This Saturday, Southborough voters will act as the Town’s legislative branch, Annual Town Meeting. Residents will be asked to approve Town spending, delegate some authority, amend local bylaws, and “advise” officials on how we want them to govern. Here is my overview of all the details.
The meeting opens at 1:00 pm at Trottier Middle School, 59 Parkerville Road. For participants with kids ages 4+ (and potty trained), free babysitting is available by pre-registration. That is limited to the afternoon session, scheduled to end at 5:00 pm.
An evening session will resume at 7:00 pm. (Sorry, no babysitting. And there won’t be dinner options onsite during the break. But the Town Clerk promoted that there will be a livestream feed of the evening session on YouTube. That will allow voters interested in attending for specific Articles to better time when to show up. I believe that link will be posted to the Town’s website, but you can also check the Town’s YouTube channel.)
On Tuesday night, Town Clerk Jim Hegarty explained to the Select Board that voters will be given yellow wrist bands and voting cards when they check in. (Those are what voters wave in the air to vote yeah or neah.) When they leave, they’ll be asked to turn in their cards. For those that return that already have wristbands, they can skip the check-in line to just pick up their voting cards.
There are 43 Articles to vote on at the meeting. Sadly, the approved Town Meeting Clickers to speed up vote counting on close calls are not available.
To try to expedite business, the Moderator will suggest a Consent Agenda vote to pass several Articles at once. (His planned list isn’t posted, but the Select Board publicly discussed the ones proposed to him by the Town Administrator.)*
For the official Warrant, the planned motions, and several pre-submitted handouts, click here.
Below is the full list of Articles with more context and/or links to more details. To make that easier to follow I’ve taken some out of order to group them with Articles with related coverage. (Articles proposed by the Select Board for the Consent Agenda are in italics.)*
Annual Administrative Requests:
I. Acceptance of Monies from Contributors
2. Borrowing Authorization
3. Authorize Select Board and Supt. of Schools/Three Year Contracts
21. Annual Authorization of Revolving Fund Amounts
22. Appropriation from CPA Funds – Administrative
23. Appropriation from CPA Funds – Debt Payment for Burnett House
24. Appropriation from CPA Funds – Debt Payment for Library Façade Project
4. Amend the Personnel Salary Administration Plan:
The Town’s management of employees (job grades, salaries, benefits, etc) are contained in the Town’s bylaws. Each year the Personnel Board asks voters to approve changes. This year’s changes are described here and specified in a redlined document here.
General Fiscal Requests:
You can read my coverage of the Advisory Committee’s Report, which includes information on the following Articles:
5. Fiscal Year 2024 Budget
7. General Government Capital Items (non-borrowing)
8. Appropriation by Borrowing – Public Safety Radios (portable two-way police and fire radios that need to be replaced every 6-8 years)
10. General Government Capital Items (Leases)
11. General Government Capital Items (Hiring Consultants)
16. Appropriation from Free Cash – Parkerville Road paving
17. Annual Appropriation for OPEB Trust Fund
18. Insurance Deductible Account
19. Payment to Retirees for Accrued Leave Time
20. Facilities Maintenance Fund
6. Fiscal Year 2024 Water Budget (I didn’t about this one, but it’s pretty standard with expenses related to water to be covered by fees collected through water bills.)
Today I wrote about the four Articles on the Warrant related to conservation. Those include the request to fund the legally required work to clean up an old farm dump that pre-existed the Town’s purchase of the Conservation Land in 1980, and official efforts by the Conservation Commission to fix conservation bylaws. You can read my coverage of that here.
9. Appropriation by Borrowing – Breakneck Hill remediation
29. Amend Town Code – Zoning Stormwater and Erosion Control
30. Amend Town Code – Stormwater and Erosion Control
31. Amend Town Code – Wetland and Floodplain District
St Mark’s Park and Street Project
I’ve written extensively about these Articles on the project, as have others through Letters to the editor. You can read all of that here. Four Articles on the Warrant are related. Two sponsored by the Select Board and two more much later on the Warrant under Citizen Petitions:
12. Authorize Select Board to Accept/Dispose of Property – Discontinue portion of St. Mark’s Street
13. Appropriation from Free Cash St. Mark’s St. Park
42. Citizen’s Petition – Cease All Work on St Mark’s Road Project
43. Citizen’s Petition – Request for Forensic Investigation
This is another one with multiple posts (and a letter) covering the Articles for funding the athletic complex project at Algonquin Regional High School. Read about the following two Articles here.
14. Appropriation from CPA Funds – Algonquin Fields
15. General Government Capital Items (Algonquin Sports Complex improvements)
25. Hopkinton IMA for Indirect Connection to MWRA Water
It’s been a while since I’ve written about the Select Board’s decision to pursue the possibility of Hopkinton connecting to the MWRA water supply through Southborough. Since then, the Select Board has reported that Hopkinton is on board with paying for all associated project costs and an extra $1M for Southborough’s unrelated water capital projects. In a preview of the presentation to the Select Board, John Butler shared a photo that he described as confirming that a balloon test demonstrated that increasing the height of the Oak Hill Water Tower wouldn’t be visible from abutters yards.
The Article gives voters a chance to weigh in on whether to proceed. (Although the Article asks for funds to pay for an Engineering Audit of Hopkinton’s proposal, the funds we pay out to a consultant would immediately be reimbursed by Hopkinton.) You can preview the presentation here and read past coverage here.
Public Shade Trees and Stonewalls
You can read my coverage of these articles to protect public trees here, and the Planning Board’s new handout on the Trees bylaw here:
26. Amend Town Code – Trees
27. Tree Maintenance Fund
28. Designation of Scenic Roads
32. Amend Town Code – Change numbering of Town Code and correct typographical errors
This would allow the Town Clerk to correct small errors in the Town Code (typos, and errors of grammar, numbering and punctuation) as well as change formatting to improve clarity and consistency — but not to “in any way alter the language/intent of the bylaw”.
33. Citizen’s Petition – Amend Town Code Change Municipal Election Voting Age
If subsequently approved by the state legislature, this would allow registered 17 year old residents to vote in the annual Town Election. (It would not apply to state/federal elections or Town Meetings.)
The 18 year old petitioner’s stated intent is to help instill a habit of civic engagement among teens. You can read his letter here.
34. Citizen’s Petition – Amend Town Code Zoning (The petitioner has said he will move to indefinitely postpone this Article.)
Parkerville Road speed signs
You can read my coverage of these Citizen Petition Articles here:
35. Citizen’s Petition – Parkerville Road Speed limit Signs
36. Citizen’s Petition – Funding for Parkerville Road Speed Limit Signs
Regional Dispatch Center in Westborough
I’ve written about the Town’s efforts to enter a regional dispatch center for emergency public safety calls, and two Citizen Petition Articles seeking to instruct Select Board members to back out of it. There have also been letters to the editor on the topic. You can read all of that here.
37. Citizen’s Petition – Withdrawal from Metro West REC IMA
38. Citizen’s Petition – Emergency Dispatch Services
39. Citizen’s Petition – Appointments to Public Works Planning Board
You can read my past coverage of this Article to revise who appoints members to this board here. You can also read the proponent’s letter here. (And related breaking news — Today the Attorney General’s office issued its finding that the proponent was right about the board having violated Open Meeting Law in handling of its’ minutes.)
A resident concerned about potential health hazards of 5G has two related Articles. You can read my past coverage here.
40. Citizen’s Petition – Modify Small Cell Policy
41. Citizen’s Petition – Request for Select Board to Petition FCC
*The “Consent Agenda” list of Articles to be voted in as one bundle is proposed by the Moderator (who may choose a slightly different list than the one the Select Board supported). Any single voter can call to hold any or all Articles to be presented and discussed.