Select Board roundup: Juneteenth flag to fly at Town Hall; Pride Parade June 26; water/sewer rates set

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Representatives from the Hopkinton Freedom Team spoke at Tuesday’s Select Board meeting to discuss plans to have a Juneteenth flag fly below the American flag at Town Hall from June 19 to July 4.

Update, June 17, 2 p.m.: Because June 19 is a Saturday, and Town Hall will be closed Friday due to the newly designated Juneteenth holiday, the Juneteenth flag was installed two days early, on Thursday afternoon. Click here for photos.

“We know one of the great American holidays is July Fourth, which we all enjoy partaking in, and that marks the birth of our nation,” Freedom Team member Lynn Canty said. “One of the little-known holidays is Juneteenth, which came as a result of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves on January 1st, 1863. However, in Texas, there was a group of slaves that were not freed until June 19th, 1865. So, to celebrate the end of slavery for all Africans in America, Juneteenth became a day of celebration.

“This year will mark the first year that Massachusetts recognizes Juneteenth as a holiday. And there’s also a really strong push to make it a federal holiday. So, Hopkinton Freedom Team would like to recognize not only Juneteenth, but just take it as an opportunity to reflect on what freedom means to us in this country and just racial injustice in general. So, we’d like to have a Juneteenth flag fly from June 19th to July Fourth. And we have activities planned … just to educate the community and to make it an interactive learning experience for us all.”

Activities include educational posts and calls to action on social media to encourage community members to reflect on freedom.

Added Freedom Team member Christina Hannigan: “The 16 days between the two holidays also represent an opportunity to inspire a more honest conversation about our nation’s complicated past and present experience with racial injustice.”

The Juneteenth flag has a star surrounded by a starburst, with a red background at the bottom and an arc merging into a blue top — matching the color scheme of the American flag to represent that “enslaved people and their descendants were and are Americans.”

Select Board member Muriel Kramer expressed gratitude for those who pushed for the Juneteenth recognition.

“I know that a lot of people got really engaged in the conversation on racial equity just over a year ago, and it’s really exciting to see an event like this coming forward that brings so many different pieces of the community together, different priorities and people together actually celebrating,” she said. “And I know that for many it’s an opportunity to get educated on a piece of our history that we haven’t been as aware of. And I really appreciate everybody’s investment and involvement in making this happen.”

Added Select Board chair Irfan Nasrullah: “It’s something I’m learning about as an adult. I went through the education system in Massachusetts, and how did I not know this? So I’m glad that this is being brought to our attention so our youth and people can learn. I think it’s a fantastic opportunity.”

Pride Parade June 26

Hopkinton Freedom Team member Freya Proudman checked in to promote the LGBTQIA+ Pride Parade, which will be held Saturday, June 26, at 2 p.m. at the Hopkinton High School track. It’s the first such event to be held in town.

“Pride Parades are fun, they are upbeat gatherings centered around the celebration of LGBTQIA+ people for who they are,” Proudman explained. “These are events that work to promote greater understanding and acceptance of LGBTQIA+ people along with highlighting their visibility, which serves to reaffirm them as equally present and integral members of our community. Pride parades and events, they celebrate the two most important things we have: people and love.”

Kramer thanked Proudman for her “personal investment” in putting together the event.

“I know that this is so meaningful, and it’s meaningful to young people and people of all ages that we will never know,” Kramer said.

Participants and spectators are welcome but must register first so that organizers can maintain the appropriate numbers, Proudman said. The event will be broadcast on HCAM.

Water/sewer rates set

Department of Public Works director John Westerling joined O’Leary to discuss the town’s water and sewer rates, and he raised some issues the town is monitoring.

“We face many challenges in the years ahead that will drive our capital plan,” he said. “The number of water customers has increased by 23 percent over the last six years, and our own sources cannot keep up with the system demands, especially when impacted by the effects of climate change. Our source in Ashland is also impacted by climate change and cannot provide us the necessary water when we need it the most. We’re discovering increasing levels of manganese in our wells, which have to be filtered out. DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] requires us to take action to address the older tank at Grove Street. And the Water Management Act permitting process is imposing limitations on our ability to pump sufficient water from our own sources.

“There are many difficult decisions that must be made. Do we explore new sources of water and build our own filtration plants? Do we consider a connection with the MWRA [Massachusetts Water Resources Authority]? Or is the solution a combination of both of those?”

The board unanimously approved a rate increase of 6.5 percent for the water enterprise, which O’Leary said translates to an $18 increase for an average residential user (from $269 to $287 per year).

The board unanimously approved a 2 percent rate increase for the sewer enterprise, which O’Leary said translates to an $18 increase for an average residential user (from $921 to $939).

Town gets impressive loan rate

The board unanimously approved municipal bond anticipation notes financing worth $5,297,502 to cover five capital projects that were approved at the 2019 and 2021 Town Meetings.

The money covers five projects: a new Fire Department ladder truck (approved in 2019), Police Station roof replacement (2021), school heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) upgrade (2021), municipal parking lot (2019) and middle school roof replacement (2021).

Chief financial officer Tim O’Leary said the low bidder was Jefferies Financial Group in New York, and the town will be paying a net effective interest rate of 0.228 percent. “The interest cost to borrow $5.3 million for a year will be $12,078.31,” O’Leary explained.

“The rate that is being presented tonight is … unheard of,” Town Manager Norman Khumalo gushed.

Added O’Leary: “If we could always finance at that rate we’d be very happy.”

Committee appointments approved

The board appointed Jagrut Jathal, Jonathan Graziano, Mike Shepard and Tiffany Ostrander to the Elementary School Building Committee, which is tasked with examining a potential replacement for Elmwood School. …

Barry Sims was appointed constable, and Rob Savolt, Paul Finneran and Patrick Rahill were appointed traffic constables. All terms expire June 30, 2024. …

A number of board/committee appointments were approved: Al Rogers to the Community Preservation Committee; Kerry Reed, Janine LeBlanc and Jeffrey Barnes to the Conservation Commission; Patrick Srodawa to the Council on Aging; Mike Roughan to the Historical Commission; Charles Wallace, Craig Gormley, Judith Pitasi, Jane Goodman, Jacques Leduc and Jean Cann to the Marathon Committee; Olivia Sward and Robert Gilbert to the Sustainable Green Committee; Peter LaGoy to the Trail Coordination and Management Committee; Eric Sonnett to the Upper Charles Trail Committee; and Craig Nation to the Woodville Historic District Commission. All terms expire June 30, 2024. Additionally, Mike DiMascio was appointed as a full member and Kevin Baxter as an associate member of the Board of Appeals (terms expiring June 30, 2026); Kathy Yang was appointed to the Cultural Council (term expiring June 30, 2024); and Carly Grant, Eva Bennett and Kelly Karp were appointed to the Youth Commission (terms expiring June 30, 2024).

Sward and Bennett are high school students, and the board commended them for getting involved at a young age.

Misc.: Gift-givers honor Tedstone’s father

The board voted unanimously to accept gifts to the Ambulance Fund from James Bartlett, Claire Wright, Daniel and Elaine McIntyre, and Elaine Mullen. The gifts were made in memory of former longtime Hopkinton resident Lawrence Tedstone, who died last month at his Florida home.

“It’s mixed emotions, obviously, that these people are donating after my father’s passing,” board member Brendan Tedstone said, thanking the family friends for their contributions. …

Library director Heather Backman discussed the library’s strategic plan. Backman said the library has five key strategic priority areas: connecting our community; proving access to education, arts, culture and knowledge; creating an inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for all; striving to deliver an exceptional, customer-focused user experience; and stewarding the resources necessary to accomplish those strategic priorities.

The board thanked Backman, who is leaving for a new job next month, for her work in town. …

The board unanimously approved a parade permit for the Boston Athletic Association to host the 125th Boston Marathon, which will take place Oct. 11 with COVID-19 precautions in place, including a smaller field to allow for some social distancing, according to BAA representative Stuart Wall.

“I’m really glad that you’re able to do it again, but I think these are sensible precautions that will allow you to do it safely,” said board vice chair Amy Ritterbusch.