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BOARD OF SELECTMEN
ANNUAL REPORT FOR 1998
We begin by thanking Dolores Wright for her thirty years of dedicated service as Town Treasurer. We also thank Sally Tracy for her services on behalf of Ashby both as a Selectman and for her work with the Northern Health Care Coalition. We welcome Mark Forgues as Ashbys newest Selectman, G. Lillian Whitney as Treasurer, and Charlotte Napponen as Town Accountant.
The hard work of the members of the Northern Health Care Coalition and the unwavering support of the public allowed the Coalition to establish enough political credibility to be able to demand and receive a seat on the HealthAlliance Board of Trustees. Sally Tracy has been appointed to that seat.
The smooth functioning of town government requires first and foremost good financial management. We are pleased to report that Ashby is operating solidly "in the black" with a certified free cash balance of over $154,000. We can replace police cruisers and highway trucks on a regular schedule. The Town Administrator is developing a capital plan for Ashby. In an effort to bring wages up to market levels, Town employees have received increases in pay, but we still have a way to go. Our town Boards have good working relationships.
The Police Department has shifted to more full-time rather than part-time officers with a goal of providing increased stability in the Department. Our Police officers have voted to join a union, and the Town has hired labor counsel to handle union negotiations. We are confident that the Town and the union will enjoy a positive working relationship.
The Planning Board and Conservation Commission have begun creating the Town's first Open Space and Recreation Plan. This plan will provide a way for townspeople to express their choices for recreational needs and open space conservation goals. When the Open Space Plan has been approved by Town Meeting, Ashby will become eligible to apply for State funds to purchase land for preservation. During the past several years there has been a significant increase in new home construction in Ashby. It is becoming very clear that Ashby could easily and quickly lose its rural character. The Open Space Plan will help identify priorities for land protection as the Town continues to grow.
The first drafts of the Geographic Information System (GIS) maps have arrived. These computerized maps are the first that show the entire Town with all the parcel boundaries on a single page. Land use boards such as Planning and Conservation can easily see the relationships of parcels to each other and assess the impact of development on neighborhoods. We plan to incorporate aerial photos and other data layers supplied by the State. These photographs and data layers will allow us to see geographic features and contour lines superimposed on the parcels. This is a planning tool the Town has needed for a long time.
1998 was the year that the long running lawsuit with Pepperell reached the court. As so often happens with litigation of this sort, there was no clear winner, and a lot of time and money was spent. The North Middlesex Regional School District is currently under a court order to have a nine member School Committee comprised of three residents of Pepperell, two from Townsend, one from Ashby, and three members elected at-large. The details are still being worked out. There may be more changes coming before there is a final resolution.
The members of the Ashby Garden Club did a spectacular job designing and planting the elegant gardens around the Lyman Building. Their work has made it a pleasure to enter the building. Repairs to the furnace and chimney have been completed making Town Hall safer and more pleasant on the inside as well. The carriage shed on the Common has been shored up and awaits a Town Meeting decision on repairs.
After much hard work, the Board of Health finally was able to arrange the removal of the tire pile on Foster Road. Our legal preparations have enabled the Town to attach the expense of the removal of the tires to the property. At some future date the Town will recover virtually all the costs involved.
We thank the numerous volunteers who have worked in so many varied capacities to contribute to Ashby. We encourage everyone to get involved in your Town government. It is a rewarding and enjoyable thing to do.