2023 Fall Town Meeting Warrant Preview
By Tara Hughes
Oct. 17 – The town has issued a preview version of the Fall Town Meeting Warrant, with 35 articles and 20 Capital Projects funds appropriation requests.
Engineering. The town is in need of engineering work to be done for several roof repairs, including at the Town Hall, Library (and immediate repair work), Ambrose and McCall. Both the Town Hall and Library are also in need of window engineering funds. Funding for playground equipment and surfaces at both Lincoln and VO, along with funding for Ginn Field lights and Packer Ellis Tennis Courts engineering is also requested.
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Vehicles. There are articles for funding 3 vehicles, a public works dump truck/salter, a vehicle for the public works manager, and a dump truck for the Water Sewer department.
Playgrounds. Capital Planning and the Select Board as joint proponents are also looking for funding for the construction of a playground facility and other improvements at both Leonard ($450k, with $200k from Eversource) and McDonald Fields ($480k). The funding requested is for all engineering, drainage and site improvements and construction (and all other costs).
Culvert and water pumping station. The same proponents are looking for an increase in the appropriation and borrowing authorization approved by 2021 Spring Town Meeting for the Muraco Elementary School Culvert Project from $9,110,000 to $10,200,000. The Select Board is also looking for an increase in the authorized borrowing amount approved by 2022 Fall Town Meeting from $1,350,000 to $1,600,000 for a water pumping station in the Arbor Lane and Wendell Street area.
High School flooring. The Education Facilities Planning and Building Committee plans to request an appropriation of $100,000 (from free cash) for testing and engineering services for the repair and/or remediation work associated with the deteriorating flooring and supporting structure (concrete and steel) at the Winchester High School. It will not fund the work.
School Committee funds account. The School Committee will be asking Town Meeting to accept a provision of Massachusetts General Law that allows for the establishment of an account separate from other town funds in the Town’s Treasury. The balance of said account would contain monies from the rental or lease of any school building not in use or any surplus space in a school building in use. Said monies would remain in this account and may be expended by the School Committee without further appropriation for the upkeep and maintenance of any facility under the control of the School Committee.
Lynch solar panels. Opposing articles are likely to be presented by the Select Board regarding the Lynch Solar Project. One article would request that Town Meeting appropriate the cost of acquisition and installation of solar panels and solar panel canopies on or in the vicinity of Lynch Elementary and its parking lots (there was indication that the cost could be around $3million). It would also potentially ask Town Meeting to determine whether the appropriation should be raised by borrowing, transfer of available funds or otherwise. The other article, presented in case the first fails, would request a vote to authorize the Select Board to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for a period of up to 30 years for the purchase of the solar energy generated by a facility to be constructed on or around the Lynch Elementary School.
Finance Committee by-laws. There are also dueling Citizen Petition articles regarding the appointment of members to the Finance Committee. Both articles look to amend Winchester’s Code of By-Laws as they relate to the Finance Committee.
The first article covers appointment, along with the composition, term of office and duties. It aims to reduce the number of members from 15 to 11 and requires that the members be registered Winchester voters who hold no other town office, but may be Town Meeting Members. No Finance Committee member can serve as an officer of any political campaign committee for townwide elected office or for influencing the outcome of townwide election or serve as an officer of any 501(c)(4) political group. In addition, no more than two members of a single precinct may serve concurrently.
The term will be for three years, arranged such that the terms of office of four members shall expire in the first two successive years, with the remaining three terms expiring in the third year. Members shall not be allowed to serve more than two consecutive terms, with appointments to fill unexpired terms not counting as a full term for the person appointed. Reapplication to the committee will be allowed as long as one year has passed since the completion of a member’s prior service.
Members will be appointed one from each of the eight precincts by a majority vote of a quorum of members, the person appointed would reside within the precinct but may or may not be a member of Town Meeting. The three additional members will be selected by the Moderator of Town Meeting and those selected should diversify the committee. These three members’ appointments will expire over each of the three successive years.
All applicants must respond to a public notice posted by the Town no later than 30 days after the closing session of Spring Town Meeting and must specify if they are interested in the precinct appointment, one of the Moderator appointed seats or either one. The Moderator will fill its three seats after each precinct has chosen its representative. All appointments must be complete no later than 60 days after the last session of spring Town Meeting. During the first year after the passage of the revisions, each precinct will be required to appoint one of its currently-sitting Finance Committee Members to ensure continuity. Starting Spring 2024 Town Meeting and thereafter, new application and interview processes must be held with no preference to prior membership. No interview questions may be asked about any protected class membership unless said applicant publicly identifies their membership as a potential impediment.
The duties of the Finance Committee will be to receive and review the town manager’s proposed budget. They must also conduct one or more public hearings, at least one of which must be held either virtually or in hybrid format to maximize participation (if permitted by MA law) and all of which must be recorded for public dissemination (particularly to town meeting members). Thereafter the committee will file its recommended budget with the town clerk for distribution to town meeting members and subsequent town meeting action.
The Town Manager and Moderator will work with Town Counsel to determine which non-budgetary articles have appropriation implications and refer them to the Finance Committee for consideration five business days after the warrant closes. The Finance Committee can then provide a recommendation on any article referred to them and will prepare a written report pertaining to all warrant articles involving the expenditure of town funds for distribution to Town Meeting Members no fewer than seven days before Town Meeting stating their reasoning, and if not unanimous, providing the reasons for all registered votes. If there is a split vote of the committee, any written or verbal reports must include a balanced picture fairly representing all dimensions of the deliberations. Such reports will be mailed or electronically distributed (with prior written authorization to the town clerk in order to receive electronic distribution) to the town moderator, to each town meeting member, to each member of the select board, to each member of the school committee and to the heads of all town departments.
Finance Committee member appointment process. The other article deals with the appointment of new members who shall be appointed by a committee consisting of the moderator, the chair of the select board and the chair of the finance committee. The chair of the finance committee will convene and preside over the process. Current members, however, may apply for reappointment for either a three-year term or to complete the term of a member who has vacated the position (one year or two years). Reappointments will be made prior to the appointment of new members by a committee consisting of the moderator, the chair of the finance committee and the immediate past chair of the finance committee. In the event of a vacancy it would be filled pursuant to the reappointment process.
Public Shade Tree By-law. Finally, the Conservation Commission is asking town meeting to vote to amend the Public Shade Tree Bylaw of the Town’s General Bylaws regarding the Permanent Street Tree Committee. The Committee is to consists of five members serving a three-year term which would include a representative from and appointed by each of the Conservation Commission, Design Review Committee, Planning Board, Climate Action Advisory Committee, along with an at-large member appointed by the Select Board. In addition, the Tree Warden (or designee), Town Planner (or designer), the Tree City USA liaison and the Town’s Sustainability Director will be permitted to participate in a non-voting capacity. The Committee may also appoint up to two non-voting associate members. If the articles passes, upon the effective date of the new bylaw, all terms of any existing Committee members will cease and new appointments will be made and will expire on June 30, 2026.
Personnel Board needs members. As a note of interest, current Article 32 is a Personnel Board article (currently co-sponsored by Town Manager) relating to hearing the report and taking any action in connection with recommendations made. However, there are no longer enough members to create a quorum and therefore there is no longer an active Personnel Board. If anyone would like to apply to be on the Personnel Board, please reach out to town staff.
Fall Town Meeting begins November 6 at 6:30 at Winchester High School Auditorium. The Town Manager’s Public Hearing will take place on November 1 at 6:30 via Zoom (to register in advance for this meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/
2023 Fall Town Meeting Warrant has been released here, although changes may still be made: https://www.winchester.us/DocumentCenter/
To see the full draft list of Capital Projects in the Warrant please refer to the link above. To see the Town Manager’s Summary of Capital Projects (over 5 years) with potential funding go to: https://www.winchester.us/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/4609?fileID=13988
For a more specific list (subject to change) of Capital Projects and costs for town meeting go here: https://www.winchesternews.org/news/
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