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Select Board discusses additional proposed Town Meeting articles, Clinton Street streetlight request

by | Mar 7, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Select Board at its meeting Wednesday night reviewed language proposed for new articles for the upcoming Annual Town Meeting on May 6 and the request for a new streetlight on Clinton Street near wildlife sanctuary parking.

Select Board member Mary Jo LaFreniere proposed an article that would reduce the tax burden on some older residents. The article would petition the Legislature to pass legislation to authorize a means-tested property tax exemption regarding taxes incurred from school construction projects.

This would exempt older residents who meet certain financial guidelines from paying the portion of the property tax that goes toward new school construction projects, she explained. Beneficiaries would have to be age 65 and older, own property and be under an income guideline. It would most likely follow the same guidelines used for current senior tax exemptions.

“It’s not a whole lot of money,” she said, noting that between 40 and 60 people receive some form of senior tax exemption now. “The idea is that we’re going to try to help our seniors stay in town by exempting them only from the school portion of the tax bill.”

These residents would have to file an application, she added. They still could qualify for other exemptions.

LaFreniere said she is trying to determine the expected number of applicants and the cost to the town. The article language also will be refined.

Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch said it would be helpful to see the impact this senior tax exemption would have on the average taxpayer.

Ritterbusch also clarified that that this only applies to school building construction and not the school portion of the town’s budget, which is quite large. Member Irfan Nasrullah asked if it also would apply to school additions or expansions.

Said LaFreniere: “It would apply to all new school construction.”

Chair Muriel Kramer asked if this exemption would apply to future years of borrowing for school construction projects already approved. LaFreniere confirmed that was true.

“I think this is very timely,” said vice chair Shahidul Mannan, “especially when we have so many prospective school projects coming in. It’s a huge burden for some of our resident groups.”

Article would allow non-voting residents to participate at Town Meeting

Assistant Town Manager Elaine Lazarus said she worked with Town Clerk Connor Degan on language for an article that would allow non-citizen residents to participate in Town Meeting but not vote on articles.

Kramer proposed this article after learning about the status of residents living in town on H-1B visas. Although they are not yet United States citizens, they pay taxes and are impacted by school construction and other town policies. This article would allow non-voting residents to attend Town Meeting and express their opinions but not vote on articles.

Nasrullah asked if the non-voting members would count toward a quorum and was told they would not.

Lazarus noted that town counsel will be reviewing the language of all proposed articles.

Clinton Street streetlight requested by resident

A Clinton Street resident requested that a new streetlight be placed on his street. It would be located on the west side of Clinton Street across from the parking area for the Mass. Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary.

Bob Scumaci proposed the new streetlight in response to the noise from younger people hanging out there “and the drinking and inappropriate activities that are going on.” People coming out of the parking lot at dusk also are at risk of being hit by speeding drivers, he said.

LaFreniere noted that the area is not lit and can be very dark, making this streetlight “needed for a while.”

Town Engineer/Facilities Director Dave Daltorio explained that there had been no utility poles in that area of the street until there was a pole petition last year by Eversource to extend its utilities to the town line.

“They put in new poles,” he explained. “But the overhead utilities have not been strung yet.”

Daltorio added that the resident requesting the streetlight had noticed “after-hours activity” in that area that prompted him to call the police. He will work with Mass. Audubon on a streetlight that would be amenable to the wildlife there.

Town Manager Norman Khumalo said the cost is not yet known. He said it should be able to be funded in this year’s budget. There also may be outside funding sources.

This request will be considered when more details are available.

Open space land donations approved pending ATM approval

The Select Board unanimously approved an agreement pertaining to the holding of a deed conveying open space land in the Whisper Way subdivision to the town pending approval of an article at the 2024 Annual Town Meeting.

It similarly unanimously approved this type of agreement for the former Connelly Farms subdivision, which is now called the Elmwood Farms III subdivision. If Town Meeting votes to accept these land donations, they will be overseen by the Open Space Preservation Commission.

Two positions to be added to town ballot

The Select Board voted unanimously to file a notice of election with the Town Clerk for two recent board vacancies to be placed on the 2024 town ballot in May. They include one term on the Board of Library Trustees expiring in 2025 and one term on the Planning Board expiring in 2027. Recent resignations by David Tull and Ron Priefer, respectively, prompted this request.

UCTC stakeholders meeting to be held Friday

Nasrullah announced that the stakeholders in the Upper Charles Trail Committee reconfiguration process will be meeting on Friday to determine next steps. The new draft charge will be discussed.

HPD chief’s potential administrative leave discussed in executive session

At the conclusion of the meeting, an executive session was held to discuss whether Hopkinton Police Department Chief Joseph Bennett should be placed on administrative leave. He currently is being investigated by the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office for his role in the release of identifying information of an alleged survivor in a sexual assault case against former HPD Deputy Chief John Porter. This information was included in an insufficiently redacted version of the Kroll report that appeared for two days on the HPD news blog.

1 Comment

  1. Ruth

    Any other town would have put the chief on leave by now. I don’t understand why we constantly do nothing to fix our PD. We have good officers trying to do their job. They deserve the best possible leadership.

    Reply

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