Council Approves Host Community Agreement with 2nd Adult-Use Marijuana Dispensary

An adult-use marijuana dispensary planned for the Westside of Watertown entered into a Host Community with the Town after the Town Council approved the agreement on Tuesday night. Buds Goods & Provisions is applying to open a recreational marijuana dispensary in the new development at 330-350 Pleasant St. The company now must apply for a license from the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) before it can apply to the Watertown Zoning Board for a special permit. They can open when both are approved. The ballot measure that legalized adult-use marijuana prohibits communities from banning them, but allows them to limit the number to 10 percent of the number of liquor licenses.

Watertown Water & Sewer Rates Projected to Go Up 8.6% for Fiscal Year 2021

Watertown residents will likely see a significant jump in their water and sewer bills. The Town Council saw a presentation asking for a 7 percent increase in the water rate and a 9.5 percent increase in sewer rates at Tuesday’s Council Meeting. The increases were recommended by the Town’s water/sewer consultants from Weston & Sampson and Abrahams Group, which studied the budgeting and operations of Watertown’s water and sewer divisions. Without the increase, the water and sewer funds could face deficits, said Matthew Abrahams of the Abrahams Group. The increases would also help build a 15 percent retained earning in five years time.

School Committee Discussing Reopening Plans; Water & Sewer Rates on Council Agenda

On July 13, the School Committee will be discussing how the Watertown Schools will look when classes start in the fall, and the Town Council will discuss a number of items on July 14, including the water and sewer rates. Monday night at 7 p.m., the School Committee will meet virtually. The agenda includes a report from the Reopening Task Force, and a review of how the virtual learning went in the spring. Also on the agenda are a review of the Superintendent’s performance related to meeting the 2019-20 goals, and a discussion of the District Improvement Plan. See the entire agenda by clicking here.

Funding of Watertown Police, Requests to Divert Some of Budget Discussed at Council Hearing

How the Watertown Police Department’s budget is used, and whether there are other ways the money could be spent became a major topic of discussions of Wednesday night’s Fiscal Year 2021 Town Budget Hearing. The WPD budget was just one of many departmental budgets discussed during the hearing, but it garnered the interested of Councilors and members of the public, many of whom wanted to see a portion spent on mental health services provided by the town instead. The meeting was held remotely over Zoom. The Police Department’s budget of $10.3 million makes up 6.76 percent of the Town’s operating budget. The WPD has 70 police officers (including 52 patrol officers), nine dispatchers and four civilian employees, as well as the school crossing guards.

Town Council Discussing Budget at Series of Upcoming Meetings

Watertown Town Hall

The Town Council will hold three meetings over a the space of a week and will be voting on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget by the end of June. In a normal year, the Council would hold several meetings to hear from each Town department about the details of their budget. With the budget process delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the process will be shortened. Town Manager Michael Driscoll presented the budget to the Council on June 8, several weeks after it was originally scheduled to be submitted. The Town is projected to lose $4 million in revenues due to the economic impact of the Coronavirus (mostly from State Aid and local meals and hotel taxes).

First in the State: Council Funds Building Two Net Zero Energy Schools; No Override

The latest rendering of the new Cunniff Elementary School, with the solar array in the parking lot. The Town Council, Watertown School officials, designers and green energy advocates celebrated the completion of what looked like a pipe dream just a few years ago: building two schools that will create enough electricity to cover their energy needs, and pay for it without raising property taxes. Architect Scott Dunlap from Ai3 congratulated the Town for building the first Net Zero school in Massachusetts. The schools will also make other history. “They will be the first Net Zero elementary schools in New England,” Dunlap said.

Town Manager Presenting Budget Monday, Council Voting on School Project Funding Tuesday

The Town Council will consider approving the funds to build the new Hosmer and Cunniff elementary schools Tuesday night. Here is a rendering of what the new Hosmer will look like. The Watertown Town Council will have back-to-back meetings this week, beginning with the presentation of next year’s Town Budget on Monday, and then councilors will hear a presentation about and are expected to vote on the funding for the construction of the new Hosmer and Cunniff elementary schools. Budget Presentation

Town Manager Michael Driscoll will present the Fiscal Year 2021 Town Budget Monday at a special Town Council meeting that will begin at 6 p.m.

The budget had been scheduled to be presented in April, but was delayed due to the uncertainty of some of the Town’s revenue due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The budget meeting will be conducted online, and the public watch and participate in a number of ways:

Join the virtual meeting online at: https://watertown-ma.zoom.us/j/91777824276Join in audio-only mode on the phone — 877 853 5257 (TollFree) or 888 475 4499 (Toll Free) and enter Webinar ID: 917 7782 4276#Watch the meeting on WCATV (Watertown Cable AccessTelevision) on the air at Comcast Channel 99 or RCN Channel 13, and online at https://wcatv.org/government-channel/

Council Discusses School Projects

The $103.45 million in funding for to construct new schools at Cunniff and Hosmer elementary schools will be the main agenda item at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting.

Town Looking for Ways to Allow More Outdoor Seating at Restaurants During COVID-19

Watertown Town Hall

Restaurants could soon be reopening for in-house dining, but they will have limited capacity due to the state’s COVID-19 protocols. Watertown officials have started looking for ways to allow for restaurants to have outside seating, and how they can streamline the application process. Under the four phase plan outlined by Gov. Charlie Baker last week, restaurants would be allowed to reopen in phase 2, but would have to allow for social distancing inside the restaurant which would reduce capacity. This phase would start, at the earliest, three weeks after the start of the reopening plan, which began on May 18. Allowing outdoor seating at restaurants that do not have it currently, or expanding it at those that do, requires approval for both zoning and licensing changes.