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Breaking down Town Meeting warrant

TOWNSEND – Townsend will hold a Special Town Meeting on Nov. 19 at Memorial Hall. Major articles on the warrant include one to build an $11.3 million fire station headquarters, a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and a Planning Board bylaw to regulate wind energy.

Articles 1-3 are standard articles that the town usually includes in its Special Town Meeting, according to Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan.

Article 1 would allow the town to appropriate $2,800 to pay prior fiscal year bills.

Article 2 allows for the transfer of money to supplement the stabilization fund, which Sheehan said is not necessary at this time. He is recommending voters take no action on this article.

Article 3 would approve the transfer of $400,000 to supplement the capital stabilization fund. Half would go toward paying off improvements to the Spaulding Memorial School roof, and the rest could be put toward other capital expenditures, such as vehicles, building improvements or roadwork, Sheehan said.

Article 4 would appropriate an as yet undetermined amount of money to implement collective-bargaining agreements with the highway and water union, the telecommunications union, the police union and the firefighters union.

Articles 5 through 10 all address specific requests that were made by town departments to have funds appropriated for various purposes.

Article 5, if passed, would provide the Police Department with $9,806 to update and replace the existing phone system, which has had some unexpected technical issues in recent weeks.

“Obviously, as a first responder emergency department, they can’t afford to be without phones,” Sheehan said.

Article 6 would appropriate $630 to supplement pay for the Board of Health administrator, a position that was reclassified and moved to a higher pay grade earlier this year.

Article 7 would appropriate $5,100 for a special election to vote on a debt exclusion should the fire station building project pass Special Town Meeting vote.

Depending on what happens with the fire station vote, this article may or may not be necessary. A debt exclusion could also be placed on the ballot for the annual town election in April, rather than holding a special election, Sheehan said, unless voters vote to make the article’s passing contingent on a special election vote. This would require a special election to be held within 90 days.

Article 8 appropriates an additional $10,000 for veterans benefits.

“It’s something that we have to do occasionally, depending on the number of people claiming veterans benefits at the time. It goes up and down not just year to year, but month to month,” Sheehan said.

Since Treasurer Kathleen Rossbach is retiring, Article 9 would appropriate money to hire someone to cover that position on an interim basis. The exact amount is undetermined.

Article 10 would transfer $7,500 to facilities for the installation of a ramp at the West Townsend Reading Room, and for additional security measures at the Townsend Public Library and Senior Center. Sheehan told selectmen Nov. 5 that he would recommend taking no action on Article 10 at this time.

Article 11 would amend the town’s capital plan. Sheehan said it was added as a placeholder in case any other amendments to the capital plan are raised besides the Fire Department headquarters. If none are, he said he would recommend taking no action.

Article 12 would transfer $19,712 from free cash to the cemetery improvement fund.

According to Sheehan, the money came from logging the parks and cemeteries department had done on Turnpike Road land they are planning to develop into gravesites.

“Any proceeds from logging go into the general fund, so the cemetery department asked if the proceeds could be transferred to the cemetery improvement fund,” Sheehan said.

Article 13 would authorize the building of an $11.3 million fire station headquarters, and the purchase of land for the purpose. The Fire Department has proposed building the station on a 6-acre parcel on Scales Lane that would be purchased from the Townsend Ridge Country Club.

The article authorizes the department to purchase land and complete any necessary site work, as well as to build the station. If passed, the building would not go forward until a debt exclusion is passed by town election.

Article 14 would allow holders of approved on-premises liquor licenses to serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Under current town low, alcohol service cannot begin until noon.

The article was placed on the warrant at the request of Bailey’s. Sale beginning at 10 a.m. would have to be approved on each applicant’s license.

“Each holder of a license would have to ask the board for permission in their license. It’s not just a free-for-all,” Sheehan said.

Licenses are typically distributed in November for the year beginning Jan. 1, so if passed, the new hours could be utilized in the new licenses.

Article 15 is for a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in town through the end of 2014. A moratorium would allow the town time to plan for the possibility of dispensaries opening up by establishing zoning regulations.

Article 16 is a bylaw that would regulate the use of wind energy.

“We had some studies done of whether we have spots that have sufficient consistent wind speeds. We generally felt that we don’t, but we’re pretty close. So it could be that the economy of wind energy changes and this would protect us in case that happens,” Sheehan said.

Article 17 would raise the rates the tax collector and town treasurer can charge to assess land. Sheehan said the raises, which go to $25 for residential properties, $150 for commercial properties and $50 for farms, are necessary to cover the costs of the work.

Articles 18 and 19 provide for enforcement of the town’s mandatory recycling law by the municipal recycling enforcement coordinator, a position that is being temporarily funded through a grant to the town.

Articles 20 and 21 would authorize the sale of parcels of land to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. For the land in article 20, the state has authorized the town to log the property before the sale, which would bring in additional revenue.

“It would benefit us because we could make money off sale of the property and the land would still be protected as part of a wildlife management area. We could log the property before the sale to generate revenue, so we’d be gaining revenues on two fronts – the sale of the land and also the sale of the timber,” Sheehan said.

No logging is being proposed on the land in Article 21.

The warrant is available for further review on the town website, townsend.ma.us.