The Winthrop Town Council held its first in-person meeting since the start of COVID on Tuesday, June 15, in the Harvey Room in Town Hall, where it voted on the FY22 budget. In attendance were all members of council, several department heads and six members of the public.
When they had first started talking about meeting in person again, the council vowed to make its meetings accessible remotely. However, if Tuesday was any indication, it has a long way to go.
For those present in the Harvey Room, only some of their voices were able to be heard on the WCAT livestream. In particular, the microphones of Interim Town Manager Terence Delehanty, Health Director Meredith Hurley, Council Pres. Phil Boncore, and Councilor Tracy Honan were compromised.
Around ten members of the public attended the meeting via Zoom, but their experience was not much better. Voices sounded gravelly and muffled, with many sentences trailing off into silence. The other problem with Zoom was the wide angle view of the council, which made it difficult to ascertain who was speaking.
Ultimately, only those who were present in the Harvey Room know what was discussed. Luckily, the Transcript was able to obtain some of the meeting contents from individual speakers.
Council voted on the budget submitted to them at the June 8 meeting. They first voted on the budget as a whole, then on individual funds and projects separately. Some small amendments were made. The public is encouraged to read the full ten-page Finance Commission report, available on the Town website.
Town Manager Delehanty praised the hard work of the Finance Commission, which met for over 50 hours on the budget in recent months. He also noted the lack of competition between departments.
“The budget process tends to bifurcate us and pit us against each other,” he said. “We have become one—one community, one team.”
Town Manager Delehanty has received correspondence from community members urging the town to put rainbow flags on Town property in honor of Pride Month. Currently, the Town is only able to raise the American Flag, the Massachusetts State Flag and the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Flag on town property.
However, the town manager said, “I think we need to modify that policy.”
Council Pres. Phil Boncore concurred, stating, “We want to see diversity and inclusion.”
Health Director Meredith Hurley gave her usual COVID update. Winthrop has had 2,314 total cases, with 2,277 recovered, 35 deceased, and two in isolation. As of July 9, fewer than one percent of tests over the past two weeks were positive. Almost three quarters of all eligible residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine, and 65 percent are fully vaccinated.
Center Business District
DPW Director Steve Calla discussed ongoing construction in the Center Business District, which is now moving from the utility infrastructure phase to the surface restoration phase. This will include restoring streets, sidewalks, lighting and landscaping. Cast removal starts next week in preparation for the full-depth reclamation of all roadways that will commence June 21 and take about a month.
Middle School Zoning
The Rules and Ordinances Committee has been meeting for a year and a half to review the zoning for the old middle school site. The current zoning for the area restricts what could potentially occupy that site. Under the new recommendations, there is more flexibility in terms of occupancy.
A Request for Proposals (RFP) will be put out to see what kind of interest there is for developing the site. Town Manager Delehanty suggested that the RPF process involve community meetings similar to the middle school zoning process, so the public can decide what will eventually go in that space