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Town Meeting, 5/9, Session Six

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 Third time in a row, maybe 4! Town Meeting member Jane Howard played the national anthem. The invocation was delivered by Town Meeting Member Richard Phelps. [8:05]

The moderator said that precincts 7, 17, 11, and 20 needed to meet.

Announcements:

  • Selectman Annie LaCourt noted the math expo projects around the hall.
  • This weekend is the SAVE yard sale.
  • Judith Phelps presented a resolution that Town Meeting endorse legislation to give the town recourse when utilities fail to repair roads. The resolution was approved.
  • Lyman Judd announced the Lion’s Eyemobile again.

Article 2 – Reports.

  • Roland Chaput gave the report of the Arlington 200th Commitee.
  • Annie LaCourt gave the supplemental report of the selectmen.
  • Joseph Curro gave the report of the Symmes Neighborhood (SNAC)

Article 38 – Community Development Block Grants. [8:22] Planning Director O’Brien explained that because of funding cuts and restrictions that they were unable to spend as much as they’d like on public services. A series of speakers talked about the Disability Commission’s complaints that there wasn’t enough spent on curb cuts. Annie LaCourt noted that the funding was doubled this year and planned on meeting with the groups so that next year would have more agreement. Town Manager Sullivan noted that there was additional spending on curb cuts beyond what was in CDBG funding. Passed.

Article 44 – Budgets.

  • 21 – Schools. Paul Schlictman stood up to make a motion to move the traffic supervisors (crossing guards) from the school budget to the police budget. It was ruled out of order because the traffic supervisors are creating a union to the working conditions are frozen. There was also a question about whether that level of modification was permissible in the school budget. [8:41] Superintendent Levenson presented the budget (in under 10 minutes). The budget is somewhat modified since it was presented to FinComm. He explained the budget started with an $850,000 deficit if it were to fund the same people and activities as FY07 given raises, energy costs, etc. He explained that special education costs were growing too quickly to manage easily. He talked about the strategies and compromises that were made. There was lots of good stuff in the speech, but more than I want to recount here. Read it online. Several speakers asked about the traffic supervisors and expressed opinions about how it should have been handled and how it should be handled in the future. There was a long discussion about how activity fees were set. There was a discussion about how the full-time kindergarten fee was determined. There was discussion of the 5-year plan and how it differs from the O’Neill formula. There was a discussion about the viability of bringing special ed in house. There was question about potential revenue from having a cell phone tower at Pierce. The superintendent supported METCO to applause. The lack of librarians was discussed by more than one speaker. There was confusion about where the cuts in non-core teaching positions at Ottoson were. The budget was approved. This was a long debate, but a pretty good one. The budget was about $40,000,000 which defines it as a substantial issue. I’m happy to spend time debating a budget of that magnitude. I think that some of the debate about traffic supervisors was unnecessary, but not unreasonable.
  • 19. Mr. McCabe proposed a resolution that town meeting was in favor of moving the traffic supervisors from the school department to the police department. Allan Tosti said that that might result in higher costs because the town would have to pay unemployment in the summer. He advised that the meeting let the union, superintendent, and town manager work out what is best. Mr. McCabe spoke again and said that it was a safety issue and not a money issue and described seeing a girl get hit by a car. Mr. Tosti pointed out that if money is spent prudently that there can be more crossing guards. This was a brazen “won’t someone think about the children” plea. Mr. McCabe didn’t explain how his motion would increase child safety, but he sure implied that anyone who opposed him was one step away from a child killer. I agree with Mr. Tosti. The motion is premature. At this point, let the negotiations take their course. The resolution was defeated. After a question about leash law enforcement, the public safety budget was approved.

Article 45 – Capital Budget. Charlie Foskett presented the capital budget. He reviewed the components of the budget, how it is managed, and the town’s debt. He noted that the Veteran’s Rink is a risk, as is the renovation of the community safety building. There were a series of questions about past and future expenditures in the budget. The budget was approved unanimously in five separate parts [11:11]. I was very happy that the moderator and members let the meeting run late. It was a would have been a pain to start that budget up again next week. It was worth the 11 minutes to get the job done.

Several notices of reconsideration 44 and 45 were noted. Meeting adjourned.