By Ron Vecchia
As everyone is aware this evening is my last town council meeting. I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on the last two years as your Town Council President.
It has been a very interesting journey to say the least and we have in spite some bumps in the road managed to keep this community moving forward. With the appointment of Austin Faison as our new town manager ,assistant Town Manager David Rodrigues and CFO Anna Freedman we entered a new chapter in town government.
Under this leadership team, in an effort to make our government more transparent, many programs and systems have been implemented within town government to make access to information easier and faster. A redesigned town web site and real time availability of information has made access by citizens easier and timelier. In the end upgrades to how we conduct business has not only benefited residents but has made town employees more productive. The Town Manager was successful in modernizing and streamlining the budget process and provided a great deal of transparency. As part of this continuing process he is constantly pursuing grants to secure funding for capital needs, infrastructure improvements and climate change resiliency. The TM is actively conducting a review of existing policies and practices and working to improve the towns risk management plan regarding employment law in an attempt to avoid future compliances law suites and unplanned legal fees.
We have been very active in responding and planning for climate change and the critical importance of facing its negative impact on our seashore community. Alternative transportation in the face of mounting traffic congestion leaving and entering Winthrop has made the need for expanding ferry service a priority. With the help of grants and creative scheduling we have completed two years of ferry service in the black, with no cost to the taxpayer.
With the assistance of Speaker DeLeo and Senator Boncore the MASSPORT amended our current Pilot Agreement which increased our annual mitigation significantly until we are able to renegotiate the new agreement in five years. In the past year we formed the Winthrop Foundation which will provide 2.5 million dollars from MASSPORT over five years for worthy projects within our community.
The need for increase in revenue continues to be the number one priority if we are going to generate an excellent quality of life and excellence in education for our citizens. We have completed the first step with the completion of the CBD zoning map and the Center Infrastructure Project which will start in early spring. I have asked the Winthrop Planning Board to fast track their recommendations for the old Middle School as the town completes the title search for the site. Responsible development whether in the center of town, the beach or the Highlands is essential if we are to broaden our tax base. Every year we face prioritizing where the money is allocated in the budget and although we have increased the percentage of dollars to the school department budget in the last two years there is still inadequacies in this important budget. We need to explore the need for a prop 2½ override to properly fund education in this town for once and for all.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the Town Council that I have had the pleasure of working with over the last two years, a special thank you to Councilor Calla who will be leaving the council after many years of dedicated service. To the leadership team, Austin, David and Anna, to School Superintendent Lisa Howard, the department heads and staffs on both the Town and School side, thank you for your continued hard work on behalf of the citizens of the town. Special thanks to our Council Clerk Denise Quist, for all you do each and every day for this council.
I would like to thank my Grandson Christian, he attends many of the council meetings, and I think he is following Papa’s footsteps as he has already been involved in many elections. As assistant campaign manager of the Vecchia Committee, he was very much responsible for being elected.
Finally I would like to thank my wife Linda and all of my family for allowing me to be involved in town service. I have taken many hours away from family over the years and I look forward to having more family time. Thank you
God Bless our town, God Bless America.
Ron Vecchia is the Town Council President and longtime elected office holder in Winthrop.