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Marion Election and Meeting Results

Town of Marion
Special Town Meeting

November 5, 2007

By Kenneth J. Souza

A Special Town Meeting for the Town of Marion was called to order on Monday, November 5 at 7:03 pm in the auditorium of Sippican School by Town Moderator David B. Titus having noted the presence of a quorum of some 65 voters.

Under ARTICLE S1, voters were asked to appropriate $125,000 from Free Cash to be used to fund that portion of the Sippican School operating budget dedicated for Special Education.

"This will increase the Sippican School Special Education budget within the current fiscal year," said Selectman Andrew Jeffrey. "Any unused funds will be returned to the General Fund this year ... no funds will be used to supplement the Sippican School budget."

A motion was made by Marion School Committee Chairman Jane McCarthy to reduce the appropriation to $50,000, which was unanimously approved.

"I don't think spending $125,000 for Special Education is a bad idea, but if the funds don't get used and have to go back to the town, why can't there be matching funds made available for (other) students?" asked resident Chris Collings. "I just feel like we spend a whole lot of money in one direction ... but there isn't a dime being spent for the kids who could go a little further."

"Could somebody explain the difference between the $125,000 and $50,000 (reduction)?" asked Chris Bryant. "It would seem to me that the state mandates what we have to spend on Special Needs."

"When the warrant needed to be prepared, the school year had just started," explained Tim O'Connor of the ORR School District. "We were looking at (some) additional cases for students who needed Special Education services. At the time state aid for Special Education was actually coming in at $36,000 more than budgeted."

With that, Article S1 carried unanimously as amended.

Under ARTICLE S2, voters were asked to appropriate $29,772 in additional funding for the purpose of purchasing a pre-owned aerial ladder platform truck from Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus, including costs incidental and related thereto.

According to Selectman Roger Blanchette, the breakdown for the money in this article includes $2,463 to cover the budget shortfall for the replacement vehicle; $23,500 to make necessary modifcations to Station 1; $1,309 to purchase an intake valve for the pump; and $2,500 to conduct an independent evaluation of the truck.

Resident Don Torres asked how high the ladder truck was and why it was needed in the Town of Marion.

Fire Chief Richard Guerzoni noted the truck is a 95-foot aerial platform ladder apparatus which isn't necessarily needed for height but rather for greater outreach. "Sometimes we can't get the ladder truck close enough to the building," Chief Guerzoni explained. "This would provide us with greater outreach over walls, trees and parking areas."

Article S2 carried via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE S3, voters were asked to appropriate $18,750 from Free Cash to cover the cost of replacing the Police Department base station radio system, including installation and dispatch console conversion for the back-up position.

"The current base station is over 30 years old and has failed," Selectman Jonathan Henry said. "The department's radio repair company has indicated it is nearly impossible to maintain parts for this model. At the present time the Police Department is unable to be in radio contact with the Sheriff's Department, the State Police, or any other regional (law enforcement) agency."

Article S3 carried unanimously.

Under ARTICLE S4, voters were asked to transfer $56,500 from the Overlay Reserve Account to be used by the Board of Assessors for the triennial revaluation of real and personal property for Fiscal Year 2009.

"This revaluation is mandated by the Department of Revenue (DOR) for FY 2009," explained Selectman Jeffrey.

Resident Allen Ditchfield questioned what the Overlay Reserve Account was and how much was kept in it.

"The Overlay Reserve Account is the account from which we grant abatements," said Assessor Bradford Eames. "We maintain about $220,000 in that account. The state tells us how much to put into the Overlay Reserve Account. They've been telling us we haven't been keeping enough in there ... they have never told us we're putting in too much."

Article S4 carried unanimously.

Under ARTICLE S5, voters were asked to ratify a settlement agreement by and between the Town of Marion and Wayne Walega relating to a claim against the Town regarding the taking by eminent domain of an approximate 2.29-mile segment of right of way, being the remainder of the former Fairhaven Railroad containing approximately 18.38 acres of land for the purposes of developing a bike path; and to transfer the sum of $395,000 from the Conservation Land Acquisition Fund (Land Bank).

"(This article) asks the town to approve $395,000 to pay for the land-taking for a portion of the bike path," Selectman Blanchette explained. "The land-taking consisted of land owned by Mr. Walega ... (who) filed suit against the town claiming the property was worth $880,000. The town and Mr. Walega agreed on a settlement of $395,000 for the property. Approval of Article S5 will result in the end of the Walega lawsuit. Disapproval of the article will result in a trial ... which could result in the town having to pay the full $880,000 or more."

"We have an elected board that oversees that money ... I'd like to know if they've taken a vote to spend this money," asked Chris Bryant. "This money that we've been raising prior to CPA funds was to be set aside exclusively to purchase open space. I feel that what we're doing is taking away the ability of the town to preserve open space. I fear what we're now doing is looking for a quick band-aid solution to purchase this land."

"We have had one meeting where the (Selectmen) sort of laid out their position," said John Rockwell. "The Open Space Committee isn't happy with this situation. But I think the scenario that was laid out in terms of the suit is correct. I was involved in the early negotiations with Mr. Walega. I think it's a bogus lawsuit and we're having a gun put to our head. But if you want this suit to go away, you should vote yes. I will say if this is rejected, we're not going to bail out the town for $880,000."

"I think the real question here is, assuming we're going to pay something for the land ... where are we going to find any money in the long run?" asked resident Tom Magauran. "How much money is in the Conservation Land Acquisition Fund?"

According to Town Accountant Judith Mooney, there is currently $593,810 in that account.

"To me, I really don't see any other option than to take the money out of open space funds," Mr. Magauran said. "I don't see any other option for the town that's fair to the taxpayer."

"There are sufficient funds in the (Conservation Land Acquisition Fund) to meet this expense," said Town Administrator Paul Dawson. "By entering into an immediate settlement we would (also) avoid having to pay additional legal fees and any statutory interest accrued from the date of the land taking."

With that, Article S5 carried via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE S6, voters were asked authorize the Selectmen to grant NStar Electric Company, its successors and assigns, or any licensee from it the perpetual right and easement to locate, erect, install, maintain, inspect, repair, replace, extend or remove one or more lines for the transmission and/or distribution of intelligence by electricity or otherwise, and all necessary and proper wires, cables, conduits, conductors, transformers, poles, crossarms, guys, braces, anchors and supports, deemed necessary for the purposes specified above, under, upon and over that certain parcel of Town-owned land, namely, the property at Lot 7 and Lot 9 on Benson Brook Road.

"(This article) would grant an easement to NStar Electric ... to install two poles on Benson Brook Road," Selectman Henry said. "The Town of Marion requests these poles to serve the town's new metering station."

Although some residents asked whether the utility lines should be run underground, the article in question was simply a matter of granting the easement and Article S6 passed via the required two-thirds majority vote.

There being no further articles to consider, the Special Town Meeting was adjourned for the evening at 8:09 pm.