By M.E. Jones
SHIRLEY -- There are 12 articles on the Sept. 24 Special Town Meeting warrant, a draft version of which selectmen discussed at their meeting last week.
Monday night, they reviewed it again and recommended favorable action on most of the articles, tying one of their recommendations to a Proposition 2 1/2 tax override and holding one call for Town Meeting floor.
Article 1 asks for approval to expend $47,313.18 to pay a previous year's sewer betterments on public buildings. The article is a rerun from Annual Town Meeting, when it was put on hold.
An objection raised at that time questioned the legality of paying the bill based on the presumption that town buildings were not subject to sewer betterments. After some discussion, the article was tabled, with the stated amount set aside in the General Stabilization Fund, pending a legal opinion.
Now, the matter seems to be settled and the article is being forwarded again.
Article 2 seeks to appropriate $2,571.61 from the Ambulance Enterprise Fund to pay for ambulance repairs.
Article 3 seeks to amend upward a list of FY2013 appropriations for various reasons. Individual line item revisions range from $10,000 for the Personnel Board to hire a consultant to analyze the town's non-union jobs and pay scales to $46, 538 to pay last year's sewer betterments on town buildings.
A proposal to add $28,257 to the Police Department wages and salaries line would
The list of increased appropriation requests also includes $6,177 to up the hours of the DPW administrative assistant from 20 to 30 hours a week and $6,677 to cover the Council on Aging director's salary, which in the past was partly paid by a gift.
An added $4,652 is also sought for the library director's position due to updated responsibilities and actual time on the job.
While Deveau posited that a dedicated Proposition 2 1/2 tax override was the only way to ensure the new police officer's position would be "sustainable" after this year, he also said that the other added hours were for current employees and could be "rescinded" in subsequent years if anticipated new revenue falls short and the town budget can't cover them.
Added costs tacked onto the General Fund Debt Service line item total $22,568.32, along with certain adjustments and a single reduction in short-term debt due to a refinancing plan that Treasurer Kevin Johnston recently presented to the selectmen, saving $1,336.38.
Finally, the line item for group health insurance was adjusted up by $7,143 to pay benefits for a new police officer.
Article 4 asks for $33,500 to buy a police cruiser.
Article 5 seeks $40,250 to buy a new pick up truck with plow for the DPW.
Article 6 seeks $15,000 to repair drainage on Harvard Road. Specifically, to rebuild a swale and underground piping on private property, with the owner's permission.
The amount will pay for the cost of materials, with most manpower and equipment voluntarily provided at no cost to the town by the developer of Apple Orchard Estates, whose building and landscaping activities there over the last several years made an existing flooding problem worse on Harvard Road, which lies below the development.
Article 7 seeks to beef up the town bylaw regarding alcoholic beverage consumption in public, making it illegal to drink from or posses an open container of alcohol on town property.
Asked if the new bylaw would impact events held on the common that might include alcohol consumption on premises, Deveau said that if a permit were obtained for the event, it would not be affected.
Article 8, also recommended by the police chief, seeks to establish a town bylaw that ups the penalty for marijuana use from the state-set $100 to $300 and sets penalties outside the small claims court process for those fined under the law who don't pay.
Article 9 seeks permission to amend the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District agreement such that the assessment split for the pending high school building project debt becomes a conduit for Ayer to pay its fair share of Shirley's remaining debt for the middle school, which is now a shared facility.
Article 10 seeks to transfer a group of assessed but vacant land parcels to town ownership, with the selectmen authorized to sell them.
Article 11 seeks to transfer any remaining sums of money when all the bills are paid to the General Stabilization Fund.
The same goes for Article 12, with a request to transfer available funds to the recently created Capital Stabilization Fund.
Selectmen agreed that any money saved should be split between both accounts. After all, this year won't be the last time the town needs to buy a police cruiser, Deveau said.