BURLINGTON - The Board of Selectmen recently took action on the final three warrant articles needing a vote of recommendation for next month’s Town Meeting.

May Town Meeting was rescheduled to June 10 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This virus has also forced town officials to make hard decisions that much harder, as various town departments figure out which projects they really want to move forward to Town Meeting. The final recommendation in the process before Town Meeting is a favorable recommendation from the selectmen. COVID-19 has forced the selectmen to shorten the list of warrant articles for Town Meeting, resulting in some projects looking likely to land on the warrant for Town Meeting in September or January.

Town Administrator Paul Sagarino informed the selectmen there are three warrant articles that need their attention, including the blended Operating Budget and economic initiatives brought forth by the town’s economic team.

The economic items were thoroughly discussed at the subcommittee level and updates from those talks were detailed at the selectmen’s most recent meeting.

- Blended Operating Budget

The final figure for the fiscal year 2021 Operating Budget is $148,317,413. This includes the budgets of the School Department and various town departments. The selectmen supported the Operating Budget by a 4-0-1 vote without much discussion. Selectman Michael Runyan abstained because his internet connection was problematic during the virtual meeting, forcing him to leave (he similarly abstained on votes for the next two items).

- Vision and conceptual site plan at Burlington Mall ($35,000)

In looking to the future economy of the community, planning and economic officials are trying to take a proactive approach with the Burlington Mall and commercial properties in town, in general. Melisa Tintocalis, Burlington’s first ever economic development director, and Planning Director Kristin Kassner have worked collaboratively on the initiative they believe will provide the town will more of a say in terms of what the commercial landscape will look like in the future.

Town Administrator Paul Sagarino encapsulated the objective of this potential warrant article.

“We want to change the process in town from a reactive process to a proactive process. Instead of waiting for what Burlington Mall wants to do, we want to be able to provide a lot of input at the front-end of the process,” explained Sagarino, noting it is all about what the town would like see for the future at the Mall. “How do we mold the Mall into something we want to see that can blend into the community and benefit residents the most.”

After discussions with the subcommittee, Tintocalis confirmed the initial monetary request was revised from $65,000 to $35,000. The $35,000 request is an earmark the town hopes to use in the vision and conceptual process of working together with Simon Property Group, owner of the Mall.

The objective now is to postpone the request until September Town Meeting, so more thorough, concise plans can be conceptualized in the coming months. The selectmen postponed by the warrant article by a 4-0-1 vote (Selectman Runyan abstained).

- Economic development strategic plan ($35,000)

This is part of the revised Master Plan language, where the planning and economic staffs hope to build off the economic development created in the newly crafted document. The subcommittee formally supported this warrant article, as town officials hope to use this item to help figure out the direction of the community’s economy over the next five years.

“This lays out the plan going forward for the next 3-5 years, with a focus on policy and target industries,” stated Tintocalis. “We do not want to lose sight of what our future is and what we have in Burlington. This will provide a detailed roadmap for Burlington’s economic future.”

She noted the importance of championing and firmly supporting the town’s restaurants now so they are able to bounce right back when the COVID-19 pandemic eventually subsides to the point where all businesses are open again.

“We need to position ourselves for the restaurants when they come back to being fully operational,” advised Tintocalis. “It is also important to continue to advocate for and embrace the budding life science sector in Burlington.”

Selectman Nicholas Priest, who was on the subcommittee with Selectman Runyan for these economic development initiatives, voiced unwavering support for this item.

“It is crucial to build ourselves towards success when we reopen,” assured Selectman Priest. “This plan will go a long way in looking towards the future of Burlington’s economy.”

The selectmen supported this warrant article for Town Meeting on June 10 by a 4-0-1 vote (Selectman Runyan abstained).

Town Meeting is set for Wednesday, June 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Burlington High School’s Fogelberg Performing Arts Center.

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