By: Chris Shottschott
WAREHAM – More than 200 registered voters filed into the auditorium of Wareham High School for Monday night’s Annual Fall Town Meeting and rapidly disposed of most of the 26 articles on its Warrant.
With sporadic discussion and questioning, voters quickly approved 17 articles requesting funding for various purposes from multiple sources and seeking approval for routine administrative matters. At night’s end, Town Administrator Derek Sullivan and Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Judith Whiteside both declared the session productive.
The town’s capital improvement plan for the current fiscal year totaling $865,000 was approved in Article 2 and included purchases for the Municipal Maintenance, police, information technology and school departments. According to Sullivan, all funding for the projects will be derived from the town’s latest Certified Free Cash allotment of more than $3 million.
An additional $970,000 in transfers from Certified Free Cash for four specific purposes were endorsed by voters, including assigning $620,000 to the Stabilization Fund and increasing its balance to more than $3 million.
Voters approved Article 15, which committed $635,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to purchase 10.18 acres of land at 950 Main St. for dual open space and affordable housing purposes. Most of the property will be assigned as open space, but 1.3 acres (including an existing building) will be delegated to Father Bill’s/Mainspring for renovation into a four-unit affordable housing complex that can accommodate up to six people.
The open space component will be jointly assumed by the Wareham Conservation Commission, Wareham Land Trust and Buzzards Bay Coalition. Kevin Bartsch, president of the Wareham Land Trust, spoke in favor of the article and it easily passed with more than the required two-thirds approval.
Voters also approved $55,350 in CPA funds for renovation of the Great Neck Union Chapel now located at 495 Main St. and $75,000 to fund an engineering plan for the design of a new playground to replace the existing Lopes Playground in Onset. Acceding to the expressed wishes of the Community Preservation Committee, Article 14 reducing its membership from 9 to 7 to alleviate quorum concerns at meetings was unanimously adopted.
At the request of the Board of Selectmen, voters opted to resubmit a home-rule petition to the Massachusetts Legislature seeking to classify mobile homes in the town as affordable housing. A similar Town Meeting vote several years ago was ultimately ignored by the Legislature, but “we’re not giving up,” said Selectman Alan Slavin.
Also approved Monday were articles amending the town’s zoning bylaws; establishing a Code Enforcement Revolving Fund and subsequent hiring of a Code Enforcement Officer; establishment of two study groups, one to peruse the town’s zoning bylaws and the other to analyze “the organization of redevelopment services;” creating a revolving fund to subsidize maintenance costs for the former Hammond Elementary School in Onset; an intra-department transfer of $250,000 for the Water Pollution Control Facility to subsidize the video inspection of a forced main; accepting submitted street layout plans for Cory Drive and Damien Drive; and funding recently concluded union contract negotiations with town employees.
“I thought this was a very good meeting,” Sullivan said at its conclusion. “We always appreciate the support we receive at Town Meetings from voters who take the time to comprehend what we want to do, ask good questions and make good decisions that benefit the entire community.”
“I’m very happy with tonight’s results,” Whiteside said. “I believe our advance preparations and discussions, along with our explanations for all articles, made this meeting proceed as well as it did.”
Follow Chris Shott on Twitter @ChrisShottCour.