June 26, 2023
Special Town Meeting Details
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Manchester voters are urged to attend the Special Town Meeting set for Wednesday, June 28 at the Memorial School. Please allow enough time to arrive, register and be seated for the 6:30PM start time.
Complete details on all the articles can be found at the Town’s Web site under Town Meetings and Elections. The full warrant with the 7 articles was published in The Cricket last week along with the recommendation of the Select Board and Finance Committee.
The main reason for this special meeting is the need to approve a modified school budget for the Manchester Essex Regional School District. When the original budget failed to gain approval from Essex voters the School Committee regrouped and approved a lower budget for FY24 at their meeting on June 6. To have an approved budget before the start of the new fiscal year July 1, both towns have scheduled special meetings to take place the last week of June. (Otherwise, the District would be required to implement a monthly budget based on the FY23 budget.) Failure to approve a budget by either town this second time would force a third round which would be a joint meeting of the two towns.
With a lower District appropriation, Manchester voters will be asked to redirect most of the savings toward the Town’s share of the District’s costs to replace the turf on both Hyland and Coach Ed Field multi-use fields. Total costs for both fields come to $1.6 million. The cost of the field at the elementary school is shared 50/50 between the District and Manchester based on field use. Voters approved Manchester’s non-district portion of $400,000 at the Annual Town Meeting and approved District borrowing for the remaining portion. However, with the savings being realized through the new lower operating budget, the Finance Committee and the Select Board recommend voters approve a new $400,000 in direct payments to the District for the second third Manchester owes for the projects to save borrowing costs. Manchester voters can decide how they want to pay for the final third at a future Town Meeting.
Articles 3, 4 and 5 concern amendments to the Town’s zoning by-laws. Article 3 seeks approval for a rewriting of Section 12. This was slated to be voted on at the fall Special Town Meeting but was passed over as that meeting encountered various delays and confusion. Since then, the Planning Board has done some minor fine-tuning of the proposed section which deals with administrative and procedural details. With approval of the new Section 12 voters will have approved the bulk of the needed recodification and modernization of the Town’s zoning by-laws. A summary of the key changes made to Section 12 can be found on the Town’s web site. Importantly, Section 12 would update and relocate the provisions for site plan review. However, if voters do not approve the proposed re-write then they will be asked in Article 4 to re-insert the former site plan review provisions of Section 6.5 which were removed in the fall in anticipation of the new Section 12 being approved.
When the zoning bylaws were renumbered a couple of years ago numerous cross references failed to be updated as well. Correcting these and a few other layout errors is the subject of Article 5. No substantive changes are proposed.
In article 6, voters are being asked to fund the replacement of the Fire Department ladder truck. The current ladder truck is 22 years old and, despite the efforts to bring it into compliance, the old diesel engine failed to pass the required state emission standards. The purchase is to be funded by available funds in the Fire Apparatus Replacement Fund, rescinding the previously approved purchase of a second ambulance from this fund (the Engine will be outfitted to serve as a back-up non-transport paramedic response vehicle), and the proceeds of the sale of an existing mini pumper which is deemed less useful to the department than a full-size ladder and pumper. This will mean all three front-line vehicles – the ambulance, the engine truck and the ladder truck – will all be current and fully functional. (A pick-up truck for all terrain use, and the Chief’s response car round out the department’s fleet.)
Lastly, Article 7 asks voters to approve $50,000 mainly for a salary reserve fund to use as union contracts are finalized. With inflation still running high, new contracts are coming in higher than the 2.5% originally budgeted.