TOWNSEND — At 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 28, the polls will open at Townsend Memorial Hall.
Selectmen last night approved the single ballot question on whether or not to fund a Proposition 2 1/2 override totaling $417,728. The money will fund the newly approved North Middlesex Regional School District. After the meeting, Selectmen took a tour of the Hart Library, next to Memorial Hall.
In order to cover Townsend’s assessment for the $44,837,082 budget, it is necessary to use funding from outside the tax levy.
The above amount for the ballot must also be approved by Town Meeting and selectmen set Wednesday, Aug. 15, as the date for that. That meeting will feature one warrant article and be held at 7 p.m. at Memorial Hall.
To fully fund the NMRSD, overrides will need to pass in at least two communities in the district, which also includes Ashby and Pepperell. All three towns will be holding votes the same day.
Town Administrator Andy Sheehan said the override will raise taxes by $51 per every $100,000 in property taxes. Taxes on an average single family home in town will increase $120, he added.
Although polls won’t open until 8 a.m., Selectman Sue Lisio said absentee ballots are available up until Aug. 27 at noon, and voters who may not make it to polls are encouraged to pick one up at the Town Clerk’s Office.
The newly certified budget is $1,994,291 less than the previously approved, socalled “needs” budget for which override funding failed June 21.
Cuts were made to a level-services budget to come up with the total when the School Committee cut funding from utilities, paraprofessionals and unemployment line items to bring the bottom line down. Excess-and-deficiency moneys in the amount of $200,000 were used to further reduce assessments.
District administrators said the budget will “enable the school district to continue to provide students with access to the same programs and services they enjoyed during the school year that just ended” in a message to school parents.
The next meeting of the NMRSD committee is on Aug. 6, when they will be looking at adjusting staff patterns and possible increases to athletic fees will be discussed.
After the meeting had adjourned, Sheehan brought selectmen over to the vacant Hart Library building. Last Monday was the deadline for a request for proposals on the building, Sheehan said. There were no responses.
“There has been some interest over the last couple years, but nothing substantial,” he said.
Built around 1928, the building is at 276 Main St. and has been vacant since the new library, built by Sterilite Corp., opened in October 2009. Electricity is hooked up, but no water or heating services are in the building, Sheehan said, adding that any developer would have to invest some work into it.
“In any building, deterioration accelerates when it is not being used,” Sheehan said.
The Hart is noticeably musty, featuring a checkered floor upstairs and carpeting down stairs. Oaken book shelves are still stored there, as are reference desks and an antique card catalog. Sitting on a half-acre of land, the building totals 4,635 square feet of space and features a basement and four bathrooms.
Selectmen decided to include discussions around uses for the building at their next meeting, an effort that Lisio said may court developers into getting curious about it.
“I envision something like Faneuil Hall,” she said, a market/meeting place for artisans and others.
Selectmen Clerk Robert Plamondon said the old-style architecture should remain intact, saying the fireplace, high ceilings, decadent chandeliers and ironwork railings lend themselves to the historical character of the area.
“This is a gift. I think it should maintain the rustic feel,” Plamondon said. “What’s the vision?
“We should find that first and then see if there are demands for something like housing or a food establishment.”
Repurposed barns, mills and factory buildings have been springing up around the state, Lisio said, and reaching out to “entrepreneurial visionaries” would be to the building’s benefit.
“We need to invite someone to help us dream — no design plans, but just envisioning,” she said.
Sheehan said there are people from the area, but any consultation services may come at a cost.