By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Town Meeting convenes on Saturday, May 15, at 9 a.m., at Westborough High School. Not only will voters consider an approximately $124 million operating budget, they’ll also decide whether to approve or deny proposed bylaw changes and requests for capital improvements. They’ll also vote whether or not to establish new committees.
Town Meeting members, required to wear masks, will be socially distanced and seated in the Fisher Gym, the Laduke Gym and the auditorium. The auditorium will be designated for seniors and people with disabilities on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Bylaw changes would address poultry, Board of Selectmen name change
Several warrant articles on the town meeting agenda have already received public attention.
For example, a proposed change to the animal control bylaw would set up regulations for poultry on residential lots of two acres or less.
The idea is to prohibit poultry from public property and effectively control the birds so that they won’t be a nuisance in terms of noise, odor and other conduct.
The proposed bylaw gives owners of chickens and other poultry up to 12 months to comply with new rules outlining the maximum number of birds per lot size and providing specifics on the enclosures required to house them.
Failure to comply with the bylaw would result in penalties ranging from $50 to $500.
Amendments to the general and zoning bylaws would also change the name of the Board of Selectmen to Select Board, if Town Meeting so chooses.
Boards would assist people with disabilities, decide on pursuing new town seal
Voters will be asked to establish a Disability Commission with seven members including people with disabilities, their immediate family members and one elected or appointed official.
The purpose of the commission would be to advise officials about relevant state and federal compliance laws as well as design policy, services and facilities to meet the needs of people with disabilities.
Another proposed committee of seven to nine members would, if created, take up the issue of a possible new town seal. Members could include people with familiarity with history or design.
The group will be charged with reviewing the background of Westborough’s town seals and considering whether or not the town should adopt a new one following a public process.
This committee would be expected to provide a report and recommendation to a future Town Meeting on whether or not a change should be made. If it decides yes, the committee report would include a process for creating a new seal.
Vehicles, wastewater treatment among financial items
Many of the remaining warrant articles ask for funds to purchase and/or replace municipal vehicles.
Those include one animal control vehicle valued at $28,435 and two police cruisers set to cost a combined $130,000.
The Department of Public Works, meanwhile, needs a new one-ton pickup truck, a new utility truck and crane, as well as a new loader. Corresponding articles seek $160,000, $122,000 and $200,000 respectively in town free cash and water and sewer earnings to pay for those vehicles.
Other key capital requests include $171,650 to install a sprinkler system at Hastings School; $245,000 to replace the high school gym partition; $25,176 to supplement the cost of grant-funded police body-worn cameras and $45,000 for a building condition assessment of Westborough Golf Club, the Harvey Building and Forbes Community Building.
For the fire department, requests seek $378,622 from free cash and $366,438 from the town stabilization fund to pay for the replacement of a fire truck. The department is also hoping for $86,000 in personal protective equipment for 33 firefighters.
This town meeting’s largest ticket item seeks $4 million for improvements to Westborough’s wastewater treatment plan. The funds may be combined with money borrowed following approval at the May 2007 Annual Town Meeting. Voters will discuss the option of borrowing or obtaining funds from free cash or other sources for the treatment plan.
Officials praise warrant
During a recent meeting, Selectmen Vice Chair Ian Johnson praised Westborough’s financial team, department heads and advisory board. He called the warrant “great, solid work,” adding that the warrant is the most important work done by members of this Board of Selectmen as well as previous board members who have recently ended their service.
The town meeting warrant can be found by visiting https://www.town.westborough.ma.us and clicking “2021 Annual Town Meeting – Warrant.”
More details can be found by visiting the same website and clicking “2021 Annual Town Meeting – Notice.”