A regular meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen was called to order by Chairman Roger Blanchette on November 16, 2010 at 7:00 pm in the Marion Town House. Also in attendance were Selectmen Jonathan Henry and Stephen Cushing, Town Administrator Paul Dawson and Assistant to the Selectmen Debra Paiva.
The minutes of the November 2 meeting were approved.
In their first appointment, the Board met with the Board of Assessors for a tax rate classification hearing. According to town clerk Ray Pickles, the town is currently 93 percent residential. Upon the suggestion of representative members of the Board of Assessors, the Board voted to keep a single tax rate.
In a second appointment, the Board met with Gary Carreiro, tax collector, in regards to a proposed Other Post-Employment Benefits (OPEB) trust investment policy. Under an OPEB trust investment policy, the town has the opportunity to engage in a long-term policy with an investment firm to diversify its portfolio and improve its bond rating. Since the annual bond rating is scheduled for December, Mr. Carreiro hoped that the Board would consider the OPEB approach to investment.
“I read the policy and I’m very comfortable with it,” said Chairman Blanchette. The Board voted to accept the OPEB trust investment policy.
Under Action items, the Board recognized letters of interest from John Sweeney and Albin Johnson for an advertised opening on the 2015 Oversight Committee. The Board decided to table the appointment, since both of the applicants are elected members of prominent boards: Mr. Sweeney, a member of the planning board and Mr. Johnson, a member of the Board of Health.
“We are back to the same problem again: members of major committees requesting to be appointed to additional committees. I’m not happy about this,” said Chairman Blanchette. “We have many opportunities in this town for volunteerism, but time and time again, it is the same people stepping up.”
Selectmen Cushing and Henry agreed that it was problematic to continually appoint the same people to additional boards, especially elected officials. Chairman Blanchette encouraged town residents not currently serving on any boards to submit a letter of interest to Mr. Dawson, Town Administrator in the Town House.
The Board then discussed the formation of a Great Hill Turbine Committee. At the previous selectmen meeting, they had decided to form an information-seeking, three-person committee. The Board had hoped to form the committee with three members: a representative selectman member, a member of the Financial Committee (FinCom) and a member of the Alternative Energy Committee (AEC).
Over a dozen residents in the area of Great Hill, including residents of Piney Point, were present, and asked to speak at the meeting regarding their concerns about whether they believed that the proposed Great Hill Turbine Committee would be properly constituted without the inclusion of members representing abutting resident interest.
Led by Piney Point resident Kitt Sawitsky, the residents expressed concerns about the town advancing lease discussions and negotiations with the Stone family at Great Hill, for placement of a proposed industrial wind turbine to supply energy to Marion.
Despite the fact that the agenda item was not a public hearing, the Board allowed the residents to present their concerns, as long as they stuck to the subject of the committee formation and not the actual wind turbine debate.
Speaking to issues of health, property devaluation and wildlife implications, residents urged the Board to include someone on the informational committee to consider their best interests.
Resident Lois Gravois said that she generally supported wind energy, calling turbines “kinetic sculptures” that serve a useful purpose, but she did not think that they should be placed in residential areas. She cited health concerns and the “danger of subsonic sound”. Ms. Gravois indicated that she thought the turbine would likely be placed across the water from her house.
Resident and realtor Barbara Beatty said that health concerns could include “headaches, seizures, sleep deprivation, anxiety and depression”. She said that the placement of a wind turbine could result in a 20 to 40 percent home devaluation for abutters. She said that a resident representative on the proposed committee could represent this concern fairly. She also said that there was a group of 19 plaintiffs currently in a lawsuit against a local municipality in regards to the placement of a wind turbine, and alluded to the possibility of a similar lawsuit for Marion if the turbine were placed at Great Hill.
“I urge you to avoid a tragic mistake,” said Cove Circle resident Steve Cokins. “This isn’t the ‘not in my backyard’ debate… these don’t belong in anybody’s backyard.”
Chairman Blanchette assured the concerned residents that their interests would be considered and that no leases had been discussed. Additionally, he said that any progress on the proposed project would result in public hearings, which would be an opportunity for abutters to voice their concerns.
“This project – if you could even call it a project,” said Mr. Dawson, “could not be in a stage more infant than now… there are no plans. There is only a measurement of wind velocity,” he said, alluding to the tests that are being done in the area to determine whether Great Hill could even support a wind turbine.
“It does seem like we’re stacking the deck,” Selectman Henry said in support of the abutters’ concerns. Selectman Cushing agreed with Selectman Henry, supporting the placement of an abutting resident member on the committee.
The Board voted to remove proposed FinCom member Alan Minard from the suggested committee members and voted to approve the following members to the Great Hill Turbine Committee: Selectman member Roger Blanchette, AEC member Bill Saltonstall and abutting resident member Kitt Sawitsky.
Also under Action items, the Board:
• Established their holiday schedule for 2010. The Town House will be closed on December 24 and 31.
• Approved a one-day wine and malt permit for the selectmen’s annual holiday party at the music hall on December 7, 2010.
• Approved a one-day wine and malt permit for a wedding at the music hall on January 1, 2011.
• Signed a water commitment in the amount of $2,028.81.
In the Town Administrator’s report, Mr. Dawson informed the selectmen that there would be a Tri-Town Board of Selectmen meeting on December 1 in the ORCTV media room at Old Rochester Regional High School.
Under Correspondence, the Board received communication from:
• Brendan McCarthy asking the Board to consider moving the town privilege sticker placement back to the rear bumper, where it was for years before visibility concerns prompted a move to the front windshield.
“This is something to consider… I don’t know if there is anything we can do about this now,” said Chairman Blanchette. The Board agreed to revisit this issue if resident sentiment indicated need for change.
• A request from Marion School Committee Chairperson Jane McCarthy requesting a Selectman representative in Old Rochester teachers’ union contract negotiations. The Board voted to appoint Chairman Blanchette as representative.
• A letter from the Music Hall Advisory Committee citing poor lighting at the Music Hall as a “possibility for a future litigation suit”. Upon recommendation of the Committee, the Board voted to approve the Committee’s request to remediate the poor lighting at the building.
The Board voted to adjourn at 9:09 pm.
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