Wilbraham annual town meeting warrant preview

June 10, 2020 | Sarah Heinonen

WILBRAHAM – The Town of Wilbraham will conduct its Annual Town Meeting on June 15 at 7 p.m. in the Minnechaug Regional High School auditorium and cafeteria.

There are 47 articles on which the town will vote. Many are routine consent agenda items that require reapproval each year. Of the remaining articles, several will impact the town financially and some will amend established by-laws.

Article 7 presents the town’s operating budget for the fiscal year 2021 (FY21), which begins July 1. The total proposed budget for FY21 is $44,681,071, up from $43,383,103 in FY20. Of that, $26,544,034 is the town assessment for the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District.

Article 14 considers the use of $380,280 from the town’s free cash account to pay for 11 capital projects. The projects consist of nine security cameras for the police department, replacing fiber line for town hall connectivity, property plaques and signs for the historical commission, a broadband study plan, a lawnmower for the recreation department, a chipper for the department of public works, non-bargaining compensation study, tree removal, various town building projects, rescue airbags for the fire department and an autoloader for the ambulance, which is contingent upon a grant.

Taken as a whole, paying for these projects from free cash rather than bonding for them would save the town an estimated $62,700 in interest.

Article 21 would appropriate $150,000 to repave or resurface streets in Wilbraham. As explained in the warrant, this is “the ninth year of a 10-year effort to catch up on the DPW’s pavement management plan.”

Articles 27 and 28 are zoning by-law amendments. The first clarifies language regarding the first floor of mixed-use buildings, specifying that the first floors may only be used for approved commercial businesses and not for residences.

The next by-law change regards large-scale ground-mounted solar arrays and stipulates that, when abandoned, the cost of removal will fall on the owner, rather than the town.

Article 44 is also a by-law amendment. It would allow the town to pursue a home rule petition change authorizing the town administrator to appoint or remove certain municipal employees, subject to approval by the select board. Acceptance of the article begins the process of adopting the change, which involves a request made to the state.

Articles 32 through 40 are community preservation projects. The most expensive of these projects is an article for $250,000 to erect a 3,000 square-foot pre-engineered metal building on the east side of Spec Pond Complex. This article is similar to one approved at last year’s town meeting, however, the project was never fulfilled.

“The high value of Recreation Department’s machines, playing field equipment and supplies to be stored in this Spec Pond Recreation building has introduced fire alarm and suppression systems, hydrant, modified floor design for drainage, septic holding system and professional recommendations of Architect Roy Brown that were not in last year’s plan,” reads the warrant explanation.

The total cost of the project would be $500,000 from both years of funding as well as $22,000 pledged by Friends of Recreation.

Other CPA articles include $220,000 to purchase 71.47 acres of forest land between Bellows Road and Springfield Street, $147,753 to make the Old Meeting House front entrance comply with accessibility regulations and $47,243 to preserve town documents and records.

The final two items on the warrant are petition articles. Article 46 seeks a vote to relocate the new senior center to Memorial School. Article 47 would name Memorial School a historic building honoring veterans.

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