Similar to last June’s Annual Town Meeting, next month’s Special Town Meeting will feature a pared-down warrant to limit the amount of time the session will take, given pandemic concerns.
The board of selectmen agreed that the warrant again will only contain articles that are considered essential to the operations of the town.
The selectmen’s decision came during a remote meeting held Tuesday, October 13. The essentials-only warrant approach was suggested by Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi.
A total of 16 articles had been submitted for placement on the warrant. Mr. Schiavi suggested postponing five, cutting the warrant to 11 articles.
The big-ticket articles that residents will be asked to vote on at Special Town Meeting include $2.8 million to supplement the Integrated Solid Waste Management operating budget; to spend $2.6 million on capital expenses; to fund $595,000 in Community Preservation Act projects; to recover $598,124 in unspent money from previously approved Town Meeting articles; and to transfer $3 million to the Capital Stabilization Fund.
The $2,800,619 for the landfill’s budget would be a transfer from ISWM’s Enterprise Fund Retained Earnings, so it would not impact residents’ bank accounts.
The Capital Outlay Committee’s $2,613,270 article covers more than a dozen requests, including the cost of new police vehicles, repairs to the Bourne Public School’s wastewater treatment facility, roof repairs at Bourne Middle School, and new equipment for the Department of Public Works and ISWM.
Funds for the capital expenses would be a combination of appropriations from free cash, borrowing, the town’s waterways fund, and ISWM retained earnings.
The Community Preservation Committee has requested $595,000 to pay funding requests from the Bourne Recreation Department, the Bourne Housing Authority, and the Town Administrator’s Advisory Committee on Pedestrian/Bicycle Pathway. CPA funds are generated through a 3 percent surcharge on real estate tax bills.
The $3 million appropriation to the Capital Stabilization Fund would come from free cash. The $594,124 in close-out articles is unused money left over from 33 past Town Meeting articles. The majority of the funding comes from free cash. The funds would be transferred into the town’s General Fund Unreserved Fund Balance.
Articles that were dropped from the warrant for consideration at a future Town Meeting includes a request that the town ask the state to ensure safe storage and disposal of materials from Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station; a call for changing the state’s flag and seal to omit images of white supremacy; a bylaw banning purchase by the Town of single use plastic bottles for water or any other beverage; and amendments to the town’s Wetland and Natural Resources Protection bylaw.
Selectmen also voted to reduce the quorum necessary to begin Town Meeting from 125 to 15. The severe reduction in attendance is permitted by state law, and was enacted in response to coronavirus concerns.
Board members concurred unanimously that a large number of residents might choose not to attend Special Town Meeting because it is scheduled for indoors at Bourne Middle School. June’s meeting was held outdoors under a tent, in an attempt to decrease the possibility of catching the virus.
The selectmen’s consent on quorum reduction is not the final word. Mr. Schiavi noted that the public has to be given an opportunity to weigh in on the issue. Toward that end, a public hearing will be held during the selectmen’s remote meeting on Wednesday, November 7, 7 PM.
Special Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 16, 7 PM at Bourne Middle School. Selectmen have also approved Mr. Schiavi’s recommendation for continuing Special Town Meeting to Tuesday, November 17, 7 PM, at the middle school, if all the articles have not been voted on the first night.