The Wanderer - Mobile Edition
MARION SELECTMEN'S MEETING
Voters Run Numbers Through the Ringer
Marion Town Meeting: Night One
By Shawn Badgley
Marion voters didn't make it easy on officials during the first of what looks to be at least a few nights of Town Meeting.
Residents approved with minimal discussion on Monday a two percent increase in salaries for elected officials and a total Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget of $19,222,999, representing a 2.26 percent jump from FY 13. Instead, they saved most of their scrutiny for Phase 1A of the Village Area Infrastructure Capital Improvement Plan.
Phase 1A would address roadway access and utility improvements on Ryder Lane, South Street and Spring Street. After grants and Chapter 90 funds, the project's price tag comes to $3,147,400, too high for some voters.
"I'm sick and tired of water and sewer rate increases, and I know others feel the same way" Tom Magauran said. "Our rates are already ridiculous; they're absurd."
The project would not increase water rates, but sewer rates for Marion residents would spike by an average of $10. While officials assured voters that approving Phase 1A would not lock the town into future phases, some weren't buying it.
"This is a down payment on a $20 million project," said Ted North, who ended up in a shouting match with Moderator David Titus during the night's most heated moment. Titus ultimately deemed North out of order, earning subsequent chastisement from Magauran for discouraging debate.
Magauran and other voters lamented a perceived lack of transparency on the part of the Board of Selectmen and other officials.
"Nobody can answer the simple question, 'what is the money being spent on?' We've dedicated money to this before, and where did it go?" Magauran said. "It's the same bill of goods with a new title. There's a lot of semantics and nonsense going on here."
Finance Committee Chairman Alan Minard said he understood voters' concerns.
"This is expensive, but it's something we need to do," he said in recommending Article 13.
After more than an hour of discussion, Marion voters OK'd the project, which is set to begin this summer. Soon after passage of Article 13, they voted to appropriate upward of $4.5 million to the water and sewer enterprise funds.
Elsewhere on the warrant, voters approved:
Article 5, which will transfer $25,000 from the Treasury to the funding of accrued benefits for retiring employees;
Article 6, which transfers $25,000 from the Overlay Surplus Account to the Board of Assessors for the revaluation of property as mandated by the Department of Revenue;
Article 7, dedicating $125,000 to the Other Post-Employment Benefit Liability Trust Fund;
and Article 8, which sends $100,000 to the Stabilization Fund.
In addition, Article S1, a special item to supplement the Department of Public Works FY 13 budget with $80,000 after destructive winter storms, passed.
The evening's other contentious item - and the last that Town Meeting would consider until Tuesday night - was Article 9, which asked voters to appropriate $100,000 to a feasibility study on renovations to the Marion Town House. A similar item failed last year, but squeaked through after significant debate on Monday.
"I think you missed the point last year when you lost the vote," said Magauran. "You have to do a broader, better job of looking at the options."
Resident Annie Hayes, a former contractor, challenged officials to cite specifics in terms of deteriorating facilities, while wondering whether the project was fiscally sound.
Minard agreed, but only to a point.
"I hate it," he said, "but I think we should move forward."
In addition to Minard's testimony, voters appeared to respond to Selectman John Henry's claim that the town owed "a legacy to Elizabeth Taber," as well as his even-handed and reasoned approach throughout the proceedings.
Henry will need to maintain that approach, as Marion Town Meeting heads into night two with nary a third of its warrant navigated.
Solar Bylaws Lose and Win in Marion
Marion Town Meeting Night Two
By Joan Hartnett-Barry
Article 30, the first of the Solar Bylaws proposed by the Marion Energy Management Committee, failed by four votes during the final night of the Marion Town Meeting on Tuesday. It would have formalized the process for installing residential solar arrays. After an informative presentation from Jennifer Francis of the Energy Management Committee and a statement from the Planning Board by Chair Jay Ryder, much discussion and questions on the issue came from town residents.
Then, residents voted. David Titus, Town Moderator, asked for a hand count. Residents raised their hands and each vote was counted. Seventy-nine voted for Article 30 and 48 were against it. Because town meeting requires a two-thirds vote to approve the bylaw amendment, it was defeated.
The Solar Bylaws have been a bone of contention between the Planning Board and the EMC. The complex proposal prompted residents to ask various questions, which were addressed by both sides. At issue was the absence of a special permit process and approval by the Planning Board for solar arrays in town with abutter input.
Approved by a two-thirds majority, again by counting a raised hand vote, was a new Municipal Solar Overlay District designating the town dump area as a site for a solar garden. The vote was 82 votes for the article and 31 against. The two-thirds majority requirement was met, and Article 31 passed.
Again, the proposal had the Planning Board and the EMC both presenting reasons for and against the warrant article.
Ryder said that the two committees - and others - would work together to present an "appropriate" residential bylaw to town residents at the next Town Meeting, to be held in the fall.
A request for the purchase of a new pumper engine for the Fire Department for the approximate sum of $595,000 was defeated. Another Fire Department request for $7,500 for the purchase of four thermal imaging cameras was approved. A request for an upgrade or replacement of the telephone system at a cost of $28,500 was not approved. A $35,500 request for replacement of air packs was approved for the Fire Department.
An overhaul of the Council on Aging bylaws was approved and had no financial impact.
Residents approved a sum of $90,000 to upgrade outside and inside lighting with energy efficient lighting. The EMC asked NSTAR to conduct an energy audit at Sippican School, and this was a recommendation. The replacement of the lighting should generate a savings of more than $24,000 annually. Voters also agreed to a sum of $66,000 to replace 10 windows at Sippican School.
The town agreed to requests from the Department of Public Works, which includes water and sewer, for $60,000 to replace an outdated computer system that helps oversee the wastewater treatment plant.
An article on waterfront facilities was approved. $150,000 will be transferred from available funds to replace docks and pilings at Island Wharf and at Old Landing. There will be no cost to taxpayers for this transfer. Harbormaster Mike Cormier and his staff plan to do 30% of the manual work to replace the boardwalk at Island Wharf, reducing the overall cost of the project. Other improvements include replacing the concrete part of the 1991 floats and replacing nine existing pilings at Old Landing and putting in five more to reinforce the area to improve public safety.
The Assessor's office will purchase an upgrade to their Geographic Information System software for a sum of $25,000, which was approved.
The Department of Public Works got the approval to purchase three new vehicles. The Highway Division will purchase a new one-ton dump truck at a cost of $61,000. A one-ton utility truck 4x4 with plow at a cost of $40,000 for the Water Department was also approved. A $40,000 vehicle for the Sewer Department was also approved, paving the way for a new one-ton utility truck 4x4 with plow.
The Community Preservation Committee got the approval for a $2,000 request for annual administration costs. "This is less than three percent of our operating budget," said Lori Schaefer, representing the committee.
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