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Phillipston Selectboard moves special town meeting to July 31

  • Phillipston Selectboard, from left, Clerk Terry Dymek, Chair Kim Pratt, and Vice Chair John Telepciak. File photo

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 7/11/2019 9:55:15 PM
Modified: 7/11/2019 9:55:05 PM

PHILLIPSTON — In a split decision, members of the Selectboard Wednesday night moved the date of a previously scheduled special town meeting from July 24 to Wednesday, July 31. Board Chair Kim Pratt lobbied for the change, complaining she had not had a chance to review three articles that had been added to the warrant in recent days. The board had planned to sign and post the warrant Wednesday, thereby complying with the requirement that it be posted at least 14 days in advance of the meeting.

“We have not held a public hearing yet,” said Pratt. “It won’t be done until Monday. So, for us to sign the warrant before reviewing three of the articles could give the appearance we don’t value the public’s opinion. Even though I know that wasn’t the intent, I’m not sure we should be signing the warrant before we have the public hearing.”

The hearing is necessary to allow residents a chance to weigh in on several proposed bylaw changes.

“We have a bylaw that says the warrant must be signed and posted not less than 14 days before a meeting,” said Pratt, “and I believe if that wasn’t done before seven o’clock tonight, it doesn’t meet that requirement.”

“Actually,” said town Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn, “I spoke with town counsel and he said as long as it’s posted tonight it meets the 14-day requirement. And we have a constable standing by to post it.”

“We have new things I would like to look at before I sign it,” Pratt continued. Board member Terry Dymek endorsed the Chair’s approach.

A number of Phillipston parents had pushed the board to schedule the meeting as early as possible in order to give voters the opportunity to vote on an article calling for a change in the Narragansett Regional School District well in advance of the start of the new school year.

“We voted for a date,” said board Vice Chair John Telepciak, “and I think we should go with that date.”

“I was informed by the town accountant as I was coming to this meeting tonight,” Flynn interjected, “that the amount voted for Worcester County Retirement is short and needs to be addressed immediately. We need to add $6,400 and change to the amount that was approved.”

“And there is some urgency with the marijuana issue,” he continued, referring to a proposed bylaw that would limit the number of retail marijuana establishments to a single facility. “If you don’t move forward with this, if someone comes in and submits an application you won’t be able to cap them. The press here is going to write a story tomorrow that says we haven’t move forward, so that’s a warning to people to get their application letter in.”

While Pratt had initially suggested the meeting could be delayed until the end of August, Dymek made a motion that it instead be moved to July 31.

“What are we gaining from this?” asked Telepciak.

“Well, for one, I’m not happy about having to sign something I’ve just read for the first time,” Pratt responded.

Flynn told the board the July 24 date of the meeting had already been advertised.

“Why was it advertised before it was signed?” asked Pratt.

“Well, because you voted to schedule the meeting for that date,” Flynn responded. “You took a vote and we took you at your word.”

“And I do think we should have a public hearing before we sign the warrant,” Pratt argued. “And we haven’t talked to the Finance Committee.”

“Well, the Finance Committee doesn’t rule on bylaws,” said Flynn. “The Finance Committee as a matter of policy doesn’t rule on bylaws, so they don’t make decisions on matters that are going to be part of a public hearing. They only rule on financial questions.”

The board ultimately voted 2-1 to approve Dymek’s motion to delay the meeting by a week, with Telepciak casting the dissenting vote.

“I think we do it for a valid reason of respecting the opinion of the public before we sign the warrant,” said Dymek. “Because if we sign the warrant first, they can say whatever they want but by then it’s already over and done.”

In addition to the proposed retail cannabis bylaw and a proposed change in the regional school district agreement governing the assignment of students to district schools, other articles on the warrant call for changes in the counting of town meeting votes and in the eligibility of appointees to the Finance Committee. One would add School Committee members to the list of elected officials who are subject to recall, and another article seeks about $1,400 for work on the lower cemetery.

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