WEST NEWBURY – Two requests to preserve large tracts of town-owned land, a study to address parking problems at Pipestave Hill, and a new playground at Page Elementary School are among the 35 articles on the Town Meeting warrant this spring.

In a 2-0 vote, selectmen agreed last week to close the warrant following a discussion of the articles with Town Manager Angus Jennings. Selectman Glenn Kemper was absent.

The articles now will be reviewed by the Finance and Capital Improvements committees, which will make recommendations to selectmen before the final version of the warrant is posted by April 10.

Chairman John Dodge is hoping the Open Space Committee’s proposal to transfer the care, custody, control and management of the property on Hilltop Circle and Brake Hill Terrace to the Conservation Commission will make the final cut.

Formerly known as “the Craven property,” the parcel was purchased for $175,000 in 2002 for general municipal purposes. The land was at one time used for skiing and later considered for use by the Pentucket Regional School District for sports.

Since the town bought the property, the Open Space Committee created the Brake Hill Trail system that leads up Brake Hill to the highest point in town, an elevation of 258 feet. With parking on Brake Hill Terrace and Hilltop Circle, the trails lead to Craven Woods, Groveland Town Forest and the West Newbury Water Department tower.

When Dodge made his pitch before selectmen, Chairman David Archibald cautioned against doing anything that might impinge on the Water Department’s access to its tower site. 

“Let’s not create a problem that we don’t have,” Archibald said.

“That makes sense,” Dodge said. “I want the Water Department to have everything they need.”

But he also stressed the reasons for protecting the land from other uses, including the role trees play in helping to combat climate change and the need to protect the watershed.

Noting the challenging terrain and historic lack of soils in that area that perc, Selectman Rick Parker said, “I can’t imagine the town would want to do anything with it.”

“An extra layer of protection is a good thing,” Dodge said. He encouraged selectmen to “maybe let the town vote on it and see what they say.”

The Open Space Committee is also hoping for a second warrant request to spend $175,000 in Community Preservation Act money to buy a conservation restriction on three parcels totaling about 38 acres off Middle Street. The restriction would be secured in partnership with Essex County Greenbelt Association.

The Park and Recreation Commission wants to hire a consultant to make recommendations on parking at the Pipestave Hill – to include the potential use of municipal land on the adjacent Dunn property. Once a scope of work is agreed upon, cost estimates would be sought from three vendors.

Selectmen included a placeholder for a Special Town Meeting warrant article seeking an undetermined amount of CPA money to replace the Page School playground. The estimate on the CPA application was for $556,612, but an updated proposal that trims approximately 20 to 25% from the plan will be presented to the CPC on Feb. 20.

The goal is to make the playground Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, with a pour-in-place surface and accessible equipment.

Other proposed warrant requests include $300,000 in anticipation of costs associated with the reconstruction of the Middle Street Bridge; $247,647 to offset the property tax impact of a Proposition 2½ tax override and debt service associated with the new Pentucket middle/high school; $328,600 — an amount equal to this year’s debt service payoff — for the special purpose municipal stabilization fund established for the school building project; and $8,048 for grant matching funds for the installation of electric vehicle charging stations at Page School and the 1910 Town Office Building. With two charging plugs at each location, the National Grid incentive grant is valued at more than $60,000 per site.

The Public Works Department seeks $229,020 for a new dump truck to replace a 2008 dump truck; $40,000 to replace failing sections of concrete flooring at Page School; $39,150 for improvements to the Council on Aging, public safety complex and old DPW garage; and, in partnership with the Fire Department, $304,000 to upgrade the fire alarm system at Page.

The Fire Department also wants $11,500 for emergency equipment while the Police Department is asking for $19,000 for radio replacement.

A $14,000 request would buy ADA-compliant picnic tables and benches at the Mill Pond dock area as a gift to mark the town’s bicentennial in 2019 and $3,800 would cover salaries and expenses pertaining to early voting for the 2020 state primary election and November presidential election.

Among the proposed bylaw changes are a real estate tax exemption for certain surviving relatives of military personnel and veterans and a bylaw to encourage the proper disposal of dog waste, with fines set for violations.

The annual and Special Town Meetings are April 29.

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