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Town Meeting ’17 – 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 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.  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.

Moderator John Leone called the meeting to order at 8:00.

The AHS Madrigal Singers performed until 8:15, including the National Anthem.

Test vote on the clicker was about Farenheit 451, count was 126-55-15

Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Joe Curro moved that we return May 8


  • Joe Curro – Saturday and Sunday AHS Pops concert.
  • Barbara Costa – She advocated for Article 60 and referred to a handout on the resolution.
  • John Maher – Symmes Medical Use Fund is accepting applications until June 2nd. They fund any group that provides medical services to Arlingtonians. It’s his 44th Town Meeting. He praised the discourse. He noted that his voting clicker was missing, and someone had used it. It turned out that Diane Mahon had it.
  • Stephen Gilligan – Boy Scout Troop #306 is here. They are celebrating their 100th anniversary in town.
  • Dave Levy – Selling “I Drive 25 for Arlington Kids” bumperstickers, donating to AYCC.
  • Carol Band and Betty Stone – Arlington Porchfest has 120 bands signed up for June 3rd. She talked about Arlington Center for the Arts fundraising.
  • DeAnne Dupont – gave an announcement for Foodlink – Sunday May 21st 2-4pm 117 Broadway.

At 8:33 we got to Reports

  • Barbara Thornton gave the report of the Facilities Committee. The committee works to maintain and protect our $300 million in town property. She introduced the director of Facilities Ruthie Bennet. She updated on the department activities.
  • Eric Helmuth reminded the meeting that the report of the Community Preservation Act was in the back.

8:42 we got to the School Committee budget. It wasn’t clear to me at first exactly what budget we were tackling at this point. I think the moderator was running through the relevant reports/committees in anticipation of the capital budget.  I think it worked well. Jeff Theilman gave the report of the committee and introduced Superintendent Kathleen Bodie. She gave a high-level view of the budget. She talked about the increase in enrollment. She gave an overview of the school building projects in motion.

Charlie Foskett gave the report of the Capital Planning Committee. He reviewed that the votes tonight include both exempt and non-exempt debt. He talked about the votes will be in both the Special Town Meeting and the Regular Town Meeting. He noted that the Stratton project came in $1.5m under budget.

John Cole got a standing ovation for his committee’s work, and gave the report of the Permanent Town Building Committee. He asked for 10 minutes. He reviewed the many building projects in town.

Special Town Meeting Article 3 – Hardy School – $3.5m

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine reviewed the work of the School Enrollment Task Force. They had considered temporary and permanent solutions of several sizes. They opted for a permanent, 6-classroom addition. Carl Wagner noted that it was a good thing that we hadn’t sold the Gibbs. He commented on the evolution of the town. Kate Leary spoke for several Hardy parents. She talked about the changes at Hardy as it grows. She supports the plan and thinks it is needed. 215-1 approved.

Article 4 – Gibbs School – $24.5m

Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine reviewed the details of the Gibbs renovation. The total cost is $2m higher than thought last year because the windows and other exterior work was found to be needed. 96% will come from the debt exclusion, and 4% will come from regular capital budget. William Burke is in favor of this article, but he thinks the town is letting too much building happen and enrollment is going up. Approved 217-0.

Al Tosti noted that the capital budget had changed at the last minute because of the Gibbs budget and the Mystic Street bridge work. He thanked Charlie Foskett and many others for the last-minute revisions of the capital budget.

Special Town Meeting was dissolved.

Regular Town Meeting returned.

Articles 27-33 were tabled.

Break 8 minutes long

Article 34 – Capital Budgets

Gordon Jamieson thanked the town employees and town meeting members for their work. He asked if the presentations would be put online. He asked about the accounting of bond premiums. He thinks we should spend more on parks and fields, and Charlie Foskett said that capital planning was hoping would be paid for out of Community Preservation. Ted Sharpe had a question about the math, and it was explained. Steve Revilak had questions about drainage rehab and Chapter 90 money. Peter Fuller had a question about elementary school ventilation. 205-1 approved.

Article 36 – Application of Bond Premium

Charlie Foskett explained that when we sell bonds, we often get cash payments (premiums). The state has codified how we should apply these payments. Approved 199-0

Article 33 – Budgets

Article was taken from the table. Al Tosti ran through the 5-year projection. He said that the plan has become slightly less conservative over the last few years. He noted that next year, FY2019, we start withdrawing money from our savings. FY2020 will withdraw more from savings. FY2021 we don’t have enough money. We will need an override of 14-16%. He asked everyone to support keeping spending down, and seek additional revenues, particularly from the state.

The moderator uses a “hold” system where each budget gets called, and if not held, then not discussion. Budgets 1, 5, 18, 19, 23, 24, 27, water and sewer, and youth counselling were all held.

Finance Committee – Gordon Jamieson asked for meeting notifications to be emailed.

Information Technology – Peter Fuller asked why that budget was so different. David Good explained that we had a new MUNIS collections package, and a messaging solution. He wants to focus more on security. He’s also working on the construction projects. He’s hiring so he can work on more long-term planning. Susan Stamps wants to know if there are updates to the town website. Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine: we always accept suggestions, improvements are made regularly. There was a question about the software fees. John Deyst asked about security, particularly the finance area. Annie LaCourt asked about disaster planning.

Public Works – Ed Trembly asked about how much salt we used. He thinks town drivers should use snow tires.

Facilities – Barbara Thornton had a question about how we save money with facility software. Steve Revilak wants to know the facility’s information security – same as the other systems.

Education – John Maher asked for an update the relative compensation of our teachers to other towns. Bodie answers, comparable on master’s level, not on other levels. Gordon Jamieson had a question about grants, and special ed, and interventions. This was Gordon’s second time speaking, and he should have been restricted to 5 minutes, and the next time he speaks it will be his third time this article. He was at the podium 13 minutes tonight, out of about 160. Bill Berkowitz thinks the school should use more volunteers. Frank Ciano asked why administration expenses went up faster than janitorial and clerical. Paul Schlichtman reminded the meeting that the school budget line items can’t be modified by the meeting, only the bottom line can be modified. He said that no one was attending the school committee budget hearings, and he welcomed questions in those venues.

We adjourned for the evening.


Comment from Neal Connor
Time: May 4, 2017, 10:03 am

I found the CTO’s comments on security to be alarming, particularly his belief that we can slip under attacker’s radar. That’s not how it works. At all. I got the strong feeling that the IT department is flailing on this and on DR planning. I recognize that it’s a very small shop and that the CTO is by experience and compensation much closer to an IT manager, but it might be time to look at dedicating a resource to security as most organizations do.

There is an enormous amount of saleable PII in the Town’s systems, and the approach to safeguarding it, both from a security and disaster recovery viewpoint, seems to me a bit passive. There are a lot of very experienced systems people in town, many with specific security expertise (including myself) who could serve on an advisory board, but I doubt that would be welcome (I know I wouldn’t like it very much in my shop).

Comment from Eric Helmuth
Time: May 4, 2017, 11:52 am

Interesting point about speaking for a 2nd and potentially 3rd time under the single operating budget article. In practice, it seems that the Moderator has treated “held” budgets as separate articles with respect to debate, although technically speaking, there was no motion for separate consideration or to divide the question.

Comment from Daniel Jalkut
Time: May 4, 2017, 2:25 pm

I agree with Neal Connor that the projected lack of confidence on the security front was surprising. I couldn’t tell how much the CTO was trying to justify changes that he has made, to set the stage for further changes he would like to see, or to genuinely express misgivings about the current state of security. The fact that a security audit is being planned seems good, assuming the auditor is qualified.

However I didn’t interpret the CTO’s speculation that we were “not interesting” to hackers as a defense of the status quo. It came across to me more as an acknowledgment that the absence of any detected comrpomises shouldn’t be taken as evidence that we are sufficiently protected.

Comment from Dan Dunn
Time: May 5, 2017, 5:21 pm

Neal and Daniel – First off, there is an advisory board for people to offer their skills and advice! Annie LaCourt and I helped create it more than 10 years ago now: I encourage you to get involved, for sure.

On your main point about security, I don’t disagree with you. I think the town under-invested in the IT team for a long time, and it’s been a multi-year process to dig ourselves out of that. I think the changes in the budget this year are another step towards improvement. There is still a lot of work to be done.