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Town Meeting, 5/7, Session Five

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I scribble notes. Iā€™m sure that, at times, I mishear or misunderstand the speaker, but my notes represent what I hear at the time. I then publish the notes every night after the meeting. I do go back and make a few edits as errors are pointed out to me.

I do not try to reproduce my entire notepad for this online version. Sometimes I relay a quote from a specific speaker. Most of the time I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note. When I remember to note the time, it looks like [8:05].

The meeting was called to order promptly at 8:00. Town Meeting member Charles Gallagher played the national anthem. The invocation was delivered by James O’Leary, pastor of St. Camillus Church.

The moderator noted that we were approximately 1/3 of the way through the warrant, and that we need to speed up to avoid going into June.

Article 2 – Nancy Galkowsky gave the report of the Information Technology Advisory Committee (ITAC).

Article 19 – Parking Management. Paul Schlictman made a substitute motion to study creating a traffic department. He talked about the town’s density and how other similar towns have handled parking issues. Treasurer Stephen Gilligan spoke against it. There were a few questions about what the committee would do and when. The substitute motion failed by voice vote. I think the debate was mostly about turf. The treasurer and the selectmen like their turf, and Paul Schlictman thinks there is a better way. The meeting wasn’t interested in fighting the turf war on this one.

Article 33 – Venner Road. Annie LaCourt explained that the selectmen had recommended no action because the proponents had withdrawn their request. No action carried unanimously.

Article 34 – Revolving Funds. Town Meeting unanimously re-authorized the revolving funds without any discussion.

Article 35 – Grants. Town Meeting unanimously authorized the town to apply for grants without any discussion.

Article 36 – Special Education Fund. Allan Tosti explained that this was not necessary because the Departments of Education and Revenue had permitted a more traditional reserve fund to be used in the future. Voted no action.

Article 37 – Permissive Legislation. There being no legislation to act on this year, voted no actoin.

Article 38 – Community Development Block Grants. Postponed to later in the meeting when Director O’Brien is available. I heard some complaint, but I think this was a totally legitimate postponement. He’s generally in the room, and was just out for an hour.

Article 39 – Collective Bargaining. Additional funding for wages was passed unanimously.

Article 40 – Future Collective Bargaining. Reserves to pay for anticipated wage increases were passed unanimously.

Article 41 – Position Reclassification. A number of positions were added, removed, modified, including titles and pay. Passed without discussion. There have been past meetings where we spent more than one night discussing this topic. Not a peep this year! Very surprising.

Article 42 – Carbon Bank. Voted no action without discussion.

Article 43 – Energy Manager. Voted no action without discussion.

Article 44 – Budgets. [8:45] Allan Tosti provided corrections to several areas of the budget. They were all errors in historical data, with the exception of a substantive change to the Veteran’s Rink budget that FinComm voted last week. Budgets:

  • 1. Finance Committee voted unanimously.
  • 2. Board of Selectmen voted unanimously.
  • 3. Town Manager approved.
  • 4. Personnel approved.
  • 5. Comptroller. It was asked and answered that if Article 18 is approved then the budget will be updated next year. Approved.
  • 6. Treasurer-Collector. It was noted that some of the asterisks were typos. There was a question about salary and hours for the treasurer in his role as parking clerk. Approved.
  • 7. Postage approved.
  • 8. Assessors approved.
  • 9. Legal approved.
  • 10. Town Clerk approved.
  • 11. Board of Registrars approved.
  • 12. Parking approved.
  • 13. Planning approved.
  • 14. Redevelopment board. [9:11] There were several questions about the costs and revenues of the properties managed by the board. Approved.
  • 15. Zoning Board of Appeals. It was noted the board is unpaid. Approved.
  • 16. Public Works. There was discussion about tip fees, the current trash contract, ugly trash barrels in cemeteries, tree climbers and their job description, Summer Street reconstruction, and cuts made by utilities in the roads. [9:43] I twice wrote in my notes “When you don’t know the answer, just say so.” DPW Director Bean is very new, and I expect him to take a while to get up to speed – you can’t learn everything in two weeks! What irritates me is that he doesn’t just say that he doesn’t know the answer – he goes on and on and on and on.
  • 17. Community Safety. Kevin Koch moved that this be postponed until the schools budget is presented. He complained that when crossing guards don’t show up for work that the two departments point fingers at each other. He wanted both parties present to answer questions. There were arguments for and against postponing. It was postponed.
  • 18. Building Inspection approved.
  • 19. Schools. School Committee Sean Garballey moved postponement because the School Committee had not yet approved the budget. Judith Phelps complained that town meeting members had not received copies of the budget and had been “kept out of the loop.” I think that there is a legitimate gripe about how late the school budget is this year. It was slowed down by the Ottoson controversy, etc., but it still could have been done faster. But I totally disagree that town meeting has been kept out of the loop. There have been public hearings, public meetings, and the draft of the budget has been available online for weeks. The superintendent has given his budget presentation to several different audiences. The information is available. It was postponed.
  • 20. Libraries. [10:16]. The proposed budget is sufficient to remain accredited by Minuteman. Approved.
  • 21. Human Services. After a question about the special event coordinator and the senior center the budget was approved unanimously.
  • 22. Retirement. There were several comments about the pending legislation that might move the Arlington retirement funds into the state system. Approved. Treasurer Gilligan said that the Arlington fund was “performing adequately.” Town Manager Sullivan said the retirement board was doing “a fine job” at investing. How they can say that with a straight face, I don’t know. I sure couldn’t.
  • 23. Insurance. After questions about injuries in the town, the budget was approved.
  • 24. Street Lighting. There were questions about maintenance and light replacements. Approved unanimously.
  • Water and Sewer Enterprise. There was a question about catch basin cleaning. Budget approved.
  • Recreation. Approved.
  • Veteran’s Memorial Rink. I spoke about the pending, unresolved, larger-than-$1M capital needs and voted against the budget. It was approved.
  • Council on Aging. The budget’s deficit was discussed. Budget approved.
  • Youth Services. The budget was approved.

Several notices of reconsideration were given.

The meeting was adjourned.


Comment from Rich Carreiro
Time: May 9, 2007, 6:59 am

Re: budget 22

I thought it was pretty obvious reading between the lines the Treasurer isn’t totally pleased with the Ret Board’s performance. I don’t think “performing adequately” was a compliment. Just like it isn’t in a job review or letter of reference. And you didn’t have to read between the lines to see that the Town Manager would welcome a state takeover.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 9, 2007, 7:55 am

I thought the treasurer was suggesting that the state system takeover wasn’t welcome. My notes aren’t detailed enough for me to double-check that. I’ll ask Mr. Gilligan tonight, I guess. It’s interesting that we heard the same thing and yet we interpreted it differently.

I agree that the manager sounded like he wouldn’t mind the takeover.

The part about this that bugs me is that I think people are being somewhat mislead. Neither of these two had to give an opinion on the retirement board performance. They could talk about the merits of joining the state system and just skip over making a judgment on performance. But if they feel compelled to register an opinion on the performance, it should be an accurate one. “A fine job” is not accurate.