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Sept. 14 Select Board article corrections

We received the following corrections to the Sept. 14 Select Board article from Town Administrator Denise Dembkoski.

“In the Select Board article, the section on page 5, it is not the Zoning Board of Appeals that may have an illuminated sign bylaw change for Town Meeting – it would be the EDIC (Economic Development and Industrial Committee).  Also, I said that I do not intend to use Free Cash for any voted articles. Free Cash would be saved for the Spring Town Meeting, when we can properly plan for the full use of it.”

We appreciate Ms. Dembkoski reaching out to us and we apologize for the errors.

The full corrected article is below:

Select Board votes to hold fall Town Meeting

by Ann Needle
[With the Stow Select Board still in session as the Independent goes to press, the paper will offer more coverage of this meeting at a future time.]

At its Sept. 14 meeting, the Select Board voted unanimously to hold a Special Town Meeting at Hale Middle School on Saturday, Oct. 30, at 10 a.m., and to open the STM Warrant. The Meeting will be focused on approval of $4 million in spending to purchase the Stow Acres Golf Club North Course.

The Board vote follows the decision by the Community Preservation Commission the previous evening to approved $2.5 million in spending from Community Preservation Act fund toward the $4 million price tag. The Town has estimated another $1 million will come from a combination of grants and fundraising, and the final $500,000 borrowed from the Town budget.

At May’s Annual Town Meeting, residents voted to spend $1.5 million in CPA funds for a conservation restriction on the adjacent 151-acre South Course. But, that spending has been contingent on the Town purchasing the majority of the North Course. For more, see the accompanying “CPC approves Stow Acres funds.”

Unlike with the past two Annual Town Meetings, Town Administrator Denise Dembkoski noted this pandemic-era STM would be fully indoors, “and fully masked.”

Dembkoski said another Warrant article likely to appear will address re-voting PFAS clean-up funding, given prices keep escalating. The Zoning Board of Appeals Economic Development and Industrial Committee also may have an article on changing rules around illuminated business signs, and the Town may need a vote on costs for fixing the Barton Road Dam, she said.

Dembkoski assured she does NOT intend to use Free Cash from the budget to pay for any voted articles.

SMAHT Projects for Housing
In presenting representatives from the Stow Municipal affordable Housing Trust, Select Chair Ellen Sturgis explained it was one of the first Town committees invited to give the Board an overview of its operations and goals.

SMAHT’s Mike Kopczynski focused on the status of the group’s current affordable housing projects. He reported Habitat for Humanity has broken ground on the Pine Point land, and will likely pick up speed come spring. However, he mentioned there is an outstanding private lawsuit against Habitat and the Town that must be worked through in the meantime.

At a public forum on the Red Acre parcel, Kopczynski noted that questions actually centered around traffic and the topography of the road, which are issues to be worked out by the Highway Dept. The next step is to apply for CPC funding for subsidy funding for the project, probably in the next month, and to meet with the Planning Board and others on property zoning.

SMAHT continues to keep potential, smaller projects in mind, such as with the land housing the old highway Barn on Crescent Street. Kopczynski maintained that SMAHT keeps smaller developments on its books, given larger projects such as the planned Stow Acres housing could fall through. SMAHT’s Laura Spear further explained that continuous work on small projects shows commitment, and works toward creating a “safe harbor.” This is the point were the Town can legally turn down affordable housing developments, which Stow has not yet reached, she said.
Asked by the SB’s Jim Salvi how the Board could assist SMAHT, Kopczynski urged the Board to support its application to the CPC for funds.

Stellar Review for Dembkoski
It is fair to say that Dembkoski excelled in her first performance review since starting her job here last year. The SB awarded Dembkoski an overall rating of 4.73 out of 5, remarking in its review, “We couldn’t be more satisfied with our new Town Administrator.”

Among the many comments and accolades offered in its performance review, the Board said of the TA, “By listening to staff and suggesting best practices that she has developed and observed over many years in municipal government, she is creating an environment that thrives instead of just survives.”

Reflecting on hiring Dembkoski last August, the Jim Salvi quipped, “When thinking about who to hire, you think a year ahead to whether the lid will come off and the steam will come out – or will we be where we are now.”

Dembkoski also presented a draft of her goals for the coming year, which the SB unanimously approved after agreeing on changes. Among her many immediate goals are solidifying the Stow Acres transformation, and potentially launching Track Road improvements if state money comes through. Some of Dembkoski’s longer-term targets are to formulate a plan for bringing public water to the Lower Village business district, budget for and conduct a full facilities assessment, and to build a 20-year capital plan.

Hats Off in Stow
Four Stow Police officers received special recognition for their actions during an Aug. 16 stand-off with an armed suspect possessing outstanding warrants at a Great Road home. Stow Police Chief Michael Sallese presented Letters of Commendation to Dispatch Supervisor John Fantasia, Acting Sergeant David Goguen, Officer Brendan Fitzpatrick, and Detective Cassandra Scott. Fitzpatrick and Scott also were awarded Distinguished Service Ribbons.

Sallese lauded the officers for carefully assessing the situation — rather than rushing in — while simultaneously assuring the rest of the Town had law enforcement coverage.

The Board also recognized Stow resident Mark Roberts and his labradoodle. Mocha. Working with their own non-profit 4Paws 4Wheels 4 Hunger, Roberts and his pal will embark on a journey across Massachusetts to raise awareness and money to combat hunger.