Fourth-quarter real estate taxes are now due June 1, extended from May 1, and tax-abatement filing deadlines are also extended to June 1, as unanimously approved by the Select Board on Monday, April 13.

Selectboard logo, May 20, 2019The board also voted unanimously to waive the payment of interest and other penalties on late water/sewer charges due on or after March 30 and made before June 30, 2020.

The board authorized the Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine to be its liaison to oversee local-election voter outreach, education and other related steps, working with the town clerk's office, the manager's office and other groups.

The municipal relief bill ― championed and signed by Gov. Baker, Sen. Cindy Friedman and Reps. Sean Garballey and Dave Rogers ― provides for election delays for town governments, Town Meeting postponement, expanded power for town moderators, as well as economic relief and budgetary flexibility, including the ability to push back certain tax-payment dates, said Chapdelaine.

“This bill gives people more time to pay their taxes, yet still get our payments in on time for FY2020,” said Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler,” who, along with Treasurer/Collector Phyllis Marshall, helped put together the town policy.

“It also waives the penalties for late payments, such as excise taxes and annual water/sewer rate charges. We recommend that the board approve this for water/sewer bills, but not extend the due dates for tax bills or excise bills because of cash flow issues. We need the revenue before the end of the fiscal year, and in fairness to those who’ve already paid their bills,” added Pooler.

Board member John Hurd said, “This decision relieves the burden on our senior citizens.”

Manager moved termed 'unusual'

The board unanimously authorized Chapdelaine to be its liaison to oversee local-election voter outreach, education and other related steps. Chapdelaine will work with the town clerk’s office, the manager’s office and other groups to make recommendations to remove potential barriers to resident participation, especially in the light of early voting.

“It’s unusual to bring the town manager into this process, but these are unusual circumstances. We have to conduct more outreach and discussions involving citizens, and want to get as much information out there as possible,” said Board Chair Diane Mahon.

Board member Joseph Curro Jr. said: “The issue is getting out word of the election. We need a public/private partnership with the town, using traditional communication channels such as the media. We also need help from the candidates and their campaigns; they are important partners in getting the word out. Administration of the election is traditionally a partnership within town government ― the town clerk, Select Board and town manager/staff.

“The entire mechanism and all the options are now different. Most people are used to voting in person, and can now submit a ballot request and return it to Town Hall, so public education is important for people to understand they have that option. Furthermore, more polling locations will reduce contact between people.”

Hurd added, “The number of poll locations is determined by the number of poll workers. Getting poll workers to staff all the traditional places, and have as many locations as we can, is a safer option. Absentee ballots must also be accessible to everyone.”

Board member Steve DeCourcey said, “There’s no excuse for not having absentee voting. We’ll work with the clerk’s department and the IT department to produce absentee-ballot applications. We’ll also notify the public so people know that we’ve changed the date, how to request an absentee ballot, and if the number of polling locations is changed.”

Member Dan Dunn added, “With Covid-19, voters needn’t say why they choose absentee or mail-in ballots. The town manager’s office is uniquely suited to help with this.”

Resident input on town election

Several Arlington residents spoke during the Citizens' Open Forum portion of the meeting.

James O’Conor, election modernization committee chair, said, “Janice Weber, the town’s assistant clerk, is very responsive to meet the needs of residents’ concerns.”

Sean Harrington, election modernization committee member, said, “We got lots of feedback regarding dates and voting areas. There’s concern about how many polling locations will be open, and suggest we keep as many polling locations as possible. Having just one location means fewer poll workers, which opens up the opportunity for many people to get sick.”

Lynette Martyn, a candidate for School Committee, said, “There’s anxiety about how the election will be held. This is an opportunity for citizens to work with the Select Board on how poll workers will be protected, such as keeping the same hours, and even extending them so there’s less crowding; how we’ll we communicate any change in poll locations; and how we’ll get this message out to people. I also suggest reaching out to people in low-income housing.”

Elizabeth Dray, a member of Arlington Fights Racism, said, “We have less than eight weeks to change the way people in Arlington vote, and need education on how to use absentee ballots. Can any state or town money be allocated? I urge looking at the League of Women Voters for their multi-outreach campaigns in reaching out to voters.

“If we use self-addressed envelopes to return votes, I worry that people will be unable to add an attachment. I’m also concerned that Arlington will fall back on its traditional communication modes, resulting in voter disenfranchisement. We need to decide who we are as town and what we stand for.”

Town continues to address coronavirus concerns

“We’ve been managing Covid-19 from a public health point of view right from the start. When we receive concerns, we discuss them with the town’s Board of Health, Department of Planning and Community Development, Economic Development department, Human Resources director and police department,” said Chapdelaine.

“Our Board of Health staff continues to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day to fight this outbreak. They advise us on restrictions, and conduct tracing with the possible people in contact with any coronavirus cases.

“We meet daily to discuss such concerns as grocery workers and senior-housing residents wearing masks; use of the bike path to make sure it’s safe, and are currently keeping it open; and giving consideration to widening the sidewalks to provide safe social distancing, by restricting parking.

“We’re also trying to continue to find ways to connect with people in handling the pandemic. We’re holding our first virtual town forum tomorrow [April 14] for small businesses and nonprofits. Hopefully, this will be the first in a series, and future ones will address residents and schools,” added Chapdelaine.

Naming new chair, vice chair delayed

Board Chair Mahon and Vice Chair Dunn will continue to serve in their current positions until after the town election, as unanimously decided by the board.

The board chair and vice chair each serve for one year. They are typically elected after the annual town election in April, but this year the town election is postponed until June.

“I’m in favor of maintaining the current chair and vice chair until the town election occurs. The new board should decide the officers for coming the year,” said DeCourcey.

Mahon is seeking reelection, and Dunn's term on the board ends June 6.

Arlington designated All-America Road

The town of Arlington was nominated by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byways Program for the Battle Road Scenic Byway to be an All-America Road, which was unanimously approved by the board.

Read the document about this >>

“Once our social-distancing measures are lifted, many people will be looking to take road trips. I’m glad to include Arlington,” said Curro.

“I’m excited about this. This is an important designation,” said Mahon.

March 31, 2020: Town election set for June 6, depending on virus status

This news summary, by YourArlington freelance writer Susan Gilbert, was published Tuesday, April 14, and updated April 17.