By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough—Changes to the town’s governing charter, $15 million for a long-delayed renovation of the Forbes Municipal Building and funds to study ways to create new space for the town’s youngest students are among the decisions that will face Annual Town Meeting (ATM) voters on Saturday, March 12.
In all, there are 40 articles that await action, including the town’s $94.6 million operating budget for fiscal year 2017, which represents a 3.4 percent increase over the current year’s spending levels.
Selectmen Chair George Barrette, who also serves on the Charter Review Committee, urged voters to come to the ATM with an open mind on the changes proposed to the document that dictates how the town is governed.
“A lot of thoughtful work has gone in to what we are proposing,” he said. “I have spoken to people who have said they heard there are things we are proposing that are not true. All I ask is that people come and listen to our presentation to get the facts.”
Many of the charter updates are edits meant to correct typographical errors or move sections of the charter to make it easier to find information. Some of the more substantive changes include strengthening the residency requirement for the town manager, police and fire chiefs and public works director to live in the town of Westborough. Another change would make it clear that various positions, such as Recreation Director and Council on Aging Director, are direct reports to the town manager, rather than the boards they represent.
The committee is also seeking to remove language that requires the town to publish results of internal investigations. Town Manager Jim Malloy noted that since most internal investigations relate to employee conduct, records of those proceedings are shielded from the public by state law and cannot be released.
Voters will also be asked to lay out new zoning regulations aimed at defining the uses the town wants to encourage on the parts of the Westborough State Hospital land it intends to market to developers and to approve tax-increment financing (TIF) agreements with eClinicalWorks and Cumberland Farms, which intends to move its headquarters to Westborough.
To help generate funds for roadwork, the town will also ask voters for permission to petition the state for the right to establish a local gasoline tax. Malloy said based on a survey of area gas dealers, more than 8 million gallons of gasoline are sold annually in the town. Westborough could generate $250,000 annually for road repairs with a 3 cent local tax, he added.
The ATM will be held at Westborough High School, 90 East Main St., Saturday, March 12 at 1 p.m. To view the entire ATM warrant visit http://www.town.westborough.ma.us/Public_Documents/index.