Town Meeting: “Pooper Scooper” law, moving the election to Tuesday, Committee transparency and more from the Town Clerk

by beth on April 8, 2016

Town Meeting is Monday, and I still haven’t shared everything up for a vote. This year, four articles are coming out of the Town Clerk’s office and another on its behalf. One article seeks to clean up our sidewalks. Other articles focus on cleaning up Town government (or at least make it more efficient, transparent, and convenient).

In speaking with the Animal Control Officer, Town Clerk Jim Hegarty discovered that Southborough lacks a “Pooper Scooper” law. Article 33 would change that.

The bylaw would fine $25 to a dog’s owner or handler (person in possession/control) for failing to:

properly dispose of any feces discharged by such dog on any sidewalk, walkway, street, park, public area, any other public property, or any private property in the Town.

Article 34 allows the Clerk’s office to issue fines for overdue dog licenses, since that department is responsible for license registration and tracking. (Currently, the fining is specified as a police duty.) It also clearly defines the dog permitting rules, fines, and process for appeals. The bylaw also waives license fees for service dogs.

Article 35 deals with pesky issues in the Town’s efforts to be transparent. 

Currently, committees are responsible for keeping their own minutes. That means when someone submits a FOIA request*, the Town has to track down the information. In a recent public forum, Hegarty said the member who holds the files could be keeping them in a garage or have left town. And from what I’ve seen, committees sometimes fall way behind on approving minutes in the first place.

The article would requires committees to approve their minutes and submit them to the Town Clerk’s office within 45 days. That would allow the Town to keep track of the information and share it publicly. The Clerk’s office would notify committees that miss the deadline that they are out of compliance.

In addition, the law requires committees, departments and officials to keep the Town Clerk in the loop on official website and social media accounts. Hegarty informed selectmen that he learned in the fall that website postings and other social media need to be tracked for public records requests. This outlines a policy to allow that.

Article 36 would move Town Elections to the second Tuesday of May. The Town Code currently lists the election as the second Monday. The article mirrors an Article proposed for Northborough Town Meeting. Our elections need to coincide for election of members of the Regional School Committee.

Northborough’s Town Clerk told his selectmen that the irregularity of a Monday election causes confusion. He said that voters often show up a day late. Northborough selectmen voted to move the election date. But it can only happen if voters approve it at both Town Meetings.

A fifth article, mentioned in an earlier post, is sponsored by the Community Preservation Commission on behalf of the Town Clerk.

Hegarty is looking to fund the restoration and preservation of the Town’s historical permanent records. It’s the only of the requests with a budget attached. Article asks for $13,800 from the Community Preservation Fund. (Not familiar with the fund? You can read more about that here.)

*FOIA = Public information request under the Freedom of Information Act

1 Elaine Carr April 8, 2016 at 3:07 PM

Changing Main St Design at Town Meeting

I have watched the Design Committee overseeing this project, and all is not well. This project reduces parking for the Morris Funeral Home, and the owners have asked for changes.

The new street design will reduce on-street parking near the Funeral Home. One problem is that the existing parking in front of the Home is not strictly “on-street”. This is because there is no existing curb in that area, so the road is now level with the existing sidewalk, allowing cars to park over the sidewalk. But the proposed road will have a new, raised curb, so that cars will not be able to drive or park on the sidewalk. So there will be a few less parking spaces.

Other businesses, further down Main St, provide their own private parking, on their own land, beside or behind their buildings. But the Funeral Home, for some reason, has always relied on public parking. This public parking is located over the sidewalk, as well as on several public parking lots nearby, serving the Library, Townhouse, Pilgrim Church, and even Woodward School. All are within easy walking distance.

What can be done to provide more parking for the Funeral Home? I don’t understand why the Home does not provide its own parking on its own lot, just like other businesses. Instead, there have been calls for widening the new street directly in front of the Home. This would mean moving the old stone wall along the Common even further back, reducing the size of the Common still more, enough to provide a new parking lane to serve the Funeral Home.

What is most important? Any widening of the new street must maintain our historic, small-town, character. This central area defines our town.

2 beth April 8, 2016 at 3:23 PM

Since this post doesn’t pertain to Main St, you may not reach the readers you are looking for here.

It might be more appropriate to post your comment here (which may have posted after you wrote your comment) or here.

3 n April 8, 2016 at 4:31 PM

Is there not enough commercial space in town to locate a funeral home with sufficient parking?

I struggle with the idea that a business without enough parking is in some way entitled to the town finding a solution to their problem.

4 M April 9, 2016 at 11:55 AM

I wonder if the planners ever considered an option to make this section of Main St surrounding the Common, into two one-way streets? Go east in front of the funeral home and west up the road closest to the library? It would provide a little inconvenience to drivers but allow street-side parking without widening the road.

5 Carrie April 8, 2016 at 8:05 PM

thanks so much for trying to reach as many townspeople as possible about so many different, important topics up for vote this coming Monday.

as a dog owner who uses the towns open land and walks wherever I can with my dog I am appalled, yes appalled at the number of people who seem to think that the public spaces are their dogs personal open aired toilet. I am 100% behind a fine being imposed on people who do not clean up after their dogs.

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