TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Board of Selectmen met on Tuesday, Sept. 15 for a virtual meeting via teleconference.
The board tabled an alteration of premises application for Angelina’s Italian Restaurant.
The board heard a school reopening update from Tewksbury Public Schools superintendent Chris Malone and Tewksbury School Committee chairperson Keith Sullivan.
Sullivan spoke about the stakeholder surveys and public meetings that had been conducted in preparation for school reopening and thanked district staff for all their hard work. Sullivan reported that the district signed a memorandum of agreement with the Tewksbury Teachers Association.
“We have a lot of work left to do, the hybrid plan is just a start,” Sullivan said.
Malone added that food service during school time will be a challenge, as the district would need to spread students across a school to eat with proper distancing and increase staff hiring to cover cleanings necessary to address food allergies and pest control; he mentioned that right now, students will have an opportunity to receive a grab-and-go meal for lunch.
Through a grant, all students may receive meals free of charge. Malone reported that 17 percent of district students are choosing to enroll in the district’s Remote Learning Academy, staffed by Tewksbury teachers.
Malone said that he hopes the pandemic conditions will allow for students to spend more time in the classroom, but noted that the district is ready to move toward an all-remote situation without sacrificing educational goals should it be necessary.
He also said that the district expects to have positive cases, but he has full confidence in the town’s contact tracing capabilities.
The board signed the warrant for special Town Meeting, which will be held on Oct. 6, 2020.
Town Manager Richard Montuori reviewed the warrant articles with the board members.
The board made board and committee appointments. The board appointed Sandra Creamer to the Council on Aging. The board appointed Jennifer Balch-Kenney to the Economic Development Committee.
The board appointed Terry Musgrave, Madhumita Narayan, Robert Ayer, and Lisa Wilson to the Tewksbury Cultural Council. The board also appointed Ayer to the Beautification Committee.
The board appointed Michael Farnum to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The board appointed Tom Branchaud and Peter Chase to the Open Space and Recreation Plan Committee.
The board heard an update about water and sewer rates. Montuori reported there has been record high water usage in the state amid a drought, and Tewksbury pumped a record amount of water over the last three months. He said that complaints by residents of high water bills were not a result of higher rates — usage was simply up.
The town also saw a significant decrease in usage for commercial customers, which is attributed to the conditions created by the pandemic. Montuori explained that his office is willing to go over any water bills with residents when they have a question, but did point out anecdotally that when a resident was shown their water usage compared to the same time last year, usage was simply increased, which then pushed the billing into the next tier of cost.
Tewksbury water and sewer rates have not been increased and Montuori encouraged residents to conserve water.
The board received an update about the new central fire station. The site has been cleared and is being graded, with foundational construction starting in the next few weeks. The project is currently under budget.
The board heard an update about the Northern Middlesex Regional Emergency Control Center located on Whipple Road next to the DPW. The facility went live for Tewksbury emergency calls and Dracut 911 calls this month. Dispatchers have been hired and are learning the new equipment.
Member Jayne Wellman mentioned that the Greater Lowell Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy was recently approved by the Economic Development Administration.
Member Anne Marie Stronach also noted that the new Pleasant Street elementary school project is underway and is currently on schedule.
The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 29, 2020. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33.