Special Town Meeting Draws a Large Crowd

The Special Town Meeting went on for nearly four hours with all twenty articles receiving action.  Given that we were limited in the available time to publish results we have chosen to present the results from the first 10 articles with the second half of the results presented tomorrow.

Moderator William Mayer opened the meeting at 7:40 pm to allow those in a long line outside the meeting room to be checked in and issued a ballot card.  The attendance at the meeting’s beginning was over 300 people with more arriving later! He went on to read the Warrant for the meeting:

“WARRANT FOR THE OCTOBER 28, 2019 SPECIAL TOWN MEETING: FULL TEXT TOWN OF HOLLISTON FALL TOWN MEETING; Commonwealth of Massachusetts Middlesex, ss. Town of Holliston To any Constable of the Town of Holliston, Greeting: In the name of the Commonwealth you are hereby required to notify and warn the inhabitants of the Town of Holliston who are qualified to vote in Town Affairs to meet in the Holliston High  School Auditorium, 370 Hollis Street, Holliston, MA:  MONDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. to act on the following Articles, to wit:”

Mr. Mayer went on to the first article on the Warrant.

ARTICLE 1:  STABILIZATION FUND SPONSORED BY: Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST:  $250,000. “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds a sum of money for the Stabilization Fund; or take any action relative thereto.”

OUTCOME: Passed by voice vote

At this point the Moderator invited the Chairman of the Board of Selectmen to share some opening comments.  Chairman Mark Ahronian thanked is fellow Board members for their tireless efforts.  He pointed a unique distinction we share – there is only ONE town named Holliston in the U.S. He announced that a contract has been signed with a solar energy company that will net the town at least $8,000,000 over the 20-year lease. Chairman Ahronian went on to voice the Board’s support for Articles 8, 10, and 11 – all studies related to town infrastructure.

Next, Ken Szajda, Finance Committee Chairman, presented the town’s Financial condition – which is strong – and presented the Committtee’s positions on the Articles for discussion at this Special Town Meeting.

Moderator Mayer resumed the presentation of Articles from the Warrant. 

ARTICLE 2:   CAPITAL EXPENDITURE FUND SPONSORED BY: Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST:  $2,467,154. “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds a sum of money for the Capital Expenditure Fund; or take any action relative thereto.”

OUTCOME: Passed by voice vote

ARTICLE 3:   SALE OF SURPLUS EQUIPMENT SPONSORED BY: Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST:  None. “To see if the Town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to hold a public auction and or sale for the purpose of disposing of surplus departmental equipment; or take any action relative thereto.”

DISCUSSION: Dan Alfred, speaking as a citizen, not as a member of the Finance Committee, made a motion to indefinitely postpone action on this Article.  The motion was seconded and Mr. Alfred presented his reasoning for this motion: the Board of Selectmen overspent authorized funding for personnel salaries and, the Board removed an Article from the Warrant that would allow the FinCom to reallocate funds.   After a brief discussion, the Moderator called for action on Mr. Alfred’s motion.  The motion was denied by voice vote.  Mr. Alfred called for a hand count.  The hand count resulted in a defeat of his motion.

OUTCOME: Article 3 was passed by voice vote

ARTICLE 4:   CAPITAL BUDGET SPONSORED BY: Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST:  $1,789,940. “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate, transfer from available funds or borrow a sum of money for the purpose of capital expenditures, including replacement of old vehicles and equipment, for the following departments:  Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Police, Schools, Fire, DPW (Highway), DPW (Water), Council on Aging and Parks & Recreation and authorize the Board of Selectmen to trade or sell equipment toward part of the purchase price; or take any action relative thereto.”

DISCUSSION: Sam Tyler questioned the use of Capital Funds for school curriculum item.  He moved that the Curriculum Materials amount be removed from the above list and paid for in some other fashion.  The motion was seconded.  Dr. Brad Jackson and School Committee Vice Chair Anne Louise Hanstad spoke to the fact that this curriculum covers several academic grades and that the last such curriculum purchased by the town was used for nearly 10 years – beyond the five years the State uses when defining Capital spending.  Mr. Mayer called for action on the motion to remove the curriculum from the Capital Expense list.  The motion failed by voice vote.

OUTCOME: The Capital Budget as posted in the handout provided at the meeting was passed by voice vote.

ARTICLE 5:  FUND TRANSFER TO AFFECT THE TAX RATE SPONSORED BY: Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST: Unknown.  “To see if the Town will vote to transfer from available funds a sum of money for the purpose of reducing the amount of money to be raised through property taxes for Fiscal Year 2020; or take any action relative thereto.”

OUTCOME: A motion to indefinitely postpone this Article was made and seconded.  The motion passed by voice vote.

ARTICLE 6:   COMMUNITY PRESERVATION COMMITTEE REPORT SPONSORED BY: Community Preservation Committee    ESTIMATED COST: $615,000. “To see if the Town will vote to appropriate $174,000 from the Community Preservation Open Space Reserve and $326,000 from the Community Preservation Fund’s General Reserve for a total of $500,000 for the purpose of acquiring an Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR) in all or part of land, parcel ID # is Map 10 Block 1 pcl 4.0; located at 0 Highland Street, and off 28 South Street, Ashland, MA containing 28.74 acres more or less, and; to see if the Town will vote to appropriate $100,000 from the Community Preservation Fund’s General Reserve for the purpose of assisting the Holliston Parks and Recreation Department with renovations to youth baseball fields owned by the Town, and; to see if the town will vote to appropriate $15,000 from the Community Preservation Funds Historic Preservation Reserve for the purpose of assisting the Holliston Historical Society with improvements to its fire alarm system, and;”

DISCUSSION:  Alix Carey made a presentation on behalf of the supporters of this Article.  Tony Lulac asked about the apparent funding gap of $290,000.  The buyers (current owners of Out Post Farm) will pay that amount which is the assessed of the land as used for agriculture.  Mary Greendale shared what an APR is and how it maintains farmland in our town forever.  John Curley spoke in opposition to the Article stating that the town was apparently supporting a private land acquisition.  Anne Louise Hanstad suggested that perhaps the new owners could supply some produce to the Pantry Shelf.  The Holliston Youth Softball and Baseball support the Article as it relates to athlete field upgrades.

OUTCOME: Passed by voice vote.

ARTICLE 7:  FUND LEGAL SUPPORT FOR CABLE LICENSE RENEWAL SPONSORED BY:  Board of Selectmen    ESTIMATED COST:  $15,000. “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $15,000 for legal services to support the Cable Advisory Committee and the Board of Selectmen in the negotiations and license renewal proceedings for a new long-term cable license Agreement(s) and related documents, or take any action relative thereto for a twelve (12) month period commencing, November 1, 2019 or take any action relative thereto.”

OUTCOME: Passed by voice vote

ARTICLE 8:  WATER ASSET MANAGEMENT PLAN UPDATE    SPONSORED BY:  Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST: $75,000. “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $75,000 to be expended by the Board of Selectmen, for the development of a water infrastructure asset management plan and to accelerate the water line replacement work completed to date, or take any action relative thereto.”

DISCUSSION:  All three members of the Board of Selectmen spoke on behalf of this article stating the need for a plan to help DPW accelerate the replacement of aging water mains.  Ken Szajda raised the issue of how to fund the accelerated replacement plan.  Ben Sparrell, a member of the FinCom who voted in support of this article, asked that this study and the others on the Warrant be used to build a comprehensive plan versus a reactive approach.  Douglas Foss asked what the next streets are up next for replacement.  DPW Director Sean Reese shared that Winter Street is next on the water main replacement plan.  Lisa Kocian asked a clarifying question.  Ken Szajda made a motion to indefinitely postpone action on this article.  The motion was seconded.

OUTCOME: The motion to indefinitely postpone action on the Article was passed by hand count: 155 Yes / 118 No

 ARTICLE 9: WATER RATE STUDY SPONSORED BY:  Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST:  $15,000.  “To see if the Town will vote to transfer from water retained earnings $15,000 for the purposes of completing a water rate study, or take any action relative thereto.”

OUTCOME: Passed by voice vote.

ARTICLE 10:  DPW FACILITY FEASIBILITY STUDY SPONSORED BY:  Board of Selectmen   ESTIMATED COST:  $50,000. “To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate or transfer from available funds $50,000 to be expended by the Board of Selectmen, to conduct a feasibility study to evaluate possible locations, including the existing location, for a new or expanded Department of Public Works facility, or take any action relative thereto. COMMENTS:  The Department of Public Works facility on Arch Street is old and outdated.  This Article would fund a feasibility study to merge the Water Department on Central Street with the Highway Department on Arch Street at that location or some other location.”

DISCUSSION: Board of Selectmen Vice Chair John Cronin, moved that this Article be indefinitely postponed.

OUTCOME: The motion to postpone was seconded and passed by voice vote.

The remainder of the meeting’s outcomes will be published tomorrow.

The Publishers

1 Comment

  1. Mark Schultz on October 29, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    I was thrilled to see the large turn out at last nights town meeting. Every town meeting should have a turn out like this. This is how we run our town. Everyone needs to participate in their own future.

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