DRACUT — High-profile projects are among the most notable articles on the annual Town Meeting warrant this year.
Town Meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. on June 3 in the Lester G. Richardson Center for the Performing Arts at Dracut High School, 1540 Lakeview Ave.
The first major project is Article 21, which looks to see if the town will vote to appropriate a sum of money from the Community Preservation Fund annual revenues to rehabilitate the former Dracut Centre School at 11 Spring Park Ave. The property is to be owned by the Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA) and converted into nine units of veterans' housing, according to the warrant.
"There's $661,000 that is going to be presented and that is going to be necessary to hopefully get us closer to that project coming to fruition: having housing for working veterans," Town Manager Jim Duggan said recently. "They (CBA) are going through the permitting process and doing everything they need to do on their end."
Duggan said a preference would be made for Dracut veterans.
Another high-profile warrant article, 40, looks to see if the town will vote (pursuant to the recommendations of the Community Preservation Committee) to appropriate $5,495,202 to rehabilitate the playing fields and splash pad at 80 Broadway Road and install two synthetic turf fields, and to renovate and resurface the track surface at the Dr. Christos Daoulas Education Complex.
"That is for the renovation of Veterans Park and for the new turf fields over at the high school with a combination of CPC funds and general funds," Duggan said.
Included in the Town Meeting warrant are more than a handful of voter petitions from residents.
There is Article 27, which looks to see if Town Meeting will vote to amend the Community Preservation Act assessment currently set at 2% down to 1% beginning in the fiscal year.
"I will not be voting for that reduction. You just look in the history of Dracut with the CPA. The results speak for themselves," Selectmen Chair Jesse Forcier said. "These beautiful parks that we have, this opportunity we have with the athletic fields for the school complex — these are the types of things that you need this money for and it is such a fantastic return on our investment. It's not something that I would want to reduce."
As previously reported, Articles 28 and 29 look to see if Town Meeting will vote to set a cap on the current salaries of the town manager and school superintendent for the next five fiscal years. This goes beyond the authority of Town Meeting, cautioned Town Counsel James Hall at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting. Former Selectman Cathy Richardson presented the aforementioned articles at the same meeting.
Articles 30, 31, and 32, are backed by the Dracut Republican Town Committee (DRTC). "I filed those at the direction of the committee," said DRTC Chairman Brian Genest. "The idea was to try to protect taxpayers and prevent the town from placing a new fee on property owners."
Genest recently confirmed this is in connection to the stormwater-related unfunded federal mandate the town must comply with. He said it's "great news for right now" that town officials recently voted unanimously to set a fee at zero as a way to address the new regulations. "But what we want to make sure is that it's a zero fee forever," Genest clarified.
There are also the school-related Articles 33-36, which are supported by a new group called the Ad Hoc Coalition to Fix Our Schools. Rich Cowan, a resident and parent who co-founded the group, said in a May 22 email that its mission is "to advance long overdue investments in Dracut's elementary school buildings."
According to the warrant, Article 33 looks to see if Town Meeting will vote to establish a special purpose stabilization fund to be used for the costs of replacing roofs or reconstructing and insulating walls at school buildings in Dracut where these wall or roof systems are older than 30 years.
"The main goal of this is to make sure the buildings are efficient and that we're not wasting our tax dollars on extra fuel that we shouldn't be using to heat buildings that are really not up to code when it comes to insulation," Cowan said recently.
Duggan at a recent selectmen's meeting said a commitment had been made in writing to use $200,000 for roof designs for both the Englesby and Brookside Elementary schools. "In response to this commitment, our group made a decision on May 16 to no longer pursue Articles #33 and #34," Cowan wrote later in the email.
Cowan said the new coalition will be hosting a meeting called "Who funds our schools?" at 7:30 p.m. on May 30 at the Dracut Police headquarters, 110 Loon Hill Road.
The full Town Meeting warrant is available for viewing on dracutma.gov.