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Town Meeting ‘10 Session 4

I take notes during Town Meeting. They are not official in any way. As I listen to people speak, I type notes. I’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 notes 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

8:05 start time.

Town Meeting Member Jane Howard played the national anthem.

Town Moderator John Leone lectured everyone and specifically the Board of Selectmen for not having votes ready for town meeting, forcing lots of postponements. Selectman Greeley was clearly displeased and spoke in the Board’s defense.

We’ll return on May 10 for our next session.

Article 3 taken from the table (belatedly – we almost forgot to take it off the table).

  • Al Tosti – make sure you look at the Town Manager’s Financial Plan for 2011 online.
  • Carol Kowalski – May 13 7:30-9 in Town Hall auditorium there will be a hearing on the feasability of reconstruction of Cook’s Hollow Conservation Area.
  • Diane Mahon thanked town and school employees for helping the town get through the water crisis.
  • Bob Tosi – US Postal Service food drive on Saturday, leave out non-perishables.
  • Charlie Foskett – Capital Planning Committee report is delivered. He also asked that the meeting act on the capital plan (Articles 53 and 54) on the same day as the Special Town Meeting. The Special Town Meeting has two capital articles, and it makes sense to do the regular capital articles and the special capital articles together.  This is a key announcement – if you’re a Town Meeting Member, I hope you heard it.  Be ready to discuss the capital budget!

Article 13 – Symmes. Selectman Mahon reports that the Selectmen had endorsed Paul Schlictman’s subsitute motion. Schlictman reviewed the history of the Symmes transaction, specifically that the town had embarked on the purchase of the Symmes site partially to keep a medical facility available at the site. Here we are nine years later, and there is no viable plan that gets us medical offices up there. He urged that we focus on financial imperatives and give up on the medical requirement. Chris Loreti asked for and did not get five minutes extra time. He reviewed more history, that in 2007 the plan for the site went from condo to rental, and the development was sold. In 2008 the new owners couldn’t get loans and stopped making payments. The Special Permit to build is still valid – the permit is unrelated to the medical site. ARB is coming back to seek advice and consent on what alternative uses should be permitted. Loreti proceeded to complain that Schlictman’s motion was flawed because it referred to 2001, and ignored all of the changes made in 2004, 2007, 2008, and so on. This speech by Loreti was incredibly frustrating to many of us. Schlictman provided his motion in writing last week. The Finance Committee endorsed it on Monday. The selectmen endorsed it today. And Loreti waited until today, on the floor, to explain why it is flawed! It would have been far more productive if he had talked to other interested people and sought an improved amendment.  This was unnecessarily dramatic and painful – it could have been much smoother with better communication. Al Tosti moved to table the article for a few minutes while the problem was worked out.  Tabled on voice vote.

Articl 18 – Bylaw amendment – Junk Dealers and Collectors. Mark Streitfeld gave his amendment to the proposed bylaws. His intent is to make it so that non-criminal activity is not tracked by the government – only when it’s linked to a crime would the information be turned over. After a question, it was noted that it does apply to used clothing. The chief’s opinion of the amendment is negative – it would make it much harder to track criminals. Several rose both in favor and opposed to the amendment, weighing civil liberties versus the pursuit of criminal activity. I rose to ask that debate be terminated, and it was terminated. Amendment failed 76-100. The main motion (unamended) was approved on voice vote. This was the first time I’ve spoken this year at town meeting.  When I got on the list I planned on speaking in favor of the amendment, but by the time I was called the points had been mostly covered.  So I moved the question.

Article 37 – Compensation of Selectmen. No action.

Article 38 – Electronic Pest Control Devices. Selectman Diane Mahon explained that the BoS had been convinced that this problem was not being solved by neighbor negotiations. Louise Poplin, the proponent, spoke about her inability to sleep because of the loud zapping 20 feet from her bedroom.  Several speakers were opposed because bylaws should not be used to settle personal disputes. Gordon Jamieson moved an amendment to change it to 8AM on weekdays. Selectman Annie LaCourt explained that the Selectmen thought this was a reasonable extension of the noise abatement bylaw. Several speakers were concerned about the enforceability of “audible at property line.” Debate was terminated. Amendment failed on voice vote. 102-78 the bylaw change was approved. I was in favor of this.  I have been opposed to other, similar bylaws like the one about lights at night.  But on this one, I think it’s a reasonable extension of the noise bylaw.  I don’t want to hear a chainsaw at 3am, and I don’t want to hear a bug zapper either.

15 minute break.

Article 13 – Symmes, again. We took the article from the table. Mr. Tosti made a new version after consultation with ARB and Selectmen. It uses the language from the original Board of Selectmen motion, but it does what Schlictman wanted to do – it removes the medical requirement from the Symmes redevelopment. There were questions about the land and possible uses of it. Andrew Fischer moved to postpone to the 12th, and it was defeated. Schlictman’s substitute motion went down (it was largely moot at this point). Tosti’s amendment passed. Selectmen’s vote as amended passed on voice vote.

Article 39 – Restrictions on Local Option Votes – John Leonard asked for an explanation. Selectman Mahon explained that the BoS was going to do the requested notifications, but not in a bylaw. Voted no action.

Article 40 – Field Lighting Timing. No action unanimously.

Article 41 – Sound Amplification System. No action unanimously.

Article 42 – Field Closing times. No action unanimously. There was an email on the Town Meeting list requesting a postponement of this article, but there was no attached substitute motion.  I don’t think anyone wanted to postpone when there was no real counter-proposal being pushed forward.

Artcile 43 – Field Light Configuration. No action unanimously.

Article 44 – Limit Night Baseball Games. No action unanimously.

Article 45 – Revolving funds. Gordon Jameison went through a long series of questions. His point was that some of the money in revolving funds should be applied to the general town funds, and it’s being sequestered in these revolving funds. Question about library vending machines. There was a question about the Gibbs energy costs – this was so we can get the tenants to pay energy bills without the town fronting the money. Approved.

Article 46 – Community Development Block Grants. Selectman Jack Hurd reported that the plan is now supported by a 5-0 vote. Questions about the spending on planners. Questions about if we can fund the economic coordinator through the CDBG. Complaints about ADA-compliant curbcuts on Broadway. Schlictman terminates debate, approved. Approved.

Article 47 – Collective Bargaining. Town Manager Sullivan – one group from fiscal ’09 (police ranking officers) is here tonight to be approved (the agreement also covers FY10). 2.5% increase in ’09, 0% in ’10. For FY10 there is another 0% settlement with patrolmen. Other groups are in negotiation, with a target of wage freeze. Diane Mahon as a town meeting member commended the manager and the unions for coming to a 0% agreement. Question about if there is any merit increases – no, the raises are across the board regardless.  Approved by voice vote.

Article 48 – Funding Future Collective Bargaining. Voted no action. This makes the Town Manager’s negotiations on wages easier – he can point to this vote and say that there is no money in the budget for raises.

Article 49 – Salary Adjustment Elected Officials. Voted no action.

Article 50 – Position Reclassification. Approved.

Article 51 – Amend Personnel Bylaw for Vacation Time. Selectman Mahon explained that the board was satisfied that this does not have conflict with collective bargaining. Approved.

Article 52 – Town Budgets. At this point, 9 minutes before 11, we adjourned.  We weren’t going to get the budgets done that quickly.

I gave notice of reconsideration on Article 49.  I didn’t hear any other notices.

Comments

Comment from Joe Tully
Time: May 6, 2010, 10:03 am

Dan, unfortunately, the Symmes resolution *didn’t* do what Mr. Schlichtman wanted. I voted against it and voted for his original substitute which actually *did* do what he wanted. I had hoped to rise and address this, but Mr. Spangler moved to terminate debate and we were left with a motion inferior to the original substitute. The original, although lengthier, clearly expressed the issue in unambiguous terms. The new substitute, cobbled together by some coalition of Paul, Al, teh BOS and the ARB gives one the impression that medical use is still the primary desire of the TM, but that other uses can be added along with medical uses. My understanding is that Paul wanted the resolution to indicate that we are now backing off of the medical use and want to express our desire that the medical use is no longer required as long as the remainder of the “promises” made to the tax payers are kept. Unfortunately, a littany of people claiming that “this is what we meant” doesn’t trump what the document actually says. This is only a resolution, and I don’t believe it is going to have any effect on the ultimate disposition of the property but words are important, they have precise meanings, and when one drafts something, it should be drafted with precision. It was frustrating watching the process play out. It reminded me of watching a cartoon where someone is standing in the dark amid combustible material and thinks it’s a great idea to light a match so he can see better.

Comment from Chris Loreti
Time: May 6, 2010, 11:24 am

Dan, sorry for the drama on Article 13 (Symmes Resolution) but lets look at what really happened. ARB sumbits warrant article to expand allowed uses on the Symmmes medical office building (MOB) site, then provides a daft resolution for the Selectmen to consider. The Selectmen hold their hearing on the Article. Aside from the ARB, the only interested parties that speak are from the Symmes Neighborhood Advisory committee. The Selectmen make some minor changes to the draft resolution to address comments of the Town Manager and SNAC and unanamously adopt the resolution as their recommended vote to TM.

Paul Schlichtman drafts substitute motion. On Monday night Finance Committee discusses the Schlichtman motion and votes to endorse it. (Does Finance Committee inform ARB of its discussion and vote on the article? Nope.) On Monday night, ARB discusses Schlictman’s motion and is unanimously opposed due to its various flaw. On Monday night Schlichtman asks Loreti what he thinks of the article. Loreti explains its flaws and the fact that the ARB would not be supporting it.

On Wednesday night, immediatley before TM starts, Loreti confers with BOS chair who confirms that she will introduce him to present the resolution as the Selectmen had originally voted it. Article comes up, BOS chair rises, and annouces that BOS are now supporting the Schlichtman motion, not their original motion. (Had the BOS informed the ARB of the flip-flop on their vote? Nope.)

Need for better communication? Indeed.

Joe, you may be right that the resolution won’t have much effect on what happens on the property outside of the MOB site. It will have a very large effect on what happens on the MOB site istelf. That site will now get developed–probably for residential use.

Comment from Joe Tully
Time: May 6, 2010, 11:35 am

Chris, thanks for the history. Let me try to clarify my own comment. I believe Paul *wanted* to get rid of the medical use. I am ok with that because I think we need to make the best deal we can and unload this property. However, despite his intent, the resolution that was passed says that we may consider uses as long as they are *in addition* to the medical use. It didn’t *eliminate* the medical use (even though eliminating same was supposed to be the whole point).

Comment from Chris Loreti
Time: May 6, 2010, 2:29 pm

Joe, I believe Paul wanted to get rid of the requirement for medical uses, and not necessarily prohibit them, and assume that is what you mean in your second post.

As for the wording of the resolution as it did pass, I agree that it could have been better and will share in the blame for that. Unfortunately, that is what happens when things get done on the fly in TM. And while I see how you are reading it, I believe it can also be read as saying a medical office building is just another allowed use.

As an aside that may amuse (or annoy) you, after the hard copy of the amendment was distributed and we read it again, one of my colleagues (an attorney) commented that the language needed more work. I agreed. But after a bit of discussion we decided not to do anything as it was “just a resolution” as you noted. And introducing any further changes wasn’t going to bring any more joy to TM.

I guess we’ll just have to trust the ARB to interpret it based on the legislative intent. If you don’t want to do that, you might be able to find someone who made notice of reconsideration, and try to bring it up again to amend it. Or revise it at a future Town Meeting. Or not.