By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Town voters met Oct. 17 and 18 at Westborough High School to consider and act upon 27 articles on the Annual Fall Town Meeting warrant. Participants were able to vote for the first time using hand-held electronic voting devices.
Town Manager Jim Malloy gave a brief presentation on the fiscal health of the town which, he concluded, is strong. For several years the annual property tax increase has held steady within the confines of Proposition 2 1/2. A healthy cash reserve has been established which will facilitate (without debt exclusions) the purchase of apparatus for the Fire Department and capital projects such as the library, Annie E. Fales Elementary School, Pre-K at Elsie A. Hastings Elementary School, and a recreation center.
Article 1, concerning the Gateway District Extension, was the only article defeated. Put forth by the Planning Board, this article would have extended the Gateway District further north on East Main Street in the hopes of giving property owners additional development options. Concerns over increased traffic, property values and safety to families led to its defeat.
Article 3, also put forth by the Planning Board, would amend regulations for medical marijuana treatment and dispensing facilities and marijuana cultivation to include provisions for recreational marijuana. This amendment to this bylaw is intended to get ahead of passage of Ballot Question #4 which will be on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot legalizing recreational marijuana usage. This gives Westborough greater control over the management of recreational marijuana. This passed with a two-thirds majority.
Article 4, put forth by the Fire and Police Department chiefs, would increase their budgets by $354,833 to allow for consolidating their dispatch into one center with funding for the additional hiring of five dispatchers.
At the meeting, Westborough’s new library came a few steps closer to fruition. Voters approved the preliminary design for library renovation/rebuild with the passage of Article 19. The Board of Library Trustees has been working with Lamoureux Pagano Architects on a plan that would demolish the 1980 section and replace it with a three-story addition. Estimated cost of the project is $18.7 million. Approximately 50 percent would be funded by the state through a program of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC). The town passed Article 20 to authorize the Board of Library Trustees to apply for the state grant from the MBLC.
Town Meeting unanimously approved Articles 9 and 25.
Article 9 will increase the appropriations from Article 8D of the 2016 Annual Town Meeting from $780,403 to $790,190 which brings it in line with the amount approved by the State Legislature.
Article 25 involves a lease agreement authorized by the Board of Selectmen which will allow space on the town light pole on Technology Drive for wireless communication which includes the installation of an antenna and other necessary equipment. The lease shall not exceed 10 years but will grant access/easements for service purposes.
For more information on Westborough’s Special Fall Town Meeting, visit the town manager’s page at www.town.westborough.ma.us/Public_Documents/WestboroughMA_Manager/index.
To access video on WestboroughTV, visit http://westboroughtelevision.com/wtv.