Rochester Election and Meeting Results
ROCHESTER SPECIAL TOWN MEETING
MONDAY, OCTOBER 30 - 7:00 PM
Rochester Memorial School
A Special Town Meeting for the Town of Rochester was called to order at 7:00 pm in the cafetorium of Rochester's Memorial School by Town Moderator Greenwood "Woody" Hartley having noted the presence of a quorum. After a Salute to the Flag and a moment of silence for all military personnel serving both domestically and abroad, Mr. Hartley reviewed the procedures for Town Meeting.
Finance Committee (FinCom) Chairman Shirley Borque first provided a brief summary of the town's financial status going into this Special Town Meeting. After explaining that this meeting is really an extension of the Annual Town Meeting -- the purpose was to adjust and amend funds that departments need since they were asked to defer all requests except emergencies for the annual budget. The finalized accounting from state funds and revenues is $115,000 in available Free Cash.
With that, voters were asked to consider ARTICLE 1 to pay prior years bills amounting to $92.
There being no discussion or debate on the item, ARTICLE 1 passed by unanimous vote.
Under ARTICLE 2 voters were asked to see if the town would supplement certain appropriations made at the June 5, 2006 Annual Town Meeting, to wit: $50,000 for Rochester Memorial School; $3,000 for Worker's Compensation; and $2,000 in Medicaid/Special Education (SPED) Reimbursement.
A question concerning the SPED reimbursement came from Rod Olsen, and whether this was money from the override. FinCom Chairman Bourque responded that it does not appear that this money will be reimbursed.
Another resident questioned the breakdown of these expenses, and he was concerned about the possibility that some students in the school are not actually residents of the town. School Committee Chairman Sharon Hartley indicated that there are four students whose needs have changed and require further expenses. In addition, the cases of students requiring SPED are very carefully reviewed for residency as well as other factors. Terri Hamm, Director of Student Services, added that when the students' individual contract needs change, those changes must be implemented. If the funds are not needed, the money is returned to the town.
With that, ARTICLE 2 carried by unanimous vote.
Under ARTICLE 3 voters were asked to vote on the following Capital Expenditures: $10,000 for the Police Department; $24,000 for the Fire Department; $10,000 for Town Hall repairs; and $6,000 for the Plumb Memorial Library.
One voter asked for a breakdown of the expenses. Ms. Borque responded that the police line item was for computer upgrades for a system that often crashed; the fire expenses were for pagers reaching the end of their warranties and pagers are a high priority safety issue. The Town Hall handicap ramp needs to be replaced and there are other needed repairs. The town committed to making improvements to the library when the library project failed two years back. Their handicap ramp is also in need of repair.
Judy Armstrong asked if Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School could be used to repair the handicap ramps and thereby save some money. The answer was that most of the funds would be spent on materials.
In answer to a question on the police computers and the need for separate printers, Police Chief Paul Magee answered the unique need of his department. For example, if an officer is booking a prisoner, he would have to leave him unattended to get important data from a central printer.
With that, ARTICLE 3 passed by unanimous vote.
Under ARTICLE 4 voters were asked to approve $7,000 to supplement Article 8 of the October 6, 2003 Special Town Meeting for payment of accumulated sick leave time.
ARTICLE 4 passed by unanimous vote.
Under ARTICLE 5 voters were asked to accept the provisions of Chapter 122 of the Acts of 2005 of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and appropriate the sum of $78,994 from available funds.
ARTICLE 5 passed by unanimous vote.
Under ARTICLE 6 voters were asked to approve the transfer of funds of $5,000 to purchase software and hardware for a dog licensing program to be linked between the Town Clerk's office and the Police Department.
A question was raised concerning the breakdown between the hardware and the software. Town Clerk Naida Parker responded that $1,500 was for a software program and further funds for training for its use and the hardware would probably be a laptop due to the limited space in Town Hall. The increased revenue from closer control on dog licensing would cover this expense.
Ms. Parker noted that approximately $6,000 is raised from dog licenses. Unlicensed dogs fall under the Police Department's purview. Chief Magee mentioned that right now the records are kept on index cards, and they need to be computerized so the department had better control of the information, especially unlicensed dogs and up-to-date rabies shots.
ARTICLE 6 passed by unanimous vote.
Under ARTICLE 7 voters were asked to approve a change in the town's Personnel By-laws' to change the town employee payroll period from seven to 14 days. This change would facilitate accounting payroll procedures.
Richard Wisniewski of the Personnel Board replied when asked that he had not heard of this by-law change. As far as he knows, it had not come before the Personnel Board.
Nevertheless, ARTICLE 7 passed by majority vote.
ARTICLE 8 asked voters to decide whether to place a question on the ballot of the next annual election to have its elected Treasurer become an appointed position.
Many voters spoke both pro and con about this article. Some wished to keep the elective process, noting that the current treasurer had done a fine job under less than optimum circumstances. Furthermore, the voters can decide to change the office holder if necessary.
Others, including the Board of Selectmen, felt that since the town and its finances have become more complicated, the job requires particular background expertise and experience. Bond ratings which affect borrowing capabilities and competency in financial matters are extremely important.
Current Town Treasurer Naida Parker read a letter from UniBank praising her for the care and importance of her pursuit of information necessary to accomplish the tasks incumbent upon her. Applause followed her presentation.
Former Selectman Gary Laboa spoke to the issue after praising the job Ms. Parker has done, but he felt the town needs a professional staff to run the daily business of the town. Ultimately, the Board of Selectmen should be held responsible for the efficiency of the town's business.
Selectmen Richard Nunes reiterated the feeling of the board that the town has reached a point where financial and investment expertise is vital to the future and fiscal health of the town.
After a unanimous vote to "move the question," ARTICLE 8 passed by majority vote.
Under ARTICLE 9, voters were asked to raise, appropriate, and/or transfer from available funds a sum of money to be added to the Stabilization Fund. The FinCom, however, recommended that this article be tabled.
The vote to table ARTICLE 9 passed unanimously.
There being no further articles to consider, the Special Town Meeting was adjourned for the evening at 8:00 pm.