WILMINGTON — This past Saturday was Wilmington’s annual Town Meeting. It began at 9 a.m. once enough voters were present. About 150 residents stood under the large tent behind the WHS softball field while Town Moderator Robert Peterson led the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence for residents who have recently passed.
Thus began the section of the meeting where the articles were considered by number. Article 1, voting in newly elected and re-elected members to the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and Housing Authority passed easily.
The next item was what would later be called “Consent Agenda 1”: the consideration of articles 2, 4, 35, 36, 37, 28, 40, 42, 43, 44, 54, 55, and 56 under a single vote and discussion. After the motion for the consent agenda was made and accepted by vote, residents specifically referenced the renaming of the WHS band room for Barbara J. Mette and the article concerning the town rink, seeing as there currently isn’t one.
There was unanimous consent on article 3 for previously unpaid bills.
In article 5, the Chairman of the Finance Committee, John Doherty III, made a motion to vote upon the budget as a whole instead of by department. Residents asked in the discussion portion for this motion who would make the decisions to move money around in the approved budget, and Town Manager Jeff Hull answered that only the school department can move money within its budget. As the omnibus vote was approved, there was more discussion on whether the total budget was really accurate and conservative considering how expenditures usually fall millions of dollars below the appropriated amount.
Hull established that the town would have about $15 million in the capital stabilization fund and $19 million left in free cash after the approval of certain Town Meeting articles. Despite residents pointing out this excess, Hull maintained the town’s current buildings needs exceed $143 million, and he expects to need to offset decreases in revenue next year. The budget was ultimately approved in the amount of $110,511,912.
Article 6 was also motioned to be an omnibus vote and approved. The following four articles (7-10) were also voted in favor with little or no discussion.
While there was discussion under article 11, the replacing of 10 old patrol rifles for WPD and the addition of five new, the article was approved. Chief Joseph Desmond said the Police Department is seeking extra so there are enough rifles for every officer on patrol even when some are sent in for training or repairs.
Several town leaders stood in defense of Wilmington police having the equipment they need and referenced examples of how they’ve used appropriate, not excessive, force.
Article 12 was met with a few questions on how the radio system for the Public Safety Dispatch Center needed replacing, but was approved along with article 13.
When the Board of Selectman’s article for the feasibility study for a new senior center was introduced, the first motion on it was an amendment proposed by Selectman Kevin Caira to include “replacement or renovation and/or expansion/addition.”
Some residents were in favor of the amendment expanding the possibilities of the study, but most agreed that it was a waste of time when the Facilities Master Plan concluded that the building could not be renovated or expanded in its current location. The amendment did not pass and discussion continued on the article as written.
After Hull explained how all of the pieces of the warrant involved the Owner’s Project Manager to be hired, he added this is part of a two-phase plan where next year or at a special Town Meeting, the money for the senior center construction would be appropriated after the first phase is finished.
“I’m not comfortable identifying a specific site,” he added.
Article 14 was approved as written and supported by the Elderly Services Commission in the discussion.
The next article contained a feasibility study and schematic design for a new Town Hall/School Administration Building. Selectman Jomarie O’Mahony and School Commitee member M.J. Byrnes both shared their concern for new schools and a new senior center ahead of a new town hall. It was a member of the Finance Committee who suggested that the FMP relied on the new senior center to be placed at the current town hall site, which would require the new town hall to be built at the same time.
Resident Brian Kane said, “I don’t think the senior center should be held hostage by the new town hall.”
This still passed after a standing vote with 108 in favor and 62 against.
After article 16 was approved, a resident made a motion for what the Moderator dubbed “Consent Agenda 2”: for articles 17, 18, 19, 25, 26, 27, and 29 to be voted on all at once. After this motion passed, consent agenda 2 also passed.
Resident Suzanne Sullivan mentioned in the discussion for article 20 that the Conservation Commission would appeal the decision if approved at Town Meeting. She explained there should be a cross-stream instead of a culvert crossing under Middlesex Avenue house #290. It did, in fact, pass.
Articles 21-24 were approved without discussion. Article 28 was passed over. Then, articles 30-32 were approved and articles 33 and 34 passed over.
The other articles passed, before random selection started, were articles 39 and 41, and the rest were considered in earlier consent agendas.
Articles 45-65 were considered by random selection, excluding articles 61 and 63 which were withdrawn.