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New England News

Richmond, Mass. Voters Approve $6.8M Borrowing Plan For New Town Hall Building

An old white building with a sign that reads "town hall" with a bulletin board on it
Town of Richmond Massachusetts
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The town hall of Richmond, Massachusetts.

Voters in Richmond, Massachusetts gathered for their annual town meeting Wednesday night. The largest items on the warrant were an almost $7 million borrowing plan to build a new town hall and an almost $4 million fiscal year 2022 school budget for the town’s K through 8 system. Danielle Fillio is the administrator of the town of around 1,500. She spoke with WAMC about the meeting, and why Richmond needs to replace its main public building to meet accessibility standards.

FILLIO: The community had a very positive response. We had over 300 voters show up to our town meeting, and the article passed 270 “yes,” 234 “no.” It is required to be passed by a two-thirds majority vote. The two-thirds majority vote that we needed would have been 203 “yes” votes, and we had 270.

What's the timeline for a project as ambitious as that for a community the size of Richmond?

So the timeline- Right now we're looking at going to do a short term borrowing so that we can move the project towards bid phase, and we're hoping to do permanent financing once we get all the bid specs back in November.

Now, what's the current state of the town infrastructure that called for a plan is as vast as this?

The current town hall building is an older building. Our town offices are in the basement portion of the building. We are not handicap accessible. We have no bathrooms upstairs for anybody who has to come in. We have a very narrow stairway that is a little bit rickety, that you have to come down in to get to the town offices, but we do have doorbell so that we can go upstairs help people who can't get down.

Let's turn next to the school budget. What kind of numbers are we talking and what does that mean for the coming fiscal year?

Due to uncontrollable costs, this school budget went up about $390,000.

Tell me about those costs. Why were those costs so uncontrollable?

They’re special education costs, their cost that we don't have control over that we're required to pay no matter what.

And what was the community conversation like around that spending?

There really wasn't much conversation this town meeting.  There was a lot of conversation when we had to have a special town meeting in September to increase the school budget for additional SPED costs that we didn't anticipate. But overall, the town was a little frustrated, but they understood that they had to pay it no matter what, so it was approved.

With the town meeting behind you, what's next on the municipal calendar for Richmond moving deeper into 2021?

So we have our annual town election coming up on Saturday the 22nd. That's from 11am to 7pm. There's no contested races for who's running for office. However, there is a ballot question, which is in regard to the project, of moving forward. It’s a debt exclusion question. So that question has to pass by a majority vote in order to make sure that this project can move forward.

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