There were more residents than there were available seats at Tuesday night, where those in attendance approved multi-million dollar projects calling for the capping of the town's landfill, the construction of a new transfer station and the rebuilding of Glover School.
The meeting, which lasted more than three hours, drew so many town residents that fire officials requested that those forced to stand in the back of the auditorium be relocated to the school's gymnasium. The crowd in attendance Tuesday was noticeably larger than that of , when residents voted in favor of removing the position of police chief from civil service protection, a renovation project aimed at making the accessible to all visitors and the banning of tobacco products from a playground near.
Transfer Station and Landfill Cap Approved
The first item up for debate Tuesday night was a warrant item that asked residents to approve spending and replace the 54-year-old transfer station with a new one.
Prior to opening the floor for discussion, residents were given a PowerPoint presentation by Matthew Herring, a member of both the town's Finance Committee and Solid Waste Committee. Herring, who facetiously referred to the current transfer station as "a dump," went on to detail a project that would install a rubber and asphalt cap on the town's landfill and build a new, more accessible trash transfer station.
This year's proposal is about $7 million less than the $22 million project that was approved by the Finance Committee and Town Meeting last year, only to be . Both projects, Herring said, would cost the average homeowner to pay about $106 more in property taxes for the next 20 years.
Residents were also urged to vote in favor of the projects to save the town from being fined by the state's Department of Environmental Protection. Officials said the town, which is under an administrative order with the DEP to cap the landfill, would face $630,000 a year in fines this year and about $725,000 in fines next year if it was unable to show the department that it is making some kind of progress toward a cap.
Speakers in favor of the projects petitioned residents by reminding them that the state of the national economy has resulted in historically low interest rates and the town's high bond rating would help considerably with funding the project. They also argued that putting off the project and simply paying the cost of the fines levied by the Department of Environmental Protection would have a negative impact on the town's rating.
"There is no false sense of urgency, this just has to be done," said Health Director Wayne Attridge. "We had a very distinguished group of your fellow town residents study this project and they really brought it down to scope."
Those against the appropriation said they thought the town could show progress toward a cap without having to break ground and some even doubted that the state would actually fine the town if they were found to be out of compliance.
In spite of the limited resistance, the article was passed with a landslide vote of 668 to 52.
Glover School Project Given Green Light
Residents also approved a project calling for , which School Committee members described as deplorable and dilapidated. Before opening the floor to discussion, committee members presented residents with a slide presentation showing conditions inside the school and said it ranked 62nd of the 1817 state schools considered to be in poor condition.
The total budget for the project is estimated to be $25 million and the state's School Building Authority will contribute 40 percent of the eligible costs for a total grant of $10 million. The new Glover would be 79,108 square feet and would be built on the same site that the school currently occupies. The new school is expected to combine the student population of both Glover Elementary and and will serve 425 students from kindergarten through the third grade.
In one of the more memorable moments from this year's Town Meeting, John Waymouth, of 16 Bennet Road, drew a long and lasting round of applause from those in attendance after he said he helped pass articles calling for the construction of town schools when his children were students and the town owes it to him to do the same for his grandchildren.
Waymouth, who has lived on Bennet Road since 1963, said he has helped the town built the lower middle school, the upper middle school, the Eveleth school and the new high school.
"We need to pay for the investment in the future, like we did for my children and now we need to do the same for the children who are coming along now," Waymouth said.
Also speaking in favor of the project was Marblehead High School's Senior Class President, Josh Chmara, who attributed the town's focus on providing quality education to his departure for an ivy league school this fall.
Chmara, who shared a story from kindergarten when he had to walk through the pouring rain to get to the school's nurse's office, said many local students "would not be in the position they are in today if we didn’t have the amount of technology we have had at our disposal."
The decision to approve the project, which was the last vote made Tuesday night, passed by a margin of 605 to 38.