Royalston convenes outdoor town meeting

  • Town Moderator George Northrop (foreground) leads Saturday's annual town meeting in Royalston. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

  • Royalston's Selectboard await the start of the annual town meeting. Left to right: Chair Deb D'Amico, members Chris Long and Roland Hamel. June 28, 2020. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 6/30/2020 2:33:00 PM
Modified: 6/30/2020 2:32:55 PM

ROYALSTON — Town Clerk Barbara Richardson said 85 registered voters showed up for Saturday morning’s annual town meeting, held al fresco on Royalston Common. It took about two hours for the outdoor gathering to dispense with the 28-article warrant.

While several questions were raised regarding several line items, the proposed FY21 town budget of just over $2,351,000 was approved, with only four votes cast in opposition. Nearly $6,000 will be transferred from free cash, with just over $9,700 taken from the town’s stabilization account to meet the total requested.

An article seeking the appropriation of $70,275 to fund the operation of the town’s wastewater treatment plant led to a sharp exchange between Selectboard member Roland Hamel and former Sewer Commissioner Gary Winitzer. By a vote of the town last year, the commission was disbanded and responsibility for the sewer system transferred to the Selectboard.

Winitzer asked how any shortfalls that may occur in the operating budget of the plant are being erased, and whether a contract has been signed for someone to operate the plant in FY21.

“The bids came in roughly $120,000 for a private contractor to run it,” said Hamel. “But we’ve definitely increased the users’ fees and (the cost of) town maintenance.”

He went on to point out that maintenance costs for the plant are borne by all Royalston taxpayers, not just the users of the system.

“We probably put in $5,000 to $10,000 in years before for maintenance — the taxpayer,” Hamel continued. “This year, we put in $74,000. It costs money down there. And when you were running it before, that’s when it went to hell. So, we’ve got to straighten it out.”

“The records you have show you haven’t spent the $70,000 for this year, so far,” Winitzer said. “Are you going to figure out a way to, in the next three days, spend $10,000?”

“We’re going to be spending close to $10,000,” Hamel responded, “to put the aerating blower in the chloride tank that, when you got this plant, you didn’t make sure the contract was followed.”

“That I didn’t ...,” Winitzer started to shoot back, but he was cut off by Town Moderator George Northrop.

“Whoa. Hold on,” Northrop firmly interrupted. “We’re not going to have any personal back and forth here. If you have something to say on the subject, say it without personal recrimination. We’ll have none of that.”

The article was ultimately approved with just two dissenting votes.

Another article generating discussion was a proposal to transfer $75,000 set aside at a 2013 town meeting for the installation of a generator at Royalston Community School. The money would be deposited instead into the Municipal Buildings Fund. The generator was proposed to be able to establish RCS as an emergency shelter in the wake of the December 2008 ice storm that knocked out power to the area for more than a week.

“However,” said Selectboard Chair Deb D’Amico, “despite our best efforts on many fronts, it just is not happening. Meanwhile, we have extraordinary needs in our buildings that need to be addressed, so we feel it’s prudent to move this money so that we can address those issues on behalf of the taxpayers.”

“Once we had (the $75,000) appropriated and we got a good look at that school with some engineers,” explained Building Committee Chair Jim Barclay, “this amount of money would not provide a generator for that building. We tried for years to get the school district to add some money for this, but they’re not willing to do that. So, that building will not be the shelter.”

Resident Glen Hastings, who said he feels a shelter for the town is important, asked how much it would cost to establish RCS as a shelter and was told the estimate is around $150,000.

The article did pass overwhelmingly, with only nine attendees voting “no.”

Voters also approved transfers from other accounts to provide $25,000 for the design and construction of gazebo in South Village Park, and $45,000 to replace the asbestos shingles on the roof of the former Raymond School. The town is planning to transform the school building into town offices.


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