October 21, 2022
Water Ban Continues with Some Easing; STM Ready
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Water Ban Updates: The healthy rains we have had over the last few weeks have helped to green up the grass again (pretty resilient plants!) and have at least slowed the declining water levels in ponds and streams. However, the drought begun this summer is still technically with us. It will take months to make up for the lack of rainfall we experienced this summer. We remain under a drought advisory, and the ban on non-essential outdoor water use remains in place.
Given that we are in the second half of October and near the end of the growing season, the Select Board has eased up on the outdoor water restrictions. Hand watering and drip irrigation use no longer is limited to early morning and evening hours only. The time restriction has been lifted. Permission is also given to use fresh water to flush outboard motors as boat owners winterize their vessels. This one-time use will not draw that large a quantity and is an important part of putting up a motorboat for the winter.
While this easing of restrictions is being made, residents are urged to continue to conserve water. The community has done a commendable job cutting back and the Town has avoided the need for even more restrictions because of the cooperation. Hopefully normal precipitation returns through the rest of the fall and into next year and the Select Board can lift the restrictions all together.
Fall Special Town Meeting: The Planning Board put their final finishing touches to the set of proposed amendments to the Town’s Zoning By-laws this past Monday, October 17th. This sets the stage for the Select Board to finish the warrant which they will do on Thursday evening, October 20th. 16 articles will be up for debate and votes at the November 14 Special Town Meeting slated to start at 6:30PM at the Middle-High School.
13 articles are zoning related. The 13 proposals are available on the Town Website. Many of the proposed changes are geared toward making the by-laws clearer and consistent with new state laws or court cases. Others are more substantive in nature and will likely generate debate. News articles from the Planning Board are providing background and details on the proposed changes. These, also, can be found on the Town’s web site along with a summary of the proposed changes.
Two articles seek funding to supplement the existing FY23 budget (the budget that runs through June of 2023.) The first request is for funds to cover expenses related to the ZBA’s review and now the subsequent appeal to the state of the 40B apartment complex proposed for Upper School Street. Voters are being asked to appropriate $130,000 from the Town “Free Cash” or undesignated fund balance account to pay for the legal and expert witness expenses we have or will incur.
The second “money” article asks voters if they will approve using funds that have already been set aside in the Fire Engine Apparatus Account to pay for either a refurbishment of the second ambulance or purchase a new ambulance. This ambulance is 12 years old and has significant mechanical problems. The front-line ambulance is three years old. It takes about two years from the time of ordering to delivery of a new ambulance. If voters approve purchasing a new ambulance now, in two years the current front-line ambulance would rotate to being the spare and the new ambulance would be used as our primary ambulance. This would put us on a “5 +5” year rotation going forward – each ambulance would serve as the primary vehicle for five years and then as the spare/second ambulance for five years.
Alternatively, the Fire Department has been asked to explore rebuilding the old ambulance which presumably would cost a lost less and have a much quicker turn-around time. Up to $450,000 is being asked to be approved from the Fire Engine Apparatus Account (leaving some $500,000 in the account) to cover the cost of either option. If the less expensive re-build option is pursued, the unused funds would revert back to the reserve account.
The third non-zoning related article is a citizen’s petition article asking voters to approve a recall provision for elected local officials, details of which were provided in the October 13th edition of the Cricket. The full text of the proposal is contained in the warrant which will be posted on-line as well as in various locations in town and published in the Cricket.
Please plan on attending the Special Town Meeting on November 14th!