Easton Residents Approve All Articles at Special Town Meeting
There were 114 people at the hour, eight minute long meeting.
Easton residents approved eight Special Town Meeting articles Wednesday night at Oliver Ames High School, ranging from Mobile Home Park bylaws, to budget amendments, to the addition of a generator in the Town of Easton Offices.
Each article was approved with overwhelming support from the 114 present voters, but few went without discussion.
The most contentious article was the addition of a bylaw that creates guidelines for a Mobile Home Parks Rent Control Board in Easton. The article follows a citizen petition last may that approved a request that the state authorize the town to regulate rents and evictions in Easton's Mobile Home Community.
While the town is still awaiting the state's approval, Community Housing Planner Timothy Harrigan said the town already wanted a plan in place.
"Why wouldn’t we wait to get the State approval and then bring it to the Annual Town meeting?" resident Donna Abelli asked.
Harrigan said he wasn't sure when the legislature would act and that it had "a lot on its platter."
"The reason is the urgency of the issue," he said. "The folks who live in the mobile park have been dealing with some policies for some time."
Resident Robert Hicks moved that the town do away with a section of the bylaw, which states "The Rent Board may establish, via its Regulations, further definitions, standards and rules consistent with the foregoing."
Town Counsel Jay Tollerman said that even if the language was removed from the bylaw, the board would still have authority to adopt regulations.
"Even if you eliminated this provision, the rent control board could and, I would expect, probably would, adopt regulations," he said.
Hicks' amendment was voted down, and the article, as written, passed overwhelmingly.
There was also discussion regarding Article 3, which asked to amend the FY12 Budget for several departments that require additional funding.
One department that the article funds is the police department, which is looking to hire two part-time dispatchers.
Donna Abelli was concerned about adding two new positions without passing a budget for FY13.
"I have a huge problem with funding two positions during mid-term," she said.
The hiring is in the result of a new Massachusetts regulation requiring special training for Police dispatchers, which goes into effect July 1, Easton Town Administrator David Colton said. If the two dispatchers were not hired in time, all 30 police officers in the department would have to undergo training.
"This is to respond to regulations that go into affect July 1," he said. "If we wait until May, we won’t have enough time to hire these two part-time dispatchers and get them fully trained."
The article eventually passed, as did article six, which will put a generator in the Town of Easton Offices.
Abelli, however, felt that there were more pressing capital needs than a generator.
"Our capital needs are huge, and to consider an $85,000 generator out of context of all our other needs," she said. "We need roofs on buildings. We need technology and all the other things that have gone unfunded for years, and years, and years."
Board of Selectman Chair Colleen Corona said that outages, such as outages during Tropical Storm Irene, in town offices cause communication problems and resulting public safety problems.
Police Chief Allen Krajcik echoed Corona and said that a town office generator was a pressing need.
"Our internet service was down and a lot of our technology now depends on that internet service and emails," he said.
Town voters also passed articles to grant an easement for a walkway in-between Lothrop Street and Easton Middle School funded by a Safe Routes to School federal grant. Voters added $133,924 worth of State Aid to the Stabilization Fund, paid a $245.00 bill from a prior Fiscal Year, funded the next phase of a Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan, and granted an easement for a Shovel Shop drainage Pipe.
The final Article, Article 9, which donated the Shovel Shop Pond Dam to the Easton Conservation Commission, was dismissed on the floor because a donation to the Conservation Commission doesn't require a town meeting vote.
The meeting was adjourned by town moderator Walter Galas after an hour and eight minutes.