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Tewksbury Voters Make Quick Work Of Special Town Meeting Warrant

Oct 09, 2015 05:04PM ● By Bill Gilman

Voters stand to be counted at the Special Town Meeting.

Short and to the point.
With few voices rising in opposition, Tewksbury voters needed just slightly more than 90 minutes to approve all 19 articles on a Special Town Meeting warrant, Oct. 6 at Tewksbury Memorial High School.
Voters approved spending items benefitting the Department of Public Works, School Department, Fire Department and Community Development. Voters also approved articles accepting Crystal Circle as a public way and placing an 18-acre parcel of land located off Bonnie Lane under the control of the Conservation Commission.
The latter article serves to strengthen the town's commitment to maintain that land as open space. Back in 2004, voters had placed a conservation restriction on the town-owned property after it was discovered to have two vernal pools and was serving as habitat to endangered wildlife.
The vote also serves to symbolically express the displeasure of residents with Kinder Morgan's plans to run the Tennessee Gas Pipeline through a section of Tewksbury. The most recent proposed route went through a portion of the protected land.
There was one major amendment approved on the floor. While voters debated an article that would have effectively removed the requirement that future Tewksbury Town Managers live within 10 miles of the town, resident Warren Carey proposed an amendment changing the language of the article to require Town Managers to live within 50 miles of Tewksbury.
"I don't want (the town manager) living in Maine or commuting by plane from his home in Wisconsin," said Carey, eliciting a few chuckles from the crowd. "I don't want him living down on the Cape."
Speaking on behalf of the Board of Selectmen, Chairman Todd Johnson said the board approved of the amendment. He also made a point of saying the proposed article was not written with current Town Manager Richard Montuori in mind. Montuori lives in Chelmsford, well within the 10 mile radius.
Carey's amendment and the amended article were both overwhelmingly approved.
Of the spending articles, which were paid for with higher than expected state aid and local revenue and certified free cash, the ones raising the most concerns among voters were those having to do with the school department. 
Between items included in Article 1 and Article 6, voters approved $786,706 in expenditures for the schools. These items included $70,000 for water boilers for the Wynn and Ryan Schools, $20,000 for Wynn School classroom presentation systems, $360,567 for school department health insurance costs, $200,000 for capital outlay and $102,532 for the operating budget.
Keith Anderson, a member of the Planning Board but speaking as a resident, felt it was inappropriate to have these expenditures put forward at a Special Town Meeting.
"I don't see a reason why these things are brought to a Special Town Meeting now when they should been included in the (Fiscal 2016) budget," he said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John O'Connor said a the time the budget was put together, there was not money available for these items, so they were put on the back burner.
"When this opportunity came forward with some (certified) free cash, we chose to bring these forward as a priority," said O'Connor.
In addition to the spending items, voters also approved using $202,125 in Community Preservation Funds to rehabilitate Strong Field, located adjacent to the high school on Pleasant Street. The field has been used as the home field for the TMHS baseball team and as a practice field fore lacrosse and field hockey. O'Connor promised that money would be included in future school department budgets for appropriate maintenance of the field.
Voters unanimously approved an article giving the town permission to borrow up to $5,000,000 for the capping of the Sutton Brook/Rocco's Dump landfill.
Montuori pointed out that the town won't be borrowing that money but that as part of the settlement agreement from 2009, the town needed approval from voters to potentially borrow it. Montuori explained that the town's portion of the cleanup costs is a little over $10 million and that the town has budgeted payments of roughly $347,000 a year through 2039, which makes borrowing unnecessary.

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