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10 Takeaways From the June 6 Select Board Meeting

Town Hall, Town Hall Annex and the Senior Center will test a new schedule with 6 p.m. closing on Tuesday nights

The Select Board met last night with all members present.

Dave Boucher spoke for National Grid and Verizon on petitions to place jointly owned poles on East St. and Lake St. The poles are designed to restore power more quickly and add resilience. The DPW supported the proposals with conditions, and Chair Todd Johnson reiterated that the poles must not interfere with sidewalks. The board approved the request unanimously.

Todd Arsenault and Ron Pereira, owners of La Vita Dolce, appeared with an appended application to again request a full liquor license. In September 2022, the board approved a liquor license for the business, pending approval from the Mass. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.

In a report from the ABCC, special investigator Melissa Anderson stated that the 2022 liquor license application had numerous errors and omissions, and that despite conversations, the ownership interest and financial disclosure portions of the application remained incomplete. 

Member Jayne Wellman questioned the petitioners on the financial discrepancies, how they will ensure no underage customers purchase liquor, and where it will be served from. She advised Arsenault to engage an attorney to help prepare paperwork for the ABCC. The new application was approved unanimously.

No one was on hand to speak for Nilkant 345, which is doing business as City Wine Spirits & Smoke Shop. The company also asked for an amended liquor license. In this case, the issue was clerical errors identifying the units the shop will occupy in the Wamesit Place shopping center, adjacent to Walmart. That request was approved unanimously.

Sukhvinder Singh, owner of Taste of the Himalayas at 1921 Main St., appeared seeking a common victualer license for his 37-seat restaurant, which has received good reviews from diners. It was previously Saffron Indian Grill but pivoted after Covid to a new concept. The license was approved unanimously.

There were no resident comments.

In board and committee reappointments, 36 resident volunteers were unanimously reappointed to their roles. The board also approved requests to authorize eight firefighters to pick up detail shifts.

In March, the board unanimously accepted the donation of 2347 Main St., a seven-acre wooded lot near the South Fire Station, as conservation land. The parcel is about 90% wetlands and landlocked, and it was recommended for acceptance by the Open Space and Recreation Committee and the Conservation Commission. The Select Board needed to formally approve an abatement of taxes on the parcel for fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

The board also voted to abate taxes for a parcel at the end of 60 Winterberry Lane, a cul de sac, that will be open space for the town.

The Garden Club donated $250 to the Senior Center and expressed appreciation to director Jan Conole for the opportunity to use the Senior Center facilities for its meetings and events. The board unanimously accepted the donation with gratitude. Those funds will go into a gift account.

In his report, Town Manager Richard Montuori notified the board that the Tewksbury Police Department held a meeting and sent letters out to all town establishments that serve alcohol on the importance of checking IDs. There were 49 letters sent out, and 18 representatives attended a workshop or accessed a recording. 

“If someone is caught providing alcohol to underage individuals, there is no excuse,” said Montuori. 

Johnson reminded the town that last year, four establishments were found in violation, and that resulted in license suspensions.

“Not only is it dangerous to the youth of the community, but it has a financial cost to the business,” said Johnson of serving or selling alcohol to underage patrons. “Word to the wise.”

Montuori then presented a water quality and distribution update. Town water is cleaner than most bottled water. Brown water is caused by residual iron in the system and is not harmful to drink, though it’s not recommended. Brown water appears when sediment is stirred up based on higher usage, as in the summer months. During the recent period of hot weather, usage was 50% higher than normal — 3.5 million gallons versus the usual 2.8 million. 

The DPW implements an annual hydrant flushing program to minimize the problem. Residents who see brown water should call the DPW, avoid washing clothes and run the cold water to flush it out. 

Montuori also addressed TTHMs, chemicals formed when water is treated with chlorine. The town is well below the maximum TTHMs allowed and tests the water quarterly.

Finally, on the water line breaks that plague some parts of town, he said that the Code Red system, social media and the town website are used for notifications, depending on how many residents are affected. When breaks happen during non-working hours, it can be more difficult to get the information out. 

Water projects are ongoing, with Whipple Rd. work almost complete and Victor St. and Fiske St. on deck for work during the summer break. More information is available on the town website.

To improve town staff work/life balance and enable Town Hall to remain open late one evening per week for those who can’t get there during the current hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Montuori proposed schedule changes. Recommendations are based on a report from a committee that reviewed town hall hours in neighboring communities, surveyed department heads and tracked activity and calls during early and late hours. 

Town Hall is now open 45 hours per week, longer than most communities, with employees working staggered shifts. Montuori recommended a trial run of Town Hall and Town Hall Annex being open 42.5 hours; there would be no reduction in employee work hours. The new schedule would be:

M-W-TH: 7:30 a.m. to  4:30 p.m.

Tuesday: 7:30 a.m. to  6 p.m. 

Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 12:30  p.m.

The Senior Center plans to match these hours, enabling more programming on Tuesday. Friday is a quiet day at the center.

Benefits of the change include having Town Hall open late one evening and more easily attracting and retaining talented employees. The board unanimously approved a trial run beginning the week of June 26 and running through the fall. The DPW, library and police and fire hours will not change.

“It may not work for the residents, it may not work for employees,” said Montuori, but the union is supportive of a trial run, and staff will track data to see if further adjustments make sense. If there is an emergency, such as the need for a cooling center, the town will open facilities as required.

Member James Mackey asked Montuori to focus on educating the community and continue to increase the functionality of the town website to enable more online self-service. 

The skateboard park at Livingston St. will open this week, and the splash pad will open on the last day of school, as in past years. 

In board member reports, member Patrick Holland gave a shout out to TMHS graduates and thanked veteran’s agent Lisa Downing for a well-run Memorial Day ceremony.

Wellman thanked the Select Board, town staff, the Tewksbury Police Department, officials and local groups that attended and supported the town’s first Pride Lights event. She also announced that Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee member Bruce Shick will lead an LGBTQ+ Affinity Walk on June 11. Those who wish to take part should meet at 10 a.m. at the Maple St. parking lot. There is no need to pre-register.

Member Mark Kratman said the LRTA will highlight some of the services that are provided to the Senior Center, to get residents to shops and services, and thanked the Patriotic Committee, residents and volunteers who supported and marched in the Memorial Day parade.

Mackey said an internship, where a TMHS student worked with the town’s IT department on cybersecurity, was successful. The idea is to help close that skills gap. He also thanked his colleagues for their support while he took part in Cyber Yankee, an annual regional cybersecurity exercise that he participates in every year. 

Finally, Johnson reminded residents that June 6 is the anniversary of D-Day.

“I want to echo the comments that my peers have made about the Memorial Day Services,” he said. “It’s an honor to participate in those and to pay our respects to those who made the ultimate sacrifice. And it’s important that we not forget. So I want to again ask residents of Tewksbury to keep those veterans in mind because we all owe them a significant debt of gratitude.”

Johnson made the opening remarks at the Memorial Day Ceremony at Tewksbury Cemetery, which may be viewed here. 

The next Select Board meeting will be June 27. The board will also meet June 12, 13 and 20 for hearings on retail marijuana establishments.

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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