The May 2023 Town Meeting wrapped up it’s business on Monday night. While the Annual Town Meeting was still in session, it was largely ceremonial, with the only active articles of the night being on the Special Town Meeting Warrant. They covered standard fiscal issues for the current and upcoming year, with the establishment of a couple of stabilization funds, and even a change to the town charter. This session is currently available for streaming in the window below:
The meeting began with the League of Women Voters of Needham recognizing the Town Meeting members who have served the town for more than 25 years. Three qualified for that honor this year, Michael Diener, Mark Gluesing and Jill Kahn-Boesel. Following that, the Special Town Meeting Warrant was opened. Three articles were withdrawn prior to the session Article 5, Article 6, and Article 7. These articles asked for appropriations to the Capital Facility Fund, the Athletic Facility Improvement Fund and the Debt Service Stabilization Funds. As is the Needham Town Meeting tradition, other articles were seen as non-controversial, and passed by unanimous consent without discussion.
Passed by Unanimous Consent:
Article 1: FUND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENT – NEEDHAM FIRE UNION Article 2: HOME RULE PETITION TO EXEMPT FIRE DEPARTMENT FROM CIVIL SERVICE Article 3: AMEND THE FY2023 OPERATING BUDGET Article 10: PUBLIC, EDUCATIONAL, AND GOVERNMENT (PEG) ACCESS AND CABLE RELATED FUND ACCEPTANCE Article 11: APPROPRIATE FOR PUBLIC, EDUCATIONAL, AND GOVERNMENT (PEG) PROGRAMMING
Also passed without debate was Article 4, which made appropriations to the Capital Improvement Fund. The Select Board merely need to make an adjustment to the language of the article, as well as the amount of the allocation. The bulk of the discussion of the evening centered around two topics, which accounted for the four remaining articles up for consideration. Articles 8 & 9 made an application to change the Town Charter which, if approved by the Commonwealth, changes the role and name of the Personnel Board. These changes result from the growth of the town since the 1950s, when a board of appointed volunteers were sufficient in managing the Town’s personnel issues. The new charter would change the board’s name to the Human Resources Advisory Committee, and would cede most of the day to day operations to the Town’s professional personnel departments. Town meeting members questioned the proponents on the consequence of these changes, mostly concerned about how conflicts would be resolved if the new Committee served in a solely advisory capacity. Upon hearing that such conflicts could be escalated up to the Town Manager and, beyond that, the Select Board, the articles passed, although not unanimously.
The other set of Articles that raised questions was Article 12 & 13, which established, and then allocated funds to, a Stabilization Fund dedicated to monies that would be granted to the Town by the Commonwealth through the settlement of a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies for their role in the current Opiod Crisis. Town Meeting members questioned whether a Stabilization Fund was truly the best mechanism for tracking and disbursing these funds, and inquired as to which town departments might have access to these funds. As Town Meeting ultimately has to permit the expenditures, they wondered how quickly these funds might be accessed. Proponents answered that they had limited options as to how they could receive and disburse the funds, and the stabilization fund was the best method for the moment. The articles were then passed by the members, and the Special and Annual Town meetings were adjourned.
To watch the full discussion of these articles, click on the links below:
Needham Annual Town Meeting, 5/3/23
Needham Annual Town Meeting, 5/1/23
Needham Special Town Meeting, 10/24/22