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10 Town Meeting Takeaways From the Finance Committee 

Key warrant articles will fund a new fire engine and ambulance, TMHS studio upgrades and more — now residents need to come out and vote

The Finance Committee public hearing is the last stop before the Select Board gives final sign-off to the warrants for Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting, scheduled for May 1 and May 3 at TMHS.

At last night’s meeting, the Finance Committee voted unanimously to approve all articles — except one. Here are some expenditures that, if approved, will support the Community Market, add affordable housing, clean up Long Pond and more, with added insights from Town Manager Richard Montuori. 

Town Meeting, May 1 – get the full warrant

Article 3-34 authorizes, among other items, $200,000 for Parks and Recreation to fund summer programs and activities. Montuori says this annual self-sufficient revolving account supports maintenance and improvements of recreation facilities and could be used in the future for rec programs. 

Article 9 funds a new ambulance and fire engine for the Tewksbury Fire Department, as well as equipment needed for both. It also covers updates to the Police Department building, including a new elevator and cameras for prisoner cells that will allow two-way communications, increasing safety.

Article 13 will expend some funds from the Cable Enterprise account to upgrade the Tewksbury Memorial High School studio, where much of the equipment is broken or outdated. Students will get new cameras, switches, lighting and audio equipment, said Montuori, that will enable them to learn on state-of-the-art gear.

Articles 16, 17, 18 & 19 authorize spending Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to install new lights, poles and associated electrical work at Obdens baseball field; put in new home-side bleachers at the football field at the Saunders Recreation Complex; treat Long Pond to improve water quality over a five-year period; and remove hazardous materials at the Ella Flemings School. Montuori says the town has not finalized a plan for use of the Ella Fleming, but removing hazardous materials is “the first step in figuring that out.”

The town’s CPA funds help preserve open space, including adding recreational opportunities, and pay for affordable housing programs. Later, in Article 21, voters can elect to spend $122,615 on open space and the same amount on community housing, leaving a CPA balance of $919,000.

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Article 22 would establish a self-sufficient revolving fund of $25,000 to support the Tewksbury Community Market, which will reopen on June 15.

Article 24 would eliminate secret ballots as the required method of voting at Town Meeting for personnel bylaw articles. Montuori points out that we don’t use secret ballots for any other budget appropriations or collective bargaining agreements.  

“The better question is, Why disrupt Town Meeting with a required secret ballot?” said Montuori. “If someone wants a secret ballot, they can ask the moderator.”

Article 36 will allow some smaller unused commercial units to be converted to affordable housing, to be maintained as affordable in perpetuity. The Planning Board would need to approve any conversion. The idea is to both use space that has been vacant, sometimes for years, and increase the town’s affordable housing stock, which is critical to keep us above the threshold for 40B projects.

Special Town Meeting, May 3Get the full warrant

Articles 4, 5 & 6 establish an Opioid Settlement Stabilization Fund for the specific purpose of receiving receipts from settlements on behalf of the Town with persons and entities involved in the sale, distribution and manufacture of opioid products. The fund will launch with $111,715 to be expended for public safety.

Finally, the one unanimous NO from FinCom:

Article 30, which will be voted on May 1, is a citizen petition submitted by resident George Ferdinand, who recently lost his race for a seat on the Board of Health. Article 30 would add a general bylaw stating that “Any elected board or committee member can not hold the position of chair for more than two consecutive years effective the municipal elections of 2022.” 

FinCom generally doesn’t take positions on citizen articles, though it’s not unheard of. The article is likely to also run into problems with the required Attorney General review, given that 2023 reorganization elections have already happened. From a practical standpoint, there are any number of reasons why a board or committee would reelect a member as chair for three, or more, consecutive years.

The Carnation hopes to see residents at Town Meeting to support a new fire engine, Livingston St. updates, affordable housing and more.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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