Town Meeting Live Blog: Chickens Pass, Browne Plan Fails

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Scott Browne pauses before Town Meeting for a moment with Smiley.
Scott Browne pauses before Town Meeting for a moment with Smiley. Photo Credit: Jennifer Lord Paluzzi

GRAFTON, Mass. - Welcome to the Grafton Town Meeting live blog. This running commentary will keep the most recent activity at the top of the story -- continue refreshing throughout the night.

10:52 p.m. Adjourned!

10:51 p.m. Motion defeated! Onto article 55, which is now moot.

10:50 p.m. Moving the question. We're all tired...

10:44 p.m. Jim Gallagher: notes the Selectmen has earmarked the $70,000 in stabilization toward a project similar to Honeywell, urges the board to include Browne as they work toward it, given his enthusiasm. There's scattered applause.

10:42 p.m. Rich McCarthy: notes Honeywell was not well presented at February's Town Meeting, but this proposal isn't very well thought out. Town does not have the personnel to measure the energy savings (McCarthy, by the way, is in this line of work), he urges the town to vote this down.

10:41 p.m. Selectman David Ross: "We're not orchestrating some kind of sham here."

"It's nice to cherry pick parts of the project, but you have to have everything included in it," he says, noting that Browne's plan does not allow for the requirement that the current oil tanks be dug up and removed.

10:36 p.m. Browne: proposal borrows from stabilization to replace the three oil-fired burners at Grafton Middle School, the current Grafton High and Grafton Elementary School.

10:34 p.m. Article 54: citizens petition by Scott Browne to repair school boilers, estimated to cost $1 million.

He says he was inspired by the failed Honeywell project, which he says played a little loose with the numbers on the cost savings.

10:32 p.m. Moderator Ray Mead reminds everyone to vote tomorrow and thanks everyone for moving everything along quickly. He wasn't expecting to be this far along in the warrant this early in the evening.

Heck, I was predicting 2 a.m.

10:29 p.m. Heading into the homestretch! Article 52, acceptance of Nichols Drive. There more articles... but the last two belong to Scott Browne.

10:27 p.m. The sign bylaw... the recommendation for the two bylaws (changeable electronic signs and temporary signs) is to pass them over. It carries.

I have been writing about the sign bylaw and the electronic signs since 2009, by the way. Let's visit this again in the fall!

10:21 p.m. Motion carries -- a chicken coop in every backyard!

10:20 p.m. MOVE THE QUESTION!!

10:16 p.m. Dick Dion, lives on Brigham Hill Road, has prior experience with chickens.

"For years, I raised chickens and a rooster," he says. He also raised quail and pheasant and pigeons. "Never once was there a complaint, with all of that, and a rooster. Oh, and I forgot -- I also raised peacocks. I had the only live weather vane in the town of Grafton because the peacock used to roost on the roof of my house and he was turn whichever the wind was blowing."

He doesn't see the bylaw as unreasonable. He doesn't think everyone in town will go out to get chickens.

Heck, I won't. What the hawk didn't get, the coyotes would -- and the turkeys would probably want to hang more, too.

10:12 p.m. "Respectfully, Mr. Moderator, we spent five minutes to spend millions of dollars and we've spent a half hour debating chickens," Jim Gallagher says. "I say we move the question."

Mead: "I was just leaning over to say that exact same thing."

10:09 p.m. Bob Berger, passing me on the floor, mockingly shakes his finger.

"Two years in a row," he tsks. Yup, I'm blocking the egress again.

OK, back to chickens....

10:07 p.m. Ruffling feathers, chicken or egg, why did the Town Meeting debate the chicken ordinance... just testing the wording for the eventual article...

10:06 p.m. Resident Beth Sandakly, who has owned chicken for years (with a permit): "In this economy, a few fresh eggs? Every bit can help."

10:03 p.m. Resident Angela Davison is concerned about the effect multiple chicken coops can have on a neighborhood.

"Let me tell you, they can be dirty, smelly. There's always one kid in the neighborhood who tries to get in there and they get out."

10 p.m. Selectman John Carlson, who is also the inspector of animals, notes there are few problems with chickens now, but he's concerned one could develop.

"We're putting the chicken before the egg. We really have no way of controlling or enforcing that people have six chickens," Carlson says.

9:58 p.m. Resident recalls the days when you could order chickens from the Sears catalog. "The post office would call and say 'your chickens are here.'"

9:56 p.m. A resident wants to amend the motion to increase the number of hens allowed from six to nine.

9:54 p.m. OK, we're back to the original wording after a lot of mumuring. Now a resident wants to know why six chickens?

Walsh says the original number was 12.

He jokes that with predators in the area, it will probably end up being around 3.

9:51 p.m. There's a lot of murmuring as this change is discussed up on the stage. A few people are stretching. Envy my piece of floor, gang!

 9:48 p.m. James Walsh III of the Planning Board wants to change the bylaw wording to allow roosters ONLY by special permit. The wording now says no roosters at all, without specifying the special permit aspect.

9:46 p.m. Backyard chickens! Here we go with animal bylaw, part two.

"Earlier in the night, someone played the chicken dance on their cell phone... don't do that," Mead jokes.

9:45 p.m. Animals on the Common bylaw is approved!

9:42 p.m. Selectman John Carlson: the bylaw now clearly states that no animals should be allowed on the Common. But the Grafton Farmers Market has had alpacas on the Common for the past two years. "It's not to say that animals can be allowed, the only way they can be allowed is by the Selctmen or their designee."

9:41 p.m. Here comes the first animal bylaw of the night -- Animals on the Common! How many minutes will it take for someone to say "poop?"

9:40 p.m. No open burning on Sundays and a fee of $5... it's approved.

9:39 p.m. We've passed the stabilization transfer and ohhhhhh, it's so nice to be sitting on the floor next to my unofficial electrical outlet.

9:30 p.m. Scott Browne: Notes Selectmen plan to come back in the fall with a proposal similar to Honeywell. He's doing a little early campaigning for his articles at the end of the night, where he's proposing the repair of the school boilers.

"We can repair the Municipal Buildng at a later date," he says. Um, we're getting a bit on a tangent. He says we need to get the boiler repair done before fall to get them in place before the heating season.

9:25 p.m. First mention of the Honeywell project of the night! Selectman David Ross is bringing it up in the context of our transfer of $700,000 to Stabilization. 

9:23 p.m. We've reached the point in the meeting where I'm welcoming the laptop battery running low, because that means I can sit on the floor next to the plug and get out of this incredibly uncomfortable wooden seat. I'm going to be limping tomorrow as I run around covering the election.

9:17 p.m. $60,000 for the Cisco Homestead: approved!

9:15 p.m. Jessica Curtis: notes the whole purpose behind CPC is to preserve property like this.

John Stephens: "This is the only land in Grafton and in the entire Commonwealth, that has never been owned by Europeans." See? You cannot talk about the Cisco Homestead without mentioning this factoid!

George Peterson: recalls sitting in the loghouse. "This is the only 4.5 acres in the Commonwealth... that's never been owned by a white man." Urges us to vote for this, notes the tribe's contributions to the community.

9:10 p.m. Question from the floor: what's in it for town residents? Will there be a museum? Paul Scarlett of the CPC: yes, there's a plan for a museum on the property, it will be available to the public.

Side note: I can't believe only one person managed to identify that I put Smiley on the stone wall beside the homestead a couple weeks back. My kids, in the years where they studied Grafton history at Grafton Elementary School, would always point to it when we passed while driving down Brigham Hill Road and solemnly say, "this property has never been owned by the white man."

9:08 p.m. Paul Scarlett notes the Nipmucs have received a spot on the state Register of Historic Places and have been working to apply for grants for the restoration of the homestead.

Nipmuc Nation representative: they will be receiving matching funds, $60,000.

9 p.m. The CPC's Jim Gallagher is given dispensation to stay seated while speaking. "God bless you," says Gallagher, who uses canes.

We're going through the CPC purchases now -- we're coming up on the Cisco Homestead. Uh-oh. Here comes Scott Browne.

Browne notes this is private property and we've given funds toward it in the past. "Is the Nipmuc Nation putting any money into the restoration of its own homestead?"

8:58 p.m. Apologies for the lack of photos on the stories at the moment -- they'll be added once I get home for technical reasons. It wouldn't be a live blog without technical issues, would it?

8:56 p.m. I'm back. Had to quickly write up the Creeper Hill story. Multi-tasking, thy name is Jenn.

We are now on Article 23, the Medicare reimbursement of the Board of Health revolving account. There was a question about the lack of flu clinic this year, unlike past years. We've also raced through approval of various accounts and the establishment of a DPW Facility Building Committee.

8:39 p.m. And... we've just approved the purchase of 104 Creeper Hill Road by the required two-thirds.

8:38 p.m. Selectman Peter Adams: "We don't buy property frivilously."

 8:28 p.m. John Wilson, Conservation Commission chair: intent is not a soccer field. "The town owns very little land on Lake Quinsigamond. This would be a nice place for a boat ramp." He said it would be nice to have a buffer zone between the lake/wetlands and the businesses on Creeper Hill Road.

8:25 p.m. Jim Gallagher: why are we taking commercial property out of our tax base?

Selectman Brook Padgett: the intent is to keep the frontage parcels commercial, sell off the frontage lots and keep the back for open space/passive recreation.

"The main purpose is to exercise our right on 61B, as we have on other occasions," Padgett said.

8:20 p.m. Bill Yeomans, "I can't believe we're taking industrial property off the tax rolls to develop soccer fields." He notes that Grafton & Upton Railroad owner Jon Deli Prescoli had offered land to the town for potential fields, plus we also have the Perreault property available.

8:18 p.m. A question about whether or not there might be chemicals on the property, which is just over 15 acres. Town Administrator Tim McInerney said there were preliminary tests that showed no contamination.

I can't believe they're projecting that map on the screen. I'm hearing a few giggles.

8:15 p.m. Roger Trahan asks Ray Mead to step down on this motion because he blogged his opinion about it by commenting on an article here on

"My political views or my thoughts, whether it comes out in social media or comes out of my mouth, never ever enters this hall," Mead says. "And I'm offended."

And we're applauding.

8:14 p.m. Article 7, the Creeper Hill parcel question. Heeeere we go...

8:11 p.m. And... the budget is passed. On to Article 6, the capital expenditure budget. Selectman Peter Adams is reading it outloud with a bit of a questioning tone. The capital expenses pass without question.

8:09 p.m. Scott Browne called the hold looking for clarification. We've passed the remainder of the budget, now he's questioning line item.

8:05 p.m. A call for a hold on retirement debt, quickly recinded. Now he wants a hold on debt interest. Huh. We all murmur. And the budget is read.

8 p.m. While Maureen is reading the budget (no holds yet), a thank you to Grafton High School for keeping the wifi up for Town Meeting. It's always a relief to see it running when I need to file stories from the high school...

7:53 p.m. And Maureen Clark is reading the budget...

7:52 p.m. We've hit the $45,208,352 FY2013 budget. Anyone taking a bet on whether we get through it without a hold this year?

7:50 p.m Here we go, the race through the warrants!

7:47 p.m. Town Clerk Maureen Clark is reading the warrant. I wonder if she's ever tempted to give it a dramatic reading?

By the way, this replaces Reporter's Notebook for this week -- I try to limit my public snarking.

7:45 p.m. I'm estimating the auditorium is about 2/3 full.

"Looking to the future, we are cautiously optimistic," Hutchinson-Fontana said. There are signs that the state's economy is improving, Grafton will soon enjoy the opening of the new high school. However: there is still caution as stimulus funding ends. We need to invest in improvements that will continue to enhance the town for some time to come.

7:35 p.m. Wayne Hutchinson-Fontana of the Finance Committee is giving the state of the town's finances. Factoid: Grafton unemployment was 8.9 percent back in March 2010, today it is 7 percent.

7:30 p.m. Town Meeting is underway. Town Moderator Ray Mead: "This is the first time I'll say this since 1966: eat and drink as much as you want."

Laughter. This will be the last Town Meeting we have in the current high school, which becomes Grafton Middle School in the fall.

"We're off to our new digs out back, the S.S. Titanic," Mead jokes, "Padded seats. The sound system works fantastic. We're not going to have to fight with it anymore."

7:15 p.m. Special Town Meeting has adjourned with no real drama. We're in recess. Who has a kickball?

7 p.m. Special Town Meeting gets underway with just a handful of people, the ranks of which start to swell as people file in.

6:45 p.m. Signing in for Town Meeting. Precinct 5 pride!

6:30 p.m. The few, the proud, the last-minute campaigners for tomorrow's town election are at the bottom of the Grafton High School driveway: Michael Scully for Planning Board (Scott Browne, driving in, yells out the window: "SCULLY FOR EVERYTHING!"), Kathy Halloran for School Committee, Bruce Spinney for Selectman. I'm still trying to figure out the guy who enthusiastically beeped, then waved to the empty cemetery. Odd.

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Comments (7)

re: jenvacca
My proposal was roundly discussed at finance committee meeting. Without their support a $1 million citizens petition is DOA. My negative comments about the Honeywell proposal and the Selectmen's and TA's presentation about not effecting taxes is appropriate based upon the actual details within the Honeywell proposal. Not even Honeywell could get up and defend it at town meeting. Fall town meeting comes up fast, the Selectmen have a lot of work ahead of them and I hope everyone reads the fine print of the next proposal. I expect that you will be seeing the Selectmen grabbing at other monies to make the next proposal appear better. But using borrowed money from the school building project in the end is the same expense to the taxpayer.
In truth, the Selectmen should just let the capital planning committee do their thing and not push them aside as they have with this Honeywell proposal. If they would let town process work, the municipal center would get repaired and the boilers would get purchased and it would all get done without having to misrepresent the financial facts to the community.

It is interesting that you claim to know exactly what each member of the Board of Selectmen are thinking and planning to do. Your idea would have had more merit had it not reeked of consiracy theory and anger. Too many words in your presentation last night were to throw the Selectmen under the bus, rather than to explain the merits of your proposal. In addition, I don't normally convert my oil burner to gas simply because someone with a South St address suggests I should, unless the address say something like South St HVAC.

Jenn, you never fail to amuse while informing. I had to miss the meeting, so thanks for the update. I almost felt like I was in the room.


Good attempt, though...AladdinsLamp. :) You were fighting an uphill battle the whole way, and didn't give up, regardless of the particulars. You believed in your proposal, and so did 10 others at least. That's commendable. I would suggest similar to what Jim said: Keep an eye on the BoS agendas, and whenever they are talking about the matter...*Honeywell,* Energy Savings...whatever you choose to call what you can to attend, and participate in the discussion. You always have a lot to say about finances, and how the Town spends it's money, I think you can make a more active contribution by helping in the process...before it reaches Town Meeting.

On a different subject...THANK YOU GRAFTON!! The Agricultural Committee, and I, thank you for your time, and votes, tonight. Tonight was a positive vote in recalling/preserving Grafton's agriculturaly rich spirit.

Good Attempt?? It failed miserably, more than the so called Honeywell project. Towns people saw through this charade! 10 people? O yea 3 had both their hands up.

Do you have any personal experience with forming, and getting a proposed article to Town Meeting? If not, then I would say that you have completely missed the point I was trying to make!!

I, for one, do. And *AladdinsLamp* did an impressive job for his first time submitting an article all on his own, without the support of a town committee or board. I commend EVERYONE that makes an ATTEMPT to even participate in what happens in town, no matter if I agree with everything they have to say or not!

For a town of over 18,000 souls, roughly 12-14,000 of them registered voters...and a *regular turn out* of no MORE than 2,000 voters at elections and Town Meetings, I don't think that MOST residents have a leg to stand on as far as making any comment about anyone who *does* participate as having *failed miserably!!!*

As I said, *AladdinsLamp*: Good first try on that.

And my message to those who didn't feel that it was *worth* 5 minutes of their time to go vote today in an election to decide the path of the town they live in: "If you can't be bothered to get out and vote, at least be gracious enough to not voice your malcontent towards the ideas of those who *do* participate in that very important freedom we have as citizens of the USA!"

And also: "If you think you can do a better job than the other guy, then show it!"

My rant for this depressing day of an *average* voter turn out for Grafton.

I personally knew that without finance committee endorsement, my $1 million citizens petition articles were destined to failure. But what I attempted to do is enlighten town meeting that the Honeywell Project was/is a boondoggle and that the Selectmen plan to use left over school building funds to make it sound like at this Falls Honeywell proposal costs less and that the Honeywell proposal added real expense to the town. How the T.A. and the Selectmen can gloss over that fact, is a fools game.
Anyways, I wish everyone well in their campaigns and remember Scully for everything!