Published in the September 29, 2016 edition
By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – There will be 13 pieces of business to be decided by the voters at the Oct. 17 fall town meeting. Whether that turns out to be a lucky or unlucky number is up in the air at this point and won’t be known until the voters have their say, as they always do.
Quite a few of the proposed articles are mundane and routine business, but a few are unique.
Article 7 seeks to rescind Civil Service in making new appointments to the police department but does not affect the status of any officer, superior officer or the chief already employed by the town and would apply to newly hired and promoted police officers and officials.
Article 9 seeks funds to appropriate money for bathroom facilities at Arthur Kenney Field, although the total cost hasn’t been determined yet. The plans are still in a state of flux and there’s a chance the article may be passed over at the meeting.
Other articles to come before the voters on Oct. 17 are:
Article one: purely routine, to hear reports of town committees.
Article 2: Pay prior year’s bills, totaling $2,390.
Article 3: Transfer funds to the Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund. The Fund has a balance of $984,000 and the intention is to add $200,000 from Free Cash.
Article 4: Appropriate money to the Stabilization Fund, the town’s “Rainy Day Fund.” The Fund has a balance of $2 million and the intention is to add $200,000 from Free Cash.
This is a breakdown of the balances in the town’s major available fund accounts: Stabilization, $2 million; Debt Capital Stabilization, $984,000; Cell Tower Fund, $383,000; Ambulance Fund, $559,000; OPEB, $554,000; Water Infrastructure Stabilization, $448,000.
Article 5: Transfer funds to the Other Post Employment Benefits Trust Funds (OPEB). The fund balance is presently $554,000. At this point it’s not anticipated money will be added to the fund in October; perhaps in June.
Article 6: Amendments to the fiscal 2017 operating budget. Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said he’s still working on potential transfers for the fiscal 2017 budget. A couple of areas being looked at are the DPW budget and a full report will be made at the Oct. 3 Selectmen’s meeting.
Article 7: Rescind Civil Service for the police department. This authorizes the town to petition the legislature for special legislation to exempt the positions of police officers, including police chief, from Civil Service. This does not affect the status of any police officer, including the Chief, already employed by the town. It would apply to new employees and promotions. The Selectmen and Finance Committee favor this article, which was negotiated with the agreement of both the town’s police unions.
Article 8. Back in 2013, the Selectmen hired a Boston law firm to pursue legal damages against the architect and the project manager of the secondary schools project. This article is to appropriate additional funds for legal expenses. T.A. Gilleberto said they don’t have a specific figure yet but he recommended the article remain on the warrant.
Article 9. Appropriate money for bathroom facilities at the Arthur J. Kenney Field. There is no dollar amount available yet. Gilleberto said the town is in the process of contracting for designer services with the selected, qualified firm. The options they present will be evaluated in the next few weeks. There is no funding source available for the project at this point and having everything ready by Oct. 17 will be “an ambitious timeline,” he warned.
Article 10. Fund a redevelopment/wastewater plan for that section of Route 28 near Route 62, estimated at $25,000 to $50,000. The Community Planning Commission is seeking funds to create a conceptual plan and study for redevelopment of underutilized properties in the area, basically from Kitty’s corner to Lowell Road.
“The primary focus will be an analysis of how the introduction of a privately funded and operated wastewater treatment package plan could be a short and mid-term catalyst for the realization of the full development potential of these properties while the town pursues long term solutions” such as the Greater Lawrence Sewer District, said Gilleberto.
Article 11. Fund repairs to town buildings, $50,000 from Free Cash for miscellaneous building repairs.
Article 12. A zoning amendment sponsored by the Community Planning Commission for changes in zoning for Route 28, the Highway Business District.
Article 13. Another zoning amendment sponsored by the CPC to make changes to the off street zoning and loading for the Highway Business District.