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Town Meeting ’11 – Session 9

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.

Jane Howard led the Town Meeting in the national anthem.

Moderator John Leone asked for a moment of silence for the victims in Joplin Missouri.

If we don’t finish tonight, we’ll come back Weds May 25. This vote was modified later in the night.


  • Harry McCabe invited everyone to a health fair on June 18th 12:30-4:30 in Town Hall.

Article 39, Crosby, continued.

John Worden moved an amendment. He would like to further restrict the sale of the property with additional deed restrictions. He wants the deed to restrict use to educational use for at least 30 years. He remains opposed to sale of the school. He talked a lot about 40B. He suggested that if town meeting wants flexibility, that we should amend his amendment to make it revocable by 2/3 town meeting vote. I had asked about that earlier in this process, and I’m told it’s not possible. The deed restriction is permanent and not revocable. That is why I’d prefer to make the restrictions in a land disposition agreement rather than a deed restriction, and therefore opposed his amendment. Harry McCabe is opposed to the sale. He gave a nice speech, stating that everybody was acting in good faith. He encouraged everyone to treat everyone else with respect. I really appreciated this statement. It’s gotten a little hot in the seats up front this town meeting, and some of the jabs were sharper than I think is warranted. His kind thoughts were very welcome. Joyce Radochia spoke in support of the Crosby School. She introduced Dr. Ted Wilson President of Schools for Children. Dr. Wilson talked about the history of the relationship, the school’s finances, and the building’s condition. He said that his school can’t afford increases in rent over the CPI. Eric Berger moved an amendment that would give the right of first refusal to the current tenant. He is in favor of selling the property. I hadn’t seen the amendment in writing. I realize now that what happened is that it was distributed, but to the seats at the front of the room. Mr. Berger came up and apologized for that afterwards, which was nice of him. Paul Schlictman moved the question, and the vote failed, so debate continued. A speaker was opposed to selling the property. A speaker was in favor of selling the property. Mr. Ruderman moved to terminate debate. Terminated by voice vote. Mr. Berger’s amendment was defeated by voice vote. Mr. Worden’s amendment was approved. 125-44 permission to sell was approved.

Article 49 – Long Term Financial Planning Committee

The motion of the Board of Selectmen was no action. Al Tosti moved a substitute motion of the Town Government Reorganization Committee. He explained that this committee would not have power, but would serve to make recommendations. Alan Jones reported on the unanimous no-action recommendation of the Finance Committee. They believe the committee would be redundant. Gordon Jamieson moved to terminate debate, and it was terminated. Substitute was voted down. No action passed.

Article 52 – Revolving Funds

Town Manager Brian Sullivan noted that this is a regular article, with the addition of a small fund for $15,000 for cemetery chapel. Gordon Jamieson had questions on ambulance funds and how they are used. He asked other questions on three other funds. There were a couple more questions. Passed unanimously.

Article 53 – CDBG

Annie LaCourt. She noted Mr. Hurd’s contribution in the past. She updated one change – there was in an increase in funds designated for high school athletic scholarships of $35,000. Paul Schlictman noted that Town Meeting can endorse, but not change the numbers. Question on the funding of planning positions – it has been in the budget for years. The Council on Aging is concerned with their budget cut, but it was noted that there is reserve fund available if necessary. Carl Wagner moved to terminate debate. Terminated. Passed.

Article 54 – Collective Bargaining

Al Tosti said he was going to skip a long speech this year, and asked people to read the Chairman’s report in the Finance Committee report. Having spent as long as 20 minutes to debate a few thousand dollars earlier in the meeting, we subsequently approved $3.2 million in minutes. It’s just the way Town Meeting works.

He moved to table the article. Negotiations are ongoing, with an approved breakthrough with the teachers’ union already.

Article 55 – Position Reclassification

Unanimously approved.

Article 56 – Budgets

Al Tosti moved to postpone to June 8th. Postponed.

Article 58 – Sidewalks

No action – did it in the special town meeting.

Article 59 – Sewer.

Passed unanimously.

Article 60 – Water Mains

Passed unanimously.

Article 62 – Committees and Commissions

Passed by voice vote.

Article 63 – Town Celebrations

Passed by voice vote.

Article 64 – Miscellaneous

Passed by voice vote.

Article 65 – Water Bodies

No action.

Article 66 – Water Bodies

Approved unanimously.

Article 67 – Accidental Disability Adjustment.


Article 68 – OPEB

Al Tosti moved to postpone to June 8th. Postponed.

Article 69 – COLA Base Pay

Al Tosti moved to postpone to June 8th. They might want to revisit in light of negotiations. Postponed.

Article 70 – Survivors Benefits

Passed unanimously.

Article 71 – Local Options

No action.

Article 72 – Tip Fee Stabilization

Approved unanimously.

Article 73 – Cemetery Fund Transfer

Passed unanimously.

Article 74 – Overlay Reserve

Approved unanimously.

Article 75 – Stabilization Fund.

Al Tosti moved to postpone to June 8th. It depends on the override. Postponed.

Article 76 – Free Cash


We adjourned until Wednesday June 8th at 8PM, the day after the override.


Comment from Ed Lovelace
Time: May 24, 2011, 7:55 am

I’m glad article 49 passed but am concerned that mr worden’s amendment insured we will get less for it if the town accepts an offer (which of course they are obligated to do). Even though mr. Worden stated he was opposed to letting the town consider a sale I doubt it was his logic that his amendment would lower the sale value enough to cause the town to choose not to sell though he stated that is his preferred result. My fear is that this will cause the worst outcome. Schools for children will make such a lowball offer we won’t take it but then they will choose to leave for a more permanent solution they’ve now had time to plan for. Hopefully I’m wrong but this amendment substantially limits the town’s leverage.

Comment from Ron Spangler
Time: May 24, 2011, 4:09 pm

I don’t understand why it’s not OK to sell Parmenter, but it is OK to sell Crosby.

Having worked on the Thompson and Stratton rebuilds issue for many years, I’m not pleased that Town Meeting decided to hold on to a building we don’t need, rather than sell it to raise money for capital projects the schools really do need. The one to two million dollars that a Parmenter sale would have provided to the Thompson rebuild will have to be made up somehow.

This sends two messages:
1. Old school buildings in Precinct 8 are more important than old school buildings elsewhere.
2. Old school buildings in Precinct 8 are more important than the buildings we actually use to educate children elsewhere.

Both of these are really bad messages to send to a skeptical electorate (including me) on the eve of an override vote. Bad move, TM.

Comment from Mike Cambell
Time: May 24, 2011, 4:47 pm

Can you explain to me what the sale of Crosby means? They can kick the current tenant out and build housing if the purchases chooses so? Or does it have to remain a school, due to zoning?

Comment from Peter Fuller
Time: May 24, 2011, 5:31 pm

Mike-This is what the meeting passed under article 39:

“VOTED: That the Board of Selectmen be and hereby is authorized to dispose of the Crosby School and its appurtenant land by sale, lease, or otherwise, provide that any sale of the property shall not be for less than $1,300,000, and shall be conveyed by deed which shall include a right of first refusal in favor of the Town in the event the property is offered for re-sale, shall restrict future use of the property to educational use for at least 30 years, and shall exclude approximately 21,870 square feet of land currently in use as a public playground.”

To me this means that Crosby can be sold to anyone who wants to make an educational use of the site. It was explained to the meeting that the Town is not required to take the highest bid if there are multiple offers, so the practical effect is that a sale would be made to the current tenant, Schools for Children (operators of the Dearborn Academy now housed in Crosby)), which has expressed a strong desire to buy it.

Comment from Peter Fuller
Time: May 24, 2011, 5:34 pm

OOPS! My bad: the vote I posted should read “88,311 square feet”. (I accidentally used the Parmenter figure which is 21,870.)

Comment from Steve Cella
Time: May 24, 2011, 5:50 pm

The reason for me to vote that way was simple.

Personally I do not believe the town should be trading assets for short term gain and I was not totally convinced that the town could not manage the buildings or that the capital costs could not be covered if we had a proper lease. That is I saw the sales of these schools as a short term gain. As one person mentioned people buy to manage buildings all the time and don’t lose money even in this economy.

So I would not have voted for either, although I completely understand the logic behind selling one asset to pay for another but again I saw this as short term planning.

Also If we put these schools on the market who knows where it would have lead in terms of who it would have been sold to. In the end would this have ended up like the symmes site??

In addition with the Parmenter, if we had put this up for sale then that probably would have forced the current tenant out who was only looking to lease and purchase. That current tenant has been a good tenant over the years and it would have been a shame to lose them.

However the Crosby was different in that there is a tenant that has been there for close to 30 years. They are looking for stability and have the means and desire to purchase the building which is part of their long term plans which is good for the neighborhood, the town and the current tenant etc. In effect we already have a buyer who is the current tenant.

I voted yes with the understanding and I think other did also that the town will work with the current tenant to purchase the building although they are not obliged to.

So in this context there was a big difference between the two schools!!

Further at no point was the Thompson rebuild and the selling of these schools linked. That is until the possibility of selling these schools to pay for the Thompson came up during the debate which was the first time it was really mentioned at least at town meeting. The Thompson rebuild was promised years ago and regardless of how we voted on selling these schools we needed to keep that promise and town meeting did just that. If the crosby is not sold then the money will be made up through a debt exclusion which is how paying for the schools rebuild program which included the Thompson was originally presented to town!

So when you actually look at it over the long term, the vote made sense and was the right thing for town meeting to do.

Comment from djpboston
Time: May 24, 2011, 10:12 pm

It’s just a bad idea to liquidate town real estate for spending money. 1.3 Million ? Seems like a steal at that price. Bad move TM.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 24, 2011, 10:26 pm

DJP, I think you’re missing some key points. First, it’s not for spending money – it’s for real estate. Converting capital to capital isn’t fine. Second, the price is TBD, if it’s to be sold at all. $1.3 million is the floor, not the price.

Comment from dunster
Time: May 24, 2011, 10:32 pm

I understand the logic that made Crosby and Parmenter end up with different results, even though I don’t agree with it. The schools really are in different situations. It’s not a question of what precinct – it’s a question of the tenants’ wishes. Town Meeting was, I believe, very intent on supporting the tenants in both cases, and not very trusting of the Board of Selectmen to honor that trust. Hence the restrictions on the Crosby outcome and the negative vote on Parmenter.

I think that the Crosby negotiation will be tough, but I don’t think the restrictions will actually make a big difference in the short term. It’s going to be hard to reconcile the town’s financial needs and the Dearborn Academy. I think it is doable, however.

Parmenter I suspect will be easier to find a solution that makes the town and tenants happy.

Comment from sharon
Time: May 25, 2011, 7:14 am

But it can’t be a matter of the TENANT’S wishes when we are talking about the disposal of PUBLIC property. There is state law to consider, with all leases and sales needing to go out for public bid. We can’t have a directed sale nor a directed lease arrangement and still be in compliance. Yet we seem here to be underselling properties or renting them far below market value while we are asking for an override.