North St. and Trahan Reuse Committee delivers recommendations, disbands
The Select Board met last night with all members present.
Bayberry Lane culvert land acquired. At May Town Meeting, voters authorized the Select Board to acquire easements by eminent domain as needed. Tonight the board authorized the town to take about 1,200 square feet on Bayberry Lane for $1,400 to construct the planned culvert.
The Tewksbury North & Trahan School Reuse Committee made its presentation. Chair Bruce Shick appeared for the committee along with members Kayla Biagioni-Smith and Jeff Elwell. After an introduction, Shick outlined the committee’s primary goals, talked about results of the resident survey and other considerations and shared the committee’s recommendations that were developed over about three years of work.
The committee was tasked with advising the Select Board and School Committee on potential uses for each property. Key points in the presentation:
> A clear majority, 61%, of survey respondents want the town to retain ownership of the parcels for future use. Just 19% believe they should be sold. Residents are also against development on the sites, preferring open space/parks by a wide margin.
> It’s more cost-effective to demolish the buildings versus bringing them up to code due to the presence of hazardous materials, including asbestos, and major systems being at end of life.
> Still, demolition will be costly — estimated at $5 million for both buildings. There was no line item in the new Center Elementary budget to remove the schools that would be decommissioned.
> Delay will also be costly. It’s expensive to heat and insure empty buildings, and there is a risk of vandalism or injury. “We don’t want them to sit around and become problems,” said Shick. “Kids are already climbing on the roof of the Trahan.”
> The North St. site may be needed for a new lower elementary school in the future, so the recommendation is to limit permanent infrastructure. A boardwalk to the Frasca soccer fields and potentially some play structures or pickleball courts are possible uses.
> The Trahan site recommendation is a neighborhood park to serve South Tewksbury, with play structures, an outdoor function space and possibly a splash pad and basketball or pickleball courts. Understanding that affordable housing is a priority for the state and town, the committee suggested reserving a slice of the lot for eight to 12 units at most.
Possible funding sources include CPA money, the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, state historic preservation funds, tax revenue from retail marijuana sales and/or the General Stabilization Fund.
Select Board Chair Todd Johnson thanked the committee for its work, as did other board members.
“I wholeheartedly support your recommendations,” said member Jay Kelly, who previously chaired the Reuse committee. “There’s going to be a cost, but it is what it is.”
The board voted unanimously to accept the report as presented and to disband the committee.
DPW snow & ice presentation and water improvement updates. DPW director Brian Gilbert and team gave an extensive presentation on plans to clear the roads and sidewalks this winter, despite hikes in the cost of contractors, diesel and salt. Gilbert noted that an overnight parking ban is now in effect, and during a storm, that ban lasts the length of the event, day and night. The DPW uses anti-icing measures to help reduce snow accumulation. Plowing begins when there are two to three inches of accumulation and will include 23 miles of the town’s 48 miles of sidewalks and the Ryan school complex.
Gilbert asked residents to remove basketball hoops, which can catch plows, and said that plowing in driveways is often unavoidable. Please keep trash and recycling containers off the street, clear catch basins and fire hydrants, don’t speed, and don’t blow or plow snow onto the street. A mixture of sand and salt is available to residents at the DPW. There will be a dispatcher taking calls during storms from residents who may need an update on when their streets will be cleared; the DPW phone number is 978-640-4440.
Gilbert was joined by Town Engineer Kevin Hardiman to discuss the town’s water distribution network, which comprises 160 miles of water main and three storage tanks. The town replaces about two miles of water main per year, at a cost of about $300 per linear foot, and is mainly using less-expensive and more available PVC pipes for replacements; member Jayne Wellman confirmed that there is no PFAS in these pipes.
The town is mapping every pipe on every road to better plan capital improvements.
Hardiman said Tewksbury averages a dozen service leaks and 36 water main breaks annually. The town will devote all $9.3 million of its ARPA funds to the water infrastructure.
“We came together as a board, and clean water was a number one priority, and now whatever it is six, seven months later, you’re executing on a plan for the residents,” said Kelly. “So, you know, money well spent in the right area.”
Weight and measure fees will be raised slightly to be in line with neighboring communities, which should result in about $11,000 in additional revenue.
Billboard project off the table. David Modica of Newbury Street Properties requested the return of a $50,000 bond being held for a billboard project approved for 1900 Andover St., near Longhorn, that will not go forward.
License renewals approved. The board did a bulk approval of liquor, common victualler, amusement, pool table, auto sales, and entertainment license renewals, contingent on payment of taxes and utilities. Wellman brought up double payment for a liquor license for La Vida Dolce that has not yet been issued by the state. Town manager Richard Montuori is looking into it.
Member Mark Kratman asked why some businesses are being charged a fee for televisions for entertainment while other businesses that he knows have TVs on site are not included in the list of renewals.
“Does anyone go and check all the businesses?” asked Kratman.
Johnson pointed out that any business is free to question the fees charged. Again, Montuori will investigate and bring back clarification.
The Tewksbury Beautification Committee, represented by member Jennifer Balch-Kenney, requested that the board reduce its committee size from 12 to six to address quorum issues. That request was approved unanimously.
Town Manager Richard Montuori’s annual evaluation was done in open session, per state law.
“I’ll give you a letter grade of a solid A,” said Kelly. “Your record of responsiveness is second to none.” He added that Montuori runs a tight ship, and department heads are first-rate.
“We are lucky to have you as town manager,” he said. “Thank you for everything you do.”
Kratman, Wellman and member James Mackey echoed that sentiment, with Wellman praising Montuori for the town’s strong financial standing and operational stability as well as opening the new fire station and Center Elementary School on time and on budget
“You’re highly accountable, you’re highly professional and you’re highly ethical,” said Johnson. “The single best decision I ever made as a selectman is hiring you.”
“This truly is a team effort,” said Montuori, thanking the board for its kind words before praising his team of department heads and staff. “I couldn’t be prouder of the people who work in this community.”
In committee reports, Wellman reported that the DEI committee is seeking new members. Interested residents can contact the Town Manager.
Speaking of our water system, Mackey said the town will soon do a kickoff call with Dragos to begin spending the $100,000 grant he secured to improve cybersecurity. Dragos specializes in protecting critical infrastructure.
Finally, Kratman again thanked the Reuse Committee for its work and reminded residents that all LRTA buses and vans are free for the month of December.