Trick or treat hours set, Special Town Meeting recommendations made
The Select Board met last night with all members present.
Halloween trick or treat hours are set at 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 31, as usual.
Town Manager Richard Montuori reviewed with the board the articles scheduled for Special Town Meeting on Oct. 5.
Article 1 enables the town to spend funds from higher-than-projected state and local revenues. Expenditures include $350,000 for sidewalks and $450,000 for road resurfacing as well as equipment for the Fire Department.
“A capital outlay of $45,778 is for one new portable electric stretcher for the department,” said Montuori. “Currently the department has three stretchers, one for each ambulance. We’re getting a new ambulance this year. The new stretcher will be for the new ambulance.”
The board unanimously recommended adoption.
Article 2 authorizes capital purchases, including $265,000 for about 100 lockers for the police station that will fit all the officers’ gear and allow for secure storage of firearms. There is also replacement of a circa 1997 dump truck.
Montuori advised the board that, while the Department of Revenue has not yet certified free cash, grants and savings, including $210,000 not spent on snow and ice, have allowed the town to build up its balance. Tewksbury currently has $12,486,559 in the stabilization fund, and that amount could grow to around $19 million.
“We got a lot of grant money this year,” said Montuori.
Article 3 allocates $3.3 million for the new DPW/school maintenance facility approved by voters in May.
“The base bid for the project came in within budget,” said Montuori. There were several alternate add-on bids, including one that would enable all staff to be housed together in the newer building.
“I want to go on record saying I support this article, strongly,” said member Jayne Wellman. “We need to have all the people in one building.”
Chair Todd Johnson echoed Wellman’s statement of support. The board tabled Articles 2 and 3 pending the state’s certification of free cash, which is expected before Oct. 3.
Articles 4 and 5 use money from two of the town’s enterprise funds to purchase an air compressor and a dump truck to support the sewer and water infrastructure. Vice-chair James Mackey suggested that the Town Manager look into purchasing a pump similar to the one loaned to us by Billerica to provide water to the Ames Pond neighborhood.
Montuori said he’s spoken with neighboring towns about jointly purchasing expensive equipment so no one town is overly burdened.
The board voted unanimously to recommend adoption of Article 4 and table Article 5.
Article 6 moves any remaining free cash into our stabilization fund, which requires a two-thirds vote by Town Meeting to spend. Article 7 moves $145,000 to fund the state-mandated process of reevaluating the value of real and personal property in town. This is required every five years. The board voted to recommend adoption of both.
Articles 8, 9 and 10 will expend Community Preservation Funds to forward the town’s recreational opportunities. Article 16 also adds open space.
Article 8 will fund installation of new lights and poles and associated electrical work at the LA baseball field on East Street. Article 9 will fund the design, engineering and construction of three dedicated pickleball courts next to the LA field and new lighting for the baseball fields on East Street. Article 10 will pay for the design, engineering and construction of an outdoor venue next to the Tewksbury Public Library that will give the outdoor concerts a stage area and tent and make the Community Garden more accessible with concrete pathways. Montuori said this article will be amended as the cost will be lower than projected, about $70,700.
The Community Preservation Committee and the Select Board both recommended adoption of these three articles.
Article 12 transfers the Trahan School property from the School Committee to the town. The School Committee retains the North St. because it’s being used for activities, including cheer, while the Center Elementary School gym floor acclimates. Related, Articles 13 and 14 authorize the town to enter into long-term leases, should an opportunity present itself. Article 13 gives the Select Board the authority to enter into a lease up to 30 years; Article 14 asks for a home rule petition to sign on to a lease of between 31 and 99 years.
Montuori says there are currently no firm lease offers or proposals on the table.
“The Trahan could be used for affordable housing, but we won’t know until we can do an RFP to see if there is interest in using the school for some type of housing or nonprofit use,” he said, reminding the board that the building is projected to cost about $2 million to demolish. Housing is not all that’s possible.
“I know there’s an interest in open space and a neighborhood park,” said Montuori. “Both could work.”
The article would not limit the town’s options. The board voted unanimously to recommend adoption of these three articles.
Article 15 would offer tax incentives to Cambridge Isotopes Laboratories to set up facilities in the Ames Pond Economic Target Area. The ETA program seeks to bring in businesses that will provide high-quality employment opportunities to residents. The Massachusetts Biotechnology Council has designated Tewksbury as a Regional Technology Center Economic Target Area, meaning the town can offer up to a 10% investment tax credit and provide incentives for renovating unused buildings and expedite permitting.
Cambridge Isotopes already has lab locations in Andover and Tewksbury and has jobs posted paying between about $50,000 and close to $200,000. The company will move 80 employees to town and create 15 new jobs. It plans to invest $50 million in the 100 and 200 Ames Pond buildings, which it purchased and is now empty office space, said Montuori.
Member James Mackey confirmed that the company would need to certify its hiring and that the tax benefit would not be transferable.
“These are the jobs we’re looking for,” said Mackey. Johnson also expressed support and called it a “great opportunity for Tewksbury.” Adoption was recommended unanimously.
Article 16 will put parcels totaling 15.64 acres under the control of the Conservation Commission to promote and protect in perpetuity watershed resources, open space and wildlife habitat. Some of these lots may also provide more walking trails for residents.
The article was brought forward by the Open Space and Recreation Committee; these lots are not buildable, and no town use is projected. Member Mark Kratman objected to a lot on Main St. being made conservation land, but Montuori explained that it’s too wet for any building. Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick confirmed that he sees no municipal or commercial use.
Article 17 will authorize the town to sell seven parcels totalling less than 4 acres and assessed at $413,500. It too was recommended unanimously.
Article 18 amends the bylines governing roadwork by authorizing a traffic guard to do some detail work previously requiring a police officer and raises the fines for violations. The board recommended approval with the caveat that Montuori check the legality of using traffic guard details.
Article 19 adds a Deputy Chief Engineer for the towns’ Water Treatment Plant to the wage scale. Montuori explained that it’s needed for succession planning. The article was recommended for approval unanimously.
Article 20 would make significant revisions to the Conservation Commission Wetlands Protection bylaw. See all the proposed changes by downloading the draft warrant. Major areas include delineating more areas where activities are controlled, updating definitions and expanding the town’s home rule authority to protect resource areas under the Wetlands Protection Act. The town’s conservation agent, Joe Fontaine, and Daniel Ronan, chair of the Conservation Commission, spoke to the reasons for changes, including making it easier for residents to bring business before the ConCom.
Johnson asked whether town counsel has reviewed the proposed changes, while Wellman asked if there was a public information session held to engage and inform residents of changes that could be controversial, such as removing abutter notification requirements.
“I’m not ready to recommend adoption yet,” she said.
Mackey commended Fontaine and Ronan for their work but agreed that public outreach is needed.
“I think there are a lot more informational sessions and reviews by counsel needed before we move forward,” he said.
The Select Board voted unanimously to take no action, so the proponents can consider whether to move forward or regroup and return in May.
In Articles 21 and 22, developers will ask voters to accept Frasier Lane and Terramor Drive as public ways, meaning the town will take on responsibility for maintenance and upkeep. One note is that Terramor Drive will have a homeowners’ association that’s responsible for stormwater. Sadwick said that the developer and town engineer have come to an agreement on how to remediate problems and make a disclosure to the HOA once it’s constituted. Sadwick says the developer has notified the homeowners and will gather more information prior to Oct. 3.
The Planning Board and Select Board voted to recommend accepting both roads.
Articles 23 and 24 amend the Tewksbury Zoning Bylaw and enables voters to designate an Interstate Overlay District, which will expand the uses allowed in areas of town close to highways, such as the I-495 and Rt. 133 interchange that borders Lowell and Chelmsford. Under this overlay, businesses that are allowed in the industrial, office research and general business districts would be allowed in those areas. This opens up business opportunities close to highways without bringing traffic into residential areas. Sadwick gave the example of retail cannabis as a possible use in one of these highway-adjacent areas and said there will be a minor amendment offered at Town Meeting. The Planning Board will weigh in at its meeting on Monday.
The Select Board unanimously recommended adoption of Adoption 23 and 24, pending the amendment.
Special Town Meeting will be Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. at Tewksbury Memorial High School; Friday is the final day to register to vote for anyone unregistered who wants to take part. Residents with questions about any article can attend the Finance Committee meeting on Sept. 25.
Montuori briefed the board on a bond sale. The breakdown will be $26.5 million for the DPW/School Maintenance Facility, $3.6 million for water distribution projects and $3.5 million to cover immediate Center Elementary School costs.
“We will borrow the final amount once we have all final MSBA reimbursements,” Montuori told the Carnation. He believes it will be less than the $3.5 million.
The town is getting favorable rates, ranging from 3.858% for the CES to 2.206% for the water distribution bond sale, thanks to its AA+ credit rating.
“The reason the interest rate was lower for the water distribution projects was because the term was only 10 years,” said Montuori. “Overall, we did very well.”
In his report, Montuori updated the board on the Catamount Rd. and Lodge at Ames Pond water situation. All boil-water orders have been lifted, and the town will tap into a 12-inch main to provide water to residents while also working on fixing the water main located under a culvert and serving the Lodge.
“So when we’re done, we will have two permanent solutions to the problem if this ever happens again,” he said. “We’ll have redundancy.”
Montuori also said the town has 11 migrant families located in the community, 20 adults and 13 children, up to age 5, in a temporary shelter. The Commonwealth has not asked the town for any services, and we will have a National Guard contact soon.
In member reports, Wellman called out the destruction of an adopted island set up in memory of Kathleen M. Buckley on the corner of Maple and Whittemore.
“Residents have been putting flowers on the memorial today, which is a nice way to stand up against vandalism,” said Wellman.
The next Select Board meeting will be Oct. 3.