Teen program, CPA projects, budget on Belchertown Town Meeting menu
BELCHERTOWN — With the Teen Center closing at the end of June, voters at annual Town Meeting Monday will be asked to establish a new program to allow youth to continue participation in a variety of activities.
The creation of a “Tween and Up” fee-based program is among the 30 articles that will come before Town Meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Belchertown High School auditorium.
The warrant also has a proposed $44.4 million fiscal year 2014 budget plan for the town, of which $25.88 million will be used for the public schools. The school budget is rising by $580,683, or 4.9 percent, over this year’s $25.2 million plan.
The proposed FY14 municipal budget includes $3.5 million for pensions and insurance accounts, $3.46 million for public safety, $1.68 million for general government, $1.57 million for the Department of Public Works, $1.59 million for the sewer enterprise fund and $1.17 million for Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School.
Voters may have questions about the budget, said Select Board member Kenneth Elstein, but he said he doesn’t anticipate widespread concerns about the services that will be provided.
“I think we’re in pretty good shape compared to other towns,” Elstein said.
The annual Town Meeting will be preceded by a special Town Meeting, starting at 7 p.m., that includes establishing the terms of a lease for a private solar project.
Both the “Tween and Up” program and an associated revolving fund, not to exceed $25,000, need Town Meeting authorization. The revolving fund is expected to use money remaining in a balance from the Teen Center.
Debbie Dorval, administrative assistant to the Recreation Department, said the revolving fund is necessary to establish the program and purchase equipment.
“We will continue on with the programs so they’re self-funded,” Dorval said.
The name change also reflects serving children who are 10 to 12 years old, Dorval said. Among activities are kayaking and mountain climbing, baking and cooking classes and theater, as well as several tutors who can help with studies. But it remains uncertain whether the new program will be able to use the Teen Center space.
Elstein said residents will want to have discussions about losing the Teen Center. “That’s a tough decision because it’s one that has come up over the years,” Elstein said.
Another measure on the meeting agenda aims to adjust the user charge and fee system for the wastewater treatment plant and sanitary sewer system.
“It’s basically deleting a lot of outdated and irrelevant information and clarifying the way rates are calculated,” said DPW Superintendent Steven Williams.
Williams said the sewer rates will be set by the Select Board based on recommendations he makes and won’t be affected by this article.
Another item on the agenda would let the Select Board to enter into an agreement with Granby for the discharge of wastewater into the town’s treatment facility.
Williams said both the town of Granby and officials at the MacDuffie School at the former St. Hyacinth Seminary suggested this connection. This allows for negotiations with the Select Board and determination after a feasibility study is completed.
Town Meeting will be asked to accept as a public way Center Street, a private subdivision road that is now up to municipal standards, and grant permission for a lease contract of five years for a DPW tractor.
Voters will also be asked to approve several Community Preservation Act projects, including: $75,000 for the rehabilitation of the Hope United Methodist Church, $45,000 for designing a new skate park at the current location, $40,000 that would go toward work on the creation of Jessica’s Boundless Playground, and $10,000 to hire a consultant to survey buildings outside the Belchertown Historic District.
A citizen petition seeks to repeal the Recreation Commission established in May 2004 and replace it with the Parks and Recreation Committee originally formed by a vote in March 1967. The commission was established nearly a decade ago to give greater budgetary authority to oversee the recreation director.
A new pay scale and classification system for municipal employees will be presented. This includes changed job descriptions for many employees.
Permission is being sought by the Select Board to enter into renewable energy power purchase and/or net metering credit purchase agreements, giving the town opportunities should any projects arise.
The board could also be given authority to convey 8 Berkshire Ave, a .981-acre parcel, and 41 Jabish St., .51-acre parcel and the former Franklin School at 720 Franklin St.
The four-article special Town Meeting warrant includes a payment in lieu of taxes that would be mandated for the company building a solar farm on Ware Road. This annual payment would be $13,400 per megawatt, with an increase in the payment of 2 percent per year during the 25-year agreement.
That warrant also has a series of transfers, including $60,000 from the town’s share of health insurance for phone system replacement and $54,000 to purchase a boom mower for the DPW.