WATERTOWN – The Town Council, meeting October 19, authorized funding for extra hours for the fire chief and the deputy fire chief, approved an upgrade to the town’s 911 system, and voted to purchase new equipment for police officers with money received as a donation for that purpose.

In a letter to the Town Council dated September 30, 2020, Fire Chief David L. Bromley explained that he and his deputy were given an extra five hours each week beginning April 1, 2020, “after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, to cope with the extra tasks generated by this disease and our daily regular tasks.” That extra time was taken away August 1 by the council because FEMA had not yet reimbursed the town for the expense.

Chief Bromley asked the hours be reinstated permanently and continued in future budgets due to increased reporting requirements and administrative tasks. The council agreed, approving $11,551 to cover the added hours.

The council approved a bid waiver so that the police department could upgrade its 911 reporting system at a cost of $14,999.98. Acting Police Chief Joshua Bernegger said the current system, with an expected lifespan of six years, was purchased in 2012. Having Exacom perform an upgrade to the system would provide the town another six to eight years use at a lower cost than the purchase of a new system from some other vendor. Acting Chief Bernegger said the system “was a critical piece of equipment” that provides recordings of all calls and transmissions. The money was already included in the budget, he said.

The council agreed to appropriate $5,680 for purchase of police equipment, such as helmets and shields. The money was made available through a generous donation to the town from Armor Shield Exteriors, a roof replacement and repair business located in Oakville.

Interim Town Manager John Gavallas reported the town has had considerable interest in both the town hall and the town hall annex that were recently placed for sale. As a result, the town has decided to accept sealed bids for the properties, with the opening taking place at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, November 4.

Mr. Gavallas congratulated Assistant Town Manager/Finance Director Susan Zappone on receiving a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association. He said the town has an AA+ rating and was recently able purchase $6 million in road improvement bonds at a rate of just 1.5% for 21 years.

He noted the town has received 2,900 applications for absentee ballots thus far, and expected to receive additional requests in the coming days. Staff are working to ensure all ballots will be counted.

Mr. Gavallas concluded his report by reading a letter, addressed to the council, informing them of his decision to retire as of December 31, 2020, after more than 51 years with the police force.

In other action, the council appointed Daniel DeVito to a regular position on the Planning and Zoning Commission, to replace Mark Raimo. The position expires January 2026. Daniel Gillotti was appointed to replace Mr. DeVito as an alternate.

Under Chairman’s Comments, Chairman Mary Ann Rosa said the Watertown Commission on Aging had written the council once again reminding it of the critical need for a new community center/senior center. Mrs. Rosa said the commission had written to the council about this in the past as well and promised to take up the matter when the council is discussing goals.

She also responded to an email from Denise Russ regarding a collapsed storm drain on Echo Lake Road. Mrs. Rosa said the town was aware of the situation but that it would cost approximately $90,000 to fix the problem. It might be a while before the town is able to address the issue, she said.

Under Public Participation, John Everitt of 2 Everitt Ln. again addressed the council about a recent zone map change that affected his property. He produced copies of the legal notice and of certified letters mailed to neighbors which only list an “Application from Attorney Franklin Pilicy for an amendment to the Watertown Zoning Map from R-30 to R-12.5 Residential District.” He said he never received anything that indicated his property was part of any proposed change.

He reminded council members that he had appeared at their previous meeting, and he had been told they had no jurisdiction over Planning and Zoning but that the council would look into it. He was advised to appeal the change with the Planning and Zoning Commission. Mr. Everitt said he has been in touch with an attorney but the cost would be prohibitive at $500 per hour.

The council also heard a noise complaint from a resident who described himself as living about a mile from the Sunset Grille. The restaurant has been hosting loud concerts all summer and had not responded to his telephoned and emailed pleas to turn down the volume. 

He asked what could be done about the issue, especially so that it does not take place again next summer.

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