Town Meeting will be asked to vote on 16 pieces of business tonight, but this does not mean that all 16 articles will be discussed. Some will be vetted in great detail, but others may pass without any discussion.
At the start of the meeting, Town Moderator Michael Fee will read the title of each article. If no one raises an issue, those items pass “by consent.” If even a single member raises an issue with an article, it will be discussed.
It’s not unusual for warrant items to pass by consent, as aTown Meeting vote is often more of an administrative requirement for bookkeeping, such as allocating funds for predetermined purposes that have already been vetted, than a premise for an actual debate. It is done in the interest of time. Typically, a small number of items generate a large percentage of the discussion.
Here are some of the items that are likely to draw minimal discussion or perhaps be passed by consent.
ROADWAY IMPROVEMENTS – ARTICLE 1
You may have noticed that Eversource crews seem to be attempting to qualify for squatter’s rights on Webster Street. The utility’s extensive effort to repair its gas mains and make other below-ground improvements has made it a near constant presence along one of the town’s busier streets, including near the high school.
As a general rule, the DPW prefers not to open town streets for repairs outside of an April to November window, nor to allow projects near schools while they are in session. Also, contractors on projects that require the streets to be opened are obligated to restore the roadways to their prior condition, which can take some time to be done thoroughly.
Eversource requested an exception, and the town reached an agreement with the utility to allow work in the colder months to complete the work sooner and ultimately be less disruptive.
In addition, rather than handle road restoration itself, Eversource agreed to pay the town $205,000 for “full gutter-to-gutter road pavement repair” that likely will occur in a more timely manner.
CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL AND OPIOID SETTLEMENT FUNDS – ARTICLES 2, 3, and 4
Back in 2020, the town negotiated agreements with Children’s Hospital in the course of the permit approval process for the development of the surgical outpatient center currently under construction across from the Trip Advisor building. The development required changes in zoning to permit what had been a nonconforming use.
The most consequential of those agreements, approved at Annual Town Meeting in 2020, resulted in Children’s, a nonprofit generally not required to pay real estate taxes, agreeing to a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) where it will be taxed at the same rate as a for-profit entity.
Town Meeting will be asked to approve Article 3 related to other terms of the agreement by approving a payment of $30,000 for the purposes of traffic mitigation at Kendrick Street at Third Avenue.
Article 2 involves another negotiated payment from Children’s, while Article 4 details the planned use of funds coming from the state’s Opioid Settlement Fund.