Solar Bylaws Lose and Win in Marion

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 4×4 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 4×4 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.

By Joan Hartnett-Barry

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