Bourne’s fall Special Town Meeting gets underway next week, in a setting similar to June’s Annual Town Meeting, but with one big difference. The meeting will take place indoors in the gymnasium at Bourne Middle School instead of under a tent on the football field at Bourne High School.
Similar to Annual Town Meeting, certain measures will be in place to ensure the health and safety of people attending Town Meeting.
Seating will be arranged by single and double rows, spaced six feet apart. Double rows are meant for voters from the same household; however, a single voter may sit in them as well.
Everyone will be required to wear a mask or protective face covering. There will be some masks available if someone forgets to bring one.
Anyone feeling sick or showing symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat or loss of taste or smell, or who has been exposed to someone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, should not attend Town Meeting. People susceptible to the virus, according to federal guidelines, are encouraged not to attend.
Special Town Meeting convenes Monday, November 16, at 7 PM at Bourne Middle School. If all the articles have not been voted on that night, Special Town Meeting will be continued to the following evening, Tuesday, November 17, at 7 PM, also at the middle school.
Special Town Meeting will again feature a pared-down warrant to limit the amount of time the session will take, given pandemic concerns. The warrant will only contain articles that are considered essential to the operations of the town.
A total of 16 articles were submitted for placement on the warrant. That number has been reduced to 11 articles.
In another response to COVID-19 concerns, the Bourne Board of Selectmen held a public hearing on November 4 on whether to reduce the quorum necessary to begin Town Meeting from 125 voting residents to just 15. Reduction of the quorum was made possible in legislation signed by Governor Charles D. Baker, Jr. under Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2020. The decrease was approved following the public hearing.
Articles that residents will be asked to vote on involve supplementing the operating budget for Integrated Solid Waste Management (ISWM), funding for capital and community preservation projects and recovery of unspent money from previously approved Town Meeting articles.
Article 1 seeks $1,131.80 for the purpose of paying unpaid bills that are left over from a previous fiscal year and are legally unenforceable.
Article 2 asks residents to approve the use of $180,088 in free cash to supplement the town’s current operating budget. The money would be used to pay off debt service approved at a previous town meeting that paid for repairs on unaccepted roads. Betterments for the majority of the debt have already been collected and certified as free cash.
Article 3 requests approval of appropriating $1,025,000 for the town’s other post-employment benefits fund, which covers retirement benefits the town is obligated to pay former town employees. The requested funding would come from the town’s free cash account ($735,000), ISWM retained earnings ($260,000) and sewer retained earnings ($30,000).
Article 4 calls for approval of using $135,000 in available funds to supplement the current Fiscal Year 2021 sewer budget. The money would be a transfer from sewer retained earnings. It would be used to help reduce sewer user fees charged on residents’ second billing this fiscal year.
Article 5 seeks approval to supplement the current ISWM operational budget by $2,800,619. Bourne Finance Director Erica Flemming said the money would be used to pay off debt associated with installing the liners for the Phase 5 and Phase 6 disposal cells at the landfill.
Article 6 also applies to ISWM and asks residents to approve spending $500,000 on a pilot leachate treatment program. The program is designed to filter wastewater to meet the stricter demands of disposal facilities.
Appropriations for Article 5 and Article 6 require resident approval. However, in both cases, the money would come from the ISWM enterprise fund retained earnings account and at no cost to the taxpayers. Ms. Flemming said ISWM’s retained earnings fund balance was certified on July 1 by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue at $12,964,428.
Article 7 is the capital outlay funding request. The Capital Outlay Committee is seeking $2,763,270 to pay the cost of more than a dozen requests. Those requests include new police vehicles, repairs to the Bourne Public School’s wastewater treatment facility, roof repairs at Bourne Middle School and new equipment for the Bourne 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.
Article 8 would transfer $3,000,000 from free cash to the town’s capital stabilization fund, which is used to help pay for large capital projects and support debt service associated with those projects. The transfer helps the town adhere to its own financial policy, stabilize the tax rate and maintain capital infrastructure within the town.
Article 9 calls to close out 34 previously approved Town Meeting articles and to transfer $748,123.93 in unused funds from those articles to the general fund unreserved fund balance. Either the articles have been satisfied or the additional funds are no longer needed.
Article 10 is sponsored by the Community Preservation Committee and asks residents to approve the use of $595,000 for projects that qualify for funding under the Community Preservation Act. Requests come from the Bourne Recreation Department, the Bourne Housing Authority and the Town Administrator’s Advisory Committee on Pedestrian/Bicycle Pathway.
Article 11 requests an appropriation from ISWM retained earnings for $25,000 in additional funds to finalize the purchase of mitigation land that was previously approved at the October 2019 Special Town Meeting. ISWM is looking to expand operations farther south but must provide additional space as a habitat for native wildlife that would be displaced with the move.