Spring Town Meeting – Images / Discussions Behind the Votes
After the Town voted to consider Articles 3 – 10 via a consent agenda, Moderator Mayer called on Select Board Chair Ben Sparrell (below left) to deliver the Select Board report. As the slide over his shoulder points out the report covered the projects completed, in process, and on the drawing board, highlighted a recently received “Annual Innovation Award” presented by the MassDOT to Sean Reese and Robert Walker on behalf of the Holliston DPW.
Finance Committee Chair Dr. Ken Szajda (above right) provided the financial look back, the current budget, and the look ahead to FY 25 which is when the COVID funds expiration meets inflation. The Chairs’ reports dovetailed showing support for the Town’s key priorities.
Article 11 “Compensation for Elected Officials” proposed stipends and salaries totaling $92,550 with $90,000 to bring the Town Clerk’s salary into the market range for similar jobs.
Below left, Kevin Daigle proposed a motion to raise the Town Clerk’s salary to just over $121,000. Members of the Select Board and Fin Com spoke to the process that set the proposed salary commensurate with the Town Clerk’s duties. Below right, Joan Shaughnessy, the self-professed data geek supported the figure proposed in the Warrant with its basis in research and market value. Mr. Daigle’s motion did not pass and Article 11 as proposed was passed.
Article 14 which included the personnel by-laws for the new Assistant Fire Chief who will lead HFD’s efforts to achieve Advanced Life Support for our Ambulance corps was passed unanimously. Moderator Mayer noted Dr. Liz Theiler (below) who offered comments in support of the need for ALS in Holliston. Dr. Theiler reported that Holliston’s average ambulance response time is 7 minutes and 22 seconds as reported by Chief Cassidy in an article in the Holliston Town Pages. Dr. Theiler noted that this response time is 1 – 2 minutes above other neighboring departments and the national average included in the MRI report. Theiler concluded by again quoting the MRI report, “It is not just a cliche that during critical life-threatening situations minutes and even seconds do count”. p. 36”
Article 21 related to the borrowing authorization for engineering and construction of a proposed DPW facility (pictured below) at the former Axton-Cross site on Cross Street. Below right, Project Engineer David Steeves from Weston & Sampson spoke to the status of the project. The Article included how the project could be funded (chart below).
Several citizens asked questions about the land on which this building would be built. Devin Howe (below top left) wanted to know if the soil could not be safely remediated, would the Town be able to abort the project? Answer: Yes
Melinda Budd (below top center) raised concerns about the health threat posed by the substances that could be released. Budd also was concerned about the potential clean-up costs to the Town. Select Board Clerk Tina Hein (below top right) assured Ms. Budd that the environmental / health concerns are the main focus of the engineering work – once Holliston is granted ownership of the property from Land Court. The Town will be applying for Federal and State Grants to fund the necessary clean-up.
Barbara Ryan (above bottom left) asked about the environmental safety of the current DPW facilities on Central and Arch Streets. The Weston & Sampson’s work will include the remediation plan for those two sites. Ms. Ryan asked if the site could house HFD equipment. Yes, that is a possibility using the remaining building on the Cross St. property.
Matt Leach (above bottom right) voiced concern for the taxpayer impact of this project – and potentially others on the horizon. Page 47 of the Warrant document (below) shows one view of the tax impact over the life of the bond. Town Administrator Ahern will provide a more complete picture for voters to see before the Town Election on Tuesday, May 23rd.
Article 21 passed with a hand count vote of 137 – 5.
Next up was the borrowing authorization article for horizontal infrastructure on three streets. The capital working group (reps from SB, FinCom, and SC) proposed bundling the authorization rather than to come back to Town Meeting for each subsequent project and also to accelerate replacing aging water mains. Once again, the proposed funding mechanism (water infrastructure and bonding) was laid out for the voters.
Town Administrator Ahern (above left) spoke to the rationale for Article 21. Ron Pipe asked the members of the FinCom who voted in opposition / abstention to explain their position. Dr. Szajda felt the Town should decide rather than signal his position. Mr. Alfred (above right), a member of the capital working group, felt that it would be best to use the Norfolk St project as a proof of concept before committing the entire funding.
Below left, FinCom member Julie Winston supports the article to increase walkability to downtown and schools. FinCom member Jay Robinson (below right) supported the bundled approach.
Article 22 passed with a hand count vote of 110 – 20. Ballot questions for both the DPW facility and infrastructure are on Tuesday’s Town Election ballot.
Article 25 addressed proposed improvements at Goodwill Park using $1.1 million from the Community Preservation Committee.
Below (top left) Park & Recreation Director Mark Frank laid out the renderings of the three facilities (top right). Renovated bathrooms, more indoor space for camps / storage and a stage / covered bleacher area. Resident James Arena-DeRosa (bottom left) asked about the location of the new stage on the property. An amber line connects the stage in the rendering below to the map (green stage centrally located). Director Frank noted that the layout (bottom right) is not accurate in its depiction of the number of courts. The article passed by unanimous voice vote.
Town Administrator Ahern presented an interim report from the Envisioning Future Holliston strategic planning committee showing that we are concluding phase 2. Consultant Berry Dunn has been hired by the Town to gather input from all stakeholders in the community.
Public forums have been held, individual, and group input can still be submitted by clicking on the EFH logo (Blue arrow below) on the Town website. The link to the site is still open until Mid-June. Provide your input here -> http://Add your input by clicking this link.
Below, Robert Principe spoke on behalf of Envision Holliston and implored the Town’s leaders and stakeholders to be trained / coached to facilitate a strategic vision / plan that makes Holliston “a welcoming community to all.” He urged those who have not yet provided input to do so soon.
Article 29 was a proposed Tree Ordinance for Holliston. Such an ordinance is one of the criterion for Holliston to be named a Tree City USA. The draft ordinance included language from similar ordinances in neighboring communities.
Residents voiced opposition to the language that appeared to regulate tree management on private property. Below (top left) Devin Howe pointed to the potential costs that builders, developers, and homeowners could incur when removing trees for construction. Mary Greendale noted that such an ordinance would help protect trees in general and especially legacy trees.
Above (bottom left) Mark Whittaker proposed indefinite postponement of the article until clearer language regarding private property owners’ rights. Shaw Liveley (bottom right) spoke in support of indefinite postponement. Town Meeting voted to indefinitely postpone the article.
With affirmative votes taken on the final three Articles, the meeting was adjourned at 10:17pm.