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Town Meeting ’14 – Session 5

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 try to 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. Sometimes I only summarize the discussion. At points I give a purely personal opinion; those are clearly labeled like this: Personal note.

Tonight we had meeting of the Board of Selectmen that started at 7pm. We spent quite a while talking about a betterment order to repave Wright Street, a private way. At 8, Selectmen Steve Byrne and Kevin Greeley went down to Town Meeting and the rest of us finished the Selectmen’s meeting. I got downstairs at about 8:35, missing the anthem, any moderator remarks, and some of the reports.


  • As I arrived, Lawrence McKinney was going through the report of the Uncle Sam committee.
  • John Maher announced the beginning of the cable provider contract negotiation. There is an opening on the cable committee, and interested people should apply to the Board of Selectmen.
  • Sheri Baron gave the report of the Human Rights Commission.

Article 3 was tabled.

At 8:55 we started the business of the meeting. There was some serious grumbling about this.  It was the 2nd night that we had more than 30 minutes of announcements and reports.  I missed too much of it to have a comment about the quality tonight.  In general, I do think there is too much report reading and not enough “here’s the report, please ask us questions later.”

Special Town Meeting Article 5 – Central Fire Station
Bids are open, and we don’t need additional money. No action.

Special Town Meeting was dissolved. The few items we did in the Special Town Meeting are now sent to the Attorney General for their approval.

Article 28 was tabled so we could be sure to get to assessor’s tonight.

Article 29 – Revaluation
Gordon Jamieson was unhappy that the Assessors were not there last week. Assessor Jim Doherty gave apologies and explained the time conflicts. There was discussion about the multi-year revaluation cycle. Christian Klein asked a question about having too many units a building; there are not general on site visits this year, just spot ones. Mark McCabe moved to terminate debate. Terminated by voice vote. Motion was approved.

Article 28 – Budgets
Al Tosti made a correction in the budget. He talked about the contract agreements and how they are represented in increases in the budget. Annie LaCourt gave a demo of the Arlington Visual Budget. I think this tool is fantastic – I hope everyone who reads my blog clicks the link and checks out the visual budget. It’s a great way of understanding what we spend our money on, and where it comes from.

The full budget is in the FinComm report. These are the sub-budgets that members wished to discuss.

Town Manager
Peter Fuller with a question on Symmes increase? Debt service. We now have revenue, which we didn’t before, so that’s why you see it here. 2022 will be end of debt service.

Stephen Harrington wants to see actual expenditures, not budget. What happened with last year’s vacant assistant treasurer position salary? Treasurer Gilligan replied that it either was spent as overtime or was returned to the town.

At this point the power went out in the hall! Sitting in the front of the hall, looking at the body of members, you could see which people use electronic tablets or laptops – their face were lit by the ghostly blue glow. I’m sure my face was too. It would have been a very unusual picture, if you’d had the equipment to take it. Power was out for less than a minute.

We took a 10 minute break.

Al Tosti explained that we used to do actuals and budgets in the report, but that data was a lot of work and confusing. They changed to the current format at that point. Annie LaCourt noted that the visual budget has actuals spent where available. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said the town is moving toward having an open checkbook like the state does, through a state grant.

Stephen Harrington had a question about a volunteer-driven database effort that was no longer being supported. Assessor John Doherty said that it was replaced by Patriot’s database. John Worden dislikes the newer website. Chief Technology Officer David Good talked about why the town stopped using the volunteer’s website. Paul Schlichtman moved to terminate debate on this budget, and it was.

Public Works
Ed Trembly asked how much salt did we use last year. He thinks that we should less salt and drive more slowly. Peter Fiorie had several questions about contractors the town hires for snow removal. DPW Director Mike Rademacher answered the questions. Stephen Harrington had questions on increases in energy manager and recycling coordinator. Al Tosti: energy manager is a regionalized position – partly paid by Bedford. Tosti noted that the recycling position had been scrutinized by FinComm. He explained that both positions are to reduce money expended down the road. I think Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine had a more concrete response to this question, and I wish Town Meeting had heard it. Al was right, but there is a much more informative way of answering. Peter Fuller had a question about reduced street lights from LEDs. There was a question about what to do with a snow dump, and the answer is the Res parking lot for now.

Community Safety
Stephen Harrington had several questions about the ambulance revolving fund, the Medicare payments, and how the revenue is billed and distributed. Chief Jefferson said that Armstrong does our billing because they won the bidding process. Debra Edelstein asked why so much overtime? Chief Ryan explained that a lot of the overtime is the two-year hiring lag to hire and train a new employee, also testifying in court, and vacations.  I think that’s a pretty good question.  It’s something that I spent a lot of time studying when I was on FinCom.  I think we’re a lot more efficient in our use of overtime than we used to be, mostly because we’ve hired enough to fill our vacancies.  

Superintendent Kathy Bodie gave the report of the School Department. Dean Carmen thanked the town leadership for working through the enrollment increases collaboratively. Roly Chaput asked about redistricting – it’s worked fairly well.

Michele Durocher asked and found that we are meeting state requirements for accreditation. Director Ryan Livergood explained the programmatic changes in the library. There was a question on Sunday hours and whether they were cost effective. There is a lot of demand for Sunday hours, and the contract requires overtime.

Stephen Harrington noted that it’s going up by 6%. Al Tosti agreed that the pension obligation must be funded by 2040, and we are planning on being fully funded by 2032. Gordon Jamieson wants more reporting on retirement fund performance.

Marvin Lewiton would like to see lower workers comp spending. Andrew Fischer asked about the structural deficit and Al Tosti explained some of the factors.

Water and Sewer
Stephen Harrington had questions about the operating offsets and sources of capital budget spending. Adam Chapdelaine explained some of it.  There is no doubt that this one is complicated.  It doesn’t follow the budget “rules” that the rest of the budgets do, which means the reporting is hard.  I think of it like looking at a 3D object in 2D – you can see some things clearly, but the 3rd dimension is hard to understand until you rotate the object, or look from a different angle.  This budget needs a different angle.

No one raised their hands.

Youth Services
No one wanted to speak.

Budget passed unanimously.

We adjourned. I came into tonight with a glimmer of hope that we’d be able to finish on Wednesday, the 6th session.  That glimmer of hope still exists, but just barely.  We have very little left that is controversial.  It’s just a matter of how talkative everyone feels.


Comment from Wes Beal
Time: May 13, 2014, 9:57 am

I think last nights discussions, and all of Town Meeting so far, has been notable for being more civil than recent Town Meetings. The ability to disagree without being disagreeable is a skill I’ve been pleased to see more often practiced this year. Of course, we’ve still got something like 23 more articles to go, so we’ll see how we finish.

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 13, 2014, 11:59 am

I appreciated Dean Carmen’s constructive, positive remarks about the high level of collaboration between the school and the other town departments. It’s important to praise what’s working well, especially when Arlington is a standout among most other municipalities.

And now for something that’s not working: Reports and announcements are out of control. It’s not just the listeners who suffer. Abuse a captive audience, and every speaker will struggle to get a fair hearing, no matter how important the content. We need to find a way to end unlimited time for this on any single night and to strongly motivate speakers to take less time and just hit the high points.

Comment from Mike
Time: May 13, 2014, 9:28 pm

The death of Harry McCabe and the absence of Lyman Judd has also added to the civility this year.

Comment from Rich Carreiro
Time: May 14, 2014, 3:39 pm

“We need to find a way to end unlimited time for this on any single night”

Convince Leone to simply not let it happen. As moderator he has the power to tell people not to do this, and to (politely) tell people to sit down and shut up when they go into report-reading mode.

Comment from lehigh valley orthodontics
Time: June 4, 2014, 11:28 am

If the patient is a child, then usually the parent will also
be part of the discussion. Millions of dollars are spent each year, in total, for cosmetic dentistry, and 19% of these treatments consisted of porcelain veneer fitting.
The Hutto Orthodontist is renowned for their uppermost deliberation of orthodontic treatment.