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