Marblehead Town Meeting to consider millions in overrides | News

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MARBLEHEAD — To bond or not to bond; that is the question.

Annual Town Meeting will begin Monday night, May 2 at 7 p.m. at the Marblehead Veterans Middle School Auditorium, 217 Pleasant St. The warrant includes 48 articles ranging from routine town matters to a major initiative to launch five years of paving town streets and sidewalks.

Perhaps the biggest draw on the warrant is article 11, which proposes roughly $25 million in work on four major town initiatives. The article will require a debt exclusion override of Proposition 2 1/2 to cover its costs, according to interim Town Administrator John McGinn. Proposition 2 1/2 is a tax limit that prohibits communities from raising taxes by more than 2 1/2 percent on top of the prior year. An override would allow the community to exceed that limit and tax further.

“There are some building improvements of a smaller nature, projects that’ll be paid for by appropriation and taxation, and we have two significant initiatives,” McGinn said. “We’re asking for a debt exclusion override. That’ll be subject to a referendum in the June election.”

Article 11, followed by the follow-up ballot vote if it passes Town Meeting, will trigger borrowing on two 20-year bonds, a third 10-year bond, and a five-year bond:

Twenty-year bonds: $9 million for roof work at the high school, the police station, Mary Alley Building, Community Center, Franklin Street Fire Station and the Tower Way DPW headquarters; and $1.2 million for 17 different capital projects ranging from $2,219 to $975,000 to replace a salt shed.

Ten-year bonds: five years of road and sidewalk construction, at a total cost of about $3.1 million a year. With $605,000 coming in each year from the state and a town revolving fund, officials would then use $2,495,000 each of the five years after borrowing close to $12.5 million in the first year.

Five-year bonds: $1.7 million in tech upgrades, including $312,000 in upgrades for the town’s finance department and $740,000 for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) computer control systems in three school buildings.

“Over the next five-year horizon, we’re reaching end of life with certain roofs in town and need to be able to plan (their replacements),” McGinn said. “In both the overrides being proposed for streets and sidewalks, and for the roofs, they really need to be thought of as multi-year plans where we’re asking for funding that’ll be used over the next five to six years.”

Article 46, one of the last to be heard this year and submitted by the School Committee, seeks to raise close to $3 million to supplement the school district’s operating budget for next year, another proposed override of Proposition 2 1/2. That’s expected to cost the average single-family home $397.38 next year, with an average single-family home value of $944,416.

The four pieces of article 11 combined are forecast to have an impact of $118.01 on the average tax bill, in part because they’re spread out across anywhere from five to 20 years. Of $27.4 million to be raised in overrides, only $3.96 million — including all $3 million from the schools — will hit entirely in 2022-23, according to details shared at a Board of Selectmen meeting on April 12.

Articles 40 and 41 would change the Board of Selectmen’s name to Select Board, and article 42 would switch town bylaws to gender-neutral language if passed.

Two Board of Health articles on the town’s deficient transfer station — one to work toward a new building, and another targeting the existing building — are due to be postponed and won’t get discussion on the floor, according to McGinn.

Town Meeting will also settle several petitions from residents, including two long-discussed proposals for a summertime ban on gas-powered leaf blowers and setting aside land for an off-road bike park at the corner of Green and Beacon streets.

Article 33, the off-road bike park article, is proposed in a bid to give kids a place to ride without pavement, something not currently offered anywhere in Marblehead, according to petitioner Rick Smyers. It wouldn’t pay for a park; rather, it would transfer a roughly 250,000-square-foot piece of wooded school property at the corner of Green and Beacon streets to the town’s parks and recreation department, so that a trail network could be created later on.

“The recommendation to go along with it is to build a bike park and do that with purely volunteer labor, and donations to cover any expenses,” Smyers said. “We aren’t really talking about building much. It’s really improving some of the trails in there now to make them safer or fun to use with bikes.”

Article 31 returns an annually submitted private article to bar the use of gas-powered leaf blowers from Memorial Day to Labor Day. It’s inspired by resident Beth Grader, who has called for the ban in the past.

Grader says the ban would prohibit the use of blowers on hard surfaces, such as blowing away dust and sand, which then becomes particulate matter in the air and a health hazard.

“Runners can’t run on our streets in the summer. They can’t run because of people blowing on the hardscapes of the streets,” Grader said. “They don’t need to blow in the summer. They don’t need electric or gas leaf blowers. They can use a broom — a good broom.”

Contact Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or Follow him at or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

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