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Wareham Selectmen's zero pay to stay

WAREHAM – A bid to boost selectmen’s yearly salaries from zero to $2,000 was defeated Tuesday night in the Spring Town Meeting’s wrap-up session.

Former Selectman Brenda Eckstrom recommended an amendment to give the board members a raise.

She said she learned in her six years on the board how much time, effort and travel were involved in the post, and that zero pay was not fair.

Though the issue has been divisive in the past, she said it made sense to bump up the selectmen’s paycheck, adding she was not going to benefit from the change.

Finance Committee Chairman Donna Bronk said the move had merit, but the timing was wrong. She recommended more study, adding, “We can’t afford to pay them now.”

The question whether the board would be entitled to town medical insurance if members became salaried was also raised.

Town Counsel Richard Bowen said the selectmen themselves would have to vote to decide the question, which raised chuckles among the voters in attendance and the selectmen.

Eckstrom said an “uprising” would likely follow if selectmen made that vote.

The argument that more time was needed to study the matter has been heard before, she added, but no progress is ever made.

A two-thirds vote was needed to approve the amendment, but it failed to achieve even a simple majority, in a 76-67 vote to deny.

A subsequent Eckstrom motion to give selectmen $1,000 yearly salaries was not recognized by Town Moderator Claire L. Smith. She said a majority of the voters had made their position “clear.”

Town meeting voters did approve two separate articles to keep the wheels rolling in the town’s police department.

The first was to apply $99,224 to pay for the second year on a three-year, lease-to-own for eight police cruisers and one police SUV, and the second made $50,000 available to enter the first year on a three-year, lease-to-own deal on an additional three cruisers.

Chief Richard Stanley said the disparity in cost for the two deals came because grant funding had not been available to supplement the second purchase.

He said the vehicles were a necessity in improving services, and that the cruisers going on their second year had already racked up 40,000 miles. That’s due to the deteriorating state of older department cruisers, which he likened to “a junkpile.”

In a separate matter, Town Counsel Bowen said Town Meeting’s vote last week to repeal Article 5 in the town’s bylaws permitting wind energy facilities may have also swept away the Beaufort Windpower plan to develop two 398-foot turbines in town. He had initially believed that the project would be grandfathered and allowed to proceed to a Zoning Board of Appeals vote.

That opinion, he said, was based on the belief that the applicant had taken all the required steps to make the application sound prior to the vote.

He subsequently learned that the plan had not been recorded at the Registry of Deeds, which could affect its grandfathered status.

Town meeting voters could amend their vote to clarify Beaufort Windpower’s grandfathered status, he said. But a motion to that effect was voted down.

In other matters, voters approved $2,375,173 as the town’s share of funding the Upper Cape Cod Regional Vocational-Technical High School, $1.6 million for emergency services’ funding, and $40,000 to defray the Harbor Master’s costs to hire six seasonal deputies.