TOWNSEND — With few holdups, residents attending Monday night’s combined Annual and Special Town Meetings managed to complete both warrants in a single session.
But when the Annual commenced, all was not easy sailing.
Starting off with six articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant, residents voted to approve the appropriation of $158,391 to offset the town’s snow-and-ice-removal budget, which had been strained beyond the limit by last winter’s unusual amount of snowfall.
Residents also approved the appropriation of $25,000 for the Townsend Conservation Commission’s Land Fund to be used for the purchase of open land if any becomes available during the coming year. Also approved was the appropriation of $5,947 for deposit in the veterans benefits account.
Finally, voters decided to take no action on a measure that would have amended the town’s bylaws to prohibit the operation of private dumps or trash-disposal facilities in town, reserving such services to the municipal entities.
Back in the regular session of Annual Town Meeting, residents approved a municipal budget for fiscal 2012 of $16,073,663, a slight increase over fiscal 2011’s $15,953,919.
Though most of the remaining warrant articles passed muster with little comment, one holdup occurred when residents were asked to approve the transfer of $771,290 from the Water Department’s enterprise account to cover expenses for fiscal 2012.
Objections were raised led by Board of Selectmen member Robert Plamondon, who noted that department employees were slated to receive salary increases as part of the spending appropriation.
Plamondon said it would be unfair to the rest of the town’s employees who were not scheduled to receive raises, and that the increase should wait until a pending wage-classification issue had first been settled.
“We’re here to hold the line on raises,” said Plamondon. “It’s simply not right to grant raises and others not get it.”
Although there was some pushback by Water Commission member Niles Busler, Plamondon’s position prevailed and a sum of $764,949 was finally appropriated by voters, somewhat less than the $771,290 that had originally been asked for.
There was also a brief flareup on a request by the Nashoba Valley Technical High School to establish a stabilization account in accordance with state guidelines.
According to school officials, the account could not exceed 5 percent of Nashoba’s total budget and would include deposits from other parts of the high school’s regular budget.
Wary that the account had no specific language capping the amount of money that could be transferred into it and news that such items as a new running track and other non-essential amenities were being contemplated for possible purchase using stabilization funds, selectmen refused to support the measure.
Defending the plan, Nashoba Valley Superintendent Judith Klimkiewicz said that the information cited was “incorrect,” adding that language included in the stabilization establishment covered “open communication” between the school and its member towns.
Klimkiewicz insisted that establishing a stabilization account was the responsible thing to do to insulate member towns from the sudden fiscal shock of such big-ticket maintenance items as roof replacements.
In the end, residents agreed with the superintendent and voted in favor of establishing the account.
In other matters, residents:
* Voted to continue the Board of Health revolving account funded by fees and recycling revenues for use in supporting recycling and landfill operations.
* Voted to continue the Recreation Department revolving account to help cover departmental expenses.
* Voted to continue the Facilities Maintenance revolving account with funding not to exceed $7,500 with revenues generated from rental of the Townsend Meeting Hall at the new library complex used to cover operating costs of the Meeting Hall.
* Voted to continue the Cemetery Cost of Interment revolving account with funding not to exceed $30,000 needed to cover the cost of running the Cemetery Department.
* Voted to continue the Fire Alarm Maintenance revolving account with funding not to exceed $4,000 needed to maintain fire alarm systems in town.
* Voted to transfer $30,000 from the Comcast Government Access account for use in maintaining the town’s computer systems.
* Voted to transfer $300,000 from ambulance receipts to cover operating costs of the Fire/EMS Departments.
* Voted to appropriate $411,050 for the purchase of such capital items as a pair of police cruisers, the lease/purchase of a new ambulance, roof repairs and rooftop HVAC replacement at the police station, a new Ford Explorer and air-filling station for the Fire Department, and repainting and reglazing of windows at Town Hall. Also on the bill were a number of items for the Highway Department, including a six-wheel dump truck, one-ton dump truck with plow, a sander body, asphalt hot box, and a Ford Escape Hybrid.
* Voted to appropriate $3,500 to match an emergency planning grant to buy equipment dealing with the town’s Emergency Management system.
* Voted to approve an amendment to the town’s capital planning bylaw that will require the Capital Planning Committee to submit its Capital Improvement Plan to the Board of Selectmen 60 days prior to Town Meeting.
* Voted to approve an amendment to the town code that will allow the town clerk to make “nonsubstantive editorial revisions” to the town code “to insure consistent and appropriate sequencing of numbering of sections, subsections, paragraphs and subparagraphs” with all changes properly footnoted.
* Voted down with little discussion a measure that would have allowed restaurants and package stores to sell liquor beginning Sunday mornings at 10 a.m.