Town Meeting - May 11th, 2022

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Night six of town meeting, held via remote participation. Materials were available from (annual town meeting) and (special town meeting).


There were 207 attendance votes this evening.

(Greg Christiana, Town Moderator) Mr. Christiana informs us that we have to finish town meeting and dissolve by June 20th in order to have the budget approved in time. So he's going to try an experiment tonight, with the hope of moving things along. Fifteen minutes into deliberation, Mr. Christiana will do a straw poll (using Zoom's raise hands feature) to see if members are interested in terminating debate. If 75% of TMMs raise their hands, he'll invite one of them to make a motion to terminate.

(Note: the usual process is to wait for someone in the speaking queue to make a motion to terminate.)

We temporarily adjourn town meeting to move to a special town meeting. I'll denote special town meeting articles with the letters "STM".

STM Article 1 - Reports

(Charlie Foskett, Finance Committee Chair) Mr. Foskett moves receipt of the Finance Committee report.

(Rachel Zsembery, Redevelopment Board Chair) Ms. Zsembery moves receipt of the Redevelopment Board Report.

There are no more reports, and Article 1 is laid upon the table.

STM Article 2 - Family Child Care

Family child care refers to state licensed facilities that provide child care for up to six, up to eight, or up to 10 children. This is currently listed as a special permit use in our bylaws; Article 2 proposes to make it a by-right use.

(Rachel Zsembery, via video) Ms. Zsembery says the purpose of Article 2 is to expand 2019 changes to the zoning bylaw, by removing the special permit requirements for family child care. These facilities would still be subject to administrative review by the Department of Planning and Community Development, and subject to state licensing requirements. Ms. Zsembery says this change is consistent with neighboring communities.

(Ben Rudick) Mr. Rudick thinks this is a wonderful article. He has two kids in day care, and says it's expensive. Anything that makes it easier to open new day care centers would be great, because there's definitely a need for it. Mr. Rudick believes the state has a robust permitting process.

(Michelle Nathan) Ms. Nathan says she has no idea what this article is about. She asks if someone can explain it simply, so she knows what she's voting on.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery explains that Arlington's zoning bylaw currently requires daycare facilities to go through a permitting process that conflicts with state law, the Dover amendment in particular. Applicants would work with the Department of Planning and community development for approval. Article 2 would allow this use by right, so there's no special permit.

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal says he received a letter from someone in his precinct about this article. The person objects to Article 2 because they believe living near a pre-school is horrible, there will be noise all day, and that having a day care nearby might reduce the value of their home. Mr. Rosenthal would like it known that not everyone is in favor of this article.

(Nora Mann) Ms. Mann moves the question.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 192--26--3.

Article passes, 201--21--3.

STM Article 3 - Signs

Article 3 would create a new sign type for shared mobility stations (e.g., bicycle docking stations), and EV charging stations.

(Rachel Zsembery, via video) Ms. Zsembery notes that Arlington's sign bylaw was re-written in 2019. Since then, there's been a need for new signage types, particularly for bike share stations and EV chargers. This would allow the use of way-finding signs on docking stations and may help the town raise funds for the bicycles. The content of the signs may be subject to select board review. Article 3 adds several definitions, and a new set of regulations for these signs.

(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy asks if there will be a limit on the number of signs, and if they'll be illuminated.

(Jenny Raitt, Planning Director) Ms. Raitt says the limit is on the number of docking stations, which is currently five. For EV chargers, it depends on the number of private entities that come forward and wish to install them. These signs would not be illuminated at night.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein wants to speak to the bit about the Select Board approving signs. He believes that would conflict with the Supreme Court's decision in Reed v Gilbert.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim doesn't believe the Select Board would approve the substance of sign content.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks who chooses the content.

(Doug Heim) Mr. Heim doesn't believe there would be an approval process for content, as the US Constitution doesn't allow the government to dictate speech.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there are two issues: what the Select Board does, and whether the Select Board approves the use of advertising at a station location. She says the Select Board can't over-regulate.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein says the town spent many years trying to eradicate advertising. He says this isn't progress. It's special treatment for some business, and why should we give special treatment to a money-losing company.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that if we looked for sponsors, the sign space would be available to anyone who was interested in making a sponsorship. She says there are signs everywhere in the bike share network, and this would be no different than (say) having signs on bus stations. She also feels the questions about sign content are beyond the scope of the article.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein says for years, there was a church that displayed several signs in their windows, and there was no enforcement.

(Michael Quinn) Mr. Quinn is trying to understand what we're approving, and how the docking stations will change as a result.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says the appearance of the stations won't change; this would just allow something in the sign panel. The sign areas are attached to the docking stations right now.

(Michael Quinn) Mr. Quinn says it sounds like we'd be replacing what's there now with commercial ads.

(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray has a question about financials. She asks how much money sponsorship/advertising signs might generate, and where that money would go.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says that any money would go towards funding the docking stations related to the bike share program.

(Elizabeth Dray) Ms. Dray understands this will offset the cost of the blue bikes stations. She asks how much money we're talking about.

(Jenny Raitt) Ms. Raitt says there are currently no projections of the amount of money that could be raised. This article is just about finding a place to put the sponsorship.

(Charlie Foskett, Point of Order) Mr. Foskett asks if this article includes a revolving fund.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says the article is just about zoning, and there's no revolving fund. Any revolving fund would need to be created in the future, but there's none contemplated at this time.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana asks for a straw poll about terminating debate.

(John Leone, Point of Order) Mr. Leone says there's no provision in our town bylaws to terminate debate like this. He feels like this straw poll is limiting debate and he believes the time limit is arbitrary.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that town meeting members have the right to request to speak, to vote, and to request a termination of debate. He doesn't see this as a fundamental change to town meeting procedures.

(Michelle Nathan, Point of Order) Ms. Nathan agrees whole heartedly. She thinks the meeting is going so quickly, and she's inclined to vote no because she doesn't know what she's voting for. She says it feels undemocratic.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says this is a straw poll of town meeting members present at the meeting, and it gives them another option to terminate debate if they'd like to. He'd like to try the process out tonight, and then evaluate how it goes.

Not enough TMMs have raised their hands, so we'll continue deliberating.

(Carl Wagner, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner asks if there's an obvious way that town meeting members could tell how many people raised their hands?

(Greg Christiana) As a zoom panelist, Mr. Christiana says he's able to see the number. But, he's just been informed that town meeting members (who are Zoom webinar participants in this context) are unable to.

(Carl Wagner, Point of Order) Mr. Wagner asks Mr. Christiana not to use this process. He asks "how can we trust the government?".

(Xavid Pretzer) Mx. Pretzer thinks it's important for Arlington to support alternative transportation systems like bikes. They see this as an opportunity to encourage more environmentally-friendly transportation, like bicycles. They're supportive of the article.

(Leba Heigham) Ms. Heigham moves the question.

(Lori Leahy) Ms. Leahy wants to know if she can prepare an amendment.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that if the motion to terminate debate fails, a subsequent speaker can make a motion to amend.

Motion to terminate passes, 174--50--1.

Article passes, 172--51--3.

STM Article 4 - Non-conforming single- and two-family dwellings

This article proposes to remove a section of Arlington's zoning bylaw that conflicts with state case law.

(Rachel Zsembery, via video) Ms. Zsembery says that Article 4 relates to non-conforming single- and two-family dwellings. It was brought to the ARB by the zoning board of appeals and zoning bylaw working group. Section 8.1.3(C) of our bylaw limits the rights afforded to non-conforming homes in a way that conflicts with current case law.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson asks if this brings us in line with state law and we really don't have a choice in the matter.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana indicates that's his understanding.

(Rachel Zsembery) Ms. Zsembery says yes, this article will bring us into compliance.

(Daniel Jalkut) Mr. Jalkut motions to terminate debate.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 206--14--3.

Article passes, 213--9--2.

STM Article 5 - Amendments to FY2022 Budgets

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says that our last town meeting transferred money into a reserve fund in order to handle potential increases in school enrollment. School enrollment didn't increase as anticipated, and we'd like to move the remaining money into the override stabilization fund.

Article passes, 215--2--2.

STM Article 6 - Private Way Repairs Revolving Fund

Article 6 propose to add $100k into the revolving fund that's used for private way repairs.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says the town has a history of improving private ways. Abutters pay the cost for these repairs and the revolving fund provides working capital. This article would add $100k of working capital to the revolving fund.

(Steve Revilak) Mr. Revilak asks which private ways we've been repairing.

(Michael Rademacher, DPW director) Mr. Rademacher says he doesn't have a list handy.

(Sandy Pooler, Assistant Town Manager) Mr. Pooler says there was a significant amount of work done around Mt. Gilboa, around $150k. Most private way repairs are only a fraction of that. He says the town is currently awaiting more applications for private way repairs.

(Alex Franzosa) Mr. Franzosa asks if this fund is used to repair both public and private ways.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says the revolving fund is used to pay the vendors who do the repairs. The abutters are liable for all of the costs, which are generally paid in installments, or as a fee added on to their property taxes. Money in the revolving fund allows work to proceed as the repayments come in.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore makes a motion to terminate debate.

(Janice Weber, Point of Order) Ms. Weber wants to know who seconded the motion to terminate debate. She says the seconds never showed up on her screen and asks why that is.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana explains that everyone's web portal screen refreshes at a different time. It's possible the list of seconds was cleared before Ms. Weber's browser refreshed.

Motion to terminate debate passes, 202--20--3.

Article passes, 219--5--0.

That's the last article for the special town meeting. Article 1 is taken from the table and the special town meeting is dissolved.

So, back to regular old annual town meeting.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett motions to table articles 19--47, so that we can take up finance articles and get them all out of the way. There's a second, so we'll do that.

Article 48 - Positions Reclassification

This article involves changes to the town's employee pay plan.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says this article consists that of changes that departments make to their payment and classification scheme.

(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman asks if any of the changes up new positions.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett answers in the affirmative.

(Caryn Molloy, Director of Human Resources) Ms. Molloy goes though the list of changes, explaining which are new and which are not.

(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman says that it's her understanding that these classification changes will create new positions, and they'll have to be funded next year. She's confused about the difference between new positions and reclassified positions.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says these are just salary and classification adjustments. Not new positions.

(Ed Trembley) Mr. Trembley asks about a classification change from MTP8 to MTP11.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says there are various employee classification levels. An employee or their manager can request a classification change because the job changed in a way that warrants a change to the classification or a change to compensation.

(Ed Trembley) Mr. Trembley points out that there isn't a dollar amount listed for a change from MTP8 to MTP11. He asks why.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett says that means there's no difference in pay.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says that in this specific instance, we had a town energy manager and that position was vacated. After looking at the market, we decided that the job function needed a change. That's why the MPT8 became an MPT11.

(Ed Trembley) Mr. Trembley asks if that means there's no longer a position.

(Adam Chapdelaine) Mr. Chapdelaine says yes, the energy manager position will become the sustainability manager.

(Ed Trembley) Mr. Trembley asks if there's any way of getting a description for what each of these classifications are.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says we can take note of that for next year.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore motions to terminate debate.

Motion to terminate passes, 207--14--2.

Article passes, 214--5--1.

Article 49 - Collective Bargaining

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett makes a motion to table article 49. He says the town has settled with two unions and is still negotiating with the third. He'd like to have the article tabled until those negotiations finish. He says the outcome won't change the dollar figure, but it will reallocate funds.

We'll table article 49.

Article 50 - Budgets

This article will set the town's operating budget for FY2023.

(Charlie Foskett) Mr. Foskett notes that the full budget appears in appendix of the finance committee report. He suggests the moderator go through the list of sub budgets and ask for holds.

Finance committee. Held by Steve Revilak

Town Manager's office. Held by John Mahr and John Leone.

Town Clerk. Held by Beth Benedict.

Planning Department. Held by Adam Auster

Zoning Board of Appeals. Held by Beth Ann Friedman.

Public Works. Held by Ed Trembley.

Facilities. Held by Barbara Thornton.

Police. Held by Ed Trembley and Jordan Weinstein.

Inspectional Services. Held by Gordon Jamieson.

Education. Held by Liz Exton.

Youth Counseling Center. Held by Beth Benedict.

(Note: sub-budgets not listed above were not held).

(David Levy) Mr. Levy asks if Mr. Foskett can say a few words about the overall budget of the town.

(Greg Christiana) Mr. Christiana says that several members of the school department are here for the budget discussion, and he'd like to get to that first.

School Budget

(Liz Exton, School Committee) Ms. Exton says it's been a busy year, which has included the on-boarding of a new School Superintendent. The budget address funding for mental health and increased school enrollment. It also eliminates fees for music and athletic programs. Ms. Exton says that the Arlington Public Schools spend 10% less per pupil than the other communities in the town manager 12. However, that means our teacher salaries are low. The school department would like to close that gap.

(Liz Homan, Superintendent) Ms. Homan says there's been increasing enrollment in our secondary schools. The Department has been focused on ensuring that pandemic needs are met. There were more students enrolled in March than there were in October, which might change the enrollment forecast.

(Michael Mason, School Finance Director) Mr. Mason notes that we spend less on education than other communities in the town manager 12, and less than the state in general. This means that school staff and teachers are paid below average. About 75% of our budget goes to direct instruction; the rest goes to administration, management, etc. Mr. Mason says the school budget has increased $4.3M since last year, and the proposed budget for FY23 is $84M.

(Liz Homan) Ms. Homan says the school has eliminated fees for music and athletic programs. They've also added staff for the libraries, special education, and English as a second language. Overall, there are 14.1 new positions.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson says that during one of his precinct meetings, a parent noted that Brackett school enrollment was down, and didn't seem to be rebounding. He asks why.

(Liz Homan) Ms. Homan says that's a true trend, which might be due to real estate or the pandemic. She's seen this in other parts of town. She believes the Brackett will bounce back next year, but the enrollment will still be down one section.

(Amy Slutzky) Ms. Slutzky is concerned about how little occupational support staff are paid.

(Liz Homan) Ms. Homan shares that concern.

(Mark Kaepplein) Mr. Kaepplein says that Arlington didn't furlough any school employees during the height of the pandemic. He believes that Brookline furloughed 196, and asks why we didn't do this. He says that furloughed employees could just collect unemployment benefits.

(Liz Homan) Ms. Homan says that most employees worked remotely during the pandemic. She's not aware of any communities where school employees were furloughed.

(Adam Auster) Mr. Auster has a question about the school district, as it related to the town's sustainable transportation plan and net zero action plan. He asks what the school district plans to do to further these goals.

(Liz Homan) Ms. Homan says the district is in the process of procuring two new electric school buses. They intend to turn over the school bus fleet over time. She says they're looking at more options for bike storage and safe routes to school programs.

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal says that during precinct 12 and 14's meeting, a parent said that Brackett was one of the least desirable schools among parents. They were concerned about maintenance and playground equipment. Regarding salaries, what's the total amount we'd need in order to match the average salary of our comparable communities.

(Michel Mason) Mr. Mason says we can't match salaries with our current funding, so we're trying to find a happy medium.

(Mark Rosenthal) Mr. Rosenthal says it would be useful to have that calculation available for next year.

(John Mahr) Mr. Mahr says there have been promises to increase teacher salaries, and he'd like to see that rectified.

(Chris Moore) Mr. Moore motions to terminate debate on the education sub-budget.

Motion to terminate passes, 156--41--8.

Town meeting adjourns for the evening. We'll continue budget deliberations Monday night.