Owners of billboard appease Peabody council

  • By Mary Markos Staff Writer

PEABODY – Representatives of the owners of a Newbury Street billboard exposed their throats to an angry City Council, the submissive behavior enough to avoid suspension or revocation of their special permit – for now.

Confusion about who actually owns the billboard behind the Holiday Inn came to light as city councilors discussed the company’s unauthorized switching the billboard from digital to static.

“I want to find out what they did, who owns it and what their plans are,” City Councilor Anne Manning-Martin said. “I want to know what they’re doing with that 60-foot hunk of junk affecting people’s quality of life in our city.”

Peabody City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski told the council that Lamar Advertising Company, which has been footing the bill for the billboard for the past two years, is not actually listed as the special permit holder.

“I agree with you, this is a mess,” Smerczynski said to the council. He explained that the company has paid six figures for it. Lamar Advertising pays $25,000 for digital and $15,000 for static billboards to the city.

In the eyes of the city, previous owner Total Outdoor still holds the special permit and it was never transferred to Lamar Advertising. Ultimately, the council did not make a decision on how to move forward with the company at its Thursday night meeting.

Councilors noticed unauthorized activity at 1 Rear Newbury St. in May. A cease-and-desist order was issued on May 19, with which the company complied.

Shortly after the cease and desist, Lamar Advertising emailed the building department requesting the special permit and a transfer in June.

“I find it hard to believe with their attorneys that they didn’t know, procedurally, how to do the work,” City Council President Joel Saslaw said.

“We’re the special permit granting authority. I get the impression that people are trying to take away our power, make us irrelevant by changing billboards with no permits,” Councilor Barry Sinewitz said, “The council works very hard and to have people sidestep the council… I resent that.”

Lamar’s attorney, John Keilty, and general manager, Michael Murphy responded to the City Council’s ire.

“It was wrong. I didn’t get the building permit and that was our fault,” Murphy said. He added changes to the billboard are in response to corporate instruction and he didn’t realize there were special permits for the location.

“There is too much digital in Peabody and its been an issue. There’s a lot of non-performing locations and its flooded from marketing and a business perspective, we needed to change it over but we did not do it the right way,” Murphy said.

According to Murphy, there are around 15 digital billboards within approximately a three-mile radius. The large company has more than 500 billboards. “This was just a massive hiccup on our part internally when we changed it over,” he said.

Their explanation eventually calmed the city councilors and they posted a recess on the hearing.

“You’re a huge company and we’re a little tiny board of councilors from Peabody 01960. We called you forward because this is our job. We care about our constituents,” Manning-Martin said. “If we got a billion-dollar corporation to come in and say ‘We were wrong,’ then we’re doing our jobs. That’s what tonight is all about. It’s not just about billboards, it’s about us being the special permit granting authority and doing right by our constituents.”

Mary Markos may be contacted at 978-338-2660 or mmarkos@salemnews.com

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Two Market Street Items

All,

​The following two items that were mentioned in the last post have not been brought before the Board of Selectmen in approximately two years.  The current Board has not had a chance to act on the issues, but we are hopeful they will act on them in the upcoming months.

 

The two items were:

 

  1. The town has not identified who is responsible for enforcing the berm design standard.
  2. The Board of Selectmen have not acted on requests to incorporate the agreed upon noise standards into the general bylaws so the police can enforce them

W. McKenzie

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Market Street Update

Joe DeMaina, Dave Basile and others made statements at the Sept 14th  hearing.

Main points were:

  1. The town has not identified who is responsible for enforcing the berm design standards
  2. The Board of Selectmen have not acted on requests to incorporate the agreed upon noise standards into the general bylaws so the police can enforce them.

In addition all member of the MarketStreet committee were provided with a copy of

  1. The attached presentation.
  2. 2007 Development Agreement
  3. 2011 Development Agreement
  4. The Design Standards
  5. The 2007 presentation that National Development used at Town Meeting to sell the project.

All of the documents are available on the website at:

www.ctpl01940.orgBerm_and_Noise_2017_09_14

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MANAGER JAMES BOUDREAU COULD BE HEADING SOUTH ON LYNNFIELD

LYNNFIELD — Town Administrator James Boudreau could be heading back to the South Shore.

Boudreau is one of the three finalists for the administrator’s position in Scituate. Before taking the Lynnfield job in 2014, Boudreau was town administrator in Norwell for 16 years.

“Jim made us aware that he was interviewing for the Scituate town administrator’s position,” said selectmen Chairman Christopher Barrett. “He informed me that he is considering this move because it is in the best interests of his family.”

Barrett has worked with Boudreau as a selectman and as a school committee member.

“I have enjoyed working with him to help move Lynnfield forward and have gained great respect for him as one of the very best town administrators in Massachusetts,” said Barrett. “I wish him and his family the very best and if he isn’t offered the position, I look forward to continuing to work for him for many years ahead as the Lynnfield town administrator.”

The other two finalists in Scituate are Tony Marino, the assistant town administrator in Hanover, and Kevin Sweet, the town administrator in Maynard, according to the Scituate Mariner newspaper.

The three candidates are expected to interview with the board of selectmen early next year. The job description for the position states that the compensation package for the job is negotiable.

 

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Will this affect you?

The following information has been provided by a local resident, Trees cut1
“…. swarth through Lynnfield and on to N. Reading is being cleared by a local
gas company to maintain easements.  According to our source, “…Work has begun
on Durham Drive.   It will continue to Wing Road and across Main Street and
up through the Apple Hill area…”
A Lynnfield Resident stated, “…This does not just happen on Reservations in
the Dakotas.  It is happening here and now.  We need help.   Where are the
celebrities?  Where is the outrage ?…”  Submitted By:  HP

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KING RAIL CLUB HOUSE MEETING SEPTEMBER 12 – 7:30

King Rail Club House

To provide your input, please attend.

 

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Peabody’s city golf course $111K in the hole

Wet spring, lack of liquor license stress Meadows’ finances

  • By John Castelluccio Staff Writer
  • Jun 21, 2017

The course is funded through an enterprise account – separate from the city budget – that relies mainly on daily user fees and golf cart rentals.

City Auditor Mary Martin said a cold fall and rain-soaked spring kept people off the greens — a point she repeated several times at last week’s meeting — leading to a $118,000 dip in projected revenue.

She noted The Meadow sees 33,000 rounds of golf in an average year. This season is expected to wrap up at just over 28,000.

With operational expenses just over $1 million, the projected profit of $371,000 isn’t enough to cover this year’s debt service payment of $482,500 on the property.

The deficit will be covered by draining most of the retained earnings in the enterprise account, Martin said. Any big deficits in fiscal 2018 would have to be picked up by taxpayers.

This was frustrating news to councilors, who last fall discussed options to generate extra revenue to avert this very situation. They had been trying to sit with officials and the course manager again in recent months to revisit the topic.

The issue of how to make The Meadow more profitable has persisted for years — two oft-cited solutions from the council have been adding memberships and alcohol.

The course is open to all at daily rates and there’s no 19th hole, as it were, in the clubhouse. That’s because of a promise to the neighborhood when the golf course was built in 2001.

City officials say the daily fees are comparable, but slightly cheaper, than other local courses. It costs between $28 and $48 to play 18 holes at the course. Carts cost $19 a player for 18 holes.

“I’m really disappointed. We talked at length about how to increase revenues and I really didn’t get a response,” Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz said. “…We talked about everything from memberships to possibly one-day liquor licenses, all this stuff… Now we’re sitting here — $111,000 — it’s just not sustainable.”

Sinewitz said it may be time to consider privatizing the course, as other communities have. He also strongly favors switching to memberships, arguing it will guarantee steady revenue.

“I love the golf course, Sinewitz said. “But if … we can’t make a profit, maybe we shouldn’t be in the golf business. It’s a great asset to the city, but this is not sustainable. On a good year you made 7,000 bucks.”

Fiscal 2016 saw total revenues eclipse $1.5 million, with a net profit of about $500,000. After that year’s debt payment, however, the balance was $7,780. If fiscal 2017 had been a good year, officials projected to see $11,500 after debt service. There was also a $21,000 deficit in fiscal 2015.

The debt is from a 20-year bond the city issued to build the course. The last payment will come due in 2020. And that will make a big difference to the bottom line, city officials say.

“The golf course revenue is highly dependent on weather,” Martin said. “Summer months are normally strong … and can carry through to the fall. So, if we don’t have weeks of rain or a late spring start, we are estimating fiscal 2018 revenues … will be more in line with (2016).”

Council President Joel Saslaw shared Sinewitz’s concerns.

“To be at the mercy of weather is just not a good situation,” Saslaw said. “…I would ask the (management) team to spend some time and try and maybe come back to us with some suggestions. We waited patiently. We prodded you, maybe we didn’t prod you enough.”

Ward 2 Councilor Peter McGinn noted city Finance Director Mike Gingras had passed on information to the council in March; he agreed with his colleagues though that they should convene again soon to discuss options.

“It’s tough enough to pass tax increases and use reserves to offset tax increases for things that affect everybody — roads, sidewalks, trees, parks, schools — but the one I think is harder for everybody to swallow is tax increases associated with golf courses,” remarked Councilor-at-Large Dave Gravel.

He stressed the city should plan ahead to absorb losses if this season sours as well.

In an interview this week, longtime course manager Peter Cronan stressed the impact of the weather on revenues.

“The season ended early and started late. That is the main contributor to why we didn’t do so well,” Cronan said. He closed the course the week after Thanksgiving and didn’t open again until April 10.

The previous year, the season lasted until just before Christmas, and the course was able to open again Feb. 29.

Cronan said plans were underway to add a driving range, which would have been paid for with retained earnings, but that was put on hold as the season got off to a bleak start this spring — it was clear revenues wouldn’t be there to support the project.

While councilors and the mayor, support looking closely at some form of memberships, Cronan has some mixed thoughts about going that route.

He said it does ensure upfront money at the start of the season, but the drawback is that by the end of the year, members may be playing infrequently and only single rounds.

As for alcohol, Peabody does stand out for the restriction, both among nearby municipal and privately owned golf courses.

“The 19th hole is a big part of the game,” he said, “but I’ve been here 16 years, we’ve done fine without it. Once that sun comes out, the parking lot fills up and we’re busy.”

There were promises the city made to the neighbors 20 years ago that Mayor Ted Bettencourt says should not be broken.

“The city should live up to its word,” he said. He wouldn’t support a full bar at the clubhouse, but he could entertain one-day alcohol licenses for special events or functions.

Staff writer John Castelluccio can be reached at 978-338-2677 or jcastelluccio@salemnews.com.

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