Several controversial articles withdrawn, proposal to limit chair terms defeated
Tewksbury’s 2023 Town Meeting convened at 7:30 p.m. in the TMHS gym. There were 105 voters in attendance, according to Town Clerk Denise Graffeo.
Voters elected to restore the salaries of Select Board, School Committee, Planning Board and Board of Health chairs and members to where they were before the Great Recession, when all elected officials took voluntary pay cuts. Board of Library Trustees chair Bonnie Page proposed to amend the article to award all of her board members $2,500, but that proposal failed 32 to 39.
Voters unanimously approved a $134,105,395 FY24 budget, including $81,020,039 for education, including debt service and out-of-district placements, with no debate or amendments. That’s an overall budget increase of $4.9 million over 2023, or less than 4%.
Anne Hagstrom of Livingston St. rose to ask why the sewer enterprise fund budget increased. Town Manager Richard Montuori cited a large uptick in what Tewksbury is charged by the Lowell Wastewater Plant, which is itself seeing an increase in costs.
Expenditures for the sewer, water, stormwater and cable TV enterprise funds were approved, along with the purchase of a new engine and ambulance for the Tewksbury Fire Department and $130,000 for updates to the Police Department building.
Resident Laura Kaplan of Lanaka Rd. questioned why various pieces of equipment are paid for out of multiple separate funds in a cost-sharing arrangement. Montuori explained that a vehicle, for example, will be shared among a number of departments.
Voters supported open space, recreation and historic preservation by authorizing spending Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to install new lights at Obdens baseball field and 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 Fleming one-room schoolhouse.
Later, in Article 21, voters unanimously authorized spending $122,615 on open space and the same amount on community housing.
Residents plagued by water main breaks will benefit from $2,100,000 to install and replace water lines approved in Article 14.
Recognizing the growth and popularity of the Tewksbury Community Market, voters authorized the Town to establish a self-sufficient revolving fund, seeded with $25,000. The market will open on June 15.
Article 24 was withdrawn by the Town Manager. It would have eliminated secret ballots as the required method of voting at Town Meeting for personnel bylaw articles.
Article 25, which will empower the town clerk to make minor corrections to the Zoning Bylaw, and Article 26, which asks for a home rule petition to make it easier for Tewksbury to hire police officers, passed.
Article 27, which would have had the town accept easements on a contested right of way at Foster Lane, was also withdrawn, this time by Select Board Chair Todd Johnson.
Articles 28 and 29 were tabled until Wednesday’s Special Town Meeting.
Article 30, a citizen petition submitted by resident George Ferdinand, proposed adding 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.”
Bill Chapman of Astle St. made the motion to adopt in the absence of the petitioner.
Former School Committee member and chair Keith Sullivan rose in opposition.
“It takes tremendous courage to get up there and run for office,” said Sullivan, noting that limiting a board’s ability to select its own chair is a disservice to the people who are elected and to residents. The article was soundly defeated.
After some discussion on another priority — sidewalks — with Montuori stating that the town will spend $170,000 to improve walkability, Town Meeting went into recess until Wed., May 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Zoning bylaw amendments and articles on use of opioid settlement funds will be picked up on Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Hopefully Officer Waffles will also make a return visit. It was great to see him.
Withdrawn: 24 and 27
Tabled until Wednesday: 28 and 29