By MAUREEN DOHERTY
NORTH READING — Come one, come all to participate in the annual Fall Town Meeting, the quintessential form of self-governance, on Monday, October 2.
The main event begins at 7 p.m. in the NRHS gymnasium when Town Moderator John Murphy calls the meeting to order with a tap of the gavel. Given the distance needed to walk from the parking lot to the check-in tables in the lobby where you are given your “voter” ribbon, it is recommended that attendees arrive between 6:30-6:45 p.m. and remember to bring the copy of their printed warrant that was mailed to their homes two weeks ago.
Attendees are reminded that under state law, only residents who were registered as voters in North Reading as of Friday, September 22 may participate at this Town Meeting. Residents who were not registered as of that date may attend Town Meeting but may not vote and will be seated separately from registered voters.
Those who wish download a copy of the warrant may visit: northreadingma.gov/sites/g/files/vyhlif3591/f/uploads/otm_printer_warrant.pdf
The warrant is as follows:
Article 1: Hear and Act on Reports of Town Officers and Committees. This is a customary article and those committee chairs who wish to make reports to the voters will request to do so through the moderator.
Article 2: Prior Year Bills: Enables the town to balance its books to pay bills that arrived after the close of the fiscal year on June 30. As of press time just two bills were outstanding and totaled under $250 combined.
Article 3: Appropriate Money to Stabilization Fund: This article will be passed over as funds are typically added to it at June Town Meeting. The current balance in the town’s “rainy day fund” is $4,399,104.
Article 4: Appropriate Money to Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund: The Select Board recommends transferring $250,000 from Free Cash to the current balance of $1,374,740.
Article 5: Appropriate Money to Solid Waste Stabilization Fund: The Select Board recommends transferring the $26,304 balance from FY23 into the fund, which has a current balance of $149,673 to help stabilize the rates for the ratepayers.
Article 6: Appropriate Money to Participating Funding Arrangement Fund:
The Select Board recommends transferring the town’s share of the surplus funds generated from active employees on the town health insurance plan in FY23 into this fund which stabilizes health insurance rates for the ratepayers. The amount two weeks ago was $187,263 but with a few more weeks of additional claims under review between the board’s Sept. 6 meeting and the Oct. 2 Town Meeting, the final number will be presented at Town Meeting. The current balance of the fund is $1,925,390.
Article 7: Amend FY2024 Operating Budget.%179, Three known transfer amounts were proposed prior to Town Meeting as follows: $179,000 from Free Cash to debt service; $69,450 increase to the Recreation Enterprise Fund which is funded by revenue generated from Recreation revenue; and $240,766 from the Water Infrastructure Stabilization Fund to reflect the rate plan. The fourth transfer amount to increase “Hillview Expenses” was not known at press time. The recommendations on these transfers will be made on the floor of Town Meeting.
Article 8: Rescind Authorization to Borrow: Voters will be asked to “rescind” the previously approved “authorization to borrow” $262,000 for improvements to the intersection of North/Central Street because this exact amount is now being paid through federal ARPA funds as recommended by the Select Board.
Article 9: Amend FY2024 Capital Budget.
Voters will be asked to authorize several amendments to the FY24 capital budget. The Hood School boiler replacement was funded at June Town Meeting for $225,000. This replacement had a $75,000 shortfall.
Since June Town Meeting, a maintenance issue has arisen on Burroughs Road where a sinkhole formed above the culvert that creates the bridge on that road. According to Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto, a series of three culverts carry water under the road which is considered a bridge plus there is a single westbound culvert that stands on its own. “The road effectively holds back the water.” The DPW has installed a temporary emergency patch. Voters will be asked for $600,000 to repair the culvert system and if it cannot be repaired the funds would be used toward the design process for a replacement.
The last item under this article is funds to replace the KidSpot playground and make it fully ADA compliant. KidSpot was built in the late 1980s with privately raised funds and volunteer labor, prior to the enactment of the federal ADA law. A $50,000 grant that had to be spent by the Parks Dept. by June 30 was put toward demolition of the existing playground structures and the purchase of playground safety matting which the Parks Dept. has put in storage. It will be used underneath the future equipment. A combination of funds will be tapped to make the new park, including $75,000 in retained earnings from Recreation fees collected and about $150,000 in state grants. The town’s Capital Improvement Planning Committee (CIPC) voted to recommend that $300,000 from Free Cash be allotted for KidSpot renovations to replace the equipment in kind and make site improvements.
The CIPC will make the presentation at Town Meeting for these funds. The members met with the Recreation Committee, Parks Director and Gilleberto last week, after the most recent Select Board meeting, to discuss the amounts needed and recommendations will be made on Town Meeting floor.
Article 10: Appropriate Money for Legal Expenses – 20 Elm Street Litigation: Recommendations will be made at Town Meeting but it appears the town will not need to add more funds to this account at this time.
Article 11: Appropriate Money for Fire Station Design Development and Construction Documents: Voters will be asked to pass over this article as $780,000 in ARPA funds was approved by the Select Board. A brief presentation to update the voters may be made to explain the next phase of the project and the likely need for a debt exclusion override for this project.
Article 12: Appropriate Money for Bridge/Culvert Study: The Select Board recommends the $75,000 appropriation from Free Cash to fund a review town wide the existing conditions of all culverts.
Article 13: Authorize Article 97 Home-Rule Petition for Chestnut Street Bridge.
As progress on the design of the Chestnut Street Bridge is made it has been determined that less than 2,500 square feet of Article 97 land will be impacted by the project, located near the bride. The ConCom has already been brought into the loop. A
Article 14: Appropriate Money to Opioid Settlement Special Purpose Stabilization Fund: This fund was created last June as a place to deposit the town’s share of the class action Opioid settlement. Voters will be asked to transfer in $49,588.17 into the fund for future use
Article 15: Appropriate Money for Substance Abuse Treatment, Mitigation and Prevention: This article is related to Article 14. The voters will be asked to appropriate $25,000 from the opioid settlement funds received in FY23 to be used by the town’s Community Impact Team “for a recovery coach to continue to address substance abuse and use it over multiple fiscal years.
Article 16: Create and Transfer Funds into Secondary School Building Project Debt Service Special Purpose Stabilization Fund: If approved by voters, it would give the town a place to stash the $2.6M the town won in the suit that will be certified as Free Cash, which can be used for any purpose. By creating such a fund, they can be set aside for program in town on substance use and apbuse.
This fund will enable the town to put the funds as a set aside to reduce the remaining debt not he NRHS/MS project
Article 17: Appropriate Money to Cover Grant Deficits: the town needs $15,010 to cover a State 911 grand deficit and $2,089 from a community compact grant
Article 18: Authorize Hillview Commission to Enter into Golf Course Management Contract for Terms in Excess of Three Years. If approved, the HC would have standing ability to approve longer contracts which are ultimately sent to the Town Administrator for approval
Article 19: Authorize Conveyance of Town-Owned Land for Affordable Housing (7 St. Theresa’s St). The wetlands delineation was done, as authorized by prior Town Meeting action. The parcel is located in the town’s affordable housing overlay district and according to Town Planner Danielle McKnight, it would be ideal for one single-family home, but at most two or a duplex at the location and the deed would be structured to maintain the affordability clause.
Article 20: Amend Code of North Reading to Regulate Sustainable Food Ware and Packaging: The Recycling Committee will be passing over this article.
Article 21: Street Acceptance: Eaton Circle: This is a small subdivision built off Mt. Vernon Street on the former Balcomb farm property and has been certified as ready for street acceptance.
Article 22: Authorize Home-Rule Petition Regarding Retired Police Officer: Voters will be asked to rectify an error in the date of hire provided by the Middlesex County Retirement System to a currently retired police officer provided to him at the time of his application to retire which impacts his pension amount.