Westborough to replace town seal

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Westborough to replace town seal
Westborough’s Town Seal

It was announced during Special Town Meeting on Tuesday that Wendy Mickel will not be running for re-election as Town Clerk.

Article 19 — Rescind Borrowing Authorization

The request is to rescind $810,000 for the town’s water system improvements, and $1.5 million for chillers at the high school. Both projects have been covered by funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Select Board member Patrick Welch presented the article.

Article 19 passes, 165-1.

Article 20 — Improvements to Westborough Treatment Plant

This request is for $4.25 million for capital repairs and improvements to the town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant. Plans include replacement of the rotors in the aeration system, replace the grit truck, and rehab the sludge-holding trucks. The items are needed to keep the plant in proper operating condition.

Tom Burke of the Westborough Wastewater Treatment Plant presented the article.

Jack Goodall of the Westborough Treatment Plant Board presented details on why the rotors in the aeration system need replacing.

The rotary replacement project was approved at the May 2021 Town Meeting, but the pricetag has increased from $2.6 million to $5.7 million.

The plant is shared with Shrewsbury and Hopkinton. Westborough pays the operating budget and capital items; the other two towns then reimburse Westborough.

A neighbor of the plant asked about sound insulation; Goodall said they will look into it.

Article 20 passes two-thirds majority, 179-11.

Article 21, 22 and 23 — Town Seal

These three articles will determine changes to the town seal, which has been used by the town since 1977.

Article 21 asks to allow the Town Seal Review Committee to make its report.

Article 22 asks to replace the 1977 seal with the 1913 Town Seal.

Article 23 (only if Town Meeting votes down Article 22) asks to establish a Town Seal Design Committee.

Nick Argento of the Town Seal Review Committee presented Article 21.

Article 21 passes, 140-46.

Argento proceeded to present the committee’s report.

The committee sent out a survey to residents — 59% of respondents wanted to change the seal, 37.5% desired to keep the seal, 3.5% had an ambiguous response.

Why change the seal? Argento said that when he first moved to town, he thought the cotton gin was a lawn mower. The cotton gin has also been connected to the rise of slavery in America.

Why the 1913 seal? Residents thought the seal is “iconic and timeless.”

The Town Clerk’s office has the original 1913 town seal embosser.

The committee recommends replacement of the 1977 town seal with the 1913 seal. If this is not approved at Town Meeting, then a design committee would be formed.

Argento then presented Article 22.

A resident asked about cost estimates to replace the town seal on uniforms, stationery, etc. Argento said it could cost $38,696, depending on when department heads decide on replacement.

Those wishing to keep the 1977 town seal have been asked to vote “no” to articles 22 and 23.

One resident asked to keep the town seal because not enough residents provided input; another resident said people should be honored having Eli Whitney represented on the town seal.

Another resident wanted to know if the color of the seal could be changed to “Ranger red.”

Mike Andrews said he wanted to keep the 1977 town seal to honor the town’s history.

Shelby Marshall of the Select Board said she supports the replacement of the 1977 town seal. She said the 1913 seal has a “classic look.” The 1977 seal is difficult to print and emboss, she added.

Article 22 passes, 143-59.

Article 23 has been passed over, 167-33. This means the 1977 town seal will be replaced with the 1913 seal.

Article 24 — Acceptance of MGL 138, Section 33B

This asks the local licensing authority to authorize licensees under Chapter 138, Section 12, to sell alcoholic beverages between 10 a.m. and noon.

Shelby Marshall of the Select Board presented the article.

Article 24 passes, 120-36.

Article 25 — Economic Development Revolving Account

This request would increase the amount of money that the Economic Development Committee can award through its grant assistance for small businesses. The maximum expenditure would go from $40,000 to $60,000.

Mark Zepf of the Economic Development Committee presented the article.

Article 25 passes, 147-12.

Article 26 — Home Rule Petition (Senior Tax Relief Committee)

This asks for additional exemptions for senior residents, once certain criteria are met.

Ian Johnson, chair of the Select Board, presented the article.

Chief Assessor John Steinberg made the presentation on behalf of the Senior/Disabled Taxation Relief Committee.

The State Circuit Breaker Income Tax Credit is available to those 65 or older by Dec. 31; they must own or rent residential property in Massachusetts; there are also income requirements.

In 2020, 345 residents qualified for the credit, with an average credit of $1,023.

Steinberg said the credit can help seniors stay in the community.

“This is for those who come into the office and say they’ve been here 30 years, 40 years,” he said.

He added the article would expire after three years of implementation, which is scheduled to begin in fiscal 2024.

The Council on Aging supports this article.

Article 26 passes, 150-7.

Article 27 — Grant of Utility Easement

A request to authorize the Select Board to grant easements at 123 Fisher St.

Allen Edinberg of the Select Board presented the article.

Article 27 passes, 142-2.

Article 28 — Handicapped Parking Fines

If approved, fines collected for handicapped parking violations would be expended by the Commission on Disability.

Heather Crump, chair of the Disability Commission, presented the article.

She said the funds could be used to produce education pamphlets; provide assistive devices; handicapped-accessible port-a-potties; and update town building signage.

Article 28 passes, 137-8.

Article 29 — Plastic Reduction Bylaw

This article would restrict the use of single-use plastics by retailers and restaurants.

Dr. Nathan P. Walsh of the Board of Health presented the article.

This is an amended version of the bylaw that was discussed at the spring Town Meeting. It was sent back to the Board of Health.

The board held a public information session with local businesses over the summer. Businesses overall like the bylaw, but had issues with supply chain issues, the availability of alternatives, and policing.

Under the use regulations section, grocery stores and retail stores must use biodegradable material for dine-out services when such an alternative exists.

A resident requested an amendment to strike this regulation.

The amendment was defeated, 112-28.

Nathan Askew of Sustainable Westborough said, “We do have an issue with waste in Westborough.” He supports the use of biodegradable materials.

Should the article pass, the amended bylaw will take effect in six months.

Article 29 passes, 125-18.

Article 30 — Amend Purpose of Borrowing/Reallocation Articles for Hastings School HVAC to include ADA Compliance

This request would re-allocate some of the funds appropriated for the HVAC project for design costs to cover ADA compliance work.

Lisa Edinberg, chair of the School Committee, presented the article.

Superintendent Amber Bock gave a history of building projects at Hastings Elementary School.

Some projects have been completed, such as sprinklers and relocation of the front office. However, this work has triggered the need for ADA upgrades to the building.

Design costs for ADA compliance would be $438,095, or 12% of the overall project. This would include ramps, door handle knobs and handicapped-accessible bathrooms.

A Hastings parent wants the school brought up to code, and supports the article.

Article 30 passes two-third vote, 121-13.