Swampscott officials set FY24 goals

Entering Swampscott sign seen on Lynn Shore Drive. (Libby O'Neill)

SWAMPSCOTT — Select Board members kicked off fiscal year 2024 by sharing their short- and long-term goals for the town — from increasing staffing levels to developing a green economic-development plan — at their meeting this week.

Select Board Chair David Grishman kicked off the discussion by reminding the board that the deliberations are timed with the beginning of a new fiscal year in order to set achievable goals that can be realized in the next year. He said in previous years, the Select Board’s goals have been more long-term, if not “aspirational.”

“It’s important that we’re conveying to the public that we’re holding each other accountable for what we’re set to do, and working with professional staff and the town administrator to really see these (goals) realized,” Grishman said.

Select Board member Peter Spellios said his goals for the year were to continue working on the long-term plans from FY23: setting fiscal guidelines for the town, fulfilling the town’s plan to reuse the former Hadley School, and developing the former Hawthorne by the Sea site into a community space. Spellios added that he would also like to secure funding for the Swampscott Housing Authority.

For Vice Chair Katie Phelan, locating, funding, and developing an all-ages community center in town remains an important goal in order to integrate the Swampscott Senior Center with the rest of the community.

Phelan added that hiring a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant who could help the town build equity on its boards and committees was at “the top of (her) list.”

“DEI issues touch so many employees, so many boards and committees. I think that there can be training and education to help people gain more knowledge on how to handle them, how to see them,” Phelan said. “Continuing to educate the folks… so that we can truly put our money where our mouth is and call ourselves inclusive and diverse in a way that’s meaningful.”

In the next year, Select Board member MaryEllen Fletcher said she wanted to ensure the town was fully staffed, which could require hiring more police officers if the department’s staff is not “where it should be.”

Fletcher said she also hoped to develop a clear plan on how the town would spend its remaining American Rescue Plan Act funds. She said she hoped to create a plan for the town to maintain its financial discipline over the years.

“Also putting more focus into our finances and our commitment to being disciplined at staying at the 2% (annual tax-increase limit),” Fletcher said. “There’s been a lot of work in being financially responsible and I just want to make sure we keep that turned up.”

The newest Select Board member, Doug Thompson, presented his goals in a series of slides, outlining a number of short- and long-term goals ranging from the development of affordable housing, planning environmental initiatives, and increasing the town’s tax base through a detailed economic-development plan.

“I’m very interested in developing an economic-development strategy, detailed plans for different parts of the town, and of integrating the various efforts that are going on in different parts of the town so people understand that these projects are connected,” Thompson said.

In this detailed plan, Thompson said he would like to incorporate initiatives that address climate change into the town’s economic-development strategy.

“Issues that from my perspective are really, really critical are affordability, especially housing affordability, and climate change through our new climate action plan — how we’re weaving that into all of our decisions, and all of our policymaking,” Thompson said.

Grishman wrapped up the discussion by saying that cleaning King’s Beach and passing the Community Preservation Act to help secure funding for open-space acquisition and public housing are some of his top goals for the next fiscal year.

“I really want to address public housing. We have 122 public-housing units within the town. I don’t think anything’s been constructed in the last 50 or 60 years, and these properties are largely not (Americans with Disabilities Act)-compliant. I think we can do much better for the current residents as well as future residents,” Grishman said.

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