May 2022 Town Meeting – Part 2: Behind the Vote Tallies
The earlier recap of Holliston’s May Town Meeting https://hollistonreporter.com/2022/05/town-meeting-takes-care-of-all-business-in-one-night/ provided the decisions made by the voters at the Meeting. Here is some “color commentary” to provide a sense of the discussions that led to some of the decisions.
Following moderator Mayer’s call to order, welcome, and request for a moment of silence for Ray Moloney, the meeting got down to business. There was a general wonder if the entire Warrant could be completed on one night. Well over the required 100 voters attended the meeting thanks, in part to onsite childcare provided by “Students Taking Action,” the student members of the Holliston Community Action Fund.
Those attending approved the participation of approximately twenty-five out-of-town residents who are Department Heads in Holliston. Next up was the acceptance of the FY 2021 Annual Report now posted on the Town’s website. The 153-page document can be found online FY 2021 Annual Town Report, or printed copies at several Town buildings.
Article 1 of each Town Meeting Warrant is a report from the Select Board. Chair Tina Hein’s message was, “Holliston is a good town with good people.” She thanked many in Town and beyond for their efforts to keep Holliston growing. Hein previewed the Select Board’s position on the FY 23 Operating budget (more later). Mrs. Hein ended by asking residents to consider volunteering to serve Holliston on elected or appointed Boards / Committees, directing those interested to the Town’s Talent database ->https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScURmyFBaqsyb3RYZb_nm8S2vXB2DWdhYw8jC1tjiBI3Aw66g/viewform
Article 2 is the report of the Finance Committee. Chair Ken Szajda highlighted the Town’s recent bond rating upgrade to AAA “Stable”. The rating allowed the Town to save over $100,000 in interest on the bonds just acquired to finance the new water treatment plant at well 5. Maintaining the excellent rating was a theme during the FinCom report and discussion on the FY 23 Operating budget.
Articles 3 – 10 all dealt with cannabis industry – segregating cannabis review the Town receives / expends; and allowing delivery of cannabis products into / and out of Holliston. With the passage of Articles 7 and 8, the citizen petitioner moved to indefinitely postpone Articles 9 and 10.
Articles 11 – 26 were handled by voice votes on the Consent Agenda (Articles 11,12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 26) or as individual items.
Article 27, the FY 23 Omnibus budget drew the greatest discussion. The discussion was aided in large part by the “new look” of the department budgets located on page 46 of the Warrant (below). Note the three columns highlighted in yellow. The Town Administrator’s recommended budget is Level 2, the Select Board’s recommended budget is Level 3, and the FinCom’s recommended budget is Level 4.
Moderator Mayer moved through each department’s budget. Town Meeting voted on each Department’s budget as it was presented. When the Police Department’s budget was presented, Select Board Chair Hein proposed an amendment to the budget that would fund the addition of a 26th police officer. The Board’s position supported the Police Department’s third annual request to add to staff as the work of policing gets more complicated, as a priority for public safety. The Select Board proposed paying for the cost of the new officer by reducing the amount of money moved to the Capital Expenditure Fund (CapEx) in May – with a plan to add more to CapEx at the October Town Meeting.
HPD Chief Stone presented the rationale for increase in staff, citing the increasing complexity of calls and volume of calls for service.
Members of the FinCom and citizens spoke to the amendment’s pros and cons. FinCom members pointed to the financial policy adherence that helped gain our AAA rating. Some saw the urgency for adding an officer to manage the Department’s expanding workload. FinCom Chair Szajda committed that the FinCom would “work with Chief Stone and the Select Board to add the 26th officer in the near future.” The question became, not unlike managing family budgets, should funds be put into checking for current expenses, or stashed in savings for use later?
The voice vote on the amendment was inconclusive so Moderator Mayer called for a Hand vote. 65 voted in favor, 80 opposed – the amendment was defeated. The remainder of the Departmental budgets were approved as presented.
Articles 27 – 36 passed by Voice vote, including the acceptance of the interim report from the Comprehensive Long-Range Planning Committee (established at the May 2021 Town Meeting). The committee, now more melodically named, “Envisioning Future Holliston” has gathered some data from citizens and plans to collect additional information in an upcoming second survey. The presenters noted that Holliston’s Council on Aging has received grant funding to conduct a survey focused on Holliston’s age 55 + population. Seniors will be asked to complete both surveys to make sure elder services meet Holliston’s needs.
When “ARTICLE 37. CHANGE TO ACCESSORY BUILDINGS AND STRUCTURES (V-A); LOCATION OF DISTRICTS (II-B); DEFINITIONS (I-E) – SPONSORED BY: Planning Board To see if the Town will vote to amend the Zoning By-Laws at Sections I-E, II-B Location of Districts, and V-A Accessory Buildings and Structures to update several definitions and performance standards and to update zoning map interpretation standards,” came up several questions were raised. The number of such buildings and practicality of limiting the location came up. A Voice vote was inconclusive for the 2/3 majority needed to pass; a Hand vote was called. The vote tally was 30 in favor; 50 opposed. Article 37 was defeated.
Articles 38 – 40 were presented and passed by Voice vote.
Article 41, a Citizen’s Petition to expand the size of the Select Board from 3 – 5 members was ruled Out-of-Order by Moderator Mayer. Mr. Mayer shared Town Counsel’s opinion and his own research on the propriety of having Town Meeting vote on a By-law change to accomplish this change. Changing the size of the Select Board requires a Special Act of the State legislature. Mr. Mayer encouraged the petitioner and the Governance Committee to follow this path for a future discussion / decision.
Once again, Moderator Mayer conducted an efficient and effective meeting maintaining respectful civil discourse throughout. When the meeting adjourned well ahead of the 11:00pm curfew, it was amazing how much had been accomplished in a relatively short time.
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