TEWKSBURY – On October 3, 2022, the Town of Tewksbury called its October Special Town Meeting at 7 p.m. at Tewksbury Memorial High School. Moderator Dustin Weir chaired over 200 constituents and department heads. The national anthem was sung by student Jillian Waugh.
Article 1 was adopted to update and fix the salaries of certain elected officials. At previous municipal meetings, several elected officials had expressed concern that the salary compensation was not adequate. The proposed change would increase the annual salary of select committee members to $5,000 ($6,000 for the chair); $2,500 for members of the school committee ($3,000 for the president); $2,500 for the planning committee ($3,000 for the chair), $1,000 for the moderator (instead of $450); and $2,500 for the Board of Health ($3,000 for the President).
Section 2 was passed to pay overdue invoices in the amount of $126,041.35. The unpaid bills cover things like the state‘s Department of Unemployed Assistance and water quality and control meters.
Section 3 was passed to collect and allocate $2,134,335 to FY23 departmental budgets, including DPW engineering and highway salaries, fire uniforms and professional services, police and the salaries of elected officials. The funds are available because state and local revenues will be higher than expected.
Section 4 was passed to transfer $2,600,250 from the general fund for one-time capital expenditures, including fuel storage upgrades, a prisoner transport van for the police department, a control vehicle of animals, carpeting on the second floor of the library and the DPW/school maintenance facility.
If the available money is not certified by the State Department of Revenue before the city meeting, the city will use the stabilization fund.
Item 5 was seeking to borrow $26,500,000 to fund the cost of design and engineering, construction and furnishing of the new DPW/school maintenance facility, an adaptive reuse project. City Manager Richard Montuori urged residents to support the project.
“The current installation is inefficient and dangerous. It is not ADA compliant and does not have a sprinkler system. The staff of this service work in deplorable conditions and in a dangerous environment. It’s time to think about them. We must move forward and wait no longer,” he said.
Montuori noted that a 2017 DPW renovation was offered at $11 million; now the cost is $28 million, although it is fully funded within the levy with no additional tax burden.
“This project will not move forward if the economic situation worsens,” he added.
Resident Bruce Panilaitis rose to support the article.
“We have already lost five years, we would have already finished at 25%. Doing nothing is not free. Last year we spent $1.5 million on DPW and fire vehicles. These vehicles will be outside if we don’t go ahead with the project… and spend more money on them than necessary if we don’t have the facilities to take care of them. It is not responsible for pushing the box further down the road. It is the financially responsible thing to do to support this project.
Some board members, Jayne Wellman and James Mackey, stressed the fiscal responsibility of the administration and the need to stand by the DPW’s first responders.
Resident Phyllis Giblin expressed concern about the perceived “lack of maintenance” of the city’s current buildings and asked if taxes would be raised to fund the project. Montuori explained that taxes would not specifically be increased to fund the project, and the city would not increase taxes beyond the allowed annual increase of 2.5%.
He added that the average tax bill would increase further due to home values rising by an average of $352, but explained that this increase covers the entire city budget, including services such as schools. , fire brigade, police and the DPW project.
“We’re not asking for an increase beyond that for this project specifically” through a debt overrun, he said.
The article passed 162 to 54.
Section 6 was intended to set aside money available from the general fund for the stabilization fund for future emergencies or one-time purchases or projects. Free cash was available because local revenue revenues exceeded forecasts, money was returned to surplus budgets, and state aid was higher than expected.
The body approved an amendment to insert the specific free monetary value of $4,336,635 into the article, which was adopted.
Section 7 was passed to allocate $25,000 from the Community Preservation Fund to purchase equipment to upgrade and improve the skateboard park at the Saunders Recreation Complex on Livingston Street.
Sections 8, 9 and 10 were enacted to allow for the regulation and zoning of retail marijuana establishments.