Lightly Attended Town Meeting Swiftly Approves 27 of 28 Warrant Articles
With just 332 residents in attendance at Monday’s Annual Town Meeting, all articles in Medfield’s Report on the Warrant passed, with the exception of Article 24, which was dismissed.
Editor's note: This article was updated on Tuesday, May 1 at 9:56 a.m. to reflect the clarification Warrant Committee chair Gus Murby made in the comments section below regarding the description of Article 19.
Medfield's 361st Annual Town Meeting came and went without a hitch Monday as the small quorum of 332 residents representing the town passed 27 of the town's 28 warrant articles presented in the Report on the Warrant in just under two hours.
The only article to be dismissed from the report was Article 24, which was an article submitted by Medfield's Water and Sewer Commissioners asking to see if the town would fund a study to look at the feasibility and costs of installing a filtration plant at water wells numbered three, four and five for "the purpose of removing iron and manganese from the water supply," according to the Warrant Committee.
All other articles in the report were passed without much discussion or debate. There were only three articles that generated public participation Monday – Article 26, in relation to the Medfield State Hospital ; Article 25, in relation to further study of the proposed Bay Colony Rail Trail; Article 19, in relation to the codification of the town's Charter, regulations, and bylaws to bring them together in printed and electronic formats, which could ultimately help the town in the eventual redevelopment of the former Medfield State Hospital property.
Article 25 – $1,000 to Continue Study of Bay Colony Rail Trail
Article 25 asked the town to appropriate $1,000, which would be raised on the fiscal year 2013 tax levy for the “continued study of the proposed lease and rail trail conversion of the former Charles River Branch Line rail corridor from Medfield junction toward Dover,” according to the Report on the Warrant. Article 25 also authorizes the Board of Selectmen to submit “a non-binding application for a 50 percent match towards an environmental insurance policy through the state’s Brownfields Redevelopment Access to Capital program,” The Report on the Warrant said.
A Medfield resident from Pine Street proposed an amendment to the article by inserting a list of specific questions for the Bay Colony Rail Trail Study Committee to answer in addition to any other work they will conduct over the next fiscal year.
Moderator Scott McDermott received a copy of the questions to be included in the amendment of the article and read them aloud to quorum.
Some of the questions included:
- What are the proposed uses of the rail trail?
- Would it be open to high-speed bicycle and mountain bikes?
- How would this trail be monitored?
- How would traffic be monitored?
- What would the surfaces be?
- How would the surface affect the proposed uses?
- Where would users park their cars to use the trail?
- Where would the funds come from to build the trail?
- How would road crossings be provided for safety to users?
The quorum passed the amendment to the article to include the questions proposed.
Other comments related to the Bay Colony Rail Trail article included a resident from Pleasant Street voicing his support of the proposed trail while resident Lou Fellini questioned the timing of the project while the town battles the state to clean up the state hospital.
“I have a very basic question to ask and question ourselves,” Fellini said. “We have in one hand looked at the state hospital and said we want to get it completely, environmentally clean. Yet, in this case, we are saying to the MBTA we will take the environment you give us and we will take out an insurance policy and pay them to protect ourselves. Are we sending the same or wrong message at this time? Should we put this aside for another year and keep on going after the state to clean up the hospital?”
Despite Fellini’s remarks, the amended article passed and while the town voted to continue to study the feasibility and town’s interest in the Bay Colony Rail Trail, it does not commit the town to construct or participate in the proposed project at this time. This article simply allows the Bay Colony Rail Trail Study Committee to review all aspects of the proposed trail and come back before the town at the 2013 Annual Town Meeting to present its proposal – if feasibly the trail makes sense for the town.
Article 26 – Hire Consultants to Advise on Matters Related to Former State Hospital
The quorum approved the appropriation of $75,000 for the purpose of hiring consultants, engineers and/or attorneys to advise the town on matters concerning the disposition and reuse and/or the environmental site remediation of the former Medfield State Hospital property. Funds will be expended under the direction of the Board of Selectmen. The Board of Selectmen may authorize any other town board, commission, committee or department to expend a portion of the $75,000 for such purposes.
The town has appropriated $75,000 each of the last two years to fund the hiring of consultants in connection with the disposition and/or reuse of the state hospital property.
Medfield State Hospital Environmental Review Committee chair John Thompson addressed the quorum to explain the importance of this article.
“The area [of concern] is about three acres of hazardous material that are located in the Charles River Watershed,” Thompson said. “We have been working very hard for more than two years to address this with DCAM to come up with a reasonable solution, one of which to protect the water supply in the area where the hazardous materials are. The [hazardous materials] inhibit about 12 million gallons of flood water and also it is a very recreationally active area. … We’re really hoping to continue to work with DCAM to come up with a solution that benefits the town.”
Medfield resident and state hospital abutter Bill Massaro followed Thompson’s remarks with appreciation to all of those who continue to support the town’s best interest regarding the state hospital and that is seeking maximum removal of 75,000 tons of hazardous waste across 3.2 acres of the property.
“I want to thank SHERC for all their efforts on behalf of the residents of the town,” Massaro said. “I also want to thank the selectmen for taking a strong position with DCAM as well, they issued a policy letter in February, pretty much saying they want maximum removal and they want no limitation of use. I want to thank our state legislators for the support they gave to Medfield and all the residents who have taken an interest in this.
“It’s been a long battle. We have several approaches that we are taking here, this is one of them and I think we are going to win. Thank you all.”
John Harney, another activist in seeking maximum cleanup of the state hospital property, gave residents an update as to where the town currently stands with the state hospital issue it faces.
“DCAM has run through its four phases and has presented its final plan,” Harney said. “That final plan is what we conceive to be totally inadequate. There are 75,000 tons of toxic waste buried at the former state hospital. We want it all taken out and we insist on that. … DCAM is content on moving ahead. … As a town, we should stick together on this. Take an interest in this and call, write, contact the Governor’s office and it will make a difference.”
Article 19 – Fund Codification of Town’s Charter, Regulations and By-laws
The town passed the By-Law Review Committee’s request to appropriate $10,000 to engage the services of a municipal code publisher to codify the town charter and by-laws and regulations. The By-Law Review Committee, according to the Warrant Committee, is “seeking funds to hire a firm to codify or organize the Town Charter and By-laws and to make them available in paper and electronic formats, so that they will be more accessible to the public.”
The town’s Charter, regulations and by-laws will be brought together in printed and electronic formats to make them more accessible to the public and “support a range of purposes,” according to Warrant Committee chair Gus Murby.
While the codification of the town’s Charter, regulations and by-laws covers a range of purposes and potential uses in the town, Massaro spoke to the quorum about this article’s relation to the eventual redevelopment of the former Medfield State Hospital property and handed out a flyer prior to Town Meeting to highlight the importance of this article.
“We are lacking just about every by-law other former state hospital towns – Danvers, Lexington and Foxborough – had to hurry up and write or change after their redevelopments started,” Massaro wrote. “Article 19 seeks [$10K] to collect scattered town by-laws & regulations for an electronic data base as the first step in reviewing what we have versus what we need to manage a large development.”
Murby pointed out in the comments section below that while the passing of this article and codifying of this data “will make it easier to identify new regulations that may be required” in the redevelopment of the former Medfield State Hospital property, the “codification is intended to support a broad range of purposes” and is “not the first step in using the codified data for a specific purpose.”
FY13 Operating and Capital Budget Articles
The quorum unanimously approved the town’s fiscal year 2013 operating budget (Article 15) at $50,176,773 and its capital budget (Article 16) at $563,026 without any discussion or debate on the floor. For a breakdown of each department’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013, view the PDF file in the photo gallery above. The subtotal on the tax levy to fund the appropriation of the town’s FY13 operational budget comes in at $4,701,469.
Article 12 – Name Intersection of Claypit Road and Causeway Street “Robert E. Naughton Civic Square”
In 2002, Robert E. Naughton, a longtime Medfield Police Officer, passed way. Ten years later, many who knew him and some who did not approved the Committee to Study Memorials' request to name the intersection of Claypit Road and Causeway Street “Robert E. Naughton Civic Square” in his memory. The town will appropriate $2,000 to pay for the cost of the sign. Town historian Richard DeSorgher spoke at length about Naughton Monday – sharing stories and memories of a man who many knew as a “genuinely decent person.”
DeSorgher’s remarks lightened the mood as many in the audience laughed at the historian’s tales of Naughton while others cracked smiles, thinking fondly of a friend they had lost too soon. Check back with Medfield Patch Tuesday for more on Robert E. Naughton from DeSorgher.
A Closer Look at the Articles that Passed Town Meeting
To view the 27 articles that passed Town Meeting Monday, view the PDF version of the Report on the Warrant in the photo gallery above.
Special Guests in Attendance
Among the non-residents in attendance at Monday's Annual Town Meeting were Senator James Timilty, who represents Medfield and has been a strong supporter in Medfield's fight to see the state remove the maximum amount of 75,000 tons of hazardous waste across 3.2 acres of land on the Medfield State Hospital property.
State Representative Denis Garlick, who was battling a cold, was also in attendance to show her support for the town she covers. Like Timilty, Garlick has expressed support for the town in its fight for full remediation of the state hospital property.
"What matters to Medfield matters to me," Garlick said.
Senate candidate Jeff Bailey was also in attendance Monday to show support for a community he hopes to represent.
Town Meeting Attendance Down
For Town Meeting to begin, it is required a quorum of 250 voters be in attendance. At 7:40 p.m. Town Clerk Carol Mayer informed Moderator Scott McDermott a quorum had been reached and Medfield’s 361st Annual Town Meeting was set to begin. Mayer’s final tally showed only 332 residents attended Monday’s Town Meeting, meaning the town met the quorum requirement by just 82 residents. Absent from Medfield's 361st Annual Town Meeting Monday was over 8,000 registered voters. 484 residents attended the 2011 Annual Town Meeting.
Medfield High School Jazz Choir Provides Pre-Meeting Entertainment
The Medfield High School Jazz Choir entertained residents with several numbers before the start of the Annual Town Meeting. Musicians in the choir ranged from freshmen to seniors.
A Positive Year for Medfield
Murby said despite facing hard economic times for a fourth straight year, the town was able to see financial improvement.
“It has been the first year we’ve had a few things that have gone our way,” Murby said. “The mild winter certainly allowed us to save a lot of money in the snow and ice budget. The debt refinancing that we went through has delivered some very significant savings to the town and will continue to do so for a while. There’s been some other efforts and some other lucky things too that actually have made things look a little bit better this year from a financial standpoint.”
See Murby’s Prefatory Remarks by the Chairman of the Warrant Committee on page 6 of the Report on the Warrant in the PDF file in the photo gallery above.