Town Council Discusses Climate Resiliency Issues

By Adam Swift

With another big storm predicted to hit the coast at the end of the week, several town councilors took a step back to look at longer-term climate measures for Winthrop at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Some of the issues discussed included the possibility of hiring an assistant town manager who would also handle planning and grant opportunities for the town, as well as looking at ways to expedite funding for climate resiliency design and flood mitigation efforts. Councilors also discussed the possibility of establishing a climate resiliency committee.

“Our town planner has left in budget season, so it has been a little difficult managing the grants that (former planner Rachel Kelly) has done, but we are getting a job description for the town planner out on the streets,” said Town Manager Tony Marino. “I hope to move that eventually into an ATM (assistant town manager) role, but given the restrictions of the budget, that is not going to happen this year, so we will have a town planner.”

Precinct 6 Councilor John DaRos discussed a number of the efforts and planning the town is currently undertaking to address climate and flooding concerns. He was also one of several councilors who suggested Marino take a closer look at tying the town planner position into an assistant town manager role.

“I think everybody can tell that we are doing the best we can to address the immediate needs to respond,” said DaRos. “Still, a month ago, the town council meeting with the room full of people from areas where it floods all the time really stays with all of us, so we are committed to this action.”

DaRos said several residents from his precinct urged him to raise the flooding and climate issues to the town manager and the council.

“The costs are real, especially the financial toll it is taking from repairs and rising insurance rates, as well as the mental health tolls from the damage, stress, and anxiety these residents, as well as the DPW and public safety experience in addressing them.”

Climate change requires that the town has an action plan to protect the community, communicate what the plan is to the public, and execute and implement that plan, DaRos said.

During the recent 40th anniversary meeting of the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh, DaRos said he and several other councilors heard how climate change is rapidly impacting the marsh and the communities of Winthrop, Revere, and East Boston.

DaRos highlighted some of the work the town is currently undertaking to address climate resiliency, including survey and engineering work for the Tilestone, Girdlestone, and Pico Avenue neighborhoods and applied for a $650,000 federal grant to complete the engineering work for those areas. He asked Marino if there was anything the town could do to fast track those federal dollars, but the town manager replied that the issue is still in committee at the federal level.

The town has received a state grant for a feasibility and possible design work for the Morton Street area that will most likely result in some sort of living levee to help keep water out of the area, DaRos said.

The councilor also noted that several local communities have climate resiliency plans as well as either committees or citizens’ advisory groups dedicated to climate resiliency issues. DaRos said he would like to see a further discussion at the council level about establishing a citizens’ advisory committee on climate.

“I would envision that this climate advisory committee would be comprised of members of our community with professional expertise and experience in planning and implementing effective climate action,” DaRos said.

Councilors Suzanne Swope and John Munson both expressed some support for establishing an assistant town manager position that would provide support for locating and managing grant opportunities.

Munson said he also liked the idea of a climate resiliency advisory committee, provided it was something that would help the town administration rather than putting more on its plate.

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