Special/Annual Town Meeting kicks off Monday night, May 3, with a warrant composed of nearly two dozen articles on which residents will vote. Articles almost certain to foster debate include whether Bourne’s chief of police should remain a civil service position, and the sewer department budget, including the use of retained earnings to subsidize an increase in user rates.
Article 3 of the Annual Town Meeting asks for resident approval of the sewer department budget. The article recommends $1,357,223 be spent by the sewer commissioners for operation of the sewer department. That includes the use of $50,000 in sewer retained earnings to offset an increase to sewer users’ rates.
The article also calls for $148,315 to be transferred to the general operating budget to offset sewer enterprise indirect expenses. All totaled, Article 3 seeks $1,505,538 for sewer-related issues in the coming year.
The Bourne Finance Committee and the sewer commissioners have disagreed over the amount of sewer retained earnings in the proposed budget. The finance committee has recommended $135,000 to subsidize sewer rates, while the sewer commissioners have recommended $50,000.
Sewer commissioners chairman James L. Potter has maintained that the money should be used to pay the expense of sewer system infrastructure repairs such as broken pipelines. Finance committee chairwoman Mary Jane Mastrangelo has argued that subsidizing rates is an approved use of retained earnings.
Article 13 of the Annual Town Meeting warrant authorizes the Bourne Board of Selectmen to request special legislation that would exempt the Bourne chief of police from civil service. Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi has spoken in favor of the article, suggesting that civil service, in general, may have outlived its usefulness.
In Bourne, the police and fire departments are both civil service departments. Department heads, the chiefs, are hired and promoted under the civil service merit system, which includes examinations. Applicants are tested and scored. The state civil service office formulates a list, based on the scores, and the person at the top of the list gets the position.
Mr. Schiavi said he found the civil service process to be “very prescriptive,” without much “wiggle room” for the town to make its selection and no input from residents. He pointed out that less than 50 percent of the state’s 351 cities and towns are in civil service. Of those that are in civil service, fewer than half have civil service chiefs, about 18.5 percent, he said.
There is only one article on the warrant for Special Town Meeting. The article requests approval to appropriate $56,742.03 for purpose of paying bills that arrived after the close of the previous fiscal year.
Of the remaining articles on the Annual Town Meeting warrant, Article 1 is a consent article that gives town officials authorization to approve various contracts, apply to grant programs, accept state funding such as Chapter 90 for road maintenance, establish revolving funds and set the salaries for elected officials.
Article 2 is the Fiscal Year 2022 General Operating Budget for the Town of Bourne. The article calls for a budget totaling $71,735,576. That amount represents a 1.53 percent increase over the current FY21 operating budget. It also eliminates the use of free cash as a revenue source, includes funding for the reestablishment of the human resources and facilities director positions and reorganization of positions in the IT department and recreation, and uses $491,469 from the Capital Stabilization Fund as a revenue for debt service.
Article 4 is the annual budget for the Integrated Solid Waste Management facility. It would set ISWM’s FY22 budget at $10,620,251.
Article 5 is the FY22 Capital Expenses budget. The recommended capital budget comes in at $2,737,510, with appropriations to the Bourne Police Department, Bourne Fire Department, ISWM facility, Department of Public Works, Shore and Harbor Committee, Bourne School Department and Bourne Recreation Department.
Article 6 seeks approval to hear reports and recommendations from boards, committees and town officers.
Article 7 is a Community Preservation Committee request for $83,124.67 for open space and community housing initiatives. Of that total, $58,066.61 would be appropriated to open space reserves and $25,058.06 for community housing reserves.
Article 8 is another community preservation committee request, this one for $1,474,359 to fund CPA projects undertaken by the Bourne Archives, the Bourne Historical Commission, the Bourne Housing Partnership, the Bourne Affordable Housing Trust and the Open Space Committee.
Article 9 requests $75,000 for Community Preservation Committee’s annual operating expenses.
Article 10 seeks approval to transfer $476,000 from the town’s free cash account in its Capital Stabilization Fund. The Capital Stabilization Fund helps to pay for large capital projects and to support the debt service budget for capital projects.
Article 11 approval would transfer $20,000 from free cash for use by the Human Services Committee to provide grant funding to human services organizations. The money used to be in the town budget but has been moved to an article to comply with Department of Revenue regulations.
Article 12 asks to use $50,000 in free cash to replenish the town’s Special Education Reserve Fund. A second appropriation request is expected to be made at the fall Special Town Meeting.
Article 14 is a citizen’s petition submitted last year but delayed due to the pandemic and the decision to streamline Town Meeting warrants. The petitioners request that town officials communicate with Governor Charles D. Baker Jr. regarding safe storage and protection of spent fuel rods from the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth.
Article 15 is another private petition that asks residents to approve a bylaw banning the town from buying single-use plastic beverage bottles. The proposed bylaw would not apply to public health situations, safety operations, declared state or federal emergencies, nor vending machines installed on town property.
Article 16 amends the current language in the town’s Wetlands and Natural Resources Protection bylaw. The proposed language change would give the Conservation Commission more flexibility in permitting projects within the velocity flood zone.
Article 17 would amend the rules and regulations section of the town’s Wetlands and Natural Resources Protection bylaw. The current bylaw only allows the commission to apply its regulations on projects related to docks and piers. Passage would expand the Conservation Commission’s authority.
Article 18 is the Hawkers and Peddlers bylaw written by the Bourne Police Department that residents approved in 2019 but was rejected by the state. There were questions regarding some of the wording in the bylaw, so it was sent back to be reworked and reconsidered.
Article 19 assures that the Town of Bourne has access to money from the Cape and Islands Water Protection Fund. In mid-April, it was announced that Bourne had been awarded $1,165,103 from the water protection fund.
Article 20 calls for approval of scrapping an entire section of the town’s zoning bylaws relative to floodplain regulations and replacing it with a new section. Recommendation of the article was approved by the Bourne Planning Board in March.
Town Engineer Timothy P. Lydon said adopting the proposed bylaw change would bring the town into compliance with the federal government and the National Flood Insurance Program.
Mr. Lydon noted that some of what is in the proposed bylaw is already the case, but adoption “shores up a lot of the language, a lot of the gaps we might have.”
Town Planner Coreen V. Moore said replacing completely the current section of the bylaw will be more efficient than adding and deleting specific sections.
Annual/Special Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday starting at 7 PM in the gymnasium at Bourne Middle School. Town officials have reduced the quorum necessary to convene Town Meeting from 125 to 15 in recognition of the ongoing pandemic and concerns over contracting the virus.
State law allows municipalities to reduce the quorum to no less than 10 percent of what the town requires for Town Meeting to commence.