GRAFTON, Mass. - Good evening Grafton! Welcome to the Grafton Town Meeting live blog, a real-time dissection of democracy at work.
Grafton Town Meeting kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Grafton High School -- that's the NEW Grafton High School, featuring cushy green auditorium seats. We'll be updating this blog throughout the evening, with the most recent entries, marked by the time, on the top, so be sure to refresh throughout the night.
And the Town Meeting Live Blog is over and out! I now hand coverage over to reporter Richard Price, who will detail the specifics of the evening. Thanks for reading!
11:35 p.m. Ray Mead: "See you in May!"
11:34 p.m. Article 30 has passed MOTION TO ADJOURN!
11:30 p.m. Final item on the warrant! Article 30, citizens petition to allow for alternative and renewable energy uses in Grafton Science Park, which is now many devoted to life sciences. Poor Dean Deborah Kochevar always seems to end up as the last item on the warrant whenever Tufts University/Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine has an item for Town Meeting.
11:29 p.m. Mill Villages mixed use is approved! No debate.
11:28 p.m. Econoomic Development Commission supports, Planning Board supports.
11:25 p.m. Steve Bishop has finished his presentation, we're now on to discussion.
11:18 p.m. Town Planner Steve Bishop is now rolling out the "Back to the Future" presentation on the South Grafton Mill Villages mixed use zoning.
11:17 p.m. After four years of debate, Grafton has passed the electronic message board sign bylaw!
11:11 p.m. Selectman Peter Adams says he's voting no, he's concerned about how Grafton will look if everyone has these signs.
David Robbins of the Planning Board repeats: as long as the signs do not flash or scroll, they are completely legal. "They will be there, in your face, all the time. They just won't be flashing."
11:06 p.m. Oh wow. We haven't even touched the South Grafton Mixed Village Use yet. We're still debating the overall sign bylaw. I believe the latest I've been at Town Meeting was after 1 a.m....
11:03 p.m. Moving the question of the now-revised amendment. Amendment passes, establishes restrictions to the electronic signs.
11 p.m. There is a whole lot of legislative manuvering going on here, but essentially we're still debating the sign issue and trying to limit the scope so we don't end up having signs in non-business areas.
10:55 p.m. Bob Berger, building inspector: wants to make one thing clear. The signs that are there now are allowed, they just can't scroll. Grafton needs to bring the sign bylaw up to code for the present day.
10:50 p.m. The sign bylaw does NOT allow those big plasma screens that flash.
iPad is still only at 51 percent battery, Rich Price has now taken up my traditional positon next to the outlet, writing the non-snarky portion of the night's coverage. We're finding the public wi-fi spotty, but the school wi-fi has been stable all night.
10:38 p.m. Signs signs, everywhere are signs... Paul Scarlett is proposing an amendment from the Historic District Commission, requiring them be permitted only in existing business districts, grandfathering those that are out of compliance now.
10:31 p.m. Article 28. Oh God. We still have to get through electronic message board signs. Maybe I shoudn't have given away the last cookies.
10:28 p.m. 85 in affirnative, 95 in the negative "I now declare the motion defeated." NO to mosquito spraying!
10:25 p.m. Standing vote, the counters are counting...
10:24 p.m. The question is moved. Here comes the vote.
10:18 p.m. Dick Dion, Brigham Hill Road: Are mosquitos flying today? The answer: possibly. He notes he was out in the swamp today, 6:15 to 11 a.m., went home, went back in the woods from 4 to 6 p.m. "I saw one mosquito." Did see a lot of other bugs around.
He notes he is a four year cancer survivor, bone marrow cancer. When they were asking him about his past, they asked about his pesticide and radiation exposure. Said that while pesticides are considered a low risk, he is someone with a low immune system -- how is the toxicity of pesticides going to affect him in the long run? Applause after he speaks.
10:14 p.m. Central Mass. Mosquito rep.: there are beekeeper exclusions, product is shown to breakdown quickly, is used over cranberry bogs.
10:08 p.m. Woman notes there are a large number of retention basins in town from new neighborhoods, they're only growing, the town needs to do something to take care of the growning mosquito population from them.
10:06 p.m. A woman from North Grafton is a "swamp dweller," has had to cover her horses with blankets and spray. She's concerned about mosquitoes, but also concerned about the environment. She's voting in favor of this.
10:04 p.m. Board of Health: Grafton dropped out in 1990. Lois notes the town has had to restrict outdoor activities at dusk, including moving all Grafton High athletics, because of the mosquito risk level for EEE.
10 p.m. Central Mass. Mosquito Control director is talking about the program: traps to test species of concern, school outreach, cleaning of basins on properties and... I'm seeing a lot of people zoning out because they've already decided how they're voting. Does anyone ever change their mind at Town Meeting?
9:59 p.m. Bob Hassinger: A historical perspective! The reason for getting out was it didn't work as well as touted, as discussed at past Town Meetings.
9:56 p.m. Woman in the back: questions the expense vs. the benefit.
Jen White: Also feels the spraying program has hazards we cannot measure. "I feel like we're getting alarmed by something that shouldn't be alarming." Not worth a $60,000 investment, it's coming down on our lawns, our vegetables, our playgrounds.
9:53 p.m. Dr. Sam Telford, Tufts University, insect expert: points out this is not a SPRAYING program, spraying is the last resort. It is a pre-emptive program, trying to get mosquitoes before they are mosquitoes. Notes EEE is now spreading outside its usual areas, lasting longer. "You're giving the Board of Health a tool to respond."
9:48 p.m. Another speaker compares the rise of cancers and asthma in Mass. to the rise of EEE and West Nile.
I don't have a horse in this race or, in this case, a mosquito in this trap, but I will note that I have heard the same kinds of comparisions in the past when people have spoken in opposition to cell phone towers and fluoride at Town Meetings in other communities in my past life as a reporter elsewhere.
9:45 p.m. Article 27 - Mosquito Control. First up to comment is Elizabeth Spinney. She says spraying is a concern -- no studies show it will decrease West Nile and EEE, but pesticides are neurotoxins, can lead to still births, different kinds of cancer. Doesn't believe it's worth the risk.
9:44 p.m. Ray Mead thanks everyone for migrating to their usual areas of the auditorium, despite the new facility.
9:42 p.m. Article 25 -- Setting a reward for $500 for information leading to a person who defaces public property. Approved.
9:37 p.m. While Selectman John Carlson reads off a list of surplus equipment in his fabulous, radio-friendly, voice, I will note that I have now been live blogging for two hours and I do not need to seek out the power outlet, which is usually the case at this point in the meeting. Why? I'm using my son's GHS iPad and Bluetooth keyboard. Oh. My. God. I may have become an Apple convert.
Poor kid, forced to go without an iPad for the night. I do hope the boy is OK. He made sure to turn off all text messaging features before I left so I woudn't inadvertently see anything untoward.
9:37 p.m. Super Park master plan has passed! On to Article 21.
9:35 p.m. Move the question on Super Park!
9:29 p.m. Woman wants to know if we're talking about a $50,000 park or a $350,000 park. She points out there is a new playground at the North Street Elementary Schools, other playgrounds around town.
Scully: notes the playground will be designed for all kids of all abilities. Cannot be built for $50,000. There will be efforts made to raise funds. "It will be a one desination park in the vein of the old park."
9:25 p.m. Mike Scully: $34,000 for landscape master plan for Super Park includes examination of the area for drainage, etc. Examination for walkways, park benches, the playground. Extensive building paperwork so we can go out to bid based on the site plan.
Sidebar: as I came in tonight, Scully showed me a sample of a big chunk of artificial turf, which is being considered for Super Park rather than wood chips or (shudder) the park's old pebbles. It's designed so kids who use wheelchairs can roll right on it but everyone can still be safe if they fall off the structure. It was kind of cool.
9:24 p.m. Here comes Article 20, Super Park. Hello Mike Scully!
9:21 p.m. Woman in the back: $40,000 for what amounts to a small block of the town is absurd. Question is moved! And here comes the vote... ooh, someone dared to call a point of order while Ray Mead was reading the motion. Daggers shoot from his eyes.
9:20 p.m. Paul Scarlett: They're trying to put something in place that is ONLY for the Common, not for the entire historic district. Notes charettes were held eight years ago about the entire district. "We want to address what we can for the smaller bullet."
9:11 p.m. Honestly, if I'd thought anything would have sailed through without discussion, it would be anything involving keeping Grafton Common Grafton Common. Sue Robbins: notes this is including repairing fences and the deteriorating gazebo.
Bandstand. It's a bandstand.
9:09 p.m. Paul Scarlett: We're looking to preserve the Common. Not change it. Preserve it. It is separate from any discussion of the traffic improvements.
9:08 p.m. Bob Hassinger: how does this coordinate with everything being done around the Common, like discussion of the traffic plan around the historic district?
9:06 p.m. Scott Rossiter: $40,000 sounds like a lot of money just for a plan to landscape the land inside the Common. Paul Scarlett notes any money remaining would go back into CPC funds.
9 p.m. OMG, a friend just passed me COOKIES. And we're dashing through the articles, now on Article 19, Grafton Common Master Plan. It boils down to $40,000 to landscape the area, or develop a plan to make sure it stays as lovely as it is.
8:58 p.m. And the vote on Article 13 is here: two-thirds vote required. Motion carries, article 13 has passed!
8:57 p.m. Motion to move the question!
8:55 p.m. Phil Gauthier requests a ballot vote. Ray Mead stresses that will take an hour and a half, requires 21 people to approve. We will not have a ballot vote -- not enough people stood.
8:52 p.m. Tech hiccup erased my last check in, the observation from state Rep. George Peterson that we need to fix the Muncipal Center's exterior before focusing on the interior, in case the full plan doesn't pass.
8:41 p.m. Concern from the audience: if we do these improvements, we'll go back to our old ways and not continue to care for our buildings. Amendment: the town directs the town administrator, board of selectmen and school committee to come up with a binding procedure to maintain our buildings. Not the exact wording, but that's it in a nutshell.
Ray Mead is ruling the amendment out of order.
8:39 p.m. Dave Ross: voting no today just pushes the issue to May, the impact on taxes tonight is zero.
8:33 p.m. Wayne Hutchinson-Fontana, Finance Committee chairman: FinCom is opposed to the financing approach.
8:31 p.m. Dave Ross acknowledges the town as a poor maintenance record on buildings, notes the jury-rigging of the hot water at the Millbury Street Elementary School. He says Selectmen are committing to being proactive in focusing on developing a comprehensive maintenance program. Translation: we need to take better care of our buildings.
8:28 p.m. First reminder of the night to speak into the microphone. We're still talking about the Municipal Center, Article 13. According to my reporter over at Westborough Town Meeting, not only are THEY still on Article 1, they started their meeting at 7 p.m.
Back to Grafton -- why does the Finance Committee not recommend this article, asks an audience member.
8:14 p.m. Ken Grew of the School Building Committee questions whether $1.3 million will be available from the GHS project, wonders where they got that figure. John Dowling: that figure also incorporates money from other sources.
8:11 p.m. Hello Jim Gallagher, first voter to comment on the project! He notes that he has been called by solar companies offering deals on solar, is wondering why the town has not considered solar to help offset the cost. Dave Ross notes the tie-in from the solar panel on Follette Street, the need for structural improvements for the Municipal Center to hold solar.
8:07 p.m. John Dowling is going over the financing, which would include possibly $1.3 million from the Grafton High School project, rebates and funds from stabilization. Ohhh, here we have the scary proposed debt graph, which adds a clear hat on the green blocks that represent the new high school.
"Repair the Municipal Center and upgrade our energ system in the schools WITHOUT increasing taxes," closes the final slide, which stresses it is a Board of Selectman project.
8:05 p.m. John Dowling stresses they're looking for more than just air conditoning: it's an entirely new HVAC system, taking care of heating and cooling needs for the entire building.
8:01 p.m. Selectman John Dowling doges through the repair needs -- the wasteful boiler, the leaking windows and bricks, the deteriorating roof. "This building is in bad need of repair." Rich Price will go through all of this in more detail in his full story, I've written about this before. Summary: the building is structurally sound and will last another 50 years if we take good care of it, and building a new building would be a lot more expensive.
7:55 p.m. Dave Ross: does the school committee support this project? Yes. Why does it cost so much? Another architect has been consulted who concurs with the recommendation of the Honeywell project, which failed last spring.
7:54 p.m. Here we go: Article 13, the municipal center and school facility upgrades. Strap yourselves in, guys.
7:51 p.m. Ray Mead "This place is so quiet, it's starting to scare me." Seriously! The new place is going to need to be broken in a bit.
7:48 p.m. Town Administrator Tim McInerney is showing a drawing of the interior of the highway barn and the need for a break room and separate sex bathrooms. The current rest area is in a former truck bay. The guys sleep, while on break from plowing during those long snowstorms, on furniture scavenged from curbsides, by the way.
7:47 p.m. Article 12, DPW building improvements. A man believes the transfer of $75,000 and appropriation of $45,000 is premature, Dave Ross explains it's to fix the building as it is now. Which, I will say, is a PIT.
7:43 p.m. We're up to Article 9, after some techinical issues with the mics.
"$73 million and we cant get the mics to works," quips Selectman Chairman David Ross.
We've just zipped through 10 articles in 10 minutes, with very little discussion. This night is going to be so fast!
Famous last words. We also just passed Article 11, DPW building master plan.
7:38 p.m. Ray Mead remembers Ernie Peters. "A moment of silence is not what he'd want. He'd say 'get on with the meeting.'" We applaud. Peters, a longtime Board of Health member and former firefighter, died earlier this month.
Ernie, it should be noted, was the unofficial sixth selectman. I've missed him at meetings.
7:36 p.m. The reading of the warrant by Town Clerk Maureen Clark. Ray Mead notes we're all waving the warrants in front of our faces. "We have air conditioning? Let's light it up."
7:35 p.m. Ray Mead recognizes state Rep. George Peterson Jr. What's the good word from the capital city? "Not many," Peterson says.
7:30 p.m. Town Moderator Ray Mead: "Well, what do you think?" referencing the new Grafton High School auditorium. Yes -- the new auditiorium has padded seats. Padded. My back is seriously happy right now.
The auditorium is about two-thirds full.