Royalston Selectboard backs Town Meeting warrant

Royalston Town Hall

Royalston Town Hall PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 05-01-2024 5:00 PM

ROYALSTON – The Selectboard Tuesday night closed the warrant for the upcoming Annual Town Meeting and have recommended passage of all 30 articles.

The town’s Finance Advisory Committee will decide which articles it will support at its meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. The Town Meeting will be held June 8, 10 a.m. at Town Hall.

Among the items to earn the Selectboard’s backing is Article 19, which asks voters to approve borrowing $134,000 for the purchase of a one-ton truck for the Department of Public Works and a new cruiser for the Police Department. The cost of the truck is set at $72,000, and the cruiser is $62,000. Selectboard Chair Rick Martin emphasized that the cruiser will be a traditional internal combustion engine – not an electric vehicle or hybrid. A proposal to purchase a hybrid police vehicle for $61,000 was defeated at last year’s Town Meeting.

The borrowing would be funded via a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion. If approved at Town Meeting, it would subsequently require approval at a special Town Election, which would likely take place in late summer. The purchase of the vehicles was recommended by the Capital Planning Committee.

Article 24 calls for passage of a $75,411 Proposition 2 ½ override to fund the hiring of a full-time police officer. The funds would cover the nearly $72,000 salary of the officer, as well as just over $3,500 in expenses, such as health insurance and other benefits. The size of the Royalston Police Department has dwindled from 19 part-time officers two years ago to just nine today.

Police Chief Curtis Deveneau has said fewer people want to work part-time because of the more intensive training required under the Police Reform Act passed by the state Legislature in 2020. As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to cover patrol shifts in Royalston.

The Selectboard has encouraged Deveneau, who would like to add two full-time officers to his department, to look into applying for a federal grant to fund the second position. However, this would require the town to assume a greater percentage of the officer’s salary each year over the life of the grant until eventually, the position becomes fully funded by Royalston.

As is the case with the debt exclusion, the proposed override would go before voters at a special election if it is approved at Town Meeting.

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The Selectboard also endorsed passage of Article 27, which calls for a change in Section 9, Article X of the town’s bylaws. The change would establish a fine of $300 per violation for anyone who cuts, prunes, or trims “any trees, shrubs, or plants within the limits of any public way, park, or other public property…without the consent of the Tree Warden, or on any private property without the consent of the owner.”

The Capital Planning Committee is proposing a $20,000 transfer from the Capital Stabilization fund to replace the pump on Fire Department Tanker 2, and $10,000 from that same fund to pay for emergency service repeaters on the transmission tower off Warwick Road. The repeaters will assist first responders with emergency communications. Members also supported the DPW request to transfer $25,000 to “pay a portion of emergency borrowing for the diesel fuel spill which took place on March 2, 2023, at the Department of Public Works headquarters.”

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