May 8, 2023, Town Meeting
A summary of warrant articles up for discussion and vote
Our next Town Meeting will be held on May 8, 2023, in the BHS Auditorium. This May gathering is known as the Annual Town Meeting, where your representatives approve (or deny) the budget and most of the capital requests for the upcoming fiscal year. There will be no hybrid participation option, but the meeting will be broadcast on BCAT.
I am summarizing, paraphrasing, and otherwise stealing from the official documentation, the Warrant and Backup (supporting documentation) which can be found in the Town Meeting section of the Town Clerk’s website. For clarification, please go there.
You can view the proposed FY24 budget for all town departments and 10-year capital plan and the draft school budget, too. Below, you’ll see many explanations that were gathered from Doug Davison last year and were so good I didn’t bother trying to reword them. Thank you, as always, Doug, for helping me (and Buzz readers) understanding town finances!
Please reach out to your precinct representatives with questions and input. Not sure what precinct you’re in? Click here for an interactive map. After Town meeting, I’ll be sure to update this document so you can see how the votes went.
May 8, 2023, Town Meeting
Article 1 - This just says Town Meeting will hear reports from town officers and committees.
We heard updates from Economic Development, DPW, and Planning. Click the links to read those updates; it’s too much for this already bursting-at-the-seams article to handle.
Article 2 - Authorizes the use of funds to pay outstanding FY2023 expenses and close out the year.WITHDRAWN
Article 3 - Authorizes the funding of the FY 2024 budget. This is a HUGE article, and it is accompanied by its own separate budget book, which can also be found here, split into School (226 pages) and Town (all other departments, 117 pages). Everything PASSED
Article 4 - Transfers money from our Free Cash to our Stabilization Fund. Free Cash is money left over after the fiscal year’s accounts are trued up, and the Stabilization fund is a kind of rainy-day fund established to take care of any unexpected expenses that come up. some of the later capital articles are requesting to be paid from the stabilization fund.WITHDRAWN Article 5 - Transfers money from our Free Cash to our OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) fund, which pays for things like health insurance for retired town employees.WITHDRAWN
Article 6 - How much is allowed to be in our revolving accounts, which are accounts that have both income and expenditures, and essentially fund themselves. Examples of this are the rain barrels, which the town buys and residents buy from the town, or the Ice Palace Improvement and Maintenance, which is funded by Ice Palace Revenues. At a certain point the excess goes into the town’s free cash, so we are essentially deciding what that amount is.
This year, there are some increases requested to cover things like increased demand for large recycling toters. Again, this doesn’t represent an increase of allocation, just an increase in the amount of money that can be held and spent out of the revolving fund. PASSED
Article 7 - This is another big and huge one, and I’m not going to go into detail here, but these are capital articles—one-time expenditures that will come from one place or another. There is a capital request form for most of these, and backup for each one. If you have questions about any of these, I highly recommend checking out that backup document.
From Free Cash
7-01 ($110,000, Burlington Fire Department) - New pickup truck for the fire department to carry tools for in-service fleet repair. PASSED
7-02 ($35,000, BFD) - Bird netting for the fire departmentWITHDRAWN
7-03 ($100,000, DPW) - NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Stormwater Retrofit Project to comply with EPA regulations. This will be an every-other-year project to benefit the environment and promote health and safety of the community. PASSED
7-04 ($125,000, DPW) - Design and reconstruction of a pump station at Douglas Ave, bringing the station up to date and adding high-efficiency pumps and controls to reduce operation and maintenance costs. PASSED
7-05 ($200,000, DPW) - Drainage repair/stream cleaning to relieve localized flooding. PASSED
7-06 ($30,000, DPW) - Portable sewer bypass grinder pump: Currently we rent these in emergency situations, which can take hours or days. Owning our own will allow for faster response times. (In case you don’t know what one of these is, they clear clogs by breaking flushable material into smaller parts. Don’t think about this one too much.) PASSED
7-07 ($60,000, DPW) - Terrace Hall station sewer grinder. See above; this one is just a static grinder for the Terrace Hall station, which is the first stop for any sewage flushed in the town and needs to be replaced proactively so it doesn’t fail, sending sewage flowing into the street. PASSED
7-08 ($40,000, DPW) - Terrace hall VFD Replacement Phase 1: These Variable Frequency Drives are original to the facility and need to be replaced proactively to prevent an event like that described above. PASSED
7-09 ($25,000, DPW) - Sewer Vactor Truck Repairs: This is a giant vacuum for the sewers and the fan needs to be repaired “to prevent impending disaster.” PASSED
7-10 ($607,000, DPW) - Vehicle Replacement Program: This is to maintain a reliable fleet of DPW vehicles and is accounted for in the capital plan. They’ll be replacing several vehicles—some with rot, one with a bent frame, one which was totaled in an accident, all more than 10 years old. PASSED
7-11 ($41,000, DPW) - Carpenter House demolition. This house is at 1 Dearborn Road, is in poor condition beyond rehabilitation, and is “an eyesore in the neighborhood.” PASSED
7-12 ($100,000, DPW) - Dog Pound Renovations: The dog pound is moving to the old Main Water facility at 2 Great Meadow Road and this funding would allow for renovation of the existing garage to provide a safe place for any animals that end up there. PASSED AFTER A COUNT 51-46
7-13 ($250,000, DPW) - Facilities upgrades/energy conservation measures: These funds will complement grant funding to contribute to the town’s efforts to decrease its energy output by 20% in 5 years (from 2019). PASSED
7-14 ($24,000, DPW) - Cemetery tractor: The old tractor, used for ground maintenance and cleaning at both Pine Haven and Chestnut Hill cemeteries, is rusted out and needs to be replaced. PASSED
7-15 ($200,000, DPW) - Recreation building demolition: Edgemere Garage is going to be empty since Recreation Maintenance Staff and Dog Pound have been relocated. It can’t be reused due to poor structure and rodent infestation. PASSED
7-16 ($100,000, DPW) West School and Museum repairs: Painting and repairs to “improve building quality and aesthetics.” PASSED
7-17 ($100,000, DPW) - Winn Street and Mountain Road Traffic Light Design: A traffic engineer determined a signal is necessary here, and these funds will go toward designing it. PASSED
7-18 ($90,000, Recreation) - Dump truck replacement: This vehicle would be an addition to the existing fleet, and would allow seamless maintenance of fields parks, etc. while another truck is in for repairs to front suspension issues and minor electrical problems. PASSED
7-19 ($62,000, Recreation) - Outdoor Facilities Master Plan: This 20-year plan is to replace the 2000 plan, and its creation has been pushed back since 2021. The idea is to incorporate all the different plans and assessments the town has undergone in the last several years (Needs Assessment, Town Open Space and Recreation Plan, School Athletic Field Master Plan) into a new, holistic plan that will guide the near future of the department. PASSED
7-20 ($25,000, Recreation) - Accessible van: This funding will supplement funds that were approved for FY22, when inventory was unavailable, and reflect the current cost of the accessible van. PASSED
7-21 ($25,000, Recreation) - Dump body and tailgate replacement: This truck is fine except for the dump body; that part is rusting out and doesn’t close properly, and needs to be replaced. PASSED
7-22 ($50,000, Recreation) - Street hockey renovations: This area will be turned into pickleball courts and the existing pickleball courts will be converted to a street hockey area, in the hopes of eliminating noise concerns from neighboring residents. PASSED AFTER A COUNT 48-47
ADJOURNED FOR DAY 1
7-23 ($45,111, School) - MSMS security cameras: This will upgrade the existing two camera systems, with spotty coverage, into one full-coverage system. PASSED
7-24 ($115,562, School) - Pine Glen instruction space transformation: These renovations will provide dedicated space for tutors, counselors, and other educational staff. PASSED AFTER LONG DEBATE
7-25 ($154,980, School) - BHS Lightspeed Amplification Systems: Audio amplification for BHS classrooms to provide a universal accommodation that is also legally required for students with some hearing impairment. PASSED
7-26 ($82,770, School) - BECC student bathroom renovations: These will convert the bathrooms to be updated, more age-appropriate, and safe. PASSED
7-27 ($42,049, School) - Francis Wyman stairwell resurfacing: This will mitigate safety risk from worn, slippery stairways. PASSED
7-28 ($150,423, School) - Pine Glen siding and soffits: This will repair visible deterioration and remove insects as well as prevent them from nesting there in the future. PASSED
7-29 ($39,393, School) - Francis Wyman cafeteria grease trap: It won’t pass Board of Health inspection if it’s not functioning, and the project requires a new sink, new piping, and access under the floor via jackhammer. PASSED
7-30 ($41,190, School) - Memorial fire system upgrades: The current system is end-of-life and a new one is required to pass inspection and also to ensure safety of students and staff at Memorial in case of an emergency. PASSED
7-31 ($700,000, School) - Francis Wyman grass field: This project includes grading and slice-seeding the outfield but also rejuvenates the infield and adds new safety features like dugouts, backstops, fencing, etc. PASSED
7-32 ($0?, School) - MSMS athletic field improvementsWITHDRAWN 7-33 ($0?, School) - BHS athletic fields improvementsWITHDRAWN
From Receipts Reserved
7-34 ($150,000, DPW) - Pine Haven Columbarium: The existing section is over 50% reserved, and the foundation is laid for a new section; this project is to build that section. PASSED
7-35 ($55,000, DPW) - Pine Haven chapel roof: The shingles are from 1996, and the roof leaks. PASSED
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Financial Articles, Continued
Article 8 ($1,071,425.14) - Accept Chapter 90 funds from the state for infrastructure maintenance including paving. PASSED
Article 9 ($107,975) - MWRA I/I Debt Service: This is to pay back loans from MWRA to help limit our inflow and infiltration problems with the sewer system. Ideally the only water in the sewer pipes would be sewage. Unfortunately sewer systems end up with inflow (water put there illegally - think sump pumps piped into a home's sewer line) and infiltration (water that gets in the system when ground water leaks in through cracks or old porous cement pipes). All of our sewage goes into a larger pipe in Woburn, and from there to Deer Island in the Harbor. There is a meter at the Woburn line and we get charged for every gallon of water/sewage that crosses into Woburn. So we pay to treat storm water. The state requires we try to remediate I/I problems to limit stress on the system and to prevent waste. The MWRA offers a program where we borrow money at 0% interest, then they grant us 75% of the amount borrowed and we pay back the 25% over 10 years at 0%. This annual article pays that loan payment. PASSED
Article 10 ($6,444,500) - Annual article to pay the sewer bill. PASSED
Article 11 ($1,285,351) - This is to pay for the MWRA (Massachusetts Water Resources Authority) connection, so we can be a part of that larger water provision resource. PASSED
Article 12 ($2,000,000) - Fire aerial truck to replace an older one. There’s a 3-4-year wait for delivery of these apparatus! PASSED
Article 13 ($1,500,000) - Water main upgrade/replacement: This would provide upgrades to our water main, which is approaching its 50-year pipe design life. The projects explicitly called out are at Mall Road, Middlesex Turnpike, and Blanchard/Wheeler Road, where we will have significant upgrade projects in the coming year(s). PASSED
Article 14 ($1,200,000) - MWRA Inflow/Infiltration Program - Phase 14 to repair sewer mains, manholes, etc. and prevent inflow (illicit connections to the sewer system) and infiltration (leaking sewer pipes and structures). PASSED
Article 15 ($585,000) - There’s a fee on each cable bill that then goes to fund community programming, so this article transfers those fees to BCAT because they provide our community programming. PASSED
Article 16 ($485,000) - Transfer from Receipts Reserved Account for Ambulance Services to purchase a new ambulance and retire an old one and place it in reserve. PASSED
Article 17 ($360,000) - Transfer from Receipts Reserved Account for Ambulance Services to offset FY24 budget PASSED
Article 18 ($360,000) - Transfer from Receipts Reserved Account for Ambulance Services to offset FY23 budget (This article was withdrawn last year.) PASSED
Article 19 ($208,516) - This is to fund the Negotiated Settlement Account to fund the Administrative and Professional Compensation Plan. This amount is a result of contract negotiations, and as such it comes from the Negotiated Settlements account and does not affect the operating budget. PASSED
Article 20 ($500,000) - Sick time buy back for employees who retire or otherwise separate from employment. This is a transfer from free cash into the accrued liability account to cover a larger-than-usual number of retirements during FY24. PASSED
Article 21 ($40,000) - Economic Development public private placemaking events: this will fund some events put on by the Economic Development office to “replicate the placemaking efforts in other locations and during different seasons.” Several examples are given in the backup, including immersive light shows and a winter market. PASSED
Article 22 ($20,000) - Fourth of July Parade: The town usually splits this cost with local businesses, but last year asked for the whole $40k. This year we’re back to requesting half of the cost. PASSED
Article 23 ($20,000) - Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training: This is what came out of the Select Board’s work with its own DEI subcommittee from roughly November 2021-November 2022. At the end of that one-year charter, the Board agreed they would benefit from more training and agreed to seek outside assistance. This funding “would allow for the facilitation of education by a third party to any and all elected and appointed officials so as we continue to have these conversations we can do so from a level footing.” PASSED
Article 24 ($20,000) - Seasonal decorations for the Town Common to enhance community connection during times of celebration; may include things like bunting and banners. PASSED
Article 25 ($TBD) - Historical Commission storage shedWITHDRAWN
Article 26 ($20,000) - Burlington 225th celebration: This would be used to develop a “kit” that can be delivered to down departments and organizations to help celebrate the 225th anniversary of Burlington’s incorporation through existing events. PASSED
Article 27 ($TBD) - This is the most feel-good item each year, and just allows us to accept money from the will of Marshall Simonds to support the park. 😊 PASSED
Article 28 ($TBD) - Funding the Sculpture ParkWITHDRAWN
Article 29 ($450,000) - Repurpose the money that was granted by Town Meeting last year to replace the music room floor and instead conduct a feasibility study for renovating BHS or building a whole new school.
Article 30 ($1,050,000) - Burlington High School Feasibility Study - This is the additional cost to conduct the feasibility study mentioned in Article 29. PASSED
Article 31 ($140,000) - Francis Wyman baseball field rehab: This is related to article 7-31 above, but is sponsored by neighbors, while 7-31 is sponsored by the schools.WITHDRAWN
General Bylaw Articles
Article 32 - Changes the bylaws to allow construction on Saturdays between the hours of 7am and 5pm instead of 9am-7pm like the bylaw currently states.WITHDRAWN
Resolution Presented by Land Use Committee and Endorsed by Town Meeting:
Burlington Town Meeting expresses support for the Burlington Sustainability and Resilience Action Planning Project, a proposal before the Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program. The proposal, if funded, would lead to a planning-based Action Grant for the Town of Burlington.