DRACUT — Adding a stormwater and erosion control bylaw to Dracut’s General Bylaw to comply with a federal mandate and the possible reduction of the Community Preservation Act (CPA) surcharge for residents are among the major warrant articles in the Annual Town Meeting.
Town Meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Lester G. Richardson Center for the Performing Arts in Dracut High School, 1540 Lakeview Ave.
The total fiscal 2018 budget is $75,701,966, a 2.55 percent increase from fiscal 2017’s budget of $73,812,810.
The multi-faceted Article 25, which takes up 10 pages of the 21-page warrant, is looking to include a “Stormwater and Erosion Control By-Law.” According to the warrant, the purpose of the bylaw is to protect, maintain and enhance the public health, safety, environment, and general welfare of the town by establishing minimum requirements to control the adverse effects of soil erosion and sedimentation, among other issues.
“It’s an unfunded mandate that’s being imposed on communities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Town Manager Jim Duggan told The Sun last week. “This is something that we are not taking lightly. We are moving forward in a conservative, strategic approach on the implementation.”
According to Selectman Tony Archinski, one of the goals of the warrant article is to establish an enterprise fund.
“Right now what has happened is all the towns in the Commonwealth have been told we have to do something about stormwater,” Archinski said.
If this article is not passed in Town Meeting, Archinski, Duggan and other officials say there will be consequences.
“People need to realize that, if this doesn’t pass through and is allowed to be a fee charged to residents, then that money has to come from somewhere and it’s coming from the bottom line,” Selectman Jesse Forcier said. “It could be anywhere between $1 million and $2 million from our operating budget and that’s going to severely affect our public safety and our schools.”
“It’s very important that the town votes to approve the bylaws and the enterprise fund,” Selectmen Chairwoman Alison Hughes told The Sun recently.
Article 29, presented by a resident, is looking to reduce the CPA surcharge that is a levy on property taxes which is used for the preservation of open space, creation of community housing, among other projects.
The article aims to lower it from 2 percent to 1 percent.
“Right now the average person pays about 87 dollars a year that goes into the CPA funds and that’s the money that we use to preserve land. We can also use that for historical preservation,” said Archinski, adding that he is against reducing the surcharge.
“It goes without saying that I believe that the CPA has done many, many things in town to preserve land. I think it’s a good program and I think that it should continue.”
Duggan said he does not support this article, citing the town’s open spaces and agricultural character.
“I’m not saying everything has to be agricultural, but we at least need to continue to embrace our heritage with what CPC does,” the town manager added.
In 2011, Selectman Joseph DiRocco Jr. proposed ending the CPA surcharge through a Town Meeting article.
“The people came out loud and clear that they weren’t in favor of lowering,” DiRocco recalled recently. “It’s done a lot of good things. I can’t say that it hasn’t … that’s one of the ones I wouldn’t mind people having a say in.”
Among other articles are:
* Article 13, which is looking to fund the conversion of existing streetlights to energy efficient and long lasting LED;
* Article 17, which is looking to appropriate from the Equipment Stabilization Fund a sum of money to fund the fiscal year 2018 costs of purchasing equipment for the Fire Department and/or Public Works Department;
* Article 20, which is looking to declare surplus to the town’s needs a building and land at 11 Spring Ave. The building, a former elementary school, has been vacant for the past several years. According to the article, if declared surplus the town will issue a Request for Proposals to reuse the property for affordable residential units with a preference for Dracut veterans.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.