MITRE Corp. is getting closer to committing to extend its substantial payment in lieu of taxes to the town for another five to seven years, according to a report Town Manager Sarah Stanton has transmitted to the Select Board.
Stanton, as part of a summary of the status of fiscal 2022 board goals, wrote that after more than a year of negotiations, “Town Counsel is working to finalize a proposed PILOT agreement for Select Board review.” The matter is on Monday’s board meeting agenda.
“The proposed agreement reflects an increase in annual contribution and a potential lifespan of five to seven years,” Stanton wrote. “More information will be shared in executive session.”
MITRE is a not-for-profit organization that operates federally-funded research and development centers. At one time the company was the town’s largest single taxpayer, but a court ruling decades ago declared MITRE exempt from real-estate and personal-property taxes. Since then, MITRE has nevertheless provided an annual payment, which began at $1 million.
The line item is budgeted at $1.74 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1, as estimated by the Finance Committee in its budget preparations.
The MITRE agreement was not mentioned in the verbal review of goals at the Select Board’s June 13 meeting. Several other highlights also were featured in the written report:
- Work on a design for traffic relief options at the intersection of North, The Great, and Concord Roads – at Willson Park – has been stalled after the defeat of an omnibus transportation line in the capital article at Annual Town Meeting. Stanton reported to the Select Board that the Department of Public Works is looking into the state Transportation Improvement Plan as a possible funding source.
- Potential divestiture of the former Navy Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant site on the north side of Hartwell Road will not take place for at least seven years “due to ongoing environmental concerns.” An ad hoc committee has recommended that the town acquire the acreage and install photovoltaic equipment to generate solar energy. Divestiture seemed imminent before the recent discovery of additional contaminants.
During the June 13 meeting, the town manager cited her and the board’s two “overarching goals that impact multiple categories.”
One is improved diversity, equity, and inclusion primarily manifested through the Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan (REMAP). The town manager said that project is finished and presentations will be scheduled for the School Committee and Select Board before August. Stanton also cited training for department heads, and a state grant to finance an “equity audit, improve hiring practices and forms, and offer training to boards and committees.
The other is sustainability (see related story), led by the addition of the position of energy and sustainability manager. The position was approved by Annual Town Meeting and has been advertised, and the new manager will have an office in the Facilities Department, Stanton told the board.
Stanton also cited ongoing efforts to preserve housing stock and expand options “to residents can age in place.” In the written goals report, she specifically cited Local-Initiative Projects on South Road (approved) and Carlisle Road (discussed), other “new, innovative housing units”, and an infusion of community preservation funds to the municipal affordable housing trust,
Stanton’s memorandum summarized progress made toward achieving 20 goals in four general categories. There were a number of highlights:
- Stanton wrote that she is seeking professional owner project management services before forming a building committee for the proposed fire station. That will be followed by the preparation of a request for proposals for designer services.
- The municipal building space inventory and evaluation approved by Annual Town Meeting is expected to begin in July after an architect/engineer is hired. Stanton said the project will take about a year, followed by recommendations.
- Stanton outlined some operational adjustments at Springs Brook Park and added, “I anticipate working closely with the new recreation director to identify a long-term strategic plan for the park.”
- Now that a bikeway extension funding option has been identified for fiscal 2024, “the town manager’s office will be working on scheduling meetings with impacted property owners, stakeholders, and hosting community forums in the months leading up to special town meeting.”
Stanton told the Select Board that she did not make progress on only two of the goals: identification of long-term funding options to support community access television, and plans for the area at the end South Road owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority and leased to the Air Force as a recreational vehicle area known as the Fam Camp.
Board member Margot Fleischman asked Stanton if she has identified possible regional or legislative possibilities for addressing the television issue. Board Chair Emily Mitchell noted that the Community Media Committee and the town’s contractor Bedford TV are having similar discussions, “reaching out to look at what other stations do.” There is pending legislation to try to collect payments from cable companies for steaming services, she said,
Stanton extended thanks to municipal department heads for their contributions toward realizing the goals, many of which are interdepartmental. Mitchell applauded Stanton’s leadership on the accomplishments as a reflection of her management skills.
Correction, 6/29/2022: “The Air Force has notified Massport that it won’t be renewing the lease when it expires” has been removed from this article because it refers to a 2017 decision that was not discussed during the June 14, 2022 meeting. The Citizen regrets its error.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763