The Town Meeting Warrant, Annual Report and the Report of the Finance Committee are all off to the printers in preparation for the April 3 Annual Town Meeting. Be sure to mark your calendars to attend the meeting scheduled for the Memorial School gymnasium starting at 7PM. The Boy Scouts will be delivering the reports to each household on Sunday, March 26.
22 articles (proposals) will be presented, debated and voted on at the Annual Town Meeting. Over half of these are for the usual budgetary articles for the regional vocational school, the Town’s general operating and capital budgets, the School District’s operating and debt budgets, the Community Preservation Projects, etc. There also will be articles for a new bond to pay for the replacement of water and sewer pipes as well as for replacement capital dollars through what is called a capital exclusion appropriation – more on this and the other budgetary articles in next week’s paper.
For the non-monetary articles, we have two that seek to clarify the procedures to follow at Town Meeting. An old bylaw currently specifies that one can speak on a subject only twice and for a total of ten minutes. The Moderator has the authority to limit how long people speak but there are occasions when these current limits hamper the needed exchange of information. Thus, it is recommended that voters eliminate this provision.
The other proposed amendment to our Town Meeting procedures aims to clarify that a vote to reconsider an article must be made in the same session as the action to be reconsidered. In other words, if Town Meeting extends into a second night, what was approved the previous night cannot be reconsidered during the second night, only during the first night when it was originally approved.
Voters are also being asked to approve two articles that give the Selectmen the authority to establish lower speed limits on town roads without the need for extensive traffic studies and state approval. One allows for a 25 mph speed limit on any road in a thickly settled area or business district. The other allows for a 20 mph zone within designated safety zones. The votes here are not for specific roads but rather for giving the authority to the Selectmen to approve specific roads and areas at a future Selectmen’s meeting.
Article 20 seeks voter approval for a new bylaw giving the Selectmen flexibility in assessing betterments for sewer line extensions/repairs. Back in 1955 voters approved giving the Selectmen the ability to assess betterments (a surcharge to one’s property tax bill over a specified number of years) to help pay for new sewer lines but voters specified that the total cost of the project must be split with the Town paying one third and the property owners paying two thirds. The two thirds must be apportioned amongst the property owners according to lot frontage and area calculations. The Selectmen would like the ability to set the cost sharing percentage between the Town and the property owners on a case by case basis and have the flexibility of apportioning the cost amongst the involved properties using a fixed unit approach like the number of bedrooms each household has. Such flexibility will allow the Selectmen to better tailor future betterment projects to the unique circumstances of a given project.
Another article, if approved by the voters, will allow the Town to apply premiums we sometimes receive when securing bonds to the actual cost of the proposed project. This will allow us to borrow less money, saving taxpayers money – I expect very little debate on this proposal!
I will have more information to share regarding the numerous monetary articles starting next week. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the articles mentioned here, feel free to contact me. With under a month to go it is time to begin preparing for your votes at the Annual Town Meeting!