CLAREMONT — The Claremont City Council meeting of Sept. 11 began, fittingly, with a recognition of the day by Mayor Charlene Lovett.
“I can’t believe it’s been 18 years since that day. I remember it like yesterday; I was stationed at the National Security Agency when it happened,” Lovett said.
Since beginning the day at the Claremont Fire Department ceremony, which was also attended by former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld, Lovett said she had been talking to people who shared their memories of the day.
“I want to thank the fire department for their beautiful display that they do every year. Seeing that flag flying in the wind gives us the opportunity to move beyond the tragedy of that day and celebrate the heroism,” she said.
Lovett then read a notice from New York: “On the eve of the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the current firefighting academy class has 13 members — 12 men and one woman — whose firefighter fathers were murdered on 9/11. The class includes siblings ... the son of an NYPD officer who was killed on 9-11. The children of the fire department of New York are blossoming into a new generation of bravest...”
Councilor Nick Koloski had gone to Manhattan for a commemorative event. He asked for a moment of silence.
“First responders train, train, train for a day that may never come,” Lovett said.
Referring to the recent standoff, she said, “We can thank the many first responders that we were kept safe.”
During that incident, a man discharged hundreds of rounds from a firearm(s) in a residential neighborhood. The man was taken into custody in the afternoon and no one was injured.
“It was reassuring to all the officers that were there that the community was there for us as well,” said Police Chief Mark Chase.
Suicide Prevention Week
In her mayor’s comments, Lovett noted National Suicide Prevention Week and read a proclamation declaring Suicide Prevention Week in the city.
“The city of Claremont recognizes the impact suicide has on our community and is committed to its prevention,” she read.
Interim City Manager John MacLean, who has volunteered on a suicide hotline, said, “We know this is a tragedy that affects everyone; there’s a ripple effect that goes through the families, the children, the community. Oftentimes when we were on this particular hotline, many people just needed someone to talk to. They’re going through life crisis and they just feel alone.”
MacLean cited the account of Kenneth Baldwin, who jumped from the Golden Gate bridge and survived. Of the thousands of people who have jumped from that bridge, only 16 have survived. Baldwin travels the country telling his story, letting people know that as soon as he jumped “he knew he’d made a mistake and he wanted to live.”
In other business, Lovett has been asked to serve on the state Health Improvement Council and will do so during the next year. There will be a Childhood Lead Poisoning presentation and dinner for educators at River Valley Community College on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
“If you’re involved in teaching or child care, please, please come to this,” said Lovett. “There are rules that have been changed.”
There will be a joint City Council/School Board meeting Sept. 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Sugar River Valley Regional Technical Center.
In the interim City Manager’s report, John MacLean announced that the city received two bids for demolition of 139 Main St. and intends to accept the low bid from United Construction of $92,400.
“It fits within the amount of money we have available and we believe it’s a good bid,” he said.
“Hopefully we’ll have this project in the history books in the not-too-distant future,” he added.
Board of Assessors lacks members
“We have not been able to recruit for the Board of Assessors,” said MacLean. “This is a huge concern.”
The board of assessors was created by the city in response to citizen complaints about a tax abatement granted to owners of the Topstone building by the city assessor, approved by then-city manager Ryan McNutt. It is meant to be a citizen review board of abatements and assessment appeals.
Across the board, the various committees, commissions and boards have about a 30% vacancy, said MacLean.
“Of 135 open positions on these different boards and committees, 103 are full time and we have 25 vacancies... This is a serious issue for the city. At this point in time we do not have any candidates for the board of assessors. We talked to several people and we thought they might submit an application but they did not,” MacLean said.
The board of assessors would be tasked with reviewing assessments, for instance when a property owner contests an assessment. Without a board of assessors, the abatement appeals are going to Superior Court or the Board of Land and Taxation.
Assessor Steve Hamilton said the city is wrapping up the reassessment process.
“I’ll be back on the 25th with a final evaluation ... the issue of not having a board of assessors is going to be particularly troubling when we send out tax bills for the December billing. We want to make sure there is a full process in place for anybody that has not had their concerns addressed by Vision Solutions and will want to avail themselves of a local abatement process. We really earnestly hope we’re going to be able to find some people who are willing to step up.”
Hamilton said the board could meet seven to nine times a year for three to four hours.
“It’s a challenge but not an overwhelming burden,” he said.
Lovett reminded those watching that the board of assessors was established in response to public concerns.