In an interview reflecting on 2012 and looking ahead to 2013, Mayor Joseph Sullivan said he was proud of how far Braintree has come since its change in government, especially in terms of financial stewardship, and also anticipated challenges that will define the next year and the rest of his second term.
Among the projects Sullivan plans to tackle this year are East Braintree Fire Department and Commercial and Hayward Street intersection improvements, park renovations and getting a deal done for the Petersen Pool Athletic Complex.
Below are details on several focus areas:
Following the shooting in Newtown, CT, districts across the country immediately examined how safe their own schools were and took steps to beef up security where possible.
Braintree was no different, shifting the way police officers interact with the town's six elementary schools. Instead of cruising through each school parking lot or driveway, police in each sector stop by now once a day unannounced and walk through the school and talk with staff members, Sullivan said.
Also, each Braintree school has had a buzz-in system for years, and since Newtown more questions are being asked to make sure visitors have a legitimate reason to enter.
Last year, during the fiscal year 2013 budget process, Mayor Sullivan outlined a plan to upgrade 12 neighborhood parks. In 2012, six of those renovations were completed, including Hollis, French's Common, Perry, South, Lincoln and Pond Street.
The $300,000, two-year program includes renovations to basketball and tennis courts, fencing and other improvements. Six more parks will be done this year.
A new zoning plan in East Braintree/Weymouth Landing, approved by the Town Council in 2011, joined streetscape improvements to help make the area more attractive to developers, as officials in both towns look to revitalize a long-lagging business corridor.
As officials tackle an examination of the town's entire body of zoning laws, Sullivan said he would like to see changes made that will attract biotechnology and health care companies to the Granite Street corridor. There are some businesses of that type near the T station, such as Harvard Vanguard and Beth Israel offices, but the mayor said he believes Braintree can do better.
"How do we position ourselves to take advantage of that growing marketplace?" Sullivan said.
A combination of zoning changes and tax credits could do the trick, Sullivan said, as long as development proposals come in that will generate revenue and jobs for Braintree.
Planning Director Christine Stickney will discuss potential zoning changes with the Planning Board tonight at Town Hall.
Braintree's existing water treatment plant recently underwent $700,000 in repairs and has seven to 10 years of life left, Sullivan said, but the town also needs to look ahead to a new facility and increased reservoir capacity.
"We need to think long-term," Sullivan said.
The options are for Braintree to build its own facility at a cost of perhaps $28 million, including dredging, or two work with Randolph and Holbrook on a regional plant that could cost $52 million to $55 million. Talks of a partnership have floundered over the years, though, with each town representing different supply needs and financial positions.
"If we're going to build a state-of-the-art facility, we need willing partners," Sullivan said.
The mayor said he would like to see something similar to the cooperation Braintree has with Quincy and Weymouth on waste management.
Trash and Recycling
Speaking of waste, $4 million in upgrades to the Ivory Street transfer station are complete, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held later this month, fulfilling a campaign promise Sullivan made in 2007.
The recycling initiative that placed blue barrels in Highlands homes in 2011 was put on hold while Braintree officials tried to work out something "more dramatic" between the town and its waste partners Quincy and Weymouth, Sullivan said.
But with no movement yet on that front, Braintree may go back to its original program and begin distributing the barrels to different areas of town.
East Braintree Fire/Intersection Improvements
To make way for a new ladder truck paid for in part by a settlement between Clean Harbors and the EPA, Braintree will expand the fire station in East Braintree.
Along with that fix, Sullivan said he would like to see an entirely revamped intersection at Commercial and Hayward streets to improve the safety of children and families walking to Ross School.
If the station is not renovated in time for the new truck, Sullivan said it would be housed in the Highlands until East Braintree is ready.
In addition to those focus areas, the mayor said he would like the town to work more in tandem with the Braintree Electric Light Department on technology, see a more formalized relationship between Braintree's Board of Trade and the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, and make headway on a long-term solution to the town's school space issues.
"We can monitor our own destiny," Sullivan said. "Our future is without limits."