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Trash fee, pump station still before Saugus Town Meeting

SAUGUS – In a departure from previous years, the annual Town Meeting, which began last Monday, will resume in two weeks instead of one.In the interim, town officials, Town Meeting members, developers, engineers and others interested in the remaining articles will continue discussions and negotiations, according to Town Manager Andrew Bisignani.When Town Meeting opens again on Monday, May 16, at least two potentially controversial articles will be on the agenda – construction of a pump station on Elm Street and the authorization of a trash fee.Bisignani said the trash fee, if voted favorably, could be used as a revenue source if town residents at a special election in June do not support a one-time property tax special assessment to pay for $1.2 million in last winter’s snow and ice removal costs.”It’s a back-up,” he said of the proposed trash fee. “It could be implemented if the special assessment does not pass.”The pump station issue is focused on whether Town Meeting will authorize its construction for $618,000. The current pump station is more than 30 years old and breaking down, the town manager said.”It’s going to fail,” he said.Town Meeting member Peter Manoogian at a Finance Committee meeting earlier this week said the improvement to the sewer system by building a new pump station – the cost borne by taxpayers – will ultimately benefit whatever developer should choose to invest in the neighborhood.According to Manoogian, the cost of the pump station work should be paid for by the developer. However, Bisignani said no developer has come forward with detailed plans.If a developer was to propose construction in the area serviced by the pump station, the town can assess a charge to help pay for it, Bisignani said. “You can make it difficult for them to get a building permit if they don’t agree to an assessment,” he said. “We should be able to get an assessment of $200,000 to $300,000.”Bisignani said similar negotiations were amicably conducted for the Shops at Saugus on Route 1 and for the LA Fitness health club near the Lowe’s department store.The town manager noted the Elm Street area is plagued by sewer backups. “It’s a health issue,” he said. “Whether or not that area is ever developed is besides the point. The problems down there need to be addressed.”The construction of sidewalks along Hamilton Street was indefinitely postponed.Resident Theresa Lehane had submitted an article asking the town make the sidewalks from concrete instead of asphalt. She argued concrete would last longer and be more aesthetically pleasing, despite its heftier price tag.Unfortunately, 38 percent of the sidewalks on one side of Hamilton Street were already laid with asphalt during the past few months and ripping up the work would be a waste of taxpayer money, according to Steve Sweezey and other Town Meeting members.Since last Monday’s vote to indefinitely postpone, which basically killed Lehane’s article, the contractor has begun to pave the remaining sidewalks with asphalt. The cost savings will be applied to resurfacing side streets, which were badly damaged while being used as detours during the major reconstruction of Hamilton Street.The big ticket item on the warrant was resolved soon after Town Meeting opened last Monday. Members unanimously authorized the Board of Selectmen to borrow up to $19 million for rehabilitation of the Belmonte Middle School. Bisignani said the state will reimburse the town 51 percent of the cost.Residents go to the polls in November for the deciding vote on whether to proceed with the school reconstruction. Meanwhile, Town Meeting resumes at Town Hall on Monday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m.

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