Marion, Rochester to present smaller budgets, consider savings at Town Meetings – Sippican Week

At June 22 Town Meetings, both Marion and Rochester will consider how much to put into stabilization funds to offset economic losses from coronavirus. 

Other key issues include a change in Town Meeting and election order in Rochester, and a new Department of Public Works building in Marion. 

Rochester voters will consider 20 articles at their Annual Town Meeting, which will begin at 7 p.m. at Rochester Memorial School. 

Check in begins at 6 p.m., and attendees are asked to only use the front entrance of the school. Seating will be socially distanced. 

Town Meeting voters will be asked to approve a $22,522,236 budget, which represents a 1.97% increase from last year. 

Other expenses include six Capital Improvement projects and a new highway excavator for $100,000. Projects include a technology upgrade and new air compressor at Rochester Memorial School, the final phase of waterproofing the Town Hall basement, a movable public safety message board, walk-in refrigerators for the Council on Aging, and an air handler for the Council on Aging to distribute air throughout the building.   

Town Meeting will also decide if Rochester’s elections should be held on the fourth Wednesday in May.

Voters will also decide whether to purchase about two acres of property on Rounseville Road around Town Hall. The town would like to own the land to be able to develop it in the future, but does not yet have a proposal for its use. 

Town Meeting will address whether to give a solar developer an easement on about an acre of land to allow that developer to improve Old Middleboro Road without damaging wetlands there. 

Meeting attendees will determine whether the town should “accept” two roads (Forbes Road and Douglas Corner Road), which would mean the town would care for them. 

Town Meeting may allocate extra money to its stabilization fund to deal with anticipated budget shortfalls due to coronavirus, and voters will decide whether to use $50,000 of free cash to provide relief on taxes, as one citizen proposed. 

Marion will consider 54 articles at its Town Meeting, including withdrawing from waste and health districts and a new Department of Public Works building. 

Town Meeting will start at 6:45 p.m. at Sippican School, spread out across three rooms in the school. 

Town Administrator Jay McGrail said it will be “like no Town Meeting you have ever been to,” due to coronavirus restrictions, but added, “our hope is that you won’t miss any of the feeling of Town Meeting”

He said “most of the warrant is not too controversial this year.” 

In presenting the town budget, McGrail noted that he and department heads worked together to cut $150,000 from the planned budget in anticipation of coronavirus-related shortfalls. 

The town will also ask its voters to transfer $422,222 into the town’s stabilization account, which McGrail called its “savings.” 

“Our concern is the future,” he said “right now we are in an economic downfall trying to allocate as much as possible to a rainy day fund should state aid collapse.” 

When it came to the water enterprise fund, Paula Meere wanted to know at a June 15 informational meeting why there was a 10% increase for water and salaries are riding by 6%. 

McGrail said it was because the salaries line items also contain expenses. “I can tell you, salaries are not going up 5.82%.” he said. 

The Route 6 water main project caused a 16% debt increase on the water fund, which also accounts for the increases.  

Meere also asked how the town plans to compensate for reduced water usage from Tabor Academy, one of its main ratepayers. McGrail answered that since it is impossible to know what the shortfall will be, the town will have to deal with the deficit when it becomes clear what it is. 

Amanda Murphy wanted to know if the town 
will apply for grants to assist with water and sewer problems. McGrail said they are actively pursuing a grant with the governor for $2 million. 

Voters will be asked whether they want to spend $150,000 for the construction of a new Department of Public Works building behind the wastewater treatment plant. The town has not yet determined what it will do with the current DPW facility on Route 6, although McGrail said the town may sell the land or use it as parking. 

One key change would allow the Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District to cease operations at the end of this year. The ownership of the Benson Brook Transfer Station would revert to Marion, which plans to run two days a week. 

Bob Cattel asked on June 15 what the cost would be to use it. McGrail said he didn’t have an exact cost, but it would be marginal.  

Marion would also need Town Meeting approval to withdraw from the Marion-Rochester regional health district, after its director retired. McGrail said the move would give the town more oversight. 

Town Meeting will also consider whether to spend $75,000 for a feasibility study for design changes on the Creek Road pumping station, which is currently dangerous to workers and vulnerable to flooding, McGrail said. The town will seek out municipal vulnerabilities funding or other funding to limit the burden on the taxpayer. 

In new equipment the town is requesting approval for a power lift for the ambulance ($55,000), a side-arm mower ($100,000), new radios for the Police Department ($21,000), a new bucket truck (154,000), a battery backup system for the Police Station computer system ($11,000), a new utility truck for the Recreation Department and Facilities department (about $35,000 each), 

Sippican School would like to build an accessible playground for children with disabilities, but needs Town Meeting approval for $18,000 to do so. At the request of the Sippican Lands Trust the town will also consider spending $24,000 to build a pavilion at the Osprey Marsh boardwalk. 

Marion is now completing renovations to its Town House, and this year’s Town Meeting Warrant asks for $307,000 in Community Preservation funds to waterproof its basement. 

Voters will decide if they want to spend $45,000 on a study of two locations for senior housing, one behind the community center and one not yet disclosed. 

Marion will also hold a one-article Special Town Meeting to transfer $5,000 from Free Cash to the Highway Department for snow and ice removal this year. 

To view the entire Marion Town Meeting warrant, see https://www.marionma.gov/sites/marionma/files/news/marion_warrant_6-22-20.pdf

View the full Rochester Town Meeting Warrant at: https://www.townofrochestermass.com/Rochester%20Annual%20Town%20Meeting%20Warrant%20[1].pdf

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