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After Passionate Debate, Town Meeting Voters Approve Debt Shift

Close to 600 residents pack Tewksbury High gym for Day 2 of Town Meeting.

After more than an hour of energetic debate, voters approved the partial sewer debt shift, as part of Day 2 of the Annual Town Meeting, Wednesday night at

In truth, voters had already approved the shift of half the remaining debt from the town's $100 million sewer project at the in April. However, the town needs to petition the Legislature for a Home Rule Petition to actually go through with the shift. The article on Wednesday's Special Town Meeting warrant asked voted for permission to do that.

The vote was 372-219 in favor, or 63-37 percent. said only a simply majority was needed to pass, though handful of residents, including former Selectman candidate Ed Sullivan, insisted that a two-thirds super-majority was needed for a home rule petition. Sullivan cited media accounts of the 2008 Town Meeting, which indicated that a two-thirds vote was needed that night to approve a Home Rule petition regarding Krochmal Farm.

Speaking in support of the article, said that shifting 50 percent of the sewer debt from the rate payers to the property tax levy was the "fairest" solution. He also stated that if the measure failed, sewer rates would jump 58 percent in Fiscal Year 2012.

Resident Warren Carey took exception to Montuori's verbiage, saying the plan is hardly equitable.

"You should not use the word 'fair,'" said Carey. "'Fair' is not a fair word."

Making an impassioned plea in support of the article, Todd Johnson, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, was unusually candid about how the town found itelf paying for a $100 million sewer project with incredibly high sewer rates.

"It is obvious now that when this project started that it was not sustainable," said Johnson. "It's painful to admit that our leaders made financial mistakes along the way. That reality is no doubt frustrating and disappointing.

"Perpetuating a poor decision is generally not good practice. The bill must be paid," he said, adding that he was not one of the 62 percent of town residents hooked into sewer.

In an interview after the meeting, Johnson said it was important to recognize and validate the anger many resident felt regarding the situation the town finds itself in. That anger was expressed by Sullivan, who he felt town officials had been less than honest when the sewer project was first presented to voters nearly a decade ago.

"Yes, we approved (the project), but if we aren't told the truth ..." said Sullivan. "It's hard for us to make the right decision  when we aren't given the right numbers."

 

Karyn May 08, 2011 at 04:38 AM
Something tells me "people" would have complained either way re. the BOS making the decision for them or not.
TONY D May 09, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Robert, are you connected to the sewer system?
J May 19, 2011 at 05:30 PM
I moved to town after off all this business had been put into place. Not knowing the full history certainly surprised me when my water bill rose from an average of $85 to $900. I am told my meter is correct, super high summer usage, blah, blah. The reality is, I may not have moved here had I known what I know now. This is a real budget buster, and like many, I am not, nor do I intend to tie in to the sewer. Why would I, just from a financial standpoint alone? A few hundred bucks every few years as long as you maintain it well...great. Regardless, left with a choice of continued astronomical fees, with the absurd tier system that is not deductible, or an increased tax base, which is deductible, of course I would choose the latter option. I at least get some relief on my income taxes.
Ed Sullivan January 03, 2012 at 02:31 PM
My tax bill went up $2500. this year and I am not even on sewer. Is the town going to bail me out? I think not.
Robert Rosa January 04, 2012 at 12:39 PM
It is shocking to see home values going down, but taxes going up so drastically. I have lived in this town for over 11 years, my home value has appreciated over 70% during that time ( with significant home improvements), my tax bill has increased over 130% in that same time, something is wrong. We need to stop borrowing money, and bring our property taxes back in line, otherwise good people are going to leave the town.

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