Town Meeting Warrant to close December 17th (May include Articles on Local Meals Tax and researching Transfer Station future)

by beth on December 6, 2019

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I was tied up over Thanksgiving week and am just starting to dig my way out of my backlog. That means that I’m two meetings behind in covering Board of Selectmen business. This item from the November 26th meeting jumped out at me as the most pressing to share:

Chair Brian Shea announced that the Annual Town Meeting Warrant is open until December 17th. Selectmen plan to close the Warrant that night. So, if you have an Article you’d like to bring to voters, you better act quickly.*

At that meeting, Selectmen will hold a follow up discussion on Advisory’s recommendation to adopt a Local Meal Tax. They expect to vote that night on whether or not to pursue a Warrant Article to do that. The board plans to invite restaurant owners in Town to attend, along with the Economic Development Committee.

You can expect that the Warrant as of the 17th will include several Article placeholders. One of those may be an Article to bring in a consultant to work with the Public Works Planning Board.

At the Thanksgiving week meeting, Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan informed selectmen that the funding changes the PWPB recommended aren’t meant for FY21. She said the board wanted to take a year to gauge public opinion on a course of action.

Galligan furthered that they should get feedback on more than just the financials. She said that the Town has a huge silent majority beyond the about 500 residents they do hear from. One of the factors in the station’s future budget is that the hopper will need replacing. She opined that it wouldn’t make sense to invest in that if residents don’t want to carry trash in their cars. 

The Superintendent said that they often hear recommendations for the Transfer Station that seem to focus on the idea of a community center. She lamented the lack of a current town plan that focuses on what facilities are needed in town and how to get there.

She wants to know how many residents would prefer trash pickup, keeping the transfer station the same, or some other changes to the station. (Part of that research is understanding what costs residents would support for their preferences.) 

Galligan recommended asking Town Meeting to fund a consultant to help with the process. The consultant would help the PWPB survey the public, conduct one or more charettes**, and analyze public input. Selectmen didn’t formally vote but indicated support for the plan. (It wasn’t clear to me whether the item would be presented as a specific article or one of the items under the Town’s annual Capital Expense Article.)

*While the Annual Town Meeting Warrant is open, it only requires ten registered voter signatures to insert a Citizen’s Article. (It’s a much lower threshold than for Special Town Meeting Articles.)

Once the Warrant is closed, it is likely that the Board will reopen temporarily between now and the final version, but that’s usually done within a couple of minutes in a meeting, not for an extended period.

**A charette is defined by Google as a meeting in which all stakeholders in a project attempt to resolve conflicts and map solutions.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 silent_majority December 9, 2019 at 8:09 AM

Silent majority, eh? Would that be the same people who do not go to Town Meeting every year? If so, they are missing out by being absent and not having the opportunity to vote on issues that will affect them!

If one wants to be heard – or even cares about certain issues – remaining silent is not the way to transmit one’s ideas or thoughts. It is puzzling why Ms. Galligan is so concerned about this so-called silent majority. Where did the ideas put forth previously concerning transfer station funding, with double whacking seniors, originate?

As for hiring a consultant – let me guess – Ms. Galligan already has someone in mind, correct?

How about a survey sent by the Town to all households asking about people’s preferences for the transfer station? Forget about a highly paid consultant! Just what we need – more experts to tell us how to think. If households do not respond to a Town transfer station interest survey, they presumably do not care.

As for the transfer station being a community center, what a bunch of trash talk! Perhaps the library is more of a community center. If it was to be open on Sundays, it might take the place of visits to Starbucks!

The whole transfer station issue needs to be carefully thought out. The DPW needs to stop trying to force its ideas on the residents of the Town. What does the DPW pay in taxes to the Town?

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2 beth December 9, 2019 at 8:22 AM

It seems as though you are jumping to a lot of conclusions here, and I’m not sure what is triggering your upset.

1.) If the DPW pushed changes to the Transfer Station without taking the pulse of what the community wants, I’m sure that a lot of people would be upset that they didn’t get a chance to weigh in.

2.) Since the idea of the consultant is being brought to Town Meeting, and its likely that any big changes would require funding that has to be approved at a future Town Meeting, it seems that Town Meeting voters will have a big say in what happens.

3.) The idea that the Transfer Station is thought of as a community center is something that has been publicly discussed by residents and officials for a while. It’s where groups hold bake sales, Girl Scouts sell cookies, Cub Scouts sell wreaths, etc. People use it to collect signatures on petitions and to run for office. I didn’t think that Ms. Galligan was pushing that it should be a community center. My interpretation was that she thought that some people’s opinions about the Transfer Station hinged on their perception that it is one.

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