PLYMPTON – Voters at Wednesday night’s Annual Town Meeting voted to keep the Community Preservation Act in Plympton, despite an attempt to put the question on the ballot in the next town election.
Citizen’s Petition Article 23 could have put the end of Plympton’s involvement with the Community Preservation Act by putting it on the ballot in November for Plympton voters to reconsider. While the printed warrant which meeting members were mailed and/or given Wednesday night had one date, John Henry, speaking to the article, made the motion with another date. This prompted much confusion as to when the motion would ask voters to vote – 2016 or 2017?
Selectmen Chairman Mark Russo noted that of the 160 cities and towns in the commonwealth that participate in CPA, none have ever left. The Finance Committee also noted that CPA often undertakes projects in the town which would not likely be funded in the regular budget, thereby saving taxes. Voters who were concerned about the surcharge and lowering taxes were reminded of the various exemptions in place and the help for qualifying mid to low income senior citizens and individuals. The article failed.
Of the 10 Citizen Petitions on the warrant, only two prevailed.
The lengthy warrant of 40 articles was completed in one night.
Moderator John Traynor stated at the beginning of the meeting, “We’ve come here as friends and neighbors and we’ll leave as neighbors,” to laughter from those gathered. While some controversy was apparent throughout the evening, the meeting was quite civil.
Selectperson Colleen Thompson began the meeting with a tribute to outgoing Selectmen Chairman Mark Russo, who also spoke a few words, saying that he had been thankful to have had the often thankless job of being a selectman, and pleaded with voters to think about the medium and long-term trajectory of, “the town we adore,” when they vote.
The Finance Committee presented an operating budget with a 1% increase, noting that savings were found in the Vocational and Special Education budget requests from the Silver Lake Regional School District, but that those numbers can’t be counted on year to year as students requiring these services move in and out of town. They also noted a 15% health insurance rate increase for the town.
Most, but not all, employees received an overall 2% increase in salaries, and the FinCom says they tried to level fund all departments. Voters Jack Doyle, of Main Street, and Maureen Springer, of Granville Baker Way, were frequent voices of even further fiscal conservatism throughout the evening.
Doyle questioned why there was a 20% increase in assessors’ expenses (maps are being updated this year), and Springer several times questioned why various employees were receiving more than a 2% wage increase.
Other than a few similar questions, the approximately $9.8 million dollar budget passed with a super-majority.
All of the STM articles passed, except for Article 8, which would have authorized the Board of Selectmen to enter into a “payment in lieu of taxes” agreement with a solar company. These PILOT agreements allow the company to spread their property taxes evenly over a 20-year period, rather than paying diminishing taxes over time, which provides a steady revenue source for the town. Several other PILOT agreements were authorized in the STM, but voters were concerned with this particular project as the details have not yet been negotiated.
The Fire Department requested Article 14, which generated some controversy. The department asked for $8,130 to be appropriated for energy efficient upgrades to the lighting in the aging station. Yet this did not go over well with voters. Stephen Bentley, of Annasnappitt Drive, asked if this was a safety issue. Chief Warren Borsari hedged on committing to an answer. Jack Doyle, of Main Street, said he did not support, “putting a dime,” into the old station, saying the town needed a new one. The article failed.
The voters passed Article 15 unanimously and passed Article 16 by majority, both of which fund the Community Preservation Committee and its activities, then later heatedly debated a citizens’ petition to place a vote to not participate in the CPA at all on the ballot in November, 2016, Article 23 chich failed.
Article 20 was passed over, which involved a potential land-sale from the Silver Lake High School campus to the Town of Kingston for the purpose of building a new Kingston Police Station, due to last-minute legal hurdles with the sale. Maureen Springer, a Silver Lake School Committee member, stated that the article would be back for a town meeting to consider.
Next came the ten citizens’ petitions, which prompted Selectmen Chairman Russo to plead with voters to be cautious, asking them to allow their town government to work through proper processes. “Citizens’ petitions are a risky prospect,” he said, noting that there are elected officials for a reason. This apparently caused some voters to bristle, with Dawn Hastings of Ring Road, noting, “Our voices matter…and they can be taken away…”
Article 21, a citizens’ petition, would have made required special legislation to change the way the Capital stabilization account funds authorized to be spent.. The article failed, 37-105.
Article 22, also a citizens’ petition that would have funded planning, design and construction of a police station, was passed over, as this is being, “handled in a different way,” according to Art Morin, of Granville Baker Way.
Articles 24 and 25 would have changed the demolition delay by-law used by the historical commission to encourage preservation from 18 months to 6 months. Article 24 failed, leaving the by-law as is, and Article 25 was passed over as it was closely related.
Two non-binding articles, again both citizens’ petitions, asked voters to vote to ask the selectmen to put a non-binding referendum question on the next ballot regarding Jeff Randall’s proposed Ring Road marijuana grow facility and the second to instruct the Board of Selectmen to wait until current legislation modifying Chapter 40(A)3 agricultural zoning regulations at the state level is settled before making any decision on whether to not oppose, support (or oppose by taking no action) the grow-op. Both closely passed– Articles 28 and 29.
A more far-reaching marijuana related by-law change did not pass, as Town Counsel noted that it would be non-binding and unenforceable and it would usurp power the state has granted the selectmen, not Town Meeting. Ethan Stiles, of West Street, stated that the town had updated its marijuana by-laws in 2013 and didn’t see the need to change anything at the moment.
Article 33 passed, and the “Highway Surveyor” position, if the state grants the home rule petition, will be appointed and not elected in the future.
Article 34 passed, and created, but does not fund, a future Town Administrator position, with more responsibilities than the current Town Coordinator position.
Article 35 passed, paving the way for the town to acquire land adjacent to the current municipal campus for a future public safety complex or other municipal needs. Article 36 passed and funded a sum of $125,000 for a consultant for initial plans for the complex.
Finally, the Dennett School will receive $30,000 for a high-tech security system, which the police and fire department, as well as the school committee, feel is extremely important, according to both chiefs.
The meeting concluded at about 11:30 p.m.