Town in Search of T Representative

mbta symbolThe town of Hamilton is in search of a liaison to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The volunteer position acts as a general liaison to the MBTA and attends the control board meetings as one part of the job, according to Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

“It’s an important position because it keeps an ear to the ground, so to speak, having someone attend the meetings and be able to keep track of what is going on and how it may affect the town,” Lombardo said.

It is especially important now, he said, because of a proposal to install two 70-foot monopoles along the railroad tracks in Hamilton as part of a project to put in new wifi service for train passengers.

While Hamilton needs someone to fill the MBTA liaison role to represent the town’s interests, in general, it is also important to have the position filled as the MBTA rethinks the monopole project.

Anyone interested in the position is encouraged to contact Lombardo directly at mlombardo@hamiltonma.gov to get more information or also contact any member of the Board of Selectmen.

Town’s Top Bond Rating Reaffirmed, Secures Low Interest Rates

aaa credit rating

The town’s bond rating has been reaffirmed as AAA by Standard and Poor’s. It is the highest rating possible.

Each time a bond is issued by the town, its credit rating is reviewed and evaluated by Standard & Poor’s to determine if they will make adjustments, according to Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

The reaffirmed AAA rating came after a recent conference call involving representatives from Standard & Poor’s along with Hamilton Finance Director Marisa Batista, Treasurer/Collector Cheryl Booth, Lombardo and bond counsel from FirstSouthwest.

The conference call was a way for town leaders to highlight the factors that contribute to the town’s high bond rating and reassure the rating agency that the town government continues to deserve AAA status, according to Lombardo.

“I feel the conference call went very well,” Lombardo told the Board of Selectmen in a recent update. “S&P was impressed with the stability of the town budget and management, strong reserves, excess levy capacity of over $2.4 million, and strong market sale prices for single family homes.”

The town sought a new bond rating as its goes out for bonds to fund land acquisition and water system improvements, which have both been previously approved by Town Meeting voters.

The AAA rating means that the town government pays the lowest interest rates possible when borrowing money, Lombardo said. Additionally, the AAA rating also makes the town’s bonds highly desirable in the investment community. For example, for the most recent issuance, the town received 25 bids. And in addition to getting low interest rates, the town sometimes receives direct cash in the form of a bond premium, Lombardo said. In 2015, the town issued $7 million in bonds and received over $200,000 as a bond premium.

In Standard & Poor’s rating, it said that it believes Hamilton can maintain better credit characteristics than the nation in a stress scenario. Hamilton has a very high general fund balance as a percent of expenditures and very strong liquidity, according to Standard & Poor’s.

The rating also took into consideration what Standard & Poor’s said is Hamilton’s very strong economy, strong management, strong budgetary performance, very strong budgetary flexibility with an available fund balance in fiscal year 2016 of 18% of operating expenditures, very strong liquidity and a very strong debt and contingent liability position.

Public Meetings Will Outline Plan for Commuter Rail Shutdown This Summer

mbta commuter railThree public meetings have been scheduled on the North Shore during the next two weeks to explain a plan to interrupt service MBTA commuter rail service in Hamilton this summer in order to install Positive Train Control (PTC) systems and make repairs to the Beverly swing bridge.

The work is planned along the Newburyport commuter rail line, which serves Hamilton-Wenham station.

None of the public meetings will be in Hamilton and the closest meeting will be at Beverly City Hall on Tuesday, May 2. A meeting is also planned at Gloucester City Hall on April 26 and a meeting at Newburyport City Hall on May 1. All of the meetings start at 6:30 p.m.

The three public meetings will provide project details, timelines and recommended alternative transportation options.

The PTC project will mean a shutdown in service each weekend from July 8 through Sept. 30. The bridge work will mean commuter rail service will be completely shut down north of the Salem commuter rail station for 28 days, from July 17 through Aug. 13.

Hamilton Town Manager Michael Lombardo said he plans to attend the meeting and advocate for  bus service from each station to Salem – at a minimum.

The PTC project is federally-mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration Rail Safety Improvement Act. PTC is designed to improve safety by preventing train-to-train collisions, over speed derailments and unexpected movement of trains through “open” switches, according to the MBTA.

Hamilton Town Hall, Rec Department Closed Tuesday, Trash Pickup to be Delayed This Week

snow closeHamilton Town Hall will be closed on Tuesday, March 14, according to Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

Town Hall will reopen at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15.

The Hamilton-Wenham Recreation will also be closed on Tuesday and all department activities for the day are cancelled.

Trash pickup will also be delayed one day later this week. Pickup will run from Thursday through Saturday this week in Hamilton.

As a reminder, there will also be a parking ban in effect from 6 a.m. Tuesday through noon on Wednesday.

Parking Ban Starts Tuesday Morning

snow-plow-close-upjpg-c6507b24f0ff7afa_largeA winter storm parking ban will run from Tuesday morning through midday Wednesday in Hamilton, according to Town Manager Michael Lombardo.

It will go into effect on Tuesday, March 14 at 6 a.m. and last until 12 noon on Wednesday, March 15.

No on-street parking is allowed during the ban and any vehicle left unattended on a public way or parked so that it inhibits snow removal can be towed, at the owner’s expense. Violators can also be issued a $20 citation. The only exceptions to the ban are for fire, police, public works and utility repair vehicles.

Members Sought for New Town Hall Building Committee

IMG_2758The search is on for volunteers to serve on the new Town Hall Building Committee.

The seven volunteer members of the committee will help make decisions about potential renovations and structural updates to Town Hall, said Scott Maddern, chairman of the Hamilton Board of Selectmen. Committee members will be appointed by the Board of Selectmen and the committee will also include Town Manager Michael Lombardo and another town employee.

Maddern said Selectmen are hoping to get a lot of public input that will also help develop estimated costs and a timeline for work that could go before Town Meeting voters.

Anybody who is interested in becoming a member of the committee is asked to fill out an “application for board of committee membership” and submit it to the Selectmen’s office at Hamilton Town Hall. The committee will be formed within the next few weeks.

Police Chief at the Helm During Town Manager’s Leave

russ-stevens
Hamilton Police Chief Russell M. Stevens

Police Chief Russell Stevens will serve as Interim Town Manager while Town Manager Michael Lombardo is out on leave.

Lombardo is out on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, said Scott Maddern, chairman of the Hamilton Board of Selectmen.

Lombardo could be out up to 6-8 weeks, but he could be back before then. When he returns, Maddern said he expects Lombardo “won’t miss a beat when he returns.” There will be no interruption in town services during Lombardo’s leave, Stevens said.

Previously, Stevens has served as interim town manager during Lombardo’s vacations. In the coming weeks, both the Board of Selectmen and the Finance and Advisory Committee will be preparing for the Annual Town Meeting on April 1. Both boards have full confidence in Stevens and have been impressed as he’s helped develop the fiscal year 2018 budget, Maddern said.

The Police Department is in the capable hands of Lt. Scott Janes, according to Maddern and Stevens. The department has been well trained and prepared under Stevens’ “steady hand,” including state accreditation and reaccreditation, Maddern said.