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Town Meeting: First Night, April 23, 2012

An on-going account of the yearly meeting of the town's legislative branch.

Town Meeting: First Night, April 23, 2012

7:07 p.m.: Welcome to Belmont's annual Town Meeting. Town Moderator Mike Widmer gets things underway.

The invocation was delivered, Boy Scout Troop 304 presented the flags of the US and Massachusetts. And Mrs. Kendell provides a jaunty rendition of "God Bless America."

7:18 p.m.: A resolution for Ephraim Radner, a resident for 55 years and on the Warrant Committee and Planning Board "and enriching the public schools ... and a constructive member for a number of committees" 

7:22 p.m.: Honoring Edward J. Dressler for his quarter century of work at the Belmont Public Library.

7:25 p.m.: The Town Meeting notes all the good works by the Department of Public Works (with Peter Castanino, DPW director before the representatives) proclaiming the week of May 5 is National Public Works Week.

7:27 p.m.: Joel Semuels, chairman of the board for the Council on Aging, gives the first of three town reports. Semuels says that the town made the right choice in approving the building of the Beech Street Center. He said that the location provides better transportation, activities and services.

7:34 p.m.: It IS a bit warm in the High School auditorium.

7:36 p.m.: The Council on Aging will work with all departments in town. "The Beech Street Center is your building. Come on down!" said Semuels.

7:37 p.m.: Mark Paolillo, Selectmen chairman, gives a rundown on the history of events regarding the Belmont Uplands development. Lots of acronyms and technical lingo. Essentially, the Uplands continues on its way.

7:42 p.m.: Ellen Schreiber, Precinct 8, updates on the two playgrounds - at the Winn Brook (Joey's Park) and Butler schools - that were shut down in November. The Butler play ground group has raised half the money it needs ($100K of $200K) while Joey's needs to be replaced or rehabbed. Belmont Partners in Play - a new group - where the Butler and Joey's Park groups got together and will be like a friend's organization for all recreation and parks for all ages. "Please join us to protect our parks and recreation areas."

7:48 p.m.: First two articles up and approved.

7:49 p.m.: Mark Paolillo asks that Article 15 - Trapelo Road easements - be dismissed. It will be removed from annual Town Meeting Warrant. It will be placed on the Special Town Meeting Warrant. Joe White of Pct. 4 asks if the changes couldn't be done with amendments. Town Attorney Green says no.

7:52 p.m.: Jack Weiss, Belmont's Representative to the Minuteman Regional HS has some heavy convincing to do. Just before he defends his article to create a stabilization fund for the Minuteman Regional HS, the Board of Selectmen, Warrant Committee and Capital Budget Committee all say they oppose it.

7:54 p.m.: Essentially, the stabilization fund would be limited to capital and building projects, 2/3 majority of all school committee members (11/16) must say yes to take out the money, withdrawals are not a line item and other "safe guards."

8:00 p.m.: You have heard objections, said Weiss, saying we are losing control and putting the chart before the horse. Weiss said from his view point this amendment just shifts the timing and gives Minuteman the ability to do multiyear planning is good. And anything that smooths the assessments (from Minuteman) to Belmont is a good thing. It's a prudent tool for the school.

8:07 p.m.: Selectman Jones said that the problem with Minuteman is that it takes the Town Meeting out of the process, unlike how a stabilization fund would work in town.

8:11 p.m.: Bill Lynch of the Warrant Committee said that the fund could be used for repairs and construction without approval from Belmont Town Meeting. Also Anne Marie Mahoney, capital budget chairwoman, also said they oppose due to limiting control.

8:14 p.m.: Paul Roberts, Pct. 6, asked the director of the Minuteman why wasn't there a stabilization fund in the past. Director said there was no capital improvements because there was only one big project. Now the building is threadbare and will need repairs.

8:18 p.m.: Charles Hamann said, playing devil's advocate, that Minuteman has a much more difficult requirement to meet necessary repairs - going to 16 town meetings - while if a similar situation happened in Belmont, the Selectmen can call a special town meeting or take money out of the reserve account.

8:23 p.m.: Superintendent Dr. Edward Bouquillon makes a strong case for the Minuteman Regional funds.

8:31 p.m.: Roger Colton, Pct. 6, asks Jones if the town's utilities has stabilization funds, which Jones says is true.

8:33 p.m.: Fred Paulsen, Pct. 1, asks about the control on future expenses, can the town place requirements on Minutemen; Weiss said that the dynamic is not on how much is being spent but when it is being spent.

8:36 p.m.: Selectman Chair Paolillo agrees that the leadership team at Minuteman is much better than previous teams but it is about the mechanism on how the money is spent. Repairs are needed but not under this plan.

8:40 p.m.: Bouquillon says that the stabilization fund would not be up and running for a year-and-a-half and only spent it on capital repairs or improvements.

8:43 p.m.: Joe White, Pct. 4, asks if Bouquillon would be here if, indeed 9 of 16 towns approved the stabilization fund which is all he needs.

8:47 p.m.: Five percent of budget up to $450,000 into a stabilization fund - for repairs and improvements – but the Minuteman School Committee gets to say where it goes. Until a better approach comes forward, to disapprove will force the state to pay more and "it's a nose under the tent" to begin the construction for a new building, said Sue Bass.

Allison said that while the debate has been about capital improvements but it's not because the wording says that it can be used for simple improvements and repair.

Jones said the process is not broken so Minuteman should come back to each town meeting and ask for the money.

Now the vote: by a voice vote, the measure is defeated.

8:57 p.m.: Ellen Cushman, town clerk, talks a bit about electronic voting. Widmer said electronic tallying is growing in popularity especially among other representative town meeting. The article is approved to send it to a committee.

9 p.m.: Mike Smith said that he would have loved to debate the demolition delay article but the Historic District Commission just didn't do a good enough job air out the issues. He will be back in October with a better article.

9:03 p.m.: The meeting is adjourned! One hour and 55 minutes. See you May 14th.

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