Town Meeting Monday night

Oct 3, 2019 by

Published October 3, 2019

Updated from the print edition October 4, 2019

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — It’s time for the annual rites of autumn: apple picking, foliage peeking, cooler temperatures, and everyone’s favorite, October Town Meeting.

The gavel will drop at 7 p.m. when the meeting is called to order by Town Moderator John Murphy on Monday, October 7 at the Daniel H. Shay Performing Arts Center at NRHS. Additional parking for those needing easier accessibility to the PAC will be provided at the main entrance to the High School. Those who could use the extra steps on their fitness trackers should park in the rear lot and enter through the gymnasium doors.

The warrant is short with just 14 articles, which bodes well for finishing the town’s business in one evening.

Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto told the Select Board at Monday night’s informational hearing that the town’s Free Cash is awaiting certification by the Mass. Department of Revenue, but he does not foresee a problem with getting the most up to date figure available before Town Meeting. The Select Board always meets prior to Town Meeting to weigh in on any last minute details. This meeting will be held in the principal’s conference room at NRHS and typically is posted to begin at 6 p.m. The agenda will be posted 48 hours in advance per the Open Meeting Law.

Other available fund balances as of Sept. 30 were (rounded numbers): Stabilization Fund: $2,990,846; Cell Tower Fund: $565,214; Ambulance Fund: $1,203,186; Debt Capital Stabilization: $885,081; Water Infrastructure Stabilization: $2,446,940; Water Retained Earnings: also awaiting DOR certification; Solid Waste Stabilization: $170,131; and OPEB Trust: $1,844,317.

The most pertinent warrant articles include the following:

Article 3 — A recommendation to transfer $200,000 into the Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund from certified Free Cash.

Articles 4 and 5— Voters will be requested to pass over both articles as no fund transfers will be made. Article 4 is the Stabilization Fund and Article 5 is the Other Post Employment Liability Trust Fund (OPEB). Transfers are typically made at June Town Meeting.

Article 6 — Appropriate money to Participating Funding Arrangement: A sum of $301,557.52 will be requested from Free Cash reflecting the town’s portion of remaining funds from the FY20 employee health insurance program. This is a reserve account that pays the town’s portion of future health insurance costs and helps stabilize year to year increases in the cost of insuring employees.

Article 7 — A request to amend the FY20 Operating Budget with a transfer of $125,000 from Free Cash to Line 7 to fund Town Counsel legal expenses is being recommended by the Select Board to fund the town’s safe harbor declaration of the Ch. 40B 200-unit apartment complex at 20 Elm St. currently before the Zoning Board of Appeals. The proposal by NY Ventures would add 50 units to the town’s subsidized housing inventory (SHI) if approved as proposed while all 200 units would count toward the SHI. A total of 25% would be rented to tenants below market rates and 75% would be rented to tenants at market rate.

Article 9— Appropriate money for Special Counsel Legal Expenses: This article pertains to the town’s ongoing legal action related to the Secondary School Building Project. A request for $250,000 from Free Cash is being made to bring the case through its trial. According to Gilleberto, the town has expended $1,140,000 to date and has about $220,700 remaining in the fund from prior transfers. This action began in the fall of 2015 with legal action against both PMA Consultants and architects Dore and Whittier.

Article 10 — Appropriate funds for Survey, Engineering Design and/or construction of about 2,700 linear feet of Swan Pond Road. After a 90-minute discussion Monday night, the four members present remained at a stalemate with regard to how to proceed. The result of the $10,000 feasibility study funded by June 2018 Town Meeting revealed that the estimated cost would be $315,000 with a $35,000 contingency for a total of $350,000. Costs would be shared between the town and the residents of this private road which is currently maintained by the town with a hard packed gravel reapplied several times per year and it is also plowed by the town, as are all of the town’s five-plus miles of gravel/dirt roads for public safety access.

Additional funds are needed for the town engineer and DPW director to get more accurate surveying of property lines as the current bird’s eye view provided by in-house GIS mapping pegs portions of the road as being in the water. Since Swan Pond serves as a drinking water reservoir for the town of Danvers, accessed through Middleton Pond, Mass DEP has required a more stringent storm water runoff system to be installed. Several structures will need to be sited and when possible put on town-owned land, as anywhere from 25% to 50% of the land may be town-owned. T.E. John Klipfel told the Select Board that the site topography will determine the best locations for the storm water systems, not whether a parcel is town-owned or privately owned.

There are 23 separate parcels, with some residents owning more than one parcel, and about 19 separate owners. In the middle of the road layout one landowner who owns two parcels does not wish to participate in the cost sharing and has not yet signed off on the agreement to have the land paved. Other proponents of the project in the neighborhood are willing to cover this owner’s share of the cost — once the cost is known — and in the event the land owner chooses not to allow approximately 80 feet of the road to be paved through his lot the other proponents are hoping that the town would be willing to end the pavement and then pick it up again on the other side to enable the bulk of the 2,700 feet to be paved.

Another issue is the fact that the homeowners would each have to fully fund their share up front. If the cost comes below the estimate they would get a refund; if it goes over they would need to cover the difference (hence the contingency estimate). For a multitude of reasons the roadway will never be an accepted street and this is not a traditional “betterment.”

Select Board member Rich Wallner asked the DPW to come up with an estimate of the cost savings to the town if the gravel does not have to be replaced several times per year. The recommendation by the board will be made at Town Meeting.

Article 11 — Appropriate Money for Intergenerational Center Design: this article will likely be passed over as the $10M bond bill from 2018 will not be affected if it is passed over. The town is currently involved in developing its Facilities Master Plan, which should be completed in the spring of 2020, and two weeks ago the town completed its 10-year Master Plan (2018-2028). Having both documents completed may shed more light on the town’s options for siting a center which is currently designed for Ipswich River Park (where they old DPW barn is located) but other sites have also been discussed, such as closer to the Rte 28/62 corridor.

Article 12: Acquire land for improvements to Concord Street, Fordham Road and Riverpark intersection, with pedestrian walk lights to get employees from Riverpark safely across the street to a Cummings property and a Dunkin’ Donuts. Teradyne already hired a firm to do the traffic study and design, and the construction would also be paid by the private companies with land conveyed to the town that is currently private at no cost to the town.

Article 13 — Acquisition and Disposal of former industrial property at 70 Concord St.: The property has been vacant for 30 years following a hazardous materials spill in 1989. It had been in use from 1966 to 1989 by a variety of industrial tenants before being abandoned. Property taxes and interest owed to the town exceeds $500,000 according to T.A. Gilleberto. The town’s Economic Development Committee has been working with the Mass. Dept. of Environmental Protection (DEP) to move this site. Mass DEP had monitored it for years but eventually abandoned it too. The plumes of hazardous materials related to the 1989 spill have seeped into the groundwater and the bedrock.

Correction re: Article 13: Based on information provided by the town, an earlier version of this story published online and in print incorrectly included the adjacent properties at 5 and 6 Hallberg Park and town-owned parcels adjacent to the Ipswich River as being part of the requested acquisition and disposal process. These properties are down-gradient from 70 Concord St. and were therefore impacted by the 1989 chemical release from the now-abandoned Sterling Supply Co. The Mass DEP installed monitoring wells on these properties years ago due to what had occurred at 70 Concord St. Today, 5 and 6 Hallberg Park remain the site of an active business.

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