Royalston voters approve $310K override for DPW vehicles, Whitney Hall upgrades

  • Town Moderator George Northrop gets Royalston’s annual town meeting under way on Saturday, June 11. Next to Northrop on stage is Town Clerk Barb Richardson. Below is the town’s Selectboard (l-r) Chris Long, Rick Martin, and Deb D’Amico. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • Royalston voters let their wishes be known at the annual Town Meeting on Saturday.  PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • Roland Hamel works on his amendment to an article seeking voter approval of a Proposition 2-½ debt exclusion question. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • Royalston Selectboard members during the recent annual town meeting. (l-r) Vice Chair Chris Long, Clerk Rick Martin, Chair Deb D’Amico. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

  • DPW worker Mike Truehart speaks on a proposal to purchase a new dump/sander cab and chassis. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

For The Athol Daily News 
Published: 6/14/2022 3:14:20 PM
Modified: 6/14/2022 3:12:03 PM

ROYALSTON – With little debate, voters at Royalston’s annual Town Meeting on Saturday breezed through the first 15 articles on their 28-article warrant in about 25 minutes. It took well over a half hour, however, to complete debate and record a vote on Article 16, which sought approval of a $310,000 Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion override to fund $50,000 in upgrades to Whitney Hall, the purchase of a Public Works Department pickup truck for $60,000, and a $200,000 dump truck/sander cab and chassis for the DPW.

Before debate could begin on the original motion to fund the three items, former Selectboard member Roland Hamel offered an amendment.

“I’d like to amend that article to eliminate the purchase of the DPW dump/sander cab and chassis and the DPW pickup truck,” he said, “and just leave the Whitney Hall painting and repairs. We know a new supervisor will be hired in the very near future, and I think the new supervisor of the DPW should be able to make these decisions on new equipment and not come in and have vehicles that he may not want. So, I think we should hold off.”

In rebuttal to Hamel, Selectboard Vice Chair Chris Long argued, “We can’t wait until there’s a new super on board because we need (the dump/sander) for this coming winter. If we wait, we won’t have the equipment we need to handle winter work.”

Long noted that the purchases were recommended by the town’s Capital Planning Committee but added the DPW’s wish list included more items than just the cab and chassis and the pickup truck. 

“But this is all we can afford,” she continued. “We are going to go for a debt exclusion, but we did not want to put all those other things on here because it would be too much. So, we’re limiting it to these three items.”

Newly minted Selectboard member Rick Martin added, “If this passes today, it still has to be voted on in a (special election) which will take place further on in the year. Hopefully — more than likely — we’ll have a new person hired by (the time) this gets voted on.”

One resident wanted to know why taxpayers were being asked to purchase a new sander when they had just voted in a previous article to make the final payment on a five-year loan the town had secured for the purchase of 10-wheel sander. When Long replied the town needs more than one such truck, the voter persisted.

“Why?” he asked.

“We have over 75 miles of road here,” replied Selectboard Chair Deb D’Amico.

DPW employee Mike Truehart further explained, “We have four trucks, and out of those four, two of them desperately need to be replaced.”

He cautioned, however, “That cab and chassis unit is not going to get the job done; it’s just a truck that has no body, no plows on it. Personally, I would say be very careful about voting for that because that truck, even if we were to purchase it tomorrow, would not be ready for service for this winter.”

Another resident suggested that each item covered by the proposed article — the Whitney Hall work, the cab and chassis, and the pickup truck — be voted on separately, but Town Moderator George Northrop ruled the issue could not be dealt with in that manner.

“I’d like to honor the work that was done by the Capital Planning Committee and the DPW to come up with this proposal,” said Andy West, a former Selectboard member. “It’s been mentioned that if we vote it in today, it won’t be ready for service this winter. If we vote it down today, it won’t be ready for next winter. We’ll have to come back with a new plan.

“This doesn’t require us to buy a new truck. It doesn’t require us to spend a dime. It enables the process to continue, and it’s up to the Board of Selectmen and the current and future DPW directors to make that executive decision.”

Following more debate, Hamel’s proposed amendment was defeated.

The original motion, which required two-thirds approval in order to move forward as a ballot question, was then put up for a vote. The proposal was approved by a comfortable margin of 34-8. A date for the special election has not yet been established.

In other action, town meeting voters also approved a FY23 town budget of more than $2.5 million, an increase of about $82,000 over the present year’s spending package.

One article that went down to defeat was a proposal to change the post of town clerk from an elected to an appointed position.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.


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