Athol Annual Town Meeting warrant set

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 5/10/2021 1:35:23 PM
Modified: 5/10/2021 1:35:22 PM

ATHOL — The Selectboard voted to close and post the warrant for the upcoming annual town meeting. Voters will face a total of 31 articles when they convene at Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 14.

Many of the articles address what are considered housekeeping matters that allow for the continued operation of town government, along with traditional requests to cover spending for municipal and educational expenses.

One article that stands out, Article 27, calls for the transfer of $35,000 from free cash to undertake improvements to Veterans Park. The park is located at the intersection of Main and Exchange streets.

Board Chair Rebecca Bialecki pointed out that this Nov. 11 will make the 20th anniversary of the park’s dedication.

Town Manager Shaun Suhoski explained that discussions have been taking place over the last two years regarding how best to stabilize the wall at the park. The wall has started to lean and is need of repair.

“In addition, the DPW has made some repairs to the pump in (the park’s) water feature and, as well, to some of the granite and the other hard landscape that has shifted and makes accessibility a concern there. So, it actually needs a little TLC.”

Suhoski added that some fundraising may take place to help pay for improvements to the park.

“So that we can continue to have a giant cement park?” interjected Bialecki. “Is that the intent?”

“That certainly would not be my intent, Madam Chair,” Suhoski responded. “And so, we have initiated discussions with a landscape architect to look at that and to soften it and to really pay tribute to the veterans.”

An article included in a draft of the warrant presented to the board at its previous meeting to establish a rent control board has been dropped from the warrant that voters will face in June. The idea was floated after homeowners at the Miller’s Wood/River Bend manufactured home community off of Daniel Shays Highway/Route 202 raised concerns about a sudden increase in rental fees for some of its residents.

Hometown America, the owner of the development, has said only about 45 of the park’s 141 homeowners would see their rent increase, while most would actually see a decrease. The change in rental fees was Hometown’s response to a state Supreme Judicial Court ruling last November that requires all residents of such developments to be charged the same monthly rent.

In addition, a class action suit against Hometown has been initiated in Worcester Superior Court on behalf of residents at Miller’s River and the Oak Point development in Middleborough.

An article that has been twice passed over at previous town meetings, that of establishing a Parking Benefits District, has made it onto this warrant. Proponents see establishment of the district as a way to ensure reasonable turnover at downtown parking spaces, raise funds to help fund aesthetic and other improvements in the town’s traditional retail core, and to pay for parking enforcement.

Revenue would come from parking meters and fines levied for expired meters. The cost of downtown parking was recently raised by the Selectboard to 50 cents an hour, a move that brought meter rates to a level similar to that in other communities of Athol’s size.

Supporters of the article, which is supported by the town’s Downtown Vitality Committee, believe they will be able to answer questions that went unanswered at previous town meetings, thus leading to the proposal being passed over.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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