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23-article warrant faces Oct. 19 Special Town Meeting voters


TOWNSEND — Residents who choose to attend this year’s Special Town Meeting on Oct. 19 at Memorial Hall should be prepared to discuss, consider, and vote on a number of measures important to the town and listed as 23 separate warrant articles.

Among the issues to be discussed are spending articles, an updating of the bylaw that established a Capital Planning Committee, changes in the zoning bylaws, and an appropriation to maintain staffing at the town’s new public library.

Among the items to be considered by residents is an expansion of the wording in the town’s bylaw establishing a Capital Planning Committee, an action that, if approved, could have a great impact on how the town decides to spend ever-shrinking revenues on needed equipment and other expenses that lie outside its operating budget.

According to the proposed amendment, the new measure expands wording of the bylaw to encompass a charge giving the committee specific responsibility for reviewing all proposed capital improvements and of submitting an annual report to the Board of Selectmen containing a recommended capital budget not only for the upcoming year, but for the subsequent four years.

Capital items are to be defined as “future projects, programs, improvements, and acquisitions that have a useful life of five years and a cost of at least $10,000.”

In making their decisions regarding new spending, committee members are to take into account public safety, deterioration of public facilities, state and federal requirements, improvement of efficiency, replacement of aging equipment, and the protection and conservation of resources.

Residents will also be asked to support a measure authorizing selectmen to join other communities in the commonwealth in petitioning the Legislature to grant towns and cities the power to set insurance rates and coverage outside the collective-bargaining process.

The effort to change the state law requiring towns and cities to negotiate with labor unions in setting the percentage of insurance coverage each will pay began with the city of Lowell and quickly spread to other communities when state Sen. Steve Panagiotakos suggested that if enough cities and towns petitioned the Legislature, momentum could build to change the law.

Residents will also be asked to appropriate $38,044 to add to money already received by the town in fiscal 2010 as part of a legal settlement with the oil industry.

The suit against the oil companies charges the industry with being responsible for contamination of groundwater across the country claiming that the pollutant manufactured by oil companies and placed in their product was over time released into the atmosphere in the form of exhaust that eventually collected on the ground and seeped into drinking water.

Although no trace of the contaminant has been found in the Townsend area, it had been present in the past thus giving the town standing in the suit.

As a result, the town was awarded $454,000 as its share of the settlement and a decision made by selectmen earlier in the year to use it to pay off a bond raised for installation of a water main on Dudley Road.

Town Meeting will be asked to appropriate funds for:

* The purchase of new or replacement equipment for the town’s management information software and computers in the amount of $4,000.

* Grounds maintenance and increased utility costs.

* Expanded bus service for the elderly.

* The Veterans Benefit Account in the amount of $15,000.

* The Conservation Commission’s Land Fund to cover the cost of appraisal and purchase of open land.

* Matching funds of $4,238 to meet the town’s portion of a grant from FEMA for the Fire-EMS Department.

* A new heat pump and air-conditioning unit for the Fire-EMS Department in the amount of $8,000.

* A classification and compensation study of non-union personnel.

* A cost analysis of providing health care to retirees.

* The cost of additional staffing hours at the public library in the amount of $3,262.

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