ABOUT TOWN: After Contentious Debate, Town Meeting Supports Funding for Master Plan
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IN SEARCH OF THE HOLY GRAIL: 128 Town Meeting members convened Wednesday night, May 9, at Stoughton High School's Auditorium. It began with an honor to Dr. Roberta Camacho (for over 25 years on the Redevelopment Authority.) Newest SRA member and new Chairman Carlos Vargas read a proclamation from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Then, the TM body dove headfirst into the FY 2013 budget. The most contentious moments concerned the Planning Board and Police budgets.
A motion was made by Interim Town Manager Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., on behalf of the Board of Selectmen, to request adding $75,000 to the Planning Board budget to help pay for the Town's Master Plan.
$50,000 was included in the 2012 budget for it, and Town Planner Noreen O'Toole said that they were contracting soon for Phase I and needed more money for Phase II of the Master Plan in the 2013 budget. O'Toole said that Phase One was "Public Education and Visioning." Phase Two is a variety of components, and the final step of the plan is implementing those components.
For those who don't know, the Master Plan is the Holy Grail for the Town of Stoughton. Recent ticket-topping Selectmen Robert O'Regan ran on a platform of developing a Master Plan.
O'Toole said the last Master Plan for Stoughton was done between 1968-1970, more than 40 years ago. This plan gave a good synopsis of the town back then, but didn't give a vision for where it was going, and didn't have a business component. O'Toole added: "a master plan done 40 years ago is not relevant today."
Town Meeting member Ed DeFelice wasn't very supportive, saying that, "I think we can relocate all of our old Master Plans to the bottom of a birdcage."
But, Feaster countered with, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail." Town Meeting member Barry Crimmins said, "It is a lack of a Master Plan that has allowed the downtown and other areas to deteriorate."
Town Meeting member Joe Flynn disagreed, saying, "The center of town won't change unless you bulldoze it." He also assailed Stoughton's representation in the State House, adding, "We're the armpit of political clout in this State."
But, by far, the most effective speech of the night was delivered by Town Meeting member John Morton. His eloquent speech in support of the Master Plan, seemed to hold promise that the document would help build an underground track for South Coast Rail, restore the dilapidated buildings downtown, and stop the growth of fast food on Rt. 138.
It was, indeed, the speech which found the Holy Grail. Mother Theresa was smiling somewhere.
Just saying "no" to South Coast Rail isn't going to do the trick, Morton said. He said it was better to have a plan and "show them what we will say 'yes' to."
Anyway, Stoughton WILL finally have a Master Plan, and Joe Scardino, Chairman of the Planning Board, was a happy man. It could be the beginning of something big here. We'll let you know the progress of the project. Funding for the rest of the Master Plan garnered the support of two-thirds of Town Meeting members, winning 88-44.
Despite it passing (increasing the department's budget to $161,675), Feaster expressed concern about comments made during the Master Plan debate. He called the discussion "disheartening."
"I am stunned by the opposition to look at the vision; to look at the future of Stoughton," Feaster told Stoughton Patch editor Jeffrey Pickette. "I would assume people in their own personal households...[plan]."
Feaster continued: "At some point in time [you have to] trust the town employees dedicated to doing what's best for the town."
IN OTHER TOWN MEETING HAPPENINGS: The other controversial portion of Wednesday's meeting was Dr. Roberta Camacho's motion to delete funding for the Deputy Police Chief position in the police budget, which was created by a vote at Monday night's town meeting, overwhelmingly.
Police Chief Paul Shastany and Executive Officer Robert Devine were away at a law enforcement conference, and Attorney Feaster answered the police budget questions.
Town Meeting member John Roch was concerned about the six new positions in the police budget, which included two resource officers, the Deputy Chief, and three new patrolmen. "I'm concerned these positions can't be continued to be funded. It seems like a lot." Camacho said that "either the Police Chief or Executive Officer Devine should have been here to answer questions."
DeFelice spoke in support of Camacho's motion, while Crimmins and Deputy Moderator Bob Mullen opposed it (as did this writer.)
The Deputy Chief position was kept, as Camacho's motion went down to defeat, 16-88. The total police budget of $4,863,783 was then passed.
Town Meeting also passed budgets for Debt Service ($3,500,821); Finance Committee ($265,575); Insurances ($8,806,787); MBTA ($3000); Moderator ($6175); Retirement & Pensions ($3,251,408); Accounting ($299,731); Assessors ($374,730); Board of Selectmen ($486,812); Centralized Purchasing ($219,210); Elections ($36,400); Human Resources ($83,175); Information Systems ($247,834); Registrars ($47,120); Town Clerk ($186,382); Town Counsel ($350,000); Town House ($395,498); Town Manager ($336,719); Treasurer/Collector ($548,860); Unemployment Compensation ($40,000); Animal Control ($58,884); Auxiliary Police ($7163); Board of Health ($88,367); Building ($223,876); Conservation ($85,382); Engineering ($250,454); and Fire ($3,617,307).
Next Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at Stoughton High auditorium, the members will begin with the Public Works Department budget.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: To Stoughton's Faye Siegel, an optometrist at Lawrence Siegel, OD. To Stoughton resident Mark Levine, a sales consultant for Jordan's Furniture.
Stoughton Patch editor Jeffrey Pickette contributed reporting.