There was some, but not excessive, debate over Marion Fire Department’s Article 15 to appropriate a maximum of $540,000 for a new fire pumper truck to replace the aging Engine 3.
The first two residents who took the podium on this article both asked the Finance Committee for its recommendation, and both times Finance Committee Chairman Alan Minard deferred comment until after the initial discussions.
At the start of Town Meeting, Minard stood before those assembled and addressed the “emotion” surrounding FinCom’s position on the article and their comments about Fire Chief Thomas Joyce during the FinCom meeting on April 29. Minard stated that he “regret(s) the reporting,” that the context of the quotes reversed the intended message, and “there was no threat to embarrass the chief.” (*Editor’s note: The Wanderer firmly asserts the integrity of the reporting and the accuracy of the quotes. The meeting was not televised or recorded. The reporter reported what was said in the fire chief’s absence, and without bias. See the May 1edition for FinCom coverage of the April 29 meeting.)
FinCom member Jeffrey Dickerson addressed the issue after some debate from the voters, explaining that the process was inconsistent and there was “tardiness” in getting information to the FinCom in a timely manner. He said the Town needs to make an educated decision before making this significant purchase.
Selectman Jonathan Henry said the FinCom was doing a great job, but he felt purchasing the truck was an intelligent decision and that “sufficient process has been observed.”
Resident Chris Collins of 13 River Road said FinCom comments are important, and the residents need control over the tax rates.
“We say yes much more often than we say no,” said Collins, adding that Marion keeps getting “more and more expensive.”
The Fire Department defended its request, referring to the costs of maintaining the current pumper and that $540,000 is the average cost for a pumper truck.
Minard said that in the middle of the night before Town Meeting, he woke up and wondered about the State bid list and if it had been considered.
Joyce stated that the State bid list had not been considered.
Minard said when he woke up that morning, he called a company on the bid list and after giving the seller the specs for the truck, he got a ballpark quote of $425,000 to $450,000.
“These are taxpayer dollars,” said Minard, referring to the $100,000 difference. “Don’t we owe it to ourselves?” He recommended postponing the article, which elicited clapping from the residents.
The article failed by a two to three vote.
Article 10 to appropriate $12,500 for the Conservation Commission to control invasive species at Sprague’s Cove was overwhelmingly defeated after debate went on for some time, including criticism of the Conservation Committee’s oversight of those wetlands.
Annie Rockwell of 1171 Point Road said, “Before the [ConCom] destroyed it,” the cove was a beautiful area. She said the commission “carpet-bagged” the area in 2012, which shocked her and other residents whom she said helped develop the “green way to take care of the storm water.” She opposed the article.
“I agree with Annie,” said Sandra Parsons of South Street. “It was a major haircut.” She questioned the proposed use of herbicides near the water.
It’s like a never-ending battle that you could never win, said John Rockwell. “Like filling a bucket with a hole, and that bucket will never fill.”
The article was defeated.
There was a lot of debate over Article 9 for $34,791 to buy a new police cruiser before meeting members approved the article. The Police Department has a policy to replace two cruisers every year, and this year one would be funded through the budget, the other through Town Meeting appropriation.
Discussion was lively, with resident Bernard Greenwood asking why such a small town needs eight cruisers.
“Are we just a Cadillac town?” He asked how many officers are on duty at any particular time, to which Chief Lincoln Miller said about two to five officers. Greenwood asked if the officers drive two cars at the same time.
“The program we have works,” said Miller. “We have not added to the fleet.”
“I think eight is excessive,” said Greenwood.
The article passed, but with a few “nays” from the crowd.
Article 21 to appropriate $46,500 to explore options for future construction of a new DPW building passed, but after lengthy debates over why the Town needed a new DPW complex.
Residents held lengthy discussions over Article 32 to accept a conservation restriction gift of eight acres of wetlands near Dexter Beach before voting down the article. Many asked why the Town should accept the wetlands with limited building potential and take it off the tax books.
Article 33 to accept a conservation lands gift along the “Greenway” of Route 6 was accepted, but not after lengthy discussions of its own.
Resident Patricia DeCosta said only one person would benefit from the acceptance. Rockwell said the Town would only be losing nine cents per year by accepting the property, which was accepted by voters.
The other articles in the warrant passed with minimal discussion or opposition.
During a brief Special Town Meeting, the only article – to appropriate an additional $50,000 to the snow and ice budget – passed.
By Jean Perry