HARVARD — Selectmen on Tuesday night decided how to divide up the articles they would present at the upcoming Annual Town Meeting, set to start at 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 28 in the Bromfield School gym, with 50 items on the warrant.
As for articles they would support, the board decided that besides selectmen-sponsored items on the warrant, they’d play it by ear. If asked where they stand on a particular article, they can caucus to come to a consensus then and there, Ron Ricci suggested.
Article 1 seeks acceptance of town board’s annual reports.
Article 2 would close out “previously approved debt service” by rescinding “unused borrowings” Town Meeting previously authorized totaling $102,519 for a new fire truck and reconstruction and repair of a section of Littleton County Road, respectively.
Article 3, inserted by the CPC, seeks to extend the “sunset date” for restoring the Bromfield Stone Wall, to be paid for with Community Preservation Act funding.
Article 4, a BOS insertion, seeks to extend by one year the “sunset date” on its ongoing file conversion project from June 2015 to June, 2016.
Article 5 is the Omnibus Budget, which totals 22,677,200, a 3.25 percent increase over last year. More than half that amount is for the schools. The total for the Harvard Public School District is $12,274,605, which is 2.12 percent more than last year and the Monty Tech assessment accounts for the rest, with a grand total of $12,4 million.
The Finance Committee recommends a favorable vote on the budget and for other money articles on the warrant.
Article 6, which FinCom also favors, seeks to bankroll $350,000 in the Reserve Fund, with half the amount set aside for emergency needs and the other half to cover possible overages in special education costs.
FinCom controls the Reserve Fund, the purpose of which is to cover extraordinary, unforeseen expenses.
Article 7 seeks $10,000 for the DPW management audit.
Article 8 seeks $3,000 to outfit a new Police Department employee.
Article 9 seeks $20,000 for roadside tree maintenance. As DPW Director Rich Nota has explained, the money will be used to hire a professional contractor to trim trees and large brush along the roadsides that are too large big or too far off the road to have been mowed by town equipment on its regular rounds each year.
Article 10, inserted by the Planning Board, seeks $60,000 to pay the Town Planner. Hired as an independent contractor to perform planning tasks for the board and to provide other assistance, the position would be funded for another year if the motion passes.
Article 11 seeks to upgrade the Water System data collection system, or SCADA, with the project to be supervised by the DPW Director.
Article 12, requested by the Council on Aging, seeks $20,000 to hire another part-time outreach worker. In future years, the item would be funded from the COA budget.
Article 13 seeks $15,000 to buy municipal permitting software.
Article 14 seeks $40,000 to bank in the Capital Stabilization and Investment Fund for future capital projects and purchases.
Article 15 seeks a transfer of $161,889 from the Capital S&I fund for related debt service.
Article 16 seeks $85,000 to upgrade police radios, including purchasing and installing new ultra-high frequency portable, mobile and console radios and a new repeater and antenna.
Article 17, requested by the Parks and Recreation Commission, seeks $18,000 to replace a wooden section of the town dock at the Bare Hill Pond beach.
Article 18, inserted by the BOS and CPIC at the request of the DPW director, seeks $175,000 for a new heavy-duty dump truck.
Article 19 seeks $19,000 to buy a new fuel depot dispensing system for the DPW.
Articles 20, 21 and 23 seek various amounts of money for school projects: $30,000 to renovate and repair bathrooms at Hildreth Elementary School, $100,000 for a new School Dept. “VOIP” phone system and $130,000 to install a new ventilation system in the Bromfield School science labs. All of the funds would come from the Capital S&I account and have been vetted by the CPIC.
The science lab air exchange system, however, would only be partially paid for with CPIC funds. An additional $185,000 would be funded via a “Capital Outlay Expenditure Exclusion (Proposition 2 and a half override) that also requires passage of a ballot question and voter approval at the polls.
Article 24 seeks $350,000 for a new Fire Dept. pumper truck, another ballot question and contingent on subsequent passage of a Proposition 2 ? Debt Exclusion tax override.
Article 26 calls for Town Meeting to “hear” the Community Preservation Committee (CPIC) report. CPIC oversees funds in the CPA account, funded by a voluntary tax surcharge and recommends projects to receive funding under a specific set of guidelines.
CPA Fund Transfers (articles 27-31)
Article 27 seeks to transfer $26,100 from CPA funds to a tandem CPF Historic Reserves account set aside for historic preservation projects.
Article 28 seeks to transfer $26,100 from CPA funds to the Harvard Municipal Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Article 29 seeks to transfer $26,100 in CPA funds to a Conservation Commission fund for invasive plant management on town conservation land.
Article 30 seeks to transfer $75,000 in CPA funds to Park & Rec for the construction of a cross-country trail leading from the Harvard Park playground.
Article 31 seeks $2,500 for CPC administrative expenses.
Article 32 seeks to continue four existing Revolving Funds accounts – COA, Fourth of July Committee, Ambulance Service and the Fire Dept. S.A.F.E. program – with maximum balances specified for each one.
Article 33 seeks to establish a new Revolving Fund Account to fund the town’s application process. Using income from application fees, the money would be used to pay for advertising, professional or legal services and other related activities. The maximum balance would be $1,000.
Article 34 seeks to establish a Tax Title revolving fund.
Article 35 seeks to establish a separate revenue account to receive agreed-upon funding from the town’s Cable TV provider – Charter now, perhaps ComCast in the future – to provide Cable Access as part of the company’s contract with the town.
Article 36 seeks an employment contract for the DPW director, who now works for the town without a contract.
Article 37 seeks to ratify and fund the Police Union contract.
Article 38 seeks to amend the Historic Districts Bylaw to change maps to digital format.
Article 39 seeks to amend the Code of Harvard regarding Bare Hill Pond, naming the Harbormaster as overseer of permit conditions and establishing fines for violations.
Article 40 seeks a non-exclusive utility easement for St. Benedict’s Abby in Still River to extend a utility line under the roadway.
Article 41 seeks to amend the Personnel Code as recommended by the Personnel Board.
Proposed Zoning Bylaw Changes
Article 42 seeks to amend the zoning map to create a solar photovoltaic overlay district.
Article 43 seeks to amend town Bylaws regarding “adult entertainment,” laying out specific rules for where adult bookstores, theaters or video stores might be located. It also spells out the definition of “adult entertainment” and describes elements thereof that would require a Special Permit, as well as those that would justify denying such a permit.
Article 44 seeks to amend bylaws to define parameters for buildings, including exterior walls but not interior firewalls, vent shafts and courts. Specifically, the new law states that a grocery store will be defined as one that devotes 70 percent of its floor space to selling take-away food products “for home preparation and consumption.”
Article 45 seeks to amend Zoning Bylaws to set standards for non-residential driveways and spells out the kinds of developments the term applies to.
Articles 46 and 47 seek Town Meeting approval to acquire two parcels of conservation land – the Willard and Lawton land, specifically.
Article 48 seeks to expand the boundaries of the Town Center Sewer District as described and shown on a map, with costs covered by betterment assessments on properties that will benefit from the change.
Article 49 seeks Town Meeting approval to accept gifts of property to the town, which the FinCom recommends to encourage tax-deductible land donations to the town.
Article 50 seeks Town Meeting approval to accept Chapter 90 highway funds, which are used to build, repair or improve town roads.
Hildreth House Building Project
Article 22 sparked considerable discussion at the selectmen’s table Tuesday night. It seeks $1.26 million for accessibility, safety and site improvements at Hildreth House, which houses COA headquarters and serves as a senior center.
The work, identified priority items, would be done during the first phase of a two-part construction and renovation project the HH Improvement Committee has been working on for some time with LLB architects, whittling down a much higher cost estimate first time around.
The Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) working on the Town Hall project weighed in on the Hildreth House Cost estimates, too and has recommended raising the $1.26 million bottom line by $100,000.
Fortunately, that amount is more than covered by a $119,000 grant, Selectman Ken Swanton remarked Tuesday night. Swanton championed using the grant – which is actually the residual from a more than 10-year old Community Block Grant program that never got off the ground – to undercut Hildreth House improvement project costs, hopefully helping the article to pass muster at Town Meeting, he said.
But Selectman Lucy Wallace favored going for the higher amount, just in case. Once Town Meeting authorizes borrowing, the top figure is frozen, she pointed out. “We can’t ask for more…”
The issue went back and forth for quite a while before it came to a vote.
In the end, Swanton’s argument prevailed and the board voted three to one (with one board member absent and Wallace voting no) to ask for borrowing power for the lower amount, naming the full figure but identifying the grant money that would lower it.
“I think you’ll live to regret this,” Wallace said.