By John Anderson
Tuesday’s Annual Town Meeting started nearly on time with only one delay requested by Moderator Charles Baker to reach a quorum. Due to an increasingly hoarse voice, Mr. Baker appointed long time Town Meeting Member Chet Stencel as his assistant for the evening. This proved necessary early on.
The first hour and a half was used for reports from the Finance Committee, the Board of Selectmen, Town Manager Julie Jacobson, School Building Committee Chairman Mark Imse, School Buildings Master Plan Committee Chairman Rick Ringgard, Chief Financial Officer Ed Kazanovicz, and School Superintendent Maryellen Brunelle. While these reports can be a bit tedious, it is the only time that members and viewers at home have the chance to get updated on so much important town business.
During the lengthy reading of the proposed $55,606,283.72 budget, only one “hold” came from the audience, and this was by member Mike Hammond on the school budget, speed bump one. The “hold” allows a member to seek additional information about a particular line item. In this case, Mr. Hammond questioned the need for a $49,848 grade 4 teacher at Julia Bancroft and $54,957 for a Media/iPad Specialist. $105,000 is not a big part of a nearly $23 million school budget, but members certainly have the right to ask.
Much of the Annual Town Meeting is procedural and gives the town administration the authorization to accomplish many tasks from borrowing money to requesting state money to fix roads. As part of Article 3, the Five-Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), $450,000 was taken from the Stabilization Account to help fund a new fire department aerial truck to replace the aging tower truck. The new truck will cost nearly $1 million.
Notable items on the 37 article agenda were Article 13 which appropriated $500,000 to the Other Post-Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund; Article 21 that designated $5,000 to expand the town’s Purple Heart Monument, and Article 30 which set new rates for the Town Clerk’s office to cover staff costs. Town acceptance of West View St. and part of Reithel St. were postponed, while Karen Ave, Sara Dr, and Lorna Dr. were easily accepted by the voting members.
Articles 14-17 transferred $1,815,000 in CIP funds previously approved for the School Dept. to planned renovations at the current middle school. Once the new middle school opens, all grade 3-5 students will be educated at the 10 Swanson Rd. building which must be modified to accommodate the younger children.
The biggest speed bump of the evening occurred when Article 36 came up, the acceptance of Old Cart Rd. For some reason, this road drew questions, criticism, and emotions. The town has already taken the construction bond for this road, but it was for a 1980’s project and totals about $30,000. Old Cart Rd. will require considerable repair, but there are other town roads in similar poor condition. The reality is that the homeowners and taxpayers who live there should not be punished due to inaction by the developer or inaction by the town 30 years ago. The article passed.
In the end, the meeting concluded around 10:00pm, and Town Meeting Members elected later this month can look forward to the Special Town Meeting this fall.