Town Meeting concluded its business on May 2 considering eight final articles, including five instructional motions. Article 16, authorizing $4 million of debt for building security, was removed from the table. Town Manager Robert LeLacheur and Superintendent of Schools John Doherty reminded the members of the timeline and process of the project up to this point. Doherty highlighted policy changes such as the distribution of keys and open/closed door policies that have already been implemented. After concerns were expressed on Monday night about lack of oversight and citizen participation in the process, Select Board chair Vanessa Alvarado met with LeLacheur and others on Tuesday. She shared with Town Meeting that she was now convinced that oversight and information sharing will be appropriate. After continued discussion, the article passed 135-11.
By a vote of 138-1, Town Meeting passed Article 17 which authorized $4.89 million in debt paid through the water enterprise fund over fifteen years to replace the Auburn Street water tower. The new water tower will be built on the same site, have the same capacity, 750,000 gallons, and be 110 feet tall. It will be made of a new glass-fused steel composite that requires minimal maintenance and is expected to last well over 40 years. The price compares favorably to the $6.5 million it would cost over the 40 years to maintain the current tank. The article passed 138-1.
Articles 18 and 19 both passed unanimously. Article 18 authorized $1 million in debt, paid from the water enterprise fund, to do water main improvements in the Grove Street area. Article 19 accepted Chapter 90 funds from the state, earmarked for road improvements. LeLacheur informed the members that the amount of Chapter 90 funds usually is around $600,000.
Bylaw Committee chair Jeff Struble presented Article 24, which sought to amend the bylaws to remove gender-specific language. Struble described the process, which included all four of the Bylaw Committee members reviewing sections of the bylaw and offering suggested changes. These changes were then reviewed by town counsel to ensure that contextual meanings of the bylaws were not affected. Struble shared that most changes to the bylaws were items such as changing “chairman” to “chair.” He also gave the example of replacing “manhole cover” with “utility access cover” and “man-made” with “artificial.” Town Meeting voted in favor of the article by a hand vote.
Article 25 suggested a few bylaw changes, mostly spelling mistakes, that were discovered in the process of the review of gender-specific language. It also passed with a hand vote. Article 26 passed with a hand vote, removing members who have missed greater than fifty percent of town meeting’s sessions in the last year. Town Clerk Laura Gemme shared that 120 members have had perfect attendance in the past year.
Town Meeting also considered five instructional motions. It passed a motion to include the school department needs in determining the use of newly acquired land on Haverhill Street. A motion to direct the elected boards to develop a new building security team which included community members failed to pass. Town Meeting adopted a third instructional motion to direct the Finance Committee to develop a policy regarding the authorized debt that has not been used. Another instructional motion asking for a warrant article in November Town Meeting rescinding or utilizing the already-authorized debt for Birch Meadow lighting also passed by a hand vote. Finally, an instructional motion to begin to amend the process for removing town meeting members failed to pass.
Town Meeting adjourned sine die at 11:10 pm.