Melrose Symphony Announces 97th Concert Season

mso2014

​The Melrose Symphony ​performs six concerts annually in the historic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Melrose. Over 70 volunteer musicians, ranging in age from 15 to 70, come together each week to bring great music to our city.

​Halloween “Spooktacular”
​​Saturday, November 1, 2014, 8 p.m.
The MSO kicks off its 97th season with a “spirited” performance of haunted favorites from the symphonic repertoire. Highlights include the music that inspired Disney’s “Fantasia,” The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Dukas. For complete concert information click here.

Annual Holiday Pops
Friday, December 12 & Saturday, December 13, 2014, 8 p.m.
The Melrose Symphony is joined by contemporary crooner John Stevens for a Rat-pack inspired evening not to be missed. At the age of 16, singer John Stevens was the youngest contestant to make it to the finals on American Idol in 2004. Get your tickets early, these concerts sell out!
More info …

Love & Longing
Saturday, March 7, 2015, 8 p.m.
​Melrose native and cellist Nicholas Finch returns home to perform Dvorak’s lyrically rich Cello Concerto. Finch began his musical career in the Melrose Public Schools and with the MSO and now performs with some of the country’s premier orchestras.
More info …

Peter & the Wolf
Sunday, March 29, 2015, 3 p.m.
Bring your family and friends to hear the classic childhood story of Peter and the Wolf, narrated by Melrose’s own Jim Oosterman. Children and adults alike will love trying the instruments of the orchestra in our pre-concert instrument “petting zoo.”
More info …

Gershwin, Mancini & More
Saturday, May 2, 2015, 8 p.m.
The MSO closes out its 97th season with perennial favorites as well as some new ones including music from the TV drama Downton Abbey. Pianist Janice Weber joins for the 1920’s jazz inspired classic Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin.
More info …

Bees, Quilts, India: Council on Aging Offers Friday Cultural Programs

The Melrose Council on Aging is pleased to announce a special educational series we are offering entitled Cultural Corner.

At the Milano Senior Center, we strive to provide a variety of programs to enhance personal growth and a broader understanding of the world. For this reason our next program series will focus on a variety of cultural events.

Beginning in October 2014, on the 2nd Friday of every month at 1:30 p.m. seniors will have the opportunity to join us at the Milano Center as we explore diverse cultures and interests.

Join us for the first presentation, “The Beekeeper,” on October 10 at 1:30pm at the Milano Senior Center. Ellen Cobau, Melrose resident and Beekeeper, will teach us about raising honey bees and harvesting honey. Honey samples will be available and all registered attendees will be eligible for a door prize of a lovely “Honey Basket” To register call 781-662-6886.

Some upcoming topics will include:

  • The Story of India: Hosted by noted historian Michael Wood, this documentary series explores the many facets of Indian society, including the arts, spiritual traditions, the diverse population, the rising high-tech business community and more.
  • American Quilts: One of the earliest American crafts, quilt-making remains popular across the United States, and quilts have become collectibles in many circles. This PBS special explores both the history and the artistry of quilts in this country. Beginning with early American settlers, the program discusses the symbolism and family history included in many quilts, then pays a visit to contemporary quilt shows in Kentucky and Texas.
  • National Geographic’s Africa: This epic series from National Geographic presents Africa through the eyes of its people, conveying the diversity and beauty of the land and the personal stories of those who shape its future.
  • The Vanishing of Bees: This documentary details the economic, political and ecological consequences of a dwindling world honeybee population. It’s a phenomenon with a name — Colony Collapse Disorder — but no explanation or solution exists.
  • Wild China: This series uncovers some of the most exotic and uncharted natural habitats hidden within the vast and diverse topography of China, including Yunnan’s forests, the Tibetan plateau, the Silk Road and the Mongol steppes.
  • A Man Named Pearl: Pearl Fryar teaches himself topiary sculpture and becomes the first African American in his Bishopville, S.C., neighborhood to win the coveted “yard of the month” award. This acclaimed documentary traces Fryar’s inspiring story, as he grows into a legendary horticulturist, welcoming thousands of tourists eager to catch a glimpse of his stunning works of art.

Shop Local Friday: Acupuncture Special at Bodyography

Acupuncture special

Where Melrose Stands on Property Taxes – Boston Business Journal

The Boston Business Journal just did a breakdown of average property tax bills for single-family homes for calendar year 2014. The actual tax bills are the best way to judge where you stand. As we are seeing a boom in the real estate market here in Melrose, I think this chart says many things:

  1. The communities we have chosen for comparison below are in the Middlesex League, which is the traditional comparison; it also includes input from people in real estate as to where potential homebuyers are looking in addition to Melrose to purchase a home.
  2. As state aid to cities and towns continues to be stagnant, and federal aid is withdrawn, cities have never been more dependent on their average prop tax bill to provide services. Obviously those with higher average tax receive more services, particularly with respect to public education.
  3. Melrose is well over 90% residential. We do not benefit from the large commercial base that other communities have.
  4. Property taxes in Melrose now make up 70% of our operating budget.

I think this list speaks for itself.

Taxation is a very hard subject. This is certainly not an inexpensive place to live, but I think we have managed to make Melrose as affordable as possible compared to similar communities.

2014 Average Tax Bill (Single Family Homes)

Lexington: $11,481
Belmont: $10,566
Winchester: $10,195
Newton: $9,907
Needham: $8,765
Swampscott: $8,593
Andover: $8,343
Lynnfield: $7,810
North Reading: $7,467
Marblehead: $7,360
Arlington: $7,099
North Andover: $6,738
Middleton: $6,734
Reading: $6,576
Natick: $6,459
Newburyport: $6,323
Chelmsford: $6,119
Amesbury: $6,101
Gloucester: $5,888
Beverly: $5,782
Melrose: $5,383
Stoneham: $5,297
Wakefield: $5,161
Wilmington: $5,102
Salem: $4,767
Burlington: $4,652
Billerica: $4,566
Medford: $4,488
Saugus: $3,789

Mayor’s Statement Regarding Proposed Liquor Changes

After careful review of the recommendations of the Liquor Advisory Committee, it is my intention to submit the following to the Melrose Board of Aldermen for public input and Aldermanic vote:

  • The requirement for an application for a full liquor license will be reduced to 50 seats.
  • The requirement for an application for a beer and wine license will be reduced to 25 seats.

The Advisory Committee held two public meetings regarding these changes. Those public hearings allowed for questions and answers and a discussion among residents about the pros and cons of the proposal before the Committee. I have also been speaking formally and informally with many residents regarding an array of possible reforms regarding the licensure of alcoholic beverages in the City of Melrose.

After the two meetings, the Advisory Committee voted unanimously to recommend the changes above. I agree with this recommendation. Some key points:

  • Restaurants applying for a liquor license, be it with 50 or 25 seats, must have formal waiter or waitress service at the table. Counter service cannot be the primary means of service. There must be table settings, and all orders must be taken and food received at the table.
  • Just because a restaurant has 25 or 50 seats doesn’t mean it is automatically entitled to a liquor license. Every applicant would have to go before the Liquor Commission, present their plans, be evaluated and be voted on by the Commission.
  • Although this is a reduction in seats, it should be noted that there are very few commercial properties that would be able to accommodate restaurants of larger sizes.
  • Finally, the goal of this proposal is economic development. It provides the opportunity for restaurants to become an anchor for smaller business districts. That has been a highly successful model on Main Street, where Turner’s became an anchor, thus spurring a variety of businesses as well as restaurants around them. It should be noted that Main Street has not always been as vibrant as today, and in fact there were times during challenging times or down economies our business districts have suffered.

We can have economic development and restaurants in smaller business districts and at the same time keep their unique character and qualities. I think this is good for Melrose and good for small business, which is the economic engine of our economy. When this has been submitted to the Board of Aldermen, there will be opportunities for citizens to voice their opinion. If it passes the Board of Aldermen, it has to be submitted to the state legislature and then to the governor for approval. Public input is welcome at every step of the way.

In addition, before the above recommendation is sent to the Board of Aldermen, I will make the following recommendations the Melrose Liquor License Commission:

  1. Although the Advisory Committee considered an increase in the number of drinks a customer can be served before ordering food, I feel that the current laws should be clarified and kept in place.
  2. It is clear to me through informal dialogue with residents that most Melrosians and restaurant owners want to ensure that while alcohol is available, food should also be purchased with the alcoholic beverage. I propose to codify that one alcoholic beverage can be served, followed by an order of food before additional alcoholic beverages are served.
  3. The current law says the word “meal.” I will ask the Liquor License Commission to clarify that regulation to define “meal” as a purchased menu item. This does not include complimentary popcorn, peanuts, etc. I think this clarification is in line with the dining preferences of a majority of people. A meal can be defined in different ways to different people.
  4. Currently, our rules and regulations are silent on the subject of outdoor seating. We are working on drafting regulations for outdoor service of alcoholic beverages.

I think these are pragmatic measures that don’t radically change how we have operated in Melrose. I think it will allow for some additional restaurants, although that will be limited due to the size of available properties. I think it will clarify liquor service laws for restaurants that are currently unclear. I think it will create an even playing field for all businesses to operate. I think it will encourage residents and non-residents to come to Melrose to dine in a manner that is responsible and that is in line with what our community desires and values.

I look forward to this continued community conversation.

City of Melrose Strikes Six-Year Insurance Deal With Employees

The City of Melrose and its 12 unions have reached a historic six-year extension of its membership in the Group Insurance Commission, to June 2021. In 2009, Melrose became the first city in the Commonwealth to join the GIC, which also provides health insurance for state employees. Because of the larger risk pool, GIC premiums are lower than those for comparable insurance plans.

The new agreement includes a reduction in the City’s contribution by three percentage points, from 87% to 84% of the premium, starting in Fiscal Year 2016. It also includes a one-month “premium holiday” for all employees for the month of December 2015. Medicare-eligible retirees are not affected by this change.

“This is one of the longest and most comprehensive reforms in the history of Massachusetts,” said Mayor Robert J. Dolan. “This provides stability for our employees as well as the assurance that they will receive the best care in one of the largest health insurance consortiums in the U.S. The GIC provides a large pool for risks and benefits as well as exceptional management and brings the full the purchasing power of the state as well as local government to control costs.”

“This historic agreement is a testimony to how successful collective bargaining can be when all parties have the best interests of the City and its employees at heart,” said Naomi Baline, President of the Melrose Education Association.

“This was a prudent move,” said Chief Financial Officer Patrick Dello Russo. “It preserves quality health insurance while providing the City with the predictability and fiscal sustainability we need to move forward and plan for the future.”

When the City moved to the GIC, in 2009, the cost of health insurance premiums dropped; the City’s share went down from $12 million to $9 million, a savings of $3 million. Since then, Dolan said, remaining with the GIC is a matter of cost avoidance. ” The GIC provides a large pool for risks and benefits as well as exceptional management and brings the full the purchasing power of the state as well as local government to control costs,” he said. “This has saved jobs and moved the City forward during the most challenging economic times.”

“We have done this every step of the way in cooperation with our labor unions and our employees,” he added. “Health care benefits are critically important to our employees and retirees, and the City of Melrose strives to offer the best health care available. We have been able to accomplish this by working together. This took a tremendous amount of work by our Human Resources Department, our Legal Department, and our labor representatives, who had the courage and willingness to take on this difficult and challenging subject. All parties understand that health benefits are important to employers, employees, and their families. It is also understood that these costs must be managed in order to preserve jobs and provide the best services to the people whom we serve. We have been able to achieve this through cooperation and mutual respect. I congratulate our incredible employees, both of the Melrose Public Schools and the City of Melrose, for successfully reaching this agreement.”

Farmers’ Market Is on Today—Rain or Shine!

The farmers market is open today—rain or shine. See the newsletter here.

The usual vendors will be there selling meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs, breads, hummus, tabouli, and more. Ackermann Maple Farm and Soluna Garden Farm will be there as well, bringing maple syrup, teas, and spice mixes.

Unfortunately, Meg at Eventide is sick, so you’ll have to get those wonderful blondies next week.

Music from 4-6 p.m. will be Chris LaVancher, who spins tales from such a genuine, heart-felt place that you can’t help but believe his stories and love the broken characters that inhabit them. Chris plays throughout the northeastern part of the country and was selected as an Emerging Artist at this year’s Falcon Ridge Folk Festival.

Our Artisan this week is Design of Mine, who makes vintage jewelry from recycled and repurposed materials.

This dovetails well with Melrose Recycling, who will be at the market today. Recycling Coordinator Jessie Schmitt will answer questions and have information about the new recycling program, events, volunteer opportunities, free stickers and more. Check out her blog for recycling news at www.melroserecycles.wordpress.com.

The Business table is Brass Castle Arts, a local author promoting her novel. Bead of Sand, a paperback novel that takes place at a fictional museum village similar to Old Sturbridge Village. A Civil War reenactor interrupts a gang attack on a museum village employee. The novel Bead of Sand tells the story of their subsequent relationship, exploring growth beyond grief and the mantle of responsibility, in a rural setting as comfortable as your favorite jeans.

Here’s the Map for the City Wide Yard Sale

Melrose Friends Yard Sale MAP for web

The City Wide Yard Sale happens this Saturday, October 4, and here’s what you need to know: The sale runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the locations are on the map above. Too small for you? You can pick up a larger map at the Milano Center, the Library, City Hall (there are some in the first floor corridor and some in the Mayor’s Office on the second floor), Edward Jones Investments (502 Main St.), La Qchara (506 Franklin St.), Mother’s Pizza (524 Franklin St.), and RD’s Deli (463 Franklin St.). There will also be a map in Friday’s edition of the Melrose Weekly News.

For more information, contact melrosefriendsofaging@gmail.com.

You can download a full-size map and a list of the addresses of participants here.

New Playground to Open at Melrose Common in November 2014

MC_final design 092414 paper release

Here is a press release my office sent out this week.

The City of Melrose was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from Governor Patrick and the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental affairs as part of The Our Common Backyards Grant Program.

“I want to thank Governor Patrick, Senator Lewis, and Representative Brodeur for their efforts in helping Melrose receive these highly competitive funds. This grant program is a tremendous opportunity to rebuild the most used playground in the City, one that serves both our two-to-five-year old population and five-to-12-year-olds. The committee put together to oversee this project includes abutters, parents, and a landscape architect, and they have identified a vast number of safety and equipment improvements,” said Mayor Dolan.

“The Melrose Common is the central playground in Melrose and the most used,” said Ward 6 Alderman Peter Mortimer. “It serves a variety of ages and is a gathering place not only for the neighborhood but for the whole city. This investment will make our playground a safer and more inviting place for children and their families.”

The Common Playground Committee has been working with Johnathan Law, landscape architect for Carol Johnson Associates, to create an experience for children and adults like no other in Melrose.

The playground at The Common was quickly identified as the ideal location, according to Dolan. “As part of the grant requirement, playgrounds attached to schools were not eligible for funding. In addition, the Recreation Department services all neighborhoods in Melrose from the Common with the majority of their programming.”

In addition to new and upgraded equipment, the new Common Playground will include rubberized safety surfaces instead of mulch, an open plaza style entrance, bike racks, benches, additional picnic areas, new landscaping, and a cement path connecting the playground to the basketball court. No changes will occur at the very popular bike track area.

New Windows on the Way for Hoover School

On June 4, 2014, the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts School Building Authority voted to invite the City of Melrose into the Accelerated Repair Program for a window and door replacement project at the Herbert Clark Hoover Elementary School. This program will provide 50.79% matching funds to the City for costs to replace the windows and doors at the building.

“The new windows will enhance the Hoover School and create a better environment for learning,” said Ward 7 Alderman Scott Forbes. “This is an excellent investment in our schools, as children will benefit from it for years to come.”

The Hoover Elementary School was built in 1965, and the windows are original to the building and in poor condition. The existing windows are single-pane and cannot be made energy efficient without replacement. The windows are covered with metal bars, which creates safety concerns and is not reflective of a school environment. The classrooms also contain opaque glass block windows that restrict natural light. The project will remove all of the window bars and replace the windows with new double-pane, thermally insulated windows that maximize the amount of natural light and that can be opened and closed, to enhance comfort in the classrooms. The front entry will be made more welcoming, and all of the doors will be assessed and replaced as necessary.

To accelerate the project, the MSBA procured Design Services for Accelerated Repair Projects and has assigned a Project Manager (Strategic Building Solutions) and an Architect (ICON Architecture) to our Project. The Board of Aldermen allocated funding for the feasibility and schematic design phase of the project last month, and work is now getting underway. The City anticipates completing schematic design by December 3, 2014, to allow the Project to be approved for matching funds at the MSBA Board Meeting on January 14, 2015.

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