Select Board Notes for June 17, 2024: Review of Town Meeting alternative models, sewer financing, and ideas for goals

June 21, 2024

The air conditioning was on in the Acton Town Hall Faulkner Room as the Select Board met on the warm late-spring evening of June 17, 2024. Noting prediction of an upcoming heat wave, Board Chair Fran Arsenault relayed Town cooling center information. Board members noted a current Habitat for All survey (“The Town of Acton is launching a community engagement effort to re-envision how new residential housing development occurs and we want to hear from you!”), and Board member Alissa Nicol called attention to the new 6th Five Year Review of the WR Grace remediation effort.

The finances of water running through pipes were addressed by Budget Manager Ellie Anderson and Director of Public Works Corey York. The Finance Department reviews the Sewer Enterprise fund annually, and presents rate recommendations to the Select Board. On June 5, 2023, the Board approved a 5.9% increase, and at the present meeting the Board approved a 4.59% increase for a Fiscal Year 2025 operating budget of $1,089,813. DPW Director York outlined a detailed plan for stormwater management, showing how modern information-handling is being used to identify and prioritize the culverts, retention basins, and storm drains most in need of maintenance or replacement.

Attendance at Town Meeting is highly variable, and the local League of Women Voters reported on their efforts not only to identify factors that influence Town Meeting attendance, but also to review alternatives to the open town meeting. Options to increase participation included changing the day and time of the meeting, which in Acton is usually a Monday (and following) evenings. Child care, religious observances, personal mobility limitations and family activities are among the factors that constrain meeting attendance. The lively discussion included mention of technical advances that might facilitate participation. Alternatives to open town meeting, such as elected representatives, were mentioned and their drawbacks were reviewed. The discussion ended without a conclusion.

Public suggestions for Select Board goals were on the meeting agenda. A resident mentioned a review and rewriting of zoning bylaws and requested statements of the financial impact of municipal decisions, reminiscent of the Finance Committee’s Town Meeting recommendation to establish a new group to study town spending. Further along these lines, outgoing Economic Development Committee Chair Catherine Usoff asked the Board to build on recent commercial development progress. Finally, another resident wanted climate issues communicated to higher state government officials. The Board then discussed the number of goals to be set and the impact of the number of goals on town resources.

Briefly noted:

The Select Board proclaimed August 4, 2024, to be India Day in recognition of the upcoming 78th anniversary of Indian Independence.

The Board approved a conservation restriction for the recently acquired 549 Main Street land and approved placement of a sign indicating proximity to that land on the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail.

Approved reallocation of $20,000 in ARPA Funds to extend the taxi pilot program through the end of calendar year 2024 .

Tom Beals is the Select Board beat reporter for the Acton Exchange.


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