FALMOUTH – As Falmouth town meeting rolled into its third night, wind turbines were still a central topic.
Town counsel and other groups asked for mid-year appropriations and fund transfers in Article 8 totaling $915,000, which was approved by the majority of voters. Part of that figure included a transfer of $615,000 from the certified free cash fund.
Of the $915,000 total, $350,000 was appropriated for the special counsel budget and the rest was designated for service rubbish contractors, recycling services and short-term notes.
With seven wind turbine lawsuits pending, Town Counsel Frank Duffy said the current budget would “not get us through the end of the year.”
The article was tabled during previous town meeting sessions when citizens asked for more detailed reports from town counsel.
So far in the 2016 fiscal year, the town spent nearly $49,000 on special counsel centered around the town’s wind turbines, Duffy said during a presentation Thursday night. Duffy estimated that special counsel would need $175,000 of the $350,000 appropriation for the ongoing lawsuits. In the 2015 fiscal year, about $103,000 was spent on special counsel regarding the turbines, according to Duffy.
Also approved was Article 15, which amended the town’s codes for licenses and permits and added an exemption to allow homeowners who have not paid their property taxes in full to obtain building permits for weatherization and home improvement projects.
Article 17 passed unanimously to stop people from draining their swimming pools onto nearby streets and neighbor’s properties. The article was proposed by Town Manager Julian Suso along with the Department of Public Works. It was amended to also add water pumped out of trucks.
Article 18 drew discussion at length about how to handle the merger of the Falmouth Historical Commission and the Falmouth Historic District Commission.
The article eventually passed, but not before an amendment to allow solar panels to be an exclusion under the new singular commission’s purview was shot down.
The next few articles were simply an opening act for the main show: Article 23.
Marc Finneran’s petition to require three estimates before submission to town meeting for town purchases of more than $5,000 was denied by majority vote, as was a non-binding resolution about divestment of state public pension funds from fossil fuel companies, and a resolution for all standing votes to be counted by two tellers per section, with both agreeing on a row count before tallying the next row.
Then as Article 23 was announced people began to jockey for position to speak on whether legal permanent non-citizen residents should be allowed to vote in local elections. Even if the article passed, it would need to go before the legislature, who would have denied it, Moderator David Vieira announced to the packed auditorium at the Lawrence School. Discussion on the subject was limited to 25 minutes, and opposing sides were made to go one after another, conditions agreed upon by a two-thirds majority vote.
Gabriele Roggiolani, a plumber who’s been living in Falmouth for nearly 20 years since moving from Italy, said he is a prime example of a green card holder who wished to vote in local elections, but not become a citizen.
Roggiolani said he could not gain dual citizenship, and should an illness befall a family member back home, he could only stay in Italy on a 90-day visa if he became an American citizen.
“I just wish to be a better part of this community,” he said.
William Dynan, said the article was a very emotional one for him, and that there should be no “short cuts” to the rights of citizenship.
After the article was rejected by town meeting by a vote of 68 to 97, members took up a plan to install grinder pumps in the Little Pond Service Area. The pumps would remain town property and be maintained by the town, even though they reside on private land, according to the proposal.
Meeting members living near or in the service area, said the town-mandated pumps, which take wastewaster from homes into holding tanks, were a financial burden to them, and could be for years to come.
Howard Grosser, one of the sponsors of the article, said that many other towns in the state also have town pumps on private citizens’ property to help the sewer areas, and they rarely have problems if well maintained. But as town meeting member Barbara Schneider, who has had a pump for more than 20 years pointed out, some guests, who may be more “sexually active than others,” have flushed condoms down the toilet, clogging up the pumps. Because the pumps can become clogged if foreign objects are flushed, accountability should lie with the property owners, not the town, she said.
The measure passed by a majority vote after a heated back-and-forth debate, which extended past 11 p.m. Town meeting members breezed through the remaining articles within five minutes, mostly without discussion. The meeting ended at 11:36 p.m.
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