By Melanie Petrucci, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – The Shrewsbury Annual Town Meeting (ATM) met May 15 to deliberate 54 warrant articles that included five articles in a Special Town Meeting to convene during the ATM. This Town Meeting marks the last for retiring Town Manager Dan Morgado.
Board of Selectmen Chair John Lebeaux, remarked while acknowledging Morgado’s tenure, “Make no mistake, if you’ve been a resident, taxpayer or a business person since 1997 to the present, you are a beneficiary of Dan’s work.”
With few alterations and comments to the general government line items, the town approved an operational budget of just over $119 million dollars which includes a school budget of $62,375,000, reflecting a 3.26-percent increase over last year.
Lebeaux amended the Personnel Board appropriation with an increase of $345,000 to adjust salary accounts as necessary and to cover costs associated with collective bargaining agreements and allowing an additional staff person in the Town Manager’s Office in FY2018.
Subsequently, the town manager’s line item was amended with an increase of $30,000. These amendments were approved.
School Committee Chair B. Dale Magee, M.D., presented the School Department budget. The overview briefly detailed the $62,375,000 requested.
Magee noted that this budget is level-funded which will provide students with the same level of education funding that they received this year.
This budget allows for an increase of $1.9 million and includes adding about four full-time equivalent positions and includes 2 percent cost of living as well as step increases. Shrewsbury High School will add a new assistant principal.
Magee noted that charter schools are attracting fewer students due to innovations made by the district and fewer students from Shrewsbury are being accepted into the Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School because of a change in their admission policies.
School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Sawyer informed the meeting that elementary schools are stretched and the high school will see its highest enrollment in the next couple and is expected to exceed 1,900. They are cognizant of the need to respond to any potential growth with regard to proposed development projects in town
Article 12, which was put forth by a citizen petition, is a resolution opposing Spectra/Enbridge’s natural gas pipeline in Shrewsbury. The article pertains to the “West Boylston Lateral” natural gas transmission pipeline that serves the Worcester loop. Town Meeting voted, after robust deliberation, 120-91 in favor of the non-binding resolution.
Town Meeting Member Gail Aslanian, Precinct 1, spoke along with residents Henry Bergassi and Jenn and Steve Fishman who provided the proponents point of view.
Aslanian stated, “Article 12 is being brought forward tonight for your consideration by a large number of Shrewsbury residents who are concerned about the high pressure natural gas line that is proposed to run through their community.”
The West Boylston Lateral includes five miles cutting through Shrewsbury. The Worcester loop also affects several other area communities.
Steve Fishman outlined the argument for opposition which included minimal benefits to Shrewsbury. The town would see about $25,000 in tax revenue. The impact to property owners includes property use restrictions due to easements, owner responsibility for property tax on the easements and decreasing property values.
The risks of the project include its proximity to Shrewsbury High School, Gymnastics Learning Center and God’s Little Children Preschool and St. John’s High School athletic fields.
“The idea of putting a pipeline within a thousand feet of a school is in my mind enough to say ‘no,’” said William Royer, Precinct 8.
The pipeline would run beneath Newton Street and Old Mill and Flint Pond roads, as well as I-290, routes 9 and 20, and Main Street. Its effect on Shrewsbury’s drinking water is also of great concern and its proximity to high tension power lines.
Bergassi said that the impact of this article would be to send a message to surrounding towns that the pipeline is not welcome in Shrewsbury. He claimed that the need had not been verified.
“The board voted 4 to 1 not to recommend this article,” Lebeaux said. “We all need to heat our homes…..we do not see this as a viable project. We see a project that is at best hypothetical.”
Town Meeting Member Laurie Hogan, Precinct 3, moved the question to end debate. It was approved and the article went to an immediate vote. After a voice vote, Town Moderator Christopher Mehne asked for a standing vote which verified its passage.