It’s Manchester Annual Town Meeting Time


The Annual Town Meeting (ATM) is set for next Wednesday, April 24.  All voters are asked to come to the Memorial School for the 6:30 p.m. start.  (Come early to avoid the rush and you can listen to the high school acapella group, the Sound Waves!)  Free childcare is available for those who pre-register through the Parks and Recreation Department.  A public information forum on the articles is set for this Thursday, 4/18, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. 

There are 21 articles up for consideration.  The articles can be found on the Town ‘s website either on the warrant or the Finance Committee Report which also contains details of the budget and the recommendations from both the Finance Committee and the Select Board.  The Report also will be mailed to all households within the next few days.  Please bring this report with you to the meeting. 

Most all of the articles at this ATM pertain to expenditures.  The Town’s operating and regular capital budgets are presented in Articles 4 and 5.  This proposed operating budget for the coming fiscal year that begins July 1 proposes a few staffing changes.  A new Deputy Harbormaster is proposed to provide needed assistance for what has become a much busier harbor and waterfront.  Fortunately, a busier harbor generates more revenue, and these revenues can offset the higher staffing cost. Also, the Town’s communications Coordinator role is slated to increase from 3/4ths time to full time, again due to increased demands, including the MBTA Task Force work.  A few part-time clerk positions are combined into one full-time land use clerk position to provide better customer service and continuity amongst various land use boards.  And instead of contracting out for a Clerk of the Works position, which is required for large capital projects, a temporary in-house position is proposed.

In addition to the list of regular capital items found in Article 5 (road work, replacement equipment needs, etc.) There are additional requests in subsequent articles.  Article 6 seeks funding to purchase a portion of the Mason Building, create a new condominium arrangement, and operate a new Senior Center.  Article 7 seeks voter approval to fund and start operating a new Town-run launch service for mooring holders.  While voters need to approve the funding, the goal is to have the new service be fully funded by subscription fees the users will be required to pay annually. 

Article 8 seeks approval of new borrowing (bonds) to pay for major upgrades at the sewer treatment plant, advance the design and testing of new filtration systems to remove PFAS from our drinking water, upgrade a stretch of water main and replace all water meters with new “smart” meters that will provide real-time consumption data (and make leak detections much more effective and timely.)   A total of $7.55 million is sought and will also need approval by ballot at the Town Election on May 21.  

In Article 9 voters are asked to consider redirecting previously approved funds for renovation of the restroom at the library and instead use some of the funds as a match for a planned grant from the state to develop options for renovating and possibly expanding the library. 

Efforts to provide better restrooms ran into severe space constraints.  With the opening of a new funding round from the state for both design efforts and construction projects, the Town has an opportunity to pursue a more global solution to the space needs of the library with an infusion of significant state funds.

Three articles dealing with funds for the School District follow and were discussed in my article last week.

Article 14 presents the recommended Community Preservation Fund projects for next year.  There are 13 different projects plus money for administrative expenses which are listed in the article.  The largest proposed project is the continued funding of the Manchester Affordable Housing Trust for future housing projects.  

Two of the last money-related articles include #16, which seeks an extra $100,000 to cover legal expenses for the current fiscal year.  In addition to defending other appeals, the appeal of the ZBA denial of the 40B project has proven to be expensive not only for legal work but also in expert testimony provided to the state’s Housing Appeal Board.  Article 17 seeks approval of $300,000 for the Town’s annual contribution to the Town’s Other Post Employment Benefits Trust fund to cover future retiree health benefits expenses.  

A couple of other articles, including permission to obtain a new access easement to Powder House Hill through lands owned by the Manchester Housing Authority and a citizen’s petition article seeking to amend the Town By-laws to allow advertising banners on town and school property round out the evening.  

Join your fellow residents in an important evening of community decision making.  Your attendance is strongly encouraged at what I always look forward to – a community debate on important issues that help shape the future of Manchester.