Photo: Moderator Mike Widmer.
Hello, as the Town Meeting convenes for a special meeting to discuss and vote on a new Minuteman Regional Agreement,
7:11 p.m.: Moderator Mike Widmer begins the meeting as more than 100 members have arrived to reach a quorum. While the electronic voting was being checked, one of the members shouted out: “Slow it down!”
“Tough crowd,” said Jack Weis. Pct. 1.
7:18 p.m.: A remembrance of Dick Betts and a wonderful standing ovation for Becca Pizzi, the young woman who won the World Marathon Challenge.
7:28 p.m.: An update from School Committee Chair Laurie Slap and Superintendent John Phelan on the need for additional space for the schools.
7:34 p.m.: Slap will present Article 3 which will establish a building committee for the purpose of renovation and/or new construction of the high school.
All boards recommend favorable action.
Slap presents a brief presentation on the important dates coming forward during the beginning of the process of renovating the high school.
Marianne Scali is offering her amendment that would add a simple statement that would require the school building committee to take special attention of hazardous waste that may be in the soil where the renovation is taking place. The area was once a town dump.
The selectmen vote unfavorable action but Sami Baghdady, Selectmen chair, said the board is for doing all it can to make sure the development is safe when children attend the site.
Phelan said the state required a complete review of the soil as part of the process of renovating the site. He said the School Committee is committed to the safety of the students and staff.
Bob McLaughlin, Pct. 2, said while it is unnecessary, he voting for the amendment because he does not want to headlines that say Town Meeting is against safety issues. “It will help alleviate the enrollment problem,” said McLaughlin, with a hardy laugh.
7:52 p.m.: Baghdady said tinkering with the language at this early date could foul up the process with the state which only wants simple language establishing a building committee. The more appropriate time for this amendment is when the building committee is adequately staffed and financed.
David Kale, the town administrator, explains that the process will require testing, and if something is found to be unsafe, a more in-depth study will be required.
Members appear skeptical of just relying on the state process.
Mark Paolillo, Board of Selectmen, said have heard people concerns of possible safety issues, but there is nothing that can be done now as this measure precedes the time for environmental inspection.
Scali said she is withdrawing her amendment, having highlighted the issue and declares victory.
Kevin Cunningham, Pct. 4, asked Widmer who will be put on the school building committee. Widmer said the committee, about 15 people, will be working for 10 years and wants people who can put the time and has some expertise in building, construction, education, neighbors and parents.
A number of people have reached out to him and he is taking names: send those names to firstname.lastname@example.org
He will have the committee completed in three weeks, have names into him by this Friday.
The vote is taken and is adopted unanimously.
8:12 p.m.: Now the Minuteman Regional Agreement:
“This is a close call,” said Paolillo who will speak along with McLaughlin and Weis.
Back in the 1970s, the facility was full with 1,200 students, now 650 with little more than half from the 16 member towns.
“It no longer serves the district,” said Paolillo, noting the enrollment is declining while non-member towns are sending more students.
“We’re subsidizing the non-member students especially when it comes to capital costs,” said Paolillo.
Paolillo goes over the history and the dysfunctional nature of the agreement, needing unanimous votes (16-0) to amend and leave the district. It was a shared frustration with other board of selectmen that led to the new revised regional agreement that includes a “Belmont” provision that requires out-of-district students to pay a capital “fee.”
While a tough call, a reconstituted agreement is the best for Belmont students said, Paolillo.
8:30 p.m.: Jack Weis talks about the major reasons for vote yes for the amended agreement. Weis is going step by step through the changes from the old agreement.
You can see what Jack is talking about here.
9 p.m.: Bob McLaughlin, Pct. 2 so that wrote my job is to clear away the fog. “It’s bad policy” but it’s the best that they can do.
Leaning on the lecturn as if he was talking to a jury, McLaughlin – an attorney – told the members in a 10 minute speech to rally around the revised amendment as the best of a bad situation, noting that at least approving the measure would allow the town to have a vote in June concerning the debt and it allows the school to secure $44 million in state funding.
9;26 p.m.: Vincent Stanton, Pct. 3, asks if the school district can educate inhouse the vocational students now being sent to Minuteman. That was beyond the scope of the measure.
Quickly, Don Mercier, Pct. 8, called the question. Only a single question was asked. The calling was seconded and the measure passes easily 171-8.
See you in May for the annual Town Meeting.
John Bowe says
Jack Weis and Bob McLaughlin’s comments were honest (admitting it’s not a great deal, just the best we can do), informative (right amount of history and details going forward), and kept things focused. Good job all around.