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Who Will Decide The Fate Of 12 North Main?


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The following is part of a transcript of the March 3, 2015 Westford Board of Selectmen meeting. Click here other parts of the meeting. You can watch a video of the full meeting at Westfordcat.org (approximate time code on video in parentheses.)


8:12 p.m. (0:42:00) – The agenda then went to a discussion on the March 28 Annual Town Meeting.

The first point on the agenda was flipping Article 7 and Article 8.

Article 8 relates to a new dispatch center. If Article 8 fails, it would impact the price of Article 7, relating to the proposed fire station on Boston Road.

Permanent Town Building Committee Chairman Tom Mahanna said the fire station on Boston Road would cost approximately $12.7 million with approximately $1 million for the combined dispatch center.

If the dispatch request fails, the fire station would cost just under $13.4 million due to 600 extra square feet needed for a fire-only dispatch.

Selectman Kelly Ross noted that it was slightly more expensive for the combined approach and asked why it should be pursued.

John Mangiaratti in early February
John Mangiaratti in early February

Fire Chief Joe Targ said it would be more efficient.

Kelly Ross noted a 911 experience he had where he was forwarded to someone else and asked if this would eliminate that. Targ said it was already eliminated.

Selectman Don Siriani asked if any new communications equipment would be needed for trucks. Targ said no.

Siriani said he had been to a regional call center recently and saw the benefit of a combined center.

Selectman Scott Hazelton said that a combined dispatch center would be a good thing.

Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost said that the Finance Committee recommended 8-0-1 and that the Fire Station was recommended 7-1-0, with the one due to location.

A motion to switch the articles was approved unanimously.

Motions to recommend both articles were approved unanimously.

8:23 p.m. (0:54:00) – Director of Land Use Planning Chris Kluchman updated the board on the Planning Board’s recommendation to remove Articles 26, 27 and 28 from the Town Meeting Warrant due to limited staff resources.

A motion to remove those articles was unanimously approved.

A motion to sign the warrant was approved unanimously.

Next was a request to add several uncontroversial Warrant Articles (2,5,15,17, 23, and 29) onto a consent agenda.

Town Moderator Ellen Harde explained them all. Article 29 will now be Article 26 due to the three articles just removed.

Harde noted if anyone has a concern with any of these articles, that an individual can take them off the consent agenda.

8:29 p.m. – (1:00:00) Article 3, supplemental appropriations for library expenses, snow and ice removal expenses and expenses for the Fire Department as well as $50,000 to supplement the Recreation Department after a wage adjustment was discussed.

It was unanimously recommended.

Article 4, a placeholder to pay for leaks at the Abbot School was discussed. There was no vote taken.

Article 5, funding for perchlorate expenses, was unanimously recommended.

Article 6, discussing Capital Appropriations, was unanimously recommended.

Article 10, regarding the transfer of 10 North Main St from the Tax Possession Sales Committee, was discussed.

The Finance Committee had not yet taken a recommendation vote, with Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost explaining why.

Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti explained this Article would…

–          Transfer the property

–          Authorize disposition of parcels as required

–          Appropriate funds for environmental insurance.

Once the property is foreclosed upon, it will go to the Tax Possession Sales Committee. This Article would request that the Selectmen oversee the property instead.

Kost reiterated that the Finance Committee wanted to understand why.

Kelly Ross asked Mangiaratti what the 12 North Main Street Task Force would recommend.

Mangiaratti said that the main purpose of this Article asks Town Meeting’s opinion on the property. The TPSC would not be required to go to Town Meeting.

Then Selectman Scott Hazelton’s phone buzzed.

Kost noted that the advantages of going to the TPSC.

Mangiaratti said that it’s ultimately the TPSC’s decision regardless of what Town Meeting says.

Paul Cully, of 4 Patriot Lane and the TPSC, said that this is a very odd motion.

He said that the three things would be better addressed individually.

The four parcels will go the TPSC, and the TPSC has to declare them surplus in order for them to go to the town at-large.

Cully said that there was a sense of confusion over this Article and that the TPSC would not just rubber stamp things.

He also noted a similar request on Article 31 over six other parcels across town.

Cully said that the third part was an excellent idea, but was risky due to the first two parts potentially jeopardizing the insurance money.

Town Manager Jodi Ross said to Cully that the TPSC doesn’t have to go to Town Meeting and wanted to clarify that the Selectmen wouldn’t have to go back either.

Cully said that the TPSC could declare the property surplus and the Selectmen could send the property to Town Meeting.

Kelly Ross said there has been a very open process regarding the property and any process involving money not including a grant or environmental bonds would have to go back to Town Meeting.

Cully and Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet discussed it further.

Selectman Scott Hazelton said it was good to have the Selectmen oversee the issue since they are elected and accountable to voters.

Harde said that voters could stipulate that the matter come before the Town Meeting again and that they could also divide the Article.

Selectman Don Siriani was grateful that there are safeguards and the important thing is the process. He noted that he knew very little about the TPSC along with other residents, but that more people know about the Selectmen.

He also noted that it is important to hear from people in town what happens to this place.  Over 50 people so far have been involved in discussions and that this Article will not be the final step in the process.

Peraner-Sweet moved to recommend Article 10. It was unanimously recommended.

8:51 p.m. (1:22:00) – Next was Article 11, regarding Community Preservation Committee funding recommendations.

Peraner-Sweet asked about sidewalk funding not being recommended, it was discovered that Community Preservation funds cannot be used for sidewalks, although sometimes communities sometimes try to get away with it.

The Article was recommended unanimously.

8:57 p.m. (1:29:00) Next was Article 12, regarding a deputy fire chief.  Fire Chief Joe Targ gave an overview of the Fire Department roster and how this would impact things.

The Article was approved unanimously.

Article 13, regarding authorizing revolving funds, was discussed.

Town Manager Jodi Ross discussed parts of the Article.

Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost added details.

The Article was approved unanimously.

9:01 p.m. (1:32:00) Next was Article 14, the town budget. The Finance Committee recommends it 8-0. Selectman Scott Hazelton thanked the Finance Committee.

The Article was unanimously recommended.

Article 18, creating a Disability Commission, was discussed.

Jennifer Williams, the person who wants to create the Commission, discussed its purpose.

No financial impact is expected.

Selectman Kelly Ross noted that it’s like the Pedestrian Safety Commission: it won’t cost anything, but their decisions may impact finances.

Moderator Ellen Harde noted that if under the bylaws no stipulations on how committees are appointed, then moderators make appointments.

Under state law, town managers make appointments.

Town Manager Jodi Ross said more information would be provided tomorrow.

The Article was approved unanimously.

9:06 p.m. (1:37:00) Article 21, would create a tuition fund for foreign exchange students. Budget Director Dan O’Donnell explained the article for School Department Budget Director Kathy Auth.

The Finance Committee voted 7-1 to approve. Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost said that the town rather than the schools should use the funding since there is no correlative tuition cost for exchange students.

The Article was recommended unanimously.

9:09 p.m. (1:40:00) Article 24, a citizen’s petition to promote and support affordable housing, was discussed. Paul Cully, the petitioner came forward.

Selectman Kelly Ross asked why this was needed on top of the Affordable Housing Committee.

Cully said that this would look at bylaws specifically.

Director of Land Use Planning Chris Kluchman said the Planning Board has not taken an opinion on this.

Last year, the Planning Board looked at planning revisions they plan to do, with Kluchman giving details.

She also noted that staff and Planning Board resources are stretched to their limit.

Cully said this was last attempted nine years ago, and that things have changed since then.

Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet asked about the makeup of the committee and asked if a town committee can name members of committees.

Moderator Ellen Harde said the Town Meeting can do this.

Affordable Housing Committee Co-Chairman/Affordable Housing Trust Chairman Rob Downing says he sympathizes with the intent, but thought it was impractical to enforce.

Due to pending discussion by the Affordable Housing Trust and the Planning Board, no action was taken by the Selectmen, with a deferral until March 24.


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