Published in the October 13, 2016 edition
By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING — With only 13 articles on the warrant to be decided when Town Meeting convenes next Monday night, it’s shaping up to be an early night for the voters who turn up at the High School’s Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. And with many of those 13 articles strictly routine, it’s an even bet those voters will be home in time to see Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, whether or not the Red Sox are still in it.
There will be a plan in place to accommodate senior citizens and those with disabilities who want to attend the town meeting. There will be some additional temporary handicapped parking spaces designated near the front entrance to the high school. From the high school’s front entrance it’s a much shorter walk to the Performing Arts Center than from the gymnasium entrance, where most of the voters will enter.
Of the 13 articles, a few are of special note.
• Article 7 would eliminate Civil Service as the hiring process for police department new hires and promotions. Approval of the article would allow the town to conduct its own hiring, promotional and disciplinary appeals without being subject to the intervention of the state Civil Service Commission.
If approved by Town Meeting, the Legislature must approve a home rule petition allowing the town to withdraw from Civil Service (which North Reading adopted in 1960) and the bill must be signed into law by the governor.
- Article 9 would appropriate funds for the construction of bathroom facilities at the Arthur Kenney Turf Field. At this point it is not known how much such facilities would cost or which of three potential layouts will be selected. A joint meeting was scheduled last night in town hall between the Selectmen, School and Finance Committees to hear a presentation from the project designer. It’s entirely possible the article will be passed over until June.
- Article 12 is a zoning amendment proposed by the Community Planning Commission that makes various zoning changes in the Highway Business District, (Route 28) to help remove obstacles to development and make it feel like more of a “main street” or a downtown rather than a highway. Initially, a big part of this proposal was to allow residential development as part of mixed–use development. That’s been dropped and may be brought back to Town Meeting in June.
Other articles to come before the voters on Oct. 17 are:
Article 1: 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.
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: Financial amendments to the fiscal 2017 operating budget. The most recent accounting puts the total number at $366,273.
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 would appropriate additional funds for legal expenses. At this point, it’s expected the article will be passed over.
Article 10. The CPC is seeking $50,000 to create a conceptual plan and implementation study for the redevelopment of underutilized properties on Main Street near the intersection of Route 62, (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.
Article 11. Fund repairs to town buildings, $50,000 from Free Cash for miscellaneous building repairs.
Article 13. Another zoning amendment sponsored by the CPC to make changes to the off street zoning and loading for the Highway Business District to add a provision of four parking spaces for medical offices.