Ben Bailey, a member of Rochester’s Planning Board, and Arnie Johnson, the chairman of that board, provided the only substantial discussion from the floor during Monday night’s November 16 Special Town Meeting at Rochester Memorial School. Both men’s comments aimed to ensure that the $15,000 recommended by the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee for Article 6 would be well spent.
The article, which was ultimately adopted like all other eight articles on the warrant, proposed spending $15,000 on a consultant to codify town and general bylaws.
Alluding to a failed effort along such lines several years ago, Ben Bailey addressed the meeting when a discussion was invited and asked, “What happened to the $80,000 when we did this before?”
After learning that the prior effort was earmarked for zoning bylaws and the current proposal for general and town bylaws, Town Counsel Blair Bailey explained that internal work on zoning bylaws should be finished shortly; however, the general and town bylaws are not to a point where he feels confident. Blair Bailey also confirmed that the same firm is not handling the current effort.
Ben Bailey told The Wanderer after the meeting, “We’ve been a long time without having these bylaws, so I think Arnie and I share the same concerns that this job gets done and done right the first time. [The failure] didn’t have anything to do with the town clerk (Paul Dawson) or the town attorney (Blair Bailey).” Blair Bailey is not related to Ben Bailey.
“We were left out in a vacuum with the general zoning bylaws,” said Johnson afterward. “The Planning Board, the town planner (Steve Starrett), the Zoning [Board of Appeals], the chairman of the ZBA (David Arancio), and the bylaw review subcommittee were all left out of the loop, and what was created was a document that was unusable. I know the bylaws, really, pretty well, and I couldn’t even find stuff in there.”
Dawson said the town might decide to get the general and town bylaws codified “in one large project or take it in smaller bites. That’s what we’re trying to iron out.” Dawson estimated that a concerted effort would take approximately two years to complete, or the process could be extended over a three- to four-year period.
The result is meant to create an accessible and searchable, user-friendly database.
Concerns on the floor were satisfied, and the article carried. It was the only article that wasn’t rifled through a quick meeting.
Articles 1-4 approved appropriations for the procurement of heavy vehicles— three for the Highway Department and one for the Facilities Department. Article 1 appropriated $35,500 for a Kubota Tractor for the Highway Department. Article 2 appropriated $90,000 for a used dump sander truck for the Highway Department. Article 3 appropriated $69,000 for a truck and plow for the Highway Department, and Article 4 appropriated $51,000 for a utility truck with a plow for the Facilities Department.
Article 5 approved $8,000 from the Assessors Supplemental Budget to be used to overlap the board’s retiring principal assessor, Chuck Shea, during a transition period from January 1, 2021, to June 30, 2021.
Article 7 authorized the Board of Selectmen to enter into an agreement for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) with Rochester MA 4, LLC, which plans to construct a solar array at 139 Sarah Sherman Road.
Article 8 voted to raise, appropriate, or transfer $100,000 from available funds to the Public Safety Stabilization Fund, and Article 9 was to raise $150,000 and transfer $50,000 into the Capital Improvements Fund.
The Board of Selectmen, during its November 12 meeting, took advantage of the state’s allowance for lessening the quorum for Special Town Meeting from the town’s regular quorum of 50 down to 30. They almost didn’t get 30 voters, but Blair Bailey reasserted his stance that, while the state would have allowed as few as five based on its “not less than 10 percent” provision, he didn’t consider it the right way to conduct town business among so few. Selectman Woody Hartley made sure to publicly thank all who attended.
The selectmen recommended the passing of all nine articles. The Finance Committee recommended Articles 1-6 and 8-9 (Article 7 was not applicable). The Capital Planning Committee recommended all applicable articles (1-4).
Rochester Special Town Meeting
By Mick Colageo