TEWKSBURY — The Tewskbury selectboard met virtually via teleconference on May 5, 2020.
The board first made a public recognition of first responders, health department staff and volunteers for their hard work during the COVID-19 health crisis.
The board reviewed Governor Charlie Baker’s new face covering order, implemented May 6. The order requires “all residents over the age of two…[to use] masks or face coverings in public places where they cannot socially distance from others…. This order applies to all workers and customers of businesses and other organizations that are currently open to the public and permitted to operate as COVID-19 Essential Businesses, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail stores.
“Residents are also required to wear a mask or face covering at all times when using any means of transportation service or public mass transit. A face covering may include anything that covers your nose and mouth, including a mask, scarf or bandana. Health care masks should not be used and should be preserved for health care workers and first responders.
“Cloth masks should not be worn by young children under the age of two, persons with difficulty breathing, or those who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance. Instructions on how to make a cloth mask are available from the CDC.”
A resident called in to the meeting regarding finances in town during the pandemic, asking about heating in schools and presumed unoccupied buildings. However, Town Manager Richard Montuori explained that town buildings are still being occupied with skeleton staff and are being maintained with facilities to a proper level, which includes heating and cooling.
The board appointed Amanda Carroll to the Board of Registrars through 2022.
The board approved a change of hours to an existing liquor license for the Tewksbury Country Club.
The board voted to authorize Town Manager Richard Montuori as the board’s signature designee through May 30, 2020. This will allow him to sign off on board approvals and appointments while the public is not allowed in Town Hall during the pandemic.
The board approved a street name for “Kenzie Marie Way.”
During the Town Manager report, the board reviewed updates to town projects. Montuori reviewed progress on the new center fire station, which will be located on Main Street across from Town Hall (permits were approved at a recent Planning Board meeting).
The design team is touching up specifications, and the project will go out to bid later this month. The town plans to select a contractor at the end of June and start work on the 18-month project by mid-July.
The Regional Emergency Communications Center on Whipple Road next to the DPW is complete, with just a few final details to be completed over the next month. The new director, Kevin Lessard, has been working since January to operationalize emergency communications for Tewksbury and Dracut.
The town is interviewing for a dispatch supervisor and open dispatcher positions; all current dispatchers in the two towns have been invited to come work for the new center. Operations are slated to start in July, and the project has been fully funded by state 911 grants.
“We just need to get everyone trained and in place, and we’ll be ready to go.”
Board member Annemarie Stronach asked if any other towns, upon seeing the building constructed, had inquired about moving operations to join the RECC (the building has capacity for more towns to join).
Montuori explained that he is planning for open house tours for other towns to visit the facility, and said that while most towns were occupied with the pandemic, tighter finances in the future might garner interest in using the RECC.
The new Pleasant Street elementary school is expected to be approved at the planning board’s next meeting. After the appeal period, actual site work should begin in June.
Initial stages have been planned with the contractor and demolition of the bleachers at Doucette Field will be the first act of construction. Montuori said that the project will miss the September 2022 opening by a few months, but he will work with the contractor to see where that time can be made up.
The project is currently under budget, but “we still have a long way to go,” he said.
A project management team and design team have been hired for the DPW school maintenance facility, and they are working with staff at the schools to understand needs. The design team will work on a schematic design and will hopefully have cost estimates prepared for fall special Town Meeting.
Construction would start in June 2021 as an 18-month project. The project is funded by free cash, the stabilization fund, and water and sewer fees.
Chairman Jay Kelly noted that all of the projects had been approved at Town Meeting: “It’s not like we can pull back, the money’s already allocated” for every project beside the RECC, he said.
In the COVID-19 update, Montuori explained that the town is still operating with a skeleton staff and providing essential services. The governor’s new executive order has extended the stay-at-home order to May 18. The governor’s state reopening committee will be taking input from towns through regional planning agencies; Montuori offered to pass ideas from the selectboard and department heads through the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments.
Business assistance information can be found on the town website; additionally, the town has been exploring the best reopening practices from other states and organizations.
Montuori explained that he has implemented a spending freeze for the rest of FY20 through the beginning of FY21, limiting spending to only essential operational and staffing costs. Projects have been postponed and the town will be putting forth fewer capital projects for fall special Town Meeting.
Revenue projections have been met for FY20, but there are still outstanding payments due for the hotel and food industries. The town plans to move forward with the FY21 budget as proposed.
For the spring election, polling locations will be sanitized throughout the day and poll workers will work behind plastic shields. The board made special note of the fact that residents have the ability to vote by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic: absentee ballots can be requested at www.tewksburyma.gov/townclerk/pages/annual-town-election-nomination-papers.
The board also discussed Town Meeting, which has been postponed to June 22 and 24; Montuori said the town is working on a plan to physically distance residents at the high school by simulcasting the meeting into different available spaces through the use of associate Town Moderators.
Additionally, other sites, such as the senior center and library, are being considered as satellite locations.
Montuori spoke about the municipal vulnerability process. The town is working on assessing climate change and natural disaster risks and hazard mitigation to design long range plans for protecting people and property. Once the plan is complete, funding can be pursued and strategies can be implemented.
The board also noted that trails in town are still open, and maps can be found on the town website; social distancing is strongly encouraged and residents are asked to keep dogs on leashes. Additionally, the Memorial Day parade has been cancelled.
The next meeting is scheduled for May 19, 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.