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Special Town Meeting Guide: Safe Routes to School and Budget Amendments

A look at Articles 2 and 3 in the Special Town Meeting Warrant.

This week, we'll take a look at each article in the Special Town Meeting Warrant. The Special Town Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Oliver Ames High School auditorium. Yesterday, we took a look at Article 1. Today we'll take a look at Articles 2 and 3, and tomorrow we'll take a look at Articles 4, 5 and 6.

The Easton Board of Selectmen and the Easton Finance Committee both recommended that the townspeople vote in favor of articles 2 and 3 in the Special Town Meeting Warrant.

In Article 2, the Town is looking to grant itself an easement for a new walkway between Lothrop Street and in the Easton Public Schools complex.

The land is already owned by the Town and the construction of the walkway is provided by a Federal Safe Routes to School Grant.

"We’re getting a grant to build a pathway that will go from Lothrop Street, across the field and connect to the Middle School, so the kids don’t have to walk through the parking lots," Town Administrator David Colton said, adding that the Town Meeting vote is simply to satisfy State and Federal requirements for the funding of walkway construction.

"Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school," the SRTS website states.

"SRTS programs examine conditions around schools and conduct projects and activities that work to improve safety and accessibility, and reduce traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As a result, these programs help make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing transportation choices thus encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age."

Led by the and Schools, have participated in the program since 2008, including the participation in National Walk to School Day each year.

"It’s to encourage kids to walk to school and to provide a safe route to do it," Colton said.

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In article 3, Colton said the Town is looking to shift some aspects of the FY 2012 budget to provide extra funding to certain departments in need.

"It’s already appropriated money," Colton said. "It’s being transferred from other departments, mostly. There is a little bit from the reserve fund."

The budget shift would include a total of $118,177.

$22,522 of the shift includes a 53rd payroll for Town employees because of the long year.

"This 53rd payroll, there’s 53 weeks in this year, so we appropriated some of that money in town meeting," Colton said. "We have to make up the difference."

The Town is also looking to cover $55,000 worth of police overtime due to unfilled retirements and three officers who were injured on duty.

Two new part-time dispatchers would be added to the police budget as well.

Police Chief Allen Krajcik said during a recent Board of Selectmen meeting that the addition would put more police officers and firefighters on the streets. It was also a recommendation of the, and would add more efficiency to police and Fire dispatch.

Under the Article, $15,000 would go toward the part-time dispatchers and $6,200 would go towards 911 training. An additional $3,199 would be appropriated to the Animal Control Department after the officer retired this year.

The Town is also looking to add funds to the fire department's budget to cover the cost of hiring a new chief. Under the Article, $6,216 would cover the cost to the department when retired Fire Chief Tom Stone and new Fire Chief Kevin Partridge were both on duty last month. Additionally, the fire chief search cost the Town $10,000.

Most of the money ($70,000) would be shifted from available money the Employee Benefits and Ins Budget, but finds would also be shifted from the assessors budget ($1,345), reserve fund (10,000), data processing budget ($2,087), planning and community development budget ($1,758), inspectional services budget ($12,000), DPW budget ($8,987) and Board of Health budget ($12,000).

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