Letter: Select Board shouldn’t wait to withdraw from Dispatch IMA (Updated)

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

[An open letter to the Select Board from Bonnie Phaneuf and John Butler]

Our hope is that this Select Board does not delay in honoring the nearly unanimous request of Town Meeting that the Town withdraw from the current IMA agreement per its terms. Without judging the merits of any possible Regional Dispatch, Article 37 focused on the defects of this IMA. Those defects are that it stipulates that Regional Dispatch employees be located on a Superfund site, when there is abundant, safe office space everywhere, and gives setting of Southborough taxation, without caps, to the Town Managers of Westborough and Grafton.

This Town can only operate through the respectful honoring of requests flowing in both directions between Select Board and Town Meeting. Select Board came to Town Meeting with a list of requests in the Warrant, mostly for budget and taxes. All of those requests were “advisory” in the sense that the sole authority to act on them rested with Town Meeting. Town Meeting acted respectfully and promptly to pass all the Select Board requests. Then, Town Meeting, after hearing full debate and presentations by the Select Board, made a near unanimous request of Select Board, that it use the terms of the agreement it had signed to exit that agreement. This request was “advisory” in exactly the same sense as the budgets were advisory.

The Town has always operated through respect and courtesy between Select Board and Town Meeting. We don’t want to see that mutual tradition change. On no occasion, within our memory, has Select Board ever failed to respond to a nearly unanimous request of Town Meeting. We don’t know what this Select Board will do now. If this Select Board is not going to implement Town Meeting’s request soon, citizens may interpret that as a desire on the part of Select Board to govern solely by legal authority, in disregard of mutual requests. This is legal, but may be unwise. It naturally leads to considering a recourse to the wide legal authority that remains to the citizens.

The vote by Town Meeting on Article 37 also specifically requested that, before any entry into Regional Dispatch, the Select Board re-consult Town Meeting. Therefore since a substantially new Select Board may need to take up this question before the June 1 effective date, and if the current Select Board does not honor the recent request by Town Meeting, we will submit signatures to require a Special Town Meeting before the June 1 date. This will implement Town Meeting’s nearly unanimous vote for further consultation before finalizing any such agreement. Such Town Meeting can decide if it wishes to place a request with the new Select Board similar to that it has registered with this outgoing one, and can consider all the best means of dealing with dispatch issues. Given the magnitude of the irreversible decision before us, a Town Meeting focused on the question is not a bad idea, although it would be much better if the defective IMA were first disposed of by this Select Board and the topic considered again at a much later date, with the possibility then of some better plan for dispatch than this defective IMA. Therefore we hope that SB acts on request of the recent Town Meeting. If it does so, this Special Town Meeting to consider the question before June 1 will become unnecessary and we, as a Town, can remain within our tradition of operating through respect for mutual requests between Select Board and Town Meeting.

Ms. Bonnie Phaneuf (179 Middle Road) and Mr. John Butler (4 Davis Road)

Updated (4/5/23 2:07 pm): Bonnie Phaneuf updated that she forgot to include a note that she will be at the Transfer Station this coming Friday and Saturday collecting signatures. 

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Al Hamilton
1 year ago

Anyone who knows Ms. Phaneuf or Mr. Butler knows they are serious. I hope it does not come to this. We also need to be fair to Westborough and Grafton. They need to plan on what to do without Southborough at this time and under these terms.
Regardless, the economic and Commonwealth pressure to join a regional dispatch system is real. Before we proceed we need a clear about what the potential benefits of a system are and how it can at a minimum provide comparable service. This information should be shared in some form with Town Meeting before an irreversible decision is made.
The Selectboard is not and should not be bound by “advisory” articles. At the same time the wholesale opposition by Town Meeting should, give pause to reflect and perhaps develop a plan that better explains the wisdom of their action. Regardless, after listening to Town Meeting, the decision remains with the Select Board.
I will sign Ms. Phaneuf’s and Mr Butler’s petition if necessary.

1 year ago

I agree, but won’t be surprised if this select board chooses to ignore the will of the voters

David Parry
1 year ago

Let’s face the truth. This Select Board has been remiss in its duty to our present, loyal, dispatch employees, as well as to future taxpayers who would have to pay for the unworkable new region. Will the next Select Board dare to deny the will of sovereign Town Meeting?

The ANSWER to getting out of the region is POLITICAL. Voters can resolve the matter at the May 3rd election. Vote in NEW Select Board members who have FIRMLY COMMITTED to getting out of the region before it is too late. All we need is a simple majority — three votes out of five.

Candidate David Parry was FIRST to publicly COMMIT to voting to GET OUT. Candudate Al Hamilton has joined Parry. So that is two votes. We need one more.

Existing member Kathy Cook can become the third vote. Why? Because she has NOT voted to join the region. The February vote was 4 to join and 1 vote (Cook) neutral. I believe Cook has been iistening, and it would be political suicide for her to switch her vote to remain.

So there you have it. 3 out of 5 votes. Parry, Hamilton and Cook.

Mike Pojani
1 year ago

I totally agree with Bonnie and all the facts are there! This idea to regionalize is very bad and as much as it is legal for the Select Board to make are a decision it is not right. The voters have spoken and that MUST be what path should be pursued! If it’s not broke which it is not don’t fix it! Withdraw now not later!

John Kendall
1 year ago

I agree with Bonnie, John Butler, and everyone else, except Jack Barron. Never a nice word from him

Beth Melo
1 year ago

Relevant to the letter and discussion in these comments — The Select Board’s first regular meeting since Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 10th. On the currently posted agenda, under “Other Matters (Board may vote)”, is “Discussion of RECC IMA” and “Discussion of March 25, 2023 Town Meeting results”.

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