Westford ablaze over concerns at special meeting


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Kavya Desikan, Social Media Manager

On October 16, 2017, at Abbot Elementary, the town of Westford hosted a special town meeting to address more ‘time-sensitive’ issues in the district. Issues ranged from budget adjustments to retail marijuana establishments to new zoning bylaws. Here are the most prominent decisions made last night:

Article two proposed appropriating $24,74 from free cash to supplement the 2018 Fiscal Year Operating Budgets for Zoning Board of Appeals Expenses, Building Personal Services, and Veterans Personal Services. The proposed article also reduces the Westford Public Schools’ operating budget by $1,060,000. The article passed unanimously.

Article four proposed the appropriation of  $97,865 to provide for capital requests by four departments. Westford Fire Department requested for $44,540 to provide a Fire Prevention Officer vehicle and costs related to the vehicle. Emergency Management requested $11,950 for a new radio repeater and its related costs. Westford Public Schools requested $19,375 to complete design and bid documents for the Westford Academy track, perimeter fence, and the costs related to these projects. Due to an irreparable dump truck body, the Highway Department requested $22,000 to replace the aforementioned body and costs pertinent to the project. All of these projects were approved by the town.

Article five passed, as it requested to amend the Wage and Pay Classification Plan for non-unionized municipal employees for the roles of Deputy Police Chief and Parks and Recreation Direction. Both jobs face vacancy due to the retirement of employees currently filling the positions. This moves the Deputy Police Chief’s current band down to band 9 and the Parks and Recreation Director down from band 7 to band 6.

Article eight was passed so that the town of Westford complies with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 59, Section 5 (41C). This forces the town to comply and authorize an increase in tax exemption for disadvantaged and disabled elderly aged 70 and older to $2,000, as they are the most financially vulnerable residents of Westford.

Article ten was the hot debate amongst residents of Westford last night as debate ran on the allowance of non-medical marijuana establishments such as cultivators, independent testing laboratories, and product manufacturers.

The reasons behind the argument, as justified by Police Chief Thomas McEnaney, is that normalizing marijuana is a danger to youth and that there will be an increase in impaired driving. Parents were mainly concerned about teenagers having access to marijuana. The opposition stated that even if a retail marijuana business were to arrive in Westford, residents would have to be 21 in order to buy the drug, as well as citing possible financial gains for the town.

The article was later amended to exclude independent testing laboratories, as doing so could prevent labs studying cancer and treatment involving cannabis in Westford.

Article ten was passed by a majority and the corresponding zoning bylaws (articles 11 and 12) to prohibit the building & establishment of such unlicensed marijuana-based retail operations and establish a moratorium (stay) on all non-medical marijuana operations. Both articles passed, with article 11 using a ballot vote and passing 300-62.