Council Approves Public Arts Master Plan, Creates New Committee

A mural created on Melendy Avenue in 2015 is an example of public arts in Watertown. A committee will be formed to help Watertown implement the Public Arts Master Plan, which received approval from the Town Council on Tuesday night. While Watertown has had some public arts projects, most notably a series of murals created from 2013-15, it did not have a formal plan. Planning to create a master plan began in 2019, when the Watertown Department of Planning and Community Development brought on the Metropolitan Area Planning Council as a consultant. The group gathered input from multiple community forums, from online surveys and by speaking with local artists and stakeholders.

ZBA Hearing Two Big Projects, Council Subgroup Looks at Police Services & Other Meetings

Plans for converting the Tufts Health Plan building into life science labs and offices will be heard by the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday. The Watertown Zoning Board has several projects on its agenda, including renovations of the Tufts Health Plan building and a biotech project proposed on Elm Street. The ZBA gives final approval for these projects and the meeting begins at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 24. Spear Street Capital, the new owner of the Tufts Health Plan site at 705 Mt.

School Budget to be Presented, 2 Projects at Planning Board & Police Exam

An illustration of the plans for the former Mount Auburn Club at 99 Coolidge Ave. A community meeting will be held Monday about the project. One of the first steps in the making of the Watertown school budget will be presented Monday night, a community meeting will be held about the redevelopment of the Mount Auburn Club site, and the Planning Board will discuss two major projects. Watertown Public Schools administrators will present the Fiscal Year 2022 level services budget at Monday’s School Committee meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. That budget shows how much it would cost to preserve the district’s current staffing and programs, with no additions or cuts. It is typically the first major step in the school budget process.

Council Round Up: Zoning Change Request, Sec. 8 Housing Conversion & Upcoming Meetings

The Town Council approved the conversion of some Watertown Housing Authority units to Section 8, and got a request to change the zoning of a parcel near Watertown Square. This week’s meetings included an informational session about the plans for the Arsenal on the Charles, an discussions of changes to the Watertown High School project, and the Charter Review Committee will discuss mayor vs. manager forms of government. The Town Council met on Jan. 26, when they heard the $467.8 million five year Capital Improvement Plan, along with the following items:

The Town received a request to change the zoning of the parcel at 64 Pleasant Street, where Sasaki Associates is located, to allow life science labs to operate there.

See the Watertown Town Government Organizational Chart, with Links to Departments

Watertown’s Town Hall. Figuring out how the Town of Watertown’s government operates can be a challenge, but a recently created organizational chart can help. The following chart was created by residents Marcia Ciro and Elodia Thomas. Each board or department has a link to click to get to the page on the Town of Watertown’s website. The chart is also color coded to show how each position, board or department is appointed or hired.

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.

Council Joins Effort to Prevent Racial Harassment in Watertown Schools & Beyond

Watertown Town Hall

The Town Council will begin looking at ways to help the Watertown Public Schools address racial harassment and bullying following reports made a middle school student about her experiences at Watertown Middle School. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Council voted to start discussions about how they could help the Schools with racism issues. Also at the meeting, the Council adopted a proclamation opposing racism and bulling in Watertown. The School Administration and School Committee will take the lead on how to deal with racial harassment, said Town Council President Mark Sideris, who is also a member of the School Committee. Superintendent Dede Galdston announced she will be putting together a a citizens advisory board which will include parents of children who have been harassed, Sideris said.

Town Council Puts Eversource On Notice About Double Poles in Watertown

An example of a double utility pole on Main Street in Watertown from 2016

Tired of waiting for Eversource to take action needed to remove double utility poles in Watertown, the Town Council told the utility this week it will not consider requests for Eversource projects in Town until the poles are dealt with. Every few meetings, a utility comes to the Town Council for approval to do work in Watertown, typically putting in an underground trench for wires. Tuesday, Eversource had two such requests, but one councilor brought up his frustration about the lack of action on removing double poles, particularly one problematic one in his district. When a new utility pole is installed, the old one is attached to the new one until the wires are transferred to the new one. There is an order for which wires get moved first depending on where they are on the pole, and who owns the poles.