Town Meeting wraps up business

Nov 8, 2017 by

Published in the November 8, 2017 edition

By MARK SARDELLA

WAKEFIELD — While the focus at Monday’s Town Meeting fell largely on Articles 4 and 5, there were five other matters on the warrant in addition to plastic bags and the name of the Board of Selectmen.

Under Article 1, Town Administrator Stephen P. Maio provided his year-end wrap up report on FY 2017.

He reported that all town departments managed to stay within or actually expend less than their respective appropriations. Due to the efforts of the department heads and employees, Maio said,  $1,050,445 was returned to the town last year. Accordingly, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts certified free cash at the amount of $9,621,013.00 as of July 1, 2017. Also, $948,418 was encumbered to be expended in Fiscal Year 2018.

He noted that the Board of Selectmen voted to limit the tax levy increase to 1.5 percent this year, rather than the allowable 2.5 percent. Taxes will still increase but the average homeowner will save $60 in taxes for this fiscal year and the average business property owner $300 as opposed to a full increase.

“Over the past few years, we have left approximately $2.5 million in the hands of the tax payers instead of taxing to the maximum allowable under proposition 2 ½,” Maio said.

Town Meeting voted to accept Maio’s report.

Under Article 2, Town Meeting voted to use $2,220,000 from Free Cash to balance the FY 2018 budget. There was no discussion from the floor on Article 2.

Town Meeting voted under Article 3 to transfer $140,000 and $60,000 from available funds to fund a collective bargaining agreement between the town and the local firefighters union. The agreement calls for 1.5 percent cost of living increases each January 1 and July 1 until Jan. 1, 2020.

Article 6 was sponsored by the town clerk and pertained to dog licenses and fees. Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran said that Wakefield had some of the lowest dog license fees in the state and Article 6 would bring them in line with other communities and cover the cost of administering a computerized dog licensing program. In addition, Article 6 changed the license period to run from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, to coincide with the census. 

The proposed new fees for the licensing of dogs were as follows: Unneutered and unspayed dogs: $20;  each; Neutered male and spayed female dogs: $10 each; Kennels: $100 per kennel; and Late Fee: $20 per dog.

Marc Luca of Water Street objected to the fees “being increased by 100 percent. It doesn’t make sense.”

Luca said that Sheeran could have covered costs by requesting an increase in her budget for next year.

John Lock of Gregory Road also said that he found doubling the fees “troubling.”

After a brief further discussion, Town Meeting approved Article 6.

Under Article 7, Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran was seeking to end the longstanding practice of listing in the town’s Annual Report the names of all those who were born, got married or died during the calendar year covered by the report. Instead, the Town Report would include just the numbers in each category.

Sheeran cited privacy concerns as well as matters of security and preventing identity theft as reasons for the change. She said that most towns have discontinued the practice of listing the names.

Charles McCauley of Lawrence Street objected to the change, arguing that it “would have a big impact on those doing genealogy research. He said that currently that information is scanned by the library and put online.

“By deleting the names, you make it much more difficult to do research without going to Town Hall,” he said.

McCauley proposed amending Article 7 to mandate including the names for births, marriages and deaths.

Robert Curran of Forrester Road agreed with McCauley, saying that including the names was important for people doing family trees.

Laurel Gourville of Reynolds Road agreed with Sheeran and cited domestic violence concerns. She admitted that genealogy was important, but insisted that there were other ways to go about it. 

McCauley’s amendment failed to carry. 

Back on the main motion, Michael Kilkelly said that he favored keeping the names, noting that the only information in the Town Report are the names and the dates. He argued that the information was available in so many places already that it made sense to also include it in the Town Report.

There were then a series of motions by Eric Reid of Chestnut Street designed to restore the names in each category of the Town Report. Each of those motions failed. 

Sheeran insisted that “Some people don’t want this information on the street.” She added that she was leery of putting the name information out there without the permission of families.

After further discussion, Town Meeting approved Article 7.

According to Sheeran, 381 registered voters checked in and attended Monday’s Town Meeting. There were XXXXXX people eligible to participate, according to the Town Clerk’s office. 

 

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