Looking toward his second term as Town Council President, Mark Sideris said his top priorities will be settling the teachers’ contract, reorganizing town departments and finding new uses for the old Police Station and the former branch libraries.
Sideris discussed his goals for the town at the Inauguration Ceremony for Watertown’s elected officials held Tuesday night at Perkins School for the Blind.
As Council President, Sideris also serves on the School Committee. In this role, he listed settling the teacher’s contract as a priority, along with hiring a new superintendent.
“It has been a frustrating experience for everyone involved,” Sideris said.
The contract appeared near completion in April, but. Town Manager Michael Driscoll said the proposal would have hurt the Watertown Schools by leading to the layoff of 25 teachers. He too said settling the contract is a priority, but he wants to make sure it works for everyone.
“We will do what is in the best interest of taxpayers, and most importantly, what is in the best interest of the children of Watertown.”
Reorganizing town and possibly school departments could save taxpayer dollars, Sideris said. Some areas he mentioned for possible reorganization are technology, personnel and purchasing.
“We will also examine all the buildings and see if we can combine services if it benefits everyone,” Sideris said.
Driscoll also outlined some goals for the future. He applauded the Town Council for maintaining a reserve fund of 7 to 10 percent, which has allowed the town to maintain its high bond rating.
He also was pleased that the Council spends 7.5 percent to 8 percent of the operating budget on capital expenses. Some items he would like to fund include a new senior center shuttle bus, a new ambulance and improvements to the park at 552 Main Street, behind the new Police Station.
Driscoll also wants to create an energy savings plan that would cut the town’s energy costs by 20 percent in five years’ time.
Among the accomplishments Sideris highlighted from his first term are the move to going paperless, which saved the town 75,000 sheets of paper for the Town Council alone.
Also, moving to single-stream recycling in the recently signed trash/recycling contract, which will save the town an estimated $300,000 this year. The town also opened the new Police Station on Main Street and renovated Victory Field, Sideris said.
During the inauguration ceremony Town Clerk John Flynn swore in Town Councilors Steve Corbett, John Donohue, Susan Falkoff, Angeline Kounelis, Cecilia Lenk, Tony Palomba, Vincent Piccirilli and Ken Woodland. School Committee members Eileen Hsu-Balzer, Julie McMahon and Michael Shepard took the oath, too, along with Watetown Free Public Library Trustees Katherine Button, Michael Hanlon Jr. and Timothy Tracy.