AYER -- They're off to the presses -- the three Oct. 22 Special Town Meeting warrants approved by selectmen on Oct. 2. The three warrants will be bound and mailed together to Ayer households.
The first and second Special Town Meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. and 7:15 p.m., respectively. Each warrant consists of a single article, prompted by citizens' petitions drafted by Selectman Frank Maxant.
The third Town Meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The warrant for the "business meeting," as it's been dubbed by Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand, consists of 14 articles.
Maxant's home rule petitions ask the legislature to cease governmental jurisdiction of the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ) by state agency MassDevelopment for all, or at least a portion, of the lands.
Maxant asks Ayer voters to vote "yes" at both Special Town Meetings. The first Town Meeting asks Ayer voters to petition the Legislature to return governmental jurisdiction to Ayer over lands once historically within it's rule. The second Town Meeting asks Ayer voters -- presumably in concert with Harvard and Shirley Town Meetings at another point in time -- to petition the Legislature to return governmental jurisdiction of all DREZ lands to the respective towns.
There are 14 articles scheduled for the "business" special Town Meeting, scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Article 1 seeks to amend the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District agreement. Shirley Town Meeting approved the change on Sept. 24.
The regional school agreement presently does not allow for the assumption of pre-existing debt service. The change will allow Ayer to contribute towards Shirley's debt service on the middle school building located in Shirley and constructed before the towns regionalized their schools in 2011.
It's a critical vote for the district as it rallies support for renovations and an addition to the high school, located in Ayer. If approved, the amendment will allow Ayer to contribute a larger portion towards the high-school project to help offset Shirley's debt service on the middle school.
The high school project also requires two "yes" results when Ayer and Shirley voters receive two ballots each on Saturday, Nov. 17. The first ballot asks voters if they support the high-school project as framed. The second ballot asks if voters support debt-exclusion measures in each town to fund the project.
Articles 2, 3 and 4 are sponsored by the Board of Selectmen. Rejected by voters at annual Town Meeting in May, the articles seek to petition the legislature to:
* create a Finance Department, led by a finance director appointed by selectmen (Article 2);
* change from a popularly-elected town treasurer to a treasurer appointed by selectmen (Article 3); and
* change from a popularly-elected tax collector to a town collector appointed by selectmen. Instead of collecting only excise and property taxes, the town collector would collect all sums of money due to the town (Article 4).
A simple majority vote at fall Town Meeting is required to send the request to the Legislature. Once passed by lawmakers, all three acts would require Ayer voter approval at a special or regular town election in order to take effect.
Article 5 seeks to rescind $450,000 worth of unused borrowing authority that was not used. A simple majority vote is needed to revoke borrowing of: $50,000 for the police station (approved at the May 1995 annual Town Meeting); $100,000 for open space (approved at the May 1999 annual Town Meeting); and $300,000 for a water main upgrade on Park Street (approved at the May 2010 annual Town Meeting).
Article 6 seeks $9,330 to meet an IRS compliance requirement relating to prior year bonding issues. Article 7 seeks $6,000 to hire an independent consultant to revise and update the town's nonunion employee classification and compensation plan. Article 8 seeks $17,710 to cover an unforeseen increase in police and fire accidental insurance coverage not already budgeted for at annual Town Meeting for fiscal 2013.
Article 9 seeks to amend the personnel bylaw by changing the requirements for those who serve on the Personnel Board. Currently all five members of the board must be registered Ayer voters. One is appointed by the Finance Committee. The remaining four seats are filled by appointment by selectmen.
One of the four seats is reserved for a town employee. Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said the article asks to change that requirement so nonresident town employees may serve on the board.
Article 10 asks voters if they want to charge the selectmen with authority to determine the disposition of the former fire station on Washington Street.
Articles 11 and 12 asks Town Meeting if it wishes to accept streets as public ways..
Article 13 seeks voter approval for a proposed revision to the Ayer zoning bylaw. The change requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass.
Article 14 provides a report to voters on the outcome of collective-bargaining agreements entered into between the town's municipal unions and the Board of Selectmen.