For an overview of the meeting, click here.
10:02 a.m.- Moderator Ellen Harde is introducing town officials, we’re ready to go from the Abbot School!
10:03 a.m. – Motion to all consultants that do not live in Westford to speak is approved. A motion to allow Moderator to skip saying the wording of the articles is approved.
10:06 a.m. – Ellen Harde is giving an update on the procedure of the meeting.
10:07 a.m. – Article 1 is underway, Dennis Galvin of the Master Plan Implementation Committee is speaking, that committee’s report was not included in the town report.
10:09 a.m. – Article 1 is approved unanimously.
10:10 a.m. – Now for the consent agenda articles: 2,5,15,17,23, 26. Denali Delmar wants to take Article 5 off the consent agenda.
10:11 a.m. – Consent agenda approved.
10:11 a.m. – Article 3 now on the floor.
10:12 a.m. – There’s a hold on the snow and ice part of Article 3, everything else is approved. Rob Kreegan asked about federal aid regarding the winter weather and whether that would impact this request and if approved, the money would go into free cash.
Town Manager Jodi Ross explains that deficit spending for snow and ice came from free cash. The town has asked for a reimbursement from FEMA and other sources, but that would not impact the budget until next year. It would go back into free cash then.
10:14 a.m. – Wade Fox commended the Highway Department. There is a round of applause for Highway Superintendent Chip Barrett.
10:15 a.m. – Budget Director Dan O’Donnell asks for an amendment in the article from $681,500 to $675,000. The amendment and the snow and ice amount are approved unanimously.
10:16 a.m. – Article 3 and 4 are approved, 4 is approved unanimously. There is a point of order on Article 3.
10:17 a.m. – Denali Delmar asks a question on the perchlorate funding (Article 5.) Jodi Ross addresses it.
10:19 a.m. – Article 5 is approved unanimously.
10:20 a.m. – Jodi Ross begins the State of the Town address. She says the town budget is balanced at annual Town Meeting for the first time since 2000.
Just a reminder, you can watch the meeting live on the WestfordCAT website.
10:27 a.m. – Revenue projections are strong, Jodi Ross also provided a variety of updates on grant requests and other initiatives so far.
10:28 a.m. – There are about 600 new housing units, although the town has also bought conservation land.
10:31 a.m. – David Holiday from Fourth Street has praise for the town, but is concerned about debt levels. Budget Director Dan O’Donnell gives an overview on town debt.
10:33 a.m. – There is a hold on the townwide roofing study, school security cameras, a bleacher study at the schools, and police defibrillators.
10:35 a.m. – Everything not on hold is approved.
10:36 a.m. – Wade Fox asked if there is a requirement to do a roofing study every five years. Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti explains that there are regular inspections and it probably wouldn’t be needed for a few years after this.
10:38 a.m. – The roofing study is approved, not unanimously.
10:39 a.m. – Rob Creegan asks why the police needs defibrillators, Police Chief Thomas McEnaney explains it is a requirement and the police train with them frequently.
10:40 a.m. – The defibrillators are approved. Rob Creegan asks a question about student privacy related to the security cameras.
Superintendent Bill Olsen explains this is the first phase of cameras and no cameras would be in sensitive areas like locker rooms.
However, he explains many other schools have security cameras, and it helped with an incident at Nashoba Tech several years ago. School Committee Chairman Tom Clay also adds comments.
Wade Fox asks if an additional person will be needed to look at the cameras. Bill Olsen says there will be remote viewing for the police department and school administrators.
10:43 a.m. – Steve Sadowski asks about the next phases. Bill Olsen says there are only two phases and there is a slight possibility of a price change in the next phase.
Sadowski asks a question about the amount of bidders in the contract, answered by Olsen.
10:45 a.m. Peter Denly of Groton Road asked a question about pedophiles hacking into the remote feed. Bill Olsen that would need to be answered by someone with more technical expertise.
10:46 a.m. – The cameras are approved, not unanimously.
10:47 a.m. – Rob Creegan is wondering if the town can do the Westford Academy bleachers feasibility study could be done in house.
Permanent Town Building Committee Chairman Tom Mahanna explains that originally both sides of the bleachers were going to be constructed, but there were budget restrictions.
The first part of the bleachers were approved on the condition that the second part of the bleachers would be built due to plumbing code issues.
Town Engineer Paul Starratt says that there are staffing issues that would make a consultant appropriate here.
10:50 a.m. – A resident asks a question regarding the plumbing part of the study, Tom Mahanna says a septic system would not be needed, and this would include design along with the study.
It’s also asked how much this will cost in total. Bids were from $95,000 to $150,000 just for the bleachers. Overall, the project could exceed $1 million, and Mahanna says it’s important to have a plan.
10:53 a.m. – Study is approved, not unanimously.
10:54 a.m. – Discussion on Article 7 (combined dispatch center) begins.
10:56 a.m. – Currently, emergency calls go to police. If it’s a fire call, police transfer call to Fire Department. Approximately 140 calls per day. Both departments’ equipment are outdated.
11:00 a.m. – Most towns are going to joint dispatch centers, says Permanent Town Building Committee Chairman Tom Mahanna.
11:01 a.m. – Dispatch center would cost just over $1 million.
11:03 a.m. – Steve Sadowski asks if the dispatch center can be put in the proposed new fire station, and asks if the police would need a new training room in a few years. Tom Mahanna explains it was beneficial to keep it at the police station. The current police dispatch center would be converted into a usable space.
11:06 a.m. – A resident asks about cost savings and benefits. Tom Mahanna talks about savings in duplication costs. There will be no staff cuts, but there will be a reduction in overtime costs.
Fire Department Chief Joseph Targ answers a question regarding division of information between the two departments.
11:09 a.m. – Rob Creegan is in favor of a combined dispatch center, but fears removal of police training facility.
Police Chief Tom McEnaney says police will adjust.
11:12 a.m. – Hugh McGuire asks how the unions can co-exist in the same space. He is in favor of the dispatch center.
Town Manager Jodi Ross says the dispatchers in both departments are in the same union and it will be a joint effort.
11:13 a.m. – A question is asked about how this will impact dispatch times, Joseph Targ replies, Rob Creegan also asks a question about equipment, saying the amount seems low.
Tom Mahanna answered how that figure was achieved. Both chiefs discuss how planning on what equipment was needed was determined.
11:17 a.m. – Steve LaRoche asked if the existing fire station could be used as a dispatch area. Tom Mahanna said it wasn’t looked at due to structural deficiencies of the building and that the construction of both the new fire station and new dispatch center needs to be simultaneous.
11:20 a.m. – Article 7 passes, not unanimously. Now onto Article 8 (new fire station on Boston Road)
11:23 a.m. – Presentation on Article 8 begins.
11:38 a.m. – Presentation on Article 8 concludes, Margaret Murray asks a question regarding the roofing material. It is clarified that the material would be pitch asphalt roofs, which have a 40 year life. A metal roof could last forever, but would cost twice as much.
Answers are also provided on potential energy savings.
11:41 a.m. – Rob Creegan asks on the Parkerville Fire Station that was a contingency of Cornerstone Square development. Town Manager Jodi Ross says that the developer of Cornerstone Square will pay $200,000 toward this station.
Creegan also asks why this was debt excluded why the dispatch center was not. Jodi Ross says that she was not comfortable paying for this within the levy limit, and it is typical for town buildings.
11:44 a.m. – Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost says the net impact to each homeowner would be less than $91 on this fire station.
Rob Creegan asks if estimates might be higher than expected, given estimates were exceeded on recent school windows and there is not a full design.
Permanent Town Building Committee Chairman Tom Mahanna says he does not expect to come back to Town Meeting. Budget Director says that if more money is needed than what is being appropriated here, another Town Meeting vote would be required.
Mahanna says he is confident on the design costs given other projects done by the proposed designers.
11:48 a.m. – Dennis Galvin says he is hesitant on the location of the fire station and asked a question about it regarding traffic. The question was answered by one of the designers, who ran a model on traffic and response times.
11:53 a.m. – Jim Pelletier asked if returning vehicles would block traffic on Boston Road. Tom Mahanna said there would be access to both the front and the rear of the facility.
11:55 a.m. – Erika Kohl said this site was previously turned down due to traffic. She also noted current traffic issues and wondered what the disruption to response time and commuters would be if traffic was included.
Traffic lights on Boston Road would be controlled by Fire Department and there are already many calls using Boston Road.
Tom Mahanna said there has been no traffic study, although one is likely for the next phase of the project.
However, speed of traffic and drivetime was looked at during the study.
12:01 p.m. – A resident spoke against the location, particularly on Farmers’ Market days and he asked a question on how this cost $91 per taxpayer.
The cost will be $11.7 million, with $1 million coming from free cash. This station will add 20 cents per thousand dollars of property value. The $91 figure comes from the average homeowner over 20 years.
12:04 p.m. – Wade Fox made a comment on the traffic lights and asked if the model took into account more recent data.
Another resident asked about the old Veryfine facility and said that the town was rushing to Boston Road.
Bill Manfold was a firefighter and he made notes about driving fire trucks and if the station is not built now, it will cost more later.
12:09 p.m. – Erika Kohl asked another question regarding what was looked at in the model.
Paul Cully asked about the height of the facility. Tom Mahanna estimated that it would be approximately 40 feet at its peak.
Cully also asked if the $91 would be constant. Dan O’Donnell said it would be.
12:13 p.m. – Luis Haddock noted that most calls for the Fire Department are ambulance related and asked about the number of bays in the facility.
Tom Mahanna said that the Permanent Town Building Committee looked at the entire Route 110 corridor. The Veryfine site last cost $9 million and it’s not clear if it’s for sale currently. That facility would also have to be converted to become a fire station and it’s over twice the size of what’s being proposed.
There is also only one access point at the Veryfine site.
The study done looked at 12 land parcels owned by the town as well as letting the computer loose if the other two fire stations were locked down. With the latter study, the McDonald’s location was the best site, followed by Boston Road.
Selectman Scott Hazelton said that the Veryfine site could make the cost of the site double.
12:21 p.m. – The proposed station would have four bays.
Rob Creegan spoke in favor of the proposed station, saying the current conditions of the center fire station are unacceptable. The issue has been looked at for over a decade, so he disagreed that this has been rushed into.
He also said that traffic has been looked into by the study.
Kate Hollister said she is a Parker Village resident and noted that using the site of the current fire station for a new fire station would hurt parking in the town center.
12:26 p.m. – James Kochis asked how much a five bay station would cost now versus later and also asked about sidewalks.
Permanent Town Building Committee Chairman Tom Mahanna said a fifth bay would be included if it could come under budget.
12:28 p.m. – Erika Kohl said there was an excellent job done on the presentation, and asked about locations south of I-495. Tom Mahanna said that there was one property on Carlisle Road and another on Littleton Road.
Finance Committee Chairman Mark Kost also talked about the cost of a staffed fourth facility in Parker Village.
Erika Kohl asked how many calls per day the Fire Department has. Fire Department Chief Joseph Targ says there are 10 to 20 calls from the center station, approximately 50 percent of all calls in town.
12:32 p.m. – Jack Wroble spoke in favor of the proposal. He said there is no ideal location, but that this is recommended by the consultants and committee members that worked on this.
Also, he talked about traffic on Boston Road.
12:34 p.m. – Katie Sawrey asked if the model could be restricted just to rush hour. The consultant said this had been looked at. There is a difference in response time between rush hour and non-rush hour, but this had nothing to do with location because rush hour is bad everywhere in terms of traffic.
12:36 p.m. – Tom Pritchard spoke in favor of the station. He is a school bus driver and said that he has seen fire trucks get around him as he drove down Boston Road.
12:37 p.m. – An amendment was made by the Board of Selectmen regarding the location of the fire station, specifically putting the station on town land and north of Blakes Hill Road.
Kris Erickson asked about the ballot question in May.
Selectman Scott Hazelton said the article is contingent upon a debt exclusion ballot question in May.
The amendment was approved unanimously.
12:39 p.m. – Moderator Ellen Harde asked for a voice vote and then a show of hands. The vote received a 2/3rds vote. The meeting adjourned for lunch.
1:44 p.m. – The meeting readjourned with Article 9 (Clare Road betterments). There was a question on whether this Article would be a template for future roads. Selectman Scott Hazelton gave an explanation.
1:46 p.m. – Article 9 passes unanimously, onto Article 10 (12 North Main Street). Jane Hughes of the 12 North Main Street Task Force begins her presentation on the property.
1:52 p.m. – Rob Creegan asks if the property is transferred from the Tax Possession Sales Committee to the Selectmen, would this subject the town to added liability?
Town Counsel says there is an exemption from most liability for towns if it is taken and this land qualifies for that exemption. Insurance would protect the town from further liability.
Creegan asks if this article will help clean up the property. Town Counsel says it will greatly enhance the prospects of this property being cleaned up.
Jane Hughes added that this article would allow the TPSC transfer the property if they choose to do so, which would otherwise have to happen with another Town Meeting vote.
1:57 p.m. – Paul Cully, a member of the TPSC speaking on his own behalf, asked if the 12 North Main Street Task Force could continue to work if this article does not pass.
Town Counsel says the article is necessary for a request for proposals on the property.
Cully said he still did not understand the answer and asked how the TPSC and the Selectmen can continue to work together to allow the 12 North Main Street Task Force’s work continue.
Town Counsel said that the TPSC is the tax title custodian for the town, and thus they have a responsibility to get the most value for the town. The Selectmen have more flexibility.
Cully disagrees with the Town Counsel’s opinion, saying the TPSC’s procedures are to work toward the best interests of the town.
2:01 p.m. – Luis Haddock asked about the issues on the property.
Town Counsel says that any owner of contaminated land has liability, but there is an exemption for public entities that take land by tax title or eminent domain. The insurance is for conditions currently unknown.
Jane Hughes and Doug Healy then talked more about the issue.
There are some contaminants related to lead and other issues related to an incinerator on the property.
2:04 p.m. – Jim Gozzo asked about the cost of the insurance as well as remediation on the property. It is approximately $800,000.
Town Counsel John Giorgio then talked about the financial aspects of the insurance. ($5 million)
2:08 p.m. – Paul Cully asked if this would have to go back to Town Meeting if this article is passed. It would not have to be, but Selectman Scott Hazelton said that the Selectmen would feel obligated to bring a final decision to a Town Meeting vote.
Cully then said this article was premature.
2:12 p.m. – Denali Delmar, also a member of the TPSC speaking on her own behalf, offered an amendment, requiring the approval of Town Meeting to convey the property to the Selectmen.
Town Counsel John Giorgio said it is legally possible to put a condition upon the approval. However, he also said some wording elsewhere in the article would need to be changed. He also noted that conditions like these can decrease the marketability of the property.
The issue is tabled while the amendment is clarified.
2:18 p.m. – Now onto Chapter 12, the creation of a deputy fire chief. It passes, not unanimously.
2:19 p.m. – We return to Article 10. Mike Green asked about the process if the amendment passes.
Town Counsel says the Selectmen would identify the most advantageous developer, develop a purchase and sale and come back to Town Meeting.
Green said he was not in support of this amendment.
2:21 p.m. – A resident said that people elected should be involved in negotiation.
Rob Creegan said he was also opposed to the amendment, saying it would prolong the problem.
Jim Gozzo said he opposes the amendment per what the Town Counsel said.
Rob Downing of the 12 North Main Street Task Force said the Task Force voted in opposition to the amendment.
The amendment fails.
2:23 p.m. – Bill Harmon noted that the TPSC as committee does support the article.
2:24 p.m. – The article passes, not unanimously.
2:25 p.m. – Next is Chapter 11. There are some holds.
2:27 p.m. – Rob Creegan asked a question about the kiosk, Leslie Thomas of the Friends of the East Boston Camps provided an answer.
Rob Creegan said this violated the bylaw prohibiting the wording “East Boston Camps” on any signage, Leslie Thomas said this signage was about the ponds, not the camps.
Moderator Ellen Harde read the bylaw. Leslie Thomas reponded.
2:33 p.m. – The money for the kiosks is passed, not unanimously.
2:34 p.m. – The next hold was related to the community gardens on the Day Parcel. Bill Taffel said community gardens are more appropriate for urban areas and it would only benefit some families.
There was a reply from the Community Preservation Committee and Conservation Committee speaking in favor of this line item.
2:37 p.m. – Nancy McDonald spoke in favor of the article. Christine Berthold of the Agricultural Commission. She said she had gotten 130 inquiries from residents from a large cross-section of residents.
There will be approximately 70 full plots, some could be shared.
2:41 p.m. – Steve Sadowski asked about contaminants, the Conservation Commission requires that all activities there be organic.
A motion to approve the funding was approved, not unanimously.
2:42 p.m. – Steve Sadowski asked the Parkerville Schoolhouse building needed to meet building code. Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti said it did not, but this initiative helps preserve the building. This concludes Article 11.
2:43 p.m. – The meeting goes to Article 13 (revolving funds)
2:46 p.m. – Article 13 is approved, not unanimously. Next is Article 14 (Fiscal Year 2016 Town Budget)
2:48 p.m. – There are a few holds. Every not held passes.
A question is asked by a resident why the Selectmen’s budget has doubled. Moderator Ellen Harde noted that the confusion came from looking at the wrong columns in the Town Meeting packet. The question was withdrawn.
This funding was approved.
2:50 p.m. – Rob Creegan asked a question the Conservation Commission funding, asking if Conservation Agent Bill Turner will be replaced following his retirement.
Director of Land Use Planning Kristine Kluchman said that 26 applications have come in during the last week and said the budget is actually going down because Turner received longevity payments.
Denali Delmar asked a question about the orchard, Moderator Ellen Harde asked if that could be asked on Monday since it’s not on the warrant.
The funding was approved.
2:53 p.m. – Rob Creegan made a point of order asking if the room could be made cooler, Ellen Harde joked that was a point of privilege, and was afraid Town Meeting might let out too much hot air! A police officer opened a door.
2:55 p.m. – Rob Creegan noted that the School Department budget was rising 4.39% compared to a lower rate for the town as a whole and that the schools are using over 60 percent of the budget including hidden costs.
He also said that enrollment is declining and that the budget is unsustainable among other concerns.
3:00 p.m. – Steve Sadowski asked question about a new law regarding the education of expelled or suspended students, Bill Olsen said it is a state requirement.
Sadowski said it should be the responsibility of a parent, although he understood nothing could be done about it.
3:01 p.m. – David Holiday asked a question regarding a drop in the special education reimbursement funding.
Margaret Murray asked a question about accounting, Kathy Richardson asked if the suspension law is an unfunded mandate. It is according to Superintendent Bill Olsen. Richardson asked if a list could be made, Olsen said that list could be provided at a future School Committee meeting.
3:03 p.m. – Moderator Ellen Harde allowed Bill Olsen to respond to Creegan’s earlier questions.
Olsen said that over 60 percent is common in other Massachusetts municipalities.
He then gave an update on enrollment, saying it was declining, but not precipitously. He also noted that it’s not just about the number of students but the complexity of their needs.
Olsen then replied to per-pupil cost concerns and how that figure is made.
3:08 p.m. – Rob Creegan noted that bus fees are not included in per-pupil expenses. Olsen said this is incorrect and he has corrected this for several years.
Creegan tries to respond, but the Moderator will not allow him to respond.
3:10 p.m. – Bob Price moves to question. The line item is approved.
3:12 p.m. – Budget Director Dan O’Donnell moves to amend the Nashoba Valley Technical High School line item from $728,960 to $718,189. The amendment is approved, the line item is approved.
3:15 p.m. – Article 14 is approved, with the small amendment for the Nashoba Valley Technical High School. The total budget appropriations will remain around $104 million.
3:16 p.m. – Article 16 (Water OPEB benefits) is approved.
3:17 p.m. – Next is Article 18, creation of a Disability Commission. There are questions about how people are appointed to the commission, how communication will occur as well as support for the commission’s creation.
Selectman Scott Hazelton said Commissions like these are common in other Massachusetts towns.
3:21 p.m. – Article 18 is approved unanimously. Next is Article 19 (a municipal electrical aggregation program.)
Town Manager Jodi Ross explains Article 19 will help save residents money by allowing them to enroll in fixed town rates for electricity.
3:23 p.m. – Luis Haddock has a question on how to enroll or unenroll in the program. It’s explained that it’s an opt-out program.
A resident then asked if people could opt-in at any time. It was explained that this program will involve everyone inititally on National Grid’s basic service. People can choose any supplier at any time.
3:26 p.m. – Article 19, passes unanimously.
3:28 p.m. – Next is Article 20 (a solar project near the former landfill on the corner of Forge Village and Coldspring Road).
Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti begins a presentation. He says the project will be limited to 1.5 megawatts to preserve conservation activities in the area.
3:31 p.m. – Bill Taffel says he lives nearby and approves of solar efforts, but disagrees with the location of this particular project.
John Mangiaratti made more comments.
3:35 p.m. – Residents near the property had concerns about the fact that much work was done to close the landfill and it was explained that nothing would ever go there again.
There were also concerns about wetlands in the area, and other ecological concerns.
3:36 p.m. – There were questions on the topography of the project, which is unclear since it’s only a concept right now. There could also be a fence installed by a company leasing the area.
John Mangiaratti also said that other wildlife were not harmed by a solar farm the town uses in Hubbardston.
3:39 p.m. – Andy MacDonald of 1 Coldspring Road said it was agreed that nothing could be put there when the dump was closed and there are contamination concerns.
Rachel Ward Sullivan of 12 Coldspring Road says it’s nice to see that area being used by wildlife and people. She also had concerns about the cap on the dump.
3:41 p.m. – Bob Krankewicz of Boston Road had questions on net metering as well as the lease.
3:42 p.m. – Erika Kohl spoke in favor of the project. The matter will be discussed at the next Water Commissioners meeting.
3:44 p.m. – Eric Fahle said that the panels will sit on concrete blocks on a pad which will not piece the capped garbage. He says wildlife will stay in the area and that this could reduce costs of groundwater monitoring.
3:47 p.m. – Steve Sadowski says the land is a resource and made other comments, including on technology developments in solar panels.
3:48 p.m. – There were more comments reiterating earlier comments. Penny LaCroix asked if this article could be tabled. Moderator Ellen Harde said this could be dismissed with a resolution asking to bring the matter back to future Town Meetings.
3:57 p.m. – Bill Harmon believes it’s a good idea to get more information, but otherwise it’s an excellent idea to have the solar panels.
Erika Kohl asked if there is a committee related to this. There is, it’s the Energy Committee. Deb Siriani asked if other sites could be sought, Ellen Harde said that would be a separate amendment.
4:04 p.m. – The motion to dismiss passes, not unanimously. It will come back in the Fall of 2015. Now a revolving fund for non-resident students (Article 21.)
4:05 p.m. – Article 21 passes, not unanimously. Article 22 passes unanimously.
4:06 p.m. – Paul Cully gives a presentation on his petitioned warrant article for a committee to support and promote more affordable housing in town.
4:13 p.m. – There is an amendment regarding the makeup of the committee that is unanimously approved. Margaret Murray asked to hear the majority and minority opinions from the Selectmen.
Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet represented the majority opposing this article. She said this would seriously impact staff resources. She also noted that there are already committees doing this work and a resolution supporting affordable housing was already in place.
Selectman Scott Hazelton voiced his view supporting the article. There have been issues with 40B developments and a committee to look at properties that could be used for 40B developments.
He hopes this can be used to make it easier to find affordable housing.
4:17 p.m. – Erika Kohl asked what this would do versus what the Affordable Housing Committee does and whether this could be something under their purview.
Paul Cully provided a reply.
Rob Downing, co-chairman of the Affordable Housing Committee support Cully’s petition and said it’s difficult to get the attention of other boards.
4:20 p.m. – Mike Green, chairman of the Planning Board, said the Planning Board voted 4-0 not to support this petition.
4:22 p.m. – Kathy Richardson of Randolph Circle said she appreciated the comments so far. She also asked how this would impact bylaws. Paul Cully said he hopes not to restrict what committees can do regarding affordable housing work.
Dennis Galvin, chairman of the Master Plan Implementation Committee, was concerned the petition could bring redundancy.
4:26 p.m. – Mariane Fleckner moves the petition to question. It is approved. The motion is defeated after a voice and hand count.
4:27 p.m. – Article 26 (transparency petition) is defeated unanimously.
4:28 p.m. – Selectman Scott Hazelton discussed Article 27 (Graniteville Fire Station.)
4:30 p.m. – Article 27 is approved, not unanimously. Article 28 (transfer custody of storm water facilities on six streets) is discussed, Luis Haddock asks why the land will go to the Selectmen.
4:32 p.m. – Article 28 is approved, unanimously. The 286th Annual Westford Town Meeting is adjourned.