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Marion Election and Meeting Results

Wind Turbine Bylaw Amendment Approved

Marion Town Meeting

By Anne O'Brien-Kakley

The annual Marion Town Meeting was called to order by Town Moderator David Titus on May 17, 2010 at 6:55 pm in the Sippican School auditorium. After the pledge of allegiance, the town meeting convened to tackle a 36 article warrant with the Finance Committee (FinCom), the Board of Selectmen, Town Administrator Paul Dawson and Town Accountant Judith Mooney available to answer questions.

Article 1 asked town meeting members to approve the annual compensation for its elected town officials in the following amounts: Selectmen ($4,806 each); Assessors ($4,744 each); Board of Health ($1,830 each); Town Clerk ($19,111); Town Moderator ($240 per annual meeting, $79 per special meeting). Article 1 passed unanimously.

Article 2 asked town meeting members to approve an FY11 town operating budget of $17,641,403. Resident Ted North voiced a concern over the Sippican School budget of almost $5.3 million dollars, indicating that 40 cents of each tax dollar he pays goes to a relatively small population of the town. Mr. North estimated that grade school children comprised eight percent of the town population, whereas the majority of the town, were older and retired. Mr. North called this portion of the $17.6 million budget "unacceptable" and thought that the school committee was spending too freely.

In response, Don Torres supported the school budget, saying, "This is for the education of our children... it is an obligation that is needed for an enlightened society. I would say it is worth the 40 cents."

With the exception of the Sippican School line item, discussion on the town's operating budget was limited. Article 2 passed unanimously.

Article 3 asked town meeting members to appropriate a $1,744,322 transfer from available funds to operate the water enterprise fund in the following manner: reserve fund ($820,729), debt ($60,000), indirect costs ($237,073), funds from departmental receipts ($1,344,322), and water retained earnings ($400,000). Article 3 passed unanimously.

Article 4 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $2,318,626 from available funds to operate the sewer enterprise fund. Article 4 passed unanimously.

Article 5 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $198,162 to purchase a street sweeper with $25,000 coming from the waterways account and $173,162 coming from free cash. FinCom described the need for a new street sweeper as "desperate", since the previous 1987 street sweeper had been scrapped.

Resident Albert Love said, "I am opposed to this... no man in business would spend $200,000 for something you look at 11 months out of the year."

Department of Public Works Superintendent Rob Zora argued, "We use that sweeper six to 10 weeks a year... you need this machine." Mr. Zora said that it would be cost prohibitive over the years to rent a sweeper at $25 an hour, noting that the dual-purpose machine would clean catch basins. "We hope you support us," he added. "This is an incredible piece of machinery."

One town meeting member said that the "sweeper is critical to the safety of the roads". Resident Eunice Manduca said, "The gutters are a disgrace... we desperately need that [sweeper]."

After discussion, Article 5 passed.

Article 6 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $14,700 to purchase seven new defibrillators for the police department with $10,500 being transferred from free cash and $4,200 being transferred from the waterways account. Article 6 passed unanimously.

Article 7 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $49,000 from free cash to complete roof repairs on the Spring Street Fire/EMS building. Article 7 passed unanimously.

Article 8 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $39,184 from free cash to purchase air pack replacements and four cascade storage tanks for the fire department. Article 8 passed unanimously.

Article 9 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $15,000 from available funds to refurbish the 1964 brush-breaker with $9,807.11 coming from free cash, and $5,192.89 coming from previous town meeting articles. Article 9 passed unanimously.

At this point in the evening, a Special Town Meeting was called to order by Mr. Titus at 8:00 pm. The one article on the special town meeting warrant asked town voters to transfer $50,000 from free cash to take care of a mold problem in the basement of the Marion Town House. In the winter of 2009/2010, an air evaluation proved that "there is, in fact, a serious mold problem in the town hall," said Mr. Dawson. The transfer would clean up the present mold and would address ways to prevent further mold from forming.

Resident John Sweeney expressed concern that the town house building was in bad shape with notorious roof problems that have yet to be addressed. Mr. Sweeney thought that it was a bad expenditure of money to remediate mold problems when the mold is likely to come back.

Selectman Henry spoke to the condition of the town house, saying, "There is millions of dollars worth of work [to be done]. We all know it's in tough shape. We need a place to work. We need it to be safe."

Resident Carol Sanz said that she was "appalled and angry" at the condition of the town house. "Why the heck wasn't something done 10 years ago?" she asked.

Selectman Henry said that they had prioritized capital needs with water infrastructure being first, as it is a matter of public safety. "We [will] need to break it down into bite-sized pieces," he said, referring to the rehabilitation of the town house.

Special town meeting Article S1 passed. The voters reconvened into the Annual Town Meeting.

Article 10 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $6,500 from free cash to make electrical repairs at the Spring Street Fire/EMS building. Article 10 passed unanimously.

Article 11 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $13,000 from free cash to fund the public safety portion of the annual Independence Day fireworks celebration. Article 11 was narrowly defeated, 66-61.

Article 12 asked town meeting members to transfer $5,000 from the waterways account to replace two swim floats at Silvershell Beach. Article 12 passed unanimously.

Article 13 asked town meeting members to transfer $25,000 from the waterways account for the marine department to purchase and install handicap accessibility equipment at Island Wharf. Article 13 passed unanimously.

Article 14 asked town meeting members to establish and fund an "Other Post-Employment Benefit Liability Trust Fund," which would reduce unfunded health care and other post-employment benefits to zero. Part of this article asked voters to raise and appropriate or transfer $25,000 from free cash to begin the funding process for this trust fund. Article 14 passed unanimously.

Article 15 asked town meeting members to raise and appropriate or transfer $220,000 from free cash to the stabilization fund, bringing the stabilization fund to a little over $1.6 million, and thereby improving the town's bond rating. Article 15 passed unanimously.

Article 16 asked town meeting members to transfer $25,000 from free cash to the compensated absence account to fund accrued benefits for retiring employees. Article 16 passed unanimously.

Article 17 asked town meeting members to transfer $25,000 from the Overlay Surplus Account for the Board of Assessors to revalue real and personal property as mandated by the Department of Revenue. Article 17 passed unanimously.

Article 18 asked town meeting members to appropriate $77,400 from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) FY11 annual revenues for the purpose of meeting requirements of the Community Preservation Act open space, community housing and historic resources requirements. Article 18 passed unanimously.

Article 19 asked town meeting members to appropriate $2,000 from FY11 estimated annual revenues to the CPC for administrative expenses. Article 19 passed unanimously.

Article 20 asked town meeting members to appropriate $70,000 from the CPC's FY11 historic resources reserves to the Marion Art Center to restore the bell tower on the Marion Universalist Church, where the art center is located. About $122,000 total will be needed for the whole project, with approximately $40,000 having been raised privately. Article 20 passed.

Article 21 asked town meeting members to appropriate $80,000 from estimated annual revenues from open space reserves to the Marion Open Space Acquisition Commission for an 8.08 acre parcel of land located on Route 6. Upon the recommendation of the CPC, town meeting voted to withdraw this article without prejudice.

Article 22 asked town meeting members to allow the Board of Selectmen to establish a work-off program for citizens over 60 who want to volunteer their services in exchange for a tax bill rate reduction, which is not to exceed $750 per fiscal year. Article 22 passed unanimously.

Article 23 asked town meeting members to transfer $9,000 from the Chester A. Vose fund for an Assessors reduction in taxes. Article 23 passed unanimously.

Article 24 asked town meeting members to approve an Open Space Acquisition Committee (OSAC) land purchase of $155,000 from the Indian Cove Trust for conservation and passive recreation purposes. At a recent meeting, the OSAC decided to withdraw Article 24, so town meeting members voted to pass over this item.

Article 25 asked town meeting members to amend a general "Municipal Charges Liens" bylaw to read: "Municipal Charges Liens may be placed on real property located within the Town of Marion for the following charges or fees that remain unpaid after the due date for such charges or fees: Motor vehicle excise taxes". Town meeting also voted to pass over Article 25.

Article 26 asked town meeting members to amend a general motorboat bylaw to forbid gasoline fueling on Town-owned floats and piers. Article 26 passed unanimously.

Article 27 asked town meeting members to amend a zoning bylaw in Section 8.3.B to allow commercial wind turbines. The Alternative Energy Committee (AEC) estimated that $700,000 is spent annually on electricity for town buildings. After collecting data for almost a year, it was determined that the area of Great Hill produced enough wind velocity to be a productive source of energy to offset town electricity costs.

Bill Saltonstall of the AEC said that Article 27, a bylaw amendment, was drafted "for the protection of town residents" and to "set Marion's own standards" in regards to setbacks, maintenance, sound requirements, etc.

Resident Jim Grady presented an amendment to Article 27 that would limit construction of commercial wind turbines to non-profit organizations with the understanding that the commercial turbine would also have to financially benefit the town. Town meeting members, who were concerned with protecting Marion's interests against commercial development, overwhelmingly supported this amendment to the article. The motion to amend Article 27 passed, and Article 27, which required a two-thirds vote, passed.

Article 28 asked town meeting members to authorize the Board of Selectmen to transfer Holmes Lane to the Marion Marine Resources Commission. Holmes Lane was gifted to Marion from the Will of Barnabas Holmes. Article 28 passed unanimously.

Article 29 asked town meeting members to grant NStar and Verizon a perpetual right and easement to perform the work necessary in providing electricity and phone services to Little Neck Village, located at 330-336 Wareham Street. Article 29 passed unanimously.

Article 30 asked town meeting members to grant NStar and Verizon a perpetual right and easement to perform the work necessary in providing electricity and phone services to the new Marion police department building, located at 550 Mill Street. Article 30 passed unanimously.

Article 31 asked town meeting members to authorize the Board of Selectmen "to institute, defend or compromise suits of law." Article 31 passed unanimously.

Article 32 asked town meeting members to authorize the Board of Selectmen to sell any article belonging to Marion as long as the town no longer has need for it. Article 32 passed unanimously.

Article 33 asked town meeting members to authorize the Board of Selectmen to sell or transfer any "taxation possession property" held by the town. In this agreement, the Board of Selectmen would have to notify the Planning Board, Open Space Acquisition, Conservation Commission and the Affordable Housing Trust in writing within 20 days before selling the land. Article 33 passed unanimously.

Article 34 asked town meeting members to authorize the Board of Selectmen to apply on behalf of the town for federal and state government and private grants for funding services, including: emergency management funds, sewer planning, town property repair and public safety. Article 34 passed unanimously.

Article 35 asked town meeting members to consider the reports of the Town officers and committees. Article 35 passed unanimously.

Marion's annual town meeting voted to adjourn at 10:30 pm.