Forty articles to be decided on Athol Town Meetings

Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli  Athol Town Hall.

Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli Athol Town Hall.

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 06-07-2024 5:00 PM

Modified: 06-09-2024 5:00 PM


ATHOL – When they gather tonight at Town Hall, voters must be prepared to wrestle with a total of 40 warrant articles.

Five of those articles will be for the Special Town Meeting, which begins at 6:30, and 35 for the Annual Town Meeting, tentatively scheduled to proceed at 7 p.m.

Business to be taken care of at the Special Town Meeting includes a request to increase the current fiscal year’s budget for the public works/transfer/recycling enterprise fund by $200,000, from just over $594,000 to $794,000. At a meeting in late May, Town Manager Shaun Suhoski told members of the Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee (FWAC) the additional funds are needed to cover ever-increasing hauling fees for the removal of refuse from the transfer station on West Royalston Road.

Suhoski told the FWAC there are only two companies that will haul trash from the facility and despite the town contracting for the most competitive fees, the price continues to rise. He said there is money available to cover the additional expense and no increase in user fees is anticipated.

Town officials also hope voters will okay the use of $40,650 in unexpended funds previously approved for capital purchases and another $26,634 from free cash to pay for installation of the handicap-accessible lift at the Millers River Environmental Center at 100 Main St., which is owned by the town. The leftover funds came from the purchase of police and fire vehicles and hydraulic extrication equipment for the fire department.

At the Annual Town Meeting, voters will decide whether to approve an FY25 operational budget of $28.8 million. Of that amount, $19.3 million is committed to municipal expenses, and $3.7 million to sewer, water, and transfer station enterprise funds.

Education spending for FY25 totals nearly $5.8 million. Just over $5.2 million covers Athol’s assessment for the Athol Royalston Regional School District. Another $374,000 covers tuition for the 104 Athol students who will attend the Montachusett Regional Technical Vocational High School.

One of the larger budget increases is nearly 15% for the Fire Department, to approximately $2.9 million. Suhoski said this can be attributed to the $286,000 Proposition 2 ½ override voters approved in order to add three additional firefighters to the department. In addition, money to pay for a fourth new firefighter – just over $95,000 – was included in the budget proposed by the town manager. The four new staffers will add one firefighter per shift.

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The amount for capital expenditures proposed for FY25 totals nearly $850,000. Of that amount, $85,000 will cover lease payments for two Public Works Department vehicles. In addition, $200,000 will be committed to non-Chapter 90 spending on various road projects. Another $196,000 will be used to purchase new vehicles and used equipment.

Other proposed capital purchases include $106,000 for a new police cruiser, ballistic vests and repairs to the Exchange Street police station. The Fire Department is seeking $111,000 for a new inspection vehicle, power chair, and upgrades to the fire station on Main Street. Finally, the Animal Control building is slated to get $50,000 for ongoing improvements, and $10,000 is set aside for the purchase of air conditioning units for municipal buildings.

The FWAC and the Selectboard have each recommended passage of all of the expenditures proposed by Suhoski and by the Capital Program Committee. Monday night’s meetings will take place in Memorial Hall at Town Hall.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@aol.com.