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DaSilva Joins School Building Committee

January 4, 2019

BILLERICA -- With only four months before the first students are expected to move into the new high school, the Billerica High School Building Committee has a new face.

Planning Board Vice Chair Gary DaSilva was sworn in on Dec. 21, replacing the board’s previous appointee John Burrows before the expiration of his three-year term.

Town Manager John Curran said the change brings the committee into compliance with an article passed by the Fall 2013 Town Meeting and approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

The language requires a member of the Planning Board to sit on the committee and unlike other appointed spots, like Board of Selectmen, does not include “designees.” Burrows resigned from his spot on the Planning Board when he was elected to the School Committee last April.

“He shouldn’t have participated in any (High School Building Committee) meetings after he got sworn into (the School Committee),” Curran said.

Burrows said he believes his removal from the committee months after resigning from the Planning Board was politically motivated and related to his opposition on several issues, including his vote against spending for a storm drainage project on Good Street this fall.

Chair of the High School Building Committee and Planning Board member Kevin Heffernan spoke about replacing Burrows at the Planning Board’ s most recent meeting on Dec. 10.

“My concern now is we’re taking votes that are very important to the project and if I’m having someone take votes that technically doesn’t represent this committee then I have a problem,” Heffernan said at the meeting. When reached by phone this week, he declined to comment.

At the same meeting, the board discussed conflicting information from the town clerk, who DaSilva said advised Burrows could keep his position when DaSilva visited her office to be sworn in. The board discussed getting an opinion from Town Counsel.

Curran said he and an employee in the Town Clerk’s office later reviewed the Town Meeting article. He said he did not seek an opinion from Town Counsel as the article was “black and white.”

DaSilva, a firefighter in Billerica since 2001, was first elected to the Planning Board in 2012. He said he had previously tried to get on the High School Building Committee and is excited to be part of the project.

“I’ve got kids coming through the school system and I’m looking forward to having a new high school,” he said.

Piwowar said the $176 million school project is on time and on budget.

Preschool classrooms, district IT workers and the special education department is expected to move into the building in April 2019. Grades 8 through 12 will attend classes in the building starting April 2019.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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