Bourne Town Meeting Vote On DPW Project In Question
By: Diana T. Barth
The debt exclusion for the new Department of Public Works garage, which failed at the polls on Tuesday by 571 votes, may still be front and center at next Wednesday’s Special Town Meeting, which begins at 7 PM in the Bourne High School auditorium.
Wednesday’s meeting was originally scheduled for last Monday, but the arrival of Hurricane Sandy forced town officials to postpone it.
Officials had hoped that the Town Meeting presentation on the proposed public works garage—and the publicity given to the project—would help educate the wider electorate prior to Tuesday’s election.
Voters have to approve the proposed raise in property taxes for the DPW complex at both a Town Meeting and in an election, but it does not matter which of those votes comes first. Although the DPW question was defeated at the polls, various town officials said individually this week that they still expect to bring the matter before Town Meeting voters Wednesday and, if approved, back before voters in a future election.
Selectman Chairman John A. Ford Jr. said yesterday that he does not know now what his board will do, but he would like to see how Town Meeting voters who have educated themselves about the project will vote. He had said earlier this year that he felt this fall’s vote did not give the town enough time to educate voters as to the project. An overwhelming vote either direction will help direct his board as it moves forward, he said.
Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said that if selectmen were to move forward with the project, they might also consider postponing the Town Meeting vote to the spring, closer to town elections. The town clerk and town counsel will also be consulted as to the timing requirements of the two votes relative to one another, along with any posting requirements, Mr. Guerino said, as will the DPW building committee, finance committee, and capital outlay committee.
Selectmen are now expected to make their decision as to whether to bring the DPW article before voters when they meet prior to Town Meeting.
Either way, once a quorum of 125 voters is reached on Wednesday, Town Moderator Robert W. Parady will begin with the six out of 18 articles on the warrant that have been deemed essential to the running of the town. They address budget amendments, unpaid bills, funding for capital projects, a budget balancing request for about $12, and two articles transferring assets to the new nonprofit recently formed to take over the running of Bourne’s community access television station from Comcast.
Once those items have been voted on, the order of the remaining articles will be chosen by lottery.
The public works garage heads the list of the most significant among the other dozen articles. Selectmen, the Bourne Finance Committee, and the town’s Capital Outlay Committee all unanimously voted to recommend passage of the DPW proposal, which would, if approved, add 12 cents for every $1,000 in assessed value to property owner’s tax bills.
The town is asking that voters approve the raise in taxation so that it can borrow $6.3 million of the $11 million project. The other approximately $5 million will be paid for by reserves, in-kind work, and $1 million in borrowing that would be repaid by the landfill enterprise fund.
The exact amount needed for two other big-ticket articles were not available last week. FinCom will be meeting at 6 PM Wednesday, just prior to Town Meeting, to hear final numbers and decide whether to recommend approval of those projects to voters.
The first, filed by M. Elizabeth Ellis of Sagamore on behalf of the Bourne Society for Historic Preservation, asks that the town authorize selectmen to acquire the Keene House at 9 Sandwich Road, Bourne Village. The petitioners hope that voters will approve the purchase so the town can use the property as parking for the nearby Jonathan Bourne Public Library and adjoining athletic fields.
As of press time, town officials were still working on a final number for the proposed purchase, Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said.
FinCom will also vote on its recommendation as to Article 18, a request to use Community Preservation Act funding to restore windows at the Jonathan Bourne Historical Center on Keene Street in Bourne Village. Before committee members could vote on that $145,000 matter at their last meeting, they heard that an issue had been identified that might impact the architect’s estimate. They deferred the vote until they had a better number.
A member of the Community Preservation Committee had raised an issue as to possible asbestos and, since that meeting, the preservation committee had another test performed. It proved negative, leaving the final figure relatively unchanged.
Four separate bylaw articles, all dealing with waterways, are also on the warrant.
Natural Resources Director Timothy Mullen said that, over time, waterways rules have been set out in state law and the town’s regulations. If passed, Article 10 on the warrant would eliminate the last rules that are still codified in the town’s general bylaws. Removing them means changes would not need to come before voters at Town Meeting, but could be handled by the Natural Resources director and selectmen.
If Article 10 passes, and the waterways use bylaw will be removed from the books, Articles 11 and 12, which address specific sections of that bylaw, will be moot, and voters will be asked to indefinitely postpone them.
If Article 10 fails, and that section of the general bylaws remains in effect, voters will be asked to vote on them. Article 11 would, if approved, remove Little Bay from the list of areas approved for waterskiing and Article 12 would increase fines.
Among other articles on the warrant is a request to use $145,000 in free cash over a period of two years for a wastewater study of Bourne’s downtown, part of the recommendation made by the town’s Wastewater Advisory Committee.
Capital outlay requests totaling $139,600 for everything from outfitting new police cruisers to masonry repairs at the Main Street police station will also be up for a vote.
Town officials want to set aside $250,000 in reserves to begin building up funding for the town’s future liability for post employment benefits, money that will be owed to retirees. A copy of the warrant, including motions, is available on the home page of the town’s website, www.townofbourne.com.
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