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Join date : 2009-01-20
|Nov 30th 2009 Results of Town Meeting|| |
From the Sun Chronicle
- Quote :
- Town meeting voters reject green initiative
SEEKONK - Voters approved a meals tax and a hotel room tax this week at town meeting, but rejected a proposal that would have allowed the town to qualify as a "green community."
The taxes could bring in as much as $400,000 in extra revenue to the town.
The green community initiative would have asked town boards to pursue the goal of meeting five criteria to reduce the town's energy usage. The finance committee did not recommend it, saying it didn't receive sufficient information about the article's impact on the town budget.
Voters also approved spending $100,000 toward the renovation and expansion of town hall to include a new community/senior center. Town Administrator Michael Carroll said the project would cost $2.5 million and would not be paid for by raising taxes.
Town meeting voters also: Authorized selectmen to acquire easements on several streets by eminent domain.
Gave selectmen permission to sell the town's surplus property and materials.
Rejected amending town bylaws by adding a category for shared driveways.
Indefinitely postponed an article that would have authorized selectmen to acquire land parcels, and the rights to land parcels for the construction and roadway safety improvements for the Central Avenue Improvement Project.
Supported spending $234,659 from reserve funds to offset debt expenses in the budget.
Approved $19,180 from reserve funds for the purchase of 18 Taser devices for the police department.
From the Seekonk Star:
- Quote :
- Meals Tax passes at town meeting
Seekonk’s effort to go green with the Green Community Act fails By George Morse
SEEKONK - Starting in January those looking to hit up Route 6 and other town restaurants for a bite to eat can expect a few more cents tacked onto their bill after voters approved a local option Meals Tax at an annual fall town meeting Monday night.
According to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, Seekonk could stand to bring in more than $400,000 of annual revenue from the .75 percent surcharge, which brings the total tax at town restaurants to 7 percent. Since the town voted to adopt the tax mid-year, however, town finance director Bruce Alexander said that for the current fiscal year ending June 30 (FY10), the town will take in $41,826 a month or $250,951 total.
Even though the measure passed by a majority vote, a number of residents and town officials said instituting the tax was a bad idea for Seekonk.
Like selectman Michael Brady, who has been outspoken against the Meals Tax for the last several months. At town meeting, Mr. Brady said he opposes raising any taxes in a bad economy and he doesn’t believe the tax revenue, which is collected by the state, will be returned to the town.
Likewise, Ferncliffe Road resident Peter Hoogerzeil said he too doesn’t trust the state and it’s “not prudent” to take a chance raising taxes “on hope.”
Selectman Robert Richardson said that while Seekonk may get its Meals Tax revenue, it can also expect to see state aid reduced by a similar amount.
“I’d prefer to see what happens to other communities who accepted this,” Mr. Richardson said.
But, as indicated by the vote, support for the measure outweighed opposition. Finance committee chairwoman Kim Leinson said that if the tax didn’t go as planned, voters could always repeal it come the next town meeting. Additionally, she said a lot of the opposition to the tax wasn’t necessarily based on facts.
“I think what we’re hearing tonight is political rumors,” Ms. Leinson said. “We might not get the money, but we’ve got to try.”
From the state level, Representative Steven D’Amico said that Meals Tax option is a local one and the state has no more right to its related revenue than it does to local property taxes. He also said the selectman have spent the last “15 years” asking for this and adopting the tax is an opportunity for Seekonk to broaden it’s tax base and become more “progressive.”
Also speaking in favor of the measure was Tom Hendrick of Hull Street.
“This is 75 cents on a $100 bill,” he said. “I don’t see this as a lose situation.”
The last selectman to weigh in was David Parker, who said he was in “total support” of the tax and “the more you mistrust the state, the more you have to do this.”
“They’re going to cut you anyway,” Mr. Parker said. “You might as well protect yourself.”
From breakfast to bed
Also taking effect on Jan. 1 (the start of the FY10 third quarter) will be a bump in the local room occupancy excise taking the charge from 4 to 6 percent. Operating much like the Meals Tax, the increase will be collected by the state before the revenue is returned to the town on a quarterly basis.
Mr. Alexander said this tax should total about $39,691 in revenue for FY10. The measure was passed by a majority vote
Outside of the local option taxes, one of the longest debates of the night centered on Article 20, which was placed on the meeting warrant by citizen petition. Under the article, voters were asked if the selectmen, school committee and other town boards, commissions and employees should “pursue the goal” of becoming recognized as a “green community” under the Green Communities Act of 2008.
To achieve this status, a total of five criteria must be met. But meeting this criteria wasn’t the articles intent, according to Carol Bragg, of Hope Street, who motioned the article.
“We are voting tonight only on setting a goal. Not to meet the criteria,” Ms. Bragg said. “No one ever gets to the summit of Mount Everest without setting the goal, but on the other hand, there’s a lot of people who set the goal and never get there. All we’re asking for tonight is a motion on the goal.”
On board with the idea was David Bowden, chairman of the town’s capital improvement committee.
“There’s no guarantee we’ll ever meet the five criteria but this is a good start,” he said.
But by the time a vote was taken, residents weren’t sold on the proposal. It was defeated by a majority vote.
For starters, the finance committee voted unanimously against recommending the article because, according to member Antonio Tenreiro, there wasn’t enough information given on its potential financial impact or how it would affect property rights.
Also speaking against the article was Hope Street resident Lauren Walsh, who said the town didn’t need to enact this article to pursue the goal. She also said a belief that Seekonk could get “something for nothing” through grants designated for green communities is “very foolish.”
In Other Business...
– The former Recreation and Youth Commission was re-named the Parks and Recreation Committee by a near unanimous vote. Members of the committee say the name change will provide more grant opportunities.
– A zoning by-law to put stipulations on shared driveways into place was defeated. Despite comments from some voters that the by-law would have allowed for further reduction to some of the town’s rural areas, town planner John Hansen said there is currently no by-law in place to address this issue and leaving one of the books actually leads to less regulatory authority. Even though 83 voters approved the by-law and only 67 voted against it, a two-thirds vote is necessary to pass a by-law amendment.
– Voters agreed to adopt a number of public ways, which public works department superintendent Bob Lamoureux said increases Seekonk’s Chapter 90 funds. They include Howland Street, Kristen Drive, Jerry Lane Sweeney Road, Leonard Street, Grove Street, Spring Street, Bryan Street, Hollister Road, Lowell Street and Old Fall River Road. While an original motion said the article would allow the selectmen to “acquire by gift, purchase or eminent domain any necessary easements or other interests therein,” a motion was made and upheld on town meeting floor to remove the words “eminent domain.”
– Voters unanimously agreed to surplus a variety of town equipment that either no longer has use or is beyond repair including a road grader, a tub grinder and a six wheel dump.
– Voters approved the re-allocation of about $158,000 of funds originally appropriated at two previous town meetings for roof repairs at town hall. Now, town administrator Michael Carroll said the plan is to use these funds for architectural drawings, engineering and design service costs associated with building a possible addition to town hall aimed at housing the human services department and providing more room for senior activities and town hall offices.
– With a near unanimous vote, a FY10 budget for the Community Preservation Committee was approved that includes $25,000 for an historic resource reserve, $25,000 for a community housing reserve, $25,000 for an open space reserve, $130,000 as a budgeted reserve and $12,500 for committee administrative expenses. This allocation breakdown is required under the Community preservation Act and funds for administrative expenses will be used for costs like meeting advertisements.
– Voters unanimously approved an appropriation of $234,569 from the Free Cash account for the FY10 budget to offset debt service expenses for the town, as required by the Department of Revenue.
– With a near unanimous vote, $19,180 was appropriated from Free Cash to purchased 18 Taser devices and necessary accessories and warranties for the police department.
– A sum of $19,838 was appropriated from Free Cash by a majority vote to purchase and install video monitoring security and surveillance equipment. Communications director Dennis Leclerc said this system will allow dispatchers, police and fire officials to access a network of videos at public and private buildings around town, along with busy roadways like Route 6.
– A sum of $18,200 was appropriated from Free Cash to fund a collective bargaining agreement with the Seekonk Call Firefighters Association by a near unanimous vote, which also approved monetary items in a CBA with the Seekonk (Special) Police Association.
– Voters approved $6,000 from Free Cash to fund the creation of town-wide digital GIS zoning map.
– A sum of $25,000 was transferred from the Sanitation Enterprise Fund by a near unanimous vote for the purpose of submitting a post closure use application to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and to take the necessary steps in obtaining a permit to operate a transfer station at the Fall River Avenue landfill. While the landfill has never stopped operating, it has not had the proper permit in more than a decade.
– Sums of $26,128 and $49,000 were approved by a vote well in excess of two-thirds to replace an animal control van and perform preventive maintenance on the high school track, respectively. Funds for these projects came from the municipal capital stabilization fund.
– Voters unanimously approved a transfer of $500,000 from Free Cash to the Stabilization Fund.
– Three warrant articles were postponed indefinitely, including Article 16 that would have asked voters to accept the provisions of a Massachusetts General law allowing consolidation of administrative functions between a school department and a city or town, Article 21 that would have authorized the selectmen to obtain authority from the state to make existing alcohol beverage licenses to annual alcoholic beverage licenses and Article 5 that would have authorized the selectmen to acquire by purchase, gift or otherwise parcels of land relating to the Central Avenue Improvement Project.