2023 News

Select Board Discusses FY2025 Town Budget

(22-DEC-23) At its December 18 meeting, the Select Board heard a presentation by Town Administrator Michael Johns on the town’s fiscal year 2025 budget. A quorum of the Finance Committee was also present and called their own meeting to order.

TA Johns recommended that the Board consider a level services budget, in which the services provided by the town are kept the same as the prior year and dollar amounts may fluctuate, as opposed to a level funded budget, which would keep the dollar amount of the budget the same as the prior year and may result in a decrease in services due to inflation.

TA Johns walked through the budget process, goals, and assumptions, answering questions from Select Board and Fin Com members along the way. Much of the discussion focused on the tentative assumption that Boxborough’s FY2025 school assessment will be 6.9% higher than last year’s assessment. TA Johns acknowledged that this assumption is a placeholder until the town gets more information from the school district and the town of Acton.

The TA’s projected budget included revenues of $28.4 million, level services operating expenses of $27 million, capital expenses of $2.4 million (roughly $1 million bonded and $1.4 million non-bonded), and Annual Town Meeting articles totaling $755,000.

The Select Board voted to set the operating budget priority at "level services" and also voted to close the 2024 Annual Town Meeting warrant, which currently has 46 articles. The Select Board and Fin Com will examine the budget more closely at the “Budget Saturday” meeting scheduled for January 6.

The Board also moved to appoint two new officers to the Boxborough Police Department. Diosmar Reynoso was appointed as a full-time officer, and Erica Abro was appointed as a part-time reserve officer. BPD Chief John Szewczyk reported that after these two new hires, the department is “down two full-time officers and up two part-time officers.”

The Select Board discussed but took no action on reconvening the Boxborough Leadership Forum and began a discussion about the Select Board and TA’s FY2025 goals, which will be continued at a future meeting.

Public Engagement Opportunity for Boxborough Town Center Revitalization Project 

(22-DEC-23) On Thurs., Jan. 4, at 5 p.m., Boxborough's Economic Development Committee will host a virtual public meeting (link below) with Tighe & Bond, the town’s contractor for the Town Center Revitalization Project. Tighe & Bond’s Sharon Rooney will describe the scope of work and a project timeline. 

The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session open to a stakeholder group of Boxborough’s board and committee representatives and the general public. The goal of the  project is to have a clear vision for Boxborough Town Center that includes conceptual plans and a set of specific action plans. 


Tighe & Bond will work with the stakeholder group chaired by Town Planner Alec Wade, who describes the project as “a rare opportunity in 2023 for a community to define and create its Town Center; I am privileged and honored by the opportunity to help lead this initiative." The project is funded by a Community Planning Grant secured by the EDC.  

The session will be recorded and available on demand for those who are interested in learning about the project but unable to attend.

Join the virtual meeting and learn more at: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81753537008?pwd=MjcveS9yM2JjanpnenJDem5qenNFdz09

Meeting ID: 817 5353 7008  |  Passcode: 816567

EDC Sponsors Boxborough Business Breakfast

(22-DEC-23) On December 6, Boxborough business owners and associates attended the second annual business breakfast sponsored by the Economic Development Committee. Town Planner Alec Wade, Police Chief John Szewczyk, and several members of the town hall staff also participated. 

Guests were treated to a breakfast buffet catered by C’est la Fete!, a Boxborough catering company owned by town resident Pascale Belin-White. The event offered small and medium size businesses in Boxborough the opportunity to network and to engage members of the EDC and town staff. The breakfast “was a success by all measures,” according to Rich Guzzardi, EDC chair. 


In his opening remarks, Guzzardi expressed gratitude to all of the attendees for taking time away from their businesses to join the event. He explained that the purpose of bringing everyone together was to listen to the concerns and ideas of Boxborough businesses and learn what the EDC can do to help foster a more vibrant and sustainable business community in Boxborough. 

Guzzardi outlined EDC priorities, including revitalizing the office parks in town, creating a vibrant, village-like center, and engaging small businesses.  

“How do we work as a town to create an environment to help address business challenges, create openness, and transparency?” Guzzardi asked the group. 

Business owners expressed the need for more networking opportunities to bring businesses and people together. The lack of a “nucleus” or village center and the difficulty in publicizing their businesses were two of the most frequent challenges cited by the owners.

At the end of the breakfast, Wade explained how businesses might take advantage of the EDC’s Boxborough Business Improvement Grant Program. Many of the business owners were unaware of the grant availability and expressed great interest. 

  For more information about the business grant program, visit https://tinyurl.com/business-grant. 

Boxborough Historical Commission Discusses Project Progress and April 2025

(22-DEC-23) At its meeting on December 14, the Boxborough Historical Commission reviewed several historically related projects that are underway in town. 


The ongoing maintenance and repair work at the Museum, undertaken by the Boxborough DPW, and the planned restoration work on the 1784 Levi Wetherbee Farmhouse at Steele Farm and the Steele Farm ice house, to be done by outside contractors, were discussed. 

In addition to physical projects, the Commission reviewed three ongoing efforts to recognize, by way of signage, two historic houses and one location in the town. The Boxborough Select Board has granted permission to use the town seal in these efforts.

The Commission considered options to create a presentation on one of Boxborough’s outstanding 19th century citizens in spring 2024.

One new item on the agenda was the 250th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 2025. While Boxborough did not become a town until 1783, many inhabitants of the area that eventually became Boxborough did fight in various minutemen units on April 19, 1775. Commission members agreed that a commemoration of the event would be appropriate.

The next meeting of the Commission is Thursday, February 15 at the Boxborough Museum, 575 Middle Road, at 7 p.m.

Boxborough Sustainability Reviews Policy, Campanelli Land, BSC website, and Recycling

(22-DEC-23) At its hybrid meeting in Town Hall on December 14, the Boxborough Sustainability Committee worked on a town sustainability policy, responded to the Campanelli environmental impact report, updated the BSC website, and looked at new recycling efforts.


After receiving recommendations from other BSC members, Kate Davies will continue revising the draft sustainability policy, emphasizing the Massachusetts goal of achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Once the policy is accepted by the Select Board and Finance Committee, the next step will be to prepare a sustainability action plan.

The policy emphasizes four guiding principles: reduce greenhouse gas energy; invest in resilience measures to adapt and thrive; ensure equity in decisions; and make investments which benefit the town’s environment, health, and social progress. Davies may add a fifth goal to initiate and support education focused on climate change issues.

The BSC agreed to send a letter from BSC chair Francie Nolde responding to Campanelli’s Single Environmental Impact Report on developing the Park at Beaver Brook. The BSC letter to the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency asks Campanelli to reconsider installation of solar panels on their five new buildings, add more EV charging stations, eliminate watering of grass, and make changes to treat the property as a priority habitat for wildlife.

The BSC’s website EnergizeBoxborough.org now includes ways for the community to ask questions and make suggestions to site administrator Suresh Jasrasaria. The site also encourages people to join the 2040 Book Club, a four-week climate change course.

Nolde reported on efforts to establish a swap shed at the transfer station and to add Black Earth composting sites to other parts of town.  The BSC’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, January 11, 2024.

Zoning Board Denies Variance, Approves Special Permit for 140 Davidson Road

(15-DEC-23) At its virtual meeting on December 5, the Zoning Board of Appeals opened the continued hearing for a special permit and variance for the property at 140 Davidson Road. The applicants seek to build a single family home on the 10-acre property. 


A special permit granted in 1973 restricts the property to one single-family dwelling and does not reference accessory structures. The application seeks to amend the 1973 special permit in order to build a new single-family home on the property and seeks a variance to use the foundation of the existing home to build an accessory building for use as a hobbyist workshop and storage building for household lawn and garden tools. The applicant’s plan shows the accessory building in front of the proposed new home.


The building commissioner denied the building permit for the accessory structure because the bylaw does not permit accessory structures in front yards. The ZBA’s findings were that the applicant did not meet the burden of showing a substantial hardship, which is a requirement for granting a variance, and therefore did not grant the variance. However, in their discussion, ZBA members questioned whether the bylaw regarding front yards is applicable to this property because the proposed accessory building is not visible from the road. The applicant was encouraged to appeal the building commissioner’s denial and cite the ZBA’s discussion of the front yard definition.


The ZBA then turned to the special permit application, which would allow the applicant to build a new home on another part of the property. With the condition that no detached accessory dwelling unit shall be permitted on the property, the ZBA voted unanimously to amend the special permit and allow the construction of a new home.


The ZBA voted to keep their meeting schedule to the first and third Tuesdays, as needed. 

Finance Committee Hears Presentation from ABRSD on Budget Deficit

(15-DEC-23) At its meeting on December 5, the Finance Committee (FinCom) heard a presentation from Peter Light, Superintendent of Acton-Boxborough Regional School District (ABRSD) about a level-services budget for fiscal year 2025.  


Light explained that expenses are projected to exceed revenues by $9.5M, or a 10.64% increase over last year’s budget. The primary expense drivers are the Acton Health Insurance Trust (the Trust), special education, and personnel costs.  


The Trust is a self-insured fund, which provides health insurance to ABRSD employees as well as Acton municipal employees. Light reported that the Trust currently has a $2M shortfall due to a few large claims. The ABRSD portion of that shortfall is 74% or $1.5M for the current fiscal year. Additionally, the Trust notified the district of a 22.8% rate increase effective January 2024. In total, costs to the school district for the current fiscal year (FY2024) is projected at $3.2M. The projected increase in the cost of health insurance for FY2025 is $2.8M.  


Boxborough’s share of the ABRSD budget is based on a formula negotiated in the regional school agreement between Acton and Boxborough. Boxborough’s proportionate share of the school budget (the assessment) is based on a three-year rolling average of student enrollment.   Over the last few years, Boxborough’s enrollment has increased while Acton’s enrollment has decreased, which means that the Boxborough assessment will continue to rise over the next few years.  


Maria Neyland, FinCom Chair, expressed concern over the projected school budget indicating that it was “not sustainable.”  Neyland said that while the town needs to support the schools, the town also needs to provide services to all Boxborough residents. FinCom members suggested that a 5.5% increase in Boxborough’s ABRSD assessment would be challenging, but doable. At this time Neyland and Town Administrator Michael Johns do not believe that Boxborough will need an override for the upcoming budget year.


The school budget presented by Light is a preliminary budget. ABRSD will continue to work with all stakeholders to produce their final budget. 


The next FinCom meeting is scheduled for Tuesday December 19 at 7 p.m.

Community Preservation Committee Considers, Votes CPA Applications for 2024 Town Meeting

(15-DEC-23) On Thursday, December 7 the Community Preservation Committee conducted a public hearing to consider six applications for Community Preservation Act funds and decide which proposed CPA-funded projects should move forward as warrant articles at Town Meeting. 


The Housing Board proposed two projects to be funded by CPA funds, one for the Boxborough Rental Assistance Program (BRAP) which provides rental assistance to income-eligible households who are renting qualifying housing units in Boxborough and one for a Homeowner Opportunity for Preservation Extension program (HOPE) for homeowners whose deed-restricted homes need “preservation,” defined as protecting the housing structure from “future injury, harm, or destruction.” The CPC recommended the BRAP article but withheld a decision on the HOPE request due to questions surrounding eligibility and administrative plans. 


The Committee voted to approve articles to fund the Conservation Trust Fund ($10K), the Blanchard School Playground ($171K), a community garden fence at Flerra ($6K), and the restoration of headstones and stonework at Boxborough’s cemeteries ($9.5K).


The next meeting of the CPC is January 4, 2024.

Public Provides Feedback on Hazard Mitigation Planning

(15-DEC-23) On December 11, the town held a public meeting regarding hazard mitigation planning. Consultant Jamie Caplan of Caplan Consulting, LLC solicited feedback from participants regarding natural hazards and mitigation ideas. The information provided by the community over the course of the public hearing will inform the consultant’s work to develop a hazard mitigation plan for Boxborough. 


Hazard mitigation is defined as sustained action taken to reduce or eliminate the long-term risk to life and property from hazard events. Boxborough’s hazard mitigation plan will include hazard information, risk assessment, community capabilities, mitigation strategies, and plan implementation and maintenance.


Hearing participants gave feedback on the types of natural hazards possible in Boxborough (e.g., floods, fires, storms), critical facilities during hazard events (e.g., fire department, town hall, the library), and the impact of hazard events (e.g., damage to personal property, communications challenges, difficulty accessing emergency services). 


The consultant intends to finish drafting Boxborough’s Hazard Mitigation Plan by April 2024. The plan will then go to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for approvals and back to the town for adoption. Once Boxborough has adopted the plan, the town will become eligible for pre-disaster mitigation funding for risk mitigation projects. 


The consultant was hired by MEMA to help towns across the state develop Hazard Mitigation Plans. She is working with Town Planner Alec Wade and Boxborough’s newly formed Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee. Members of the public who wish to provide additional input are encouraged to contact Town Planner Wade. 

School Committee Discusses SRO Program and Communication Devices Policy

(15-DEC-23) At its December 7 meeting, the School Committee did a “first read” of the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program recommendation and the Student Use of Electronic Communication Devices Policy. 


The SRO subcommittee reported to the School Committee that they reached a consensus to continue the SRO program. The subcommittee was formed last year to examine the 2022 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) required by the state for all districts with an SRO program and make a recommendation on the future of the ABRSD SRO program. After considering public comment, conducting surveys, reviewing research, and meeting with stakeholders and experts, the subcommittee recommended that the SRO program continue and developed additional language to supplement the state MOU. The School Committee is expected to vote on the subcommittee’s recommendation on January 18. 


Deputy Superintendent Andrew Shen then discussed the student communication devices policy. He explained that the policy is designed to be “umbrella language” that allows each school to develop its own policies that are appropriate for the ages of its students. Committee members offered feedback and a revised version will be brought back to the Committee. 


The School Committee also voted unanimously to withdraw funds from the district’s Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) Trust to pay Fiscal Year 2024 health insurance costs. Before the vote, Superintendent Peter Light reviewed with the Committee the status of the Acton Health Insurance Trust, which does not have sufficient funds to pay claims. The Health Insurance Trust recently requested a $2 million payment from the district and the Town of Acton and also implemented a 22.8% rate increase. The School Committee also announced its decision from a prior executive session to cover the rate increase for employees through June 30, 2024. 


The Committee also heard a presentation on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) from Heather Stouch, the Coordinator of Social-Emotional Learning and Mental Behavioral Health. Stouch reported that the SEL Competency Advisory Committee chose the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as the district's SEL framework. She explained to the Committee how the schools are adopting the CASEL framework. 


The meeting agenda, with links to reports and other documents, is available at https://bit.ly/3RhEBSL

Select Board Congratulates Citizens Academy Graduates, Discusses May 2024 Town Elections

(15-DEC-23) The Select Board began its December 11 meeting by congratulating the town’s first class of Citizen’s Academy graduates. Citizens’ Academy, a program run by Assistant Town Administrator Rajon Hudson, was designed to expose residents to the various town departments, boards, committees, and commissions to allow a better understanding of how municipal government works. Participants have been attending weekly sessions since September. Each graduate received a certificate, a Boxborough pin, and encouragement to stay engaged with the town. The Board extended its congratulations to the graduates and its thanks to Hudson for organizing the program.


The Board heard from Town Clerk Rebecca Harris about the annual town election, which is scheduled for Tuesday May 21, 2024. The Board declined to opt out of Vote by Mail and authorized the Town Clerk and Police Chief to designate officers and constables to staff the 2024 elections. 


Nomination papers for elected town offices will be available from the Town Clerk’s office January 12, 2024 through March 29, 2024. The last day to file nomination papers in order to be on the ballot for the May 21 Town Election is April 2, 2024. Offices to be on the 2024 town ballot are: Select Board (2 seats), School Committee (1 seat), Planning Board (1 seat), Library Trustees (2 seats), Board of Health (1 seat), Town Moderator (1 seat), and Constable (1 seat). The last day to register to vote in the Town Election and at Town Meeting is May 3, 2024. 


The Board also approved fourteen annual license renewals, including alcohol license renewals, common victualer license renewals, a public entertainment on Sunday renewal, Class II vehicle dealer license renewals, and a Class I vehicle dealer license renewal. 


Town Administrator Michael Johns and Assistant Town Administrator Hudson gave an update on town recruitment efforts. The Fire Department is currently fully staffed, and there is a full time firefighter starting in January. The Police Department is down two officers; the town has extended an offer to a new full time police officer, but another officer recently resigned. The town has one applicant for the assistant town accountant position and expects to post the town accountant position soon.


Conservation Commission Chair Sam Anderson was invited to give a short presentation about vacancies on the Commission. There are two vacant seats to fill; no experience is necessary. The Commission meets twice per month. Any interested residents can reach out to Sam at sanderson@boxborough-ma.gov


The next Select Board meeting (and final meeting of 2023) will be Monday, December 18. Town Administrator Johns expects to present a proposed budget at that meeting.

Boxborough Accepted as Member of Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch District

(8-DEC-23) On November 30, Boxborough was accepted as a full member of the Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch District, effective December 1, 2023. As a member of NVRDD, Boxborough will utilize a regional emergency communications center staffed by professional dispatchers. 


Boxborough will have full membership and voting rights in NVRDD as of December 1, and Town Administrator Michael Johns has accepted a position on the NVRDD’s “CBA contract negotiation management team.” NVRDD is located in the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone, about 10 miles north of Boxborough. Boxborough is the sixth town to join NVRDD, which also includes Berlin, Bolton, Harvard, Lancaster, and Lunenburg. 


According to TA Johns, Boxborough expects to become “operational” on or about March 1, 2024, “pending all equipment, antennas, connectivity, testing… .” Until Boxborough becomes operational, NVRDD will continue to support the town as it has since May 1, 2023. 


According to TA Johns, there is no cost to the town until the town becomes operational, and the state is covering the capital costs required for Boxborough to connect and join NVRDD.


In November 2023, Fall Town Meeting voted by a majority to join NVRDD. 

Public Meeting Notice Regarding Hazard Mitigation

(8-DEC-23) Do you wonder if Boxborough can flood, experience a tornado, or have an earthquake? What can prevent those natural hazards and climate change from wreaking havoc in our community?


Boxborough has formed a Hazard Mitigation Planning Committee to identify risks and projects to mitigate those risks. The Town is working with a consultant hired by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to develop a Hazard Mitigation Plan that will be approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and adopted by the Town. This plan allows Boxborough to apply for pre- and post-disaster mitigation funds.


To learn about this project and share your ideas for making Boxborough more resilient to natural hazards and climate change, join the Select Board meeting on Monday, December 11 at 7:30 p.m in person or on Zoom. Please visit boxborough-ma.gov for more information.

Building Committee Discuss Possible Sites and Building Costs for Future Fire Station

(8-DEC-23) At its virtual meeting on November 29, the Boxborough Building Committee (BBC) continued its discussion about finding a site for a new fire station or, possibly, a public safety facility that would accommodate both fire and police departments. 


The sites under consideration are 70-72 Stow Road, 700 Massachusetts Avenue, and 1300 Massachusetts Avenue. The Stow Road site is 11 acres and is owned by the Town of Boxborough; it was purchased with the intention of building an affordable housing project. Al Murphy, BBC member and Housing Board member, reported that an appraisal in the amount of $1.12 million was recently obtained. If selected, the property could accommodate a combined fire and police facility.


The site at 700 Massachusetts Avenue is near the construction road to Enclave at Boxborough and owned by Mane Realty Trust of which the late John Lyons was the trustee. This site is only .81 acres but would be combined with an adjacent parcel at 750 Mass Ave that is 19.42 acres and owned by Boxborough Town Center LLC. Larry Grossman, a member of the BBC, and Keith Lyons, property representative, presented an appraisal for the combined parcels in the range of $2.2 - $2.4 million. Lyons indicated that the (Lyons) family would sell the property for $1.5 million, crediting $700,000 as a donation to the town. If selected, the combined properties could only accommodate a fire station due to the topography and wetlands.


The third property being considered for a public safety facility is 1300 Massachusetts Avenue, which is the office building on the corner of Burroughs Road and Route 111. This property is 7.06 acres and recently sold for $2,523,500. Subcommittee members Bryan Lynch, Owen Neville, and Bob Stemple reviewed 1300 Mass Ave. and deemed it a viable option. Stemple presented on behalf of the subcommittee and outlined the advantages of the property, including its proximity to Interstate I-495. Since this property is not currently for sale, the BBC requested that the Select Board authorize the Town Administrator to approach the owner and assess the feasibility of purchase. 


In addition to discussing the location of a facility, BBC Vice Chair Gary Kushner and Boxborough Fire Captain Jason Malinowski each shared their financial analyses and models showing costs and tax burden to residents. Although there is still some question as to whether the town will consider a combined facility (for fire and police) or just a fire station, building costs will likely range between $20 million and $40 million.


The next BBC meeting is on December 20 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.

Boxborough Received Letter from Massachusetts Inspector General in October

(8-DEC-23) In a letter to the Boxborough Town Administrator and Select Board dated October 10, 2023, Massachusetts Inspector General Jefferey S. Shapiro recommended “that the town conduct a new audit of all department payroll from July 1, 2018 to the present and seek repayment from any department personnel who the town determines it overpaid.” Earlier in the letter, “department” is defined as the “the Boxborough Police Department.” 


The letter states that the Office of the Inspector General received a complaint in January 2021 “alleging that the town of Boxborough overpaid education incentives to members of the Boxborough Police Department.” The letter states that OIG learned that by October 2021, the town had identified overpayments in fiscal years 2021, 2020, and 2019 and that the town had established repayment plans for fiscal year 2021 overpayments only. The letter also states that “[t]he town’s initial response to the OIG’s inquiries on this matter was concerning.”


At the Select Board meeting on November 27, Town Administrator Michael Johns announced receipt of the Inspector General’s letter and stated that in July, the Select Board met in executive session and voted for the TA to conduct “an audit and collect any overpayments [related to] police education dating several years back” and that he has started that audit as directed. TA Johns said that when the audit is completed, the results will be published, and the town “will be in pursuit of collection of all outstanding payments.”


The Inspector General’s letter is available at https://bit.ly/3NakDIn

Planning Board Discusses Bylaws Enforcement

(8-DEC-23) At its December 4, 2023 meeting, the Planning Board authorized Town Planner Alec Wade to issue a “cease and desist” letter to the owner of 984 Massachusetts Ave / 38 Sara’s Way / 996 Massachusetts Ave with respect to disturbance of land and take additional actions regarding potential enforcement of the town’s stormwater bylaws at that address. The Board considered options for naming a stormwater bylaw enforcement agent and asked Town Planner Alec Wade to explore whether PLACES Associates could serve as an enforcement agent.


The Board discussed bylaw enforcement more generally and asked Town Planner Wade to provide periodic updates to the Board about enforcement actions. The Board expressed some concern about the informal nature of certain enforcement activities and indicated that more information about enforcement would be helpful to the Board.


The Board also took up potential endorsement of the 1414 Massachusetts Ave Definitive Subdivision Plan, which the Board approved with conditions in October 2023. The Board concluded that certain conditions to be completed by the applicant “prior to endorsement” have not yet been completed despite multiple requests to the applicant to provide certain information. The Board reiterated its requests to the applicant and will revisit the issue at the Board’s next meeting.


The Board also discussed potential warrant articles for the Spring 2024 Annual Town Meeting and discussed scheduling a “working session” regarding Planning Board rules and regulations.

Year One with Town Administrator Michael Johns

(8-DEC-23) It’s been about thirteen months since Michael Johns began his tenure as Town Administrator in November 2022. Boxborough News asked him five questions about his first year.  

Boxborough News: How is the town of Boxborough the same and/or different from what you expected before you started working here?


Johns: I conducted extensive research on the Town of Boxborough before applying for and accepting my position here, and my experience aligns closely with my expectations. However, I’ve encountered some delightful surprises in the warmth and friendliness of the community. The most challenging aspect of transitioning to this new job was leaving the team I had developed and worked with for so long in my previous town. Yet, working with and getting to know the fantastic teammates here in Boxborough has effectively filled that void.

Boxborough News: What was the best part of your first year on the job?

Johns: The highlight of my inaugural year on the job was connecting with the people of Boxborough, including the staff, residents, and volunteers, and discovering collaborative ways to enhance an already remarkable town. I found great satisfaction in working on the goals established by the Select Board and me for the town's first year, and particularly enjoyed the teamwork that led to achieving many of those objectives. It's truly astonishing how swiftly the initial 12 months have passed, and I eagerly anticipate shaping the goals for the upcoming year with the Board in the next several weeks.

Boxborough News: What was the biggest challenge of your first year?

Johns: The primary challenge in the first year was undoubtedly centered on boosting morale. Collaborating with the entire team of staff and volunteers, we aimed to achieve strategic alignment and work towards the goals that would enhance the future of Boxborough. Despite grappling with various legal, personnel, and conflicted interest issues, the town faced these challenges head-on. Fortunately, everyone involved came together to successfully resolve the majority of these issues.

Boxborough News: What do you plan to focus on in year two?

Johns: In the upcoming year, my plan involves setting goals at various levels, beginning with the Select Board, other boards, committees, and commissions, and extending to all departmental staff. This comprehensive approach aims to align us for achieving the overarching goal of delivering the highest quality public service at a good value. Year two will specifically focus on areas such as progressing towards the construction of a new fire station, hiring a new fire chief, and a new finance director. Additionally, I am committed to fostering a welcoming atmosphere for all staff, newcomers (both employees and visitors), and town residents. Recognizing the significance of succession planning for long-term organizational success, I will continue to emphasize this in the coming year. This focus extends to both staff and volunteers, as well as programs and departments. Collaborating with various boards and committees, we are dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for everyone in Boxborough. I eagerly anticipate advancing these initiatives towards the goal line.

Boxborough News: So far, what has been your favorite place/event/activity in Boxborough?

Johns: My preferred places to visit are those where our staff provides public service to the community, namely Town Hall, the DPW facility, the Sargent Memorial Library, and the police and fire stations. Beyond work, two of my favorite spots are Steele Farm, where tireless volunteers work to preserve one of the true gems of the community, and Flerra Meadows, where youth participate in the fantastic summer recreation programs led by our outstanding and dedicated summer recreation staff.

Water Resources Committee Discusses RFP for Water Resources Plan

(8-DEC-23) At its November 28 meeting, Boxborough’s Water Resource Committee continued to drill down on specific elements of a Request for Proposal to assist with a town-wide water resources plan.  


Chair Les Fox asked the question, can Boxborough continue to do what we’ve been doing and still have a sufficient water supply for residents and businesses? Member John Markiewicz said the RFP needs to address whether we currently have a problem with the quantity and quality of water, but if not, will there be an issue at some point in the future and what do we have to do to fix it?  


At the conclusion of the discussion, the committee agreed to send the RFP to Town Planner Alec Wade and Assistant Town Administrator Rajon Hudson to finalize the language and put the RFP out to bid.  


The committee also discussed exploring whether a potential MetroWest Water Supply Tunnel expansion could be a possible source for water in the future. A number of neighboring towns are also studying this. Applications, environmental studies, and the cost for Boxborough to participate could be in the neighborhood of $2 - $4 million.  


In other matters, Fox announced that Concord Public Works will be holding a water resources public forum scheduled for Tuesday, December 5 at 7 p.m. at the Harvey Wheeler Center in Concord. Additional information may be found on the Concord website.


The committee scheduled its next meeting for Tuesday January 2, 2024.  

EDC Receives Business Grant Application from Oscar’s Burritos 

(8-DEC-23) At its November 30, 2023 meeting, the Economic Development Committee discussed a new application to the Boxborough Business Grant Program. Town Planner Alec Wade reported that the owner of Oscar’s Burritos submitted an application for a $20,000 grant to fund inventory and operating costs in connection with an expansion of his business to include a café. 


The committee discussed the completeness of the application and the additional information they would like from the applicant. Wade will prepare a report and recommendation and EDC will hold a public hearing on the application on Wednesday, December 6 at 11 a.m.


The Boxborough Business Grant Program is funded by Boxborough’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) appropriation. The program provides up to $20,000 in matching funds as a grant to small businesses that meet the requirements of the program. In September, the EDC awarded its first $20,000 grant to Two Friends Chocolate.


The EDC also discussed the status of the Town Center Revitalization project. Town Planner Wade explained that the town is currently finalizing a contract with consultants Tighe & Bond and expects to hold a project kick-off and “public listening session” webinar in December. The consultants will work with a “stakeholder” group chaired by Wade, including representatives from 12 town boards and committees.


The Committee also discussed details for the “Boxborough Business Brunch” that the EDC will host for invited local businesses at Town Hall on December 6. In addition, Chairperson Rich Guzzardi informed the Committee that a requisition for an intern to assist the EDC with grant applications, programs, and a business database has been posted. 

Select Board Discusses Payroll Audit, Police Appointments, and Flag Policy

(1-DEC-23) At the Select Board meeting on November 27, Town Administrator Michael Johns announced that in July, the Select Board met in executive session and voted for the TA to conduct “an audit and collect any overpayments [related to] police education dating several years back” and that he has started that audit as directed. 


In October, the TA and the Select Board received a letter from the Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General, “recommending that we do the same thing that we’re already in the process of doing.” TA Johns said that when the audit is completed, the results will be published and the town “will be in pursuit of collection of all outstanding payments.” He also noted that news station NBC10 Boston contacted him last week regarding the Inspector General’s letter and interviewed him on this topic for a news story that had aired earlier that day.


Select Board Chair Kristin Hilberg said she empathized with frustrated citizens who were concerned that the town might not try to collect the overpayments but explained that the Board members have been limited in what they could state publicly and assured that the town is “well on its way to solving the problem.”


Police Chief John Szewczyk appeared before the board to introduce two new police officers, both of whom the Board voted to appoint: William Gorman, a reserve officer, and Michael Turner, a full-time officer. In response to a question from the public about vacancies in the police department, TA Johns acknowledged that they have had “quite a bit of turnover,” and Chief Szewczyk stated that after the new appointments, the department would be “down two full-time officers.”   


The Board also voted to accept revisions to the town’s flag policy that would allow only four specific flags - the United States flag, the Massachusetts flag, the Boxborough flag, and the POW/MIA flag - to fly on town-owned flagpoles and buildings. TA Michael Johns noted that the policy revision was discussed, drafted, and posted by November 22, two days before the town clerk received an email (apparently also sent to many town clerks across the Commonwealth) with a request from a “politically oriented group” that the town fly a “private flag.”   


Finance Committee Chair Maria Neyland and School Committee Chair Adam Klein appeared before the Board to provide an update on the status of the $9 million ABRSD budget deficit. Neyland explained that the Town of Acton is moving forward with an override but has not yet stated the amount of the override. Neyland said that she does not think that Boxborough will need an override but that close communication between the Finance Committee, Select Board, and School Committee will be critical in the coming months. School Committee members are expected to present at the next Finance Committee meeting on December 5.


The Board heard the town finance team’s FY24 Q1 Financial Report presented by Town Accountant Kelly Pontbriand, Town Assessor Kelly Szocik, and Town Treasurer/Collector, Naomi Quansah. The Board also reviewed and discussed the Town Administrator’s Annual Performance Evaluation Executive Summary, which they will revisit at their next meeting.  

Acton Boxborough Cultural Council Reviews Grant Applications

(1-DEC-23) At its meeting on Tuesday, November 14, the Acton Boxborough Cultural Council (ABCC) reviewed grant applications for the year 2023-2024. The Council received applications amounting to $58,000. However, with the council budget of only $19,000, they will be unable to fund all of the requests. 


The ABCC reviewed several applications during the meeting, some of which were returning performers or entertainers, including a Japanese folktale and origami session at the Acton and Boxborough libraries on two different days and a watercolor workshop conducted by Hongbing Tang, a Boxborough resident. The Council also reviewed a grant application for a world film series.


ABCC will make their grant decisions in the coming weeks and notify grant recipients in mid-January. 

Zoning Board Approves Sign Permit for The Park, Continues Special Permit and Variance Hearing for 140 Davidson Road

(1-DEC-23) At its November 14 meeting, the Boxborough Zoning Board of Appeals conducted a public hearing to review the application submitted by Campanelli, owner of The Park at Beaver Brook (former Cisco campus). Campanelli development manager Jeff Wyman explained that all of the existing buildings are fully leased, and there is one building under construction for which they already have a tenant. The special permit application seeks to replace the existing freestanding signs throughout the property using new materials and colors. In addition, Campanelli is seeking approval for one new wall-mounted sign on the exterior of Building 500, which will house the new restaurant, Craft Food Halls. After discussion, the board voted unanimously to approve the sign special permit amendment.


The board then opened the public hearing to consider applications for a special permit and variance for the property at 140 Davidson Road. The applicants seek to build a single family home on the 10-acre property. A special permit granted in 1973 restricts the property to one single-family dwelling and does not include accessory structures. The application seeks to revise the 1973 special permit by building a single-family home in a different part of the property and using the foundation of the existing home to build an accessory building for use as a hobbyist workshop and storage building for household lawn and garden tools. However, the existing single-family structure sits within the 100-foot wetland buffer zone, so before the ZBA can act on the special permit, the Conservation Commission must decide whether or not it will grant an order of conditions allowing the original structure to remain in the buffer zone. The variance application is a separate matter and asks for relief from the zoning bylaw that specifies that accessory structures are not allowed in the front yard.


The ZBA voted to continue both special permit and variance hearings until December 5 at 7:35 p.m.

Planning Board Discusses Master Plan, 1414 Mass Ave, Zoning Bylaw Enforcement

(1-DEC-23) At its November 20 meeting, the Boxborough Planning Board heard a presentation from Town Planner Alec Wade on the status of the town’s current Master Plan as well as a timeline for the development of the next Master Plan. The current Master Plan was developed in 2015 and runs through 2029.


Wade proposed annual reporting with respect to the current Master Plan. Annual reports would incorporate progress updates from town departments, boards, and committees. The Planning Board discussed the need for identifying accomplishments, gaps, and priorities among the many goals identified in the current Master Plan. 


Regarding the next Master Plan, Wade proposed starting the plan development process in 2026, with the bulk of the work taking place in 2028-2029.


The Planning Board also discussed the 1414 Massachusetts Ave. Definitive Subdivision Plan, which the Board approved with conditions in October 2023. The Planning Board discussed whether certain conditions to be completed by the applicant “prior to endorsement” have in fact been completed, with some disagreement among members. The Board requested additional information from the applicant and expects to vote on endorsement at its next meeting.


The Board also discussed a letter to the Town Planner from abutters to 984 Massachusetts Avenue regarding whether recent changes to that property would require a permit. Members also discussed bylaws enforcement more generally. The Board decided to consult with legal counsel about the Planning Board’s authority with respect to bylaw enforcement and will revisit this issue at its next meeting. 

Boxborough Sustainability Committee Advances Climate Initiatives

(22-NOV-23) At a hybrid meeting on November 8, the Boxborough Sustainability Committee supported a Littleton Electric Light and Water Department grant application, learned how Stow passed a key climate change code, and continued steps to qualify the town for state and federal grants. 


Responding to a request from LELWD Energy and Sustainability Manager Connor Reardon, the BSC voted to sign a letter supporting LELWD’s application for a federal grant to combat climate change. 


Reardon noted that LELWD and 11 other U.S. communities recently received $300,000 Department of Energy grants to “accelerate … electrification and energy efficiency programs.”  


The BSC also received insight from the chair of Stow’s Green Advisory Committee, Arnie Epstein, about how his committee received Stow’s voter approval for the opt-in specialized energy code requiring that new homes be all-electric or wired for electric retrofit. Epstein emphasized that the code has “no impact on additions or renovations – only new construction.”


Epstein encouraged the BSC to move ahead with the code, saying that Boxborough neighbors Acton, Stow, Maynard, Concord, Chelmsford, and Carlisle have already passed the opt-in specialized energy code.


The BSC also discussed how to move forward with the remaining steps Boxborough must take to apply to the state for the Green Community designation, which would allow the town to apply for a first grant of about $130,000 and then other state and federal grants for energy-savings projects.


A recording of the November 8 BSC meeting is posted on the town website. The next BSC meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, December 14.

Fall Updates from the Town Clerk’s Office

(22-NOV-23) In September, Boxborough Town Clerk Rebecca Harris attended the Massachusetts Town Clerks Association fall conference in Springfield, which focused on elections. Michelle Tassinari, the director and legal counsel of the Secretary of State's Elections Division, led almost the entire three-day training. “She's very entertaining, while also extremely knowledgeable, after many years in her role,” said Harris. “I think the hundreds of town clerks that attended came away a little bit overwhelmed and also better prepared to dive into the four elections we'll have to run in 2024.”


Through the fall, Harris has been working on a board/committee handbook and a business continuity plan, especially for elections. She recently posted a summary document online that includes all boards and committees that are active in Boxborough, their current membership, openings, a brief description, and link to their charter/bylaws. The document is available here: https://bit.ly/3MOy3cJ.


Harris also continues to organize files and destroy files that are not needed anymore according to the state's record retention schedule.


Harris received 18 public records requests in September and eight in October, including several requests for police internal affairs documents, emails between board members, emails between police officers, challenges received to books at our library and schools, and voter registration data.


In September, there were seven babies born to Boxborough residents, one death, one marriage license, and 23 new voter registrations. In October, there was one baby, one death, three marriage licenses, and 32 new voter registrations.  

A-B School Committee Continues to Discuss Budget Deficit Now Approaching $9 Million

(22-NOV-23) At its November 16 meeting, the A-B School Committee discussed the FY 2025 budget deficit and approved its budget guidelines, as amended. The guidelines ask the district to develop two budget models: “one which is responsive to an Acton Town override and is considerate to the town of Boxborough, and one that meets a balanced [Acton Leadership Group] model should an override not pass.”

Since the Committee’s last meeting on November 2, the projected deficit has grown from $7 million to $8.5-$9 million. Superintendent Peter Light explained that the biggest budget challenges are the Acton Health Insurance Trust costs, special education costs, and the impact of three consecutive years of deficits. “If the funding model doesn’t change,” cautioned Superintendent Light, there will be “a devastating impact on education.”


Budget Subcommittee member Rebeccah Wilson shared an update on recent Acton Leadership Group (ALG) discussions regarding a possible override. School Committee members indicated that they would support moving forward with an override. The ALG expects to make a recommendation on whether to move forward with an override at its next meeting on Monday, November 20.  


Superintendent Light provided a related update on the Acton Health Insurance Trust, which does not have sufficient funds to pay claims to date. The Trust is requesting a $2 million contribution from the district and the Town of Acton and also implementing a 22.8 percent rate increase effective January 1. The district will have to pay a total of $2.75 million (the district’s portion of the $2 million contribution plus the cost of the rate increase), and Superintendent Light walked through a three-fold plan to cover this unexpected expense.


The School Committee also heard a presentation by Deputy Superintendent Andrew Shen about current and projected enrollment across the district. The presentation included statistics about current enrollment by school, by grade, and by race. Current K-12 enrollment is 4,990 students, and that number is not projected to fluctuate rapidly up or down in the coming years. Shen noted that the percentage of Boxborough students in the district is projected to increase from 18 percent (current) to 20 percent by 2027-2028. He also noted that students receiving English language services “continues to be the fastest-growing subgroup within our schools and we expect this growth to continue.” The full enrollment report can be found at https://bit.ly/3MNkUAw.


The Committee also did a first read of the High School Course Leveling recommendation. After two years of studying it, the high school is recommending to “proceed with our outlined Year-by-Year Course Leveling Plan … as long as sufficient resources are available to ensure the successful implementation of this work.” The recommendation memo is available at https://bit.ly/3umfnuB. The high school’s website dedicated to course leveling information is available at https://bit.ly/40MIfbw. The Committee plans to vote on the recommendation at its January 4 meeting.

Steele Farm Advisory Committee Welcomes New Member and Reviews Projects

(22-NOV-23) At its meeting on November 16, Chair Christoper Hydak of the Steele Farm Advisory Committee welcomed Andy Bauer as a new member of the committee before starting a review of the projects the committee has underway.


The largest project on the committee’s agenda is phase II of the work to preserve the envelope of the 1784 Levi Wetherbee farmhouse at Steele Farm. Six bids have been received to repair the roof and chimney and are being reviewed at town hall. The hope is that a contract will be let soon. 


Work is in process to create a request for proposals for bids for the restoration of the ice house which will be done using donations from private sources.


Chair Hydak reviewed productive meetings that have been held with the members of the Boxborough DPW and others regarding the 2024 mowing, trail, and maintenance plans. 


After review of the items on the capital plan, the committee voted unanimously to submit a $40,000 article for painting the exterior of the barn for the May 2024 town meeting. The committee also discussed work that is underway to create an updated charter for the committee.


The next meeting of the Committee will take place on Thursday, January 4, 2024 at the Boxborough Museum, 575 Middle Road starting at 7 p.m.

Personnel Board Aims to Make Boxborough an “Employer of Choice”

(22-NOV-23) The Boxborough Personnel Board met on Tuesday, November 14 to discuss a number of topics including preliminary discussions about a cost of living adjustment for fiscal year 2025, private detail rates for non-union firefighters and EMTs, a proposed “Open Door” policy, and a process for progressive discipline.  


The board also discussed a proposed draft defining aspirational values and goals for the town as an employer of choice. An employer of choice is a company that attracts candidates by offering strong leadership, competitive pay, engaged workers, meaningful work, and a positive company culture.


Board chair Lee Slade said the proposal is still in a draft form and may undergo additional revisions before being finalized and presented to the Select Board. The process of becoming an employer of choice involves a systematic evaluation of every aspect of “the employee life cycle” including recruiting, compensation, development, performance management, rewards and end of employment, and the “institutionalization of processes and metrics to make it sustainable for the long term.”  


The next meeting of the Personnel Board is scheduled for Tuesday, December 12, 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall.  

Economic Development Committee Discusses Town Center Revitalization Project

(22-NOV-23) At its November 15 meeting, the Economic Development Committee discussed the Town Center Revitalization project that is expected to begin as soon as next month. 


In early 2023, the state awarded Boxborough a $46,950 community planning grant to create a conceptual plan and alternatives to a town center-style development.


The town is now contracting with consultants at Tighe & Bond to create this conceptual economic development plan. Deliverables from the consultant include visuals and an action plan with tangible next steps for the town about how to move forward. The EDC expects to hear a presentation from the consultant on the scope of work, methodology, and timeline at the EDC’s next meeting on November 30. The contract states that the consultant’s work must be completed by May 2024.


Town Planner Alec Wade explained that the consultants will work with a “stakeholder” group chaired by Wade, including representatives from 12 town boards and committees. The stakeholder group will hold its kickoff meeting in December or January. The stakeholder group’s working sessions will be open to the public. 


“The proposal includes a community engagement aspect of the work, which the EDC sees as an essential part of the process,” said EDC Chair Rich Guzzardi. “We will be communicating with the public on when that engagement will occur.”


The EDC also discussed the “Boxborough Business Brunch” that the EDC will host at Town Hall on December 6. The EDC has invited owners of Boxborough businesses to enjoy a catered brunch, network with each other, and communicate with town officials. The committee discussed the structure, budget, and goals of the event.


Town Planner Wade reported to the EDC that there have been no further applicants to the Boxborough Business Grant Program but that he is currently communicating with at least one potential applicant. The EDC discussed how to better publicize the availability of these grant funds and instructed Wade to prepare a mailing to local businesses with information about the grant program.  

Fall Updates from the Boxborough Town Planner

(22-NOV-23) Through October and November, the Office of Land Use and Permitting has undertaken long range planning and project management. In particular, the Town Planner has been focused on Green Community Designation, Hazard Mitigation Planning, the Economic Development Committee's Town Center study, and preparation for the Community Preservation Committee Public Hearing on December 7.


Town Planner Alec Wade encourages residents to attend the December 7 CPC Public Hearing to consider seven applications submitted for FY 25 funding. “Of particular note, the Office of Land Use and Permitting has co-authored an application with the Regional School District,” said Wade. “This application seeks to restore the Blanchard playground with safer and more accessible surfacing and equipment. We commend the work done by Principal Dana Labb to date and I am excited to assist him on this deeply important project.”


When asked about recent developments at The Park at Beaver Brook, Town Planner Wade noted that local inspectors have been engaging in near-final inspections of new restaurant Craft Food Halls. “We expect opening of the restaurant to be imminent,” said Wade. “An application for final licensure to operate from the Select Board is soon to come.”


Campanelli, the owner and developer of The Park at Beaver Brook, has submitted its next phase of MEPA review, but has not yet submitted anything to the Town for special permitting. In addition, the Zoning Board of Appeals has approved modified signage for the Park at Beaver Brook, for which conceptual designs can be provided. 


Town Planner Wade also reports that the search for an Associate Town Planner has been unsuccessful. It was announced this month that the Office of Land Use and Permitting will seek FY 25 funding to hire this position at full time wage with benefits. “I realize the fiscal impact of this potential hiring and encourage all residents to reach out early with questions and concerns, my door and email inbox are always open,” said Wade. “The future of this office and the needs of the community demand additional support; and once this position is filled, the Town will be able to take new strides towards an even greater quality of life.” 

EXPECTANT MOM -- Labrador retriever Tiber is expecting a litter in December. One of her puppies will arrive in Boxborough this spring to become the first member of the town’s new police K-9 unit.

Town Meeting Approves New K-9 Police Unit

(17-NOV-23) Approved by a majority vote at the November 6 Fall Town Meeting, next year Boxborough will welcome its first dog to the ranks of the police department. The Select Board and the Finance Committee both recommended the article’s passage.


Article 15 of the fall meeting warrant sought $26,300 to establish a police department K-9 unit to “serve multiple purposes including improving community relations” with town residents and employees while “providing much-needed search and rescue operations … for lost or missing individuals on the numerous town trials and open space areas.” Expenditures could include purchase of the dog, training, outfitting of an existing vehicle, veterinarian services, supplies, and gear. 


In presenting the article to town meeting voters, Boxborough police chief John Szewczyk said pledges of donated services will likely significantly reduce the actual costs to the town. Donation of the K-9 has been pledged by Foxbend Labs in Hillsboro, N.H., and that includes about $18,000 worth of microchipping, vaccines, and basic obedience training. He said that local businesses have pledged to cover all veterinary services and teeth cleaning. Szewczyk said that an existing police vehicle would be modified to accommodate the dog.


The new K-9 unit will consist of one dog working and living with a police officer handler, with the animal serving both a community relations function and as a trained scent dog for search-and-rescue operations. Szewczyk emphasized that the animal would not be an apprehension or “bite” dog. He noted the importance of the search-and-rescue function given Boxborough’s extensive wooded land, open space, and nearly 30 miles of trails. “This would vastly improve our response time for a search-and-rescue event, as the need to rely on mutual aid would be diminished,” Szewczyk said.


The anticipated canine already exists, but not yet out in the open – his/her mom, Labrador retriever Tiber, is expecting delivery of said pooch sometime in December. Szewczyk said that the town would then receive the pup in March or April.

Public Celebrations Committee Plans Boxborough Tree Lighting for December 2

(17-NOV-23) The annual Boxborough Tree Lighting ceremony will be held, rain or shine, on Saturday, December 2 at 4:30 p.m. at the corner of Middle and Hill Roads. 


Hosted by the Public Celebrations and Ceremonies Committee, the event will feature live music by the Blanchard BrassWind Ensemble and the Blanchard Chorus, as well as the introduction of a local honoree to flip the switch and light the large evergreen tree. The PCCC will provide hot chocolate and cookies outside the Boxborough Museum just down the hill. 


Once the songs have been sung and the tree has been lit, the big moment will arrive: a visit from Santa Claus, escorted by the Boxborough Fire Department. 


At its meeting on November 7, the Public Celebrations committee walked through the timeline for the evening and all the necessary arrangements. Interestingly, those arrangements do not include hanging lights on the tree. PCCC chair Jennette Kollmann explained that the lights stay up on the tree all year round. Before each year’s tree lighting, the Boxborough Department of Public Works checks the bulbs and makes any necessary repairs or replacements. 


Mark your calendar to gather with friends and neighbors on December 2 to welcome another holiday season!

Overnight and Inclement Weather Parking Ban Begins November 15

(17-NOV-23) The Boxborough Police Department reminds residents and visitors that the town’s annual overnight and inclement weather street parking ban is in effect starting November 15 and ending March 31. During that time, on-street parking is prohibited from 1 a.m. until 6 a.m. and at all hours when inclement weather is forecast. Unattended vehicles can obstruct snow removal operations and may be towed. Additionally, no overnight or weekend parking is allowed at any town-owned facilities without permission. 

Boxborough Police See Increase in Online Fraud

(17-NOV-23) Boxborough police are warning that its Criminal Detective Division has seen a recent uptick in fraud cases, and they urge residents to exercise extreme caution regarding online monetary transactions.


The police cited an example of online fraud experienced in early November by a local woman when she fell victim to a scam on the Facebook group “Acton Freed Up.”


The woman contacted a person who was using the group to offer some items in which she was interested. While the group promotes itself as “the Acton group where everything is FREE,” the seller informed her she’d have to pay a “deposit.” The seller provided her with a Venmo payment service account to which she’d have to send $250 to secure the items.


The woman reported to police that no sooner had she made the payment when the account was deleted. She could elicit no further communication from the seller and Venmo would not offer financial relief.


Boxborough Police Detective Robert Arakelian found a Facebook account under the same name as the “seller,” who appeared to be located in Kenya. Detective Arakelian advised the victim of his findings and explained to her the difficulty it would pose to track down and bring a violator outside the U.S. to justice. Based on that discussion, Arakelian and the victim mutually decided to discontinue the investigation.


Police Chief John Szewczyk reminds residents to be cautious when interacting with strangers via web sites, and with whom they share information. He notes that there are two parking spots at the Boxborough police station dedicated to online shopping exchanges where people may meet when exchanging payment for items advertised. The spots are monitored by video surveillance. 

Select Board Opens 2024 Annual Town Meeting Warrant, Hears Sustainability and Fin Com Updates

(17-NOV-23) At its November 13 meeting, the Select Board voted to open the warrant for the May 2024 Annual Town Meeting and approved the calendar of dates and deadlines leading up to town meeting. The warrant will remain open until close of business on December 18. Annual Town Meeting is scheduled to begin on May 13, 2024. 


Francie Nolde, Chair of the Sustainability Committee, presented to the Select Board an initial preview of the Specialized Energy Code, which the Sustainability Committee would like the town to adopt at the Fall 2024 or Spring 2025 town meeting. The Specialized Code builds on the basic Massachusetts Building Energy Code and the Stretch Code, which Boxborough voted to adopt in 2020. The Specialized Code, intended to further address climate change, applies to new construction only. 


Nolde indicated that her presentation was only the beginning of an ongoing dialogue with the Select Board and the broader community and that the Sustainability Committee intends to get the support of the Select Board before bringing the Specialized Energy Code to town meeting. Nolde also updated the Board on the status of Boxborough’s application to be a “green community,” which is still in progress. 


Maria Neyland, Chair of the Finance Committee, provided the Select Board with the latest updates on the ABRSD budget deficit and, relatedly, the Acton Health Insurance Trust’s solvency issues. Neyland cautioned that the situation “continues to snowball very quickly” and will impact Boxborough. The Select Board asked Neyland to provide regular updates on ABRSD budget developments at Select Board meetings going forward. 


Select Board member Dave McKiernan announced that he is adding a second “office hours” time slot: the second Wednesday of the month from 7-8 p.m, beginning in December. He will continue to hold office hours on the first Wednesday of each month from 10-11 a.m. 

Fall Town Meeting Passes All 12 Articles Considered

(10-NOV-23) Dennis Reip, the town moderator, called the 2023 Boxborough Fall town meeting to order at 7 p.m. on Monday November 6 with approximately 115 people in attendance. When the meeting finished about an hour and 45 minutes later, 11 of the 15 articles on the warrant had been passed either by a unanimous consent agenda vote or nearly unanimous individual votes. No action was taken on three articles at the request of the sponsoring boards. 


The final article of the evening, establishing a K-9 unit for the Town, was the most contentious but also eventually passed. Police Chief John Szewczyk explained that this would be a Labrador Retriever that would be donated to the town at no cost. The primary goal of the dog would be community service and it would be trained as a “scent” dog specializing in search and rescue. After about 45 minutes of debate, principally relating to value, priorities, and cost, this motion passed by a substantial majority.


Among the key items at the meeting was a vote to have the town regionalize its dispatch services at the Regional Emergency Communication Center in Devens by joining the Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch District. The major capital expense was the authorization of $532,000 in borrowing to purchase a truck for the fire department. The town meeting also voted to fund the hiring of a full-time on-site town accountant and a part-time on-site assistant accountant. Approved also was a transfer of unused funds voted in 2019 to fund the initial work to develop a town-wide water resources plan. By a unanimous consent vote the meeting adopted a resolution in support of changing the Massachusetts State Flag and Seal.


In addition to the foregoing, other items approved included payment of prior fiscal year bills and amending the personnel plan. The town meeting also transferred funds from free cash to pay interest on the bond anticipation note for the Sargent Road purchase, reimburse a retired employee for interest resulting from the town’s error, and fund a local transit operator position. A transfer of 2024 budget funds from the Department of Public Works to the Police Department was also voted.


The Planning Board asked the meeting to pass over as potentially unnecessary a proposed zoning bylaw change to add language relating to commercial dumps. It also requested that no action be taken on a proposal for initial funding for a town-wide traffic study; the complete project will be brought to the May 2024 town meeting. The Select Board moved to pass over their second article related to the town accountant position as that article was no longer needed.

Congresswoman Trahan Visits Two Friends Chocolate To Present Small Business Grant Check

(10-NOV-23) On Tuesday, October 31, U.S. Congresswoman Lori Trahan visited Two Friends Chocolate in Boxborough to meet owner Lavanya Selvaraj and present the Town of Boxborough with a $125,000 check for Boxborough’s small business grant program.


The grant program is run by the Boxborough Economic Development Committee and funded by Boxborough’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) appropriation. The program provides up to $20,000 in matching funds as a grant to small businesses that meet the requirements of the program. 


In September, the EDC awarded its first $20,000 grant to Two Friends Chocolate. Selvaraj intends to use the grant for inventory, advertising, and software costs to expand her business and establish a “hot chocolate stand, smores station, and outdoor dining area” at her retail location at 629 Massachusetts Avenue.


“It’s great to have Representative Trahan come participate and see how the ARPA funds are being used and how the grant program we’ve developed can have an impact,” said Economic Development Chair Rich Guzzardi. “It’s great to have a Boxborough business get on the map.”


Rep. Trahan talked with Selvaraj about the challenges of operating a small business, especially through the Covid-19 pandemic. “It’s not easy,” said Selvaraj. “But when you have a passion, you do it.”


“It’s great to meet a woman so wildly successful,” said Rep. Trahan, admiring the chocolates on display. “Congratulations and thank you for persevering.”


Rep. Trahan spoke briefly about the role of ARPA funds. “The flexibility of ARPA is its biggest value. It’s direct to the community. It’s been fun to see how communities around the third district have used them.” Trahan said, “Boxborough did a great job putting the ARPA funds to work.”


The small group present to welcome Rep. Trahan included Town Planner Alec Wade, Town Administrator Michael Johns, EDC members Rich Guzzardi and Abby Reip, and Select Board member Kristin Hilberg.


Said Hilberg, “I’m super excited that the first recipient of the small business grant is Two Friends Chocolate because they’re already an integral part of the community and they’re ready to take their next step in growth and this is going to get them there. And the fact that we can match funds that they’ve already saved up to invest in their business just makes it even sweeter.” 


Any Boxborough business interested in learning more about the grant program should contact Alec Wade in the Town Planner’s office at (978) 264-1723.

Campanelli to Host “Community Meeting” Regarding The Park at Beaver Brook on November 13

(10-NOV-23) On November 8, the Town of Boxborough posted an invitation to a virtual “Community Meeting” on Monday, November 13 at 6 p.m. regarding the Park at Beaver Brook (formerly the CISCO campus), hosted by real estate developer Campanelli. 


According to the invitation, “[T]he meeting is being held to provide updates on responses to comments received during the Environmental Notification Form (ENF) process. Those responses will be formally presented in a Single Environmental Impact Report that will be soon filed with the MEPA office.” 


The invitation, including a link to join the meeting, is available at bit.ly/3QxbV7L

Community Preservation Committee Sets Final List of 2024 Projects and Hearing Date

(10-NOV-23) At its meeting on November 2, the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) voted to accept the final applications for 2024 CPA funding for five projects: (1) Boxborough Rental Assistance Program (repeat project); (2) Conservation Trust Fund (repeat project); (3) Cemetery Restoration (repeat project); (4) Blanchard Playground Safety Improvements (new project); and (5) Fencing Improvement at Flerra Community Gardens (new project).


The Committee had a productive meeting with a representative of the Boxborough Housing Board concerning its new Homeowner Preservation Extension project. After discussion and clarification, the Committee voted to approve this project in principle; the Housing Board will be submitting a final application for CPA funding in the near future.


The Committee discussed an updated projection of available CPA funds and determined that all six projects could be presented for funding at the May 2024 Annual Town Meeting. The CPC will hold its 2023 public hearing at their next meeting on Thursday December 7, 2023, in person at the Grange Room of the Boxborough Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.

ABRSD Superintendent Sounds Alarm on $7 Million Budget Gap

(10-NOV-23) Appearing before the School Committee at its November 2 meeting, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District Superintendent Peter Light warned that early budget projections for FY2025 estimate a $7 million shortfall. The deficit is due to both depleted reserves after three consecutive years of budget shortfalls as well as extraordinary increases in fixed costs. 


“At this point, if there is no change to revenue or reserve usage that we have projected, it’s going to have a catastrophic effect on kids,” said Superintendent Light. He explained that early projections based on a “level services” budget model, which assumes that the district offers the same services and programs in FY2025 that it currently provides, indicate that expenses will exceed revenues by about $7 million. 


Superintendent Light walked the School Committee through the district’s revenues (state aid, reserves, and assessments), followed by the district’s expenses, including an “extraordinary” increase in costs associated with the Acton Health Insurance Trust. The superintendent’s “Early FY2025 Budget Projections” memo is available at bit.ly/47flE9x


After the superintendent’s presentation, the School Committee did a “first read” of its draft FY2025 Budget Guidelines, available at bit.ly/3MvVUO6


The one-page guidelines ask the superintendent to provide two budget models, “one that maintains level services and one which targets the Acton town assessment to 3.0%.” The guidelines state: “Cuts in areas that don’t directly affect students should be evaluated first. The committee recognizes that it is necessary to be open to cuts that do have a direct effect on students and the district strategic goals.” 


School Committee Chair Adam Klein explained that, “this is a really tough year. … We purposefully left the guidelines broad to say ‘do your best to protect our three strategic goals but beyond that, what does it look like to get to a balanced budget?’”


The School Committee also heard a presentation from two students of the ABRHS Resource Force, a student-led group that focuses on fighting climate change, who urged the Committee to make a series of policy commitments intended to decarbonize the school district. 


A recording of the meeting can be found at bit.ly/49ppTkU

Building Committee to Explore Additional Sites for Public Safety Facility

(10-NOV-23) At its virtual meeting on November 1, the Boxborough Building Committee continued to look at possible locations to build a new fire station or a combined fire and police station. The BBC is charged with upgrading the town’s fire and police facilities to serve the town’s needs through 2050. 


A recent study conducted by Context Architecture confirmed the BBC’s 2015 conclusion that the fire and police stations are undersized for housing of equipment, lacking in working space, and not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Context reported that its study of the existing police station found the building structurally sound and that it could be expanded, thereby allowing the committee to prioritize the fire station.


During the past few months, the committee has focused on two sites: one at 70-72 Stow Road and the other at 700 Mass Ave. The site on Stow Road is owned by the Town and was purchased with the intention of building an affordable housing project. The Housing Board has been exploring their options for either developing the property for affordable housing or selling it to a developer and using the funds to support affordable housing programs in town. They are currently seeking an appraisal to clarify their options. The site at 700 Mass Ave, near the construction road to Enclave at Boxborough, is owned by Jim Fenton and the late John Lyons and could only accommodate a fire station. The BBC has not yet received the estimated cost of the land. 


Discussion regarding the cost and benefits of a combined facility as well as the location of any new facility was lively. Police Chief John Szewczyk and Fire Captain Shawn Gray expressed their preference for a combined public safety building, with Captain Gray suggesting that the town build a fire station on a site that would also accommodate the addition of a police station in the future. All board members agreed, however, that the proximity of the police station to the Blanchard School is beneficial.


Faced with limited choices, the committee agreed to enlist the help of Town Planner Alec Wade to review all properties previously under consideration in 2019, when the BBC explored close to a dozen sites along Mass Ave. Most were considered infeasible at the time either due to topography, wetlands, availability, or cost. However, during the meeting, member Bryan Lynch emphasized that the location of the facility (whether standalone fire station or combined facility) is a critical component of the committee’s charge, and he urged the committee to revisit these sites. Member Hugh Fortmiller echoed the emphasis on location, saying that taxpayers are concerned with both location and cost.   


The BBC also welcomed new member Bob Stemple. Bob is a former Boxborough Select Board member and current member of the Finance Committee. The committee’s next meeting is on November 15 at 5:30 p.m.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee Elects Officers and Reviews Town Meeting Presentation

(3-NOV-23) At its Zoom meeting on October 24, the Boxborough Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee’s first item of business was to elect Jennifer Campbell and Mary Sullivan as chair and secretary of the committee, respectively.


Article 8 at the Town’s November 6 Special Town Meeting will be a non-binding motion declaring the town in support of a resolution to change the Massachusetts state flag and seal. This article was put on the warrant at initiation of the DEIC. Committee and Select Board member Wes Fowlks presented to the committee a draft of the DEIC presentation to Town Meeting supporting this article. The presentation was reviewed and approved by the committee with thanks to Fowlks for drafting it.


The date of the next meeting of the committee will be set after Town Meeting.  

Boxborough To Hold Fall Town Meeting on Monday, November 6

(3-NOV-23) Boxborough voters are encouraged to attend the 2023 Boxborough Fall Town Meeting starting at 7 p.m. Monday, November 6, at the Blanchard Memorial School gymnasium. 


The FTM gives voters the opportunity to discuss and vote on the town’s payment of prior bills, revisions to the Personnel Plan and town hall staffing, additional capital expenditures, changes to zoning bylaws, and other items that are included as articles in the warrant. 


Voters are encouraged to review the warrant ahead of time to be informed about what will be discussed and decided at the FTM. There are 15 articles included in this fall’s warrant. The warrant can be found on the town website: https://www.boxborough-ma.gov.


Those attending fall town meeting are asked to bring non-perishable items for the food pantry. Especially needed are baking mixes, canned fruit, canned tuna, canned soup, cereal, dried fruit, mac and cheese, pasta, facial tissue, and toilet paper.

Planning Board Discusses Recommendations To Be Made on Fall Town Meeting Floor

(3-NOV-23) At its October 10 meeting, the Planning Board opened a public hearing to consider a revision to the Boxborough zoning bylaw that is proposed on the Fall Town Meeting Warrant.


On review of Boxborough’s zoning bylaw recodification completed in 2022, the Massachusetts attorney general informed the town that certain language must be changed in accordance with Massachusetts General Law, namely the restrictions on commercial dumps. Accordingly, the town made a potential revision to the bylaw.


The Planning Board decided to continue the hearing to November 6 at 6 p.m. in order to request and receive guidance from legal counsel about the proposed language. The Planning Board will make a recommendation on this warrant article on the floor of town meeting.


The Planning Board also decided to recommend passing over a warrant article for a town-wide traffic study at Fall Town Meeting and, instead, pursue funds for the study at Annual Town Meeting in May 2024. After reviewing a draft scope of work for the traffic study and discussing ideal timing for data collection, the board decided to obtain additional quotes for the work and begin the study in the spring after Annual Town Meeting.


Applicant Toll Brothers came before the Planning Board seeking the certificate of occupancy for the “fiftieth and final” condominium unit at the Enclave at Boxborough. The applicant’s special permit contains two conditions specific to the final certificate of occupancy. The town interprets those conditions as requiring all work to be completed before the certificate can be issued – including final steps like the removal of the construction access road, which the applicant has not yet completed and has characterized as "clean-up."


After discussion about the bond and nature of the outstanding work, the board voted unanimously to instruct the building commissioner to issue the final certificate of occupancy contingent upon the applicant completing a punch list to be developed by the town planner.


In his department update, Town Planner Alec Wade noted that although two offers were extended for the associate town planner position, both candidates declined to accept the position. Wade indicated that the part-time nature of the associate town planner position is hampering recruiting efforts and said that he is planning to ask for a full-time associate town planner at next year’s Annual Town Meeting.  

Water Resources Committee Discusses RFP for Consultant

(3-NOV-23) At its October 24 meeting, the Water Resources Committee discussed a draft request for proposal seeking a consultant to assist with the creation of a town-wide water resources plan.


The water resources plan is intended to “(a) Ensure that Boxborough is prepared to meet future, long-term water supply and wastewater management needs for everyone in the town; (b) Identify the town’s needs for protecting and enhancing existing water supplies, aquifers, and other surface water and groundwater resources; and (c) Determine the best means for ensuring safe and reliable water supplies, using a planning horizon of 100 years, and considering cost, feasibility, and available alternatives.”


WRC Chair Les Fox reported that he has received only a few responses to his September request to town boards and committees for input on the RFP’s scope of work. The WRC discussed next steps for the RFP, including following up with certain boards and committees that had not yet provided input and working with the town administrator and town planner to move the formal RFP process forward. An article for $30,000 to hire a water resources consultant is on the fall town meeting warrant.


The WRC also discussed the filing of special legislation codifying Boxborough’s intermunicipal agreement with Littleton regarding the Boxborough-Littleton water line extension. Chair Fox gave an update on the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority’s MetroWest Water System Expansion study, which includes Littleton and Acton but not Boxborough. Members discussed the feasibility and challenges of water testing programs for private wells and considered a potential public outreach campaign. 


The WRC’s next meeting will be November 28.

Housing Board Concerns About Preservation of Affordable Housing Remain

(3-NOV-23) The Boxborough Housing Board met at Town Hall on Wednesday evening, October 25. Among other subjects, there was a discussion about the aging of affordable homes monitored by the BHB. Preservation measures, such as roof replacements, must be undertaken in a number of these units. The BHB is developing the HOPE Program to address this problem. The BHB sought Community-Preservation-Act funding for the program. The preliminary application was declined pending further information because of concerns about the name of the program, its cost, and the lack of specifics. The BHB renamed the HOPE program as the “Homeowner’s Opportunity for Preservation Extension,” for clarity. In addition, the BHB defined more focused objectives, namely, to replace only one or two of the roofs most in jeopardy of deterioration per year. This will sharpen the scope of the program to annual goals and significantly reduce the cost. Representatives of the BHB will attend the next meeting of the Conservation Preservation Committee to advocate for this important program.

The BHB continued to discuss whether to develop or monetize the property at 70-72 Stow Road. Discussions with Habitat for Humanity and Acton Housing Authority continue. The BHB hopes to hear about the affordable housing that can be provided at Stow Road by these organizations at a near-term future meeting. The BHB affirmed its desire to obtain a new appraisal for the value of the Stow Road property, and this effort will begin soon.

The next meeting of the BHB will be an in-person at town hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, November 15; all are welcome.

Fire Chief Search Extended

(27-OCT-23) While Boxborough officials had hoped to name a new town fire chief by the beginning of October, it now appears that may not happen for at least several more months. The position has been open since the retirement of Chief Paul Fillebrown in late June.


Town Administrator Michael Johns said he’s holding off recommending anyone for the job as he wants to attract a larger pool of applicants from which to choose. He also indicated he’d like to see interest in applying for the position from current Boxborough firefighters, something that hasn’t yet happened. Johns said, “We’re thinking that some additional time with an acting chief could possibly help sort that out.” Johns said he’s developing new recruitment plans, which he’ll “share when we get closer.” He now expects that a permanent chief won’t be named until “the new year at the earliest.”


The position was initially advertised in June and three candidates were identified. However, one applicant subsequently withdrew his candidacy. Rather than decide between the other two, Johns recommended to the Select Board that the job search be reopened with the goal of attracting a larger number of applicants.


In the meantime, Captain Shawn Gray will continue to serve as interim chief. Johns has said, “I’m confident that the captains, lieutenants, and the fine men and women that serve as Boxborough‘s EMTs and firefighters are tactically sound, and fully prepared to respond to all fire and medical emergencies.”

Steele Farm Advisory Committee Elects Chair, Reviews Projects

(27-OCT-23) At its meeting on October 17, the Steele Farm Advisory Committee’s first item of business was to elect Christopher Hydak as chair to replace Arden Veley who had relocated out of town. The committee then reviewed the busy slate of projects that it has underway.


The largest project on the committee’s agenda is Phase II of the work to preserve the envelope of the 1784 Levi Wetherbee farmhouse at Steele Farm. The committee reviewed the bids that had been received to repair the roof and chimney. Chair Hydak will bring the committee’s recommendations to the assistant town administrator.


It was reported that members of the committee had developed material that the assistant town administrator could use to create a request for proposal for bids for the restoration of the ice house. This restoration would be done using donations from private sources. Members of the committee will work with town hall on the final request for proposal.


The committee also had an in-depth discussion of maintenance issues and projects relating to the Steele Farm grounds. One goal for the future is to create an operating handbook for Steele Farm documenting these ongoing needs.


The next meeting of the committee will take place on Thursday November 16 at the Boxborough Museum, 575 Middle Road, starting at 7 p.m. 

School Committee Discusses Course Leveling and Previews Budget Challenges

(27-OCT-23) At its October 19 meeting, the A-B School Committee heard a presentation from ABRHS Principal Joanie Dean and three high school teachers about the high school’s course leveling efforts. The teachers shared their personal experiences teaching “more heterogeneously grouped” classes, including success stories and areas where more resources are needed. The School Committee expects to receive a recommendation from the high school regarding future course leveling in November.


Superintendent Peter Light shared that the district will be welcoming a currently unknown number of new students who are expected to arrive at a new migrant shelter at the Acton Minuteman Inn in November. The district is working to prepare for their arrival, including hiring another multilingual educator and additional staff to support the new students. A memo from the Superintendent regarding migrant shelter status and planning is available here: http://bit.ly/492ltjC .  

The School Committee also heard a presentation by Steve Noone of the Acton Health Insurance Trust Committee on the “fiscal health” of the Acton Health Insurance Trust, which serves both the Town of Acton and the A-B school district. Noone reported that there has been a rapid increase in claims, reserves have fallen to zero, and “the situation is serious.” The Trust is exploring all options, including raising rates.


School Committee Chair Adam Klein noted that the agenda for the next meeting has changed due to budget challenges. At its next meeting on November 2, the School Committee will hear budget topics and get an early first look at next year’s budget. Member Rebeccah Wilson of the Budget Subcommittee reported, “The winnowing of the school budget affects everyone and stifles the very spirit of our community. This should raise alarm bells for all. …  Though we want to be aspirational in our work this year, we are unfortunately in crisis mode.”

Select Board Holds FY2024 Tax Classification Hearing

(27-OCT-23) At its October 23 meeting, the Select Board held a public hearing on the FY2024 Tax Classification. The Board heard a pre-recorded presentation and recommendation from Town Assessor Kelly Szocik, and voted to set a single tax rate for all four property classes.


The purpose of the tax classification hearing is to determine the percentage of the Town’s property tax levy to be borne by each property class. The tax levy is the amount of property taxes to be raised in a fiscal year. This amount is determined through the town’s budget process.


Municipalities must decide whether to tax all classes of property at a single tax rate or to reduce the share of the tax levy paid by residential property owners and shift those taxes to commercial, industrial, and personal property taxpayers. The Town Assessor recommended a single tax rate for all property classes.

Based on the anticipated vote to maintain a single tax rate, the Town Assessor calculated and presented a tax rate of 15.23%. The Town Assessor’s presentation is available in the October 23 Select Board packet here: https://bit.ly/497THC6

Recreation Commission Talks Kestrels, Pickleball Gear, and Winterfest Date

(27-OCT-23) At the October 19 meeting of the Boxborough Recreation Commission, Boxborough resident Katie Dallimore presented her Eagle Scout Project and asked to post a sign at Flerra Meadows. Dallimore has built and installed five bird boxes around the town of Boxborough to benefit the American Kestrel. The bird houses are at Flerra Meadows, Rolling Meadows, and Half Moon Meadow. She requested and received permission to post an informational sign to further promote education about the species and efforts to conserve its population in the recreational area at Flerra. 


American Kestrels nest only in pre-existing cavities, so these boxes will directly provide much-needed homes. While they are not currently endangered, the American Kestrel has declined by an estimated 53% from 1966 to 2019 and is projected to lose another 50% by 2075. Providing clean, quality boxes will ensure that residents in the Boxborough area will be able to observe the American Kestrel for many years to come. 


The Recreation Commission noted that they are in the process of planning Winterfest for January 27, 2024, with a rain date of January 28. 


In addition, the Recreation Commission will be donating pickleball paddles and balls to the Library of Things at Sargent Memorial Library. The new pickleball courts at Liberty Field can be reserved using the information provided on the Recreation Commission website: https://www.boxborough-ma.gov/359/Recreation-Commission.

Boxborough Historical Commission Meets and Discusses Project Progress

(27-OCT-23) The main focus of the Boxborough Historical Commission meeting on October 19 was a review of the various historically related projects that are underway in the town. The first area discussed was ongoing maintenance and future capital work at the Boxborough Museum, and planned restoration work on the 1784 Levi Wetherbee Farmhouse at Steele Farm and the Steele Farm ice house. The commission was pleased that some progress is being made in all areas.


In addition to physical projects, the commission reviewed four efforts that are underway to recognize, by way of signage, two historic houses and two locations in the town. Finally the commission confirmed a planned winter presentation on one of Boxborough’s outstanding 19th century citizens.


The next meeting of the commission will take place on Thursday, December 14 at the Boxborough Museum, 575 Middle Road, starting at 7 p.m.

Zoning Board Upholds Building Permit Denial, Hilberg Resigns from ZBA

(27-OCT-23) At its meeting on Tuesday, October 17, the Boxborough Zoning Board of Appeals chose to uphold the building commissioner's denial of a foundation-only building permit for the owners of 242-244 Adams Place. ZBA members Mark White, Mark Barbadoro, and Kristin Hilberg each recused themselves from the matter, and two alternate members, Shawn McCormack and Than Stuntz, acted in their place. 


Following the hearing, the board reorganized and appointed Mark White to continue as chair, and Mark Barbadoro was elected to serve as clerk. Kristin Hilberg announced her intent to resign from the ZBA. Shawn McCormack, a current alternate of the board and land use attorney, intends to submit himself as a candidate to fill the role. 


The ZBA has set two meeting dates, November 14 and December 5, both at 7:30 p.m via Zoom. 

Town Mapping Storm Drainage

(27-OCT-23) In recent days, Boxborough residents may have noticed a grey pickup truck with flashing lights parked by the side of town roads as individuals wearing green safety vests work alongside with various pieces of handheld equipment.


Boxborough DPW Director Ed Kukkula says that the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection is requiring municipalities to map their underground storm drainage structures and systems. He says that the town has hired civil engineering and environmental consulting firm Comprehensive Environmental to carry out the work. Kukkula indicated that the project’s purpose is to gather information and is not anticipated to be a prelude to any construction work.

2023 Boxborough Fall Town Meeting Preview

(20-OCT-23) Boxborough voters are encouraged to attend the 2023 Boxborough Fall Town Meeting (FTM) starting at 7 p.m. Monday, November 6, at the Blanchard Memorial School gymnasium. The warrant is the FTM agenda which will be posted to the town website (https://www.boxborough-ma.gov) and town social media accounts. It will be mailed to every household on October 19.


Our FTM gives voters the opportunity to discuss and vote on the payment of prior bills, revisions to the Personnel Plan and town hall staffing, additional capital expenditures, changes to zoning bylaws, and other items that are included as articles in the warrant. Voters are encouraged to review the warrant ahead of time to be informed about what will be discussed and decided at the FTM.


There are 15 articles included in the FTM warrant. The Select Board – in consultation with town counsel, the moderator, and the Finance Committee – has placed the first nine articles on a consent agenda, believing these articles can be properly voted without debate. If any voter objects, individual articles can be removed from the consent agenda and be debated and voted separately. 


Article 1 in the consent agenda calls for the payment of prior fiscal year bills in the amount of $65,535.71. Article 2 proposes that the Town enter into a regional emergency

communication center agreement with Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch. Article 3 calls for amending the FY24 Personnel Plan. Article 4 is for the payment of $11,000 in interest on the Sargent Road bond anticipation note. Article 5 is for the reimbursement of $3,740.73 in interest charged to an employee upon retirement. Article 6 proposes a fiscal year 2024 interdepartmental operating budget transfer of $2,500. Article 7 is for the transfer of previously appropriated funds to hire a consultant to initiate development of a town-wide water resource plan. Article 8 is a non-binding resolution to change the state flag and seal. Article 9 proposes $7,200 to fund a local transit operator position.


Additional articles will be discussed individually. Article 10 proposes a zoning bylaw amendment revising the definition of a commercial dump. Article 11 requests $20,000 for Phase 1 of a proposed comprehensive Boxborough traffic study. Article 12 calls for $532,000 in bonding for the replacement of Fire Department Tender 65 (Tanker). Article 13 calls for $70,500 to fund a full-time, onsite finance director/town accountant and part-time, onsite assistant town accountant. Article 14 is a variation on Article 13 and calls for $55,000 to fund a full-time, onsite finance director/town accountant only (no part-time assistant). Article 15 proposes $26,300 for the establishment of a police K-9 unit.


Those attending fall town meeting are asked to bring non-perishable items for the food pantry. Especially needed are baking mixes, canned fruit, canned tuna, canned soup, cereal, dried fruit, mac and cheese, pasta, facial tissue, and toilet paper.


Town Moderator: Dennis Reip   

Select Board members: Kristin Hilberg, Priya Sundarum, Wes Fowlks, and Dave McKiernan

Town Administrator: Michael Johns 

Select Board to Hold FY2024 Tax Classification Hearing

(20-OCT-23) On Monday October 23, the Boxborough Select Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. in the Grange Meeting Room at Town Hall on the adoption of a Residential Factor, thereby determining the percentage of the tax burden borne by each class of real and personal property for FY2024.  After a presentation by the Town Assessor, the Select Board will vote on whether to establish different rates for different classes of property or tax all classes of property at the same rate. 

Proposed Building Code Addresses Climate Change

(20-OCT-23) At a hybrid meeting on October 12, the Boxborough Sustainability Committee examined details of the Specialized Building Code (SBC) to help Massachusetts reach its climate change goal of becoming a net-zero carbon-emissions economy by 2050. 


Former committee member and architect Larry Grossman said the purpose of all building codes is “to protect the health, safety, and well-being of inhabitants,” and that the SBC addresses new construction as a “steppingstone for further sustainable development.”


Neighboring towns Acton, Concord, Maynard, and Stow have adopted the code. At a hybrid meeting on October 24 at 7 p.m., the committee will hear from a Stow representative about how Boxborough might effectively present the code for approval at the annual town meeting in May 2024. A summary of the SBC can be found at https://bit.ly/48UzsaZ.


Grossman said the existing Stretch Code addresses sustainability in renovations and retrofitting. The SBC applies in four ways to only new buildings:


The committee discussed concerns, such as the possible need for a generator or fossil fuel backup should power for an all-electric home go out for several winter days; technical improvements in heat pumps may solve such problems.


The committee plans to talk with realtors, builders, and citizens to learn what questions people have and how they see the opportunity and possible concerns.  


According to committee chair Francie Nolde, Littleton Electric Light and Water Department Energy and Sustainability Manager Connor Reardon said he has “agreed to help fulfill criteria for the town’s electric data entry moving forward” to meet green community requirements for an application to the state. Reardon also informed Nolde that LELWD has received a federal “Clean Energy Grant.”


Nolde said the committee will be studying a proposal from Les Fox, chair of the Water Resources Committee, for “developing of a comprehensive plan for management and use of Boxborough’s water resources.”


The committee’s next monthly hybrid meeting will be at 7 p.m., November 9.  

Personnel Board Discusses Performance Review System and Recruitment

(20-OCT-23) The Boxborough Personnel Board met on October 10 to discuss a number of topics including the performance review system, recruiting, the employee engagement survey, and the status of draft policies.


Assistant Town Administrator Rajon Hudson presented a relatively new performance review system. The review form was borrowed from another community and modified to align with the Personnel Plan. Personnel Board chair Lee Slade opined that the review process needs to be a positive experience where employees are given the opportunity to work with their department heads to establish training and measurable and achievable goals.


Hudson also presented the board with the town’s current recruiting process. He explained that the primary goal is to recruit employees who bring a “positive value to the town.” Slade said that the town needs a “clear strategy on how to compete for talent.” He indicated that part of the process should be selling and marketing prospective candidates on the value of working in Boxborough. He also encouraged the town to develop a consistent plan as to flexible schedules and work hours. 


Hudson updated the board on the employee engagement survey. He plans to run a test sometime in mid-November and, based on that testing, may modify the template to roll out to all employees in mid-January 2024.


In other matters, at the board’s next meeting in November, Slade plans to provide a rough draft of how the town should define what it means to be an “employer of choice,” including prioritizing funding for training.

Select Board Prepares for Fall Town Meeting, Discusses Public Comment Rules

(20-OCT-23) At its meeting on Wednesday October 11, the Select Board continued preparations for the Fall Town Meeting, which will be held Monday November 6 at 7 p.m. at Blanchard Memorial School. The Board approved a Fall Town Meeting press release drafted by Town Moderator Dennis Reip and decided to continue the tradition of collecting items for the Acton Food Pantry at town meeting. The Board also divided up responsibilities for presenting warrant articles on the floor of town meeting. Instead of the chair speaking for the Select Board on every warrant article, the four Select Board members will take turns doing so. 


Following up on a discussion at the prior Select Board meeting on September 26, Chair Kristin Hilberg presented a set of rules governing public input at Select Board meetings. The public input period at the beginning of each Select Board meeting will be capped at 30 minutes. During public input, each speaker will be allowed to speak for three uninterrupted minutes. Each person will be allowed to speak only once. A timer will be utilized. If more people wish to speak after the 30 minutes allotted for public input is over, public input will be continued to the end of the meeting to allow the board to adhere to its agenda timeline. As the board takes up each of its agenda items, the chair will allow comments from the public at her discretion. 

A Message from TA Mike Johns

Dear Residents and Employees of the Town of Boxborough,

  In light of the recent tragic events in Israel, it is essential that we take a moment to reflect on the values that unite us as a community. These horrific acts of violent terrorism remind us of the importance of being kind and respectful to all people, regardless of their differences.

  We must strive to respect and honor the rights of all individuals, whether they are Israeli, Palestinian, or from any other background. Our commitment to equality and inclusivity extends to people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, disabilities, veteran status, age, social status, economic level, and any other aspect that makes each person unique.

  Let us remember that, at the core, we are all human beings deserving of respect and understanding. In these trying times, let us come together as a community and embody the principles of empathy, compassion, and unity.

  It is through our collective efforts that we can create a more inclusive and harmonious community, where every resident and employee feels safe, valued and respected. This is a very fearful time for many, and please know that I am committed to correcting injustices I am made aware of, and encourage all of us to either fix or report those that we observe. 

With deepest sympathy and a commitment to a better future,

Michael C. Johns

Town Administrator

Community Preservation Committee Reviews Preliminary Applications for CPA Funding

(12-OCT-23) At its meeting on Thursday, October 5, the Community Preservation Committee reviewed financial worksheets to determine the latest balance in Community Preservation Act funds that will be available for awarding Fiscal Year 2025 appropriations. 


Chair Ron Vogel indicated that the committee had yet to be informed of the amount of state CPA matching funds and also needed some clarity from the town accountant to determine the actual amount of funding available for FY25. Excluding the state match and including the remaining CPA funds from last year and the 1% levy from FY24, the amount of funding reserved for appropriations in FY25 is $292,849. In the coming weeks, the CPC will confirm the state match and true up the financial worksheet to determine the exact amount available to award grants for CPA-qualifying applications.


The committee reviewed six preliminary applications to determine whether or not the project was eligible for funding. Eligible projects must fit into one of four categories: open space, recreation, community housing, or historic resources. There were two applications from the Housing Board, and one each from the Conservation Commission, Blanchard Elementary School, Agricultural Commission, and Cemetery Commission. The Committee determined that all but one was appropriate for CPA funds. One of the applications from the Housing Board was not deemed eligible as written. Chair Vogel will reach out to the applicant to explain how the project could be modified in order to qualify for CPA funds.


The deadline to submit final applications for consideration at Annual Town Meeting (May 2024) is November 2, 2023. The CPC will hear presentations from applicants at a public hearing on Thursday, December 7. The committee will vote its project recommendations on or before January 4, 2024. 

School Committee Updated on Multilingual Education, Budget, Course Leveling

(12-OCT-23) At its meeting on Thursday, October 5, the Acton-Boxborough School Committee heard a presentation from Maryann Young, Coordinator of Multilingual Education. Young gave an overview of the multilingual education program at the elementary, middle, and high school levels and explained that the number of multilingual learners in the district has increased 62% in approximately one year, from 235 students in August 2022 to 388 students at present. She noted that the need for additional staff, translation/interpretation services, and professional learning for educators is increasing. Young’s report can be found at https://bit.ly/3F6EzqT


The committee also heard an update from the budget subcommittee and saw the fiscal year 2025 draft budget development schedule. Discussing the budget schedule, Superintendent Peter Light told the committee, “As we start to get an early picture of this budget, we have a really solid understanding that the revenue sources as they exist now are woefully inadequate to …  to sustain the quality and breadth of education that we’ve been providing for a long time at AB, and I just can’t say … strongly enough that we are certainly going to enter another challenging budget cycle, probably more so than the previous challenges we’ve had … .”


In his superintendent’s update at the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Light called the committee’s attention to a new website that the high school has created to educate students, families, and the community about their “course leveling” work. The website can be accessed at: https://bit.ly/3F91u5a

(13-OCT-23) On Wednesday, October 4, the Planning Board voted on two definitive subdivision applications. The Board approved with conditions the definitive subdivision plan for 1414 Massachusetts Ave with a split 3-2 vote and unanimously denied the definitive subdivision plan for 242-244 Adams Place.


The Board first worked through the draft decision denying the Adams Place application, guided by Town Planner Alec Wade and Attorney Adam Costa. Board members spent approximately an hour and a half walking through the deficiencies in the application and Board's findings underlying the denial. Once Board members were satisfied with the stated findings underlying the denial, the Board moved to approve the decision to deny the definitive subdivision plan. The vote was unanimous. 


The Board then moved on to the draft decision approving with conditions the 1414 Mass Ave application. A straw poll at the prior Planning Board meeting indicated a potential split vote, so Attorney Costa advised the Board on the role of "minority" members during deliberations. Board members spent roughly two hours working through the conditions of the approval, with debate and disagreement among members. Ultimately, the Board voted 3-2 to grant definitive subdivision plan approval with conditions. Each Board member made a brief statement as they cast their vote. A recording of the meeting is available at https://tinyurl.com/PBMtg10423.


The Board expressed its thanks to Attorney Costa and Sue Carter of PLACES Associates for their expertise and guidance on both matters. 

Boxborough Police Officer Stillman Graduates from Police Academy

(12-OCT-23) On Thursday, October 5, 2023 Boxborough police officer Zachary Stillman graduated from the Lowell Police Academy. 


Stillman began his training at the academy in May, 2023 and was one of 17 recruits to complete the academy. He will now begin an intensive 10-week field training program riding with experienced Boxborough police officers, before he will be allowed to work alone. 


Officer Stillman was the recipient of the Academy’s physical fitness award for his academy class.


Prior to joining the police department, Officer Stillman was a Boxborough dispatcher. He is a recent graduate of Fitchburg State University and is a member of the United States Air Force Reserves.  Police Chief John Szewczyk said that the Boxborough Police Department is extremely proud of Officer Stillman.

Boxborough Police Chief Proposes K-9 Unit

(12-OCT-23) Boxborough Police Chief John Szewczyk has proposed the establishment of a K-9 unit. The unit would serve the dual purpose of improving community outreach with residents and supporting search and rescue operations. Currently, the town relies on mutual aid from other towns for search and rescue. On average, response time for mutual aid is 20-30 minutes.  


Szewczyk indicates that the dog would be cross trained as both a comfort dog and tracking (scent, smell) dog. Szewczyk emphasized it is not a “bite” dog.  


The dog would be assigned to one officer, living at the officer’s home and working during the officer’s shift. Officers normally work eight-hour shifts – four days on and two days off. Initial costs would include $6,000 for outfitting a police vehicle and approximately $13,000 for training. An annual budget for the K-9 unit would be approximately $28,000 per year including the cost of grooming, feeding, and caring for the dog as well as compensation for the dedicated police officer. Some of those expenses could be offset by compensatory time for payroll expenses, free veterinary services, and donations/fundraising for operating expenses. Those strategies would reduce annual costs for the program.  


Szewczyk said, "A K-9 program would be a tremendous addition for the residents of Boxborough in terms of community outreach and operationally for tracking purposes. Serving this dual-purpose role, we ask for the community's support as the Boxborough Police Department is continually examining ways to best serve the residents of Boxborough."


If the fall town meeting approves the warrant article, Szewczyk plans to implement the K-9 unit starting in April 2024.  

Select Board Discusses Fall Town Meeting Warrant, Rules for Public Comment

(5-OCT-23) At its meeting on Tuesday, September 26, the Boxborough Select Board opened the Fall Town Meeting Warrant and voted to recommend all warrant articles, with the exception of the warrant’s two Planning Board articles, which the Select Board declined to consider because it does not comment on articles proposed by other elected boards.


An article to fund the recruitment, hiring, and retention of a full-time onsite finance director/town accountant generated the most discussion among the Board members and resulted in the Board’s only recommendation that was not unanimous.


A prior version of this article had called for funding only an assistant town accountant position. Town Administrator Michael Johns explained that “after further research and consideration,” he is suggesting that the town prioritize hiring a full-time finance director/town accountant, and then bring on an assistant town accountant in the future.


The Board voted 3-1 to recommend the article as written, funding only the finance director/town accountant position, after a motion adding language to also fund an assistant town accountant position failed. The Board then voted unanimously to add a new warrant article that would fund the hiring of both a full-time finance director/town accountant and an assistant town accountant. 


The Board indicated that the new warrant article funding both positions will be presented to Town Meeting first; if it does not pass, the article funding only the finance director/town accountant will be presented. Fall Town Meeting will be held Monday, November 6 at 7 p.m. at Blanchard Memorial School. 


At the beginning of the meeting, before taking up the warrant, Chair Hilberg announced a change with respect to public comment at Select Board meetings, stating that “‘Public Input’ will be the only time during the meeting for public input. Every comment will be limited to two minutes, and you will not be interrupted…. If you feel you need more than two minutes, we encourage you to send an email to the Select Board.” Board members then raised and discussed several alternative approaches. 


In response to a request for comment after the meeting, TA Johns responded on behalf of the Select Board with the following: “This past week, some Board members expressed that they would like to see more time per person for public input at the beginning of the meeting, possibly three minutes instead of two. While it is up to the discretion of the chair, who announced two minutes at the beginning of last meeting, Chair Hilberg does want to include input of the Board, ensure adequate public input time at the beginning of the meeting, as well as adequate dedicated time for the Board to be able to sufficiently discuss and vote on all of the business items at each regular meeting. Kristin will be bringing some options to the table for the next meeting.” The Select Board’s next meeting is scheduled for October 11.

Planning Board Closes Public Hearing on 1414 Mass Ave Application and Begins Deliberation

(5-OCT-23) At its meeting on Monday, October 2, the Planning Board re-opened and then closed the public hearing regarding a Definitive Subdivision Plan application submitted by the owner of 1414 Mass Ave. The Board began its deliberation but did not make a decision on the application. The Board will continue deliberation at its next meeting on Wednesday, October 4.


During the 2.5-hour hearing, the applicant’s attorney described new information submitted to the Board by the applicant since the September 18 hearing, including evidence of a MassDOT permit application, a wildlife study, tree and sidewalk information, and information concerning the measurements of a dead-end road. 


Board members discussed the new materials and asked the applicant a number of follow-up questions. The Board also reviewed a document submitted by the applicant with four suggested conditions for approval of the application. 


The Board closed the public hearing around 9:50 p.m. and began deliberations. A straw poll indicated that most Board members were leaning towards an approval with conditions. Board members discussed potential conditions for approval, including those provided by the applicant. The Board voted to end the meeting just after 11 p.m. and will continue deliberations in two days, on Wednesday, October 4. 

Finance Committee Votes Warrant Articles for Fall Town Meeting

(5-OCT-23) At its September 26 meeting, the Finance Committee deliberated and voted all warrant articles, not previously voted, for the Fall Town Meeting.


FinCom voted unanimously to recommend a regional dispatch, which would stabilize staffing and save the town a considerable amount of money. Police Chief John Szewczyk estimates savings in the dispatch operating budget of $3.8M over 12 years. Additionally, the state pays all capital expenses. 


FinCom also voted unanimously to recommend a full-time finance director/town accountant to ensure the provision of timely and accurate financial information. According to the draft warrant article, the position would be a benefitted contract position with an annual salary of $135,000 to $150,000. The cost for the second half of Fiscal Year 2024 is $105,000 less $50,000 remaining in the budget or an additional $55,000. 


Article 11 for a K-9 Unit was passed by a vote of 5-1. One FinCom member thought the article should be deferred to Annual Town Meeting. 


FinCom also voted unanimously to recommend the following articles: amend the classification and compensation schedule under the personnel plan; the addition of a local transit operator funded through MART; repayment of interest on a bond anticipation note for the land purchase on Sargent Road; and the transfer of $2,500 from the DPW to the police department to fund supplies.


All warrant articles would be funded through “free cash” and would not require any additional taxes. The Department of Revenue recently certified Boxborough’s “free cash” at $2,227,615. If all articles pass at town meeting, the total amount of free cash used would be approximately $189,000. 


FinCom previously voted to recommend the following articles: the payment of prior fiscal years bills; a zoning bylaw amendment; replacement of fire department tender 65; reimbursement of interest charged to employee upon retirement; hiring a consultant to initiate development of a town-wide water resource plan; and a non-binding resolution to support changing the state flag and seal.


FinCom previously voted against a comprehensive traffic study for Fall Town Meeting and recommended this article go to Annual Town Meeting.

Boxborough Economic Development Committee Awards Business Grant to Two Friends Chocolate

(5-OCT-23) At its meeting on Thursday, September 28, the Boxborough Economic Development Committee held a public hearing to consider the first application to the Boxborough Business Improvements Grant Program and voted unanimously to award a $20,000 grant to Two Friends Chocolate, a small business located in Boxborough. 


At the public hearing, Two Friends Chocolate owner Lavanya Selvaraj gave a presentation in support of her application. She explained that she is seeking $20,000 in grant funding, matched by $23,000 of her own funding, to be used for inventory, advertising, and software costs to expand her business and establish a “hot chocolate stand, smores station, and outdoor dining area” at her retail location at 629 Massachusetts Avenue.


The Town Planner confirmed that the scope of Selvaraj’s proposal fits within the allowable uses for her retail space. In response to EDC member feedback, Selvaraj agreed to look into the possibility of using compostable drinkware and also indicated that she intends to increase her retail store hours. Two Friends Chocolate is currently open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.


The Committee voted unanimously to accept the application and direct the Town Planner to move forward with issuing the $20,000 award to Two Friends Chocolate. The Committee thanked Selvaraj for her initiative and encouraged her to let the EDC know how it can support small local businesses like hers. 


“The availability of ARPA funds enabled the EDC to create this unique program providing post-pandemic support targeting small businesses in town that serve the community with goods and services,” said EDC Chair Rich Guzzardi.


After closing the public hearing, the EDC discussed other business, including planning for a “Boxborough Business Breakfast” in early December. The Committee also noted that the Town Center Grant Project is moving forward; a “request for qualifications” was issued and the town received one proposal. The EDC’s next meeting will be October 12. 

A-B School Committee Votes on Solar Battery Project, Hears Staffing Report

(28-SEP-23) At their meeting on Thursday, September 21, the A-B School Committee voted unanimously to extend solar developer Nexamp’s lease option deadline regarding a solar and battery storage system at the district’s Boardwalk Campus (Douglas Gates Elementary Building) in Acton. This will give Nexamp an extension to December 2023 to allow them to complete testing required to move forward with the design of the solar canopy. 


All meeting materials are available on the School Committee website, https://www.abschools.org/school_committee


Superintendent Peter Light explained that the solar and battery storage system is a “core component” of the district’s net zero goals for the Boardwalk Campus and that if the Committee were to vote no on the lease option extension, Nexamp would not continue with the project. 


The School Committee also heard a staffing report from Andrew Shen, Deputy Superintendent of Schools. The full staffing report is available here: https://tinyurl.com/abrs-staffrept


Shen shared that the district has hired 45 new educators and 7 new administrators since February 2023. He also shared challenges regarding the hiring of support staff positions. The Committee indicated a desire for additional data collection regarding staff departures and arrivals.


Committee Chair Adam Klein also announced a change in the Committee’s public comment process. Going forward, all comments from members of the public will be taken at the beginning of School Committee meetings, regardless of whether or not the comment concerns an item on the Committee’s agenda. All members of the public will be limited to three minutes of speaking time.

Public Disclosure of FY2024 Proposed Assessments

(28-SEP-23) [Editor’s Note: The following is a press release from the Town of Boxborough]


The Boxborough Assessor’s Office is nearing completion of its fiscal year 2024 property revaluation. The Massachusetts Department of Revenue has preliminarily approved the new assessments. Following the completion of the disclosure period, the town will seek final certification of assessments from the Department of Revenue. 


Every five years a certification review is conducted by the Bureau of Local Assessment staff to ensure the proposed assessments were derived utilizing a methodology based on generally accepted mass appraisal practices, are supported with current market evidence, and are uniformly and equitably applied to all properties. The data quality, cost and depreciation tables, and land pricing schedules are reviewed for all real property. Income producing properties are reviewed for income and expense analysis, development of economic rent schedules, and capitalization rates. Personal Property accounts are also reviewed for appropriate listing of business assets, along with cost and depreciation schedules. 


The fiscal year 2024 assessments should reflect 100 percent of fair market value as of January 1, 2023. These assessments are based on market activity (sale prices) that occurred during calendar 2022 for single family homes and residential condominiums. Calendar year 2021 and 2022 sales were used for commercial and industrial properties. 


This required revaluation resulted in an average increase in assessment of 11 percent for single family properties, 22 percent for residential condominiums, 15 percent for commercial properties, and 16 percent for industrial properties. 


As a result of the recertification process, the Assessor’s Office is required to hold a five-day period of public disclosure of proposed assessments. This period will run from Tuesday, September 26, 2023, through Thursday, October 4, 2023. Property owners can view their new assessment online at https://www.boxborough-ma.gov/195/Town-Assessor. The information is also available by visiting the Assessor’s Office during regular business hours, calling the office at (978) 264-1721 or (978) 264-1720, or to inquire by email at assessor@boxborough-ma.gov


PLEASE NOTE: This period of public disclosure does not replace the lawful abatement application process that is in place once tax bills are mailed at the end of December. Based on input, assessments may or may not change during this disclosure period. Taxpayers who choose to challenge their assessment may do so by filing an abatement application with the Assessor’s Office during the month of January with a deadline of 4 p.m., Thursday, February 1, 2024. 

Building Committee Considers Fire, Police, Site Options

(28-SEP-23) At their virtual meeting Sept. 20, the Boxborough Building Committee agreed that the town needs a new fire station, and they discussed whether the present police station should be renovated or be replaced as part of a combined safety facility. The BBC will consider building sites at 700 Mass. Ave. and 70-72 Stow Road. A possible site at 1300 Mass. Ave. is no longer under consideration, as it was sold at auction on August 16. The committee will next meet at 5:30 p.m., November 1.


BBC member Larry Grossman will ask the owners of 700 Mass. Ave., John Lyons and Jim Fenton, for the cost of the land, foundation ready, and including tech borings; the BBC asked for a response by the end of October. It was agreed that 700 Mass. Ave., near the construction road to Enclave at Boxborough, could accommodate only a fire station.


BBC member and Housing Board Chair Al Murphy agreed to develop a current appraisal of the Stow Road property by the end of October. The BBC’s Murphy, Kristin Hilberg, and Priya Sundaram will serve as a negotiating sub-committee.


A fire and police safety facility could be built at 70-72 Stow Road, but the Housing Board, which controls the land, is deciding whether to sell it to a company like Habitat for Humanity for affordable housing. They could also sell it to the highest bidder or convey it to the Select Board and use the funds for affordable housing. Conveyance to the town would require town meeting approval and restoration of funds to the Boxborough Affordable Housing Trust. Murphy said the HB has not set a deadline for the decision.


A study of the present police station showed that it could be renovated, and additions could be made only if the fire station were removed. The BBC noted that the option of a new combined facility would likely cost less than separate facilities.


Member Les Fox reported that Town Planner Alec Wade gave the BBC more time to respond to a survey about Campanelli’s development of The Park at Beaver Brook. The BBC approved Fox’s draft of a response which included consideration of a possible public safety site.


Attending the meeting were supporting staff: Police Chief John Szewczyk, Interim Fire Chief Shawn Gray, and fire Captain Jason Malinowski. EMT/firefighter Steve Wright also attended.

Select Board Member McKiernan to Hold Monthly Office Hours 

(28-SEP-23) Select Board member Dave McKiernan has announced that he will hold monthly office hours at Town Hall. His office hours will be held the first Wednesday of each month from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in the Morse-Hilberg room at Town Hall, starting Wednesday, October 4. During his office hours, the public is welcome to speak with McKiernan in person or by phone at (978) 264-1714. 


McKiernan decided to hold office hours “to follow through on a commitment made during the League of Women Voters candidate forum. Office hours may be increased based on resident interest.” McKiernan was elected to the Select Board in May 2023.

Town Seeks Applicants for Police Officer Positions

(28-SEP-23) Boxborough is seeking to fill two police officer positions, but like many other municipalities and businesses, the town is finding it a challenge to attract applicants in today’s job market.


Boxborough Police Chief John Szewczyk said the department is budgeted for 13 officers, but, for now, has only 11. “It’s hard to get people to apply in what’s a very competitive job market, especially when we’re competing with larger municipalities,” Szewczyk said.


Some responsibilities of the positions include:


Applicants must possess a high school diploma or GED equivalent, have graduated from police academy basic training, be at least 21 years old, and pass a criminal and traffic record check, background investigation, physical and psychological examinations.


Szewczyk said when counting 11 current officers, he’s including a department dispatcher who the town sent to the police academy for training and is slated to graduate October 1. He noted it’s been 24 years since the department hired an individual and then sent that person to the academy to become an officer.


A full description of the open positions, as well as other Boxborough police employment information and applications, are available at www.boxborough-ma.gov/189/Employment.

Finance Committee Votes on Potential Warrant Articles for Fall Town Meeting

(28-SEP-23) During a four-hour meeting on September 18, the Finance Committee discussed and deliberated potential warrant articles for Boxborough’s November 6 fall town meeting.


The warrant article for the assistant accountant position generated the most discussion. All FinCom members said that hiring an assistant accountant won’t fix the problems to ensure timely, accurate, and accessible financial information. They would rather see a warrant article for a full-time accountant. Town Administrator Michael Johns projected an annual salary of $135K to $150K for the position.


Following the FinCom meeting, Johns indicated that he plans to recommend to the Select Board that the warrant article be changed to hire and recruit a full-time finance director/town accountant starting in January 2024. The additional cost to the town would be $55K for the second half of the FY2024.


The committee heard a presentation from the Town Administrator about Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch and voted to recommend the article at Town Meeting.


FinCom also voted to recommend the purchase of a tender/tanker for the fire department at a cost of $532K. The purchase will not affect the tax rate until it is bonded two years from now. 


The committee also heard a presentation from Town Planner Alec Wade with respect to a town-wide traffic study at an initial cost of $20K for data collection and a projected cost of $80K for the entire study. FinCom voted against the article but said it would reconsider funding the article at the Annual Town Meeting (ATM).


FinCom voted to recommend the warrant article to pay bills from prior fiscal years at a cost of approximately $66K. Some of those bills included transportation and tuition for vocational education. Committee chair Maria Neyland said that we need to support this article, pay our bills, and fix the problem to ensure this doesn’t happen again.


FinCom took up the matter of what was available to spend under “free cash.” Prior to ATM, the town had $2.7M in free cash and voted $1.5M to fund warrant articles for FY2024, leaving a balance of $1.2M, plus approximately $651K in increased revenues and budgets that were not entirely expended.


Other discussions included a warrant article to refinance a Bond Anticipation Note voted at the ATM. Following the meeting and further research, Johns believes that reappropriation is not required as it was done at ATM, and he plans to pull the article off the warrant.

Personnel Board Rates, Classifies Positions

(28-SEP-23) The Boxborough Personnel Board met twice during the week of September 18 to discuss rating/re-rating three positions and reclassifying the police lieutenant position from exempt to non-exempt.


Using the rating system developed by GovHR, a compensation consultant hired by the town in 2020, the board rated two new positions. The rating system includes factors such as education, training, experience, independent judgment and decision making, policy making, planning, supervision, and working conditions. The board rated and classified a new position, local transit operator, which has been funded through a grant from the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority. The position was classified as a non-exempt position, entitled to overtime, under the Fair Labor Standards Act. They also rated and classified a new position for assistant accountant, proposed by the town administrator for future use. The assistant accountant position was classified as exempt (not entitled to overtime) under the FLSA professional exemption. 


At the request of Police Chief John Szewczyk, the board considered and voted to reclassify the police lieutenant position from exempt to non-exempt – eligible for overtime under the FLSA. Szewczyk indicated that the position does more police-type work and less administrative and management work than previously expected. The Personnel Board also re-rated the position to determine if the change in the type of work performed by the position had any effect on the salary grade. The board found no change in the salary grade.


The board also finalized the warrant article to add the new positions and re-classify the police lieutenant position on the classification and compensation schedule for fall town meeting.

September Update from the Boxborough Town Planner

(28-SEP-23) During the month of September, Town Planner Alec Wade processed the first Economic Development Committee Business Grant application, began several long-term planning initiatives, and continued to support the work of the Planning Board. Following are status updates on several significant development projects:


In October, the town planner expects to work more with the EDC on implementing its grant program and launching its Downtown Boxborough conceptual study. 


The town planner also plans to work on the development of Boxborough's very own bus service. Town Planner Alec Wade said, “Having been approached by the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority, a dedicated Boxborough bus route is expected to launch between October and November, with a conceptual route currently being designed.” Between October and November, the town planner will host an education session for the public on the MBTA multi-family zoning communities requirements.


The town planner’s office is moving from its current location in town hall to the opposite wing of the building. “The new space will allow residents, land owners, and businesses to meet with me on more sensitive matters, and I'm working to create a welcome setting,” Wade said. “The goal is to create a space accessible to all. Parents, in particular, can be a challenging group to reach. Asking a parent to meet at town hall or attend a public meeting can be tough, if not impossible, when child care can't be arranged. By offering activities and toys, I hope to create a welcoming environment and to better reach this important, and younger, demographic. Kids’ opinions count too, and by welcoming children into town hall, I hope to better plan for a community that the youth of today will want to return to later in life.”

September 8th Storm Hit Boxborough Hard

(21-SEP-23) Hurricane Lee left like a lamb last weekend, but the severe thunderstorm Boxborough experienced beginning at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8 pounced like a tiger, with 55 mph winds downing trees and utility poles, closing roads, and causing power outages to 900 Boxborough homes, according to Littleton Electric Light & Water Departments. Within an hour, the coordinated response of LELWD and the town’s public works, police, and fire departments was well underway.


Department of Public Works Director Ed Kukkula said the “southeast corner of town, Stow Road, and Burroughs Road” were most heavily hit. Interim Fire Chief Shawn Gray also found significant damage in the Flagg Hill Road neighborhood. He warned people not to attempt to clear trees near downed wires, the most danger to residents.


LELWD Energy and Sustainability Manager, Connor Reardon, said the storm was “challenging because tree limbs knocked out power to individual residents, so work to restore power was basically one at a time.” He added that with help from Groveland Municipal Light, linemen from LELWD restored “most of the outages … by early Saturday morning.”


Police Chief John Szewczyk said town dispatch helped coordinate the work of LELWD, fire, and police departments, and “all did an excellent job responding to calls for service and … emergency assistance.” 


LELWD General Manager Nick Lawler said “The outages presented us an opportunity to go live with a new outage map on our website …. The map is fed information from the electrical metering system, which alerts LELWD of outages even before the homeowner has time to call.” To see the map, customers should go to lelwd.com and click on the “Outage Center” icon, a red triangle, at the top of the page.


Szewczyk thanked the public for their patience and asked residents to call 911 only for emergencies and to report “impassable roadways, wires down, or damaged utility poles.” Residents are asked to report power outages by phoning LELWD at 978-540-2222. To hear emergency information, citizens may call the town’s Code Red message system at 866-419-5000.


Town Administrator Mike Johns expressed his “sincere gratitude to our dedicated public servants” and the coordinating role of Assistant TA Rajon Hudson. Johns also praised the continuing work of Town Planner Alec Wade and the town’s consulting engineer to address stormwater safety and flood risks, particularly around the Hagar footbridge behind Blanchard Elementary School.


The morning after the storm, Sargent Memorial Library was open to the community until 3 p.m., with free Wi-Fi and plenty of outlets and charging stations.

Cemetery Commission Continues “Green Burial” Discussion

(21-SEP-23) The Boxborough Cemetery Commission met on September 14 to discuss green burials, vegetation improvement, and the digitization of cemetery documents.


The Commission continued its discussions around constraints associated with green burials at the South Cemetery. According to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, a “green” burial is “a method of final disposition of a body with fewer environmental impacts than traditional burial. Generally, a green burial means that the body is not embalmed, no metal or hard wood are used to make the casket, no grave liner or vault are used, and a low profile grave marker is used or no marker at all.” 


While there are no laws in Massachusetts against green burials, there are a number of restrictions recommended by the Massachusetts DEP, including setbacks from private wells. South Cemetery is also constrained by wetlands. The Commission discussed that the town may have to hire a professional engineering group to conduct geological studies. The Commission plans to reach out to the Board of Health to determine next steps.    


In other matters, the Commission discussed the replacement of two trees that need to be taken down, the repair of the shed, and the work of the co-superintendent to convert written documents to an electronic digital system to track information as to who is buried where, the date of burial, and whether the burial was traditional or by cremation.  


The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, October 12, 2023 at Town Hall.

From the Town Administrator’s Desk

(21-SEP-23) [Editor’s Note: The following is written by Town Administrator Michael Johns. 


In the heart of this vibrant town, we stand at a crossroads—a crossroads that will shape the future of the community’s safety and well-being. The decision to move from our local public safety dispatch system to join forces with five neighboring towns in a regional dispatch communication center is one of paramount importance. As residents, this is your opportunity to contribute to a safer, more efficient, and resilient future. When you cast your vote at town meeting, remember that you’re voting for the safety and security of the town and its residents.


The Power of Regional Collaboration: Collaboration is the cornerstone of progress. By joining a regional dispatch communication center, we tap into a vast network of resources, expertise, support and technology. This collaboration ensures that when emergencies strike, our town benefits from the collective knowledge and support of a structure built on solid human capital, with a deep bench, strong financials, and a track record of impressive achievements and success.


Enhanced Efficiency and Resources: One of the primary advantages of regionalization is the ability to pool resources. In a regional dispatch center, our town will have access to state-of-the-art technology, highly trained personnel, and a redundant system that ensures communication remains uninterrupted even during the most challenging situations.


Cost-Efficiency: Regionalization brings cost savings. Instead of bearing the full financial burden of maintaining a local dispatch center, we share the operating and capital costs with the other five member communities. This means that tax dollars can be allocated more effectively to other critical areas of infrastructure and public service.


Improved Response Times: Every second counts in an emergency. Since May 1 until present, we have received critical support from State 911 and Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch District (NVRDD), because we had insufficient 911 certified local dispatchers. During this period NVRDD has triaged our 911 calls, then transferred the calls to our local center, to then be dispatched to Police, Fire and EMS.  Although it is likely the delays during this time have gone unnoticed by residents, by joining a regional dispatch center, we can significantly reduce response times, with 911 calls going direct from dispatch to emergency responders. Trained professionals will always be at the ready to answer calls, assess situations, and dispatch the appropriate resources promptly.


Ensuring Resilience: In today’s world, unforeseen challenges, such as natural disasters or large-scale emergencies, are ever-present. A regional dispatch center offers a layer of resilience that a standalone system cannot match. By sharing resources and knowledge, we ensure that our town can weather any storm, no matter how daunting.


Community Safety as Our Priority: Our town’s commitment to safety is unwavering. By voting to support this transition, we send a powerful message to our community—that we prioritize their well-being above all else. We invest in a system that will stand the test of time and adapt to the evolving needs of our Town.


The Call to Action: As residents, it is your collective responsibility to make informed decisions that shape the future of the town. When you cast your vote, remember that you are voting for the safety and security of families, friends, and neighbors. By supporting the move to a regional dispatch communication center, you ensure that Boxborough remains a safe haven in times of crisis.


As your town administrator, I encourage you to embrace the benefits of collaboration, efficiency, and resilience that regionalization offers. Together, we can build a safer, more secure tomorrow for Boxborough. On November 6th, please come to Town Meeting to support a safer and brighter future that regional dispatch will ensure you.  Please feel free to call, email or visit me to discuss any questions you may have.

Personnel Board Discusses Positions, Reclassification Request

(21-SEP-23) The Boxborough Personnel Board met on Tuesday, September 12 to discuss two new positions and a request to review and reclassify the Police Lieutenant position under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). 


Town Administrator Michael Johns proposed the addition to staff of a regional transportation driver. The position is a full-time benefited position funded by a grant through Montachusett Regional Transit Authority. Personnel Board Chair Lee Slade asked Assistant Town Administrator Rajon Hudson to develop a job description and complete a salary survey.


TA Johns also proposed a second addition to staff for the accounting department. Currently, the town contracts with a part-time town accountant based in Florida. Johns said that while the current structure of the accounting department is not ideal, he believes his proposed solution of an assistant town accountant would benefit the town in addressing the needs of department heads and the Finance Committee. Slade asked Hudson for a final job description for the new position.


Once those job descriptions are received, the Personnel Board will evaluate both positions, rate them, and make a recommendation at fall town meeting to add those positions to the classification and compensation schedule. 


Police Chief John Szewczyk asked the Personnel Board to review and reclassify the police lieutenant position as non-exempt. Under FLSA, a non-exempt position is entitled to overtime pay. Chief Szewczyk believes a non-exempt classification is warranted given the responsibilities of the position; specifically, internal staff investigations and the occasional work as a patrol officer. Slade asked for a new job description that captures the weighted time associated with administrative work versus police work.


Personnel Board member Allan MacLean completed a review of all personnel policies and will recommend adoption of certain new policies, including regarding domestic violence leave, progressive performance process, and open-door policies.


The Personnel Board continues to rate new positions and confirm ratings of all other positions using the rating system developed by GovHR, a consulting firm hired by the town in 2020. Any changes to position salary grades will be incorporated into the Classification and Compensation schedule for a vote at annual town meeting in May 2024. 

Boxborough Capital Committee Holds Inaugural Meeting

(21-SEP-23) On Monday, September 18, the newly formed Boxborough Capital Committee held its first meeting. According to its charter, the Capital Committee “exists to establish, track and recommend the Town’s long-term capital needs for items over $10,000 and a useful life of more than 5 years.” 


The Capital Committee comprises the town administrator, two members of the Select Board (or its designees), and two members of the Finance Committee (or its designees). The Committee voted unanimously to name Priya Sundaram (Select Board) as Vice Chair and Gary Kushner (Finance Committee) as clerk. Per the charter, town administrator Michael Johns serves as the chair. The other two committee members are Antony Newton (Finance Committee) and David McKiernan (Select Board). 


The Capital Committee will maintain the Town’s capital plan, a 20-year rolling schedule of capital expenses designed to help the town plan for and manage significant expected expenses. The Committee discussed the definition of “capital” and the types of expenses that are intended to be captured in the capital plan, for example, vehicles, furnaces, and certain software purchases. 


The Committee intends to collect information about capital needs from relevant parties, including department heads and committee chairs, by early December. The Committee will review and update the Town’s capital plan accordingly, and make recommendations to the Select Board and Finance Committee at the annual “Capital Saturday” meeting. 


The Capital Committee’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, January 17, 2024. Capital Saturday is scheduled for February 3, 2024. 

A-B School Committee Releases Calendar of Expected Meeting Topics

(21-SEP-23) Adam Klein, Chair of the A-B School Committee, has released a memo detailing the School Committee’s anticipated agenda items for meetings through January 2024. 


The School Committee typically meets on the first and third Thursdays each month “to manage the general business of the school district as well as hear presentations on district goals, major initiatives, and make decisions related to the next year’s budget,” writes Klein. “Some of these topics are items that may be of interest to Acton and Boxborough community members, both those with children in the district, and those without.”


Dates and topics are subject to change. School Committee meeting agendas are posted the Friday prior to each Thursday meeting and can be accessed at abschools.org. 


School Committee meetings are held in the ABRSD Administration Building auditorium at 15 Charter Road in Acton. Members of the public are invited to attend the meetings in person, watch live at https://www.youtube.com/actontv1, or watch previously recorded meetings on-demand on ActonTV at https://actontv.org/on-demand/government.

Planning Board Debates Subdivision Applications

(21-SEP-23) At 7 p.m. Monday Sept. 18, over 35 members of the public joined a lengthy Boxborough Planning Board Zoom meeting as it debated details of applications for two definitive subdivisions near the junction of Routes 111 and I-495. 


Residents added comments to the board’s heated discussion of the plan from Lincoln Property, the owners of 1414 Mass. Ave. Approval of the subdivision would allow the developer to “freeze” the zoning rules in effect before more restrictive zoning regulations were passed at town meeting in November 2022. The old regulations allow roughly twice the square footage of construction than the new zoning.


After three and a half hours, the board decided to resume the open hearing on Oct. 2, at which time the Lincoln representatives agreed to apply for traffic permitting with the State’s Department of Transportation. In addition, the applicant planned to address the setback of hazardous waste from wells, traffic data methodology, a sidewalk plan, tree inventory, a study of indigenous wildlife, length of a dead-end road, and safety issues. 


At 10:30 p.m., the board began to hear from the 242 Adams Place definitive subdivision applicant, Boxborough Adams Realty and Hospitality, LLC. Representatives acknowledged that they were also trying to “freeze” zoning regulations, but that they might subsequently decide to build on the subdivision site. 


More than two hours later, the board decided to deliberate further at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 21, to consider such matters as sidewalk extension, drainage calculations, traffic safety issues, and tree and environmental assessments. The board will take a final vote to approve with conditions or disapprove the application at a meeting beginning at 7 p.m. on Monday,  Oct. 2.


After five and a half hours, only six members of the public remained, and the board moved on to vote on a performance bond, discuss special town meeting articles, and approve three months of minutes.  


Board members Rebecca Verner and Cindy Markowitz raised concerns regarding the subdivision plans. Town engineer Susan Carter, Lincoln lawyer Jared Eigerman, and Lincoln advisor Sandra Brock of Nisch Engineering attempted to address some of the issues. 


Citizens Mark Barbadoro, Joan Blaustein, Diana Lipari, Francie Nolde, Jim Syiek, and Andrew Tavolacci offered comments related to the need to hold the applicant to the board’s specific rules; to lobby state legislators to modify laws allowing developers to “freeze”

regulations; and to balance the desirability of commercial development with the protection of water, air, traffic, and the environment.


Regarding the board’s request that Lincoln Property apply to the state’s Department of Transportation for plans regarding access to state highway Route 111, Eigerman thought the application was “futile” because the developer didn’t intend to build on the site; however, he did agree to apply before Oct. 2.


Tavolacci recommended an independent study of indigenous wildlife, pointing out that Lincoln’s 2022 endangered-species study of Blanding’s turtles took place in late fall when no Blanding’s turtles would be present.


20230914 Boxborough PD Press Release.pdf

Boxborough Police Department Arrest Man on Animal Cruelty Charge

(15-SEP-23) Statement From Town of Boxborough Police Department, For Immediate Release 

On Saturday, September 9, 2023 the Boxborough Police Department received a call about a possible animal abuse incident that occurred at the Swanson Road Apartment Complex in Boxborough. Police Officers alongside the Boxborough Regional Animal Control Officer and Law Enforcement Officers from the MSPCA launched a criminal investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged incident. It was soon determined that a 10-week- old puppy had been assaulted with a broom. 

After a 3-day investigation, officers and investigators gathered enough information to apply for a felony arrest warrant for Mr. Brian Morin, 24, of Boxborough. The arrest warrant included evidence of Morin using a kitchen broom to strike his 10-week-old Chihuahua “Turbo” in the skull. After the assault the dog was transported to a 24-Hour Emergency Veterinarian Clinic for treatment. Emergency veterinarian staff reported the dog had significant head trauma, including a fractured skull and torn eye socket. “Turbo” is now in the custody of Broken Tails Rescue and is being treated from his injuries. 


Officers from the Boxborough Police Department took Morin into custody without incident on September 14, 2023. He was transported to Ayer District Court where he is facing one felony count of Cruelty to Animals.


“The Boxborough Police Department takes reports of animal cruelty very seriously. The investigators did a terrific job ensuring a complete and thorough investigation was conducted. We are extremely happy “Turbo” is on the road to recovery,” stated Boxborough Chief of Police John Szewczyk.


All suspects are innocent until proven guilty.

Select Board Discusses Regional Dispatch, the Economic Development Committee, and Finance Committee Concerns

 (15-SEPT-23) At a five-hour meeting on September 11, the Select Board heard a presentation by the Town Administrator about joining Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch and voted to bring the issue to Town Meeting. 

  In his presentation, TA Michael Johns explained that current challenges with Boxborough’s emergency communications center include staffing, capital outlay, and operating expenses.  

  Since May 2023, Boxborough has been receiving assistance from the Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch center and the town is currently a “provisional member.” The town’s options moving forward are to either revert to the prior system of having its own emergency communication center, partner with another town (potentially Acton), or join a regional dispatch center like Nashoba. 

  The Select Board heard from Nashoba Valley Regional Dispatch Executive Director Anne Camaro, as well as Boxborough’s Police Chief and Interim Fire Chief, who were both in favor of joining the regional dispatch center. After a lengthy discussion and comments from the public, the Select Board voted to bring the issue to the town at the Fall Town Meeting in November. 

  Taking up old business from its prior meeting, the Select Board voted to amend the Economic Development Committee charge to decrease the minimum number of voting members. The Board then considered three potential candidates for appointment to the EDC and, after extensive discussion and public comment, appointed two of the three candidates. 

  The Select Board then heard concerns from the Finance Committee. Finance Committee Chair Maria Neyland expressed frustration that the Committee had not yet received information about the town’s free cash and year-end positions. She informed the Board that until the Committee receives detailed information from the town accountant about the town’s free cash, it cannot vote on the majority of the Fall Town Meeting articles. The TA indicated that although there have been delays due to staffing turnover, the information would be forthcoming at the Finance Committee’s next meeting.

  Select Board members, Finance Committee members, and the Town Administrator also discussed the pros and cons of trying to hire a full-time town accountant and/or an assistant town accountant. 

Boxborough Finance Committee Discusses Assistant Town Accountant Position and Status of Financial Dashboard 

  (15-SEPT-23) The Finance Committee met on September 5, and among other things, discussed the proposed fall town meeting warrant articles and the status of the Financial Dashboard.  

  Assistant Town Accountant: At its previous meeting on August 16, FinCom voted 7-0 that the town administrator and the Select Board look at recruiting and hiring a full-time town accountant physically based in Boxborough to ensure timely, accurate, and accessible financial information. 

  Chair Maria Neyland reported that the town administrator proposed a warrant article to hire an assistant town accountant at 32 hours/week with a salary of approximately $61,000 plus benefits of $24,000. This position is in addition to the part-time contract town accountant based in Florida at a salary of approximately $66,388/year.  

  With the proposed start date for the assistant town accountant of January 2, 2024 and the town administrator’s plan to move funding from other sources in the current budget, no additional funding is required for FY2024. However, FinCom member Becky Neville, pointed out that going forward, the total salary line for the accounting department (town accountant plus assistant town accountant) would be approximately $151,388 – roughly $54,000 more than the current budget, plus annual steps and colas.

  FinCom members do not support the recommendation to hire an assistant. FinCom believes the town should follow the town meeting vote of May 2023 and recruit and hire a full-time, on-site town accountant.   

  Financial Dashboard: FinCom member Tony Newton reported that as yet, FinCom has not received the year-end financial report for FY2023 nor the consolidated final operating budget (including warrant articles) for FY2024 voted at annual town meeting. Both reports are pending completion and release by the town’s finance team. There are also a number of other outstanding requests for financial information including debts and reserves.  

  Chair Neyland indicated that they are also waiting to hear what the town plans to report to the Department of Revenue  as “free cash.” Free cash is the term used for money left over at the end of the fiscal year plus the balance from prior years.

  Prior to annual town meeting, free cash was $2.7 million. The town used $1.55 million to fund warrant articles, leaving a balance of $1.15 million. At the end of every fiscal year, the town is required to calculate free cash which may be affected by higher or lower revenues and/or expenses. Free cash is then certified by the DOR. 

  Other agenda items: FinCom also heard from Interim Fire Chief Shawn Gray and Fire Captain Jason Malinowski about a warrant article to authorize the purchase of a tender/tanker. That vote was deferred pending receipt of the actual language of the article. Police Chief John Szewczyk spoke about a warrant article to establish a K-9 unit in Boxborough. That vote was also deferred pending a request from FinCom members for additional information.

Parking Notice From Boxborough Police Department

   (15-SEPT-23) The Town of Boxborough has taken ownership of the following streets at Boxborough Meadows: Joyce Lane, Loring Avenue, and Macleod Way.

  On-street parking is not allowed. The Police Department will be conducting regular checks for illegally parked vehicles and will be issuing reminders to the vehicle owners and ensuring compliance. In October, stricter enforcement will begin.

Assault Suspect Arrested After Search Along Boxborough - Harvard Border

 (8-SEPT-23) Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Boxborough Police Department, were involved in apprehending a man on Tuesday, September 5 for allegedly assaulting a woman at the Boxborough Regency Hotel. The individual was captured in proximity to Interstate 495 in Harvard. 

  Massachusetts State Police said a perimeter had been established around a wooded area roughly bordered by Eldridge and Old Harvard roads where they were searching for the suspect.

  The individual was taken into custody shortly after 5 p.m. by Harvard Police Chief James Babu who then turned him over to Boxborough police. One Boxborough officer involved in combing the swampy area in stifling, humid conditions had to be treated for heat exhaustion, but was expected to fully recover.

  In a prepared statement, Boxborough Chief of Police John Szewczyk said, “The officers did a terrific job carefully orchestrating a search that spanned three towns in extremely hot temperatures.” Szewczyk thanked State Police, as well as officers from the Fitchburg, Sudbury, Harvard, Acton, Stow, Littleton, Pepperell, Ayer, and Merrimack, New Hampshire police departments for their assistance. K9 teams and State Police Air Wing helicopters were also involved in the search.

Planning Board Considers Traffic Study and Development at the Park at Beaver Brook

   (15-SEPT-23) In a four-hour public Zoom meeting September 6, Boxborough’s Planning Board decided to examine the scope and cost of a traffic study for the western part of town. The board also worked on the draft of its concerns about Campanelli construction plans at the Park at Beaver Brook.

  Town Planner Alec Wade told Boxborough News about details of the meeting. Because the board is concerned about the impact of traffic from three large, proposed developments near the junction of Routes 111 and 495, the board will decide at its September 18 meeting whether to present a traffic study article for voter consideration at the special town meeting which begins November 6. The board expressed strong interest in considering a town-wide study and directed Wade to investigate both options.

  The board spent much of its meeting working on details of the draft of comments on the Campanelli proposal to construct five buildings on what was once Cisco property. The draft became a letter the board will send to Campanelli and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office. The letter encourages MEPA to initiate a full review of Campanelli’s development plan. Wade said the letter will be posted on the town website within the next two weeks.

  The planning board will next meet on September 18 and October 2. The board has planned 18 public meetings during the 2024 fiscal year; regular meetings are usually held at 7 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month.  

A-B School Committee Amends FY2024 Budget

   (15-SEPT-23) On Thursday, September 7, the Acton-Boxborough School Committee held its second meeting of the 2023-2024 school year and unanimously voted to amend the regional school district budget. The budget was revised from $105,897,586 to $106,224,413. The change will not affect the assessment to either Acton or Boxborough. 

 ABRSD Director of Finance and Operations Sheri Matthews explained to the School Committee that in the FY2024 approved budget, a line item called the “vacancy factor,” budgeted as a “negative expense” of $450,000, was “erroneously double-counted due to the way it was identified in the budget preparation process.” The discrepancy resulted in personnel salaries being $425,000 short. 

  To close that gap, Matthews proposed to the Committee a revised budget that uses reduced personnel expenses (attrition savings), as well as unanticipated revenues included in the final state budget (Chapter 70 increase and transportation aid increase) to cover the shortfall.

  In response to questions from the Committee, Superintendent Peter Light explained that these are “significant numbers” that will “present a challenge” for the FY2025 budget process. However, he believes that the proposed solution is the best way to address the shortfall given that the school year has already begun and there is money available to cover the salaries. 

  The district finance team has implemented measures to ensure that this type of miscalculation does not happen again, including increased coordination and communication with Human Resources and other departments. 

  The School Committee also heard an update from Superintendent Light about the first week of school and the new AB Resource Center and voted to approve the district goals for 2023-2024.

  School Committee meetings are typically held on the first and third Thursdays of each month in the auditorium of the ABRSD Administration Building at 15 Charter Road. Citizens are invited to attend the meeting in person, watch live at https://www.youtube.com/actontv1, or watch previously recorded meetings on-demand on ActonTV: https://actontv.org/on-demand/government

Sustainability Committee Examines Park at Beaver Brook and Carbon Reduction Plans

   (15-SEPT-23) At its hybrid town hall meeting September 6, Boxborough’s Sustainability Committee worked on drafts of three documents: to address the Campanelli company’s development plans at the Park at Beaver Brook, to describe how sustainability designs can save costs for builders, and to help the town understand the need to support carbon reduction in new construction.

  Member Richard Garrison emphasized that the committee and town’s sustainability efforts are driven by the Massachusetts goal of reaching net zero emissions by 2050. Net zero is achieved when the volume of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere is balanced by the volume removed from the atmosphere. By using renewable energy, a net zero building has no net carbon emissions.

  The committee completed a survey Town Planner Alec Wade has sent to all town committees asking for opinions about the “current and future development of the Park at Beaver Brook” regarding goals such as employment opportunities, tax revenue, and the protection of recreation and open space. Wade will give the results of the survey to the Planning Board and the town for further discussion.

  The committee discussed sustainability concerns regarding Campanelli’s plans to build five buildings on what was Cisco property; the committee is sharing those concerns with Campanelli and the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office. 

  The committee supported Campanelli’s plan to make the buildings 100 percent electric. The committee had concerns about construction on one of Boxborough’s major aquifers. They also pointed out that the possible addition of 8,000 daily vehicle trips would add to the traffic from two other large developments proposed for the western part of Boxborough. 

  During the months leading up to the town’s annual meeting in May 2024, committee members will work to explain to the town how passing a specialized building code will improve sustainability principles in new construction and protect residents from future costs. Members will also work on rewriting the town’s sustainability policy to reflect more clearly what needs to be done to meet the state’s 2050 goal.

  Committee chair Francie Nolde reported that the winner of the committee’s Fifer’s Day raffle electric leaf blower prize decided to donate it back to the committee; as the meeting ended, a new winning raffle ticket was drawn.

  The committee’s next meeting will be on October 11.

Boxborough’s Affordable Housing Ratio Remains above 10% 

   (15-SEPT-23) The Boxborough Housing Board met at Town Hall on Wednesday evening, September 6. After some delay, the data from the 2020 US Census has been incorporated into the Subsidized Housing Inventory maintained by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (formerly the Department of Housing and Community Development). The ratio of affordable housing units to all housing units is now 11.35 percent, down from that using the 2010 Census data, 12.9 percent. As the ratio remains above 10 percent, the town continues to have more latitude in negotiating with Chapter 40B developers. The decrease reflects the 281 additional housing units counted in the 2020 census. If housing units are added at the same rate in the future with no increase in affordable units, the affordability ratio will drop to 10.1 percent with the 2030 Census, which is clearly concerning. The BHB will develop a housing production plan to address this issue.

  The BHB continued to discuss the town-owned property at Stow Road - whether to build affordable housing on the land or to monetize the property and use the proceeds for affordable housing. The board decided to invite representatives of Habitat for Humanity and the Acton Housing Authority to describe the affordable housing that their organizations could provide. Assistant Town Administrator Rajon Hudson has clarified the procurement process for securing an appraisal for the Stow Road property. A scope of services should be prepared to define the land-use assumptions in the appraisal. The board voted to secure an appraisal that seeks the highest value for the land under the present agricultural/residential zoning.

  The BHB will seek Community Preservation Act  funding for the Boxborough Rental Assistance Program and the Homeowner Opportunity for Preservation & Equity Program. Increased funding for BRAP will be requested because of increased demand. The HOPE Program is under development to help owners of affordable units preserve the quality of their units, consistent with the constraints of CPA funding.

  The next meeting of the BHB will be at town hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, October 25; all are welcome.

Boxborough Business Grant Program Accepting Applications

   (15-SEPT-23) The Boxborough Economic Development Committee is now accepting applications from small local businesses for the Boxborough Business Grant program, an initiative aimed at encouraging and supporting small businesses in town by providing financial assistance in the form of a grant of up to $20,000. 

  The program is administered by the Boxborough Office of Land Use and Permitting on behalf of the Economic Development Committee, with award decisions to be made by the EDC based on established criteria. The program is funded by the town’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) appropriation. 

  “The EDC is thrilled to offer this exciting program supporting local small businesses who serve such a vital role in our community,” said EDC Chair Rich Guzzardi. 

  According to the Boxborough Business Improvement Grants “Notice of Funding Available” (NOFA), the program seeks applications “for funding for business improvement, expansion, and creation projects. Projects must demonstrate they are targeted to one of the predetermined business types, meet eligible spending criteria, and help make progress towards a vibrant economic center of the town.” 

 Grant funds may be used to support capital improvements and to directly fund “advertising, community projects, COVID recovery, inventory, planning and engineering documents, programmatic, software, and training.” Funds are available in awards of up to $20,000 and “must be matched by the applicant in equal portion.” 

  The application period opened on August 14, 2023 and applications will be accepted on a rolling basis as funding allows but no later than January 3, 2024. The NOFA is available at https://www.boxborough-ma.gov/677/Boxborough-Business-Improvement-Grant-Pr 

  Town Planner Alec Wade reports that the program received its first application in mid-August. “I am eager to continue work on this project,” says Wade, “which will send ARPA (funds) directly to small businesses, creating a more prosperous Boxborough.”

  Interested businesses are encouraged to contact Town Planner Wade for more information at AWade@boxborough-ma.gov

Scam Alert for Boxborough Residents

The Town of Boxborough wants to alert residents that there is an ongoing phone spam in which a company is claiming to represent the interests of the Town of Boxborough in regards to a survey on issues important to Boxborough. This organization has no relationship with the Town, and we are not working with a third party company to collect information. Please disregard any message or notification you receive from this company, and you can report it to the Boxborough Police Department at 978-264-1750.

Deadly Accident at Boxborough Roof Top Recycling

 (8-SEPT-23) On the afternoon of Monday August 28, a worker was seriously injured in an accident at Roof Top Recycling company, 369 Codman Hill Road, Boxborough. Not long after, the individual died of his injuries.

   According to the Boxborough Police Department, shortly after 2 p.m. August 28, the Boxborough Emergency Dispatch Center received a report of an accident at Roof Top Recycling, a company that specializes in recycling asphalt shingles. Boxborough’s police and fire departments, and Emerson Hospital’s Pro EMS Advanced Life Support were sent to the scene. Upon arrival, responders found a male in his 40s suffering injuries sustained from a crawler excavator operating on the property.

   The victim was rushed to the Boxborough Regency Hotel parking lot where he was placed aboard a Life Flight Medical helicopter and airlifted to the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, where he succumbed to his injuries.

   Boxborough Police Sergeant Brett Pelley said the accident is under investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the state Division of Occupational Licensure, and State Police.

Boxborough Celebrates Another Successful Fifer’s Day

(8-SEPT-23) On Saturday, September 2, friends and neighbors came together to celebrate the spirit of Boxborough at the 55th annual Fifer’s Day festival, hosted by the Boxborough Minutemen. Postponed from its traditional June date due to weather, the number of festival-goers so exceeded the Minutemen’s expectations that additional food and drink had to be brought in mid-afternoon. 

  “We were very pleased to be able to organize a successful Fifer’s Day having had to cancel due to the weather in June,” said Minutemen Captain Tony Newton. “We did not expect the usual turnout and were very pleased that our numbers seemed to be equal or exceed previous events. It seemed to us that everyone there had a good time and it was particularly nice to see so many families and kids enjoying the activities. Fifer’s Day is one of the special things about being part of a small town.” 

  The day started with the traditional four-mile road race, with 82 registrants and 74 finishers ranging in age from 1 to 73. Vasili Kariolis, of Boxborough, had the overall fastest time, finishing the race in 20 minutes, 51.9 seconds.  

  The festival officially began at noon with remarks by Minuteman Captain Tony Newton, who told the story of Luther Blanchard, the fifer who marched to the North Bridge on April 19, 1775.

  Newton also announced the recipient of this year’s Golden Fife, Les Fox, and this year’s Parade Marshal, the recently retired Fire Chief Paul Fillebrown. While neither honoree could be there in person, State Senator Jamie Eldridge recognized Fox's and Fillebrown's service to the town with state citations. 

  The traditional volleyball tournaments proceeded through most of the afternoon, with enthusiastic players and spectators. Winner of the Open Bracket was team “Brandon’s Bodacious Babes”; winner of the Players Bracket was team “Porcupines”; and winner of the Backyard Bracket was “Guggins Block Party.”

  At the food tents, folks chatted and enjoyed live music while waiting in line for burgers and sausages. Visitors strolled through the corridor of booths, chatting with local businesses, artisans, nonprofits, and volunteer groups. Kids dashed from table to table seeking stamps in order to complete their Fifer’s Day “treasure hunt,” or pulled parents towards the colorful bouncy houses at the far end of the field. 

  “Boxborough Minutemen … led by the current Lieutenant (this year Bob Lucas) … do most of the heavy lifting, but also rely on many other organizations and non-Minutemen volunteers to make the day work,” said Newton. “This is truly a community effort.”

Recreation Commission Discusses Liberty Field, New Erikson Landry Field

(8-SEPT-23) At its meeting on August 30, the Recreation Commission shared that the new Liberty Field playground has been inspected and certified, and the new tennis and pickleball courts are finished. It expects to hold a casual ribbon-cutting in the middle to end of September. 

  The Commission voted unanimously to name the Summer Road land gifted to the town by Ruth Landry “The Erikson Landry Field.” It is hoped to be used for a softball and cricket field. Exact use will be determined after the land is surveyed. 

  There will be a running club and flag football at Blanchard for young residents in town. More information will be forthcoming. 

  Flerra playground had an outstanding summer. In spite of road construction and bad weather, everything ran smoothly. They had the best group of counselors they’ve had, and their numbers have grown every year. So, expect the same next year!

  The Commission expects to bring back Winterfest in January and another RUN BXB Road Race in the Spring. Updates will be available on the Recreation Commission website: https://www.boxborough-ma.gov/359/Recreation-Commission.

Liberty Field Reopens, Ribbon-Cutting To Be Held September 28 

(9-SEPT-23) On September 9, the Boxborough Recreation Commission reopened the gates of the newly redesigned Liberty Field. The adult fitness area, playground, walking path, and basketball, tennis, and pickleball courts are ready for the community to use and enjoy.  

  On Thursday, September 28, the Recreation Commission will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 4 p.m. The public is invited to hear brief remarks, enjoy refreshments, and explore the new and improved Liberty Field.

  The baseball and soccer fields will remain closed for the fall and winter, and are expected to reopen in the spring. 

Residents Discuss “Earth Wellbeing” in Summer Forum

(8-SEPT-23) “The key to progress is public engagement,” said Alec Wade, Boxborough’s Town Planner, as he introduced “Carbon Reduction for Earth Wellbeing” (CREW), the town’s third summer forum which engaged 15 residents at Town Hall on August 30.

   As guest speaker, Boxborough resident Marjorie Kamp encouraged two small groups to enter spirited discussions about choices people can make to reduce carbon emissions.       

   Participants recognized that some choices are personal: eat more plant food and less meat; use LED bulbs; avoid airplane travel; drive hybrid and electric cars; cut food waste; recycle; and install smart thermostats and solar panels. 

   Other choices require public or government action: protect forests; install wind turbines; build with green cement; conserve water; manage refrigeration chemicals; create walkable cities; preserve coastal wetlands.

   Kamp explained that policy makers need to weigh the benefits and the possible downsides of many carbon-reduction sources, such as nuclear power, wind and solar farms, and power from waves, rivers, and tides.

   During the 90-minute forum, participants experienced how the CREW program energetically engages small “book club” groups to talk about the ways personal changes can help achieve net-zero emissions over time. 

   Wade and Kamp encouraged people to join one of two such four-session meetings with Kamp either on Mondays, Sept. 18 through Oct. 9, from 10:30 a.m. - 11:50 a.m. in Sargent Library; or on Tuesdays, Sept. 12 through Oct. 3, 6:30 p.m. - 7:50 p.m. via Zoom. To sign up or get information about future meetings, email marjoriek@comcast.net

   One recent CREW participant wrote, “Marjorie has been a wonderful facilitator …  It’s great to read the book ‘2040’ and discuss it with a small group.” Another wrote, “The surprise is that it’s not enough to stop emissions, we have to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it…. I hope to help create a film series to encourage people to talk about climate issues.” 

   Another stated, “Suppose everyone in Boxborough, or everyone in Massachusetts took the course and made changes – that difference would be felt!” Another wrote, “Some of the statistics in the book are staggering, [but the program] is more about solutions and empowerment than doom and gloom, and [it’s] very inspiring.”

  At the forum, participants learned some of the “surprising” and sometimes “staggering” facts: Household decisions affect two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions; 43 percent of food waste comes from households; cities can be 10 degrees hotter than suburban land; more people die from heat than from tornadoes and hurricanes; and six inches of flooding can stall a car, while two feet of flooding can sweep a vehicle away. 

   At the end of the forum, sponsored by Boxborough’s Sustainability Committee, participants thanked Kamp and Wade for the informative and spirited evening. This summer, Wade initiated the town’s three forums, hosted by the town’s Office of Land Use and Permitting. Earlier summer forums addressed library use and town roads.

Select Board Grants Alcohol License for New Restaurant, Closes Fall Town Meeting Warrant

(28-AUG-23) At its meeting on August 28, the Select Board granted Craft Food Hall’s application for an All Alcoholic Beverages License. Craft Food Halls is expected to open in December at 500 Beaver Brook Road in The Park at Beaver Brook (the old Cisco campus). According to the applicant’s statements at the Select Board’s public hearing, Craft Food Halls will serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner to both office park employees and the general public. The food will be prepared using the “sous vide” method (low-temperature, long-time cooking), and alcoholic beverage offerings will include a “beer wall” with 30 taps. The 7,000 square foot restaurant will feature work areas, games, and outdoor space with fire pits. 

  The Board also voted to close the warrant for the Special Fall Town Meeting scheduled for November 6. Town Administrator Michael Johns presented 12 warrant articles, including articles regarding a long-range water resource plan, a zoning bylaw amendment, a Western Boxborough traffic study, the state flag change initiative, an assistant accountant position, a local bus driver, and regional dispatch. After some discussion, a thirteenth article was added regarding a possible police dog for the Boxborough Police Department. 

  The Board discussed, but did not take action, on a request from the Boxborough Economic Development Committee to amend its charge and lower the number of voting members in order to address its recent difficulty getting a quorum for meetings. Chair Rich Guzzardi explained that the EDC has been forced to cancel its last two meetings for lack of a quorum and, as a consequence, has been unable to move forward on the new Boxborough Business Grant program. Select Board Chair Kristin Hilberg took comments from the public and indicated that the Board will consider a revised charge at its next meeting. The Board brainstormed ways to recruit volunteers for town boards and committees. 

  Chair Hilberg also took comments from the public regarding repayment of police education incentive overpayments, which she indicated that the Select Board would discuss in Executive Session.

Boxborough Police Officers to Be Outfitted with Bodycams

(31-AUG-23) Beginning in September, Boxborough police officers will be outfitted with body cameras as they patrol the town.

  While Boxborough police cruisers have been equipped with dash cameras for some time, the body-worn devices are something new. Police Chief John Szewczyk noted the bodycam adoption required negotiation with the officers’ labor union as it is, in effect, a “change in working conditions.” Szewczyk said the videos will strengthen the community’s sense of law enforcement accountability.

  The cameras were funded, in part, through a $22,908 grant from the Massachusetts Office of Grants and Research. OGR promotes public safety with funds and programs focused on crime prevention, traffic safety, law enforcement, and homeland security initiatives. When announcing the grant, Massachusetts Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy said, “Body-worn cameras are a transformative tool for law enforcement. This technology strengthens transparency and accountability while promoting best practices and improving police-community relations.”

  At Boxborough’s May town meeting, voters appropriated an additional $7,425 to fund data storage. Data captured by both the dash and bodycams is automatically real-time uploaded to a Motorola-maintained server where it is archived for access when needed. In future years, the data storage expense will be incorporated in the town’s operating budget.

  Bodycam manufacturer Motorola will train officers in the cameras’ operation during the first week in September.

Finance Committee Discusses Financial Dashboard and Role of Town Accountant/Finance Director

(31-AUG-23) The Boxborough Finance Committee used a hybrid format to meet on August 16. The committee discussed the new financial dashboard and Reserve Fund Transfer tracking. 

  Member Tony Newton presented a financial dashboard designed to track the town’s revenues and expenses on a quarterly basis. The objective is to provide timely, accurate, and accessible financial information that can be used to identify problem areas, help in managing unexpected changes, and provide information for future budgets. To promote transparency, Newton proposed that once the dashboard is complete, updates will be posted on the town’s website. 

  Among other things, the dashboard would track departmental expenses, as compared to the budget, as well as debt, reserves, and staffing levels. Newton indicated that while some of this information is currently provided upon request, it is sometimes not in a usable format, complete, or available in a reasonable time.

  The town’s finance team, which includes the town accountant, assessor and treasurer/collector would be responsible for providing data for the financial dashboard on a quarterly basis. Information would be reviewed by FinCom and could provide a basis for dialogue about town financial issues.

  To implement this tool and make the financial management process more efficient and transparent, FinCom voted 7-0 to request that the Select Board and town administrator evaluate the recruitment and hiring of a full time Town Accountant/Finance Director physically based in Boxborough. The town currently contracts with a part-time accountant based remotely. 

  FinCom will continue to track Reserve Fund Transfers for the town. An RFT may be requested for extraordinary and unforeseen expenses but only after budgets have been completely expended. The next FinCom meeting is scheduled for September 5. 

Boxborough Planning Board Considers Site Plans and Subdivision Proposals 

(31-AUG-23) On August 21, over 35 citizens attended the public, virtual meeting of the Boxborough Planning Board’s consideration of a site plan for a trade shop on Codman Hill Road and definitive subdivision proposals at 1414 Mass. Ave. and 242-244 Adams Place. 

  During the four-hour meeting, the board decided to continue the Codman Hill Road hearing to October 2, and the 1414 Mass. Ave. and Adams Place hearings to September 18. The subdivision proposals, if approved, would allow the developers to avoid zoning restrictions the town passed in the fall of 2022. 

  Paul Kirchner of Stamski and McNary, Inc. represented the 100 Codman Hill Road property owner, French Brothers Boxborough, LLC. Kirchner explained that the application for a three-unit trade shop was revised to deal with waste, dumpster location, drainage issues, parking, turtle nesting, and landscaping.  

  Engineer Susan Carter, the town’s consulting engineer, asked for more details regarding the landscaping, tree replacement, and protection of the turtle nesting area. Board members expressed concern about storage within the aquifer protection district, sodium use, fence height, and possible oil tank storage.

  Representing owners of 1414 Mass. Ave., Sandra Brock of Nitsch Engineering summarized the questions that will be addressed regarding buildable lots, right of way, tree protection, botanical habitat areas, presence of Blanding’s turtles, historical sites, pedestrian and bicycle use on Mass. Ave., speed limits, a school bus stop, wildlife, protection of stone walls, impervious surfaces, high traffic areas, stormwater, long-term pollution control, well location, holding tanks, setbacks, and limiting right-hand turns onto Route 111. Members of the Board expressed particular concern about conflicting traffic studies. 

  Applicants for the Adams Place definitive subdivision addressed the board’s request for a traffic study. Traffic engineer Maximo Polanco said that based on factors he considered in the subdivision application and other potential development on Route 111, he projected a possible 30 to 40 percent increase in Mass. Ave. traffic by 2030.

Registration Open for Boxborough Citizens' Academy

 (31-AUG-23) This September, Town Hall will open its doors for Citizens’ Academy, a unique opportunity for residents to learn how the town of Boxborough operates. The program will consist of weekly evening sessions designed to introduce participants to all facets of town government - from financials, to land use, to public safety. 

  Speakers will include the town administrator, town planner, and the chief of police, as well as many other department heads and committee chairs. Presentations will include everything from how the town sets its fiscal year budget to who plows the roads.

  Citizens’ Academy sessions will be held Wednesday evenings from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., starting September 13. The program will end with a “graduation” and recognition of participants at a Select Board meeting on Monday, December 11. 

  Assistant Town Administrator Rajon Hudson managed a similar program during his time in Lexington, MA. He reports that the program “led to more residents getting involved in boards and committees,” and he hopes for the same here in Boxborough. To enroll, contact Hudson at rhudson@Boxborough-ma.gov or (978) 264-1718.

From the Desk of the Town Clerk: 50 Years of Records

(31-AUG-23) [Editor’s Note: This is a monthly update written by the Town Clerk, Rebecca Harris.]

  One thing that the Town Clerk is responsible for is records retention and destruction. This summer I became aware that there were documents at Blanchard Memorial School going back to the 1970s, many of which did not need to be retained, but we needed to get permission from the State Supervisor of Public Records to destroy most of them. 

  It was quite a process to go through around 100 boxes of all kinds of records. Records ranged from payroll (which needs to be retained) to student data (which need to be shredded after parents are notified) to invoices/accounting (shredded) and school committee minutes (retained). I sorted the boxes and documented what was there. Next, with help from the custodial staff at Blanchard and the DPW, we divided the records into 55 boxes to be shredded, others recycled, and the rest sent to the museum to be further organized and retained.

Police Department Co-Response Clinician Addresses Mental Health Calls

(31-AUG-23) After working since early April with Boxborough police in a new position as a co-response clinician, Susan Lemere is happy to find “Boxborough officers are always trying to help people who have mental health or addiction issues, rather than looking to punish them.” Chief John Szewczyk says, “Susan finds the right services for people, when they do not need a criminal justice response.”

  When police dispatch receives a call that may require mental health care, officers determine whether the situation is safe, and then Lemere says she “acts like a triage person in an emergency room, evaluating what level and type of support or treatment is appropriate.”

  She says she is in close touch with Wendy Trinks, Boxborough’s community services coordinator, particularly to support families that may need regular support. Lemere also frequently rides with police officers on patrol as part of her effort to become familiar with Boxborough and citizens’ needs. Trinks says, “Susan is awesome, and we are so fortunate to have her.”

  Lemere says, “If someone is concerned because they or a loved one is struggling, there are community resources to help.” For non-emergency assistance with mental health or substance use problems, she suggests people phone the Community Outreach Initiative Network (COIN) at 508-488-5072. For help with individual and family financial and emergency services, phone Trinks at 978-264-1735.

August Updates from the Boxborough Town Planner

(24-AUG-23) During the month of August, the Office of Land Use and Permitting was busy preparing for a Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing to decide on a special permit on the Leverett House (Harvard Ridge Condominiums) on Swanson Road that was destroyed by a fire in February 2021. On August 15, the board voted to Grant with Conditions, a special permit to reconstruct the 24-unit multi-family housing building. 


“This was an especially exciting decision, as it leveraged the expedited permitting process to ensure Boxborough residents could return to their homes as early as possible,” said Town Planner Alec Wade. “In particular, I want to extend my gratitude to the Building Commissioner Ed and Interim Fire Chief Shawn who have worked with the applicant for months to ensure the building proposed will meet modern code and be as safe as possible.” 


The Office of Land Use and Permitting also continued to support the work of the Planning Board. Below are status updates on several significant development projects currently in front of the Planning Board:

In September, the town planner expects to spend time on community engagement projects related to the Park at Beaver Brook. “Residents should keep an eye out in September for an opportunity to contribute to the Park at Beaver Brook engagement,” said Wade. “While the method is not yet certain, we will engage the people in this process.” In addition, Wade will begin preparing for a joint meeting of the Select Board and Planning Board regarding the current status of the Master Plan and next steps to assist in ongoing implementation.


Finally, the town is in the process of background checks for an associate town planner candidate. The town planner expects that they will extend an offer in the coming weeks and “are eager to introduce the town to its first-ever associate town planner.” 

New Boxborough Restaurant Applies for Liquor License, Hearing Set for August 28

(24-AUG-23) Craft Food Halls, a local restaurant chain specializing in modern and social food service, has applied for a liquor license through the Boxborough Select Board. The hearing on the liquor license is scheduled to take place at the August 28 Select Board meeting. 


Craft Food Halls plans to open a 7,000 square foot restaurant on the ground floor of 500 Beaver Brook Road in The Park at Beaver Brook (the old Cisco campus). They expect to offer indoor and outdoor dining, game areas, and patio fire pits. Craft Food Halls currently operates restaurants in Boston, Lexington, Marlborough, Waltham, and Wellesley.


According to Town Planner Alec Wade, the restaurant expects to open its doors in December.

New Appraisal for Stow Road Property

(24-AUG-23) The Boxborough Housing Board met at Town Hall on Wednesday evening, May 16. The board first discussed the disposition of the property at 70 – 72 Stow Road, which is currently under BHB stewardship. This 13.48-acre property was purchased by the town in 2010 and is located across the road from Tisbury Meadows. The BHB must use the property to develop affordable housing. 


The board discussed two primary courses of action. The first option is to continue the investigation into affordable housing at Stow Road. Site constraints limit the development size to about 30 bedrooms, or, for example, 15 two-bedroom units. According to a local developer, a substantial investment from the town would be required if all units are affordable. If only a fraction of the units are affordable, the required investment would diminish or even vanish. The BHB will continue to clarify the costs and options for a housing development. Board vice chair Channing Wagg volunteered to speak with the Acton Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity.


The second option is to transfer control of the property to the Select Board, provided that the BHB is properly compensated. This would enable the land to be used for several other purposes, such as a fire station or a mixed-use commercial/residential area. It was pointed out that reasonable compensation would enable considerably more affordable-housing units to be preserved and created than by building a limited number of affordable units on the property. No serious negotiations regarding the amount have yet occurred; the BHB voted to secure a current appraisal from a registered appraiser. The BHB then intends to negotiate with the appropriate officials to establish a value for the compensation.


Additionally, the BHB is developing the Homeowner Opportunity for Preservation and Enhancement (HOPE) Program. The HOPE program will assist owners with necessary maintenance and will fund environmentally friendly upgrades. It is intended to preserve the value of affordable units and help the planet. Similar efforts by other communities were reviewed, and program details were discussed. Funding for the HOPE program has not been obtained. It was decided to seek funding for the HOPE program from the Community Preservation Act.


The next BHB meeting is on Wednesday, September 6 at 7 p.m. at town hall; all are welcome. 

CREW Summer Forum.pdf

Boxborough Forum Aug. 30 Focuses on “Earth Wellbeing”

(24-AUG-23) Boxborough’s Office of Land Use and Permitting is inviting the public to an evening of “great fun … learning and engagement” in town hall at 7 p.m.  Wednesday, August 30. Town Planner Alec Wade writes, “Join us as we learn how what we eat, wear, drive, and throw away can help our environment.”


In leading this third public forum of the summer, guest speaker Marjorie Kamp will introduce a project called CREW: “Carbon Reduction for Earth Wellbeing.” CREW helps people understand what they can do over time to help achieve net-zero carbon emissions. Kamp will give participants a look at a larger course now available in September.


Earlier Boxborough public forums were “Help Design Your Library” and “Paving the Way to Better Roads in Boxborough.” 

Boxborough Planning Board Considers Site Plans and Subdivision Proposals

(24-AUG-23) On August 21, over 35 citizens attended the public, virtual meeting of the Boxborough Planning Board’s consideration of a site plan for a trade shop on Codman Hill Road and definitive subdivision proposals at 1414 Mass. Ave. and 242-244 Adams Place. 


During the four-hour meeting, the board decided to continue the Codman Hill Road hearing to October 2, and the 1414 Mass. Ave. and Adams Place hearings to September 18. The subdivision proposals, if approved, would allow the developers to avoid zoning restrictions the town passed in the fall of 2022. 


Paul Kirchner of Stamski and McNary, Inc. represented the 100 Codman Hill Road property owner, French Brothers Boxborough, LLC. Kirchner explained that the application for a three-unit trade shop was revised to deal with waste, dumpster location, drainage issues, parking, turtle nesting, and landscaping.  


Engineer Susan Carter, the town’s consulting engineer, asked for more details regarding the landscaping, tree replacement, and protection of the turtle nesting area. Board members expressed concern about storage within the aquifer protection district, sodium use, fence height, and possible oil tank storage.


Representing owners of 1414 Mass. Ave., Sandra Brock of Nitsch Engineering summarized the questions that will be addressed regarding buildable lots, right of way, tree protection, botanical habitat areas, presence of Blanding’s turtles, historical sites, pedestrian and bicycle use on Mass. Ave., speed limits, a school bus stop, wildlife, protection of stone walls, impervious surfaces, high traffic areas, stormwater, long-term pollution control, well location, holding tanks, setbacks, and limiting right-hand turns onto Route 111. Members of the Board expressed particular concern about conflicting traffic studies. 


Applicants for the Adams Place definitive subdivision addressed the board’s request for a traffic study. Traffic engineer Maximo Polanco said that based on factors he considered in the subdivision application and other potential development on Route 111, he projected a possible 30 to 40 percent increase in Mass. Ave. traffic by 2030.


A complete recording of the meeting is available on the town’s website: https://tinyurl.com/BoxPlBdAug21

Finance Committee Discusses Financial Dashboard

(24-AUG-23) The Boxborough Finance Committee used a hybrid format to meet on August 16. The committee discussed the new financial dashboard and Reserve Fund Transfer tracking. 


Member Tony Newton presented a financial dashboard designed to track the town’s revenues and expenses on a quarterly basis. The objective is to provide timely, accurate, and accessible financial information that can be used to identify problem areas, help in managing unexpected changes, and provide information for future budgets. To promote transparency, Newton proposed that once the dashboard is complete, updates will be posted on the town’s website. 


Among other things, the dashboard would track departmental expenses, as compared to the budget, as well as debt, reserves, and staffing levels. Newton indicated that while some of this information is currently provided upon request, it is sometimes not in a usable format, complete, or available in a reasonable time.


The town’s finance team, which includes the town accountant, assessor and treasurer/collector would be responsible for providing data for the financial dashboard on a quarterly basis. Information would be reviewed by FinCom and could provide a basis for dialogue about town financial issues.


To implement this tool and make the financial management process more efficient and transparent, FinCom voted 7-0 to request that the Select Board and town administrator evaluate the recruitment and hiring of a full time Town Accountant/Finance Director physically based in Boxborough. The town currently contracts with a part-time accountant based remotely. 


FinCom will continue to track Reserve Fund Transfers for the town. An RFT may be requested for extraordinary and unforeseen expenses but only after budgets have been completely expended. 

The next FinCom meeting is scheduled for September 5. 

From the Town Administrator’s Desk, Part II

(24-AUG-23) Editor’s Note: The following is written by Town Administrator Michael Johns. This is Part II of TA Johns’ inaugural note to Boxborough News readers. 

It has been nine months since my November 7 arrival, and it has been a wonderful experience interacting with the fine people of Boxborough, working with the exemplary staff serving the community, collaborating and communicating with the many boards, committees, and commissions, serving the town, and getting to know the business community. In this monthly note, you can expect regular operational updates, as well as strategic goal initiatives and accomplishments. Since this is my first update through Boxborough News, it will cover a lot of ground, but you can expect future notes to be shorter and to get further into the details of specific topics below. Below are highlights from the Select Board and Town Administrator Strategic Goals agreed to in March 2023. 

ARPA spending plan – Thus far, approximately half of the $1.7M in federal grant funding has been spent on or committed to municipal building HVAC upgrades, ABRSD school infrastructure, underground fuel tank removal and replacement engineering, cable access government channel broadcasting equipment upgrades, and Grange Room acoustic upgrades. 

Water project and IMA – The Towns of Boxborough and Littleton and LELWD signed an inter-municipal agreement to build a water line extension from Littleton into Boxborough to serve nine public water supply systems in West Boxborough. It is expected to begin next June and will proceed for approximately two years after which time water can be expected to flow to residents, businesses and fire hydrants West of I-495.

Succession planning – We are in the process of cross training and building skillset redundancy, as appropriate, and are starting the process of having staff build succession binders to document responsibilities and procedures to carry out their public service duties, thereby memorializing how we carry out best practices in Boxborough, so we can do our best to continue providing the highest quality public services.

Professional development - In June, we completed annual performance evaluations of all staff and have included plans for professional development within the scope of each employee’s professional duties. For residents interested in developing an understanding and learning more about how local public service gets delivered, the town is offering a Citizen Academy this fall, which will be a great opportunity to learn and interact with staff and committees. I highly encourage anyone interested in this fantastic program to reach out to Administration to get signed up for one of the limited slots.

Employee well-being - In December, April, and July, the town sponsored luncheons to recognize outstanding performers and departments, as well as to influence and encourage positive employee morale and well-being. 

IT strategic plan - Between August and September, the town will migrate to the Google cloud-based platform for email and document storage. Although Google will be our email provider, all addresses for town staff and committee members will remain the same, such as mjohns@boxborough-ma.gov. 

Communication strategy - We are currently in the process of redesigning the town’s website for ease of use, improved presentation, and enhanced communication.  Additionally, we are working closely with Boxborough News volunteers and Boxborough Community Television (BXBTV) staff to provide relevant, timely information and updates to all residents and community stakeholders. We are always open to new and better ideas of communicating with and to the public, so please reach out. In the near future we will be soliciting valuable input from community stakeholders through Employee Engagement surveys and Customer Service surveys. Please participate and let us know how we are doing and what we can do to improve. 

10-year strategic plan – This is a work in progress and is designed to have an annual review and update as necessary. 


Financial policies - The Select Board, Finance Committee, Finance Team, and Administration worked through the Winter and Spring to produce the town’s first comprehensive financial policies, that were approved in July. 


Capital Committee - The town formed its first formal Capital Budget Committee under a charter approved by the Select Board in July. 


Policy review - Currently, Administration is working with the Personnel Board & Select Board to review, update and revise many of the town’s HR and operations/procedural policies. 


New police and fire department facilities (per BXB 2030) - In September, the Boxborough Building Committee will be meeting with the Chiefs and Administration to continue pursuing facilities for our public safety needs. 


Sustainability - The Sustainability Committee is working with Administration, the Select Board, the Planning and Land-use Department and other agencies to help the town become greener, more environmentally sensitive, and consider environmental sustainability in all decision-making. 


Additionally, we as a town are working very hard at becoming more financially and economically sustainable, through the collaborative efforts of many volunteers and staff. Our sustainability efforts also reach into our human capital, and through the hard work of our Assistant Town Administrator Rajon Hudson and the Personnel Board, we are working toward the goal of becoming an “Employer of Choice” in a very competitive job market. This work will be crucial, along with all our other sustainability efforts, in creating a sustainable workforce that is agile, competitive, equipped to avoid single-points of failure, and trained to build succession into every hire, department and process. 


Until next month…I hope you find this information helpful, and I look forward to any and all constructive feedback on ways to improve this communication to you.