Westborough holds Town Meeting, approves most articles

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By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer

Westborough holds Town Meeting, approves most articles
Westborough held its town meeting on Oct. 18 at Westborough High School. (Photo/Stuart Foster)

WESTBOROUGH – Voters in Westborough passed most of the articles on the warrant at their Town Meeting at Westborough High School Oct. 18.

The two articles which were not approved, Articles 19 and 20, were referred back to the town’s Planning Board for further study after both the Select Board and Advisory Finance Committee recommended Town Meeting do so.

Article 19 regards zoning map designations for four properties on Otis St. while Article 20 regards off-premises signs and digital billboards.

This town meeting came after Westborough saw budget cuts for Fiscal Year 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Town Manager Kristi Williams said that the total budget increase represented by all proposed articles was $109,282.

“I think we’re all really proud of all the things that we were able to do despite the COVID-19 pandemic,” Williams said.

Articles 17, 8 prompt debate

Though the majority of articles passed unanimously, some did prompt debate.

Article 17 gave the Select Board the authority to permit alcohol consumption on town property. One voter, Richard Krinsky, said he was concerned with the town’s ability to manage drinking in public spaces due to his experience as an abutter of Cold Harbor Brewery.

“I don’t know why the town wants to encourage outdoor drinking when the model that they have has been a total disaster,” Krinsky said.

Article 8, which concerned the purchase of an electric vehicle for the Westborough Police Department, was also challenged by a proposed amendment from Advisory Finance Committee member Andrew Bradley.

Bradley proposed that the article be changed to authorize the purchase of a non-electric vehicle instead. That amendment was then opposed by a number of voters.

Other article address department needs

Outside of those articles, town meeting also green-lit a number of articles put forward by the DPW, the Recreation Department, the Fire Department, the Police Department and the Westborough Public Schools.

The DPW had sought $167,000 to repair culverts along Jackstraw Brook.

“The culvert is in rough shape,” DPW Director Chris Payant said in a presentation to the Select Board on Sept. 28.

One of two other DPW articles asked for money to buy a portable generator. That, Payant said, will help cover the town’s needs as it waits for a replacement for a broken sewer pump station generator.

The recreation department sought $61,000 across two articles concerning credit card transaction fees and an outdated water pump system at the Westborough Golf Club.

The fire department, meanwhile, appealed to voters for approval of a plan to remove, outdated, hardwired fire alarm cables that have troubled National Grid’s efforts to replace local telephone poles over the years.

The fire department had taken down some of these wires but could not finish the entire project.

“We had a bucket truck,” Fire Chief Patrick Purcell said during Town Meeting. “Unfortunately, that was frowned upon by OSHA, and frankly…we really had no business up in this area trying to remove copper wire. It’s very risky.”

That article budgeted $30,000 in removal, dumpster and disposal costs.

A separate fire department article proposed an upgrade to Fire Department dispatch software.

The police department article to buy an electric cruiser also proposed creating a new administrative lieutenant. The lieutenant will take on a number of duties including handling solicitor permits, processing court discovery motions, holding cell inspections and fulfilling obligations tied to the state’s newly created Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission.

A school committee article asked for $120,000 to hire an additional English Language Learner teacher as well as a payroll specialist.