Budgets Passed and Bylaws Amended at Easton's Annual Town Meeting
Amendment to Smoking Bylaw Generates the Most Discussion.
Over two hours and 10 minutes, Easton voters either approved or dismissed 49 warrant articles at Monday night's Annual Town Meeting.
No articles were voted down by town voters, and most articles passed unanimously or overwhelmingly.
One article, Article 33, which amends Easton's smoking bylaw to ban smoking in town-owned outdoor places with the exception of sidewalks and public ways, was discussed far more than any other article.
In the end, though, the warrant article was approved by a vote of 69-39.
The amendment split voters into those who felt the government was over-reaching their bounds against those who felt second hand smoke was a viable risk and the amendment promotes public health.
The Board of Health brought the warrant article before voters.
"Second hand smoke is bad," Board of Health Chair Jennifer Nichols said. "There is nothing good we can say about second hand smoke. Ten years ago many of the people in this room passed the smoking ban in the town of Easton [which bans smoking in public buildings]. Our purpose since that day has not changed as the Board of Health."
"We’re merely proposing a clarification of a definition that already exists."
The amendment was met with disapproval by members of Easton's Conservation Commission, three of which (Jonathan Chace, Christopher Patrick and John Grant) were vocal at Town Meeting.
"We have up to 5,000 acres of conservation land in this town," Grant said. "It is not possible for you to police this. It doesn’t need policing. There are very few people of people in the conservation land that smoke in the first place. I think its very presumptuous and its unnecessary."
Police Chief Allen Krajcik said the police became involved when concerns were raised about Oliver Ames High School students smoking in the woods across from the high school.
"The police department became involved in this because of kids smoking across the street from the high school," he said. "That’s nothing unusual. It happened when I was in high school...
"This gives our school resource officer a way to, hopefully, positively intervene."
Krajcik said the bylaw, which appropriates a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third offense, is enforceable. However, "[The Police] aren't going to catch everyone that is smoking a cigarette," he said.
Because Town Moderator Walter Galas could not determine the outcome by a show of hands, residents were asked to stand while they were counted by Town Officials.
Residents also overwhelmingly approved an approximate $67 million operating budget, which accounts for a 4.13 increase for Town Government and a 4.23 increase for Easton Public Schools.
While some positions were restored after a slew of cuts last year, including two firefighters and one police officer, Town Administrator David Colton warned that residents should be cautious.
"The FY13 budget is much better than last year, I must say," he said. "This year we have some good news and we still have some challenges."
The town also overwhelmingly approved a capital budget in the amount of $1,112,130 that accounts for police and fire equipment, police cruisers, improvements to the Parkview School roof, IT upgrades for the schools, and DPW trucks and equipment.
$1.5 million was also appropriated for the repair of the Easton Middle School roof. The Massachusetts School Building Authority will reimburse 50 percent of the cost.
Every article presented by the Planning and Zoning Board was also approved, including $50,000 for the funding of a Master Plan, which hasn't been updated in 41 years.
A Citizens Petition, which would have amended Easton's zoning map to allow for a solar overlay district on 15 acres of 120 Poquanticut Avenue, was dismissed on the floor because the citizen was not present to speak to the article.