Several articles at Hudson Town Meeting address fire at DPW garage

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Several articles at Hudson Town Meeting address fire at DPW garage
Town Moderator Richard Harrity and Town Clerk Joan Wordell at Hudson’s Town Meeting. (photo/Sarah Freedman)

HUDSON — The Annual Town Meeting was a night of democracy and decisions as Hudson residents came out to vote on a warrant containing many finance-related articles on May 6 at the Hudson High School auditorium.

Several of the financial articles were connected to the two-alarm fire on Feb. 14 that damaged the Department of Public Works garage and many vehicles, including a Vactor vacuum truck that is used to pump liquids from underground.

Article 6 passed, which was a vote to authorize a lease-purchase financing agreement to acquire a Vactor truck for the Water Department for a term not to exceed the useful life of the equipment. The truck would replace the vehicle lost in the fire.

At the Feb. 27 Select Board, the DPW Director Eric Ryder said it would be a lease to purchase for nine months, and the board voted to enter into such an agreement with C.N. Wood at a rate of $16,000 a month.

A companion article, Article 28, also passed to appropriate $675,000 to purchase a Vactor truck for the Water Department. The funds would be borrowed, according to the article, and fund an older truck that was lost. 

Ryder said due to the loss of two Vactor trucks, the Select Board voted to approve the agreement so the DPW could temporarily rent a truck until the insurance proceeds were approved at Town Meeting through Article 7, which passed. Eventually, it would be purchased.

Voters also approved Article 12 to see if the town would transfer from free cash a sum of money to fund design, engineering and construction costs relative to building renovations to the Fire Headquarters.

During an April 8 Select Board meeting, Executive Assistant Thomas Gregory recommended the appropriation of $1.2 million to fund the renovations. The renovations would include the replacement of the membrane roofs, rooftop air-handling units and smaller renovations. The renovations totaled $1,711,491, and $587,300 is left from a prior funding appropriation.

The Capital Plan, or capital requests from Article 5 that will be funded with free cash, came to a total of $2,742,450. For the Fire Department, the majority of the funds were requested for a fire engine for $975,950, NFPA Certified Turnout Gear for $200,000 and a breathing air compressor for $80,000. The request for $400,000 for renovations to fire station #1 was removed to accommodate a transfer for funds to fix the Fire Headquarters.

Article 4 passed and rescinded the unissued borrowing authorization that was approved at the 2023 November Town Meeting for the fire engine so the free cash could be used.

Other capital requests were for $300,000 to resurface the roadways by the DPW, $150,000 for design funds for the Hudson Public Library, $215,000 for police cruisers and $168,000 for computer workstations and monitors by the Police Department. For the Hudson Public Schools, requests were made for modular classrooms for $480,000 and Hudson High School gym repairs for $120,000.

Schools

During the vote for Article 3, or the town budget, a hold was placed on the school budget items and the DPW budget overall prior to their passage. 

Resident Shanna Weston noted that at the last Annual Town Meeting, residents voted to fund a new DPW facility with no information about the impact to schools. She believed the cost of buses should go from the DPW to the school budget as there will no longer be bus storage at the DPW facility.

Ryder said when the DPW building was proposed, there were many meetings with the school department about the bus storage. When the new Superintendent Brian Reagan’s administration began, they “met early on” about the issue. He believed the DPW was not responsible for covering the cost of storing school buses.

She also asked when the School Committee members knew about the situation. Reagan said when he began last July and informed the committee of the situation shortly after he started his role. 

Weston spoke in favor of the school budget because Reagan and the School Committee have “done an admirable job” in creating a budget in which every penny is stretched as “far as it can go.”

Burks thanked at Hudson’s Town Meeting

The Select Board Chair Scott Duplisea and Select Board member James Quinn also took a moment to thank Vice Chair Michael Burks, who would not be seeking re-election, for his time on the board.

“Tonight is his last Town Meeting during his term. I’d like to thank him personally for all his service to the board. And, also as a friend, I’d like to thank him,” said Duplisea.

Quinn said after taking “a deep dive” into Burks’ service to the town, he noted “how proud your mom was of your service to the public and to the town of Hudson.” 

He added, “On behalf of the town of Hudson, thank you.”

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