November 23, 2007
Board discusses town value decreasing, going green By Mary Shane Contributing Writer
Westborough - Chief Assessor Linda Swadel didn't have good news for the Board of Selectman at its Nov. 13 meeting.
"I'll bring it down to a nutshell," Swadel said. "I have nothing good to say. The total value of the town has decreased by $77 million, and the average single-family tax will go up $500."
According to Swadel, the reduction in value was due to a $150 million decrease in the taxable value of Astra Zeneca's personal property.
Town Coordinator Henry Danis and the selectmen agreed the town is facing a problem that needs more discussion.
"Westborough is experiencing a devaluation of the town and an increase of spending," Danis said.
Selectmen Leigh Emery agreed and suggested the topic be a future agenda item.
"We know the homeowner is feeling very crunched right now," Emery said.
Selectman Sue Abladian also expressed her concern for Westborough taxpayers.
"House prices are coming down, but taxes aren't going down," Abladian said. "People are having a hard time figuring out how much their tax bills are going to be."
Walter Kinell, a member of the Board of Assessors, said that residents should take advantage of Town Meeting to express their opinions.
"We're living beyond our means," he said. "I would suggest that this kind of info be made available to the town before the Town Meeting votes. I think we're in a critical financial situation, which doesn't come as any surprise. Most people do not take the time to come to Town Meeting to vote on what the town is spending money on."
The board unanimously voted in favor to support a single tax rate.
On the green front, Selectman Timothy Dodd showed a PowerPoint presentation outlining the Environmental Protection Agency's challenge to towns to conserve energy. It included a suggestion that the Board of Selectmen create an Energy Conservation and Use Committee to study the town's use of energy.
"Sounds very good," Abladian said. "[It] might be an interesting part of the mix of things, to have an Energy Conservation and Use Committee appointed by the Board of Selectman."
"I would like to see the selectmen take a leadership role and bring in green-minded people and build a core of people interested in greening up Westborough," Emery said. "I see this as a first step and as a robust program. [We] can be visionary enough to say we would like to have community support and participation. Maybe in two weeks we can have it as a discussion item."
Catie Foertsch, president of Westborough Public TV, introduced Maria Sheehan, the new General Manager of WTV. Foertsch also recommended the Board of Selectman appoint Bridget Casemyr to the Board of WTV, which the selectmen approved.
John Bademhausem, director of Westborough Youth and Family Services (WYFS), introduced Susan Dodd, who was unanimously approved to a three-year appointment to WYFS.
Selectman Timothy Dodd will investigate forming a liason program "to serve citizens of the town of Westborough." The first step will be "to send a letter and survey to committees we appoint and ask for [their] input." The motion was approved.
Selectman George Thompson introduced a draft of a noise ordinance and suggested publishing it for the community to discuss at the next meeting. The deadline for comments would be Monday Jan. 7, 2008, with discussion scheduled for the following day.
Also passing unanimously was a motion for the transfer of the all-alcohol license from Applebee's to Not Your Average Joes (NYAJ), scheduled to open in the current Applebee's building at 291 Turnpike Road in the spring of 2008.
NYAJ's proposed floor plan was discussed by the board and while the number of seats in the restaurant would not increase, they will be redistributed. NYAJ's has yet to receive approval of the floor plan from the building department, however, and agreed that until it does the all-alcohol license will be held by the town.