Among the key areas of focus for the Town Council in the new term will be improving Watertown’s schools, deal with the development boom and seek to improve transportation, Town Council President Mark Sideris announced at Monday’s inauguration ceremony.
Sideris, the Town Council (Michael Dattoli, Aaron Dushku, Susan Falkoff, Lisa Feltner, Angeline Kounelis, Anthony Palomba, Vincent Piccirilli and Kenneth Woodland) and the elected or re-elected School Committee members (Eileen Hsu-Balzer, Kendra Medville Foley and Candace Miller) and Library Trustees (Sheppard Ferguson, Penelope Peoples and Timothy Tracy) were sworn in at the event held at the Arsenal Center for the Arts’ Charles Mosesian Theater.
Development has been the top issue in town, particularly in the areas east of Watertown Square along Arsenal Street. Two major apartment projects have been approved along Arsenal Street and a new hotel is going up near the malls.
Zoning for two areas that could change the town significantly continue to subjects of hot discussion: the Regional Mixed Use District (RMUD) in the area of the two malls in town, and the redevelopment of the Arsenal on the Charles.
Sideris announced that two meetings will be held to discuss the RMUD proposal: Saturday, Jan. 9 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Arsenal Project, and Saturday, Jan. 16, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Arsenal Project. In addition to these meetings, community group Sustainable Watertown has organized a series of meetings on the RMUD (click here to see more).
The funding for the Watertown Public Schools has grown over the past two years – a 5 percent increase each year – and Sideris said that will be a priority in the coming two years.
The town and the schools will also work toward coming up with a long-term funding plan, and will have a third-party review of the school budget to examine budgeting practices.
School building projects are on the horizon, too, with the renovation or replacement of Watertown High School first on the list.
Transportation will also be a focus of the next term, Sideris said.
“We will be working to get a TMA (Transportation Management Association) in place, and we are trying to get the MBTA to work with us on their service in town,” Sideris said.
As part of this effort, Sideris plans to create an Ad Hoc Transportation Committee.
Another committee Sideris announced is an Ad Hoc Technology Committee. This group will work on improving the town’s web site and help improve communication with residents.
Sideris also said he wants to find a way to assist seniors.
“Prices are skyrocketing and they have limited resources,” Sideris said.
Sideris also looked back on the past two years. Some of the highlights include adopting the Comprehensive Plan, adjusting the zoning of the Pleasant Street Corridor District, passing the bring your own bottle (BYOB) license, and of course agreeing to a contract with the firefighters after they worked several years without an agreement.
“I hope that never happens again,” Sideris said.
Along with congratulating those elected to office, Sideris thanked the other candidates who ran in the Town Election.
“All of them helped elevate the conversation on the town and the schools,” Sideris said. “To all of those folks, I urge you to stay involved: volunteer for a board, work on a school site committee or help a school PTO.”