Home rule petitions formalize board name change, tax exemptions for seniors and veterans
The Select Board met last night without member Jay Kelly.
Chair Todd Johnson announced that three pieces of legislation were signed by outgoing Governor Charlie Baker that affect the town.
In Oct. 2021, Town Meeting formally authorized a home rule petition to replace the term “Board of Selectmen” and other gender-specific designations such as “Chairman,” with “Select Board” and “Chair.” That article, along with petitions for tax exemptions for seniors and veterans, were all signed by Baker before he left office.
“That’s been a long process — I think town meeting approved that change nearly two years ago — but it is now official,” said Johnson. “We ended up with the right endpoint on all three of those, and we couldn’t be happier.”
There will be a change of manager at the Shell Food Mart at 365 Main St., near the 99. The store holds a wine and malt retail sales license. Kristina Sidiropoulos, the new manager, came before the board, and the request was approved unanimously.
Two department heads, Brenda Regan, Tewksbury Public Schools superintendent, and Kevin Hardiman, the new director of the Tewksbury DPW, were appointed as Records Access Officers, designating them as the individuals responsible for responding to requests for public records from their departments.
In February 2022, the Select Board granted a liquor license for a boutique fine wine, craft beer and artisanal spirits store planned for Wamesit Plaza, at 345 Main St., near Walmart. That shop never opened, and at tonight’s meeting, the owners of City Wine Spirits & Smoke Shop sought to transfer that liquor license to open a 3,000 s.f. store at the rear of the property, next to RTN Federal Credit Union. Yashika Patel came before the Select Board with attorney Andrew Upton and her husband, Palak Patel.
“I know it’s been a while waiting for the license to be put into use,” said Upton.
Johnson questioned Patel on how she will ensure there are no underage sales and whether the new owners will continue the City Wine & Spirits vision of boutique brands. Palak Patel said the couple’s businesses have “high-end designs” and will be modeled after other City Smoke Shops in the North End. They hope to be in operation in two to three months — in time to capture business from the town’s new retail marijuana customers, judging by the other shops.
The liquor license transfer was approved unanimously, with a request by member Jayne Wellman that the petitioners submit a tobacco plan expeditiously.
Last month the board heard from NMCOG Executive Director Jennifer Raitt on a Digital Equity Plan Program. NMCOG is offering a free technical assistance program from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute that will better position Tewksbury to receive state and federal digital equity funds, and the Select Board needed to vote on whether to sign on.
“When you listen to the presentation, we was just meeting guidelines, doing what they’re asking us to do,” said member Mark Kratman. “Those are the concerns that I have. I know we reviewed it, but … it just didn’t seem to be like a lot of benefit to a lot of what we were doing in the community.”
Some possible projects cited by Raitt: Studying the feasibility of and developing municipal-owned broadband and providing training programs for digital skills, such as internet safety or business internet use and marketing.
“There’s a potential for tapping into a fair amount of grant funding,” said Town Manager Richard Montuori. There is more than $1 billion set aside at the state level, according to Raitt.
“So we are basically saying, yes, we want to support the exploration and if there is something that we believe would benefit Tewksbury, we would then take further action?” asked member James Mackey.
Montuori clarified that the commitment is to a master plan, with no promise of specific actions.
“NMCOG is working to get ahead of the curve,” said Wellman, and ensure member towns are at the front of the line for grant funding while also gathering data. “Do we have the same broadband speeds all over town? What communities would benefit from training for computers or access to equipment? Where would the town’s funding be best spent to ensure that students all across the district have access to digital assets? Those kinds of things.”
Montuori also pointed out that Tewksbury is close to entering negotiations with Comcast and Verizon and said town staff is very much in favor of moving forward. The vote to approve was unanimous.
In board reports, Wellman said that the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Committee is working with the Library on a film series for Black History Month in February. There were no other board member reports.
The next meeting will be Wed., Jan. 25.
The board then entered executive session to discuss a “matter of potential litigation.” That closed the public portion of the meeting.