The Town of Southborough has posted the Warrant for the upcoming Special Town Meeting. With all the attention on the Golf Course and Public Safety Building, you may be surprised by some of the Citizen Petition Articles up for vote.
Articles include creating a Technology Committee, procedures for recalling/removing officials, and allowing elected boards to hire counsel in special circumstances without going through selectmen.
The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 8 at Trottier Middle School – so save the date.
Below is a list of the articles and brief summaries. I have written much more in depth on the golf course articles in the past. For the other articles, stay tuned for future posts with more detail.
For the full language of each article, you can open the Warrant here.
Meet the Articles . . .
Town sponsored articles:
Article 1 – Purchase & Sale of St. Mark’s Golf Course, New Public Safety Facility:
This would authorize selectmen to execute a land deal with St. Mark’s School for purchasing the golf course and releasing Town properties in exchange. It would also authorize financing the building of a combined Public Safety Complex for the Town’s Police and Fire Departments on that site.
If approved, it still requires permission to override proposition 2 1/2. That requires approval by a ballot vote. If this passes, the following question would be added to the ballot:
Shall the Town of Southborough be allowed to exempt from the provisions of proposition two and one half, so called, the amounts required to pay for the bonds to be issued in order to acquire land and construct a new public safety complex, and for the payment of costs incidental or related thereto?
Article 2 – Petition Legislature for Special Act, allowing Purchase & Sale of St. Mark’s Golf Course (Tied to approval of Article 1):
To finalize the deal, the Town requires permission from state legislature. To petition for that, they need approval from Town Meeting voters.
Citizen Petition Articles:
Article 3 – Conservation Restriction for remainder of St Mark’s Golf Course property (Tied to approval of Articles 1 & 2):
Asks voters to place a Conservation Restriction (CR) on the golf course except for approximately 4 acres proposed for the Public Safety Facility. The CR would be to preserve the remaining land as open space, for the benefit of the Town and its residents and allow the golf course to continue in operation for as long as the Town (through Town Meeting) desires, as well as other types of outdoor recreation.
Proponents claim that it is a binding article that would require selectmen to enact the CR. Opponents claim it is non-binding, as the voters don’t have the authority to force selectmen to follow through.
Article 4 – Conservation Restriction for entirety of St Mark’s Golf Course property (Requires rejection of Articles 1 & 2):
This article is a non-binding article to advise selectmen on voters’ opinion. Approval would urge selectmen to renegotiate the purchase of the Golf Course and place it under a Conservation Restriction. If accomplished, it would allow the golf course operation to continue, to help make the purchase of the land financially feasible while providing needed recreational opportunities.
[Editor’s Note: Selectmen have publicly claimed that even if this passes the board will not attempt to renegotiate a deal with St Mark’s School. (More specifically, those statements were made by two selectmen at their February 7th meeting. They were not refuted by the other members, so I presumed their support.)]
Article 5 – Standing Committee for Technology
To replace what even the Town has referred to as an outdated Ad Hoc committee on municipal technology. It is intended to provide longer term strategies for improving and maintaining the Town’s technology. The purpose is to improve citizen services and operational efficiency.
Article 6 – Petition Legislature for Special Act, RE: Removal Bylaw for Elected Officials
This home-rule petition updates the Town’s bylaws to specify a process for recall of elected officials. It creates a process by which 10% of the registered voters of the Town can force a recall election for an elected official.
Article 7 – Removal of Appointed Board/Committee/Commission members
This petition adds to the Town’s bylaws to specify a process for removal of an appointed member of a public body. The appointing authority would hold a hearing then decides on whether or not to remove the official. That hearing would be triggered by one of the following: (1) a super-majority vote of the appointing authority; (2) a majority vote of the members of the public body; or (3) by petition of 200 or more registered voters.
Article 8 – Citizen Petition – Bylaw for Independent Counsel for Elected Boards and Officers
This petition allows elected boards/officials to engage legal counsel, without requiring Selectmen’s approval—provided that Town Counsel is conflicted. The board/official may use pro bono services or must have access to funds by budget or donations.
Updated (2/14/17 1:42 pm): I had indicated that Article 3 is non-binding. It was a claim made by proponents of Article 4 that seemed to be accepted by Selectmen and wasn’t refuted by other commenters at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting. However, one of the Article’s authors claims that it is a binding Article. So, the intent is for it to be binding. (And Town Counsel has yet to publicly weigh in on whether it is or isn’t. I will update you when I hear an answer on that.)