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301WVN #266: Special Town Meeting

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  • waylandvoters1
    Nov 11, 2008
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      Dear Wayland Voter,

      Petitioning citizens have given voice to concerns that will be aired at this week's special Town Meeting.

      The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday Nov. 12 at the Middle School gym. The High School field house can't be used because of incomplete renovations. The gym has a capacity of about 800 and nearby parking for only
      about 250 vehicles.

      Town officials recommend car-pooling. Employees will be on duty to direct parking. If all spaces are taken, a school bus will make a continuous loop from the parking lots at the High School. An electronic sign will be posted at
      the intersection of Route 27 and Old Connecticut Path to tell drivers when Middle School and Highway Department parking is filled. Doors open at 6 p.m.

      Another change from usual Town Meetings: No live TV coverage, because WayCAM lacks the necessary equipment. WayCAM will broadcast the meeting at a later date.

      Though there are 19 articles, officials hope to finish the meeting in one evening. You should have received a bright pink Special Town Meeting Warrant by mail containing 46 pages of detail. Copies are available at the Town
      Building and will be available at the meeting.

      Some of the articles have attracted enthusiastic attention.

      ARTICLE 1, for example, was proposed by petitioning citizens and asks for a resolution spurring the town to create a pay-as-you-throw system for trash disposal at the landfill, now a transfer station. The resolution also asks
      for quick action on home composting "to promote fiscally responsible solutions for increased recycling and waste reduction."

      Residents have been urging quick action on these green intiatives for some time as the Board of Health manages the transition to transfer station. As WVN has reported, Wayland's rates are among the highest in the state, and
      pay-as-you-throw could save money for residents who manage trash carefully.

      ARTICLE 2, sponsored by the Council on Aging, would slightly increase the tax break for eligible seniors under the state's Circuit Breaker program. The Finance Committee recommends approval and says the effect on other
      taxpayers would be minimal.

      ARTICLE 3 would transfer control of the landfill from the Board of Health to the new Board of Public Works. This would increase the power of the Board of Selectmen, which sponsored the article. Town Meeting is not being asked
      to discuss or vote on transferring the landfill land parcels. 

      ARTICLE 5, sponsored by the Planning Board, would modify zoning to permit a higher proportion of commercial development at the projected Town Center on Route 20. Given the soft residential market, the change could
      increase Wayland's tax revenue.

      The problem addressed in ARTICLE 15, proposed by the Conservation Commission, has attracted vigorous comment from residents. The article limits the number of dogs that can be taken onto conservation land. Citizens who
      use Wayland's abundant conservation lands complain that professional dog walkers from other municipalities bring large numbers of dogs to exercise, fouling the area. Some residents say the dog walkers disturb neighborhoods
      by arriving very early in the day and speeding along access roads. 

      Petitioners who sponsored ARTICLE 18 say the town needs a temporary study committee to review and update the five-year-old Master Plan. The review is in fact suggested in the existing Master Plan. It would cost nothing.

      Proponents of ARTICLE 18 say a revised Master Plan would make it clearer how residents want Wayland to develop. They point to two controversial proposals that have attracted attention, and sometimes scores of unhappy
      residents attending Planning Board meetings.

      One proposal is to demolish existing buildings (including Morn's Restaurant and Dunkin' Donuts) at East Plain Street and Main Street to make way for an imposing CVS drugstore that would be more than 30 feet tall.

      The other is the future of the Lee's Farm Stand site on Route 20. A developer's recent plans for a shopping center conflicted with residents' hopes for open space and long-term planning. Emotions  on this and the CVS proposal
      are running high.

      -- Michael Short

      MONEY ARTICLES

      Though the policy of selectmen and the Finance Committee is to confine budgetary matters to annual Town Meeting in the spring, there are several Nov. 12 articles with a financial impact. Some remove the authority of Town
      Meeting to set rates.  The items are:

      ARTICLE 2 -– Increase Town Matching Circuit Breaker Tax Credits (see above). Potential increased cost to taxpayers:  $17,000.

      ARTICLE 7– Increase Surplus Property Disposal Approval Thresholds. This allows the town administrator to dispose of surplus property worth $5,000 (up from the $1500 current threshold town) without going through Town
      Meeting and allows this local threshold amount to increase automatically, without Town Meeting, as the state increases its own surplus threshold.

      ARTICLE 8 – Increase Demand Charge for Delinquent Taxes. This increases the town's current $5 late fee to $30 or greater as state law allows without Town Meeting action. Residents might want to be sure they obtain a clear
      definition of what constitutes a tax. 

      ARTICLE 11 – Current year transfer. Transfer $188,000 towards covering the cost of the new Waste Management hauling contract for the landfill. The  Fiscal 2009 landfill sticker fee increase (31%) has resulted in significantly
      fewer users than projected.

      ARTICLE 12 – Water Meter Reading Program. Borrow $650,000 to acquire a remote radio water meter reading system. Water rates will absorb the costs of debt service and monthly billing whose expenses will rise by $21,000. This
      is presented as an effort to conserve water as residents will know their monthly water usage. The international financial crisis has made municipal borrowing problematical. 

      ARTICLE 16 – Increase Annual Dog License Fees. This article proposes not only to raise the dog license fees but also to empower the Board of Selectmen to raise the fees after a public hearing. This removes the rate-setting
      authority from Town Meeting.

      NEW FINCOM MEMBER

      The Finance Committee met Nov. 3 with John Bladon as its newest member. He's the husband of Dianne Bladon who serves on the High School Building Committee with Mary Lentz, wife of FinCom member Bob Lentz.

      The Finance Committee is looking at the list of peer towns it uses for comparisons  and heard Zach Ventress, a newcomer and eager volunteer, report on his review of peer town benchmarking criteria and selection. He interviewed
      Jeff Dieffenbach of the School Committee, former selectmen George Harris and Alan Reiss, Cherry Karlson and Sam Peper from the Finance Committee, and Lisa Valone from Save Our Services. Based on their input, Ventress came
      up with five key criteria to address major concerns. FinCom is using the report as it contemplates adjusting  its town list. In general, town boards do not use the same peer town list but rather establish a list based on particular
      issues facing each board. 

      -- Molly Upton

      TWO SURVEYS:

      WHAT DO YOU WANT THE SCHOOLS TO DO?

      The School Committee is conducting a survey to gauge community sentiment on priorities for various program elements, from a proposed expansion to full-day kindergarten to taxpayer-supported busing. All residents can
      weigh in by going to http://mywayland.wufoo.com/forms/wayland-community-input-on-educational-priorities/

      RATE HOW WELL THE TOWN COMMUNICATES WITH YOU

      Click www.mywayland.org to complete a 2-minute survey.

      The town will use your ideas to improve email, web and WayCam communications.

      Wayland's  Electronics Communications Committee is collecting ideas and planning improvements in the way the town communicates with residents.
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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor