Town Meeting Monday night

Oct 11, 2018 by

Published in the October 11, 2018 edition

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — We have good news … and some not so good news.

The good news, of course, is the Boston Red Sox defeated the Yankees 4-3 to take the divisional series three games to one and will now host the Houston Astros Monday night, October 15 at Fenway Park in the American League Division Series.

The bad news? Game time is 8:09 p.m. That gives the town’s voters exactly 69 minutes to make some short work of the October Town Meeting warrant!

Is it possible? Of course!

Is it likely? Well, that’s anyone’s guess and ultimately up to the mood of the voters.

Regional pride and civic duty; both can be accommodated. Fortunately, this is much easier to do when there are not many controversial items to consider on the warrant.

Meeting prior to OTM

The Select Board will hold a meeting before Town Meeting at 6 p.m. in the principal’s conference room at NRHS to vote its recommendations on nine of the 22 warrant articles. It is possible that the first 15 minutes of this session will be needed for an executive session. If so, the remainder will be conducted in an open session.

Moderator John Murphy will gavel the Town Meeting to order at 7 p.m. in the Daniel H. Shay Performing Arts Center at North Reading High School. The electronic sign-in process should continue to make it easier for voters to check in faster, and those voters who need handicap accessibility should park at the main entrance to the school where additional temporary HP spaces will be available. Other voters should access the building from the gym side entrance off the rear lot.

All residents were mailed a Town Meeting warrant a couple of weeks ago and voters should bring their copy with them to the meeting. Extra copies will be available at the meeting.

Remaining articles:

All 22 articles were discussed at the October 1 informational hearings at the Select Board meeting. The remaining nine articles awaiting a recommendation from the members of the Select Board are as follows:

Article 2: Prior Year Bills: As of Oct. 1 no outstanding bills remained unpaid; that could change.

Article 4: Appropriate Money to Stabilization Fund (re-vote): This is the town’s “rainy day fund” which had a fund balance of $2,281,819 as of Oct. 1. At that time the town’s finance division was evaluating the potential transfer amount into this fund, which would be done from Free Cash.

Article 5: Transfer Funds to Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) Liability Trust Fund. As of Oct. 1, this fund had a balance of $1,468,181. Its purpose is to allow the fund to be used to reduce the annual appropriation for health insurance for retired employees in future years. Since transfers into this fund have historically been made at the annual Town Meeting in June, in accordance with the town’s revenue and expense plan, the town’s s Finance Department does not recommend making a transfer in October. It is anticipated that the Select Board will recommend to vote to pass over this article.

Article 10: Appropriate Funds for Survey, Engineering Design and/or Construction of a Portion of Swan Pond Road.

According to Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto, the town continues to make progress in regard to obtaining the sign-offs necessary from the affected residents to indemnify the town to enter their property in order to conduct the land survey necessary to ascertain what infrastructure would be needed and costs anticipated to upgrade this private gravel road to a paved surface. That being said, the town has not received all of the permissions it needs to date and it appears that the board may recommended passing over this article until June of 2019.

Article 13: Appropriate Funds for Planning and Design of Wastewater Collection Systems (re-vote). A request for $200,000 is being made to enable the town to continue in the next step necessary in the evaluation of the wastewater permitting process to Lawrence via Andover, to be done in conjunction with the town’s water permitting process with Andover. These funds would be used to “further evaluate the Andover/Lawrence/North Andover wastewater collection system and evaluation of phasing of North Reading construction.”

Article 18: Fund Feasibility Study for Pedestrian/Bicycle Pathway: A request for $55,000 is being made to authorize the funding of this feasibility study for a path mainly along Rte. 62 and the abandoned railroad bed that runs along Ipswich River Park, with a goal of connecting to Lynnfield and points beyond. It had been passed over in June.

Article 20: Amend Code – General Bylaws – Chapter 158-9 Snow Removal on Streets and Sidewalks. This article is the connected to Article 21 (see below), the citizens’ petition put forth by members of the business community to delete or repeal it.

In part, this general bylaw requires the “tenant/occupant/owner of non-residential property to remove snow from sidewalks 24 hours after snow ceases to fall.” Also required under the bylaw is a provision that such property owners/custodians also “prevent snow and ice from sliding off a roof onto a street or sidewalk” on nonresidential properties located within 15 feet of the street or sidewalk, and it also prohibits snow and ice from being put back into a street or onto a sidewalk that has already been “cleared or plowed for travel.”

Police Chief Michael Murphy has reported to the town that compliance with the bylaw had impoved to 95% last winter. Those who do not comply are subject to fines. To date, the town has not proposed a specific amendment to the bylaw.

At the public information session it was pointed out by the board members that repealing or deleting this general bylaw in its entirety would remove the benefits to the community of the last two bylaw provisions as well.

Article 21: Citizens’ Petition: Delete or Repeal General Bylaw Chapter 158-9 – Snow Removal on Streets and Sidewalks. A core group of businessmen and businesswomen on Route 28 favor this petition due to the expense involved in fully complying with its provisions and the unpredictability of the snow removal schedule by MassDOT on Rte. 28, which is a state highway, and the patchwork quilt of sidewalks along the state highway.

Those who oppose continuing to have this bylaw on the town books have cited the risks and liability involved if they attempt to remove snow from the sideway or the paths used by pedestrians in winter where no sidewalks exist — on land that is own by the state — and a slip and fall results.

Other arguments raised against keeping the bylaw on the books is the fact that beyond many of their property lines the sidewalk may abruptly end which forces pedestrians into Rte. 28; or when they pay to remove the snow only to have the state plow them in again and still be subject to fines. One business owner stated she had spent $3,000 last winter to comply with this bylaw.

Many business owners would like to reach a compromise in which the town uses its equipment and manpower to plow the sidewalks and perhaps reallocate some manpower from other areas of town where sidewalks are not in high traffic areas.

 But the DPW has maintained that it does not have the manpower on staff to add this task to their snow removal routine and they have been unsuccessful in attracting enough private contractors to do the work, even after increasing the rate of reimbursement.

One resident, Meg Robertson, attended the public informational session to speak in favor of keeping the bylaw in place to enable those who live near or on Rte. 28 to walk to the stores and other destinations safely year-round.

Article 22: Citizens’ Petition: Change Bonpel Drive to Brian’s Way. This is a three-lot subdivision on a cul-de-sac and the petitioners are seeking to rename the street in memory of their 6 1/2 year-old grandson who died in a car accident.

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