AYER -- Voters are not facing any major surprises in this year's Annual Town Meeting warrant, featuring 40 articles that range from a 5.06 percent increase in the operating budget to a $1 million replacement for the East Main Street water mains.
The first four articles are standard. Article 1 addresses town elections, which were already held on April 28. Article 2 asks voters to act on reports from the Finance Committee, the town accountant and finance manager, and the Community Preservation Committee. The third article would authorize the town to pay unpaid bills from fiscal year 2013, totaling $415.15.
Article 4 lays out the salaries of all 11 elected officials. Salaries of the selectmen, assessors and moderator -- which range from $500 for moderator to $2,506 for selectmen chair -- have not changed since last fiscal year. The treasurer, town clerk, tax collector and tree warden have all been given a two percent cost of living increase. The treasurer will receive $60,984, the town clerk $27,443, the tax collector $33,542 and the tree warden $5,728.
The omnibus budget in Article 5 contains an operating increase of 5.06 percent. It includes the salaries of two new positions, a $75,000 day position for the fire department and a $70,000 town engineer/assistant superintendent for the Department of Public Works. The new position in the fire department was initially labeled as a deputy fire chief, but at a selectmen's meeting in April Chief Robert Pedrazi explained that the position could be union or nonunion. The cost of a union position would be slightly less, he told selectmen.
The budget also doubled the amount put in the reserve fund, up to $300,000 from last year's $150,000, for potential lawsuit expenses from Bolduc v. Town of Ayer. Bolduc Enterprises, the town's deputy collector, claims the town breached its contract. A $7,000 increase in town counsel accounts for an increase property enforcement and road acceptance.
Articles 9 through 13 are enterprise fund articles for solid waste, ambulance, sewer, water and stormwater costs. There was little public comment at last months' public hearing, where selectmen passed sewer rates with a three percent increase while water rates remained the same.
Articles 14 through 19 are revolving fund articles and include money for communications, fire alarms, hazardous material expenses from the fire department, the Fourth of July, DPW inspections and Town Hall maintenance. All articles re-authorize the responsible party to spend money in these funds for specific purposes.
Articles 20 through 24 are borrow articles. Article 20 contains capital budget requests from the DPW and fire department. Water main replacements would cost $150,000, with $50,000 for corrosion control equipment for spectacle pond. The DPW is also asking for a second payment of $50,000 for an enhanced meter-reading system.
Articles 21 and 22 deal with the new project to replace the East Main Street water and sewer mains. The water mains project would carry a $1 million borrow while the sewer costs would need $750,000.
Article 23 asks to transfer $450,000 left over from a 2012 borrow to the Stony Brook pump station. Article 24 transfers another unexpended $45,036.15 from a 2008 borrow to the new water meter radio read system.
Article 25 lists a few capital assets to be purchased with free cash. It includes $168,000 for Town Hall windows, $31,000 to replace the police chief's car, $33,000 for new servers, $50,000 for design of East Main Street improvements and $10,000 for a microfilm reader for the library. Article 26 asks for $475,000 in free cash for a heavy rescue truck for the Fire Department. It also authorizes selectmen to dispose of the current truck through a sale or trade.
Article 27 raises $25,000 to partially fund another heavy truck replacement. The amount is five percent of the cost, the rest of which will be paid for with grants. Article 28 asks for $40,000 in free cash for a comprehensive study of Ayer ponds that will allow officials to come up with a long-term management plan.
Article 29 raises $300,000 for the town's other post-employment benefits fund. Article 30 sets up an irrevocable trust fund with the state. The town currently has its money invested in another fund but it is not irrevocable, meaning the town could take money out of it for purposes other than OPEB.
Article 31 puts $785,136 into the stabilization fund, a quarter of which will go to capital stabilization.
Articles 32 through 34 deal with the Community Preservation Act. Article 32 dedicates money from the Community Preservation Fund for specific purposes, while Article 33 reserves $12,000 "more or less" for "general open space purposes." Article 34 gives $20,000 "more or less" from the Community Preservation Fund to the Conservation Commission for the comprehensive pond study.
Article 35 allows the Board of Registrars office to remain closed on Saturdays. Article 36 is a petition for public street acceptance of Mountain Laurel Way. Article 37 would allow the town's licensing authority to authorize alcoholic beverage sales between 10 a.m. and noon on Sundays. Alcoholic beverage service could also be granted on the last Monday in May and "on Christmas Day or on the day when said day occurs on Sunday," according to the law.
Article 38 authorizes selectmen to increase the price of business certificates, which are issued every four years, from $20 to $30.
The two citizen petitions that landed on this year's list will likely have no major impact on the town. Article 39 is a statement from 40 residents requesting that skilled professionals give every consideration to the maintenance of the flowing trees in the Town Hall Memorial Garden, "so that they may continue to provide beauty and shade to the Town Hall property."
Article 40 is a petition to adopt a senior work-off abatement program, as dictated by Massachusetts general law. However, Ayer voters already adopted this portion of the law at town meeting in 2012.
Town meeting is at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 12, at Ayer Town Hall.
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