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434WVN #348: Election highlights

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  • waylandvoters1
    May 10, 2010
      Dear Wayland Voter,

      The May 11 town election offers voters clear choices in the races for selectman and the School Committee as well as a ballot question that has created a "bath house" issue and new calls for more voter choice on borrowing money.


      The only ballot question is, by law, lacking in detail: Will voters approve a property tax override -- borrowing beyond the limits of Proposition 2-1/2 -- to pay for school technology equipment, repairs of town buildings, a street sweeper and feasibility studies for athletic fields and space needs for the Council on Aging? Here is what you need to know before voting.

      If voters approve, the town will take on $2 million in new debt for up to 25 years, for spending as follows:

      -- $600,000 for school technology equipment. There is widespread expressed support for bringing technology up to date, but disagreement about exactly how to provide more computers for students.

      -- $570,000 to be added to money already appropriated for renovating the bath house at the town beach. (Total cost: $1.2 million.) This has generated controversy.

      -- $440,000 for building repairs, renovation and equipment upgrades at the Town Building, the Public Safety Building and the Library. This was in the works before the recent extensive flood damage at the library and Public Safety Building. The selectmen and the town administrator have downplayed the fiscal effects of the flooding. The police chief's preliminary estimate of the damage exceeds $500,000. Though town officials say that FEMA will provide extensive reimbursement for flood damage and lawsuits will help to offset the high cost of repairing damage to the Public Safety Building allegedly caused by poor design, Wayland could face big bills in the near future.

      -- $125,000 for a new street sweeper.

      -- $125,000 for playing field renovations.

      -- $75,000 to pave north cemetery roads.

      -- $35,000 for the feasibility study of space needs for the senior center.

      -- $30,000 for the feasibility study of the Greenways area for playing fields.

      Details at:


      The bath house proposal has led some voters to repeat their request that the town follow the lead of some other municipalities where voters are given a menu of options, to be able to say yes or no to each capital request. The selectmen reduced the requested amount by $350,000, eliminating additions intended to produce rental income. Still, some voters, in letters to the Town Crier and elsewhere, say this $1.2 million renovation project smacks of business as usual at a time when towns and cities everywhere are struggling. Those who want, say, new school technology can either go along with the bath house, or vote no as a protest of an all-or-nothing system.

      The Finance Committee emphasizes that the new borrowing replaces debt of similar size coming off the books, and that rejecting the ballot question would lower the average tax bill by only $70 annually. Skeptics say that, regardless of the amount, the town's intended path is unsustainable. Wayland has raised its total indebtedness from $28 million to $73 million to build the new high school. On top of the usual property tax increases, debt-induced additions will add an average of hundreds of dollars annually to tax bills for about 25 years. After five operating budget overrides in nine years, Wayland is expected to have the highest tax rate in eastern Massachusetts when the borrowing is completed.


      John Bladon and Don Bustin, competing for one three-year term as selectman, disagree on many things. For example, the ballot question menu option for borrowing (Bustin is for it, Bladon -- a FinCom member -- against). Bladon supports everything in the proposed debt exclusion; Bustin is skeptical of "an extravagant bath house that nobody knows anything about."

      Bladon is for Town Meeting Article 25, which would give complete control to the selectmen to choose a developer to create recreational facilities at the former Dow Chemical site; Bustin says this is jumping the gun, since there is no specific plan and there are many unanswered questions. Bustin says allowing the selectmen to make "future arrangements with the private interests promoting this" is not the best and most cost-effective way to plan for the town's recreation needs.


      Beth Butler and Shawn Kinney, competing for a three-year term, agree on the strengths of the Wayland school system and neither criticizes the general direction the present School Committee is taking. Butler is clearly the establishment candidate, endorsed along with Bladon by current office holders and their allies. Kinney, who has attended School Committee meetings over the past year and issued research comparing Wayland's cost-effectiveness with that of other towns, is seen as an outsider. Butler touts her experience as a Superior Court judge and a lawyer, while Kinney emphasizes his technical and management skills (doctorate in chemistry and CEO of his own high-tech company). Butler talks about using her legal and mediation experience. Kinney talks about new initiatives to make the system as efficient as possible without sacrificing teaching positions.

      For details see:



      Three candidates are competing for two two-year slots. For details see:



      Voters will be offered two ballots, one for the town election and one for the state senate seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Scott Brown. For more information:


      -- WVN Staff



      The Board of Selectmen will hold a forum at 8 p.m. during its regular May 10 meeting to discuss and answer questions regarding Wayland's response to the recent flooding.


      The Wayland Board of Health is pre-registering Wayland residents for the next household hazardous waste collection day, Saturday, May 22. Residents must complete a pre-registration form and choose a half-hour slot between 9 a.m. and noon on May 22. The pre-registration slots are assigned first-come, first-served.

      Forms are at the Board of Health office, Wayland Town Building lobby, Council on Aging, Wayland Transfer Station & Recycling Center and on-line:


      Completed forms must be submitted to the Board of Health office by noon Friday, May 21. Information on the types of household hazardous waste that will be collected is listed on the registration form.

      For more information, contact the Board of Health, 358-3617.

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      Wayland Voters Network
      Michael Short, Editor