October 2016 Town Meeting

Town Meetings are the legislative branch of our North Reading town government. In other words, they are Congress at the town level, and you, North Reading resident, are your own representative – how good is your congressional attendance record? With an attendance of 115 at June’s Town Meeting, most of our town is not being represented in our “local Congress”. The good news is that you can change that situation for yourself by attending the Town Meeting. It only happens twice a year and your next opportunity ensure your interests are represented is coming up tomorrow:

The next Town Meeting is this Monday, October 17, 2016 at 7 pm at North Reading High School. If you were registered to vote as of Sept. 27, you may vote in this Town Meeting.

Get prepared:

  1. Add this meeting to your calendar and get directions
  2. Find out how our Town Meetings work
  3. Learn about the articles under consideration at this Town Meeting

Below is an overview of the articles to be discussed and voted on. Click on any article or scroll down further to learn more about each article. Also see an article about the meeting in the North Reading Transcript.

Rec. = recommended, NAR = no action required, TBM = recommendation to be made at the Town Meeting

# Name Board of Select-men Finance Committee
1. Hear and Act on Reports of Town Officers and Committees Rec. NAR
2. Prior Year Bills Rec. Rec.
3. Transfer Funds to Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund Rec. TBM
4. Appropriate Money to Stabilization Fund Rec. Rec.
5. Transfer Funds to Other Post Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund TBM TBM
6. Amend FY 2017 Operating Budget TBM TBM
7. Rescind Civil Service – Police Rec. Rec.
8. Appropriate Money for Special Counsel Legal Expenses TBM TBM
9. Appropriate Money for Construction of Facilities at Arthur J. Kenney Field TBM TBM
10. Fund Redevelopment/Wastewater Plan for Section of Route 28 at Route 62 TBM TBM
11. Fund Repairs to Town Buildings Rec. Rec.
12. Amend Code – Zoning By-Laws – §200-39 – Changes to Highway Business Zoning District Bylaw TBM NAR
13. Amend Code – Zoning By-Laws – Article XIII, §200-69 – Changes to Off Street Parking and Loading TBM NAR

1.Hear and Act on Reports of Town Officers and Committees

This is a routine article in which various committees and officers report on their progress.

2. Prior Year Bills

Determine how to pay bills from last fiscal year (ending June 30, 2016) that were not submitted prior to the end of the fiscal year. There are at least 11 bills that have been submitted after the end of the previous fiscal year (for costs incurred during the previous fiscal year) and their cost will be given at the meeting.

3. Transfer Funds to Capital Improvement Stabilization Fund

First, some background: the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) is a state-wide strategy that is implemented at the Town level. This state government document about CIP explains:

A capital improvement program provides a blueprint for planning a community’s capital expenditures and is one of the most important responsibilities of local government officials. It coordinates community planning, financial capacity, and physical development.

A CIP is composed of two parts—a capital program and a capital budget. The capital program is a community planning and fiscal management tool that spans five to ten years. The capital program identifies capital items, which are typically defined as tangible assets or projects that cost more than a certain threshold (e.g., $25,000) and that have a minimal useful life span (such as five years), provides a planning schedule, and offers financing options. The capital budget is the upcoming year’s spending plan for capital items that is presented to the legislative body for approval.

There are several strategies that the Town can use to ensure that capital improvement remains consistently funded. One of these strategies is to create a stabilization fund specifically for capital improvement, as detailed in the same state government document previously mentioned:

Local officials can create and set aside money in multiple stabilization funds (M.G.L. c. 40, §5B and Informational Guideline Release (IGR) 04-201), outside of the general fund, for different purposes, including paying for all or portions of future capital projects. A two-thirds vote of town meeting is required to create a special stabilization fund as well as to appropriate money into and out of the fund. This type of fund can also be set up in conjunction with an enterprise fund.

So in this particular article, the Board of Selectmen is proposing to transfer any surplus funds (to the tune of $200K) into the capital improvement stabilization fund (which currently contains almost $984K), where the money can then be used to make capital purchases and finance debts.

4. Appropriate Money to Stabilization Fund

Referring to a different fund than the one mentioned in the previous article, the Finance Committee proposed this article to increase the amount contained in a more general stabilization fund that is meant as a rainy day fund for town emergencies. The fund currently contains $2.05 million, and the Board of Selectmen is proposing to transfer $200K into it from surplus funds.

5. Transfer Funds to Other Post Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund

This article may also need some background: Back in June 2013, the Town Meeting unanimously decided to accept a section within Chapter 32B in the state law, which is meant to allow for insurance plans  (life, medical, dental, etc) for employees of the town. Section 20 states that

A … [town] … may establish an Other Post Employment Benefits Liability Trust Fund, and may appropriate amounts to be credited to the fund. Any interest or other income generated by the fund shall be added to and become part of the fund. Amounts that a governmental unit receives as a sponsor of a qualified retiree prescription drug plan under 42 U.S.C. section 1395w?132 may be added to and become part of the fund. All monies held in the fund shall be segregated from other funds and shall not be subject to the claims of any general creditor of the city, town, district, county or municipal lighting plant.

Currently, this trust fund contains about $554K, and the Board of Selectmen is proposing  to transfer an unnamed amount into it to pay for future health and pension costs for retirees.

6. Amend FY 2017 Operating Budget

The Board of Selectmen is proposing to add additional money (whether transferring existing surpluses or appropriating or raising it) to the Operating Budget that was voted on at the June 2016 Town Meeting.

7. Rescind Civil Service – Police

Background: currently, all police positions in our town are beholden to the laws set forth in Chapter 31 of our state law. Chapter 31, which relates to civil service, contains about 90 sections covering things such as hiring, promotion, performance evaluation, age and other job requirements or qualifications, certification, disability, punishments, leaves of absence, and more, for diverse occupations such as police and fire chiefs and forces, janitors at schools, inspectors of plumbing and inspectors or sealers of weights and measures. The actual positions considered as civil servants also depends on the size of the town, as detailed in Section 52. There is text within Chapter 31, such as in Section 53, indicating that towns have some say in whether certain occupations within the town will be beholden to Chapter 31.

The two police unions of North Reading have made a collective bargaining agreement with the town that resulted in the following proposal: if passed by this town, the Board of Selectmen will petition the Massachusetts state legislature (General Court) to exempt all newly hired or promoted police officers, including chiefs, from Chapter 31, while maintaining their civil service status and while maintaining the applicability to police officers of the other state General laws and town Bylaws and Charter.

8. Appropriate Money for Special Counsel Legal Expenses

This article proposes to set aside additional money for “negotiation, mediation and/or litigation with PMA Consultants, LLC and Dore and Whittier Architects, Inc. concerning the Secondary School Building Project”. While the need to engage in these activities is not explained in the Town Meeting warrant, it is known that the original estimate provided to the town for the cost of the Secondary School Building Project was too low and a special tax increase, along with alterations to the original plan, were required to cover the actual cost of the project.

9. Appropriate Money for Construction of Facilities at Arthur J. Kenney Field

Arthur J. Kenney Field is the field used by the North Reading High School athletes for practices and games. State law requires the construction of bathroom facilities at the field. The town is also considering to build a concession area (“snack shack”) along with the bathrooms. While this would cost more, it would also provide a way to raise additional revenue at sporting events and would make the field a more attractive rental venue for other events when not used by our students. The option to build a concession stand and bathrooms jointly (rather than only building bathrooms as required by state law) is unanimously supported by North Reading’s school committee.

10. Fund Redevelopment/Wastewater Plan for Section of Route 28 at Route 62

As part of a short term redevelopment plan for North Reading (full report here), the Community Planning Commission has proposed funding to:

explore the feasibility of establishing a shared privately-funded wastewater treatment facility for a limited area of Route 28, and to develop scenarios for future redevelopment opportunities in this area of the Town.

The area in question is shown in Figure 3 of the full report, lined in yellow:

fig3

11. Fund Repairs to Town Buildings

From the Board of Selectmen:

The proposed article seeks funds to make non-capital improvements to various municipal buildings. A request not to exceed $50, 000 is anticipated.

12. Amend Code – Zoning By-Laws – §200-39 – Changes to Highway Business Zoning District Bylaw

The proposed amendment by the Community Planning Commission includes 19 wording changes that would have the following effects:

enable mixed-use development within the Highway Business zoning district, including some residential development. The article also eliminates the need to obtain a separate Special Permit for mixed-use development, corrects inconsistencies with the existing Adult Use bylaw, and makes certain dimensional requirements more flexible. Self-storage businesses, currently not mentioned in the Highway Business zoning bylaw, are proposed to be listed as “prohibited”. Changes are together shown on a copy of the entire §200-39 on file with the Town Clerk and available for viewing at the Community Planning Office.

13. Amend Code – Zoning By-Laws – Article XIII, §200-69 – Changes to Off Street Parking and Loading

This proposed amendment by the Community Planning Commission would add a requirement for parking at Medical offices in North Reading (4 spots required for each 1000 ft2 of floor space) and remove a generic requirement of 1 parking spot per each 600 ft2 of floor space a mixed use areas. (Any parking requirements tied to the individual uses of the venues in the mixed use area would still apply.)

And now you have made it to the end of the summary, kudos!

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