WVN ALERT: Town Meeting begins tonight; big land and money issues
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Town Meeting starts tonight at 7:30 p.m. and continues on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Field House. Voters need to pay close attention to details as eight of the 24 articles have been in flux.
New information on motions became available only today.
Important decisions about town-owned land should be made by informed voters. Some require appropriating large sums of money.
This alert will summarize articles likely to come up early in the multi-session meeting.
Town Meeting attendees should look on the literature tables for handouts describing errata, supplemental information, Finance Committee comments not included in the warrant, last minute changes to what was printed in the warrant.
Article 4 involves funding for Other Post Employee Benefits (OPEB), a long-term fund for health care. Attendees have a chance to approve or disapprove the $744,202 payment with a single vote, without wading through the entire budget.
Article 5 is the town's Fiscal 2014 budget operating and capital.
Key boards are meeting at the Field House before town meeting starts, selectmen at 6:30 p.m., Finance Committee and School Committee at 7 p.m. Their agendas show Town Meeting preparation. Any article can be discussed. Check the town website for the latest town meeting news update and board agenda postings:
Selectmen have not voted their recommendations yet for articles 3, 5, 9, 10, 14, 18 and 19. Article 11 was in the process of being amended. These important last minute steps are expected to occur this evening before Town Meeting begins.
That's an indication to voters that they need to pay close attention to the details. There have been last minute meetings of some committees (e.g. Permanent Municipal Building Committee, Economic Development Committee posted to meet this morning, Planning Board) as deadlines have come and gone.
Article 3 Warrant does not explain the true purpose of the wastewater expense or how it is being funded. It involves an alternative groundwater discharge to benefit the Town Center project but located at the ball field outside Town Building. It will require piping to and from the new wastewater plant a mile away. The project could cost more than a million dollars if ever built. There is no map in the appendix to show location of the proposed facility. More information about this unusual scheme and a legal commitment already made to the state without town meeting knowledge or authorization is posted at: http://www.waylandtransparency.com/wastewater.php
The dollar amount for snow removal is expected to increase to $165,000 to reflect updated estimates from March snowstorms.
Article 4 OPEB. The successful fall 2012 Town Meeting petitioners' article now requires the OPEB appropriation to be voted separately at town meeting. The funding of OPEB was a campaign issue in the recent town election and continues to prompt questions and discussion. Given the large amount, having a separate warrant article helps voters make more informed decisions. The itemized funding sources are expected to be seven enterprise or revolving funds or special accounts (user fee or fee-supported programs).
Article 5 Omnibus budget. Thanks to petitioners' efforts at the 2012 fall Town Meeting, voters now see more budget detail presented in the warrant. There are more numbered line items, any of which can be amended on town meeting floor. There will be four motions under this article, one for the operating budget, one for Finance Committee recommendations "for the proper management of the Town and its finances," one for the capital budget, and one for middle school roof repairs.
There is a proposal to add a new WaylandCares department on the town side of the operating budget. The selectmen's committee -- appointed last spring to evaluate the school-based program and options for future funding if the parent organization is unsuccessful in getting its federal grant renewed -- has a website. The committee posted none of its public record there before its term expired at the end of October. It is unknown what other funding options were pursued to avoid asking taxpayers for this spending increase at a time when other departments were asked to trim budgets. At recent public meetings, project proponents report they don't intend to return all the money should the federal grant be renewed.
Articles 9 and 10 proposed new DPW facility off River Road. There is little question of the need for a new facility. The serious questions remaining relate to location. There are still unresolved legal and environmental concerns. Project proponents say they cannot fully address them unless more money is appropriated. What happens with these articles will affect articles 16 and 17, which propose a new use for land on Route 20, which is in the custody of the Board of Public Works. The BoPW is not likely to give up the land without Town Meeting approval for fully funding construction for a new facility at the River Road location. A 2/3 majority is required because the motion will include conveying land to the Conservation Commission in order to receive the commission's approval of Route 20 access roadway improvements. The funding source information has changed since last week to borrowing for the full appropriation to reflect that SBA middle school renovations proceeds are not available.
Article 11 Who should write comments and recommendations in the warrant to inform voters? The Finance Committee has been writing them, as town code requires. The town administrator recommended dividing the task up so that selectmen and Planning Board take responsibility for certain articles. The FinCom has voted at recent public meetings not to support the wording in the warrant nor a more recently amended version. The FinCom is expected to ask for more time to consider the proposal. Among the possible outcomes could be the selectmen making a motion to pass over the article.
Article 14 Voters will decide if Community Preservation Act funds will be appropriated for final design for recreation fields at the Loker Conservation and Recreation Area (former Dow site). The town acquired the property in 2000, delineated which portions make sense for recreation use at a subsequent town meeting, and funded studies overseen by the Recreation Commission. Article 14 is supported by the Community Preservation Committee and the Finance Committee.
Article 15 Petitioners' article to acquire the former Finnerty's property for open space and/or a community center. Estimated cost $1,130,300. So far no funding source has been identified.