Town Meeting ’12, 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.
The Town Meeting sang the national anthem, accompanied by Town Meeting Member Jane Howard on piano.
Moderator John Leone made a couple of announcements.
- Town Meeting Member Mary Deyst has an art show upstairs at Town Hall.
- He also asked that town meeting members take their papers with them and throw them in the recycle bin on the way out rather than leaving it on the seats.
The moderator swore in 2 new members elected from precinct 21.
I moved that the next meeting be on May 7th.
- John Maher announcement about the Symmes foundation. People interested in applying should read tomorrow’s Advocate or contact him.
- Jim O’Conor reported that Town Meeting Member Marc Butler is unwell, and asked for our thoughts and prayers.
- Michelle Durocher asked for volunteers for the Meadowbrook Park cleanup on May 5 9am-noon, rain or shine.
- Al Tosti announced that the Minuteman High related articles, #44-46, will be voted on Wednesday night May 9th because Superintendent Ed Bouquillon will be there.
- Superintendent Kathy Bodie said, in a raspy voice, that she wants to give the schools report on May 9th when her voice is better.
Article 3 was taken off the table.
Stephen Gilligan gave the report of the Treasurer.
Art 3 was tabled.
Article 29 – Vote/Lower Interest Rate For Property Tax
I briefly introduced the article. This article changes the rate of interest on taxes deferred by seniors who take the deferment exemption option. Jim Doherty, chair of the Board of Assessors, explained some of the requirements for the deferment: must be 65, can defer portion or full, must be the primary residence etc. He said the assessors didn’t vote to support, and they were concerned about the lower interest rate. Senator Ken Donnelly spoke next. He said that this is not a financial issue, this is a social issue. He talked about seniors and their role in the community. Chris Loreti moved an amendment that put a floor on the interest rate of 4%. He made a lot of comments about the way deferments works. He said he thinks the recommended vote is deficient because it doesn’t note the state maximum of 8%. The proposed vote is nearly identical to the language suggested by the Mass DOR; I’m reasonably sure it’s properly written. Diane Mahon expressed her support (she had missed the final vote, and wasn’t on record in the report). Al Tosti said the FinCom unanimously supports the vote. He noted we’re not doing this to make a profit. There were questions about the current cost of borrowing money, circuit breaker for seniors, and whether or not this would really help seniors. Paul Schlictman moved to terminate debate, approved. Loreti’s amendment failed. The main motion passed.
Article 32 – Report/Implementation Of Consolidated Town-School Finance Department
Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine first presented some details of the report, then his plan on going forward. Just as he started, he realized the timer said he had 7 minutes left to speak. The moderator was playing a joke on him – the manager had said he could do it in 7 minutes, and the moderator tried to get him under 7 minutes. He reviewed the methodology and findings of the report. He outlined the procedure he was planning on with the various boards and officials to work on progress towards the report. Assessor Jim Doherty was unhappy with the report, and wanted to debate it. The moderator noted that the motion was only to receive the report, and not really debatable. Treasurer Gilligan vehemently objected to part of the report. He believes the report incorrectly blames his office for the loss of some money. It’s tough for me to say from the short dialog exactly what was being referred to. My first impression is that the report blurred two different issues, and Mr. Gilligan was emphasizing the second issue as the relevant one, and discounting the first issue. It’s impossible to say, really, without a discussion of the details that did not happen there. The report was received. I continue to think that the town should pursue a structural change that results in better financial coordination. I know a lot of people say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I’m not ready to say “it’s broke” – but is sure could use a tune-up.
Article 33 – Home Rule Legislation/Municipal Finance Department
Voted no action.
Article 34 – Home Rule Legislation/Wireless Antenna Lease Proceeds
I explained what this motion will do. Chris Loreti thinks it’s unnecessary. Hugh McCrory doesn’t get why we do this fund. I think the best short answer to that is “because Town Meeting voted to do it this way.” What Town Meeting does, it can reverse, of course. Annie LaCourt noted that this funding method avoids waiting for the money to cycle through the general fund and be certified by the DoR as free cash, etc. Annie further said that years ago Town Meeting gave up something – open space, horizons, etc. The money was therefore allocated to parks, to offset the negative effects. Harry McCabe – St. Paul’s gave the antenna money to parks, and that was the root. John Deyst moved to terminate debate. Motion was approved. There was a question that since this was home rule legislation, do we need a standing vote? Senator Donnelly says: all we need is a majority. That was an interesting statement by the senator, and it ends a procedure we’ve followed for as long as I’ve been in town meeting!
Article 35 – Acceptance/Local Option Taxes
Article 36 – Endorsement Of CDBG Application
I explained that this is federal money, and the selectmen seek input from Town Meeting. I explained that the amount of funds coming from the federal budget was declining, but by using “program income” we had avoided most cuts. There was discussion about funding scholarships. There was a question about how much of this was “use it or lose it.” Chris Loreti asked if some of this is for non-profits; the answer was yes.
We had a break.
Annie LaCourt noted that money was issued on a reimbursement basis, not outright grant. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. The article was approved on voice vote.
Article 37 – Revolving Funds
Gordon Jamieson noted that $2,000,000 in expenditures is possible under this article. FinCom Chair Al Tosti says the committee has been concerned with the creation of the funds. Adam Chapdelaine explained the new fund for Central School. Gordon Jamieson and others asked for more granularity in future reports. I am of two minds on this request. On one hand, I’m a big fan of government transparency. On the other hand, we have $126 million dollars that we spend a year – it’s not clear to me that detailing the outflows of the Town Hall rental fund is a particularly useful report for Town Meeting. I wonder what the right solution to that question is. There were a series of questions. Chris Loreti elicits that Town Manager controls the funds. Questions about urban renewal plans, several of the funds, and another request for more detail. Terminated debate. Approved unanimously.
Article 38 – Collective Bargaining
Tabled. Negotiations ongoing.
Article 39 – Positions Reclassification
Article 40 – Appropriation/Town Budgets
It was 10:15, and the meeting wasn’t ready to tackle the budgets, so they were tabled. I was ready to go – I think we could have got a lot of them done. As it was, we got good work done.
Article 41 – Capital Budget
Postponed to Monday.
Article 42 – Appropriation/Financing Of Construction Or Reconstruction Of Sewers And Sewerage Facilities
There were several questions. In the discussion, we heard about how much leakage and damage there is in the system, and the plans to resolve them. It was noted that at a mile of pipe per year, it will be more than 100 years to replace all the town pipes. There were several speakers in favor, noting that it is a big problem. Approved unanimously.
Article 43 – Appropriation/Financing Of Construction Or Reconstruction Of Water Mains And Water Facilities
Postponed to Wednesday when Minuteman Superintendent Ed Bouquillon will be here.
Article 47 Appropriation/Special Education Reserve Account
The exact amount to be put in the fund is not yet known, so the article was tabled.
Article 48 Appropriation/Committees And Commissions
Article 49 Appropriation/Town Celebrations
Article 50 Appropriation/Miscellaneous
Article 51 Appropriation/Water Bodies Fund
Article 52 Appropriation/Signage For Historic Sites
There is an amendment planned, so the article was postponed.
Article 53 Appropriation/Electronic Town Meeting
No action unanimously.
Article 54 Appropriation/Paid Parking Study
I briefly said that we had considered proposing a paid report, but were persuaded not to spend the money unless there was political will to implement it. We wanted to see what Town Meeting though. Carl Wagner, the proponent, asked to postpone to May 9, and that failed. Town Manager Adam Chapedelaine talked about how parking is an asset of the town. He noted there are many options for meters. The chamber of commerce said the business owners were opposed to meters. Al Tosti said don’t spend money if you’re not going to do it, but liked the idea of learning more. Paul Schlictman talked about how impossible it is to enforce the parking limits in non-metered spaces. Premium parking is free, secondary parking is metered – it’s backwards. It leads to minimal enforcement on Mass Ave, but strong enforcement in lots. There was an amendment to consider parking garage – ruled out of scope (warrant article talked about “currently marked short term parking”). John Worden noted that we used to have meters, and he was very glad they had been removed. Parking is an intractable problem. Bill Logan said we should let voters decide. Hugh McCrory asked for a public hearing and to reduce the 2-hour limit. Nicole Knobloch moved to terminate debate. The motion passed 103-49.
I heard Elsie Fiore serve notice of reconsideration on article 48 and Andrew Fischer on 32 and Al Tosti on the financial articles.