On Jan. 5, the Winthrop Town Council convened remotely for its first meeting of 2021, where it heard updates impacting the community.
State of the Town Address
Council President Phil Boncore opened the meeting with his annual State of the Town Address, in which he summarized the town’s achievements of the past year.
Unsurprisingly, the bulk of his address had to do with how the town confronted an unprecedented health crisis. He applauded the efforts of municipal workers in combating the pandemic and the continuity of services provided to the community. His full speech is available here.
DPH Director Meredith Hurley delivered her usual public health update.As of Jan. 5, Winthrop had 1,404 confirmed cases of the virus, with 32 deceased and 143 in isolation. Winthrop remains a high-risk community with a 5.9 percent positive rate. The previous two weeks had seen 73 new cases for every 100,000 people.
Winthrop residents count for 67 percent of the individuals who have visited the town’s Stop the Spread testing site. This program will be extended until March 31. Testing will be fully indoors by the third week of January, and will be available by appointment only. The location and date are to be determined.
Vaccines are already being administered in the state, with a priority on first responders, long term care facilities and healthcare workers. The general public may not have access to the vaccine until the summer. Town Manager Austin Faison also mentioned the “new aggressive variant” of the virus.
“This is going to be a hard time,” he said.
Schools are open and Supt. Lisa Howard is making a presence at all locations. The School Committee voted 4-3 to hold their first meeting of February in person. The Council was likewise split on whether or not to resume in-person meetings. (See separate article in this issue.)
The Finance Committee discussed the FY21 budget, the new position of town planner, and recommended to transfer $20,000 from the Town Council reserves for pest control. Council voted to approve the transfer.
The Citizens Advisory Committee on Finance welcomed new members and elected Karin Chavis as its chairperson. The committee is “optimistic, ready and willing” to affect change.
The Public Safety Committee and the Capital Assets Committee held a joint meeting on Dec. 30 in which it evaluated new sites for the public safety building. The two sites being considered are the little league ballfield and the 7th hole of the golf course. Current occupants of these spaces object to their use. The matter was tabled until more exploration could be conducted.
The Public Safety Committee also discussed the idea of the town council resuming in-person meetings. Locations other than the Harvey Room at Town Hall were considered.
The Miller Field Committee and the School Building Assistance Committee met to discuss the future of the tennis court project. The project will include four new courts, improved drainage, improved intersections, safer sidewalks, and additional parking. It should be completed by mid-June.
The council unanimously appointed Council Peter Christopher as the new Council Vice President.
The Town Council authorized Town Manager Faison to sign the North Suffolk Resilience & Sustainability Agreement, which will allow it to collaborate with neighboring towns and cities in its efforts to produce more environmentally friendly development.
The town has made an offer to an individual for the newly created position of Town Planner.
There are immediate openings on the following committees: the Airport Hazards Committee; the Commission for Diversity, Inclusion and Community Relations; and the Winthrop Planning Board. In addition, Winthrop Public Schools is hiring for numerous positions.