Good morning and welcome to this week’s LexObserver news roundup.

One week of Town Meeting down, two+ to go. In next Saturday’s edition, we plan to cover some of the Zoning Articles slated for discussion in Week Three. If you’d like to share your perspective or questions about any of these articles, especially Article 35 about Open Space Residential Developments, or Article 39 about a potential lab development at 475 Bedford St., please reach out at

Now, this week’s news:


Week of April 2: Lexington News Roundup

Reported by Sophie Culpepper


  • A former bookkeeper for a Lexington interior design firm was arrested for allegedly embezzling over $180,000.
  • Session #1 Town Meeting Highlights: Police station moves forward with near-unanimous support; Town Manager outlines long-term Town financial planning.
  • Session #2 Town Meeting Highlights: FY2023 operating budget, consent agenda pass; hard court renovations pass by razor-thin margin; notice of reconsideration served for two articles.
  • At this week’s School Committee meeting, a first look at the 2022-23 calendar, and a vote against participating in the School Choice Program.
  • COVID-19 Weekly Update: Town Dashboard format changes, but includes updated numbers for this week; recorded school, Town cases rise slightly.
  • Community Announcements: Last chance to submit photos for upcoming Asians in Lexington exhibition; Lexington Symphony presents ‘Love & Life’ tonight.

Former bookkeeper for Lexington interior design firm arrested for embezzling over $180,000

  • Christina Iannelli of Sudbury was indicted by a federal grand jury on seven counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft Wednesday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. Per the indictment, Iannelli worked as an independent contractor for an interior design firm based in Lexington, from which she allegedly embezzled over $180,000.

  • Iannelli “allegedly prepared dozens of fraudulent invoices with inflated totals derived from inaccurate math, and then issued herself checks for the inflated amounts due from the firm’s checking account” beginning in approximately October 2018, according to the press release. She also allegedly issued herself dozens of additional unauthorized checks around July 2019. Overall, Iannelli allegedly embezzled more than $30,000 through inflated compensation checks and over $150,000 through additional unauthorized checks. The indictment alleges that Iannelli made false entries into the firm’s accounting records to conceal the payments, and used a signature stamp in the name of the firm’s owner to issue the fraudulent checks.

  • Lexington Police Chief Michael McLean; United States Attorney Rachael Rollins; and Joseph Bonavolonta, Boston Division Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, made the announcement Wednesday. The Sudbury Police Department provided assistance with the case. 

  • McLean previously cited fraud as one of the biggest statewide public safety challenges in a January interview with LexObserver; “fraud is really running rampant right now in all levels of the state,” he said, also noting that the local department has worked to spread awareness about scams and identity theft. McLean could not be reached for comment by press time.


Session #1 Town Meeting Highlights: Police Station moves forward with near-unanimous support; Town Manager outlines long-term Town financial planning


  • Monday’s opening session of remote Spring Town Meeting proceeded smoothly, with over 90% of the 197 total members present.


  • Strong support for the new police station: The new police station is one step closer to reality. Article 2 of 2022-1 Special Town Meeting, appropriating $32.4 million for design and construction of a new police station, passed near-unanimously, with 174 votes in favor, 1 against and 6 abstentions (it required a 2/3 majority to pass). The next step will be a debt exclusion vote, which will essentially ask residents to approve temporarily raising property taxes by the amount necessary to repay the debt accrued to fund the police station, as described in last week’s newsletter. The Select Board plans to call for a Monday, June 6 debt exclusion election at their meeting April 4, according to their posted agenda and meeting packet.


  • A number of Town Meeting Members asked questions about the new station while expressing support for the project at Monday’s session. A few asked about the planned steel tower adjacent to the building; this tower is part of a separate AT&T project with separate funding, but will support police communications.


  • One TMM said he believes it will be important to determine the fate of the historic Hosmer House prior to the debt exclusion vote; having clear answers to any possible resident questions related to the project, including regarding the Hosmer House, will help the referendum pass, he reasoned. At least two different options for the house’s fate have recently been discussed, including its potential purchase by a resident, and its incorporation into neighboring Fletcher Field, where it could serve as an additional surface for solar panels to power the new police station as described last week.



  • Long-term financial planning: Town Manager Jim Malloy also delivered a presentation about the Town’s long-term financial planning in light of the two major upcoming capital projects (the new police station and new or renovated high school). Lexington’s tax levy and single family tax bill have “grown steadily” over the last 10-15 years, he said; as it stands, Lexington has the sixth-highest tax bill in the state, so it is especially important to plan prudently for these projects to minimize the additional burden to taxpayers. Malloy outlined how property taxes from new commercial developments currently under consideration, as well as from existing commercial developments, could offset some taxpayer burden from these two projects. He also noted that the Town has been gradually phasing out the use of free cash in the operating budget, which will save the Town hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.


  • The budget big picture: In Annual Town Meeting, the Town Manager also presented the FY2023 recommended budget, which is balanced. Property taxes account for the overwhelming majority of general fund revenue at 81.5%. Education accounts for the largest proportion of the operating budget — 55%, or $131,478,345 of the total $240,471,202 operating budget.


  • Other financial articles move forward: Article 5, appropriating for FY2023 enterprise funds, passed unanimously with 179 votes in favor and 3 abstentions. This article provides for appropriation to and expenditure from three previously established enterprise funds: Water; Wastewater; and Recreation and Community. (More here.) Article 9, establishing and continuing departmental revolving funds, passed with 178 votes in favor, 1 against and 5 abstaining. More on the specific revolving funds here.

Session #2 Town Meeting Highlights: FY2023 operating budget, consent agenda pass; hard court renovations pass by razor-thin margin; notice of reconsideration served for two articles

  • Recognizing decades of public service: To kick off Wednesday’s session of Annual Town Meeting, TMMA Executive Committee Chair Vineeta Kumar recognized Jim Osten (P8) and Al Zabin (P1) with awards for serving as Town Meeting Members for extraordinary tenures of 30 and 50 years respectively.


  • The budget passes: Article 4, appropriating for the FY2023 Operating Budget, passed by 98.9% with 177 votes yes, 2 no, and 1 abstaining. You can view a breakdown of the budget in the motion here.


  • The Consent Agenda passes: The Consent Agenda, which is not debated, included several financial articles and some articles referred back to boards or ‘indefinitely postponed.’ It comprised Articles 6, 8, 10a, 10c, 10d, 10g, 10h, 10j, 10k, 10l, 10m, 10n, 11, 12d, 12e, 12f, 12g, 12h, 12i, 12j, 12k, 12l, 12m, 12r, 12s, 12t, 13, 14, 15, 16a, 16b, 16c, 16d, 16e, 16f, 17, 18, 20, 22, 23, 29, 32, 33, 36 and 40. It passed by 98.3% of votes with 172 yes votes, 3 no and 2 abstaining — far more than the required 4/5 majority. (A supermajority was required because the Consent Agenda for this ATM included Article 20, to appropriate for prior years’ unpaid bills.)


  • Bathroom renovations, hard court reconstructions near LHS spark late-night debate: Articles concerning the renovation of community bathrooms and hard court surfaces generated the most community input and debate of any articles considered at ATM 2022 thus far, despite being debated and voted on after 10 p.m.


  • Dilapidated bathrooms: Article 10e appropriates $680,000 to renovate the Center Playground Bathrooms & Maintenance Building. Some Town Meeting Members and members of the public alike expressed strong support for these renovations, saying that the poor current conditions of these bathrooms impede recreation activities and discourage them from choosing to make use of this park. Others said that while they support the renovations, they’re concerned about the timing, and believe the siting of the planned new or renovated high school should be completed before investing in these nearby buildings. Town Manager Malloy estimated this would require waiting about a year and a half to move forward on any renovations.


  • Bathroom renovations pass, but may be debated again in a couple of weeks: Article 10e passed with 146 votes yes, 19 no and 8 abstentions, by 88.5% of votes. But TMM Taylor Singh (P6) immediately served notice of reconsideration about 10e. Notice of reconsideration is the first step in a three-part process which can result in an article being reopened and voted on again a second time. To continue and complete this process, a Town Meeting Member will have to move reconsideration (and should alert Town Meeting and the moderator ASAP, at least 24 hours in advance); they must present information that wasn’t available at the time of the previous vote, and that might result in a different action from the one previously voted. Then, TMMs debate and vote on whether or not to reopen the article in question. The moderator typically does not entertain motions of reconsideration until all other outstanding Town Meeting business has been completed, meaning Article 10e (and 10f) are unlikely to resurface again for a couple of weeks.


  • Heavily used tennis courts showing wear and tear: Article 10f appropriates $2.5 million to reconstruct the Gallagher Tennis and Farias Basketball Courts, equipping the former for continued tennis and/or pickleball at a time when community interest in these activities has markedly increased. The reconstruction would replace current asphalt surfaces with longer-life post-tension concrete, which could save the Town about $750,000 over 20 years, Recreation Committee Vice Chair Lisah Rhodes said. The reconstruction would also add new fencing, a shelter, site amenities and practice backboards to the heavily used courts. According to Rhodes’ presentation to Town Meeting, industry standards call for basketball court reconstruction every 15-20 years, and tennis courts every 20-25 years. The tennis courts, in particular, “have reached end of life [and] are beginning to fail, creating some safety issues and increased maintenance costs,” she said. In response to a question from a Town Meeting Member, Director of Recreation and Community Programs Melissa Battite explained that the asphalt courts start to “crack and heave” if not resurfaced, creating a safety hazard for players. 


  • Multiple TMMs and members of the public expressed opposition to this article due to the noise from pickleball, saying it exceeds the local noise ordinance. Others were also concerned about the vicinity to the new/renovated high school project. Others still expressed their enthusiasm for the courts as a community asset that should be kept in good condition. Article 10f passed by the skin of its teeth, with 79 votes in favor, 74 against and 13 abstaining (passing by 51.6%) – the closest vote of this year’s Annual Town Meeting so far, with a sufficient number of members abstaining to have changed the outcome of the vote. TMM Ruth Thomas (P4) immediately served notice of reconsideration for this article as well.


  • A desire for more debate: For both Articles 10e and 10f, majorities of TMMs voted to close debate when given the opportunity – but it’s worth noting that in both cases, sizable minorities indicated that they were not ready to close debate. For Article 10e, about 67% of TMMs voted to close debate (110 members), while roughly 33% of members (53 TMMs) voted against closing debate, with 10 abstaining. For Article 10f, which was debated even later in the evening, the vote was closer: About 59% of members voted to close debate (90 members), while around 41% of members (63 TMMs) voted against closing debate, with 14 members abstaining.


  • Article 10b, which would appropriate $155,000 to stabilize and preserve the historic Wright Farm Barn, passed by 97.1% with 168 votes in favor, 5 against and 2 abstaining. A few residents expressed concerns that additional expenses will accumulate down the road without a clear plan in place for future barn renovations, but one TMM pointed out that the stabilization would make it easier to move forward with a bigger-picture plan for the building.


  • Article 10i, appropriating $100,000 to complete a master plan of Lincoln Park to offer a strategic roadmap for improving the park over time, passed with smooth sailing: 152 votes yes, 3 no and 6 abstentions, passing by 98.1%.


  • Town Meeting will reconvene next Monday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m.

This week’s School Committee meeting: A first look at the 2022-23 calendar; a vote against participating in the School Choice Program

  • Prior to Monday’s Town Meeting session, the Lexington School Committee discussed the proposed 2022-23 academic calendar at their individual meeting, and debated the pros and cons of switching back from Friday to Thursday half-days.


  • Pre-pandemic, professional development half-days, which are work days for staff and half-days for students, were contractually agreed to take place on Thursdays. But for the past two years, they’ve taken place on Fridays instead due to COVID scheduling changes. One parent expressed concern about switching back to Thursdays in Community Speak, noting that it’s typically far easier to find childcare on Fridays. Multiple School Committee members agreed that Fridays tend to be easier days for parents to handle childcare, with Member Sara Cuthbertson adding that it will also be important to give businesses that have switched to Friday half-day programming enough notice to adjust their schedules should LPS return to Thursday half-days.


  • In response to a question from Vice Chair Eileen Jay, Superintendent Julie Hackett explained that on the other hand, Thursdays can be more productive than Fridays for educators as professional development days. Hackett said that the School Committee could treat their discussion of the new calendar Monday as a “first pass” and that it will be revisited.


  • LPS is also looking at the possibility of publishing school year calendars two years in advance, Hackett noted. In future years, the school calendar “may look quite different” than next year’s calendar, she wrote, adding that community members should “stay tuned.” You can view next year’s proposed calendar here.


  • In her report, Hackett noted that Estabrook Elementary School has a new incoming principal, Gerardo Martinez, who will begin July 1. In COVID news, Hackett noted that while LPS cases have remained low since going mask-optional, district leadership continue to watch numbers closely and prioritize testing, in addition to continuing to offer vaccination clinics. You can read her full report here.


  • The School Committee voted unanimously against participating in the School Choice Program for the 2022-23 academic year, which would allow students from beyond Lexington to come to the district. (This differs from the METCO program, which continues its longstanding operation in Lexington.) Lexington would be hard-pressed to take on more students through the School Choice Program due to the already severely overcrowded high school, Hackett explained; “it becomes a math problem,” she said.


  • The School Committee also voted unanimously in support of Annual Town Meeting Article 10e, the article passed Wednesday appropriating $680K for the Center Playground Bathrooms and Maintenance Building, after asking questions and determining that Department of Public Facilities Director Mike Cronin does not expect the new high school to encroach on this project.

COVID-19 Weekly Update: Town Dashboard format changes, but includes updated numbers for this week; recorded school, Town cases rise slightly

  • Though the Town dashboard had previously posted a note saying it would no longer be updated as of March 25, the Town’s weekly Link to Lexington newsletter yesterday noted that “The Lexington Office of Public Health will update weekly COVID-19 case numbers each Friday,” but stipulated that the data will only include “results of PCR and antigen tests verified through the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.” The updated dashboard also appears different from the dashboard used until last week. This week, Lexington had 43 new recorded COVID-19 cases as of Thursday, up from 36 the previous week. 

  • At Lexington Public Schools, as of Thursday, 33 staff or students were absent who had tested positive, while just three students was on quarantine. That’s an increase from the week before, when 21 students and staff were absent who had tested positive. Cases remain low overall.

Community Announcements

  • Last Chance for Photo Submissions — Asians in Lexington Photography Exhibition: The Chinese American Association of Lexington (CAAL) and the Boston Chinese Photography Association (BCPA) are organizing a photography exhibition in Lexington at Cary Memorial Library this May and June titled “Asians in Lexington: One Village One Dream.” The exhibition aims to celebrate the contributions of Asian Americans to Lexington. About 70 photos will be selected for the exhibit. Photos can be submitted here; the deadline for submission is 12 a.m. April 3. 
  • Lexington Symphony presents Love & Life tonight: Tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Cary Hall, the Lexington Symphony presents a concert featuring the New World Chorale. The concert will feature masterpieces including Mozart’s Requiem Mass and Delius’ Walk to the Paradise Garden, based loosely on Romeo and Juliet. Learn more here.

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With gratitude,
Nicco Mele, Sophie Culpepper, Sarah Liu, Vivian Wang and Seiya Saneyoshi
LexObserver Team