Additional $250K OK’d for road projects



LYNNFIELD — In just over three hours of spirited debate, Town Meeting disposed of 20 of the 24 warrant articles Monday night before being forced to adjourn due to a lack of a quorum.

The town’s proposed omnibus operating budget of $47,668,389 under Article 7 was approved with an additional infusion of $250,000 earmarked specifically for the DPW to conduct additional road repairs.

This change increased the town’s FY’16 operating budget to $47,918,389.

The omnibus budget includes $24,577,724 for the town’s four schools, an increase of $940,853 over last year’s budget of $23,636,871. Finance Committee member Jason Caggiano stated the increase in the School Department’s budget from FY’15 is 3.99 percent, not 4.16 percent as stated in the warrant. The mistake was simply “a calculation error,” he said.

Under Article 8, voters approved adding $10,000 to the town’s FY’16 capital budget, increasing the combined capital expenditures for all departments to $1,324,820.

The bottom line is voters approved a spending plan totaling $49,243,209 for FY’16 by approving Articles 7 and 8 as amended on the floor of Town Meeting.

Terranova’s DPW proposal succeeds

Selectman Tom Terranova successfully got Town Meeting to agree to transfer $250,000 from the town’s sale of real estate account for more roadway repairs. He initially requested $500,000, basing the figure on the deplorable condition of the town’s roads, exacerbated by “a horrific winter season.”

“Parts of our streets are just in shambles. My thought was to give our DPW Director, Mr. Lafferty, a significant inflow of funds so he can make a dramatic impact with the poor state of our roads,” Terranova said, adding, “We need to take charge of our roads and get some major repairs done as soon as possible.”

When Terranova made the proposal to create line item 73A in the DPW budget for this one-time purpose, he said he was acting as a town citizen, not a selectman.

He did, however, reference the pledge he made when running for his current seat on the board of “not increasing taxes.”

“Keeping to my pledge of not increasing taxes, I would suggest that these funds come from the sale of real estate account. We currently have a balance of $1,880,250. We could reduce that down to $1,380,250, thus not creating a tax increase for anybody in town,” Terranova said.

Harry Le Cours, 28 Partridge Ln., said he has been a “long-time advocate of improving the roads and sidewalks of this town.” But he offered an amendment to Terranova’s motion to reduce the extra funds requested to $250,000 as a more reasonable figure.

Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford said he agreed with the amendment offered by Le Cours as being “more appropriate.” Some funds in the sale of real estate account have been designated for other uses, such as renovations to the King Rail Golf Course and clubhouse. Crawford said he wanted to prevent the account from being drained “close to zero.” Doing so “will not give us any funds the following year for any other projects or for any unforeseen items that come up,” he said.

“We’ve added about $250,000 to $300,000 in the last three years to that budget item and we’re trying to get it up to the million dollar figure. This would put us well over that number,” said Crawford.

If the town could sustain a roadway repair program in the range of $1M to $1.5M on an annual basis it would “get our road renovation program back on course. Our 40-year project is currently around a 110-year schedule, so it is not quite working,” Crawford said.

“I’d be interested to know what is in the 40 percent increase and how much road repair from the last winter is going to be included in that?” asked Bob Gillon of 300 Main St.

Town Administrator Jim Boudreau said, “The total budget for this fiscal year for road repairs is $250,000, that’s a $130,000 increase over the current fiscal year from ‘15 to ‘16.”

FinCom Chairman Jack Dahlstedt further clarified the amount and various sources of the funds available for the DPW to use for road repairs. “Currently for the remainder of this fiscal year and all of next year, we have $911,257 to spend on roads,” Dahlstedt said.

This figure includes FY’15 Chap. 90 money of $205,000 and FY’16 funds from the state of $422,000 available July 1, both of which can roll over to the next fiscal year if untapped. It also includes $34,000 remaining in the FY’15 operating budget and $250,000 in the FY’16 operating budget, Dahlstedt said. Unexpended funds from the two town appropriations revert back to free cash at the end of each fiscal year.

Boudreau asked DPW Director Andrew Lafferty if he would be able to expend these extra funds prior to the end of FY’16 given what he already has available to him.

“Initially it would take some effort to ramp up and spend an additional $500,000,” Lafferty said, adding, “I wouldn’t foresee us being able to complete $500,000 in addition to our Chapter 90 and our existing operating budget. I believe half of that would get rolled into the following year’s construction season.”

Town Moderator Arthur Bourque commented, “This is the first time in my 50-year history of going to Town Meeting that I ever heard a town official say he doesn’t want the money!”

Lafferty said, “I didn’t say I didn’t want the money!”

FinCom member Tom Kennedy said it is not that the DPW would be incapable of completing the work but more of a question of timing and the ability to keep the contractors on site to complete this extended workload at a time when they will be in high demand for similar work throughout the state.

Katy Shea, 7 Daventry Ct., asked Lafferty if he could handle the additional $250,000 in his budget and how many more miles road could be repaired with those extra funds.

Lafferty said they could “absolutely” handle another $250,000 in their budget. He explained the dollar figure “does not equate to dollars per road mile because some are minor overlay projects while others need drainage and other improvements.” The more complex the repair, the more pre-engineering would need to be done, both in-house and using outside engineering services, he said.

At the end of the debate the voters approved the additional $250,000 which increases the DPW highway expense line item from $1,526,732 to $1,776,732.

Historical Com. gets extra $10K

Historical Commission Chairman Nan Hockenbury successfully lobbied for an additional $10,000 under the town’s capital budget to seed a long-overdue historical assets inventory as required by the Mass. Historical Commission.

She said the town’s last inventory was conducted in 1976. The inventory would assess buildings as well as sites and objects of historical significance in town. The data gathered would be incorporated into long-term planning for the protection of such assets over the next 25 to 75 years, she said.

Initially her request was turned down. Bob Miller, 21 Fernway, said he did not disagree with the need for Hockenbury’s amendment but he believed it was not “appropriate” to have a request for a professional service included in a capital budget.

Bourque agreed with Miller and said that Hockenbury’s motion was out of order.

Hockenbury was surprised by this interpretation because she was advised by the FinCom to make this request at Town Meeting after the HC’s initial request was not retained in the final budget recommendations from the selectmen and town administrator.

FinCom Chairman Jack Dahlstedt then questioned how a $15,000 septic engineering study for the library, which was included in the FY’16 recommended capital budget, met those qualifications if Hockenbury’s request did not. Town Counsel Tom Mullen said when that septic study is completed it would aid a future capital expenditure and thus qualified as a capital expense.

Bourque then asked Hockenbury if the historical asset study “would aid in the placement of the historical markers,” a reference to the $3,500 capital expense item included in the proposed FY’16 capital budget for the Historical Commission.

Hockenbury said that it would indeed help while also creating a tangible document for the town. The voters approved increasing the capital budget by $10,000 for this HC asset study, which created a new total of $1,324,820.