Charter Review Committee Hears How Other Local Governments Work from Mayors & a Manager

Watertown Town Hall

The group looking at whether to make changes to how Watertown’s government works heard from chief executives from three communities: two mayors and one town manager. At the Jan. 5 Charter Review Committee meeting, the members were joined by three panelists: Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll, Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin, and Jamie Hellen, Town Administrator in Franklin, which has a similar set up to Watertown with a “strong manager.” Each spoke about the strengths and weaknesses of their governments. Hellen said that one of the strengths of Franklin’s council/manager form of government is that he as an appointed executive can take the heat off the elected council for some of the more contentious decisions.

Watertown Moves into High Risk for COVID-19, Health Director Asks Residents to Remain Vigilant

Watertown moved into the Red, or high-risk, category in the most recent Mass. Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 reporting. The Watertown Health Director fears that people are suffering from “COVID fatigue” and have become lax about taking measures to stop the spread of the virus. In the latest data from the MassDPH, Watertown has an average of 55.8 cases per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, which was up from 51 per 100,000 the previous week. The number that moved the Town from “yellow” to “red” was the positivity percentage of tests, which was 5.14 percent (up from 4.7 percent the previous report).

Supporters Thank State Rep. Jonathan Hecht for Years of Service to Watertown

Newly retired State Rep. Jonathan Hecht thanked the supporters who gathered outside his home to thank him for his work representing Watertown for almost 15 years. Longtime 29th Middlesex State Rep. Jonathan Hecht received a serenade some of his biggest supporters on Wednesday, who thanked him for his 12 years representing Watertown on Beacon Hill. Supporters from Watertown and Cambridge sang Hecht a song thanking him for his work on Beacon Hill, including the improvements to the Charles River Park, the Watertown/Cambridge Greenway bicycle and pedestrian path, support for clean energy, transportation and health care. Hecht came out of his home, still bleary eyed from his last day as state rep, which lasted until the early hours of Wednesday. He told the gathering of about two dozen people the day had been a strange and bittersweet one.

State Offering New Round of Pandemic Grants to Small Businesses

Grants are available for small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. A new round of grants for small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic has been announced by state officials. Sectors given priority for the grants include restaurants, hair and nail salons, gyms and fitness, indoor recreation, event support and independent retailers. The Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) has up to $668 million available to support businesses in sectors experiencing the most significant economic hardship and a loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The application deadline is Jan.

New State Restrictions Reducing Restaurant, Retail Capacities; Impacts Gatherings, Surgeries

Gov. Charlie Baker, with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito. Massachusetts will have a post-Christmas tightening of COVID-19 restrictions that will reduce capacities of restaurants, businesses and other places, as well as cutting the size of allowed gatherings and stopping elective surgeries. The new set of COVID-19 restrictions will take effect on Dec. 26, 2020, Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Tuesday. The new order cuts the capacity of many businesses to 25 percent, including restaurants, retail, offices, health and fitness, theaters and indoor recreation.

Health Director: Watertown Experienced Thanksgiving COVID-19 Bump

A sharp increase in COVID-19 cases seen in recent weeks in Watertown was due in part to people getting together for Thanksgiving, said Watertown Health Director Larry Ramdin. More than 100 new cases of COVID-19 were reported in Watertown by the state Department of Public Health in the most recent weekly report, and the percentage of positive tests also grew. At the Dec. 16 Watertown Board of Health meeting, Ramdin said that most of the new infections were within family units, and some were sports related. “Many of it we are ascribing to people returning home from regions where there were a high number of cases.

Charter Committee Debates Financial Efficiency vs. Response to Resident’s Concerns

Watertown’s Town Hall. As the Watertown Charter Review Committee tried to narrow in on what they want to improve by changing the Town’s Charter, members debated what was the most important task for the municipal government, and whether one form of government — strong town manager or mayor — would be better suited to accomplish those things. Resident member Marcia Ciro kicked off the conversation at Tuesday’s meeting with an example of the frustration she has had trying to get the Town government to respond to her requests for information and assistance. When the group first started meeting in October she requested an organizational chart of Watertown’s government and she finally got one this week, but it was one that was a few years old. “When I look at our government now, it is not very accountable, not very transparent, very opaque, very hard to know what’s going on,” Ciro said.

Marijuana Dispensary Starting Recreational Sales, Looking to Move

Natural Selections, Watertown’s first medical marijuana dispensary, will be opening soon. Watertown’s first marijuana dispensary, which has been selling only to those with medical cannabis cards, will start selling their products for recreational use this week. The company also seeks to move to another location in Town. Natural Selections, located at 23 Elm St. on the Eastside of Watertown, announced this week that they would begin adult-use sales on Dec.