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Office of the Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Town Manager

Town Hall Phone: (413) 259-3002

4 Boltwood Avenue Fax: (413) 259-2405
Amherst, MA 01002-2351

To: Select Board

Fr: Paul Bockelman

Town Manager

Dt: March 20, 2017 (updated April 4, 2017)

Re: FY17 Town Manager Performance Goals Six-Month Progress Report


I completed my first six months as Town Manager for the Town of Amherst on February 22, 2017. I
want to thank the Board for the opportunity to serve in this incredible community. I have found the job to
be challenging, rewarding, energizing, and very gratifying both professionally and personally.

I am so glad to be part of a group of very talented department heads and staff throughout the
organization. I am proud to be building on the legacy of strong managers who have placed the Town in a
very strong financial position. And I find it very engaging to be working with the volunteers and
community members who care so much and strive to make Amherst a better place for all.

Last summer, before beginning my duties in the Town on August 22nd, I made five visits and met with
over twenty-five members of the community including members of the Select Board, residents and
business owners, and current and former Town officials and staff.

These informal conversations gave me an insight into the work I would be doing and helped frame the
basis for my entry plan. My personal entry plan was designed to help me learn about the community,
understand the people and politics, gauge the challenges, and develop a program that could be the basis
for the work moving forward.

Once on the job, I devoted significant time to meeting with each of you and with staff individually and in
groups. I worked to connect with members of the community in as many venues as possible, attending
events such as the Block Party and high school sports and plays, and just being in Town, walking around
and introducing myself to people and business owners.

My entry plan and activities in the first six months can be grouped into four general categories:
A. Listening and developing an understanding of the Town;
B. Learning and managing Town activities on a day-to-day basis;
C. Addressing outstanding issues that had been awaiting the new Town Manager; and,
D. Managing new challenges and crises.

This memo details the progress we have made to meet the performance goals articulated by the Select
Board at its November 17, 2016 meeting. It will highlight areas of progress and note the areas where
work still needs to be done.

Please note clearly that every accomplishment in this report is the result of a team of staff members
and volunteers who work together toward achieving an agreed upon goal. Many of the
accomplishments are the end result of the vision of my predecessors and the fortitude of staff to
continue to move the vision forward. I have chosen not to name individual staff members who deserve
the bulk of the credit for many of these successes but I know you are aware that any success is the work
of many hands.

I. Fiscal Management
1. Address the need for increased revenue:
CDBG funds: The Town continues to be designated a mini-entitlement recipient of
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. This grant provides crucial
funding for projects and activities that serve primarily low- and moderate-income
members of the community. This year, in a process organized by the CDBG Advisory
Committee with able guidance from staff, the Town submitted an application recently for
over $700,000 worth of funds.
CPA funds: The Community Preservation (CPA) Committee has recommended funding
over $1.5 million for affordable housing, open space, historic preservation, and recreation
activities. Important in this years budget is a small allotment of $3,500 to offset
administrative costs of this program.
Potential New Development: The Board agreed to a tax-incentive with Beacon
Communities to develop two new buildings containing 130 residential units - including
20% affordable units at 50% area median income, 22,000 square feet of non-residential
space, approximately 304 parking spaces, and site improvements that include a village
square, a play area and a dog park for residents in the North Amherst village area. It is
projected that the total, ten-year value of the Affordable Housing Tax Incentive will be
$2,795,009. During that same period the development will add $2,356,429 in new tax
revenues for the Town from both residential and non-residential space. Currently the site
pays about $10,000 per year in taxes. I had to review the Affordable Housing Tax
Incentive which passed Town Meeting in 2015 and try to take the legislative language and
interpret it into a usable tool to promote affordable housing. A successful review with the
assistance of the Principal Assessor, Assistant Town Manager, Select Board members,
Town Counsel, and a consultant generated a new model for utilizing this powerful tax
tool. Taking the concept of the tax credit from simple legislative language to a complex
calculation was challenging. But the work has established a system for analysis for future
tax credit requests for the future.
Economic development: This spring, the Town was designated as a Community Compact
Cabinet community making the Town eligible for grants including grants to fund an
economic development plan and to improve our existing telephone/emergency
communication system.
Medical Marijuana: I have had numerous discussions with two medical marijuana
providers who are interested in opening facilities in the Town. The host community
agreements would provide much needed additional revenue to the Town.
Recreational Marijuana: The Economic Development Director continues to work with me,
other staff, and members of the Board to ensure that new recreational marijuana

businesses would pay their fair share of taxes and offset any additional costs the Town
incurs due to their presence.
Public safety dispatch: I have been exploring an opportunity to revisit a scaled down
version of this previously discussed regional public safety dispatch initiative. If there is
interest, the collaboration could save money for all communities involved.
MassWorks grant - downtown: The work on the $1.5 million MassWorks infrastructure
grant to bury 4,000 feet of electrical, cable and telephone wires on East Pleasant, North
Pleasant, Triangle, and Pray Streets is nearly complete. This work sets the stage for the
other utility work which is being done now on East Pleasant Street and for the
construction of the roundabout at the intersection of Triangle Street.
MassWorks grant North Village Center: An application for a MassWorks infrastructure
grant for the North Amherst Village Center was not approved. We submitted a solid
proposal but the grant cycle was highly competitive.
Health insurance: A review of health insurance costs has engendered a serious
conversation with employees and retirees on the Towns Health Insurance Advisory
Committee. This is an engaged group who are familiar with the challenges of managing a
self-insured program. Adjustments in rates and plan design have been designed and you
will see a recommendation in the coming weeks for small rate adjustments.

2. Long-term financial health:

OPEB: We continue to make steady progress to address our Other Post-Employment
Benefits (OPEB) liability by committing funds within the existing budget, from our
enterprise funds, and earmarking Federal Medicare Part D reimbursements into the OPEB
trust fund according to the schedules previously established.
Bond rating: The Treasurer-Collector and I have been engaged in conversations with the
Towns financial advisory who had expressed concern about the impact of the Town being
designated a Sanctuary City by the Department of Homeland Security. After several
exchanges with our financial advisors, it was determined that the existing status for the
Town would not have an impact and there was no need for disclosure in our continuing
disclosure report.
Recreational marijuana: The passage of the recreational marijuana law in November
increased the likelihood that companies will seek to establish facilities in the Town. As
mentioned above, we are actively working with key decision-makers to learn about the
law and encourage the Legislature to ensure that adequate local control is included in any
Capital projects: One of my first tasks was to develop a long-term financial strategy to
meet the building needs expressed for a new co-located elementary school, a new
relocated fire station, a new public works facility, and a renovated library. The Treasurer-
Collector and I presented a plan built on the work of my predecessors that utilized a
combination of factors to make funding all four projects possible. The plan was based on:
(a) existing debt was declining as bonds matured; (b) planned increases in the Towns
commitment to capital over a multi-year period; (c) growing Free Cash as a result of
conservative financial management that could be used to sustain the budget in peak times;
and the required passage of two strategic overrides. This plan was presented at September
14, 2016 five boards meeting (Select Board, School Committee, Board of Library
Trustees, Finance Committee, and DPW/Fire Station Study Committee) and showed a
path forward that was manageable and reasonable. While the voters approved a debt
exclusion override at the Town election and the MSBA committed upwards of $34 million
for a new co-located school, two Special Town Meetings decided against borrowing the
funds. A referendum on the vote March 28th also failed. The challenge now is to re-think
the options available to the Town, review them with the Select Board and other boards,
and begin to work toward a consensus plan for addressing these pressing capital needs.
Operating budget: On October 13th, the Comptroller and I made a presentation to the Four
Boards (Select Board, School Committee, Board of Library Trustees, and Finance
Committee) that reviewed projected revenue and expenses for the Town and established a
base for planning for the FY18 budget. This plan was well received and set the base for
the Select Board and Finance Committee to establish budget guidelines as I began the
budget development process.

3. Budget Policy Guidelines:

The budget presented to the Select Board on January 12th was in compliance with the
budget guidelines of both the Select Board and the Finance Committee.

4. Managing FY17 budget:

The Town continues its prudent management of Town resources by monitoring and
managing its FY17 approved budget. Results are reported to the Select Board on a
quarterly basis.

II. Relationship with the Select Board

1. Board leadership communication:

The importance of communication cannot be overstated. To ensure there is adequate
and thorough communication, we have established a coherent system of
We schedule weekly meetings with the chair and vice chair to set the agendas for the
next and future Select Board meetings;
I meet weekly with the chair to review other, non-agenda topics and as a general
check-in time for the work Im doing;

2. Board communication:
I held meetings with individual Board members in December my three-month mark to
check in with Board members to gauge if the level of correspondence was appropriate.
I continue regular communication that does not violate the Open Meeting Law via email
with all members of the Board to update members on emergencies, special events, and
other updates such as the most recent activities in March.
The Select Board and I dedicated a Saturday morning and early afternoon to discussing
Board issues at a retreat.
Board members know that I have an open door/email/telephone policy.

3. Emerging issues:
Drought: The severe, multi-year drought created a great deal of concern among our
institutional partners. The Assistant Town Manager led a process that was inclusive,
informative, and yielded dividends of improved communication and better coordination of
emergency management services. Our DPW staff continues to manage the Towns water
resources to ensure that supply was never in question. Water use restrictions were put in
place by my predecessors. These actions, along with the cooperation of our institutional

partners and vigilance of our public works staff ensured that the Town institutions
residents, and residents were responsibly supplied with the quantity and quality of water
Sanctuary Communities: The newly elected president of the United States of America
promulgated rulings that raised intense anxiety among members of our community,
especially those who are immigrants. I, along with the Chief of Police and Superintendent
of Schools, issued a declaration on behalf of the Town to state clearly the Towns position
on the issue. There were numerous press inquiries and meetings with groups interested in
pursuing this issue. As noted above, the action of the Federal government caused our
financial advisor to inquire as to whether a financial disclosure to the Towns bond
holders was in order.
Flag Misconceptions: News reports falsely reported that the Town does not fly the flag of
the United States of America. This was and is not true. The issue was merged with the flag
controversy at Hampshire College and there was a fair amount of navigating around the
issue with the press and public.
Comcast Contract: The contract, with the important involvement of the Cable Advisory
Committee, staff and, significantly, members of the Select Board, was resolved with a ten-
year contract being signed by the Select Board. The contract is seen as one of the best in
the state for a local franchising authority.
PEG Access Contract: Changing state recommendations required the Town to prepare to
reclassify funds coning into the Town for PEG access and, in turn, required the Town to
seek options for distributing the money. This caused extensive concerns among supporters
of Amherst Media. Ultimately, the issue was resolved when the Department of Revenue
and the Inspector Generals offices delayed and rescinded their initial rulings.
Negotiations directly with Amherst Media are now about to begin.
Homeless Shelter: Detailed discussions were had with the Craigs Doors, which operates
the homeless shelter, to ensure that there was predictability in the housing for those
experiencing homelessness. My recent visit supported the impression I had that they do
good work. Our communications made us a valued ally when the organizations funding
was in jeopardy.
Homelessness: Before I officially started my duties, I was able to attend a major forum on
the challenges of those who are experiencing homelessness. The Director of Public Health
and Community Services initiated monthly provider meetings which have been very

4. Policy
Ample discussion is afforded members of the Board, both in one-on-one communication
with the Manager and in public settings, before public policy is set.

5. Collective Bargaining
Contracts are settled with all but the Police Patrol Union, and I remain committed to a
resolution that is competitive but within the towns ability to pay.
I have heard and ruled on numerous grievances, most being resolved by mutual

6. Litigation
Litigation update was delivered to the Board at its March 6th meeting.

7. Media
Standard practice is that anything of consequence from the Town Managers office gets
copied to the Board in advance.
Since I conduct weekly meetings with members of the media, it is difficult to determine
which issues they may choose to address in writing. But most of the issues are heard first
at a Select Board meeting.
I joined the Select Board chair on election night at Amherst Media.

III. Long Range Planning

1. Town property and facilities profiles:

This will appear on a future Select Board agenda.

2. Sustainability and Green Initiatives:

Discussions to build solar on the landfill continue. Difficulties emerged with the vendor
and alternatives are being sought.
Additional solar installations are under consideration on private land. The Town would
seek a PILOT payment as used in previous projects.
A $50,000 grant to hire a staff person for solid waste has been received. I am reviewing
the long-term financial impact of the position and the actual tasks the person would be
taking on.
The Towns new plastic bag ban bylaw took effect on January 1st. Work is being done to
implement the ban successfully with special outreach to the business community. Our
experiences indicate some tweaking of the bylaw may be in order.
Two living buildings were dedicated in the last six months. Both are on the campus of
Hampshire College. One is the R.W.Kern Center at Hampshire College. The other is the
Hitchcock Center. Hosting two of these rare buildings is a true achievement for the
community. These building seek to attain the highest standard for sustainability in the
built environment. Net zero energy through onsite renewable energy and energy efficient
design strategies and net zero water through onsite rainwater recapture and reuse system
and composting toilets. It will take over a year to determine if these buildings meet the
living building challenge. Only ten in the world have met this challenge to date. At the
dedication of the Kern Center, the President of Hampshire College noted, in particular, the
important role the Towns regulatory officials, including fire, health, and inspectional
services, played in permitting these two buildings.
The Town utilizes Town-owned electric vehicles, including a new school bus, which were
purchased with grants.
The Town continues its effort to green the environment by working toward planting 2000
trees over three years. We still have several hundred to plant but it is an initiative that
continues to be pursued.

3. Affordable housing:
The aforementioned Beacon Communities development in North Amherst will contribute
significantly to the Towns stock of housing that is permanently affordable. Most
important, it will contribute to the Towns Subsidized Housing Inventory and help us to
continue to meet the 10% threshold.

The Board made use of the affordable housing tax incentive to support the development of
the Beacon Communities development in North Amherst. Extensive work went into
understanding how to enact this particular incentive.
We negotiated a working agreement with Craigs Doors shelter for homeless individuals
that set the ground rules for accommodating those in need without resulting in daily or
weekly appeals for additional beds.
We assisted Craigs Doors in lobbying the Legislature to secure release of the $200,000
appropriation needed to operate the shelter through the winter.

4. Staffing:
Turnover in an organization of this size is normal. Vacancies are examined to determine
need and responsibilities of the position.
LSSE: Filling the vacant sports director position and replacing the retiring director
position have been high priorities. The direct retired sooner than I expected and the newly
hired sports director departed after just a few weeks. In turn, I have appointed a new
interim director and her first task is to fill the sports director position.
Planning: New staff in this department have brought the department to its full staffing
Health and Community Services: The director as requested a reduced work schedule and
reduce responsibilities. I have agreed to this to retain a talented employee and we have
made accommodations to ensure that all duties are being filled.
Fire: The long-awaited staffing study is still not complete and it has created great
frustration for me and other members of the staff, especially the fire department. We had a
good meeting with one of the consultants, but have yet to see the written work product.
Finance: I have determined that the Town does need the services of a Finance Director. I
have explored various options and will continue to develop ideas on this. In the meantime,
we have been very well serviced by our two experience, dedicated interim co-finance
directors who I thank for their service in this capacity.

6. Improving public infrastructure and spaces:

I have directed additional funds from rolling stock to be dedicated to paving or repairing
public roads and sidewalks. This work will supplement the money already dedicated
through Chapter 90.
Funds are being requested to rehabilitate the North Common.
The Downtown Parking Working Group has developed important proposals to address
the parking needs of downtown. A major goal is to purchase new parking machines as
soon as Town Meeting appropriates funds to do this. We are also reviewing a parking app
that would provide additional flexibility in managing parking for those who use the app.
The Amity Street parking lot and crosswalk and pavement have received high praise.
Planning continues on the North Pleasant, Pine Street, Meadow Street intersection
Planning also continues with the newly purchased Sacco land in the North Amherst area
in general.
The construction of a new roundabout at the intersection of East Pleasant and Triangle
Streets will be a major capital project for the Spring and Summer. We have developed an
extensive outreach campaign to ensure that all businesses, land owners, residents, and
people who use the intersection are aware of the construction schedule and detours.

7. Fee subsidies for LSSE:
Funds for subsidies as approved by Town Meeting in 2015 are in the FY17 budget and
again included in the FY18 budget.

8. I-Net replacement:
Planning discussions continue for this project. A new goal will be to establish a timeline
for action prior to the discontinuation of the current INet by Comcast.

IV. Staff and Personnel Relations

1. Staff morale. Maintaining positive staff morale is critical to the success of the Town of
Amherst government operations. In addition to normal, everyday staff interactions with
members of the staff throughout the organization, I have reached out in the following ways:
I have worked with our department heads and leadership team to develop better effective
relationships with all staff in the Town.
I am encouraging a safe working environment and fully supporting interdepartmental staff
safety working groups in all municipal buildings. The Town Hall Safety Committee is
very active and is recommending tangible improvements to Town Hall safety for
employees and visitors.
I have met with groups of employees in large and small settings including employees in:
Town Hall including regular all Town employee meetings which are always very
well attended, numerous social settings, and regular day-to-day contact;
Public Works including an all DPW staff meeting at the beginning of my tenure,
tours of DPW facilities, attending the annual holiday party, visiting the DPW
during snow storms and, most recently, conducting a ride-along during the
recent snow storm;
Water including touring the facilities;
Sewer including touring the facility at the beginning of my tenure and visiting the
plant on Thanksgiving;
Police including being on the street during Halloween weekend, visiting the
Communications Center several times, visiting the site of the homicide, being part
of the Emergency Operations Center at UMass on Super Bowl Sunday and that
special weekend in March and being part of the Emergency Operations Center at
the APD on that same special weekend.
Fire including several visits to both the Central Station and North Station on
Thanksgiving, participating in the open house at the Central Station and the
Pancake Breakfast at the North Station, and observing the Departments work
during two working fires;
Library including extensive tours of the Jones Library and the branches; and,
Bangs Center including visiting a meeting of the Council on Aging and attending
the Senior Centers holiday party.
I will be initiating more direct feedback opportunities for all staff, which will be
discussed with the Board at a future meeting.

2. Staff communication:
I have initiated open all-staff meetings for Town staff that have always been very well

I have begun a regular news notes email newsletter to all staff to update staff on comings
and goings of staff and significant issues facing the Town.

3. Departmental communication:
I hold quarterly meetings with all department heads.
I hold monthly meetings with the leadership team.
I hold weekly or bi-weekly meetings with the Police Chief, Fire Chief, Superintendent of
Schools, Library Director, Economic Development Director, Superintendent of Public
Works, Assistant Town Manager, Director of Senior Services, Interim LSSE Director,
Human Resources Director, and Assistant to the Town Manager.
We hold monthly meetings to discuss economic development issues in the Town which
brings together planning, building, and economic development staff.
We hold quarterly economic development meetings hosted by former Rep. Ellen Story.
I continue to serve on the Business Improvement District Board of Directors and attend
monthly meetings.

4. Recruiting staff:
I continue to work with our Human Resources department to ensure that the Town is seen
as an employer of choice in western Massachusetts. We have seen numerous wins in our
successful recruitment of talented staff such as a new sports director, DPW employees,
Town Hall employees, and police officers.

5. Customer service:
The Town has established a high bar for excellent customer service and I continue to work
with staff to ensure that all requests and visits from the public are handled expeditiously
and thoroughly and professionally.
The implementation of Early Voting at UMass is one example where extensive outreach
and staff resources were put in place to ensure the successful implementation of this new
law during an election with high turnout.

6. Service delivery:
Good customer service and service delivery is a theme that I review regularly with staff
during staff meetings. Special focus has been placed in my conversations with DPW
employees whose work is highly visible and subject to critique, simply due to the high
visibility of their jobs.

7. Staff support:
Retaining excellent staff is also a high priority which I continue to emphasize throughout
the organization. Retaining high performing members of the organization requires the
supervisor to provide guidance, mentoring, and ample professional development
opportunities. I have worked to cement these values in our supervisors.
Individually, I have worked directly with the Economic Development Director, a
significant new post for the Town, to refine his role with the business community and
neighborhoods; encouraging him to take the lead on both medical and adult-use marijuana
and on the gas moratorium where he was certified as an expert witness, and with his
appointment to the Policy Committee on Municipal and Regional Administration at the
Massachusetts Municipal Association.

Working with experienced, long-tenured staff is really built on relationships and I have
worked hard at building those relationships.
I am pleased that the Superintendent of Public works was appointed to the Massachusetts
Municipal Associations Policy Committee on Energy and the Environment.
I have been encouraging department heads to review the professional develop
opportunities available to their staff. One such opportunity is the MMA-Suffolk
University Certificate in Leadership and Management program. I hope that at least one of
our rising leaders will participate in that this year.

V. Community, Intergovernmental Relations, and Volunteer Committees, Boards, and


1. Institutional partners:
I have met regularly with the Chancellor of UMass to discuss issues of mutual concern.
I have met with both presidents of Amherst and Hampshire Colleges and have established
a working relationship with both President Martin and President Lash.
The management of the drought, mentioned above, had the positive side effect of enabling
the Town and our institutional partners to work together toward a common goal. The
increased and regular communications has strengthened already strong bonds among the
four players.
UTAC is progressing with staff dedicated to this important forum for discussing Town-
Gown issues.
Preparations for the unnamed March event were done very well with extensive planning,
programming and communication between the Town and the University.

2. Campus and neighboring communities developments:

Improved communication among our institutional partners has enabled the Town to not be
surprised by developments such as the Universitys RFI.
Discussions are just beginning concerning the delivery services, such as ambulance
services, with neighboring communities.
Discussions are in the very preliminary stages about sharing emergency dispatch services
with other communities.

3. Public Relations:
I hold weekly press briefings with members of the media and provide them with
information on ongoing or upcoming issues.
Better communication with the public is something that needs to be addressed and I
believe Im in a position now to address that need. I have established a Twitter feed for
the Amherst Town Manager that has 138 regular followers. Thats good, but not nearly
I have initiated a more aggressive social media policy and have a plan in place to develop
and provide content that can be delivered to our constituents and the press.
Communications with the BID and Chamber continue to be a high priority with ongoing
communications concerning signage, public safety, etc.
I have scheduled two Town Hall Roadshow events, one in South Amherst and one in
North Amherst. The purpose of these roadshows is to engage with the public on general
or specific issues, describe important issues facing the Town, and answer any questions.
Most important, I believe these events will allow the public to meet and talk with our
impressive staff.
I have initiated a monthly Cuppa Joe with Paul series at area coffee places to have an
open invitation to members of the community to come in and talk. I will be joined each
time by a different department head. Im very grateful that our department heads have all
volunteered to participate in these events.

4. Customer service: see above

5. Committee support:
I have attended numerous meetings of the various committees in the Town from A
(Assessors) to Z (Zoning Board of Appeals)and almost every board or committee in
between. I have more to meet and will continue with this approach until I have attended
every committee or board. My message is simple: I introduce myself, give a brief
description of who I am and what I value, thank them for their time and their work, and
encourage them to reach out to me individually if I can be of assistance to them.
In the next six months, I will be reaching out to the chairs of each of the committees to
ascertain whether they have direct staff support, the quality of the staff support they
receive, the amount of time they receive from staff, and how I can assist them in meeting
the mission of their committee.
I also have regular conversations with several chairs and listen and offer suggestions, if

6. Committee management:
One of the challenges that we have not addressed adequately is ensuring that minutes,
especially for the Select Board, are prepared in a timely fashion. There are two challenges
that must be addressed at the same time. One is to put in place a system so that minutes
for Board meetings can be presented to the Board for review in a timely manner. The
other addressing the backlog of minutes from over a year ago. For the first, I am
investigating staff options to have a staff member dedicated to taking minutes for the
Boards meetings. For the second, I am carving out time from the Assistant to the Town
Managers schedule to make progress in the backlog of minutes.
I hope that the new software, Acella, will provide the technological support needed to
manage and prepare minutes in a more expedited manner.

VI. Going Forward

In the coming months, I will be reporting to you on the following projects:
Wayfinding signs and moving forward with coordinated signage for the downtown area;
Water system study and steps the Town will need to take to ensure supply, reliability and
A review of municipal property and the desires and demands and a process for disposition
will be presented to the Board;
Residents interested in developing a safe dog park have organized and we will be
reviewing the options for this with the Board;
Paving and management of the Towns roads and sidewalks is a high priority with
additional funds devoted to this important need, including pursuing Complete Streets

Sustainability initiatives for solar and solid waste will be developed in the coming months.
Staffing for the finance director position is needed and options are being reviewed.