Published in the April 14, 2016 edition
By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – It’s been a long time since Town Meeting needed more than one perfunctory session to wrap up all of the town’s business, even in the spring, when the warrant is heavy with budgets and long-term financial decisions.
Well, if that streak of Town Meeting brevity ends anytime in the near future, it could be this June.
The warrant for the June 6 annual town meeting is sort of like Pablo Sandoval’s waistline – tipping the scales with 39 articles, the highest number in years. In addition to the usual routine articles for the fiscal 2017 town omnibus and capital budgets, there are two high profile proposals that would authorize the town to join the MWRA for water supply services and another that will appropriate funds for the design of bathrooms at the Arthur Kenney turf field.
Article 19 asks for funding for the design of an MWRA water connection to bring the water supply into North Reading. Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said the cost at this time is projected at $1.4 million but this could be combined with prior appropriations to cover the cost. Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri said further discussion is needed before Town Meeting is able to tie down where the money will come from as well as the overall water program and how to pay for the bonding. Mauceri said the funding options would be aired at a public hearing, which hasn’t been scheduled yet.
If Article 19 involves bonding to pay the cost of the MWRA water connection, a two-thirds vote of approval by Town Meeting will be necessary.
Article 20 would authorize the Selectmen to join the MWRA, which would only require a majority vote. Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said the final language would allow the town to apply to join the MWRA and the administration will be working closely with the MWRA and Town Counsel to determine the final language.
Other financial articles that will come before the voters at June Town Meeting will be:
Article 2, seeking funds to cover the deficit in the snow and ice removal budget, which stands at $44,000 at this point, but doesn’t include the costs incurred by the last two April storms. Mauceri was disappointed, hoping the town would get through the month of April without any late storms, but also looked on the bright side: last year’s snow deficit was around $1 million.
Article 3, transfer $179,000 from retained earnings to the Water Stabilization Fund.
Article 5, appropriate money to the Stabilization Fund. The exact amount is unknown at this time.
Article 10, accept $500,000 in Chapter 90 highway construction funds from the state, to be used in reconstruction and maintenance of roadways in town.
Article 11, pay prior year’s bills. So far the grand total is $25.
Article 12 calls for approval of the omnibus town-school operating budget for fiscal 2017, which has yet to be finalized. The Selectmen (general government) and School Committee still have a ways to go in bringing in their spending plans within financial constraints.
Article 13 is the Capital Expenditures Budget, also to be determined.
Article 14 asks the town to rescind $10,761 in borrowing for water department vehicles that was authorized by the June 2012 Town Meeting but never spent.
Article 15, appropriate $1,169 to replenish an account that was inadvertently closed out years ago.
Article 16, to reappropriate water bonds proceeds that were originally appropriated for anchor bolt repairs at the Tower Hill water tank but never spent.
Article 17, fund the town’s retirement obligations for fiscal 2017. At this time, the sum is $166,000.
Article 18, transfer funds, if available, to the Solid Waste Stabilization Fund.
Article 21, to reappropriate funds put into the legal budget last October for litigation against PMA Consultants and Dore and Whittier Architects concerning budget overruns on the secondary schools building project. T.A. Gilleberto said it’s necessary to reappropriate the funds “and potentially add to that” because they will be spent over more than one fiscal year.
Article 22, asking $50,000 from Free Cash to fund repairs to town buildings. This is traditionally done in October, but Gilleberto said there’s an urgent need and he would prefer not to wait.
Article 23, appropriate $250,000 to the OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) Liability Trust Fund – the town’s attempt to keep on top of growing financial obligations to retirees.
Article 24, asking $50,000 to fund the design of bathroom facilities at the Kenney Turf Field. If this is approved, Gilleberto said the intent would be to go back to the October Town Meeting with a request for bonding for construction. Failure to address this situation could potentially result in the turf field being shut down for events like football games, other sports events and even high school graduation. “It’s something that we have to do,” said Mauceri.
Articles 25, 26, and 27 are related to Community Planning Commission studies for things such as a Housing Production Plan, Senior Housing Needs and the need for a paratransit service and the total for all three would be $40,000.
Articles 28-36 would reauthorize a laundry list of Revolving Accounts for such things as the Damon Tavern, Rain Barrels, Recycling Promotion, Elder Services, etc.
Article 38. This was the original slot for an article, sponsored by the School Committee, to name the main corridor in the new Middle School in honor of well-loved former teacher and vice principal Charles E. Jones. At the suggestion of Selectman Stephen O’Leary, the article will be moved up to the beginning of the warrant, where it can be taken up early in the evening on the first night of the meeting.
The final article in the warrant is a citizens’ petition to radically transform the way the town disposes of civil traffic infractions. The article is sponsored by Carl Martin Swanson, who apparently is not a local resident, but the petition was signed by 10 local registered voters, earning it a place on the warrant. The Selectmen may decide to move this up to the front of the warrant also, when there will be a larger audience on hand.