April 23, 2017
By ADAM SWIFT
LYNNFIELD — There’s a decided outdoor feel to tonight’s Annual Town Meeting, as voters will decide on the future of a proposed rail trail and improvements to school fields and facilities.
Of the 29 articles on the meeting warrant, the request to give selectmen authority to enter a lease agreement with the MBTA for use of the railbed could be the most controversial. Town Meeting kicks off at the Lynnfield Middle School auditorium at 7:30 p.m.
Proponents of the rail trail article state there is no downside to passing the article, since it does not request any funding, nor does it tie the town down to committing to construction of the rail trail.
But opponents question if the cost of the project will rise above state and federal funds set aside for it and have raised concerns about safety, property values, and privacy for those who live along the route.
Selectmen voted 2-0 to not support the article, with Chairman Christopher Barrett recusing himself because his sister lives along the railbed.
There are $7.1 million in state and federal funds allocated for the project, but Selectman Richard Dalton said there are too many questions about the project and the process for a vote to be before the town at this time.
“This is not about being pro-rail trail or anti-rail trail, it’s about the process,” said Dalton at a recent board meeting. “We’re asking questions about what the $7 million include and we have not gotten specific answers about what that will include. We should have that level of detail.”
Although selectmen are not supporting the article, voters will get the final say at Town Meeting.
Selectmen are supporting a plan that could alleviate issues at a number of town playgrounds and fields, including safety and playground renovations at the Summer Street and Huckleberry Hill schools and a new track at the middle school.
Selectman Phil Crawford said the elementary school projects should be a priority because there are some safety issues at the schools and they can only be done during the summer.
The track at the middle school is unusable and the field is barely in better shape, Crawford said.
The total cost for the fields and track improvements is expected to be between $2 and $2.5 million.
Voters will also be asked to approve the town’s proposed operating budget of just under $53 million and the capital budget of just over $2 million at Town Meeting.