By Anne O’Connor
AYER — Town Meeting powered through 36 articles in under three hours, approving them all.
The $13.6 million omnibus budget includes a new position, town planner, funded at $75,000.
The town needs a full-time planner to serve as a regulatory official, Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand told Town Meeting on May 8. In addition to enforcing regulations, the zoning bylaws have “languished” since 2009 when the town last had a planner.
“We want something that is functional,” said Selectman Jannice Livingston. “We want everyone working together so that we can go forward and have a wonderful future.”
Being a member of the Planning Board is challenging, said board member Geoffrey Tillotson “I would love to know that I could have somebody here in town.”
Four debt exclusions were passed at the April 24 town election and again at Town Meeting. The town can borrow $1.2 million to replace the West Main Street Bridge, $900,000 for a new Department of Public Works operation center, $750,000 for a DPW garage and $600,000 for a storage building for the Park Department.
The town already has a $500,000 grant for the bridge work. The Park Department had been using the old fire station for storage and that building was sold this year to develop for housing.
Town Meeting approved $5.2 million in borrowing for wastewater treatment plant improvements. The DPW plans to use a further $750,000 from reserves, the sewer retained earnings, for the improvements.
The department expects to do about $6 million of work on the 1984 plant over the next three years, said DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel.
“We’re not being frivolous with this,” he said. “We’re doing what we really need to do to protect the infrastructure of the community.”
The loans will be paid through the sewer rates which he expects to see increase by an average of 3.5 percent yearly as they did most recently, Wetzel said after the meeting. This year there was no increase in the water rates.
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