NEWBURY — A panel responsible for recommending updates to the historic Upper Green suggested several proposals of “widely supported repairs which could be done before winter.”
The Upper Green advisory committee, with Robin Etheridge as chairman, made its first report to selectmen last week following a public forum at the town library last month in which 20 residents participated.
Selectmen approved this first stage of the project pending the receipt of more information on costs and proper public notification before completing some of the work.
The committee proposed trimming trees on the green while also assessing their health.
“This would be done by Newbury Tree Warden, Tim Lamprey, who has been in discussion with us and agrees with this recommendation,” an advisory committee memo to selectmen stated.
Lamprey advised the panel that applying gypsum over the soil would improve areas where drainage was an issue. Lastly, the group recommended removing the stumps from around the green’s edge.
Selectman Damon Jespersen wanted the approval contingent upon obtaining costs for the stump grinding and gypsum from Public Works Director James Sarette.
The tree trimming would need to be added to the Department of Public Works agenda as soon as possible, according to Town Administrator Tracy Blais. She will check with Lamprey to determine what public notice might be required before the trimming is scheduled.
In other business, Blais said the town has received a cybersecurity awareness grant from the state Executive Office of Technology and Security Service.
The grant provides one year of free monthly online training modules. Blais also said the Fire Department has received a 2020 KME ladder truck and is expecting its new pumper truck next month.
Selectwoman Alicia Greco informed her colleagues that this winter, the Recreation Committee hopes to create a skating area at the playing field near the library on Lunt Street.
The panel would fund the project from its revolving account and notify the town’s insurance company once the rink is operating. There would be no cost to skate.
Jespersen said he wants to consider bringing back to Town Meeting a vote to fund the creation of a seasonal public bathroom facility and small police annex on town-owned property on Plum Island.
Voters at the fall Town Meeting last month rejected a request to use $220,000 from the free cash account to renovate 31 Plum Island Blvd. for those purposes. They cited a lack of clarity over maintenance costs, dangerous traffic created by beachgoers crossing the road to use the bathrooms; and frequent flooding in the area.
But noting that the vote to purchase the property at a previous Town Meeting was 273-90 in favor, Jespersen said he believed it was worth giving the request another go.
Greco said information put forward at Town Meeting that the property was located in a flood zone was false.
She said local businesses are interested in having a public bathroom in the area and the design plan is already completed.
As a beach community, the new facility would provide “a sense of pride,” Greco said.
Selectmen discussed correspondence from William DiMaio critical of what he saw as Selectman Mike Doyle’s flip-flop on the Plum Island bathroom facility article and a $1.73 million request to supplement the budget for a new police station on Morgan Avenue.
Doyle voted in favor of the articles when the warrant was being created but spoke against them on the Town Meeting floor.
“Indecisiveness and changes in support for articles at Town Meeting that are contrary to previous recommendations send mixed signals to the attendees,” DiMaio stated.
Noting Doyle’s campaign theme last spring was “enabling the voice of the people to be heard,’’ DiMaio suggested the selectman should stand for the people who elected him and “not waffle and show support to sooth opposing citizens” at town meetings.
Doyle said he was under the assumption that his first vote was intended to decide whether to bring the article before voters at all.
“I apologize if I made a mistake. It won’t happen again,” he said.
Selectmen held a tax classification hearing with the Board of Assessors, adopting a single-tier tax rate with a residential factor of 1. In town, 96.5% of all properties are classified as residential, according to principal assessor Nathaniel Cramer.
Selectmen accepted $525 in two donations for the World War II memorial fund, which brings the account balance to $2,445.
Jeff Wardwell resigned his position on the Board of Library Trustees effective immediately, citing “unforeseen family difficulties” in a letter dated Nov. 12.
The board accepted the resignation with regret and wished him and his family well.