May 12, 2023
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Election Day: First up is a reminder about the Town Elections next Tuesday, May 16. Voting takes place at the Memorial School from 7AM until 8PM. An absentee ballot can be filled out at Town Hall up until noon on Monday, May 15. A sample ballot can be found on the Town’s website – see the Town Meetings and Elections page. In addition to the various elected offices on the ballot – Select Board, Planning Board, Library Trustee, School Committee, Housing Authority and Moderator -- there is one ballot question that asks voters to affirm the vote from the Annual Town Meeting to pay the Town’s share of replacing the artificial turf at Hyland and Coach Fields through a debt exclusion. Hyland Field is maintained 100% by the School District. The cost of Coach Field is split evenly between the District and Manchester. Voters approved the Town’s share of Coach Field using mostly Park and Recreation program fees to cover the cost. The work is slated for this coming summer into early fall though the budget issues facing the District (see below) may alter the timing.
CAO Newsletter Error: Related to the up-coming elections, incorrect information was contained in the Council on Aging May Newsletter. The newsletter, privately funded by the Friends of the COA and advertisers, had a layout/editing error made by Town staff which resulted in incorrectly noting a letter as being from the Planning Board. The letter was not from the Planning Board but rather from a Planning Board member running for re-election. This member has since agreed to pay the Friends of the COA. The letter also stated incorrectly that two Planning Board members are running for re-election – only one is with an appointed member filling a vacancy seeking election for the first time. Neither the COA nor the Planning Board endorses candidates for election. The COA Director and I take responsibility for the error and apologize for any confusion. Going forward no campaign letters or advertising will be allowed in official Town publications. A report has been filed with the MA Office of Campaign and Political Financing about this error.
School Budget: The Town of Essex voted against a Proposition 2 ½ override needed to pay their share of the Manchester Essex Regional School District. This means that both towns must hold a special town meeting to vote again on a proposed District budget. The School Committee will need to develop a new proposal for consideration by both communities. Details will need to be worked out in the coming weeks. A late June Special Town Meeting may need to be scheduled. If a proposed budget were to fail a second time, then, the two towns would meet in a joint special town meeting and a vote taken with one combined tally of the voters present. If a new budget is not approved prior to the start of the new Fiscal Year come July 1, the District would need to operate on a one twelfth budget month to month based on the current year’s total budget until such time as a new budget is approved.
MBTA Zoning Task Force: With the appointment of the last two members of the Task Force by the Select Board and Planning Board at a joint meeting this past Monday, May 8th, the Task Force is ready to begin its work. Impressively, eight residents applied for the two at-large positions. Deciding who to appoint was not easy given the strength of the applicants. Hopefully the candidates who were not appointed along with residents in general will provide substantial input to the Task Force as it works through the complexities of determining how best to respond to the new state requirement for by-right multi-family zoning. Stay tuned for future forums on this topic.
Resiliency Action Steps: Stay tuned as well for upcoming workshops on options for dealing with rising sea levels and bigger storms. A set of recommendations resulting from the analysis of the village core area will be ready by the end of June. Preliminary ideas include extending and re-enforcing the MBTA RR track berm as a means of holding back storm surges and waterproofing the sewer treatment plant as well as Town Hall and the Fire Station. On a similar timeline are options for the Rotunda at Tuck’s Point. The pilings must be replaced – do we rebuild in place but with taller pilings or do we consider relocating the Rotunda to higher ground altogether? No doubt these discussions will be lively with many strong opinions.
School Street Construction: The work of grinding down the old pavement and laying down new pavement is in full swing on School Street. Obviously, this work is disruptive to many and the noise and dust a true annoyance. Progress is being made and with luck the work will be mostly completed by the end of May. Motorists are encouraged to use Pine Street instead of School Street when possible. Once completed the road will have new all new sidewalks, road surface, water and sewer pipes and improved drainage. Thank you for your patience.