MARBLEHEAD — Three out of four voters at the opening of the town hall on Monday night were recorded as supporting $24 million in waivers to Proposition 2½ that will now go to the polls later this year.
The first night of the town meeting took more than an hour to arrive at Section 11, which proposed to raise $24.8 million for capital improvements, most of which would be paid for with a debt exclusion tax limits over the next five to 20 years. .
In the midst of the discussions, a vote by secret ballot was requested by amendment. That vote was then counted by hand as the city assembly quickly moved on to item 29, ending the night on item 30 – the city’s departmental budgets.
The second night resumed with Section 30, the city budgets, which finally passed with only two objections. From there, the debate escalated over a proposal to ban leaf blowers every summer.
Night 1: replaces the clearing of the town meeting
The meeting started at 7:38 p.m., more than half an hour late due to technical difficulties allowing an overflow space to hear and join the meeting. These attempts later failed, prompting officials to squeeze all voters into the auditorium and create extra seats on the stage that were ultimately not needed. Queues also circulated outside the auditorium after the 7 p.m. start time as voters waited in the rain to register for the meeting.
An initial question about whether remote participation was possible, given the COVID-19 pandemic, was quickly squashed by city moderator Gary Spiess.
“You can watch it on TV, which is great, except you can’t vote,” Spiess said. “If you want to vote, you have to turn off the television, come downstairs, find a seat and vote.”
The event also honored Spiess when it opened. He will retire after this year with 16 years under his belt, according to Board of Selectmen chairwoman Jackie Belf-Becker.
Item 11 demanded the most attention from the meeting, with some disagreement over the actual condition of the city’s roads and sidewalks and the role trees play in the condition of the sidewalks. The article, among other things, would spend $12.5 million on a five-year paving program if officially accepted by voters.
William Stevenson of 116 Front Street said he “doesn’t see a problem with sidewalks. After all, there is very little wear and tear on sidewalks from foot traffic.
“We can save, I think, a lot of money in sidewalk repair if people walked on sidewalks,” Stevenson concluded.
Speaking moments later, Anne Stevenson, of 122 Front St. but unrelated to neighbor and previous speaker William Stevenson, said: ‘my sidewalks are rubbish’.
Then she pointed to town assembly papers on Section 11, including the finance committee report and a slide projected onto the meeting room stage showing how the money would be distributed.
“I’m doing my best to stick to this budget,” she says, “but I didn’t bring a bionic eye today. It is written in a font (size) three.
The final vote was 406 for and 114 against, a margin of 78% with 60 votes more than the two-thirds needed.
Night 2: Leaf blowers prohibited, bike park exceeded
The meeting resumed for a second night on Tuesday, where a $109 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year took about half an hour to discuss and go through. Then the debate escalated over a frequently attempted ban on gas-powered leaf blowers which this time narrowly passed – 254 to 202, 55.7%.
“Am I the only one,” asked petitioner Buck Grader, “who thinks that blowing through the summer months – this is now talking about Memorial Day to Labor Day, three months – (is worth it) to have a situation where we can have a calm summer and less pollutants floating around? »
Speaking in favour, Elaine McGrath of Rowland Street asked what the landscapers have “done to mitigate the noise and air pollution that comes with it?”
“In my observation, nothing,” McGrath said. “The only goal seems to be to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible by using as many leaf blowers as possible.”
Todd Norman, a landscaper from Warren Road, said he needed leaf blowers to keep jobs cheap.
“I have to charge an elderly customer now to rake his driveway, sweep his driveway? It’s a price they can’t afford,” Norman said. “It’s easier to just say ‘make them pay more’, but not everyone has the money.”
Another private article to transfer land from the school board to the city’s parks and recreation department, in favor of an off-road bike park, also passed unanimously. This was partly thanks to the financial support of Biff Michaud, director of the Salem Witch Museum and resident of Lee Street. According to Grader, the item would also be free to the city, powered by volunteer resources, and would create no insurance issues for the city.
“I’m so in favor of this and I applaud it,” Michaud said. “I’m willing to donate $5,000 to make this happen.”
An article on land recognition was also passed by the body with a vote of 238 to 158, 60.1%.
A number of important articles were covered beyond the press deadline. For an updated story, visit SalemNews.com. Also, visit bit.ly/3w5T0XE for more coverage from the first night of Town Meeting, and bit.ly/383eRH1 for coverage from the second night.