City Manager: Team Working on Watertown Square Study is Creative & Collaborative

City of Watertown

Work on solving one of the biggest riddles facing Watertown, how to fix Watertown Square, will soon begin, City Manager George Proakis said this week, and the process will include some new approaches with plenty of public participation. Proakis spent a significant chunk of time talking about the Watertown Square study during Wednesday’s State of the City event. “One of the key goals that came out of the Comprehensive Plan is that we need to look at Watertown Square in a holistic manner,” Proakis said. The study will not just look at how the main intersection operates for motor vehicles, but also buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists, Proakis said. The study will not just look at how to get through and around the Square, but also being able to “enjoy the space.”

While the State of the City Looks Good, Manager Also Address Challenges Facing Watertown

City Manager George Proakis, left, and City Council President Mark Sideris spoke during the first annual State of the City on Wednesday night. Behind them is a photo of a juggler at the Faire on the Square. (Courtesy of the City of Watertown)

The State of the City of Watertown is strong and the future is bright, City Manager George Proakis said during the first annual State of the City on Wednesday night, but there are still many challenges to deal with. The event where the City Manager and the City Council President talk about how the City of Watertown is doing is now required to be held annually, following the changes to Watertown’s City Charter adopted in 2021. At the end of his presentation, Proakis included a photo of a performer at the Faire on the Square.

Council Approves 2024 Budget, Including Amendment to Pay for Judgment in Sexual Discrimination Case

Charlie BreitroseWatertown City Hall

The Fiscal Year 2024 budget approved by the City Council Tuesday night includes an additional $3.6 million to cover the amount owed to a police officer who won a sexual discrimination suit by the City. Watertown’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget includes several new positions in the Planning Department, Health Department and to create a new Constituent Services program. It also includes funds for the Watertown High School project, and to make the City’s buildings and vehicles more energy efficient. The total FY 2024 operating budget will be $194,013,029 after the Council approved an amendment to put an additional $3,699,029 into the budget, moving it from the Free Cash fund into the Settlement Account, said City Manager George Proakis. In November 2022, a Middlesex Superior Court jury sided with Kathleen Donohue, the first female detective in the WPD, in her civil suit against the Watertown Police Department.

Budget Forecast Good for 2024, but Manager Sees Gloomy Conditions in Future

Watertown’s budget will be healthy enough to add several positions in Fiscal Year 2024, but City Manager George Proakis told the City Council Tuesday night to expect some challenging budgets in the years to follow. The FY24 budget, which will be approved by the Council in June and begins July 1, will be $190 million. This is 5.9 percent below the FY23 budget, but Proakis said if you take out the money used to purchase Walkers Pond and the former Parker School, it would be 6.99 percent higher than FY23. The stormy seas ahead are due to five converging forces, Proakis said, and they could impact the budgets from FY25-28. The first factor is the cost of construction, which comes at a time when Watertown is taking on the biggest in its history: a new high school which will cost more than $200 million.

City Manager Discusses Comprehensive Plan, Resident Participation & the High School Project on Watertown Cable Show

Inside Watertown hosts Bob Airasian, far left, and Charlie Breitrose were joined by City Manager George Proakis and Director of Community Development and Planning Steve Magoon. (Screenshot from Watertown Cable). Watertown City Manager George Proakis talked about the ongoing Comprehensive Plan update, how residents can get involved when projects go before the City, and what’s going on with the Watertown High School project in the latest episode of Watertown Cable’s Inside Watertown. Along with Proakis, co-hosts Charlie Breitrose and Bob Airasian were joined by Steve Magoon, Watertown’s Assistant City Manager and the Director of Community Development and Planning. The City recently held a public forum on the Comprehensive Plan, which is being updated for the first time since it was adopted in 2015.

City Splitting Up Financial Positions After Failing to Find “Unicorn”

Watertown City Hall

After the City Council struggled to hire someone to replace retired Auditor and Financial Director Tom Tracy, City Manager George Proakis recommended that the job be split into two. Last week, Proakis told the City Council of his plan to split up the duties that Tracy had, rather than trying to find someone with the same skills. Tracy retired in October after working for nearly 30 years in Watertown, and has stayed on part-time to help Proakis with his first budget as City Manager. “We’ve done a pretty broad search, we hired a consultant and we made some real progress in searching all corners for this type of position,” Proakis said. “After taking a significant look at this I have come to the conclusion that the combined chief financial officer/auditors are unicorns.

Watertown Teachers Contact Approved by School Committee

Following lengthy negotiations, teachers in the Watertown Public Schools have a new contract after the School Committee approved the deal on Monday night. The deal includes increases in each of the three years of the deal, plus bumps in the first and third years. Another addition is increased parental leave, said School Committee member Lindsay Mosca, who was on the district’s negotiating team. Jessica Middlebrook also represented the School Committee on the negotiating team. “I think that the Watertown Public Schools have a lot to be proud of in the contract,” Mosca said.

U.S. Rep Clark Presents Watertown with $240K for Project to Protect River, Increase Climate Resiliency

Charlie BreitroseCongresswoman Catherine Clark looks on as Watertown City Manager George Proakis speaks about the $240,000 in federal funds to build stormwater tree trenches in town. Congresswoman Katherine Clark visited City Hall Monday to announce $240,000 in federal funding for a climate-related project in Watertown. The City will use the money to install 15 tree trenches designed to remove pollutants from the Charles River and cool temperatures by providing more trees on City streets. The Department of Public Works applied for the money after hearing about the funding, said Watertown DPW Superintendent Greg St. Louis.