, Newburyport, MA

May 1, 2013

$14M budget, water department appropriations highlight Town Meeting

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall

---- — ROWLEY — Residents will gather at Pine Grove School on Monday, May 6, at 7:30 p.m. to vote on the 47 articles on the warrants for the Annual and Special Town Meetings. Along with approval of a $14 million town budget, the highlight of decisions to be made by voters will be on several articles related to water department appropriations.

More than five articles on the town warrants are regarding the water department, the most notable being Article 12 on the special town warrant. This article asks residents to approve a $15,875 transfer of funds from the water treatment plant interim loan interest line to pay for the penalty from the Department of Environmental Protection. This penalty was assessed for town violations of federal and state drinking water laws as a result of the actions of two former water department employees who were found to be butchering deer at the well station on Boxford Road.

Other articles on the special town warrant call for transfers to pay for water department emergency safety equipment; new filing cabinets for the water department business office; salary to compensate the water department’s business manager, Laura Hamilton, while she was “acting superintendent” when Superintendent John Rezza was on medical leave in February; and a $10,000 transfer for purpose of developing a Standard Operating Procedures manual for the water department.

Additionally, as provided for information in Article 7 on the annual town warrant, water rates will rise over 26 percent in 2014 from fiscal year 2013, mainly to cover the costs of building the new $12.3 million water treatment facility in town. Fiscal year water rates collected $1,530,587 (estimated) in 2013 compared to the $2,060,522 that is expected to be collected with 2014 rates. The tiered payment system for 2014 water rates will see increases from $11.25 to $14.91 for 1 to 4,000 gallons; from $13.25 to $17.91 for 4,001 to 10,000 gallons; and from $14.25 to $19.91 for over 10,001 gallons.

Voters this year will consider a fiscal year 2014 town budget of $14,057,488, up from $13,688,690 last year. Additions to the budget were seen in several line items, including salary increases for town employees, and increases in health and life insurance costs for employees, which went up by almost $25,000.

The assessment for the Triton Regional School District for fiscal year 2014 is $7,947,188, more than half of the town’s total budget. The assessment for Whittier Regional Vocational Technical School went down from $162,809 last year to $136,836 for fiscal year 2014.

Other highlights of the Annual Town Meeting warrant include a vote to amend the Zoning District Map of Rowley and the Rowley Protective Zoning Bylaw, and the approval of expenditures, not to exceed $20,000, to be used by the 375th Anniversary Committee for the town.

There is an article on the Special Town Meeting warrant to appropriate $135,000 of Community Preservation Actfunds to preserve and restore the exterior of the town annex at 39 Central St. The town expects to realize approximately $453,444 in fiscal year 2014 in CPA funds from real estate receipts and a 30 percent match from the state.

Other appropriations up for approval at the Special Town Meeting include $43,500 for the purchase of a fire department command vehicle and $7,000 for portable radios; $5,000 for roof and ceiling repairs at Town Hall; and a $3,778 appropriation so that the cemetery department may purchase a computer to begin storing grave records electronically, as they only exist now in paper form. Related to this, in Article 18 on the special town warrant, the cemetery commissioners are asking for $20,000 to expand the cemetery.

The town moderator and Board of Selectmen will begin the May 6 meeting at 7:30 p.m., addressing the 25 articles of the Annual Town Meeting first, then the 32 articles for the Special Town Meeting. All residents are encouraged to attend.