Saturday, May 25, 2013
2013 Town Meetings
By Kaitlin Schroeder email@example.com
NEW VINEYARD — Voters at the annual Town Meeting on Saturday at Smith Hall overwhelmingly voted down a proposed code of conduct for selectmen, an ordinance regulating recall elections and a provision requiring background checks on all people hired by the town.
Town Attorney Frank Underkuffler spoke before the proposals were voted on and voiced his disapproval of them. Underkuffler is not a New Vineyard voter, but he was granted special permission by a show of hands to speak about the proposals.
He said he thought the proposed code of conduct for the Board of Selectmen was unenforceable and unnecessary and might violate the Right to Know Act.
The proposed code of conduct would have regulated how how board members are supposed to act toward each other and the public.
Underkuffler said a provision calling for all personnel manners to be handled in private possibly violated the Right to Know Act, which allows personnel matters to be discussed in private but requires votes on such matters to be held publicly.
He said other parts of the proposed code are confusing, and it includes no enforcement provisions.
Chairwoman Fay Adams said people who have problems with the selectmen would have better luck voicing their concerns in person with the board than through the proposals.
Residents, including a unanimous Board of Selectmen, also voted down a proposed recall election ordinance.
The ordinance would have allowed the town to recall an elected town official after 10 percent of voters signed a petition seeking that action. The proposal says an elected official can be recalled for failure to carry out the duties of the office, engaging in conduct that compromises the town's reputation or being indicted or convicted of a felony or entering a guilty plea to a felony.
Underkuffler said it is almost impossible to be a selectman and not have 10 percent of the town unhappy with a decision the board made. He said the ordinance would discourage people from running for office and create a divisive town culture.
About 90 voters attended the meeting and approved the recommended $393,101 town budget, down 0.9 percent from the previous budget of $409,632. (Because of a Town Office error, a story about the proposed budget that appeared Friday on page B3 of the Morning Sentinel included an incorrect budget total.)
Voters defeated Adams' proposed amendment to cut each selectman's salary from $2,400 to $2,200 in order to tighten the budget. Several residents spoke about it, saying they know the budget is tight but they think the selectmen deserve their current level of compensation.
Voters also approved appropriating $50,000 from surplus to reduce the tax burden.
The current property tax rate is $11.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. For a home valued at $120,000, the property tax would be $1,416. The new tax rate will be set after the school budget and the county tax are determined.
Selectman Frank Forster was re-elected to his position unopposed. Niilo Sillampaa also was elected to the board. He ran against Robert Sillampaa and Donna Holbrook for the seat.
Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252