A Resident's Guide to Medfield's 361st Town Meeting
Here’s your guide to everything you need to know about the upcoming Medfield Annual Town Meeting on Monday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the Medfield High School gymnasium.
Last April, only 484 residents attended Medfield's 360th Annual Town Meeting despite two important warrant articles that sparked debate on the floor and called for a Special Town Election following approval at Town Meeting.
As many of you may recall, the controversial warrant articles from a year ago that ultimately passed Town Meeting were for a new town garage and an operational budget override of $500,000. In May, the operational budget override passed Special Town Election but the town garage failed to meet the approval of the majority of the 1,755 residents who came out to vote.
This year’s Annual Town Meeting is expected to be much less controversial, with just 28 articles on the Warrant Report and many of the town's budgets requesting level funding or small increases.
Here's a guide to prepare residents for Monday's meeting.
When/Where is Town Meeting?
The 2012 Annual Town Meeting is Monday, April 30 at 7:30 p.m. in the gymnasium of Medfield High School.
What's On the Warrant Report?
Editor's note: The following was taken from the 2012 Warrant Report for Town Meeting. An index of the 28 warrant articles can be viewed below or in the PDF file above.
"This year’s warrant is relatively short, with only 28 articles," the report read.
- Article 1, Election of Town Officers, will have been held by the time you receive this report.
- Article 2 is the Annual Town Report, copies of which will be available at the Annual Town Meeting.
- Article 3 transfers monies from Vine Lake Cemetery lot sales to the Cemetery Perpetual Care Trust Fund.
- Articles 4 through 10 seek the annual authorization of various revolving funds. The Respite Care Revolving Fund (Article 10) is for a new Council on Aging program to provide temporary care for residents with memory-related impairments.
- Article 11 is the routine annual acceptance of a state statute authorizing the Board of Assessors to increase the value of tax-exemptions granted.
- Article 12 calls for the naming of an intersection in memory of Police Officer Robert E. Naughton.
- Articles 13 and 14 request changes in salaries and hourly rates for elected officials and Town employees.
- Articles 15 and 16 are the Operating and Capital budgets for fiscal year 2013. (For more information, see above PDF file)
- Articles 17 and 18 are routine transfers to designated stabilization funds, as detailed in the explanations following those articles in the warrant. (For more information, see above PDF file)
- Article 19 requests funding for codification of the Town’s charter, by-laws and regulations and publication in paper and electronic formats.
- Article 20 is a reworking of the Zoning Bylaw’s Table of Use Regulations to better reflect current conditions and technologies.
- Article 21 seeks authorization for the Board of Selectmen to accept Kettle Pond and Cole Drive as public ways.
- Articles 22, 23 and 24 request appropriations, and in the cases of Articles 22 and 23, borrowing authorizations for water and sewer capital projects. If approved, these three Articles will be funded from the Water and Sewer Enterprise Funds.
- Article 25 would authorize further study of a recreational rail trail connecting to Dover and Needham.
- Article 26 would appropriate additional funds for further studies and contracted technical support related to the former Medfield State Hospital site.
- Article 27 would adopt a new flood plain map, as required by the federal government, as part of the National Flood Insurance Program.
- Article 28 is the final action taken at the Town Meeting, before adjournment, and sets the amount of Free Cash the Board of Assessors will use in the tax-rate setting process.
Recommended Town Budgets (Article 15)
Town Administrator Michael Sullivan said town departments, boards and commissions submitted decreased, level-funded, or only slightly increased budgets this year, which has helped the town's financial bottom line. To view what each town department, board and commission has recommended for FY13, view the PDF file above.
Other Pending Issues to be Discussed
"The Permanent Planning and Building Committee expects to ask for a
special town meeting this fall to present revised plans for replacement of a
scaled down town garage," according to the Town's Warrant Report. "It will report the progress on plans to replace the Police/Fire stations with a new public safety building. As part of this latter project, the committee will consider possible multi-use facilities, which might achieve savings, while also addressing the needs of the Dale Street School and the Park and Recreation Commission.
Thoughts on Condition of Town's Finances
Medfield Town Administrator Michael Sullivan told Medfield Patch contributor Theresa Knapp that while the town's finances have been in relatively "good shape" this year heading into Town Meeting, he remains levelheaded and cautious moving forward.
"This may be a one-year aberration,” Sullivan told Knapp. “Even though we’ve had a good year this year, we’re cautious about future years. We may be back to a 10 percent increase in health insurance next year. If the school department budget went up less than one percent this year, there may be some pressure to increase it next year … I have a lot of sympathy for the communities who are going through hard times; we’ve been through them and it’s not a pleasant thing.”
To read Knapp's story on the town's financial status this year in its entirety, click here.
Town Meeting Rules and Motions
Here's a look at some basic rules and motions heading into Monday's Annual Town Meeting:
- It is required that at least 250 registered voters must be present at Town Meeting in order to conduct a forum.
- The subject matter of the meeting is limited to the Articles set forth in the
Report on the Warrant for the Annual Town Meeting. The Warrant serves
as Notice of the subject matter of the Town Meeting.
- All non-voting visitors invited to the Town Meeting shall be seated in an
area designated for visitors and all students who are not yet registered to
vote, and are observing the Town Meeting, shall sit in an area reserved for
students. At the start of the meeting a Motion shall be made by the
Moderator to permit non-voting participants ‘to sit within’ the Town
- The Moderator will ask the chairperson of the Warrant Committee to
offer introductory remarks about the Warrant, the town’s budget, and
current financial considerations. The Moderator will then ask Medfield Town Administrator Michael Sullivan to make some introductory remarks about the town’s fiscal condition and other considerations relevant to the meeting.
- The order of the Articles will be as follows:
(1) Articles on the Consent Calendar.
(2) Articles pertaining to Personnel issues which by law must be addressed before consideration of the Operating Budget.
(3) Articles identified by the Moderator because of their ‘subject and nature’ which should be addressed the outset of the meeting for purposes of expediency and clarity.
(4) Articles determined by the customary lottery system (subject to the Moderator’s determination of interdependency which requires certain Articles to be grouped together or to be addressed in a specific order) including consideration of the Operating and Capital Budgets of the Town.
- The Moderator will recognize the Warrant Committee for the purpose of
making the Main Motion on each Article, except in instances where the
Warrant Committee is recommending dismissal and the sponsor of the
Article does not agree. In such a case, the Moderator will recognize the
sponsor of the article for the purpose of making a positive Main Motion.
- Immediately after the Main Motion, the Moderator will recognize a
member of the Warrant Committee for the purpose of providing their
report -- positive or negative, majority or minority -- as appropriate. The
Moderator will then ask for any report required by law from a town board
or agency. The proponents of the Main Motion will then be recognized. There will be no requirement of a ‘second’ from the floor on Main Motions.
- As each article of the Warrant is presented, the discussion and the vote are not on the Article as printed in the Warrant, but rather on the Motion that is on the floor for consideration. There will be several motions at the
meeting that will not precisely track the articles as printed in the Warrant
- To avoid confusion, The Moderator will allow only one Motion to Amend be pending on the floor at any one time.
- Any voter wishing to speak to the Town Meeting should go to the nearest
microphone, and upon being recognized by the Moderator, should identify
her or himself by name, street address and town office (if any). On certain
articles the Moderator may exercise the discretion of asking proponents of
an Article and opponents of an article to go to separate microphones.
- All speakers shall be recognized by the Moderator before providing their comments or views.
- It is requested that all participants speak to the community by generally addressing their comments and views ‘through’ the Moderator. The Moderator will enforce a discretionary time limit on speakers.
- The Moderator asks that speakers not be offended if asked to complete remarks within a limited and defined timeframe.
- It will be the practice of the Moderator to take voice votes. If the Moderator is in doubt as to the outcome of a voice vote, the Moderator
will ask for a show of hands. If the Moderator is still in doubt, a count by
standing vote will be taken. Such count shall be administered by the Deputy Moderator. Once the voting procedures commence, no further
discussion will be allowed on the Motion until the Moderator declares the
outcome of the vote.
- If members of the Town Meeting doubt the ruling of the Moderator on a
voice or hand vote, by state statute, any seven voters may demand that a
standing vote be taken.
- State statutes and Town Bylaws require that motions of a certain subject
matter be enacted by more than a majority vote. Certain articles will
require a supermajority and the Moderator will inform the Town Meeting
of the need for a supermajority when the article is introduced.
- The Town Charter (Sec. 2-12) provides: “A vote of the town meeting shall
be subject to only one motion for reconsideration and such motion shall
require a two-thirds (2/3) vote. Action on any motion for reconsideration
shall be postponed until the next session unless the current session has
been declared to be the last. No motion for rescission shall be in order.”
- The Moderator has broad discretion in the administration of the Town
Meeting. As such, the Town Charter (Sec. 2-4) requires that the Moderator
shall stand for election each year.
- State statutes provide: "The moderator shall preside and regulate the proceedings, decide all questions of order, and make public declaration of all votes."
- The Moderator shall rely on the following foundations for the exercise of
his discretion: principles of fairness, prudence and expedience; consideration of the best interests of the community; and past precedent in the administration of the Town Meeting.
- The Moderator shall conduct a first time check at 10:30 p.m., and then a
second time check at 10:45 p.m. If, in the discretion of the Moderator, the
business of the Town Meeting cannot be finished within a 30 minutes, the
Town Bylaws (Sec. 4) require the Moderator to adjourn the meeting. If the
Town Meeting is adjourned in 2012, the meeting will be reconvened on
Tuesday evening, May 1, at 7:30 p.m.
- All cell phones, portable devices, and pagers should be turned to off/silent
throughout the Town Meeting.
For more on Town Meeting rules and motions, check out Medfield Patch's article, "Explaining Some Common Medfield Town Meeting Rules and Motions."
The History of Medfield Town Meeting
Town historian Richard DeSorgher details 360 years of Medfield Town Meetings and the important roles a few hundred voters play into the future of the town each year.
DeSorgher writes: "It is said that democracy is not a spectator sport and there is no better example of that than the New England Town Meeting. Action here in Medfield begins at 7:30 p.m. on Monday night. ... You can be in on the decision making by attending or you can stay home and be given the decisions of those who do attend."
To read DeSorgher's article in its entirety, click here.