Previewing Segment A: First Part Of 2021 Annual Town Meeting Highlights A Change In Who Runs The Light Department

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Traditionally the first half of Town Meeting – known as Segment A – is a multiple night affair with speechifying from long lines of Members on a menagerie of topics. Who could have thought in 2019 that increasing the Town Moderator’s term to three years would prompt an uproar, or citizen’s petitions on snow removal and yard sales could cause a ruckus and creating marijuana districts and the transfer of liquor licenses would stretch meetings past the 11 p.m. witching hour.

Fast forward to opening night at this year’s virtual event of the Annual Town Meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 3 and the entire segment could be finished before Rancatore’s shuts its doors. With only two articles set for debate – one on May 3 and the other May 5 – the meeting could see the rare incident of where there are no more members in line to speak on a subject when the article/amendments are called.

First some facts about this week:

  • The Annual Town Meeting will be held May 3, 5, 10, 12 [Segment A] and we’ll take a pause and will return June 2, 7 and 9 for Segment B. All sessions begin at 7 p.m. There are 22 articles on the warrant, only 11 will be taken up in Segment A, the remainder will be taken in Segment B.
  • The Special Town Meeting will be held Wednesday, May 5 starting at 7:30 p.m. and is expected to conclude early, allowing the meeting to return to the business of the annual.

For the Monday, May 3 session of the Annual Town Meeting, the articles will be:

Many of the articles will be of the housekeeping kind or will be made moot – in the case of the citizen petitions articles 8 and 9 – leaving two which will be brought before the legislative body for a vote. With Article 8, it is the intention of the sponsor, Adriana Poole, to move to dismiss this article while the intention of the sponsor of Article 9, Alexander Corbett III, will move to dismiss this article.

ARTICLE 2: Municipal Light Board change in governance

This article will create a separate five-member Municipal Light Board. Currently, the Select Board members are also the Light Board.

Both the Select Board and the Light Board voted two for and one for the article. The aye votes – Roy Epstein and Mark Paolillo – point to nearly 80 percent of municipal utilities in Massachusetts have similar voter-approved entities with members who will have a background in or great interest to provide electrical power to the community rather than a Select Board who are, as they admit, not that well versed in the subject.

Adam Dash, the nay vote, said there are two issues that prevented him from coming on board with his colleagues. The first is the outstanding manner that the Light Department is performing, noting Boston Magazine named it “the greenest municipal light department.

“I think we’re doing really really well and I’m puzzled as to why we’re going to mess” interfering with our green energy initiative,” he said.

And as it will be elected, it will be independent to do as it pleases with its assets and policies without the interference from the other town boards and committees, said Dash.

“It’s going to cost the town money: in the future of the Belmont Light Building in Belmont Center, the post closure use the incinerator site, and PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) payments. I think a lot of that could just go away if there’s a separate Light Board. I’m concerned that the PILOT payment goes away and blows a $650,000 hole in our budget.”

Paolillo said he believes the Select Board will have the same relationship with this new board as it does with the School Committee and the Library Trustees, based on “a collaborative working relationship … and there’ll be accountability as it relates to the residents.”

The Select Board and the Light Board will report on this article.