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Divisive first night for Milton Town Meeting

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  October 28, 2013 11:07 PM

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Milton’s Town Meeting will go into a second night Tuesday to cover the remaining seven of 15 articles, after a divisive first night that saw debate on almost every item.

After much discussion, Town Meeting members voted Monday to approve an amended motion calling for Town Meeting members to be brought in to a Government Study Committee.

The committee will focus on improving the efficiency of the Town Meeting process as well as town government as a whole.

“We’ve had open and frank discussions that we’re trying to make this a better town, better place to live, and better for our children,” said Town Moderator Brian Walsh.

Members additionally agreed to give the town clerk authority to advertise Town Meeting member positions and the Town Meeting process to bolster participation. The topic that was the source of discussion that took up much of the 2 1/2-hour meeting.

Despite requests to have the town clerk also work with the schools to educate students on Town Meeting, School Committee members felt it wasn’t the clerk’s place.

After several amendments and a standing vote count, the task of educating children was stricken from the bylaw language.

A bylaw amendment to establish an Audit Committee was referred back to the Selectmen, and an article seeking to use excess water and sewer revenues to reduce current water rates was unanimously approved after some discussion.

Voters also defeated an article looking to appropriate parking permit fees for traffic committee signage and studies, as Warrant Committee members felt the revenues exceeded the demand.

Any budgetary requests will be accommodated through the Department of Public Works,

“Public safety is involved, but that’s not the issue. The DPW has never refused a request of the traffic commission and would be unlikely to do so certainly for budgetary reasons,” said Ted Hayes, chair for the Warrant Committee.

Meeting members also defeated a provision requesting that zoning violation fees be increased from $50 a day to $300 a day.

Despite pleas from the Building Commissioner that the fees were discretionary, that the fees would be for repeat offenders, and the increase would help free up much of the time spent in court fighting for payment, many called the measure "draconian".

“That’s outrageous - $300 a day,” said Buddy Packer, a Town Meeting member. “When you put it in the hands of inspectional services, which is my day job in the city, I get a bit irritated at you for your parked car without a plate, before you know it, you’re up to thousands of dollars for what could be a minor violation. It’s too much power to place in a civil authority.”

Town officials also rescinded a request to put liens on houses for unpaid fines.

The town finally referred a zoning bylaw change back to the Planning Board for further study before adjourning at 10 p.m.

Town meeting will reconvene on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.

To see all the warrant articles, click here.

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