To recap: this is the third of three posts reporting in detail about last night’s Grafton Town Meeting.
We’ve discovered Democracy Isn’t Pretty.
We’ve done The Safety Dance.
And yes, you can skip to the big news. I won’t hold it against you.
When we last tuned in, Town Meeting had finally worked its way through the budget, a process which took roughly two hours. According to the town clerk’s office this afternoon, 932 voters turned out, which took up the entire auditorium and a good chunk of the gymnasium, which was linked through sound and video with the auditorium.
10:10 p.m. We’re once again racing through the warrant. All those in favor? Opposed? So voted. Next item! And then we hit Article 14: the transfer of $1,000 for the Fire Department Insurance Supplement. Basically, this is used to pay not more than 75 percent of the salary of a firefighter who is injured in the line of duty. We have a volunteer fire department, so this figure can vary depending on what their day job is like.
10:22 p.m. Really tedious argument comes to an end. Who really is going to vote against paying a volunteer who was hurt fighting fires?
10:37 p.m. Here we are, Article 20! In brief, a $550,000 debt exclusion is requested for a school feasibility study. Passage of this moves the debt exclusion onto a ballot for a special town election expected to be held on June 24. (Note to self: don’t forget to request an absentee ballot) YOU WILL STILL NEED TO VOTE IN THE ELECTION FOR THIS TO GO FORWARD. ****Please note here I updated to reflect the now-set date, see comments for details about absentee ballots****
People around me have been muttering about their babysitters not wanting to be out too late on a school night. Rich McCarthy of the School Building Committee takes the floor. Oooh, Powerpoint presentation. Normally, I hate Powerpoint with a passion, but there’s actual useful information on the screen.
- We’re expecting 1,100 additional students who are not currently in the district.
- At 22 kids/classroom, that’s 50 additional classrooms.
- Grafton High’s current capacity is 2,664 students. We have 2,854 students as of Fall ’07.
- Our 15 year projections indicate there will be 3,851 students.
- If we don’t do this feasibility study, which will study all options for the high school — a new school, additions, possible use of the Municipal Building — the state will not help to fund the cost of whatever project the town has to do to accommodate all those students.
- We’re already on warning status from the NEASC because of the space issue.
“Doing nothing is not going to be an option,” McCarthy said. He also noted that whatever the solution is, it’s going to be vetted by the state. “They do not want to build Taj Mahals with indoor pools and field houses.”
But what about space needs at the middle school? Both McCarthy and Selectman Mary Ann Cotton explain that whatever happens with the high school, this should open up space that could address the middle school needs. A new high school, for example, would empty the old one for middle school use. An addition might allow the school department to shuffle classes (I interpreted this as possibly moving the eighth grade to the high school if a new high school isn’t built).
10:48 p.m. The question is moved. We need a 2/3 vote to pass. Moderator Roger Trahan counts five opposed in the auditorium, the gym reports two opposed. “Please refrain from applauding — I know I can’t prevent that,” Trahan said wryly as the auditorium bursts into applause.
10:50 p.m. Most people get up to leave. There’s chatter and crowding of the aisles.
10:51 p.m. A woman in the back objects to the vote, stating that the bylaws require a 2/3 vote. She says that because the votes weren’t counted, they don’t count. Trahan points out that he counted the no votes, both rooms are full, and only seven people voted against it. The woman continues to protest.
10:55 p.m. Everyone shuffles back to their seats and does a standing vote. Eight people opposed. The motion carries — again!
A giant hunk of the audience gets up and leaves. The gym side is closed down, with those who wish to remain finding seats in the now half-empty auditorium.
11:10 p.m. Neighbor Chris Rogers gets up and speaks at Town Meeting for the first time, at least in Grafton. That would be over the expansion of the Board of Health from three members to five. He wants to know if it will affect benefits, which is kind of my fault because I wondered out loud if appointed officials get health insurance. In Grafton, they do not. The Board of Health, interestingly enough, doesn’t want to expand, but the expansion carries.
11:15 p.m. We’ve reached article 30!
11:25 p.m. Article 40!
11:30 p.m. Article 46! We’re on the last page of the warrant! There are three items left!
11:35 p.m. An ominous note: Article 48, transfer or appropriation of funds to the stabilization fund, is passed over. There is no money.
11:36 p.m. And we’re adjourned!