City Council informal session
Gardner City Council June 21, 2022

The Gardner City Council got everything done in one night, so the second night of meetings were able to be canceled. The regular meeting was an hour and half long. View the Gardner City Council meetings on the City of Gardner YouTube page or on our City Council page. CLICK HERE.

Gardner MA City Council Gets It Done in One Night – Budget and Parks Approved.

Council President Kazinskas.  “We are meeting informally tonight to discuss the City’s FY 23 Budget proposed by Mayor Nicholson.  As in years past, we will go page by page through the budget packet.”

Review of Budget at Informal Meeting

Since the budget was released to the City Council and the public, various committees have met with the Mayor to discuss various aspects of the budget. The Council went on to review the budget page by page and took a straw poll vote on various adjustments.    Based on the Council’s wishes and likely vote at the Regular meeting to take place later, the Mayor said the City Auditor would amend the money orders in time for the meeting.  This allowed the Gardner City Council to proceed with all matters before it in one night.

Matters Approved at Regular June 21, 2022 Gardner City Council Meeting

Tennis Courts Gardner MA

City Getting New Tennis Courts

$90,000 from fresh cash was approved for a “full redo of tennis courts at Gardner High School but not before enthusiastic comments from a few City Councilors.” Ronald Cormier, “These are the original tennis courts put in there nearly a half century ago….they are beyond just being filled… Judy Mack, “I really support this. For the last couple of years, the condition of the tennis courts has just gotten worse.” Alek Dernalowicz, “I’m in support of this….glad to see they’re getting fixed, hopefully we’ll get another 50 years out of them.” James Boone, “Councilor Dernalowicz’s grandfather was hugely instrumental in the recreation department and in fact promoted a gymnastics program that my father used to run. …I’m fully in support of it.”Mayor Nicholson, “This is the only public tennis court in the City…” Approval was unanimous. Another $15,000 was approved from free cash for the purchase of equipment for a disc golf course.

a random online Cheerleading uniform

Uniforms for Cheerleaders Narrowly passes

There was considerable disagreement over $25,000 being spent from free cash on uniforms as Mayor Nicholson stated, “price covers cost of 8 varsity cheerleaders and 10 junior varsity cheerleaders.” While approved on a vote of 6 to 5, there were varied opinions. Judy Mack, “would like to see more up to date invoice estimate.”James Boone,“why free cash and not part of school budget.” James Walsh “I’m troubled by this one.”Judy Mack “motion to refer item back to finance committee,” George Tyros, “this is getting my vote.” And then he voted no.

New Health Department Vehicle Explained

Mayor Nicholson spoke. Price: $47,645, trade-in $7,000, $7,500 rebate, state rebate $1500, total cost $31,645 “least expensive vehicle the city has purchased in at least the past 5 years.” The Mayor stated the City would be waiting to receive the vehicle until at least September or October. Dana Heath commented, “rebate period runs out.  Don’t tell my fiancé because I missed out on my rebates. Just to make sure you cash in on those rebates within the time frame.”

Net cost: $31,645.

Centennial Celebration Expense Account Approved

$100,000 was approved for the 100th anniversary celebration of Gardner as a City: 1923 to 2023. A nonpaid committee to be appointed by the Mayor.

Maki Park Proposal Approved 8 to 3

Approved was $180,000 from free cash to Maki Park expense account.   Mayor Nicholson explained that the “City purchased the property in 2016.  After building was torn down, purchased the land from the Gardner Redevelopment Authority on February 15, 2017. …  This is a property the City has tried to dispose of 3 separate times before, and has received no interest on it.  The biggest hurdle that we’ve received …is that per the state’s building code and our local zoning code, while the West Street parking lot is directly adjacent to the property, anything constructed on that property would have to have its own dedicated parking ….To terrace the current lot, design was approved by the City Council on August 2, 2021.  Since then the design has been completed, and the proposal that is before the Council is to do the work that is there.  It is being done in a way that the property can be sold if we do have an interested buyer.   It is still considered declared surplus.” Councilors had differing opinions on this item. Alek Dernalowicz “Finance committee favorable.” Nathan Boudreau, “a good step forward in our economic development and recreation that’s been going on in our city. “  Boudreau questioned why the City would ever sell the land again after spending 180 grand on it. James Boone, “I’m opposed to this.  Taking another property off the tax roll.” Alek Dernalowicz, “Just wanted to clarify.  With the parking requirements, the Ale House is an existing building and doesn’t need the requirement of those spots.  Building a new building there has the requirement of having spots on site.” Councilor Walsh “opposed to this money order…There are two prongs.   Merits and needs.  Financial part of it.”   Walsh spoke of what he stated was the need for the City to save money based on the inflation occurring.” Judy Mack ”agree with many of Councilor Walsh’s points.” …”There’s so much going on Downtown. I think we need to see what happens with those 34 storefronts. Let’s bring the businesses in.  Let’s give the Pleasant Street trial project a chance. I just think this is an incredible amount of money ….There are greater needs in the City.” George Tyros, “I do think it’s important to acknowledge the economic headwinds that we are currently facing., but I also very much view this as an investment in the future of Gardner.  Just because the storefronts aren’t filled yet, doesn’t mean they can’t be, doesn’t mean that businesses can’t be attracted by having these parks available. Could be an Ice Cream Shop, coffee shop, a bakery, we don’t know what that is yet.  It is a large investment, but these scaled projects to have the investment needed for that opportunity.  I think when you go to places like Hudson Massachusetts…that attract businesses.  It is something people talk about, having space.”  “I’d like to see ideas building on this, free public wifi for example.  I’ll be supporting this motion and the next motion.”

Park Street Park Proposal Approved 7-4

Approved was $268,000 from free cash to Park Street Park expense account.  Mayor Nicholson stated, “The restrictions put in place on the land that we conveyed as part of the land swap….“Parking lot would need to be permeable”  “No other use for the site… Can used for passive recreation as long as there is no digging….would take out eyesore of barbed wire fence.” Councilor Walsh, “There are parks in the immediate area.  I don’t know why we need a 45 spot parking lot on land that we don’t own.  …..Makes no sense, we’re going to need this money.” James Boone, “Concur with Councilor Walsh….I don’t get it either.  It’s taxpayer dollars…it makes no sense.” Dana Heath,”Just had a question… Is that parking going to alleviate…I didn’t know if anybody knew where they park when they have the big events” Mayor Nicholson, “When they have big events, we have reached out to the Commonwealth…to see if parking could be available at the skating rink, but that is something the state restricts due to their insurance, so unless we get specific permission from DCR, you can’t use the skating rink.”Judy Mack, “I just want to say that, 45 parking spots for a limited amount of meets at the pool.  … I just think $268,000 is a lot of money for parking spots for the swimming pool.  I know we have events at Monument Park, but this is a lot of money for land that we do not own.  We don’t even know how long the lease would be for…There’s so many needs out there….I’m against this order.” Craig Cormier “I do consider this an investment that I hope will continue the draw of new businesses into the area as well as reinvestment in the area like we’ve seen from Candor Realty. … I’m going to support this in hopes that we can continue the path that we’re on.” Nathan Boudreau, “I’d like to echo Councilor Craig Cormier in stating  that it is a positive investment, but I would like to point out that there would be possible funding options here.   Maybe we install one of those singular parking meters.  Maybe the Elks get involved.  We all know this is going to be a parking lot for large parties at the Elks, more than it’ll be for a lot of other things….I’ll be supporting this because I think it is a beautiful area, and will add to a beautiful area….” George Tyros, “I just have two points.  One was to an earlier comment about spending taxpayer dollars.  I think everyone on this Council does that with a great responsibility.  The second point I’d like to make is just provide a different perspective on this potential park.  I walk Crystal Lake Cemetery nearly every day.   I think it’s beautiful.  I was actually surprised one day to find 50 cars in the cemetery.  The Senior Class had decided to take prom pictures at Crystal Lake Cemetery Park because it was so beautiful. …Often every day there’s a minimum of 2-3 cars parked on the road on that Crystal Lake Drive going in. It is kind of tight to fit by.  I think this is a lot of money, but it will provide a lot of beauty to the area and might be able to leverage it greater for Monument Park events having this parking.  It will certainly be a safety alleviation for the area.  It pains me every time we have a city event at Monument Park to look over and see the barbed wire fence next to a very beautiful lake.  I’m  hoping this can be incorporated with some purpose in future projects like the North Central Pathway.  I’ll be supporting this.” James Boone, “Just another point for the second time.  At some point sadly we’re going to have to tear down the Greenwood Pool. I spent a lot of time there myself.  So we’re going to spend $268,000 on a parking lot and yet we’re going to have to tear down that pool…cause it’s just, the building’s falling apart.  I didn’t want to see that.  I donated to the fund to try and save it.  But again, I just think it’s foolish to spend that kind of money on a parking lot when we have bigger needs.” James Walsh, “For the second time, I don’t want to beat a dead horse.  This is an investment, an investment in somebody else’s land in a case where there’s a license that doesn’t exist, that we hope to have, maybe we’ll have…..  At best this is premature.” Nathan Boudreau asked a question of the Mayor, “Would it be possible to get some sort of Council vote approving your office to seek an agreement with National Grid,versus doing this money order upfront? ….putting the horse before the cart?” Mayor Nicholson, “As I said earlier, National Grid holds off on their lease agreement until the whole plan is in place. …Without the plan in place, they really don’t issue the license agreement.”

Litter and Handbills Ordinance Approved for First Printing

Litter and handbills added to City Ordinance – patterned after Fitchburg and Leominster, Craig Cormier, “ability to enforce some ordinances based on litter to help keep the city clean with all the investment we’re doing in trying to improve the Downtown and other areas.”

City of Gardner Fiscal Year 2023 Budget Orders Approved with some cuts

All approved unanimously were $23,168,101.03 out of $23,188.101.03 proposed for various departments, $13,546.060.04 out of 13,610.641.08 for the salary and labor budget. $27,819,676.29 for School Department. $9,958,735.62 out of $9,967,235.62 for available enterprise funds: sewer, water, golf, landfill closure, and solid waste.

Scooters will be Coming

The shareable dockless mobility devices ordinance was approved unanimously to go to the second and final printing – This would enable the scooters proposed by the Mayor.

New Business

Nathan Boudreau, “Thank Mayor Nicholson and his administration and all the Department heads for the professional handling of this  year’s City Budget….Also like to wish our Great city and our great country a very Happy Birthday.  Everyone that is heading out to the festivities this weekend whether it be the celebration in Downtown Gardner in the morning on Saturday or the Fireworks at the PACC on Kendall Pond in the evening, please be safe and celebrate accordingly.  Have a great summer.” James Walsh, “I have a question for the Chair.  Will you be canceling the notices meetings for tomorrow?” Council President Kazinskas stated “yes”