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Annual Town Meeting Wraps Up April 11

Lexington's Town Meeting approved an audible on the Estabrook entrance appropriation, but rejected assessment resolutions.

With the hour hand approaching 11 p.m. Monday night, and all of its business complete, Lexington's annual Town Meeting voted to dissolve itself, a chorus of "ayes" ringing out like a shot hear 'round

But to say it dissolved hardly seems fitting. This year's Town Meeting went out with a bang.

A School Committee caucus, recalculations and an impromptu recess were among the highlights of an 11th hour debate leading up to the acceptance of a reconsidered -- and substantially changed -- appropriation approved for Article 13 B, a capital project dealing with an feasibility study and related street access improvements.

After Town Meeting moved quickly through the bulk of the evening's agenda, new Precinct 2 Town Meeting member Michael McGuirk stepped to the fore and moved to reconsider Article 13B.

Last week, in a vote that appropriated $100,000 for design and engineering of right-of-way modificaitons and upgrading Robinson Road in order to improve access to Estabrook School, which is to be rebuilt after

Claiming he had "new information" after visiting the Estabrook site and surrounding neighborhood, McGuirk moved to replace the words "Robinson Road," with "Estabrook School site access" and double the dollar amount to $200,000.

"It appears that there may be alternative approaches that might involve negotiation with fewer landowners, much lower legal costs, much lower paving costs, and so on," said McGuirk.

The motion for reconsideration passed after a standing vote, which was requested after Deputy Town Moderator Deborah Strod incorrectly counted a voice vote for the "nays." Town Moderator Deborah Brown, a Robinson Road resident, had recused herself.

The original appropriation sought to widen Robinson Road to meet specifications for a second egress at a new school site, but McGuirk said, after visiting the site, he believed there was a property on Grove Street that could achieve the same purpose, while requiring far less paving and fewer property owners.

Neither Grove Street, nor McGuirk's proposal, appeared in the language of his motion. However, several questions and comments focused on the fact his idea had not been vetted before being put to a vote.

Some opponents of reconsideration noted fire officials were not present to speak to whether another egress on Grove Street would satisfy their safety requirements, nor were residents of Grove Street and Robinson Road around to express opinions about the matter.

Proponents argued that McGuirk's move for reconsideration created a whole new ballgame, which allows for all alternatives to be considered, some of which may prove to be more viable, cost-efficient options in the long-run.

"The current language, that we voted last week, presupposed that Robinson Road is the only answer," said Pam Hoffman, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 7, who admitted to being guilty of presupposition. "I agree with [Pat] Goddard that we should plan for the future and do the study, but we should open it up to find the best solution, as well."

As the 30-minute discussion period wound down, Mary Ann Stewart, chairwoman of the School Committee, requested for time for her board to caucus outside Town Meeting, so that they could reach a recommendation on McGuirk's amendment.

Strod allowed it, but as the School Committee filed out of the room, Town Meeting member Dawn McKenna rushed past the microphones.

McKenna, of Precinct 6, asked whether that was allowable and suggested a recess, so that members could hear the School Committee's deliberations without having to miss the questions and comments from Town Meeting members inside the room.

Strod mentioned Open Meeting Law was ambiguous on the matter, but after consulting Town Counsel, called for a recess so that folks could listen to the School Committee, which returned to the front of the stage.

After its caucus, the School Committee voted unanimously to support the amendment, which they understood would not impact reimbursements from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, said Stewart.

Prior to Town Meeting's vote on McGuirk's amendment, a member asked what the Conservation Commission would have to say about a potential plans to pave near the property in question, where wetlands lie.

"It'd be over all seven of our dead bodies, before they could do it," said Joyce Miller, chairwoman of the ConComm. "Conservation land cannot have motorized vehicles on it."

The the "ayes" OK'd the amendment, and then approved the amended article by a two-thirds majority.

Before the fireworks, things started smoothly.

Article 14, the first business of the night, saw Town Meeting members approve street acceptance for Frances Road, a move the petitioner said would allow the entire length of the street to be resurfaced, which would bring it up to town standards for a public way.

Articles 37 and 38 -- petitioner Patrick Mehr's attempts to encourage the Department of Revenue to develop methodologies for assessing up-zoned parcels and higher-end housing -- were voted down after considerable, but thoughtful, conversation.  

Also rejected was a request to reconsider Article 4, and an ammendment that a five-member study group should be formed to study major rezoning actions of the past 10 years to determine their financial impact and develop best practices for future budgeting.

Town Meeting approved Article 24, which amended the fiscal 2011 operating and enterprise funds to cover snow and ice expenditures and insurance and human service expenses.

Article 13 -- parts C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K and L -- passed unanimously, providing funding for capital projects for the schools, fire station, library and a municipal building envelope and sysetms.

Appropriations approved under Article 13 parts C through L went toward:

  • C: building envelope and systems,
  • D: school improvement projects,
  • E: paving improvements,
  • F: roof repairs,
  • G: playground expansion,
  • H:  School paving program,
  • I: extraordinary repairs,
  • J: Municipal buiding envelop systems,
  • K: Repair of the fire station floor and modular office installation and
  • L: A library material handling system design.

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