Ayer Endorses Eight Articles on Fall City Special Meeting Mandate – Lowell Sun

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AYER – At the special fall city meeting on Monday night, 93 registered voters passed every article on the mandate in two hours, with much discussion but relatively little debate.

The first three articles were on the same subject. Section one requested approval to transfer ownership, by donation, of Woodland Cemetery to Harvard Road, along with assets, equipment and maintenance responsibilities.

Articles two and three called for funding and permission to appoint a cemetery commission.

Founded in 1859, Woodlawn is privately owned and operated for decades, run by a board of directors whose members are ready to retire and who have approached the town to take over.

According to group treasurer Virginia Matthews, the cemetery has always been part of Ayer and already belongs to the city by right. The town of Groton, of which Ayer was once a part, transformed it a long time ago, she said. The transfer simply makes it legal.

Located on two plots totaling 10 acres near Rotary Ayer, the cemetery includes historic and veteran areas and is an “active” burial site with around 300 graves still available, according to general manager Robert Pontbriand, who sketched out the details. of the transfer plan. in a brief presentation.

At last year’s annual municipal meeting, voters gave the green light to the board of directors to continue with the transfer, which comes with a nest egg of $ 80,000, of which $ 60,000 is in the pipeline. perpetual maintenance funds of the cemetery and are used only to maintain the graves that the owners have paid for. . The remaining $ 20,000 can be used for other purposes in the cemetery.

A study committee was formed to explore the proposal, inventory the cemetery assets, and perform other “due diligence” for the transfer. The group presented its findings to the select committee earlier this month.

Pontbriand stressed that Woodland will always be a cemetery and that the land it occupies can never be diverted for other purposes.

Since every community in Massachusetts is required by law to have its own municipal cemetery, the acquisition of Woodlawn meets that requirement, he said, calling it a “moral, legal and ethical obligation.”

Residents agreed, voting for item one by a 2/3 majority, with only a simple majority required.

They also approved Section 2, an annual budget for the city’s newly acquired cemetery, starting with $ 41,000 for the first year. After some discussion, Clause 3 was also passed, allowing the board to establish a three-member cemetery commission to set policy and help the board run the cemetery, with the DPW in charge of maintenance. , daily operations and sales of burial sites.

Item four concerned a cell phone tower lease that has brought in about $ 900,000 over the past 20 years. With the three-year lease about to expire, the Select Board must ask voters for permission to re-let the site – located on city-owned property at the DPW facility on Brook Street – for the same purpose.

A yes vote allows the board of directors to negotiate a new lease with the current company and / or make an offer for a better deal. Voters agreed, with 2/3 of the votes required.

Section five, forwarded by the Community Preservation Committee, which annually reviews project proposals vying for funding under the Community Preservation Act, called on voters to use $ 21,000 of that money to hire a consultant. to help CPC develop a five-year production plan.

The money comes from a voluntary 3% surtax on property tax previously accepted by voters, supplemented by state funding that can vary from year to year. It was passed “almost unanimously,” City Moderator James O’Conor said.

Section Six requested another transfer of funds from the CPA, $ 300,000 to help cover the cost of renovating the race track at Ayer Shirley Regional High School, as part of a project to multi-million dollar sports fields.

Funding comes under the heading of community recreation, one of four categories for which CPA funds can be used. The others are open space, historic preservation and the creation of affordable housing.

As former school committee member Dan Gleason explained, the injection of $ 300,000 will reduce the amount of debt exclusion that Ayer voters previously agreed to to help cover the city’s share of the project. of fields, which the two member cities must pay. The share percentage is specified in the regionalization agreement.

Asked by a resident about the amount of money in the Open Space account and how much was used to buy property in town, CPC chairperson Janet Providakes said the fund contained around $ 1.8 million .

As for acquiring land for the open space, they are still trying to find a suitable property to buy, she said. The Conservation Commission is also looking for land, she added, with $ 500,000 in PCA funds set aside for this purpose.

Section seven – a proposed by-law on the use of fertilizers designed to help protect the city’s waterways and drinking water supply – might not be accepted by the Attorney General of the State, according to the city’s lawyer, but it’s worth the vote anyway, according to the Conservation Commission, which proposed it.

The bylaw, which took up several pages of the mandate and a lot of time in town hall, spelled out practical ways to have a lush green lawn and clean water as well. Since the state already has laws governing the use of chemical fertilizers, the regulation can be seen as a “preventative” concept and rejected for that reason, the lawyer said.

But one after another, people came out in favor of the settlement, including local environmental activist Laurie Nehring and Marion Stoddart, a founding member of the Nashua River Watershed Association whose work helped establish federal law on clean water that Congress passed in 1965.

Asked how the commission intends to apply the regulation, if it passes and the state approves it, Conservation Commission chairman Jon Schmalenberger said they would not try to do so. . It was never meant to be a hard rule, but an educational tool to help homeowners do the right thing, he said.

Last on the list, a citizen’s petition to change the zoning of a property on Harvard Road from a general residence to a general contractor. The owner is Theodore Maxant, a resident of Still River, who requested the change. The article was carried unanimously. And with enthusiasm.


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