This week's issue includes a summary of the March 19th Select Board meeting and an important update on the Pierce School Project.

Please note that the Select Board will not meet next week, March 26. The Select Board will next meet April 2. I will share the agenda for that meeting in my next weekly update.

Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have questions.

Best Regards,

Paul Warren

Please note that this email is being sent by me as an individual and not as an official action on behalf of the Board. The content is created by me and any errors or omissions are solely my responsibility.

What's On My Mind

Council on Aging (COA) and Brookline Senior Center - I want to encourage readers to view the presentation given to the Select Board by Ruthann Dobek, Director of the COA and Senior Center. Ruthann discusses challenges facing our growing aging population, our reliance on outside funds to provide services to our seniors, and the critical budget issues that the Council on Aging faces in FY2026 and beyond. I greatly appreciate Ruthann highlighting these issues for the Board.

Pierce School Project - In May of 2023, Brookline voters approved the renovation/addition to the existing historic Pierce School and other site improvements including reconstruction and repair of the Town Hall and Pierce School garages and the Town Park across School Street.

There are three, time-sensitive votes that must be taken in early April on the Pierce project. These votes will impact the cost and project schedule. The three votes are:

  1. Park and Recreation Commission - A unanimous vote is needed by this Commission to allow for the installation of geothermal wells at the Town Park across from the Pierce School.
  2. Conservation Commission - As with the Park and Recreation Commission, a unanimous vote is needed by this Commission to allow for the geothermal wells.
  3. Building Commission - A majority of the Building Commission must vote in favor to initiate the demolition of the existing, non-historic portion of the school.

On April 2nd, the Select Board will hold a joint public hearing with the Park and Recreation Commission and the Conservation Commission. Votes on the question of whether or not to allow geothermal at the Town Park are planned to be taken by both Commissions after the hearing.

Why do the Park and Recreation Commission and the Conservation Commission need unanimous approval for geothermal at Piece?

The Town Park across from Pierce is subject to Article 97 & The Public Lands Preservation Act. The Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA), has very specific protocols that must be followed when a change in use is proposed for Article 97 land. Placing geothermal wells at the park, even though they will be below the surface, trigger Article 97 change of use. The voting thresholds are described in the EOEA Land Disposition Policy. It is this policy that requires a unanimous vote of the Park and Recreation and Conservation Commissions to allow the placement of geothermal wells at the Town Park.

Why does the Building Commission need to vote?

The Building Commission, as required by Article 3.7 of the town bylaws, approves plans, awards contracts, and oversees the town’s building program. The Pierce School project falls under the Building Commission's jurisdiction. The Building Commission must approve the budget and contract that will initiate the demolition and construction of the Pierce School project.

How are the commission votes related?

Since the new Pierce School is planned to be heated and cooled using geothermal wells, the Building Commission needs to understand the positions of the Park and Recreation and Conservation Commissions before they vote on initiating the project. A no vote by either the Park and Recreation Commission or the Conservation Commission would prevent the installation of geothermal wells. This change would create uncertainty for the Pierce Project including important design and construction cost implications. A no vote would likely result in the Building Commission taking longer to approve the demolition and construction of the Pierce project as it considers the impact on how the new building will be heated and cooled.

What are the implications of no votes by any of the three commission?

If any of the three commission votes no, it is likely that the Pierce project would be delayed. These delays would likely escalate construction costs by more than $10 million, increase the operating cost to heat and cool the new building, and add uncertainly to the Pierce families and staff as to when and where they will attend school in the coming years.

Are there other approvals needed to move the project forward?

Yes. However, the most important and time sensitive approvals are those of the Park and Recreation, Conservation, and Building Commissions. The Select Board, Town Meeting and State Legislature must also approve the Article 97 request. However, it is far more likely the these bodies will vote in favor with the approval of the Commissions. The specific question that Town Meeting will be voting on can be viewed in the Warrant. A detailed explanation is also available.

The specific agenda and times for the public hearings and votes will be published on the Town Calendar next week. I will share the agenda in my next weekly update.

I appreciate that this is a complex issue, and one that is causing significant concern and uncertainty of the community.

Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions or would like to discuss further.

Last Meeting - Tuesday, March 17

Miscellaneous - The Board approved items, licenses, vouchers, and contracts as part of its miscellaneous agenda. The list of items and supporting materials can be found under Agenda Item #3 in the meeting packet.

Sale of Bonds - The Board approved that $24,495,000 in General Obligation Bonds of the Town be awarded to Robert W. Baird & Co., Inc.

Alcohol License Renewal - The Board approved renewing the Alcohol License for the Hemlock Grille located at the Brookline Golf Course.

Comprehensive Plan Contract - The Board approved a contract with Agency Landscape and Planning, LLC in the amount of $575,000 and appointed Select Board Member Warren to chair the Comprehensive Plan Steering Group.

Departmental Budget Reviews - The Board reviewed the FY2025 budgets for the Council on Aging, Fire Department and Library.

Warrant Articles Public Hearing - The Board held public hearings on Article 9 and Article 18. Details on each Article can be found in the Warrant and the Article Explanations.

  • Article 9 would establish an accrued liabilities reserve account to help pay the liabilities when they come due as employees retire. Town Deputy Town Administrator Goff presented the Article and the Board discussed the need for the reserve fund. The Board voted unanimously to recommend favorable action to Town Meeting for Article 9.
  • Article 18 is a resolution calling for the creation of a social wealth study committee. The fund would ask for cash investments over a 50 year period at which time the income from the fund would then be used to fund social and other programs. Precinct 17 Town Meeting Member, Anthony Buono presented the Article and the Board discussed it.

Warrant Articles - The Board unanimously voted to recommended favorable action to Town Meeting on Articles 15 and 16.

  • Article 15 establishes staggered terms of office for Constables.
  • Article 16 reduce the number of Commission for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Community Relations members from 15 to 9.