Globe South Community briefing

Compromise budget needed

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May 4, 2008

Annual Town Meeting, which begins Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Middle-High School, is likely to spend the most time on coming up with a final operating budget for next year. Both the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen have created versions of a balanced budget, said Town Clerk Jean Kopke, which will require compromising on various line items. Among the 25 additional issues before the body are several capital items, including a request for about $600,000 for new boilers at the Middle-High School and roadwork.

- Joan Wilder

VOTE ON ROAD UNLIKELY - Due to a communication breakdown between the Planning Board and selectmen, a road in a subdivision called Whispering Woods, although on tomorrow's Town Meeting warrant for acceptance as a public way, will most likely be passed over. When the selectmen recently held a public hearing to consider the request, board members were unsure whether past drainage issues had been addressed, and they voted to skip over Whispering Pines at Town Meeting. Two days later, Planning Board chairman Robert Iafrate told his panel the town's engineer and highway superintendent were now satisfied with the condition of the drainage and road. But selectmen had already informed the town clerk of their decision. Annual Town Meeting opens at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High School. A Special Town Meeting to wrap up the current year's business starts at 7.

- Christine Legere

A TIME FOR PEACE - Brockton's community activists plan a rededication ceremony at the Peace Garden at Perkins Park today to honor the latest victims of violence. Six people have been killed in Brockton this year. The rededication of the park, on North Main Street near Pleasant Street, occurs each spring, to keep interest in the park alive. A memorial there reads: "Let us gather together in peace. Let us honor all victims of violence by vowing to end violence through our example. Let us be champions of peace in Brockton." The event, sponsored by Community Partners for Peace, will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. An ecumenical procession will start at St. Episcopal Church, 80 Pleasant St. Participants plan to gather between noon and 12:30 p.m. - Milton J. Valencia

CONDO PLAN VOTED DOWN - Town Meeting voters last week turned down a proposal to rezone the site of the former Plymouth Rubber Co. to allow roughly 400 condominiums, leaving a "very disappointed" developer likely looking at commercial tenants for the 40-acre site. "I think the town missed a really wonderful opportunity to clean up that site and have an attractive development," said Paul A. Schneiders, attorney for the Napleton Co., which owns the property on Revere Street. Schneiders said the company was planning to give the town about $5.5 million in mitigation payments and had invested $8 million toward the mixed-use development. "There's a lot of commercial users who are interested in the site," Schneiders said. - Elaine Cushman Carroll

PROJECT DESIGNATED SMART GROWTH - The Queset Commons development project has been approved by the state Department of Housing and Community Development as a so-called smart growth project. The approval means the town could be eligible for close to $1 million in incentive payments for adopting the project, a mixed-use development of residential units, commercial, and office space that is encouraged by state planners. Voters will decide on May 19 whether to support the project by creating an overlay zoning district allowing the type of development that is proposed. - Milton J. Valencia

NEW PRINCIPAL - After a search that took several months, Superintendent John Tuffy has selected Lakeville resident Claudia Motta, who is currently an assistant principal in Mashpee, to take over when Halifax Elementary School principal Diane Biggieri retires at the end of the school year. The other finalist was Anthony Keady, the assistant principal at Halifax Elementary School. Keady, who was in his second year in Halifax, will be leaving to become a principal in the Hingham school system. - Christine Legere

BUDGET OPTIONS VERY CLOSE - Town Meeting convenes tomorrow to consider two options for the fiscal 2009 operating budget. Town Administrator Michael Finglas has proposed an $18,377,974 spending plan, while the Finance Committee recommendation is $18,369,101. Town Meeting will also consider the creation of a Community Preservation Committee, contingent on voters' adopting the Community Preservation Act at the May 17 town election. Town Meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. at the middle school. - John Laidler

SCHOOLS TAKE BITE OUT OF BUDGET - A level-funded budget of $21.7 million is expected to be presented to voters at the annual Town Meeting, scheduled for May 12 at 7 p.m. at Apponequet Regional High School. One of the largest chunks of the budget is $6.2 million requested for the town's share in the Freetown-Lakeville Regional School District. The town is also part of the Old Colony Regional Vocational High School District, and $666,495 is being sought at Town Meeting for that share.

- Paul E. Kandarian

CLEANUP CREW NEEDED - Volunteers are needed for an Arbor Day spring cleanup scheduled for Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, rain or shine, to begin at the Marion Music Hall on Front Street. Volunteers will be provided gloves and bags, donated by the Lockheed Martin Co. Uncle Jon's Coffee and Harriet's Outback are providing coffee and pastry. The Marion Tree Committee will be handing out free tree saplings. There will also be a collection box for used cellphones, organizers said. - Paul E. Kandarian

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT - Middleborough officials have chosen a new town manager to replace John Healey, who managed the town for more than 20 years before retiring last summer. Charles Cristello, currently Hingham's town administrator, was selected by a unanimous vote of the Board of Selectmen on Monday. Wayne Perkins, a former selectman who chairs the town manager search committee, said his panel is currently negotiating a contract with Cristello. "We hope he'll be able to start by the beginning of the fiscal year," Perkins said.

- Christine Legere

LIBRARY OUTLOOK IS BLEAK - The Norton Public Library budget for the upcoming year is slated to take a $157,000 hit -- about 35 percent of its total. The result will be the loss of state accreditation and accompanying state aid, the loss of one full-time and four part-time workers, dramatic decreases in supplies, and a truncated schedule of operation. According to Herbert Ellison, president of the Norton library's board of directors, staff members are even offering to lower their hourly wages in an effort to preserve services. "There is so little, as a board of directors, that we can do," Ellison said. "We've done our pleading and our patrons have filled out petitions, so the Finance Committee and town manager know this is going to hurt." Ellison doesn't believe the town can ever become financially stable without a permanent tax increase, or override. Norton voters have never passed an override for operational budgets. The fiscal 2009 budget will be decided at the May 12 Town Meeting. - Christine Legere

DELAY ADDS TO AIRPORT BILL - One article on the May 12 Town Meeting warrant will ask for an additional $36,000 to complete work on a storage building at Norwood Memorial Airport. Work on the 8,000-square-foot, two-story structure to hold snow and ice removal equipment, and later offices, should be done this fall. Nearly $1.8 million of the project's cost was covered by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission, leaving the town's share at about $110,000.

- Michele Morgan Bolton

BUDGET, BYLAWS ON WARRANT - On May 14, Town Meeting will be asked to vote on a budget of just under $7 million, the town's first wetlands protection bylaws, and a petition to have the town adopt the state Community Preservation Act. Finance Committee chairwoman Jacki Norrie said her committee has voted against adding an additional police officer and will recommend the town purchase one police cruiser, instead of the two requested. "It's truly pains me to not be able to recommend the additional police officer," said Norrie. "We simply don't have the money." The complete warrant will be available on the town's website,

- Elaine Cushman Carroll

TOWN REVENUES UP - At tomorrow's annual Town Meeting, voters will be presented with a $64.6 million budget request, which is a 5 percent increase over last year's appropriation. The town has projected greater revenue from new businesses and proposed adding two new police positions and four new firefighters. There are also requests to acquire 35 acres of land for conservation, to establish quarterly tax bills, and accept grant money for fire equipment. Repairs to the Manns Pond Dam and the library elevator are also among the 35 articles on the warrant for Town Meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium. - Franci Richardson Ellement

BAY ROAD IN BAD SHAPE - It may be some time before Bay Road reopens. Public Works Superintendent Larry Barrett said last week that no timetable had been set for allowing traffic on the heavily traveled road, which has been closed at Walters Way since the collapse of a culvert late last month. Drivers can still use Bay Road between Plain Street to Walters Way, and from the Easton line to Castle Drive in Sharon. "The road is simply unsafe," said Barrett, who inspected the sinkhole with engineers hired by the town. Barrett said the problem was discovered before anyone was hurt. "If the culvert had collapsed because of a vehicle, especially a truck or school bus, it could have plunged 10 to 15 feet into marsh land."

- Robert Carroll

MODERATOR EYES SENATE SEAT - Walpole Town Moderator Jon Rockwood is seeking the Republican nomination for state senator in the Bristol and Norfolk district, which includes all of Walpole and all or part of nine other towns. Rockwood appears to be the only challenger to the incumbent, James Timilty, a Democrat from Walpole. The deadline for submitting nomination papers was April 29. The statewide primary election is Sept. 16, and the winning nominees will go before voters Nov. 4.

- Joan Wilder

VOTERS SAY YES TO MORE LIQUOR LICENSES - Special Town Meeting wrapped up last Monday night, and the 417 residents who showed up at the Wareham High School auditorium approved seven of the nine articles. One of those was a proposal for eight additional alcoholic beverage licenses in town, subject to approval by the state Legislature. An article that would have allowed the selectmen to gain more control of town-owned land off of Charlotte Furnace Road was put on hold for further study. The selectmen have been looking at that land, known as the Westfield property, as a potential site for senior housing. - Emily Sweeney

BUDGET BAILOUT CONSIDERED - Voters at a Special Town meeting tomorrow will consider proposed transfers to eliminate an approximately $300,000 funding shortfall for the current fiscal year. About $170,000 of the shortfall resulted from snow removal costs that were higher than budgeted. Another $50,000 is to meet the town's assessment for the Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School district. The remainder is due to higher than expected expenditures in other departments, particularly overtime in public safety. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium. The annual Town Meeting will be held on June 9. - John Laidler

SHAPIRO IS NEW SELECTMAN - Town Assessor Philip Shapiro was elected last week to a three-year seat on the Board of Selectmen. Shapiro, 57, the chief financial officer at Babson College, will resign his assessor's post in the next month or so. Shapiro, with 1,198 votes, easily beat out competitors Doug Obey, (826 votes), Jason Lee, (441 votes), and Greg Agnew (348 votes). Shapiro will replace Anthony Antonellis, who was elected town moderator.

- Michele Morgan Bolton

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