Photo: Town Moderator and Town Clerk before tonight’s meeting/
Belmont’s annual Town Meeting reconvenes tonight, Monday, May 8 at 7 p.m. to take up the last warrant articles remaining in the meeting’s first segment.
Those articles are:
- Article 8: Refer to a study committee the article that would increase the membership of the Board of Selectmen from three to five members.
- Article 9: Empower the Board of Selectmen to consider all options for waste management in the town, including waste metering such as pay-as-you-throw systems, as part of their ongoing role as financial managers of the town.
- Article 10: Welcoming Town designation.
There has been a bit of an exciting time before the meeting as the two sides of the Article 10 issue are holding signs and asking members to vote for or vote down the now controversial non-binding measure which would reiterate the town’s police department policies of not requesting the immigration status of residents who they come in contact with.
Unofficial word is that Article 10 will be given its day, Wednesday, to be debated. Seems fair.
Mike Widmer, Town Moderator, said the hope was that most people want to see the three articles are completed tonight – to cheers – but with Article 10 be started by 9:30 p.m.
Jay Marcotte, the DPW director, is giving an update on the town’s solid waste/recycling program. Here is the push for automated trash collection which many towns have transitioned, such as Wakefield. “We are doing well” as a town with unrestricted on the curb collection. There are three collection options before the town: traditional, automated or pay as you throw. Lots of pros and cons. Did you know that a typical Belmont household creates nearly 1,500 lbs of trash annually? Pay as you throw is the best method to limit trash. But there are a lot of cons. The Selectmen will decide the best option by July 2018, a year away.
The first article of the night: Article 8, that called for expanding the number of selectmen from three to five. This is not about expanding the number but purely on the formation of a committee to discuss the matter. The original article is not being debated because it was putting the cart before the horse; the state legislature needs to approve the addition of the members of the board before it can be voted on by the Town Meeting. The original article was a citizen’s petition by Selectman Jim Williams.
Williams said the benefits of a larger board is now needed because the town is much bigger – $160 million and 460 employees – than a three-member board can accomplish. Williams said the Open Meeting Law limits any discussion on any sort without a formal meeting. “It’s simply not enough time” to do what needs to be done. It’s been proposed in 2002, 2000 and 1967 and many similar-sized towns like Arlington, Lexington and Wellesley have five. Five selectmen will allow for two selectmen to deliberate, speak and communicate. Williams said a five-member board is just more efficient. While there will not be a vote tonight, Williams is seeking a 13-member study board to make a recommendation and a possible town meeting vote in 2018.
Williams created an ad hoc committee with many prominent Town Meeting members to discuss the issue. Jack Weis, Pct. 1, and a member of the ad hoc committee said you would vote on the
Steve Rosales, Pct. 8, and former Selectman said he wants to nip this in the bud and wants to vote no on the study. He said don’t fix it if it’s not broken. If you have a five-member board, it is a greater likelihood that deals will be done in secret and there will be no debate.
AnnMarie Mahoney, Pct. 8, and former Selectman said there is a concern that a larger board could be done to circumvent the Open Meeting Law.
The question “Why now?” Williams said he wants to look forward and sees a lot of risks facing Belmont in the next three to five year from a new High School, community path, and his favorite concern, OPEB retirement funding. It’s just more efficient. Claus Becker, Pct. 5, said any company the size of the town is never run by a three-member board.
Claus Becker, Pct. 5, said any company the size of the town is never run by a three-member board.
Reed Bundy, Pct. 1, asked if the board could just meet and discuss the issues at any time, which the selectmen said that is an option right now.
The vote has been moved, and the ending of debate was approved. The vote to establish a committee creation is passed 192-67.
Up now is Article 9, the Pay As You Throw discussion which is not about the issue itself, but about encouraging the selectmen to consider it as a viable option in future contracts.
Kim Slack said he submitted his citizen’s petition as an environmentalist and a fiscal conservative, giving the selectmen more options and leave a cleaner planet.
The issue before the town is the 1990 override which paid for curbside trash collection. And since then, the town has not considered “all options.” Slack said PAYT would be more environmentally sensible and could cut costs which help local financial challenges. Only 11 percent of municipalities have what Slack called “free” curbside collection, a phrase that did not go over well with quite a few members.
Pat Brusch, Pct. 2, was on the ballot question committee back in 1989, which supported the 1990 override for the collection of solid waste (for $2,094,946) said she has concerns this vote will have a detrimental impact on voters when they are asked to finance other important projects around town.
The debate is a great give and takes between competing concerns: the environment and keeping a promise to past voters. There are 14 members waiting to speak on the issue.
The question is moved and debate has been terminated 242-22.
And now the motion on article 9: it passes 162-99. It is non-binding.
Now Article 10, Ann Mahon’s citizen’s petition to make Belmont a Welcoming Town. After reading the article, Mahon explains what the article will do including reaffirming current Belmont Police Dept. practices and reaffirm our values as a cohesive communityh that welcomes and accepts without prejudice those of all races, religions and nationalities.
“Do not listen to rumors or heresay,” said Mahon. It does not make Belmont a sanctuary town or ask Belmont Police not to cooperate with ICE. It will continue Belmont Police Department practices
“This is a way to unite the town with its police department,” said John Roberts who is speaking for the article.
About 20 members waiting in line to make comments.