Town Meeting - May 15, 2019

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Eighth night of town meeting.

Article 47: PEG Access Fund. "PEG" stands for "public, educational, and government", and refers to public access cable TV programming. Town Moderator John Leone is a board member of ACMi (our public access station), and hands off the moderator duties to assistant moderator James O'Connor for articles 47 and 48. Adam Chapdelaine presents the article.

Mr. Chapdelaine says articles 47 and 48 are companions. Arlington receives money from cable companies, which goes towards funding PEG programs via ACMi. This article will establish a fund for this money, because the state now requires us to do so.

(John Maher) Mr. Maher is a member of the cable advisory committee, and he supports the recommended vote of the select board. Cable companies have to negotiate franchise fees in order to lay cables. These franchise fees are what funds ACMi: $800k of franchise fees funds 98% of their budget. The cable industry has been trying to eliminate PEG access fees. Most states in the US negotiate franchise fees at the state level, but Massachusetts allows municipalities to negotiate their own franchise agreements. The FCC is trying to do away with franchise fees, by allowing cable companies to deduct the fair market value of the channels. That would result in a loss of community broadcasting.

Article passes, 183--1.

Article 48: PEG Access Budget. There's no debate on the article.

Article passes, 178--1.

Article 51: Endorsement of CDBG Application. Diane Mahon wants to extend recognition to the three citizen members of the Community Development Block Grant committee. They were very engaged, and really knew the issues. We anticipated getting $1.1M in funding this year, but got $1.3M instead. All of the CDBG requests were funded, with the exception of one.

Article passes, 175--0.

Article 52: Revolving Funds. Sandy Pooler gives a brief introduction to the article. We're just reauthorizing spending for revolving funds.

(Christian Klein) Mr. Klein has a question about life support service fees. How much money did we approve last year?

Mr. Pooler says we authorized $800k.

Mr. Klein notes that we spent more than that. He asks if there are repercussions for doing so.

Mr. Pooler says the DOR might yell at us, but that's probably all. The overage came from the purchase of a new ambulance.

(Peter Fiore) Mr. Fiore thinks the white goods recycling balance looks wrong.

Mr. Pooler says the amount in the Select Board's report was wrong, and that the board issued a correction.

(Zarina Memon) Ms. Memon asks about the amount dedicated to private way repairs. She thinks it's a lot of money.

Mr. Pooler says the amount comes from the town's private way betterment program.

Ms. Memon notes that two committees have no balance and one has no expenditures. She asks if the Uncle Sam Committee still exists.

Mr. Pooler says the Uncle Sam Committee still exists, but lacks members.

Article passes, 189--0.

Article 53: Endorsement of Parking Benefit District Expenditures. Adam Chapdelaine presents the article. The article requests approval for the town to operate the parking benefits district, and to fund improvements to the district. This includes funding parking meters, and parking enforcement. The money will go towards sidewalk and plaza improvements.

(John Leonard) Mr. Leonard notes that there was $36k left over from FY 2018, and there will be $35k left over at the end of FY 2020. He asks where this money will go.

Mr. Chapdelaine says the $36k will go toward sidewalk replacement. The $35k will carry forward to next year.

(John Worden) Mr. Worden asks what's wrong with the sidewalks.

Adam Chapdelaine responds by saying the sidewalks are in deplorable condition. The plan is to replace the brick sidewalks with concrete and brick trim. We want to prioritize accessibility.

Mr. Worden thinks that brick sidewalks make a town more vibrant. He thinks getting rid of the bricks is unfortunate.

(Michele Durocher) Ms. Durocher asks about the scope of the parking benefits district, and what kinds of expenditures are valid.

Mr. Chapdelaine says that parking benefits district funds can be spent on maintenance, infrastructure, and beautification. They can also be spent on maintenance, like sidewalk cleaning and snow removal.

Ms. Durocher is glad to hear that snow removal is part of the picture.

(Deb Butler) Ms. Butler says that this evening, she parked in the handicapped space in front of town hall. She opened the passenger door of her car to get some items out of the front seat, and the door got wedged on a brick that was sticking up out of the sidewalk. She freed the door by prying the brick out with an ice scraper. She notes that the bricks are set in sand, with no mortar. Some of the worst sidewalks in town are right here, in front of town hall. For handicapped individuals, she thinks this is a liability suit waiting to happen. There are numerous spots where one cannot use a walker or a wheelchair, because the brick sidewalks are so uneven.

(Beth Malofchik) Ms. Malofchik asks if there's an ADA-compliant method for installing brick sidewalks. She suggests people look at the sidewalks by Cambridge Common. She asks if the sidewalk replacement will include the veterans memorial plaza.

Mr. Chapdelaine says it will.

Ms. Melofchik asks if the monument will be moved?

Mr. Chapdelaine says this article is strictly about sidewalk repair. The Veteran's Commission is considering moving the monument. If that happens, it will be at a later point in time.

(Eric Helmuth) Moves the question.

Article passes, 185--3.

Article 54: Parking Operating Costs. No action recommendation passes on a voice vote.

Article 56: Collective Bargaining. This article involves a collective bargaining agreement between the town and the Police Department's Ranking Officers Association. It follows a 2-2-1 cost of living adjustment, and a new step system. (I believe Sandy Pooler presented the article).

(Al Tosti) Mr. Tosti says the Finance Committee unanimously supports the new contract. The substitute motion sets aside money for the agreement, and future appropriations.

(Jordan Weinstein) Mr. Weinstein asks about wages for ranking officers in the police department.

Sandy Pooler says that the base pay for a sergeant is $70,900/year; the base pay for a lieutenant is $84,000/year; and the base pay for a captain is $99,000/year. Officers can receive educational credits, which raise these pay ranges from $89k--130k. These are the salary amounts that would be subject to the 2-2-1 agreement.

Mr. Weinstein asks how much money is involved in a salary step.

Mr. Pooler says that each step is 1% of base salary.

(Christopher Moore) Mr. Moore asks if the changes go into effect retroactively, from July 2018.

Yes, they do. July 2018 was the start of their contract period.

(Beth Ann Friedman) Ms. Friedman asks how long the contract period is.

Mr. Pooler says it's a three-year contract.

Substitute motion passes by voice vote.

Article passes, 189--2.

Article 60: Transportation Infrastructure Fund. Adam Chapdelaine presents the article. All transportation network companies (e.g., Uber and Lyft) will be assessed a tax. Tax funds will be split between the municipality and the state. We can use these funds for transportation improvements, and we plan to use them to fund a permanent bus rapid transit program. The MBTA will split the cost of this with the town.

Article passes, 188--4.

Article 64: Committees and Commissions. The moderator asks if anyone wishes to discuss the article.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo would like an explanation for the 8--7 finance committee vote. She'd also like to know what kind of oversight we have for committee spending.

Al Tosti says that part of the split vote was due to the increasing amount of money used for public art. That's not the core mission of the town. We wanted to ensure the Arts Council realized they were getting seed money, to help them get started, and attain the ability to raise their own money.

As far as oversight goes, all money spent has to be approved by town meeting.

(Annie LaCourt) Ms. LaCourt says that as part of the move to push the arts commission in the direction of independence, the commission now has a representative from the finance committee. She's their finance committee representative.

(Timur Yontar) Moves to terminate debate.

Article passes, 187--2.

Article 65: Town Celebration and Events. The moderator asks if anyone wishes to discuss the article. Sophie Migliazzo does.

(Sophie Migliazzo) Ms. Migliazzo would like clarification on the listings for town day and town night. She notes that last year, town night was funded privately, and asks if that's normally the case.

Adam Chapdelaine says that town night has been supported by private fundraising. In the past, the town contributed $5000 to help with the cost of police details. The town day committee wanted to focus their efforts on town day, not town night. There's no committee and no funding for town night at this time.

Article passes, 187--4.

Article 72: Overlay Reserve. The moderator asks if anyone wishes to discuss the article. Gordon Jamieson does.

(Gordon Jamieson) Mr. Jamieson states that each year, we determine how much property taxes will be collected. Excess growth goes into the overlay reserve, which is used to fund abatements. Money not used to fund abatements goes into the general fund. Mr. Jamieson asks what the residual budget is.

Sandy Pooler says there was $4M in the overlay reserve at the end of last year, and about $2.5M currently. In the future, we'll likely keep less money in the overlay reserve.

Article passes, 193--0.

Article 75: Cannabis Mitigation Stabilization Fund. Al Tosti presents. This article expends $1 to establish a cannabis mitigation stabilization fund. During the next year, the Select Board will work out the details of how this fund will be used.

Article passes, 185--2.

Article 77: Fiscal Stability Stabilization Fund. There's no discussion on the article.

Article passes, 190--1.

The are no more articles to consider, and the annual town meeting is dissolved.