FROM THE TOWN ADMINISTRATOR’S DESK
By Gregory T. Federspiel
While the topic of the day remains the upcoming vote on the proposed new school project, I want to give a few other updates before getting to more information on the school vote.
First, be aware that road construction work will begin October 8 on Burnham Lane and down School Street from the Catholic Church to Sawmill Brook. An old, undersized drainage pipe is being replaced with a larger pipe to better handle runoff in this area of town. The work will likely last through early November. Most of the time one lane of alternating traffic will be maintained but there could be times when a detour is necessary. Travelers are encouraged to use an alternate route during the construction.
Other construction work that is still to get underway this fall is the replacement of an old water line on Ocean Street along Black Beach and Phase II of replacing a series of water valves and old fire hydrants throughout town. Details on these projects will be forthcoming.
The management of public construction projects poses a unique set of challenges. Over the past 5 years we have completed nearly $15 million worth of capital investments. Most of these projects have gone smoothly but three in particular – the Crowell Chapel renovations, the boat ramp, and the renovation of the Chowder House, (representing under 10% of the total projects undertaken) -- proved time consuming and more costly than originally anticipated to complete. Thanks in part to good questions that residents have raised, we are continuing to evaluate our project management processes and we are undertaking a review of the Chowder House costs by a third party to see if the process we followed failed to maximize the use of taxpayers’ dollars. At a later date I will share the results of this review and additional steps we will take to ensure we manage 100% of our projects well. (With the recent hiring of our new DPW Director Charles Dam and a new Facility and Project Manager Nate Desrosiers, two engineers with extensive project management experience, I have high confidence in our ability to achieve a 100% satisfaction rate on construction projects going forward.)
Back to the upcoming Special Town Meeting: the meeting scheduled for Monday, October 15 at the Memorial School will likely draw a larger than normal crowd. While we see some 350-450 people at a typical town meeting, we could see upwards of 1000 voters. This is a good thing! The decision whether to build a new school is an extremely important one and having a large turnout helps to ensure we are hearing from a broad segment of the community.
The elementary school gym and the adjoining cafeteria area will be filled first. If necessary, additional seating will be available in the auditorium where an assistant moderator will be helping to run the meeting. We will be using electronic voting devices thus “secret” voting will be easily and quickly accomplished with the results known immediately. Given the expected numbers, voters are urged to arrive early to allow time to park, check in and settle into their seats. Check in will begin at 6pm.
The approval of the school project requires a super majority (2/3rds) vote of those present. Because the funding for the project is proposed, at least in part, to come from a new debt exclusion, approval of the debt exclusion also must happen by ballot at a Special Town Election which, for this question, is slated for the same day as the general election on November 6. This ballot vote is decided by a simple majority. The ballot vote will take place regardless of the outcome of the town meeting vote. If voters decline to approve the project at the October 15 meeting by a 2/3rds majority but then approve the project at the ballot vote, the voters will need to vote again at a future Town Meeting by a 2/3rds majority before the project could move forward. This same process will be taking place in Essex as well. Both District towns must approve the project before it can proceed.
Have questions? Avail yourself to the information the School Committee has on their web site and feel free to contact me. I am happy to help get the answers you need to make an informed decision.