NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 30, 2013

W. Newbury board looks at items proposed for fall warrant

BY JENNIFER SOLIS
CORRESPONDENT

---- — WEST NEWBURY — Selectmen took an initial peek at a draft for the warrant voters will consider at a Special Town Meeting in November. The preliminary document had 19 articles on the agenda for the meeting scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. on Nov. 4 in the Town Annex, 379 Main St.

The fall Special Town meeting is typically held to deal with outstanding bills or other items that, for various reasons, were not able to be addressed at the Annual Meeting in April, although other types of requests are not altogether unusual.

A few notable items on the draft warrant for this year’s fall meeting include:

$299,222.57 for the town’s share of expenses and upkeep of facilities and grounds at the Page Elementary School, as stipulated in a lease agreement with the regional school district;

$9,000 to reimburse DPW building operating expenses for chairs bought for the new Page School cafetorium;

$1,500 to hire an administrative assistant for the Finance Committee for 20 hours per week.

Voters may also be asked to consider authorizing selectmen to enter into a lease to facilitate the installation and operation of a solar array on Main Street and a power purchase agreement of no more than 30 years to buy photovoltaic energy generated at the site.

And selectmen have left a space holder on the warrant for possible acceptance of the Soldiers and Sailors Edward Memorial located at 359 Main St. as a gift from Charles L. Carr Post. Selectmen are working with the Community Preservation Committee to investigate costs and possible funding sources to renovate the aging property, also known as the American Legion Hall.

Selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles Jr. spoke against a request for $37,659 to fully fund the Other Post Retirement Benefits obligation, an amount that would be added to the $103,000 voters have already approved for the purpose. Knowles feels the account is overfunded, but his colleagues want to look into the matter further before deciding whether to keep the request on the final warrant.

The board objected to a request by the Board of Library Trustees for $8,799.64 to pay an additional position “to help cover vacations, sick time and much needed time to complete tasks.” Knowles said the need should have already been factored into the budget for this year, which voters approved at the annual meeting in April.

The chairman suggested adding an article proposing the adoption of the state’s “Strong Chief” legislation for the fire department. But Selectmen Glenn Kemper and Joe Anderson preferred to let the Board of Fire Engineers look into the matter further before bring it to Town Meeting floor. The statute provides for the restructuring of the fire department’s leadership from a Board of Fire Engineers format to one that is run solely by a fire chief.

In other business , selectmen appointed Greg Pekarski as a reserve police officer for one year and Kymberly Codair to the Finance Committee. Scott Wolke has tended his resignation from the Board of Water Commissioners because he is moving out of town.

Selectmen reviewed a request for proposals for the annual financial audit, as well as a health insurance “Opt Out” program for employees, and a two-year lease with the Children’s Castle child care business located in a section of the Page Elementary School. The lessee agrees to pay the town $10,731 per month this year and $11,053 per month starting on July 1, 2014. Under the agreement, the town pays the utility bills.

They approved a street opening permit for 241 Middle St. and OK’d request by Town Counsel Michael McCarron to attend the state’s Municipal Lawyers Association annual meeting and convention in Yarmouth from Oct. 17-19. Cost for participation is $700.

Finance Director Warren Sproul provided selectmen with a copy of the Actuarial Valuation of the Postretirement Welfare Benefit Fund, also known as OPEB. Conducted by the USI Consulting Group, the study shows an amount of $140,659 for the town’s Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability, the amount West Newbury should be funding for the fiscal year. Contribution rates over the next two fiscal years drop to $49,487 and $42,633 respectively.

At the request of the auditor, excess funding — or net OPEB obligation — has been closed to zero for subsequent years. The study assumes an asset rate of return of 7 percent and the expected benefit payment will reimburse the General Fund for its expenditure at the end of the fiscal year, according to Sproul.

Kemper is looking for volunteers to participate on a Memorial Day parade planning committee. Anyone interested can contact the selectmen’s office, 978-363-1100, ext. 115