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13 Takeaways From the May 16 Select Board Meeting

Select Board approves Pride Lights celebration, wine sales at Community Market

The Select Board met last night without Vice-Chair James Mackey.

1. The community is happy with Tewksbury Telemedia. Annually, during the Comcast cable television license renewal process, the Select Board and stakeholders share insights on how Tewksbury Telemedia contributes to the community. Chair Todd Johnson noted that the Town’s Comcast license is due to expire on Sept. 19, 2025, and the law requires a public proceeding to ascertain the community’s cable-related needs and interests as part of the renewal process.

All Select Board members were complimentary of the work Tewksbury Telemedia does. A number of community members, including Paige Impink of the Tewksbury Town Crier, Lorna Garey of the Tewksbury Carnation (aka me), and Bruce Shick, chair of the North and Trahan Reuse Committee, thanked Brian Dorrington, Jason Marshall and the TTM team verbally or in writing for the work they do to make town events and government accessible to all residents. 

Johnson did note that while the town depends on fees to run that department, bills are rising for residents. 

“Anything we can do relative to our contract and our rates that affect the ability to expand or maintain subscribership, I think it’s a good thing,” said Johnson. “I would encourage Comcast to work with us in that area.” 

2. Tewksbury again passed its annual audit with flying colors. Jim Powers and Romina Mamelii of Powers & Sullivan LLC presented their findings of the town’s financial position. The firm presented the board with an annual comprehensive financial report for FY22, a schedule of federal awards and a management letter.

“The town received an unmodified audit opinion, which is the best audit opinion you can get,” said Mamelii. “It’s a clean audit opinion.”

That applied to both the town and school sides of the budget. Powers complemented the town’s stabilization fund growth combined with reasonable rates and progress chipping away at its unfunded pension liability.

Member Jayne Wellman asked Powers what might make the town able to achieve a AAA bond rating. 

“You’re doing pretty much all you need to do to hit AAA,” said Powers. “But a lot of it has to do with demographics, where you’re located, the economy, and your commercial base compared to your residential base. All those things.”

3. The board unanimously approved a victualler’s license for the new owners of local restaurant Hunan Wok. The owner says the layout, menu and employees will remain the same. Member Patrick Holland questioned whether the Board of Health needed to be involved. The answer is no, as this is a new license. 

That’s fortunate for the petitioner in terms of timing because the Board of Health just canceled its May monthly meeting, after also canceling in March. 

4. Mead and wine to return to the Community Market. The Select Board took up two liquor license applications to allow Blisspoint Meadery and Aaronap Cellars to return to the Tewksbury Community Market, which will run from June 15 to Sept. 28 from 4 – 7 p.m. at Livingston St.

Both applications were approved unanimously, though Holland and Member Mark Kratman questioned the businesses on providing samples of their products.

“There’s a lot of kids down there, granted small samples, but kids will be kids,” said Kratman.

Massachusetts farmer winery licenses allow bottle sales and sampling at farmer’s markets. The samples are no more than one half-ounce, and Bridget Bolduc of Aaronap Cellars said one booth worker is ServSafe certified and trained in how to check IDs properly. Johnson pointed out that both companies sold at last year’s market without incident.

5. National Grid pole and underground utility petitions for Bridle Path, Chivas Circle and Fiske Street were approved unanimously. Kratman stressed that poles need to be placed far enough back that they won’t be in the middle of sidewalks, impeding passage for wheelchairs and snow removal.

6. Residents question retail marijuana deliberations, summer programming. In the residents’ portion of the meeting, Patrick Nichols, president of Bella Luna LLC, one of the cannabis retail applicants, rose to ask about the process by which the board will award the town’s three licenses. 

“Mr. Chairman, are all the applicants that have applied as of May 11, are they all going to be interviewed before any licenses are distributed?” asked Nichols.

Johnson assured Nichols that at present the board’s intention is to hear all presentations, listen to public input and then the board will figure out how to go forward with the approval process; the board revisited that discussion later in matters of interest. 

Amanda Marino of Polaris Lane asked about summer recreation programming. Montouri said that Alphabest will again be running the Tewksbury Public Schools’ summer programming.

7. Wellman was reappointed as the Select Board designee to NMCOG, which is beginning a strategic planning process tomorrow.

8. Pride Lights celebration approved unanimously. Wellman also chairs the Tewksbury Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Committee, which is hosting the town’s first official Pride celebration on Friday, June 2. The committee voted to approve the Pride Lights event, which will run 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Kratman pointed out that the Tewksbury Cemetery declined to allow the VFW to place flags on the grounds as they normally do to commemorate Memorial Day. As a result, those flags will instead be placed surrounding the veterans memorial on the Town Common, adjacent to the gazebo. 

“I just want to make sure it’s coordinated so that, you know, somebody is not in somebody else’s way,” said Kratman.

Clarification: According to Tewksbury Veteran’s Agent Lisa Downey, flags will be placed on veterans’ graves at the cemetery, this year by the Elks. The VFW will do an additional display on the town common.

Montuori said the town common flags will be removed by Wednesday and so will not overlap with the Pride event, though Wellman clarified that the professional and student entertainment and speaking would happen on the patio in front of the main entrance to town hall, not in the gazebo and memorial area.

The lights will remain on the gazebo during the month of June. See the flyer, below, and contact Wellman with questions or to participate.

9. Montuori’s 2.25% pay increase is official. During its recent, positive, performance assessment for the Town Manager, the Select Board instructed Montuori to budget an annual compensation increase to his base pay, contingent on the budget being passed at Town Meeting. The budget did pass, so the raise takes effect.

10. The LRTA is seeing a slow but sure increase in ridership and revenues. The town adjusted a route to send a bus up Chandler St. with a stop at the Library, said Kratman, and that has been a popular change. He is also representing the LRTA on the MBTA advisory board.

“We’re talking about extending bike lanes and other things, if we can get something that extends to an MBTA line, there’s funding available for that,” said Kratman, citing the bike lanes being installed on Rt. 38. “Sometime in the future if there’s a way to have it continue on, someplace into Wilmington to get it to the stations, there will be funding available.”

11. The Memorial Day ceremony is 10 a.m. at the cemetery. It will be followed by a parade, same as in past years.

12. A noted wood floor expert is examining the Center Elementary gym. Wellman, who sits on the Elementary School Building Committee, reports that a consultant will weigh in on issues with the gym floor and how to address them. The consultant is an expert who lives locally but consults all over the world on wood floors. He was scheduled to walk through yesterday, and the town can expect a report in a couple of weeks.

13. Johnson closed the meeting with a discussion of Town Meeting and the retail marijuana licensing process. He commended the Town Manager and his staff on “executing an exceptional town meeting.” While attendance wasn’t large, those who do show up are informed, diligent and committed to the process.

“They speak their mind at Town Meeting, whether that be by standing up and vocalizing something or letting things move forward without any question or controversy because they’re satisfied with what has been presented information-wise,” said Johnson.

He also clarified that there are nine retail cannabis projects that met the deadline to be considered across three meetings, to be held on June 12, 13 and 20. All board members present stated that they intend to listen to all proposals before making a decision.

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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