The latest on real estate recordings and new technology from the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds in Lowell
A story in today’s Globe reports that the country’s financial crisis is creating numerous challenges for state government. Tax collections are down and the cost of borrowing is up. There is now some question whether the $1.3 billion in local aid payments due to cities and towns next week will be made on time. With municipal and school budgets already strained and reeling from cuts last spring to balance the books for this fiscal year, any cut in the money communities were planning to receive will have devastating consequences. The same holds true for state agencies. Back in 2001, the state budget was not finalized until mid-November. From July till then, most state agencies were operating on 1/12 budgets - meaning that the agency could spend 1/12 of its prior year’s budget each month. But in November, budgets were cut 15 to 20%, but because funds had already been spent at a higher rate for July, August, September and October, when the cuts were finalized, the impact was greatly magnified. If the recent news stories are to be believed, it looks like history might be repeating itself.
Today the Lowell Sun published the 2007 Annual Report of the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council. The mission statement of the Council is
to advance the economic interests of the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. The Council encourages greater communication and cooperation between the public and private sectors, and fosters collaborative efforts between and among communities, leading to sustainable economic growth and prosperity for all.
With tightening budgets and the competition of globalization, local government and quasi-governmental agencies such as the Economic Development Council are critical to our future economic well being.
Today I participated in a press conference at Lowell City Hall that launched a new effort by the Lowell Foreclosure Prevention Task Force to assist those who are at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure. City Manager Lynch, Mayor Caulfield, Representatives Tom Golden and Kevin Murphy and Brian Martin from Congresswoman Tsongas’s office all participated as did Frank Carvalho from the Task Force, Hilary Marcus from Neighborworks America, Peter Milewski from Masshousing and Jim Cook of the Lowell Development and Financial Corp. The primary purpose of the press conference was to publicize the Homeowner’s Hope hotline, 1-888-995-HOPE. Anyone who is facing foreclosure should call that number and they will be connected with a local agency that will assist the homeowner in finding opportunities to refinance or, if they are already too far behind, to find ways to get out from under their debt burden and to find new living quarters. This foreclosure crisis is very complicated so simple solutions will not work. The city of Lowell seems to be responding to this crisis with an appropriate level of urgency and effort.
Thanks to the two gentlemen from the City of Lowell’s Department of Public Works who arrived at the Superior Courthouse this morning with their “cherry picker” truck and saved the American flag from possible disaster. Sited on the front lawn of the courthouse just to the left of the main entrance are two large flag poles that were erected by the Greater Lowell Bar Association and donated to the Commonwealth several years ago. Time and weather took their toll on the pole that carried the American flag, and the lower of the flag’s two fasteners had given way, leaving the nation’s colors literally hanging by a thread. Not only did the city workers rescue the flag, they did a quick rehab of the ropes and pulleys and the flag is back flying in the dignified manner that it demands.
The Northern Middlesex Council of Governments is a statutorily created regional planning agency. The member communities are Billerica, Chelmsford, Dracut, Dunstable, Lowell, Pepperell, Tewksbury, Tyngsborough and Westford (which duplicates the Middlesex North Registry of Deeds district almost exactly except that NMCOG has Pepperell and we have Carlisle and Wilmington). The NMCOG offices are located at the Gallagher Terminal on Thorndike Street in Lowell. The coming months will see a major change at NMCOG as Robert Flynn, the Executive Director for the past 30 years, will retire in November. He will be succeeded by Beveraly Woods who is not the Assistant Director and has worked for the agency for nearly 24 years. The registry has worked very closely with NMCOG during the past few years in several respects. We have made all newly recorded subdivision plans readily available in electronic form which allows NMCOG to quickly update their master parcel map. We have also tapped into NMCOG’s considerable expertise in GIS to help us integrate our records with the world of electronic maps and overhead photographs. Last evening, I was the guest speaker at NMCOG’s Annual Meeting. My remarks focused on the new projects we are working on here at the registry all of which we’ve written about here on the blog.
This week I attended the Massachusetts Collectors and Treasurers Association annual conference on local taxation and finance. The conference took place in Falmouth and was well atended by Collectors and Treasurers from all parts of the state. Every August I also attend the association’s conference held at UMass, Amherst. In fact for past ten years or so, either Register Dick Howe or I have taught a course in Amherst called the Tax Collector and the Registry of Deeds…but back to Falmouth…A number of state officials also came to the conference either to address the group or teach. Katherine Craven, Executive Director of the Massachusetts School Building Authority discussed the procedures for school building projects and gave an update; Kathleen Colleary from the Bureau of Municipal Finance Law (Mass Department of Revenue) hosted an open forum on understanding a town’s audit. Today (Wednesday) Attorney Gary Blau from the Property Tax Bureau (DOR) will explain and discuss new laws affecting the duties and responsibilities of Treasures and Collectors. This is a “don’t miss class” and very well attended. Also scheduled later today are Dennis Mountain, Kathy Reed, Jim Podolak and Deborah Wagner all from DOR. With the current burden on cities and towns in Massachusetts they will discuss a very timely topic “Is Your Community In Jeopardy”. Collectors and Treasurers use credits earned attending class at the conference here and in Amherst to gain certification.
Yesterday’s Northwest Weekly section of the Globe carried a story about a dispute that has arisen regarding the disposition of the land that was once Fort Devens, a US Army base that came into existence during World War One that was recently closed (sorry, but I can’t find the article online). The land acquired for Fort Devens formerly belonged to the Massachusetts towns of Ayer, Harvard and Shirley. Officials in those towns, especially the town of Harvard which lays claim to 60% of the former Fort Devens, want the portions of the military outpost that were once part of their communities to be “re-annexed.” Others, however, want Devens to be incorporated as the Commonwealth’s 352nd town (East Brookfield, incorporated in 1920, was the last “new” town in Massachusetts). Having once been assigned to Devens and being somewhat aware of its vast expanses of undeveloped land, I can understand why there is a dispute about its disposition. An interesting twist from a registry of deeds perspective is this: should Devens be incorporated as a separate town, which registry district would it fall within? Ayer and Shirley are both in the Middlesex South District, but Harvard is in the Worcester District. Next time I see Gene Brune and Tony Vigliotti, (the registers of Middlesex South and Worcester) I’ll ask them what they think.
Someone sent an email asking if we had a copy of the Rules and Regulations of the Planning Board of the town of Dracut. We do - they are recorded at book 9180, page 153 - but they are also 60 pages long. The new Indexing Standards recommend that each registry of deeds create a separate “Subdivision Control File” that contains information such as these planning board regulations. We’ve started compiling such a file which we’ll make available on our website, of course. In the meantime, here’s a link to the Dracut regs in PDF format.
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