City Council Votes to Raise Its Salary Based on COLA, Will Examine Figure Next Term

The City Council voted to give itself a salary increase based on cost of living adjustments (COLA), and will voted to create a resident committee to look at whether to raise the number even more in the future. The Watertown Charter requires raises for the City Councilors to be approved by a Council vote amending the City Council Salary ordinance. Under the amendment approved on Jan. 24, Councilors will be paid $8,700 a year beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, up from $7,500, and the Council President’s salary will go from $10,500 up to $12,000.

Council to Hear from Public on How to Spend Watertown’s Federal ARPA Funds

Watertown City Hall

The City of Watertown will receive $10.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds, and next week the City Council will host a meeting to hear from residents about how they would like to see the money spent. The Council’s Committee on Budget & Fiscal Oversight will hold the meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. in City Hall and there will be a remote option. Meeting information and the remote link will be posted here. Watertown must have a final plan for where the ARPA funds will be spent by Dec.

Watertown One of First Communities to Adopt Energy Efficient Construction Requirement

With the City Council’s adoption of the state’s Specialized Stretch Code, Watertown became one of the first communities to adopt the code and continued efforts to make buildings in the community energy efficient. The Council had already adopted the Massachusetts Stretch Code, but communities have to separately adopt the Specialized Stretch Code, which calls for net-zero energy buildings by 2050. The code applies only to new construction. Adopting the Specialized Stretch Code is another step in the direction that the City has been heading toward energy efficiency, Council President Mark Sideris said before the Council’s unanimous vote. “I think this is consistent with what this City Council has been doing, from solar arrays on roofs and hybrid vehicles in our fleet when possible and net zero schools,” Sideris said.

Council Approves Millions for Easements for Mt. Auburn St. Project, State Still Has Not Released Comments on Plans

The $30 million Mt. Auburn Street reconstruction project will likely go out to bid at the end of 2023, and the 75 percent plans will soon be submitted. City officials, however, are still waiting for the state to release the public comments from the 25 percent designs submitted back in 2018. The project will be paid for by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) using federal transportation funding, but the design occurs at the local level, said Watertown Public Works Superintendent Greg St. Louis.

City Petitions Legislature to Extend Age Police Officers Can Work Road Detail Shifts

Charlie BreitroseA road after being milled and prepared for overlay of new asphalt.

The City of Watertown seeks to expand the age that police officers can work a detail at road construction projects up to the age of 70. Currently, the State caps the age of detail officers at 65, said City Manager George Proakis, but some communities have expanded that age to 70. With many road projects going on through the year, Watertown has trouble filling them with its own officers. With other communities allow older officers this creates some inconsistencies, Proakis said. “Because we are not able to fill all our details we often find ourselves requesting officers from other communities to come fill details in Watertown,” Proakis said.

State Legislature Allowing Watertown to Charge Developer Fees to Fund Affordable Housing

Wikimedia Commons / ChensiyuanMassachusetts State House. City officials will be able to charge new developments a fee that would go toward creating affordable housing in Watertown after receiving approval from the state level. The City Council requested special legislation to be passed that allows them to charge linkage fees of up to $18 per square foot for commercial projects over 30,000 sq. ft. that require zoning relief.

Finalists for City Auditor Will be Interviewed at Council Meeting

Two finalists for the City Auditor will be interviewed by the City Council this week at a special meeting. The Council will hold the interviews at a public meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. The meeting will be both in person in the Council Chamber in City Hall and remote. The finalists are Donna Tuccinardi and Charles Doherty. They will be taking over from long-term City Auditor Tom Tracy, who retired in 2022 after working in Watertown for 30 years.

How to Spend Federal ARPA Funds Will be Discussed by Council Budget Committee

Watertown City Hall

The City of Watertown will receive several million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and the City Council’s Committee on Budget and Fiscal Oversight will be discussing what to do with the funds. Watertown will receiving approximately $10.5 million of ARPA funds, according to an estimate by the Massachusetts Municipal Association. The money could be spent in a number of areas, including public health, water and sewer infrastructure, public broadband networks, paying essential workers, and making up revenue lost due to the pandemic. The Council has already heard a recommendation from the Department of Public Works to spend half of the money on water and sewer infrastructure to make improvements and also keep rates down in future years. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan.