TOWN MEETING ’20: Smooth sailing for town budget

In just under 80 minutes Monday night, Abington voters approved more than $63 million in proposed municipal spending for the fiscal year starting July 1.

The spending includes the town’s $55 million operating budget, more than $8 million in capital projects, and a half million dollars in Community Preservation Act appropriations.

It not only funds the town’s roster of teachers, police officers, fire fighters, librarians, and other government employees, but also improvements to the town’s emergency response vehicles and a new playground at the Woodsdale Elementary School.

The meeting was the largest gathering of Abington residents in one room since the COVID-19 outbreak shuttered many parts of everyday life in mid-March, with 99 attendees sitting spaced apart in the middle/high school auditorium. 

Attendees wore masks, microphones were disinfected after every speaker, and the crowd was dismissed by section at 8:19 p.m., in order to avoid crowds at the exits.

The town’s $55 million budget, which largely preserves services while avoiding layoffs, breezed through on a voice vote with few people asking questions.

David Shawles, a Thayer Street resident and member of the Parks & Recreation Commission, asked why the culture and recreation portion of the budget – which funds the library, recreation department, and town parades – was the only area of the budget to receive a funding cut. 

Finance Committee Chairman Matt Salah acknowledged that particular section includes some “less essential activities” than other areas of the budget, such as education or public safety. Town Accountant Sue Moquin added that a position that had previously been counted toward the recreation budget was reallocated to the public works department budget, which contributed to the decrease. 

The Community Preservation Act projects include $100,000 for the first phase of a new playground at the Woodsdale. The school’s parent teacher organization has been planning a $150,000 playground improvement project for the school, which also hosts Little League baseball games and serves as a neighborhood gathering spot.

Currently, the school’s third and fouth graders can only choose between a bank of swings, a black top area, and some picnic tables during recess.

A preliminary sketch of the proposed new Woodsdale Elementary School playground.

The first segment of the new play area is scheduled to be installed by this fall. The parent teacher organization is looking to raise the remaining $50,000 through private donations.

A group of private residents is looking to overhaul the Beaver Brook Playground located at the rear of Memorial Field. The preliminary plan calls for razing the existing wooden play structure building a newer one near the same location. This year’s Community Preservation allocations include $150,000 towards the project, which still needs final designs and town approval.

Voters approved $8.7 million in capital improvements, including a $6.7 million sewer main replacement project. That two-mile main, which was installed 31 years ago, runs from the corner of Progress and Summer streets out to Brockton Avenue.

EDITORS NOTE: Abington News will have more information in the coming weeks about plans for the proposed new playgrounds at the Woodsdale and Memorial Field.

DISCLOSURE: The wife of this article’s author has been involved in the planning for the Woodsdale playground.

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