WESTFORD — After a near three-year hiatus from the pandemic, Westford’s Strategic Planning Retreat returned to Kimball Farm to showcase a number of upcoming projects, including a proposed town center building and the J.V. Fletcher Library expansion.
51 Main St.
A proposed town center building would replace a fire station located adjacent to town hall and the Westford Police Department.
Discussions on the project began in 2015, and have since evolved to include clean energy and sustainability guidelines in its current proposal.
The new building is slated to provide a number of new meeting spaces to boards and committees, as well as add additional office space for town departments. The building would retain additional space for future needs.
After over decades of planning, the J.V. Fletcher Library expansion project is nearing the finish line for its final approval.
The project is slated to more than double to children’s room and public meeting spaces, improve parking and technology offerings and will be code-compliant and accessible.
“Compared to other libraries, it [the children’s room] is so small and [an upgrade] is so overdue,” said J.V. Fletcher Library Board of Trustees Chair Marianne Fleckner told WestfordCAT.
Director Ellen Rainville noted that the new, three-story plan is aimed to give the public additional space within the public library.
“There will be more collaborative and community space. We’re looking for a place that’s welcoming, that’s much larger and a much more versatile building to be able to handle whatever library and service trends come up in the future,” Rainville told WestfordCAT.
She continued, “what we see in the future is that personal use is going to be as important as managing and stacking and organizing the books that they want.”
Rainville and Fleckner both noted that if the project is not approved at Special Town Meeting and the Nov. 8 town ballot, the library may have to wait an additional 20 to 30 years to receive a new grant.
If the project is approved at both Special Town Meeting and on the town ballot, Rainville and Fleckner estimate the project will begin between 2023 and 2025. View the PowerPoint here.
Impact on current tax rate
If approved, the 51 Main St. project as well as the J.V. Fletcher Library expansion project will allow the town to maintain a similar tax rate for homeowners.
According to Westford’s Budget Policy Direction, approved by both the Select Board and Finance Committee, the town should seek to have seven to 10% of the operating budget in debt service as it demonstrates “sound management practices” and a “commitment to maintaining” the town’s infrastructure.
Currently, the town’s debt service is 6.76%. With the highway garage, Miller, Crisafulli and Stony Brook School projects paid off, the town’s debt service is projected to be reduced to 4.75% unless new debt is authorized.
“We feel the time to take on new debt is when debt is paid because it avoids dips and spikes in the tax rate,” said Town Manager Jodi Ross in an Aug. 8 Select Board meeting.
According to current projections by Finance Director Daniel O’Donnell the current tax rate is projected to remain at or below the fiscal year 2022 rate of $301.80 for a median assessed home of $551,000 should both projects receive final approval.
With the help of American Rescue Plan Act funding, the Town of Westford has hired a new Community Wellness Coordinator – a new position to coordinate the town’s mental health resources.
Nicole Laviolette was hired as Westford’s new Community Health and Wellness Coordinator in June.
One of her main goals, she says, is to increase communication to residents. She notes that her first step has been to create a web-based resource where residents would have access to services and emergency resources.
“Westford has an amazing abundance of people wanting to support one another. I think it’s just tapping into that and streamlining communication,” she told WestfordCAT.
Laviolette has worked to create a new Community Wellness page on the town’s website to coordinate resources for residents in need.
Under a $94,902 Efficiency and Regionalization grant awarded by the state, both Westford and Carlisle now share their first Sustainability Coordinator – Sue Thomas.
Thomas has previously served on Westford’s Recycling Commission and currently serves on the town’s Clean Energy and Sustainability Committee.
A primary goal of Thomas is to educate residents on ‘zero waste,’ where residents reduce the amount of recycling and waste they dispose of. Thomas says reducing waste will ultimately save the town a money.
“The solid waste issue is that we are paying per ton to dispose of our trash,” she said. “We’re also paying the fee for hauling to pick up that trash. It does cost a good sum of money to do that.”
She also aims to help to town implement its climate roadmap, where the town will cut emissions to net zero by 2050.
“My job is to help you implement the climate roadmap. I hope to be the face and voice of sustainability in town,” she said.
She continued, “our goal is not to continue to live but to live well. To me, it means to have access to nutritious, delicious local food, clean air, clean water, housing that is comfortable and safe set in a natural biodiverse landscape.”
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