard look at existing systems.
As I see it, government tends to foster an environment where elected and unelected officials are less disposed to be cautious with tax revenue and may spend based more on their interests rather than those of taxpayers. This environment increases the risk that some decisions originally marketed as innovative, are actually bad ideas. I voted to fund one a well-intentioned idea that I am concerned might really be a bad idea. The decision I speak of is my vote to subsidize the Winthrop Ferry.
The ferry is referred to as “a new and evolving asset of the town” by officials championing it. After one year of operation, we are told that the town expects to obtain 58 percent of break-even. My vague understanding after reviewing my FOIA request of Ferry revenue and expenses is that this 58 percent of breakeven was achieved only with a $100,000 town subsidy being counted as revenue. I also discovered that most employees are shared ferry and harbor positions being paid through both the Ferry and waterway funds. Other Ferry expenses may also be funded through the waterway fund and stipends. This deserves a closer look because this increases the town’s subsidy.
The Ferry’s champions admit the catchment area of Winthrop is too small, and that is why the decision was made explore a regional strategy. This means the need for a ferry is not based on an actual demand from citizens rather it is based on a set of well-intentioned assumptions. Further evidence to support this conclusion is found in the actual long term plan, which appears to be, hoping for a state bailout. If the end game is for taxpayers to keep the Ferry afloat until the town can acquire a state subsidy, then it is highly probable Winthrop citizens will never receive a return on their investment.
There are many amazing things going on that officials can be proud of, the new middle/high school, and the Miller Field project are a couple. But, we mustn’t forget that both were funded because citizens authorized tax overrides.
The reality is that Winthrop’s tax revenue is primarily on the backs of property owners and therefore demands that we as your elected officials be judicious in our expenditures, insisting on some type of return on investment.
I will ask that a Ferry workshop be developed. I envision the workshop will include the public, the transportation, harbor and citizen finance committees, town management, town council and the chief financial officer. This will give proponents the opportunity review the finances of the Ferry and to present objective evidence on how taxpayers will obtain a return on investment. I have the expectation that a temporary citizen’s advisory committee to the council will evolve from the workshop, created to advise and assist with oversight of the Ferry going forward.
I will admit bias, I am currently of the belief that we should stop taxpayer funding of this endeavor. This town subsidy would be better spent on a bond to fund infrastructure improvements in the center business district. This investment has a much higher likelihood to provide the taxpayers a return on their investment. Ferry proponents will argue that we can do both, I am asking a simple question, Should we?
Richard N Boyajian APRN, NP
Winthrop Councilor at Large
On moving the tennis courts
As we move into the New Year I realize that the Town Council has many issues to confront, and to eventually resolve. One of these issues, the demolishing of the four Wallace B. McClean Tennis Courts in front of the newly constructed high school/middle school in order to create a parking lot, is of particular concern to me.
The present plan is to replace the four courts by adding two new courts at Ingleside Park, for a total of four courts. Sounds relatively simple until one examines the ramifications of this parking lot for tennis court exchange. To describe a few of these “ramifications”:
The varsity tennis program(s) – Boys and Girls- would certainly be demoralized. Picture, if you will, 35 to 40 team members hiking to Ingleside Park on a daily basis for some four to five months to practice and play competitive matches. There are no bathroom facilities at Ingleside. (Possibly Nick’s or the Eruzione/Larsen Rink would become available.)
The two new courts will be separate from the two presently located there by a roller blade rink so coaches/supervisors would have their work cut out for them. Could injuries be promptly observed and tended to?
There is no shed or storage facility for squeegees, brooms, spare nets etc.
Vandalism to the courts could be much more difficult to prevent.
The loss of two courts (from 6 to 4) will make fewer courts available for use by local residents, specifically for about a seven week period in the summer when at least to courts would be utilized by the Parks and Recreation Department.
Probably as important as any of the above reasons, is the loss of the high school courts for physical education, special ed., and therapeutic classes, especially now that the middle school must share gym space with the high school.
Local concerned residents have already generated a petition containing over 500 names. The Town Council has scheduled a public hearing to address this issue on Tuesday, Feb 7, 2017 at the W.H.S. auditorium. Those who are sincerely interested in seeing that the courts remain intact at the high school should plan to attend this meeting. Telephone calls and email messages to council members will let them know that saving the tennis courts should take precedence over additional parking spaces.
Winthrop School System
Honored by Certificate of Appreciation
I was very honored and humbled to receive the Certificate of Appreciation for outstanding service and contribution to Winthrop. Thank you. I was not expecting this and it was a very nice surprise. Even though I was mentioned and rewarded I would be amiss if I did not recognize that this award should also be to the entire Winthrop Fire Department. From the top to the newest member also including Kelly, the WFD is dedicated , hard working, and always there for the citizens of Winthrop. Like a famous football coach he strongly advises his players to “Do your job” This is what I live by and instill in every new member of the department as they are brought in to the department. That is what every member of the Winthrop Fire Department does, day in and day out under any condition including some very hazardous and dangerous conditions. I is not how members of the WFD represent our mission the WFD works as we, it takes all members to get things successfully done. I am very fortunate to be one of the we.
Once again thank you for the reward and recognition.
Captain Richard M. Swartz
Winthrop Fire Department