WEST NEWBURY — Selectmen turned down a request from the bicentennial committee to add an item to the special warrant for Town Meeting next month.
The committee was hoping to receive approval to spend some of the remaining money in its account to buy picnic tables and benches for the Mill Pond Recreation Area.
The gift was to be made in lieu of a more formal community service project the panel had hoped to run during the weeklong celebration in July. Committee members brought the idea for the gift before selectmen in early September.
When learning that the special warrant had closed Sept. 23, committee members asked selectmen to reopen it so their request could be added.
But by a 2-1 vote last week, selectmen rejected the request, in part because it went against a board policy to limit items on the special warrant only to those requests that were unexpected or wouldn’t keep until next spring’s annual Town Meeting.
The board also worried reopening the warrant for one committee would result in others bringing forward new requests as well.
“If we’re going to open it, it has to be done for everyone,” said Selectman Glenn Kemper.
Town Manager Angus Jennings questioned whether the money in that account could even be used for this purpose, noting that voters had approved the bicentennial expenditures specifically for a “celebration or special event.”
The purchase of benches and picnic tables was not part of the original budget presented.
Jennings said voters appropriated $140,000 for the bicentennial in April 2018 and received $25,000 from the state. Proceeds from the sale of tickets and bicentennial paraphernalia were also added. As of Sept. 24, the committee reported a remaining balance of $61,743. But the town accountant still needs to reconcile this amount, said Jennings.
Bicentennial Committee co-Chair KC Swallow believes voters knew the budget was preliminary and would evolve as the plans for the celebration firmed up.
Both the original service project and the alternative gift idea were intended to provide a community improvement as a way to honor the town’s milestone, Swallow said, adding that prices will likely go up if they wait to make the purchase next spring.
Selectmen Chairman David Archibald was the only one to vote in favor of the request to reopen the warrant. Swallow’s panel will discuss the selectmen’s decision at a meeting later this month.
Selectmen also discussed other Special Town Meeting agenda articles, including $50,000 to begin a five-year hazardous tree removal program. The idea is to prevent trees or their limbs from falling on wires or roads, said Public Works Director Wayne Amaral, who also serves as tree warden.
No trees will be removed from Main Street, which is a state highway, or from private property, open fields, playgrounds or parks, he said.
“As a tree warden, my goal is to save trees, not tear them down,” he said.
Amaral will post a list of trees scheduled for removal on the town’s website, www.wnewbury.org.
The DPW also seeks $5,000 to install two dehumidifiers at GAR Memorial Library along with $2,600 to offset unanticipated expenses that were pulled from the building operating budget for carpet and duct cleaning in July when concerns about possible air quality issues and mold were raised. The problem is resolved, according to the state’s Department of Public Health, which did an inspection this summer.
The Health Board has two requests totaling $77,500 for issues related to the post-closure of the Steele landfill. Methane produced at the landfill is migrating under Middle Street, according to health officials. The town needs to install a cut-off trench and monitor gas migration year round. The landfill was closed in the 1980s.
Voters will also consider several requests to tap Community Preservation Act money — among them $1.5 million for a restoration project for the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall. Selectmen recommend against applying any funds from the Free Cash account toward the project, proposing instead, using $250,000 from CPA and bonding the remainder, with the annual cost for the borrowing covered by CPA.
The CPA account has $194,556 targeted for historical preservation and more than $1.5 million in undesignated funds.
Archibald cautioned against draining free cash because it may be needed to offset West Newbury’s share of the Middle Street bridge project. The board unanimously approved a $2.6 million design for the bridge that includes a sidewalk on one side. The town is applying for state funding to help defray costs; with any remaining balance split evenly with Newburyport.
Selectmen meet next Oct. 13 to vote their warrant recommendations for Town Meeting on Nov. 4.
The board began the meeting in closed session with Police Chief Jeff Durand and Fire Chief Michael Dwyer to discuss strategies for contract negotiations; and to review a sale agreement for land on River Road and the Brown Springs Farm agricultural preservation restriction and memorandum of understanding with Essex County Greenbelt Association.