Published in the June 2, 2016 edition


NORTH READING – The annual Town Meeting will get underway on Monday, June 6 at 7 p.m. in the High School’s Performing Arts Center with a focus on financial matters, including the town’s operating budget, capital equipment purchases, some modest repairs to town buildings and the proposal to join the MWRA to supply water to the town’s 15,000 residents and businesses.

The Selectmen have held a number of workshop sessions and meetings to explain the need to join MWRA to supply the town’s water needs starting in 2019. In the town meeting warrant, voters will be asked to approve Article 18. To approve $1,125,000 in bonding necessary for the planning, design, permitting and other expenses necessary for the interconnection, through Reading, with the MWRA water supply system. The next article, 19, authorizes the Selectmen to approve the agreement necessary to join the MWRA district.

North Reading has been working for quite some time to join the MWRA district and that includes a collaborative agreement with Reading, already an MWRA member, and Selectmen have held several workshops and public hearings to publicize and explain the plan.

The switch to MWRA water will eliminate the town’s chronic water supply shortages/concerns and the buy-in cost would be $7.68 million with $9.9 million in capital expenditures. The MWRA water will be “wheeled” through 2.5 miles of upgraded pipes in Reading to a booster pump station in the vicinity of Mill Street in North Reading. The $7.68 million buy-in cost would be financed by the MWRA at 0 percent interest for the town.

Although the MWRA buy-in is the most important issue at this Town Meeting, it’s far from the only business that will come before the voters Monday night. There are, in fact, 38 articles to be decided before everyone gets to go home for the night.

As of April 22, the towns various important funds had these balances:

Free Cash, $838,000.

Stabilization Fund, $2 million.

Debt Capital Stabilization, $1.1 million,

Water Stabilization, $542,000.

Cell Tower Fund, $489,000.

Ambulance Reserve, $778,000.

OPEB Trust Fund, $275,000, for a total of available funds of $6.1 million

As the late-night pitchmen say on cable TV, “but wait, there’s more”:

Article 1. Amendments to the fiscal 2016 town budget, if necessary.

Article 2. Funding the fiscal 2016 snow and ice budget deficit. This will be a pass over, with no appropriation required, thanks to the unusually mild winter of 2015-16.

Article 3. Appropriate funds to the Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund used for capital purchases and debt service. The proposal is to add $467,000 from Free Cash.

Article 4. Transfer Funds to Water Stabilization, $54,787.

Article 5. Appropriate Money to the Stabilization Fund, Pass over.

Article 6. Transfer funds to Solid Waste Stabilization Fund, $30,000.

Article 7. Transfer funds to the Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) trust fund, $230,000. The money being transferred in are savings associated with the new health insurance plan that went into effect Jan. 1.

Articles 8-13 are routine and will be acted on quickly.

Article 14 is sponsored by the School Committee and seeks to name the Middle School corridor extending from “Main Street” to the school superintendent’s office in honor of Charles Jones, former teacher, principal and vice principal at the North Reading Middle School.

Article 15 seeks authorization to rescind borrowing authorized by previous town meetings and that’s good news for the taxpayer because it means the money is no longer needed because the projects came in under budget or were abandoned altogether: $10,761 for water department vehicles approved in June 2012 and $292,000 approved in 2015 for ambulance replacement.

Article 16 is a “housekeeping” article and pretty small potatoes at that: return $1,169 from Free Cash to the capital account which was inadvertently closed out.

Article 17 wants to apply $77,568 in funds that were never used to upgrades in the town’s water distribution system.

Article 20 is approval of the town’s fiscal 2017 Omnibus Operating Budget, including schools, general government, benefits, vocational school assessment and debt service, tipping the scales at a hefty $63.6 million. Selectmen say the budget is balanced and represents “level services.”

Article 21 is the budget for capital equipment purchases in fiscal 2017 for the various town departments and school department. The grand total: $887,041, including $198,830 for interior improvements to the fire station.

Article 23. The town is continuing its law suit against PMA Consultants, LLC and Dore and Whittier Architects Inc. concerning construction estimate cost overruns on the high school and middle school construction project. This article asks another $150,000 from Overlay Surplus to continue the legal expenses.

Article 24 will fund six specific projects for repairs to town buildings at a cost of $50,000. The projects are:

Address a longstanding problem with the elevator in the Flint Memorial Library by replacing the elevator’s CPU units, $20,000.

Repair the east side interior stairwell ceiling in the senior center, $4,000.

Install HVAC controls in town hall for energy efficiency, $5,000.

Replace six plexiglass windows and install tinting on windows in the town clerk’s office in town hall, $2,500.

Repair the slate roof and gutter on the east side of the Damon Tavern, $5,500.

Replace the west side exterior casements of top floor windows at the Flint Memorial Library, $13,000.

Article 25. Transfer $250,000 into the OPEB budget, representing 100 percent of the required deposits for new-hire employees.

Article 26 asks $50,000 for design work to build public restrooms at the Arthur J. Kenney Turf Field.

Article 27 asks $25,000 for studies of housing and transportation. The original request was for $40,000, but it was reduced by $15,000 because the town received a grant from the state.

Articles 28-36 are routine re-authorizations of various Revolving Funds and will be taken in a single motion.

Article 37 would allow the Community Planning Commission to use subdivision security funds for the town to complete subdivisions. This would apply to all subdivisions going forward but came about because of work that had to be undertaken on Charles Street.

Article 38 will either be passed over or defeated. It’s a citizen’s petition regarding traffic tickets submitted by an out-of-town resident who has since asked that the petition be “canceled,” according to Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto.

The town charter contains no language for a citizen’s petition to be canceled and the obvious alternative would be to pass over the proposal, but another viable option would be to bring up the article and then defeat it. Town Counsel has already said it’s unlikely to be approved by the Attorney General because the language is inconsistent with state law.