Packed Chambers:Budget Passes, but with Some Rare Controversy, Drama

Packed Chambers:Budget Passes, but with Some Rare Controversy, Drama

The City Budget vote at the Council is usually a night of empty seats and methodical tabulation.

Not so this past Monday night when teachers, students and School Department employees packed the Chambers and councillors debated over several controversial cuts to the document.

One councillor, Bob Bishop, even cast a lone vote against the City Budget.

In the end, the Council did approve the budget 10-1.

The total spending came in at $195,964,074, with the breakdown as follows:

  • General Fund Budget, $174,074,177.
  • Water Enterprise Fund, $8,397,199.
  • Sewer Enterprise Fund, 12,808,779.
  • General Fund Free Cash, $683,919.

The total sum represents an increase of 6.6 percent over last year’s budget.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it was a document that represented a philosophy in government and he was proud of it.

“A budget is not just a compilation of numbers and spreadsheets,” he said. “A budget is always a document expressing a philosophy of government. This budget delivers services and programs and invests in our people, our community.”

The real drama came for the School Department, which needed a large influx of City cash into its coffers to avoid massive cuts to it program after being shorted several years by the state’s funding formula.

The City is required to give a set amount of money to the School Department each year, but in the budget crunch of the last few years, the City has kicked in extra funding. On Monday, numerous representatives from the schools were there to speak in support of what amounts to about $4 million (or 5.7 percent) above the required spending amount.

“The state is letting Chelsea down,” said Sam Baker, vice president of the Chelsea Teacher’s Union. “They can’t be relied upon to support urban Gateway districts like Chelsea…When the federal government lets you down, the state government lets you down, there is only one place left to turn – to the neighbors and the local officials of the city. This budget shows that the students and schools in Chelsea can rely on their local neighbors.”

Several others spoke as well, particularly for keeping special education position intact – positions that have been cut heavily in the past few years. School Committee Chair Jeannette Velez urged the Council to approve the additional spending in the budget.

After the vote, the room erupted in applause for the sake of the schools.

But it wasn’t that easy.

While the Council was uniformly in favor of the school measures, there were several things they were flat out against. Major amendments were proposed and hashed out on close votes over the course of an hour.

Almost all of them were proposed by Council President Damali Vidot.

First was a cut of $15,000 to the Law Department – which was a dart in the back of many on the Council. The cut represented funding put in the budget for the Council to have its own attorney on retainer to give them a second opinion when they aren’t satisfied with the City’s staff lawyers.

Only Councillor Giovanni Recupero and Damali Vidot voted for it, with it losing 9-2.

One cut that did survive was a $100,000 cut to the Fire Department as a shot across the bow for their use, and some on the Council would say abuse, of overtime in the last few years.

Vidot said the Department has seen numerous new hires in the last year and has proposed to increase its overtime budget. She said that number should be going down, not up.

The cut was approved 6-4, with Vidot, Recupero, Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez and Rodriguez voting yes.

Vidot also proposed to cut the Police Department salaries by $150,000 to curtail the use of overtime pay being given to officers who do walking beats around the downtown. She said that should come out of regular pay at the regular rate, not as overtime pay.

That measure lost narrowly, on a 5-6 vote. Those voting against that were Calvin Brown, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.

A major discussion took place after that to cut the new Downtown Coordinator position, which comes at $72,000. Vidot said it was a failed program and should be staffed by a Chelsea person who can bring all different Chelsea residents to the downtown to connect in one place. She said she doesn’t see that happening.

However, the majority felt that good things were happening and the coordinator needed more time.

A key supporter was downtown district Councillor Judith Garcia.

That cut failed 3-8, with only Vidot, Lopez and Bishop voting for it.

The final controversial cut proposal was to eliminate monies being spent to keep retiring EMS Director Allan Alpert on board for a year. Alpert plans to retire on June 30, but will be kept on as a consultant to bring the new director up to speed. The cost for that is $55,000.

Vidot said it was unnecessary, and she said it’s time to stop keeping retiring City Hall people on the payroll as consultants.

However, other councillors such as Avellaneda, said there was a succession plan in place for Alpert that didn’t pan out. Now, to make sure a new plan could be put in place, Alpert needed to be allowed to stay on another year.

After much controversial discussion, the cut was defeated narrowly 5-6. Those voting to keep Alpert on were Rodriguez, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.

For the overall budget, all councillors except Bishop voted for it.

Bishop, who has emerged as a staunch fiscal conservative on the Council, said the spending was not sustainable.

“I cannot vote for this budget,” he said. “I can’t be for this budget because it is not sustainable. We’ll hit the wall one day and that $25 million in the Rainy Day Fund will go out one ear because out budget is almost all salaries.”

The City Budget goes into effect on July 1.

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Workers in 911,Backed by Unions,Vote No Confidence in Alpert

By Seth Daniel

The entire Chelsea 911 dispatch team, backed by the presidents of the Fire Union and Patrolmen’s Union, announced at Monday’s City Council meeting they have voted ‘no confidence’ in their long-time manager Allan Alpert and his assistant Robert Verdone.

During the Public Speaking portion of the Council meeting on Monday, eight telecommunicators from 911 appeared and read a prepared statement outlining what they said were years of harassment and micromanagement by a management team that had no experience in 911 operations. The also announced a vote of ‘no confidence’ in management.

“We come to you this evening to ask for help,” read a member of the union. “To put it simply, we can no longer stand silently by and allow the management of our department to continue their long standing practices of harassment, bullying, second guessing, interrogation, and blatant disregard for the well-being of this group to continue. We are dejected, demoralized and quite frankly, despite the combined 184 years of service that we have given this City, we now detest coming in to work…Our supervisors, Director Alpert and Assistant Director Verdone are not, nor have they ever been, 911 dispatchers for this City…Despite not knowing how to do all this, we are constantly critiqued, reprimanded, second guessed and told that we are in the wrong at an alarming rate…We, the dispatchers of Chelsea 911, in a unanimous vote, have no confidence in the abilities of Director Allan Alpert and Assistant Director Robert Verdone to adequately supervise, manage and retain the highly skilled communications professionals that make up our group. We fear the culture of harassment and bullying will continue unchecked without our speaking up…”

Alpert was not able to be present at the meeting to hear the critique due to it being a Jewish high holiday, but even had it not been, he said later he was “blindsided” by the action.

“I was totally blindsided when I got a report on the presentation Monday night,” Alpert said on Wednesday morning in a phone interview. “I have not heard any complaints at all with our union steward with regard to emergency operations or being bullied. We have strong and stringent ethics on workplace situations. To bully somebody here is a very serious charge. No one has complained to Human Resources, the City Manager or me.”

He said he respects the work of the telecommunicators, but indicated they may not understand all the requirements and mandates put on his office by the state.

“I have all the respect in the world for our 911 telecommunicators,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t understand the difference between management and operations. Our job is to ensure the delivery of service. Sometimes in this business or any other business, the labor side has a different opinion of what they should be doing. On the labor side, they don’t know our requirements and what is mandated from us. We’re constantly getting updates from fire and police and state 911 for things we have to do.”

Said Verdone, “We maintain an open door policy and anyone can come talk to us in confidence at any time.”

Said Alpert, “They don’t always understand everything we do and obviously it’s had a negative effect on operations. But no one has ever approached us to tell us this was a problem. We were blindsided.”

However, the powerful Fire Union and Police Patrolmen’s Union were on hand Monday night to back up the 911 dispatchers, and had some very powerful words in opposition to Alpert’s management.

“We stand in support of the 911 dispatchers,” said Brian Capistran, president of the Firefighter’s Union. “The (manager and assistant manager) may see this no confidence vote as a medal of honor…You on the Council should be very concerned about what you just heard…I’ve been up here many times and told not to get involved in daily operations. This is a problem. You were elected to be a voice. This is when you have to be that voice. It’s not who is playing on what field or someone who has dumped trash on Grove Street. These are the issues you should pay attention to…If they’re not safe, we’re not safe. We hope you will ask City Manager Ambrosino to look into it and have an investigation.”

Mark O’Connor, president of the Police Patrolmen’s Union, said his membership also supports the dispatchers.

“I’m here out of loyalty to the dispatchers,” he said. “I’m also here out of concern…I think you should take this seriously.”

The dispatchers added that they hoped the Council would look into the actions of Alpert and Verdone.

“We ask this Council to look into these actions, inactions, expenditures and operations of this department and assist us with a solution that will allow us to continue to serve, which is all we want to do,” read the letter. “We are not seeking monetary compensation, more benefits nor staffing increase, just the ability to do our job unhindered…”

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Branch Manager:Longtime DPW Deputy Andy Desantis is Named Mass Tree Warden of the Year

By Cary Shuman

Every city and town in Massachusetts with a population of 10,000 or more residents is required to have a tree warden.

So when Chelsea Tree Warden Andy DeSantis becomes the Massachusetts Tree Warden of the Year, it’s a major honor, one in which the city can take great pride.

In fact, Chelsea city leaders paid tribute to DeSantis’s success by planting a tree in his honor at Washington Park. That event attended by City Manager Tom Ambrosino coincided with Chelsea’s Arbor Day planting celebration.

Allan Alpert, the city’s emergency management director, lauded DeSantis for his statewide recognition.

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Andy his whole tenure in Chelsea and he’s always accessible and gets right back to you,” said Alpert. He’s a wonderful man to work with and I congratulate him on receiving this wonderful, much-deserved award.”

City Treasurer Bob Boulrice, a tomato grower of note, also congratulated DeSantis.

“I grow tomatoes at the Chelsea Community Garden and Andy DeSantis, in his capacity as tree warden and with his incredible knowledge, he’s always been helpful and supportive to our group’s efforts,” said Boulrice. “I congratulate Andy on this well-deserved honor.”

DeSantis, 64, retired as assistant director of the Department of Public Works on April 6 and is now working part time for the DPW and as tree warden. He served as assistant director for 22 years, having previously worked in Revere as the superintendent of Public Works.

“My tenure in Chelsea has been great,” said DeSantis. “It’s an excellent place to work. The city gives me the latitude to do what I need to do. The city has provided a lot of funding for upgrading its infrastructure.”

DeSantis, who is considered an expert in arboriculture, oversees approximately 2,000 public-shade trees in the city. “Public-shade trees are defined as the trees in the public right of way,” he said. “We’ve planted over 1,000 trees in the past 12 years.”

DeSantis said through the efforts of former city councilor Roseann Bongiovanni, Chelsea became a Tree City in 2005, meeting the standards of the Arbor Day Foundation and affirming that “Chelsea cares about its trees.” The Tree City designation makes Chelsea eligible for grant funding.

“I think the future looks good for Chelsea,” said DeSantis. “We just got a grant for

Chelsea Tree Warden Andy DeSantis displays his prestigious statewide award.

Chelsea Tree Warden Andy DeSantis displays his prestigious statewide award.

$30,000 that going to update the tree inventory and perform a tree risk assessment of all our trees.”

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Amanda Alpert Named CHS Athletic Director

By Cary Shuman

When Amanda Alpert takes office on July 1 as athle

New Chelsea High School director of athletics Amanda Alpert is pictured adjacent to the school sign. Alpert will take office July 1 as the leader of the athletic program

New Chelsea High School director of athletics Amanda Alpert is pictured adjacent to the school sign. Alpert will take office July 1 as the leader of the athletic program

tic director (AD) at Chelsea High School, she will be the first woman to serve in the prestigious position.

Alpert’s official title is coordinator of physical education, comprehensive health, and athletics for the Chelsea school district but it’s those two letters – AD – that all will recognize for being the person in charge of all CHS sports programs.

The late Saul Nechtem held the position for a half century before Frank DePatto succeeded Nechtem in 1989. DePatto is stepping down this year after a sterling 27-year career.

Supt. of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque appointed Alpert to the new position that also includes overseeing physical education and health classes in all local schools. Alpert is a guidance counselor at CHS but has begun the transition to her new office.

“I’m excited about my new position and putting my thoughts in to action,” said the 32-year-old Alpert.

She is currently a CHS boys and girls assistant track coach and she previously served as an assistant coach on Mike Stellato’s football staff.

Alpert has made a name for herself as a women’s professional tackle football player, having won all-league honors as an offensive lineman 11 times. She has played on three Super Bowl championship teams and is still active as a player for the Boston Renegades, who play their home games at Dilboy Stadium in Somerville. This weekend, Alpert and her team will fly to Pittsburgh for a professional game that will be televised by the local Pittsburgh station.

Alpert played tennis and competed in indoor and outdoor track at Saugus High and went on to compete in track at Endicott College. She holds a Master’s degree in School Counseling from Suffolk University and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Athletic Administration.

She was a teacher at Malden High School before becoming a guidance counselor at CHS in 2009. Alpert is now poised to build on the success of the CHS athletic program that competes in the Commonwealth Athletic Conference.

Alpert feels that CHS athletes should be receiving more recognition for their accomplishments.

“I would like to see the community more involved in the athletic program,” said Alpert. “I think the accomplishments of our athletes need to be publicized. Some of our athletes are amazing scholars and I want the community to know about them and where they’re going to college. I want our student-athletes to focus more on their studies and be more serious about their education.”

She will also stress sportsmanship to the CHS student-athletes. “I would love to say that winning a championship for every team is my goal but realistically it’s not. I think what’s more important is what the students are learning through playing sports.”

Alpert intends to meet with Chelsea parents to discuss the school’s expectations for student-athletes. She will also reach out to the leaders of Chelsea youth sports programs.

She thanked Dr. Bourque for the opportunity and said the schools’ top administrator has been very helpful to her in her new role. “Dr. Bourque has been super supportive through this whole process and I’m very lucky to have someone like her involved in this transition.”

Amanda Alpert has been immersed in Chelsea for much of her life. She is a member of a well-known philanthropic Chelsea family. Her father, Allan, is the city’s emergency management director and the esteemed toastmaster general for local social events. Her grandfather, Norman Alpert, played sports at Chelsea High and was a CHS teacher, while his brother, Julius Alpert, was also a standout athlete at Chelsea High School.

She is grateful to her parents, Allan and Laraine Alpert, for their support and encouragement throughout her athletic and professional career.

“When I told my parents that athletic administration was a field I wanted to pursue, they were 100 percent supportive,” said Alpert. “Whether it’s been women’s pro football games or coming to track meets or tennis matches in high school, they would come by to watch me compete. I think my father has missed one only one home football game in my playing career. They’ve been great through everything. They’re excited for me and I think my dad is really excited for me to be so involved in sports in Chelsea because they were really important to his dad. I think he’s proud that I found a love for Chelsea that he has and that his father had.”

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Alpert Chosen as New CHS Athletic Director

By Seth Daniel

The Chelsea Public School announced on Wednesday that Amanda Alpert has been chosen the next Director of Athletics for the Chelsea Public Schools.

She will begin her role on July 1, and the role will be expanded to include director of physical education and health. The official title, which is new, is Coordinator of PE, Health and Athletics, and it is a full-time position.

The former Athletics Director, Frank DePatto, served for decades in the position, and had been serving on a part time basis.

“Amanda has served as Track & Field Coach from 2006 to the present and Assistant Junior Varsity Football Coach from 2009 to 2012,” said Supt. Mary Bourque in an official announcement. “Since her involvement with the Chelsea High School Girls Track and Field Team, the team has experienced five undefeated season and four conference meet championships. Amanda believes deeply that these awards are wonderful, but it is the Sportsmanship Award that she wants all our teams bringing home. Amanda was awarded the Commonwealth Conference Coach of the Year Award in 2012. Amanda will spend the next few weeks transitioning from guidance counselor to Coordinator for PE, Health, and Athletics. We thank Frank DePatto for serving and supporting her during these transition months.”

Alpert holds a B.S. in Psychology; a M.Ed. in School Counseling and she will soon receive her second Master’s Degree, a M.Ed. in Athletic Administration. She is the daughter of Chelsea Emergency Management Director Allan Alpert.

Alpert’s Chelsea career began in 2008 as a Special Education Inclusion Teacher at the Brown Middle School. Since 2009, she has been a guidance counselor at Chelsea High School.

“She understands the vision of the school district to integrate over the next few years: PE, Health, and Athletics as one comprehensive K-12 model where healthy eating and active living are the key skills our students leave us with; active living will include a vibrant sports program,” said Bourque. “Amanda’s experience as a guidance counselor brings to the athletics position a high regard and high standard for promoting Chelsea scholar-athletes.”

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President Of The Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, Presented a Chelsea Clock in Appreciation to Patrick Wardell

President Of The Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, Presented a Chelsea Clock in Appreciation to Patrick Wardell

C1Allan Alpert, past president and master of ceremonies and Arthur Arsenault, president of
the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, presented a Chelsea Clock in appreciation to Patrick
Wardell, chief executive officer of Cambridge Health Alliance, for being the guest speaker
at the Chamber breakfast on Wednesday at the Wyndham Hotel on Everett Avenue.

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