7 p.m.: Welcome the final night of Belmont's annual Town Meeting, tonight at the Chenery Middle School – so no complaints about the chairs.
At 7:08 p.m., we have a quorum and away we go. The order of articles: 9, 1, 13, 14, 5, 11 and 3.
I just heard that the Town Meeting will hear a report that the Minuteman Regional Tech High School has gone ahead seeking funds to make major renovations to its school before providing Belmont with information on enrollment and building the
Marc Cohen, Pct. 3, wanted to reconsider article 9 but now he sees that the numbers are correct so he has withdrawn the reconsideration.
Now the reading of the reports; there are two tonight. The first is about Minuteman and it ain't gonna be good: Jack Weis, Pct. 1 and Belmont's school committee rep at Minuteman said he will make a report that will be "exhibit A why there is a deep-seated anger." It concerns the $725,000 for a feasibility study on the possible renovation of the Lexington-based school two years ago.
Belmont did not believe the feasibility study should go forward until the town gets some answers on enrollment and other concerns.
Last Tuesday, Minuteman decided to go forward with a full-feasibility study and ignore Belmont's conditions.
Mark Paolillo, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the board feels that Minuteman has not met its obligations. If we agree to 800 students, we cannot afford a $90 million of which Belmont's share would be 20 percent.
The Board is asking town counsel to write them that they have not met the town's conditions and Weis also questioned the move.
Thomas Kingston makes a report on the Butler Playground which is all good news: Belmont residents have come up with more than enough money to rebuild the playground. This is why Belmont is such a great town, said Selectman Ralph Jones.
7:37 p.m.: Let's borrow money to repair sewers. Not a nay in the house.
7:38 p.m.: Article 14 is the stabilization fund for the incinerator and using $824,000 to pay for analysis that is part of the regulatory process "a very long and detailed process," said Glenn Clancy, director of Community Development ($200K), designing a plan to cap the site for a specific ($90K) and knocking down the abandoned incinerator site ($524,000). Basically, this is the money needed to move forward on the site. It doesn't mean the town needs to keep it; it can sell it but the private use must satisfy regulatory requirements, change the zoning and lots of other stuff.
Why do we need to do this? asked Don Mercier. Clancy said the town made an agreement and they need to stick to it.
Mark D'Andrea, Jr., Pct 3, asks about ownership of the site. Bob McLaughlin, Pct. 2, has some history on the site and says "We don't know who owns it." (to some laughter) Lots of laws have changed so it is a very complicated matter to try and resolve this land. Mark Paolillo, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said the board will attempt to resolve the issue and come up with future uses including possible development.
Oh boy. Not again. The slide once again has the wrong number: the town is seeking $834,000.
7:53 p.m.: Bill Dillon, Pct. asks how much the architectural consultant, CBM Smith, has been paid so far. More than $150,000 but less than half a million dollars.
8 p.m.: Capping the site will cost $2.9 million; the stabilization fund has more than $4 million. The $2.9 million is the lowest amount, for open space. For uses such as playing grounds, it will be more. That $90 million will resolve the three specific uses "the direction the town is going in," said Clancy.
Article 14 is voted on and approved without objection.
Now, the salary issue. The town clerk's salary is at $78,216 on the article. The Warrant Committee has withdrawn its amendment. A new amendment will drop the clerk's salary to $68,720. Bob McLaughlin is speaking on this issue. He said last year that he found it unseemly and devisive. Now on the Warrant Committee and he found a lot of merit. Now he splits the difference down the middle of the Warrant Committee and the amount that the Human Resources determines what the Clerk should be paid.
"We all know Ellen's doing a great job" and that there will be a comprehensive salary study for all department heads.
McLaughlin said he hopes that this article does not become a personality contest and not like in Washington that the town can compromise.
Ralph Jones said he hopes that the new Town Administrator will take up the issue.
Elizabeth Allison, Warrant Committee chair, said that next year will be better; there will be a study, a new administrator and a much better set of rules to award the town's department heads.
Martin Cohen, Pct. 3, said when he retired two decades ago he was paid $66,000 "and I didn't run a department." The town clerk is underpaid, he said.
Paolillo said that the issue for him is the correct classification rather than a salary increase. Now there is a question whether it is a grade 18 but Human Resources said it was. Now there will be better information due to the comprehensive salary study. The board is ready to work together with the new Town Administrator on this issue and he still believes the clerk's salary is more than what she is being paid.
What are comparable towns and job responsibilities
Kathleen Baskin, Pct 8, said that we know what Cushman is doing on the job and it isn't the time to kick the can down the road. Pay her what she's worth. And "that we be a town that attracts qualified candidates."
Tomi Olson, Pct. 5, said that this is also an issue about fair pay for fair work for women.
Joe Connolly, Pct 5, said that Mel Kleckner, former Town Administrator, had attempted to prevent such discussions on one person. Last year he sat down hoping for a compromise but now it's déjà vu all over again.
Jenni Fallon, is supporting the amendment and doesn't believe this should not be discussed at Town Meeting and that these positions should be appointed positions.
Paul Roberts also agrees with Fallon, that this is unseemly.
The question is called.
The vote on just the amendment.
The amendment is defeated, 97-94. Three votes. That's democracy for you. What would the vote had been if the 100 representative no-shows had showed up?
8:53 p.m.: Article 11 is up: the Community Preservation Committee article. Reserve accounts - open space, historic and affordable housing - and into a budget account. Next year, nearly $2 million will be in the account. And then there will be projects. So this year, only asking for $54K for a consultant, said Floyd Carman, who is on the committee.
Vincent Stanton, Pct. 3, is now sort of confused about what the $54K is for: a historic consultant or administrative. Will the consultant decide on what projects or an expensive administrative assistant. No, said Carman,
The article passes with one lone nay.
9:05 p.m.: Finally, the last article, number 3. It took four nights and more than a month to get here. It's an article that transfers a lot of balances. We should be done in about one minute.
It passes and we are done. See you in November! Cheers by everyone when hearing the Town Meeting desolved.