Town Meeting - November 1, 2012
by Paul Saulnier 11/1/12
There were 21 articles, including a pile of manure, that were of concern to residents at the Fall Town Meeting.
The Finance Committee was prepared to discuss the articles and answer questions from the 150ish residents in attendance.
The video above can be viewed in high definition by clicking on the little gear at the bottom of the video (next to CC) and in full screne by clicking on the icon at the bottom right corner after starting the video.
After Hurricane Sandy blew us around and soaked us, we managed to hold town meeting three days later on November 1, 2012, also known as All Saints Day.
Before the articles were discussed Selectman Jay Marsden made a presentation declaring the new park at Central Street and Railroad as Blair Square (see video above). In response to Moderator Kevin Clancy's request to keep comments brief, Mayor Blair spoke for about ten seconds.
Finance committee chairman Ken Szajda gave an overview of town finances. Basically we are in better shape than expected due to a low snow winter and employee benefits. Savings will be used to fund annual obligations.
The warrant consisted of 21 articles and is available on the town website. The following is a brief synopsis of the warrant:
Articles 1,2,3,4,5 dealt with the payment of old bills, the transfer of funds to supplement various accounts, increase compensation for firefighters, provided funds for the Stabilization Fund, provided funds for the Capitilization Fund and funds to reduce the tax rate. All approved.
Chief Michael spoke in favor of the increses to the on-call firefighter's compensation, citing a comparison of similar departments in the towns of Holden, Stow, Ipswitch, Sturbridge, and Lunenburg.
Article 6 authorized an auction of surplus equipment. Approved.
Article 7 was to raise and appropriate money to replace and purchase equipment for the Highway, Police, School, Park, Water and Fire Departments, the Library and the Council on Aging. Approved.
Articles 8 and 9 related to the Community Preservation Act and the budget for the fiscal year 2013. Funds (includes town funds and fund raising) involved in various projects, including Miller School playground and Goodwill park tennis and basketball courts. State law now allows use of CPA funds for the repair of parks. Usage fees will provide the funds for ongoing maintenance. Approved.
Article 9 proposed to reduce the assessed value of businesses and therefore reduced CPA funds as an incentive to attract business to Holliston. Selectman Kevin Conley spoke in favor. The article was approved (four of the six members of the Finance Committee voted against article 9.)
Student Andrew Mades seized the moment to ask residents to keep the park lights on for a while after dark to provide a "legal" place for kids to meet friends.
Articles 10 and 11 dealt with “Other post-employment benefits” or “OPEB”. This deals with benefits other than pensions, including healthcare benefits. A OPEB Trust Fund would be established with a five member board to supervise and manage the fund. Bill Dowd asked that the benefits package be straightened out before we vote for funding of the benefits. Selectman Marsden said that some adjustments have been made totalling 1.5 million per year. He feels that promises have been made to employees and he feels that those promises should be upheld. Sam Tyler spoke in support of establishing a trust fund since the funds could not be used for any other purpose. He recommended against article 10 and in favor of article 11. Article 10 passed so Article 11 (an alternative trust fund designed by the state) was indefinitely postponed.
Article 12 asked to vote to accept the provisions of specified sections of the Massachusetts General Laws to create a veterans' volunteer services/real property tax obligation program. $10,000 appropriated. Passed.
Article 13 sought approval to increase the annual income limit for seniors applying for tax deferral from $30,000 to $40,000. Passed.
Article 14 provided funds to revise and update the Town's Web site. $10,000 appropriated. Passed.
Articles 15 and 16 were intended to provide additional funds to complete the construction of a new well house at well #7, install a water main to connect to the Dopping Brook Treatment plant and complete modifications to the Joseph Finn Water Treatment facility. $195,351.50 appropriated. Passed. $25,000 appropriated under Article 16 was appropriated and also passed.
Article 17 provided funds for a sharps disposal program (proper disposal of needles and other pointy medical products). Passed.
Article 18 eliminated any elected official receiving a stipend less than $5,000 a year from participating in the Town's health and life insurance plans, unless that official pays full monthly costs.
Liz Theiler spoke to this article. She noted that $108,000 was paid for one elected official's health benefits in the past, and the town will pay about $5,000 ($917 per month) until this article goes into affect in May, 2013 for the one remaining elected official using the benefit. She motioned to change the effective date to delete the benefit as soon as possible rather than after the May 2013 election, as proposed. Selectman Marsden explained that he took advantage of the program for a period until he became part of the debate over this benefit and withdrew from the program. The motion was defeated and then the article was defeated.
Article 19 amended the Groundwater Protection District of the Zoning By-laws.
Jared Adams explained that this article will require a building placed on a lot to leave enough open space (85% versus 80% previously) on the lot to allow recharge, and to cover manure piles to prevent runoff from entering the Zone II water shed and eventually reaching a town well. After much debate, generated by Donna Kramer over the requirements to control runoff from manure piles, one weary resident asked to MOOOOOOVE the question. The article passed.
Article 20 sought to allow the Board of Selectmen the right to grant an easement on Curve Street. Passed. Now Bertucci's can fix any problem which might arise with their sewer pipe under Curve Street. What a relief.
Article 21 allows the Selectmen to enter into a process to aggregate electrical load for electric utility customers in Holliston. Passed.
The meeting adjourned at 10:16 PM. Say Good night, Gracy.