The Select Board convened last night to address liquor licenses and the warrants for next week’s Town Meetings.
1. Cracker Barrel plans to serve beer and wine. The restaurant is requesting to serve beer and wine, including mimosas, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Petitioners say they will have all staff who handle alcohol be ServSave certified.
“It’s not going to be a bar environment,” said manager of record Kyle Kimmel. “We’re excited to get started.”
Both Select Board clerk Mark Kratman and member Jay Kelly asked about mechanisms to keep underage patrons from being served, in light of recent violations in town. Member Jayne Wellman and chair Todd Johnson concurred, and vice chair James Mackey highly recommended that the company install a scanner. The board approved the application unanimously.
2. The sale of Deli King has fallen through. Plans for the new “Mike’s on Main,” which was to offer brunch, are formally canceled. In October, the board voted to approve a liquor license transfer request from Deli King to Michael Liu, who also owns other area restaurants, including Stelios, Jade Pacific and Chung King Rick’s Cafe in Billerica. Liu had planned to offer traditional American cuisine for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with alcohol service a competitive differentiator over other breakfast restaurants in town.
Given that the license never actually changed hands, it reverts back to Deli King. The Board unanimously approved the rescission.
3. Local winery Aaronap Cellars will join the Community Market in June. Aaronap, a micro-winery based in Westford, produces artisanal wines from fruits sourced around New England. The company sold at the Wilmington farmer’s market last year.
Aaronap owner Noel Powell said the winery does about 70% of its business at farmer’s markets. While state law does allow samples, which will be available, the company’s focus will be selling bottles of wine.
“I know that this farmers market has really taken off in recent years,” said Johnson. “So from my vantage point, I welcome your contribution to it and hopefully, it’ll meet your expectations and certainly the expectations of the community here in general.”
The board approved the application unanimously. The Tewksbury Community Market will run on Thursdays, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., from June 16 through September 29, in the parking lot behind the Recreation Center at Livingston Street.
4. The Board reviewed warrant articles for the upcoming Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting. While most articles were uncontroversial, having been vetted previously by the Board and with fiscal articles unanimously approved by the Finance Committee, there were a few points of discussion.
Jay Kelly advised the Board that he plans to offer an amendment to distribute the allocated $40,905 paid to town boards more evenly across the 20 elected officials in town. Under his proposal, the 16 elected board members will each receive $1,945.25. The four chairs will receive an additional $500, for $2,445.25.
Kratman also pointed out that a number of years ago, the pay of the Select Board was reduced.
“A previous Selectman stated that the the rate of pay were reduced years ago because the economy changed, and it was a temporary thing,” said Kratman. “And we mentioned at town meeting we’d look at it and take a look at to see if it should be adjusted. Have we done any work on what that was before?”
Johnson, who was on the Board at the time, stated that a reduction was approved by town meeting and, within the context of the budget, it’s never been revisited, “at least to my knowledge.”
Kelly and Kratman also raised concerns about the $1.8 million in DPW funding that comprises less than1.5% of the overall $129 million budget put forth in Article 4.
“I gotta say, you know, that $1.8 is a pretty big number in lieu of the way the flag’s blowing, in my opinion,” said Kelly. “I could be dead wrong, but you know what? I do believe right now we potentially could be in for it.”
Kratman concurred: “I know something needs to be done,” he said. “We’ve been all advocating for improvements in wash bays and things like that. My fear is building something and then getting caught up into something overwhelming.”
Town manager Richard Montuori pointed out that he expects increases in both state funding and new growth and that the budget reflects conservative estimates.
“We’re never going to put the town in the position that it’s financially strapped.” said Montuori. “Right now all signs are pointing towards an increase in state aid that will be available to us for any shortfalls,” He added that new growth this year is at $850,000, and the likelihood is coming in even higher thanks to steadily rising housing prices.
According to Redfin, in March 2022, Tewksbury home prices were up 29% compared with 2021, selling for a median price of $645,000. On average, homes in Tewksbury sell after 11 days on the market compared with 19 days last year. There are currently only eight homes listed in town, and 91% of listings are selling for over asking price.
“We’re being fully transparent on what we’re doing,” he said. “I’m not keeping it out of the budget and springing this on people in October. We’ve put it in the budget this year. We put it in the budget last year, the town appropriated $2.2 million a few years back. We have not shied away or hidden our intentions of doing this project.”
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Mackey also raised concerns about delays based on the potential for the cost of construction to rise further.
“We’ve already shaved over $10 million through various mechanisms, through cost savings, through redesign, and we’re continuing to do that,” said Mackey. “What is the cost down the road?”
To that point, Kiplinger’s latest Rate Forecast reports that inflation is on track to end the year at a net 5.5%. Meanwhile, it’s very likely that the Federal Reserve will raise short-term interest rates by half a percentage point at its next meeting on May 4 and tack on additional half-point increases at the two meetings after that, with further quarter point increases possible.
“I’m all for what you’ve developed here,” said Johnson. “I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t have the ability to predict what the picture is gonna look like in November, or even in October. But what I do know is that when I first got on this board, God knows how many years ago, we were criticized for not thinking ahead. We were criticized for not planning. And what we have in front of us is exactly that. It’s planning ahead.”
Wellman added that town meeting has overwhelmingly supported every article brought forward thus far to support the new DPW.
“It gives us the opportunity to be responsive to a favorable construction and lending environment,” she said. “Additionally, we can put our excellent bond rating to work for us.”
A motion was made, seconded and approved unanimously to recommend adoption of all articles with the exception of two citizen petitions, Article 24 and Article 31 ,which will have no action.
Word from Alex Louder via the Planning Board meeting is that Article 31 will be withdrawn by the petitioner on Town Meeting floor.
5. Wellman will be the Select Board rep on the Elementary School Building Committee. The former Select Board representative, Anne Marie Stronach, did not run for re-election. Additional subcommittee appointments will be reviewed after Town Meeting, said Johnson.
Finally, Johnson informed residents of a final meeting of the Zoning Bylaw Committee scheduled for Thursday.
“The zoning bylaw committee has worked really hard over a long period of time,” he said. “Hopefully we will see enough residents at town meeting next week to get final approval of that zoning change.”
The next Select Board meeting is scheduled for May 17.