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Rochester Election and Meeting Results

Rochester Annual Town Meeting
June 5, 2006

The Annual Town Meeting for the Town of Rochester was called to order at 7:00 pm in the cafetorium of Rochester's Memorial School by Town Moderator Greenwood "Woody" Hartley having noted the presence of a quorum of some 125 voters. After a Salute to the Flag and a moment of silence for all military personnel serving both domestically and abroad, Mr. Hartley reviewed the procedures for Town Meeting.

Mr. Hartley then introduced Ginny Cutler to make a presentation on behalf of the Rochester Scholarship Committee. Then Jeff Costa, who has raised funds for the Scholarship Committee via an annual yard sale for the past two years, presented scholarship awards to the following: Katharina Rentumis; Katie Jones; Lauren Adamson; and Amy Biever.

Voters then proceeded to consider the five-article Special Town Meeting warrant within the Annual Town Meeting beginning with ARTICLE 1, which sought to rescind the town's existing by-law prohibiting the broadcasting and/or recording of Town Meetings. The measure would, in turn, allow the taping and broadcasting of future Town Meetings.

Article 1 passed via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE 2, voters were asked to transfer from the Annual Town Meeting of June 6, 2005, Article 4 Line Item 4-7 Reserve Fund $17,334.91 to Article 4 Line Item 4-87 Snow Removal Wages $7,877.30 and to Article 4 Line Item 4-88 Expenses $9,457.61.

Article 2 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 3, voters were asked to transfer from the Annual Town Meeting of June 6, 2005 Article 4 Line Item 4-7 Reserve Fund $22,600 to fund the purchase of a sander cab and chassis for the Highway Department.

Article 3 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 4, voters were asked to transfer from the Annual Town Meeting of June 6, 2005, Article 4 Line Item 4-19 Treasurer Administrative Assistant to Line Item 4-20 Treasurer Expenses $1,812 to supplement Line Item 4-20, Treasurer Expenses.

Article 4 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 5, voters were asked to transfer $50,000 authorized in Article 15 line item 5-3, Library Repairs, of the June 6, 2005 Annual Town Meeting for the purpose of completing the ongoing repairs at the Joseph H. Plumb Memorial Library.

"This is really the second year of a three-year installment to complete the repairs to the library," said Finance Committee (FinCom) Chairman Michael Costa.

Article 5 passed unanimously.

FinCom Chairman Michael Costa then offered a brief overview of the town's financial status going into the Annual Town Meeting, which is requesting a General Operating Budget of $14.5 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2007.

"Education constitutes about 64 percent of the town's budget ... so the town's overall budget is really driven by education," Mr. Costa said.

Turning their attention to the Annual Town Meeting warrant, voters began by considering ARTICLE 1, which asked voters to accept the annual report of all town officers and committees.

Article 1 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 2, voters were asked to fix the salaries of the elected officials of the Town for the Fiscal Year commencing July 1, 2006 and ending June 30, 2007 as follows: Moderator - Annual Town Meeting: $100; Moderator - Special Town Meeting: $50; Board of Selectmen, Chairman: $4,363; Board of Selectmen, each member: $3,430; Board of Assessors, each member: $8,037; Board of Assessors Assessment Administrator: $15.45 per hour; Town Treasurer: $19,030; Tax Collector: $19,030; Town Clerk: $19,030; Tree Warden: $573; Constables: $8.04 per hour; Highway Surveyor: $60,870; Board of Health, Chairman: $1,724; Board of Health, each member: $1,437; and Herring Inspector: $364.

Article 2 passed, as amended, via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE 3, voters were asked to amend the town's Classification and Compensation Plan to reflect a 2.5 percent cost of living increase for all positions.

Article 3 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 4, voters were asked to approve a total $14.52 million General Operating Budget for FY 2007, by transferring $298,851 from Free Cash; $10,000 from the Dog Fund; $7,000 from Article 8 of the February 25, 2002 Special Town Meeting; and raising and appropriating $14.204 million within the tax levy limit.

After some minor amendments and adjustments to individual budget line items, Article 4 passed via unanimous vote.

Under ARTICLE 5, voters were asked to assess an additional $103,000 for the purpose of funding educational services for the Rochester Memorial School subject to voters approval of an override under the provisions of Chapter 59, Section 21c(g) of the General Laws of Massachusetts.

Article 5 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 6, voters were asked to transfer $69,000 from the Overlay Surplus and $29,000 from Free Cash to purchase a new Assessing System for the Board of Assessors and to upgrade the Electrical System in Town Hall, and also raise and appropriate $35,000 to make the Town Hall handicap accessible.

Article 6 passed via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE 7, voters were asked to raise and appropriate $100,000 for the purpose of road repairs by the Highway Department.

Article 7 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 8, voters were asked to transfer $1,471 from Free Cash to fund the following: Planting of Shellfish (Marion): $300; Silvershell Beach (Marion): $300; Tri-Town River Commission: $300; and Buzzards Bay Action Committee (BBAC): $571.

Article 8 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 9, voters were asked to transfer $2,000 from Free Cash for the purposes of funding the New Bedford Women's Shelter for FY 2007.

Article 9 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 10, voters were asked to transfer $10,000 from Free Cash for the payment of accumulated sick leave.

"This would be paid out to individuals when they leave (the employ) of the town," said FinCom Chairman Michael Costa. "What we did a few years ago was set aside $10,000 to cover (additional sick time) when they leave."

Article 10 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 11, voters were asked to authorize revolving funds for certain town departments under Massachusetts General Laws (MGL), Chapter 44 Section 53E 1/2 for the Fiscal Year beginning July 1, 2006.

Article 11 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 12, voters were asked to authorize the Town of Rochester to enter into an inter-municipal agreement with one or more other governmental units to provide public health services which the Board of Health is authorized to perform.

Article 12 passed unanimously.

Under ARTICLE 13, voters were asked to adopt the so-called Community Preservation Act (CPA) under MGL Chapter 44B, Sections 3 to 7, inclusive and to set a surcharge of one percent on real estate property to fund the town's Community Preservation Fund beginning in FY 2007.

Based on an average home in Rochester valued at $342,900, the one-percent CPA assessment would cost residents about $23.99 a year and garner some $100,000 annually for the town with state matching funds.

"If we pass this, we'll be getting additional matching funds from the state," said Richard Cutler.

"This seems to me (to be) a tax on a tax," said resident Frank Cabral. "Everybody says we get state funding. But where do you think the money from the state comes from? It comes from us. It's a tax on a tax ... think about it."

"Preservation of open space is vital for the well-being of communities in the Commonwealth," said resident Bill Kiernan. "On average, land that is in open space contributes $1 to the tax base and consumes only 70 cents in services."

Article 13 passed via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE 14, voters were asked to establish a nine-member volunteer Rochester Community Preservation Committee as described in the Community Preservation Act, Chapter 44B to study the needs, possibilities and resources of the town and make recommendations to Town Meeting regarding community preservation in the areas of open space, historic resources, community housing and public recreation.

Article 14 passed via majority vote.

Under ARTICLE 15, voters were asked, by petition, to rescind the vote of the Annual Town Meeting dated June 7, 1999 establishing a Historic District Commission and Historic District in the Town of Rochester, thereby eliminating the Rochester Historic District and the Rochester Historic District Commission.

Before any discussion or debate ensued, a pre-emptive motion was made to table Article 15, which failed, 56 in favor to 97 against.

"I've lived in this town for a long time and I just can't believe the people on the (Historic District Commission) wouldn't let people put up a shed (on their own property)," said resident David Watling. "No one else in town has these restrictions put on them."

"I've got a good idea, maybe the whole town should be an historic district so you all can enjoy the benefits," said resident Tom Strutski, adding a motion to that effect, which failed to garner enough support.

"I am against the Historic District," said former Historic District Commission member Pamela J. Robinson. "I feel if you are paying taxes, you (should) have the right to choose your own style and colors."

But Historic District Commission Chairman Susan Adams countered they were just trying to retain the rural and open character of the town center and none of the applications they received since the commission's inception were restrictive in terms of paint color or building style.

"You work hard for your home, which is your castle, and you're going to have somebody tell you what you can do with it?" asked Frank Cabral. "Just think about it ... the people that are on (the Historic District Commission) are on nothing but a big power ego trip."

"I live within the historic district and I support it," said resident Susan Peterson. "This is the reason why we all love Rochester ... the sprawling lawns, the big houses. The Historic District will protect us from losing that."

With that, Article 15 failed to garner the required 2/3 majority vote, 83 to 62.

ARTICLE 16, which would have asked voters to remove Gifford Park and the Dexter Lane Playing Fields/Recreational Facility from the boundaries of the Rochester Historic District, was indefinitely postponed via unanimous vote.

Under ARTICLE 17, voters were asked to accept an appropriation of $171,784 in state Chapter 90 funds for repairs and renovations to roads in Rochester.

Article 17 passed unanimously.

ARTICLE 18, which would have asked voters to transfer money from Free Cash into the town's Stabilization Fund, was unanimously tabled.

There being no further articles to consider, Rochester's Annual Town Meeting adjourned for the evening at 10:31 pm.