Town meeting voters approve budget, fire station design costs

Jun 10, 2024

LAKEVILLE — A $35 million budget, design development costs for a new fire station and a citizen’s request to limit residents’ ability to serve on two town boards were among the agenda items approved by voters at Lakeville’s Town Meeting on June 10. 

Voters approved a $35,855,026 municipal budget for 2025. General government will receive $2,724,850 to cover expenses like town employee salaries and municipal department expenses. Public Safety will receive $4,987,954, and $17,054,825 will go towards education. 

The approval of the town’s 2025 budget came in the aftermath of the detection of a nearly $800,000 deficit in the Freetown-Lakeville School district’s budget. 

The budget was approved by voters, but not without debate regarding spending on education.

Former Lakeville Select Board member Rich LaCamera said he was “very concerned” about the state of the school’s budget and stated that the deficit was the result of “a people error” and not an “accounting error” as school district officials have stated. 

LaCamera urged Lakeville officials at Town Meeting to “challenge” the school committee and figure out what’s going on.

Select Board member Lia Fabian suggested that the School Committee meet over the summer to come up with a solution. School Committee Chair John Burke thanked voters and town officials for their input and said the Committee is “working on making it right for all.” 

The request to allocate $655,000 to fund design plans for a new fire station, to be built on Bedford Street at Ted Williams Camp, also generated discussion.

Those who spoke on this topic were largely in favor of the construction of a new fire station and stated it was a need that was long overdue.

Lakeville resident Bob Marshall said a new facility was “a long unmet need.”

“Whether we like or not, the cost is not going down,” Finance Committee member Barbara Mancovsky said after hearing from building project owners present at Town Meeting that constructions costs are increasing five to seven percent per year.  

Residents also had questions about whether the building would be able to accommodate the increase in demand from the community once the housing development referred to as Rocky Woods is constructed.

Lakeville Fire Chief Mike O’Brien stated that in the current building plans, “increased growth has been taken into consideration.”

After a close majority vote, residents also authorized a citizen’s petition made by resident Sue Spieler to change the wording in a town bylaw to prohibit residents from serving on the Select Board and office of Assessors or Planning Board at the same time.

The petition was submitted after an individual ran for both the Select Board and the Planning Board at Lakeville’s most recent Town Election, said Spieler.

Spieler said the request specifies the Planning Board and office of Assessors because “these two boards are the most influential and no one person should have that much power.” 

Resident Aimee Conroy asked why the petition did not list other “influential boards” such as the Finance Committee or the School Committee. “This feels like a personal attack on an individual,” she said. After a close 58-55 vote, the petition was approved by voters. 

Voters also authorized spending just over $1.1 million in capital improvements and purchases. These funds will be used to pay for new police cruisers, which will cost $182,000, a $95,000 one-ton dump truck for the Department of Public Works, and $250,000 in road improvements.   

Additionally, voters agreed to spend $20,0000 in Community Preservation Funds to repair the Historical museum’s cupola and $6,950 in funds to replace the doors at the old Town Hall. 

A request submitted by the Planning Board to change the wording in a zoning ordinance bylaw was the only issue that was not approved by voters.