TOWN MEETING ’22: And we’re underway…

A quorum is in place and the 2022 Special and Annual Town Meeting is underway shortly after 7 p.m.

Selectman Chairman Kevin DiMarzio said the Annual Town Reportwas dedicated to all public health personnel, including those who work in the Health Department and schools and former Health Director Marty Golightly.

A moment of silence was held for former town employees who passed away over the last year.

Upon the recommendation of Town Moderator Shawn Reilly, Michael Franey was appointed deputy moderator. Franey is a former Town Moderator and member of the Board of Selectmen.

Town Meeting breezed through the first five articles on the Special Town Meeting with no debate, questions, or opposing votes. There is now expected to be a few questions about Article 6 which is about the new central fire station.

Never mind. There was one question about what the funding changed and it was passed by a voice vote. Moving on. Everything else passed without questions and debate and Special Town Meeting is done.

Members of the Finance Committee, top, and Board of Selectmen, bottom, listen to Finance Committee Chairman Matt Salah speak.

Budget discussion is underway. What was at one time a protracted and sometimes emotional part of Town Meeting, has become a relatively benign function in recent years. 

In a presentation to Town Meeting, Town Manager Scott Lambiase said the proposed nearly $63 million will enhance town services by adding a number of part time and full time positions. He did say that he would work with the Board of Selectmen to put together a group to study the town’s trash and recycling initiatives. The cost of disposing of Abington’s trash has nearly doubled since the town approved an override to cover collection costs. Part of the problem is that the market for recycled materials has crashed in recent years, and now costs the town as much to get rid of as regular household trash. The UMass-Boston Collins Center is also putting together a set of recommendations on how the town can approach its capital needs.

Andy Burbine asked about a 50% increase ($100,000 to $150,000) in the Town Counsel line item as well as lack of a budget for the Zoning Board and Conservation Commission. Lambiase said the town is doing a lot of work with town lawyers around personnel policies and expects spending to be higher this year. Regarding the Conservation Commission budget, the admin that assisted with meetings is now part of the Town Manager’s budget; the ZBA admin is now part of the Building Department’s budget. 

The budget passed on a voice vote, with just a couple attendees voicing no.

Articles 2-7 passed unanimously with little debate.

Discussion is now on a request for $13 million for the Abington/Rockland Joint Water Works to address PFAS issues in the water system. In a response to a question by Katie Vanness, Superintendent Kristel Cameron said Article 10 provides money to replace the current carbon filters 1 or 2 times a year. The filters, when finished, are considered hazardous waste, and is costly to remove,” she said. In response to a question from Kathy Creighton, Cameron said DEP is starting to investigate the source of the PFAS contamination, particularly around the Rockland treatment plant. The Joint Water Works is also pursuing state and federal grants to help cover the costs. Burbine asked for a project timeline as well as an estimated cost to ratepayers. Cameron said they don’t know how much yet it will increase rates. The project will be fully completed in about 2-3 years. The article passed unanimously.

Town Meeting approved the Community Preservation Act projects unanimously without debate, as well as the list of capital projects being paid for in cash.

Moderator Reilly is stepping down for Articles 13-17, which are zoning articles. Reilly is an attorney in town that represents developers before various town boards. Deputy Moderator Franey has the gavel.

After a lengthy debate about whether to allow marijuana manufacturing and cultivation off Chestnut Street, Town Meeting voted 98-47 to pass the matter back to the Planning Board for additional review and consideration. The Planning Board will be allowed to bring it back up at a future Town Meeting. As a result of this vote, Article 15 was also sent back to the Planning Board.

Town Meeting recognized outgoing Planning Board Chairman Wayne Smith who is leaving the board after 47 years of service.

Town Meeting approved Article 18 on a voice vote and adjourned at 9:34 p.m.

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