For the complete news about the happenings at Town Meeting, might I suggest this story? Apologies for the delay in posting — I’m taking off for New York this weekend with my mother and daughter and I’ve been putting stories in the can.
7:35 p.m. New Selectman Chairman Chris LeMay leads Town Meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance. We welcome new Town Administrator Tim McInerney, who will get to dodge verbal bullets for most of the meeting. Welcome to Grafton, Tim!
7:36 p.m. Town Clerk Maureen Clark reads the warrant. Is that a hint of impending doom I hear in her voice?
7:39 p.m. Town Moderator Roger Trahan jokes there will be no overflow crowd in the gym. He’s not kidding. There are still plenty of seats in the auditorium.
7:40 p.m. We’re given the rules that we love so well and no, they don’t count for Town Meeting Bingo. Speak through the moderator. Try not to applaud. Keep your green card close to hand and sign it if possible — we may need it if a standing vote is called for.
7:41 p.m. Town Meeting Bingo starts!
7:42 p.m. Hi George! It’s state Rep. George Peterson and, this time, he’s not out to kill Bambi! He is taking shots at the state budget, though. The fiscal picture is grim (everyone crosses off “economic climate” on their bingo cards), he has no idea how much Grafton will ultimately receive in state aid and… golly, George, you’re kind of a downer tonight.
“I wish I could give you better news,” our normally jovial state rep. says. So do we all, George. So do we all.
7:44 p.m. The few, the proud, the recently elected are recognized, as are those who recently stepped down from public work. I wonder how many people at Town Meeting even bothered voting in last week’s election, which had no contests save library trustee.
7:45 p.m. David Ross, chairman of the Finance Committee, decides Peterson didn’t depress us enough as he delivers the address on the state of the town budget. He pointedly speaks against spending reserve cash in response to budget shortfalls and notes no economic stimulus money has been included in this budget, “Now let’s pass it.”
I cross “economic climate” off on my Town Meeting Bingo sheet. Thanks Dave! FinCom has got to be the most thankless job on the planet.
7:50 p.m. And it’s a Town Meeting Bingo double play with Scott Browne calling for a point of order! Oh Scott Browne. You never disappoint. I had no idea he was “Project Runway” model Lauren Browne’s father, something a Farmer’s Market Committee member whispers in my general direction.
7:53 p.m. And we’re on Article 1. We’re totally going to tear through this warrant.
7:54 p.m. “The unsung heroes of Town Meeting are the runners,” Roger says as a runner, um, runs a microphone over to a speaker.
7:55 p.m. We’re on Article 5. And business grinds to a halt.
Selectman Peter Adams “with regret” is going against the vote of his fellow members and calling for Town Meeting to overturn plans to begin pay as you throw (PAYT) in July. He says we’ve had trash service for 35 years and shouldn’t change it.
7:56 p.m. “Hidden tax.” Another one for the bingo card!
8:05 p.m. I have written down “Tim’s still talking.” I have no idea when he started speaking. I’ve seen Town Administrator Tim McInerney run through the PAYT Powerpoint (another bingo check!) so many times I’m just keeping my ear open for quotes and watching the crowd. I’m betting most people came to Town Meeting with their minds made up one way or another, and a little bit of that McInerney black magic isn’t going to change it. He puts in a valiant effort, though, and my husband just scowls at me the next day when I cheerfully give him the stat that our trash bags are only going to cost 13-24 cents more per bag once we’re in PAYT mode.
8:10 p.m. Someone asks if the town will go back to regular trash pickup if the economy improves. Tim: “Fees generally don’t change. They don’t go away.” He’s honest about it, in any case. He also notes they are an incentive to recycle more, since we’re not getting charge extra for recycling.
8:15 p.m. Ray Meade calls the entire exercise “a mishigas.”
You go Ray with your crazy Yiddish! He notes that Town Meeting cannot overturn a decision of the Board of Selectmen, so why the heck are we wasting all this time talking about it? Shouldn’t all of this talk have been happening when Selectmen were actually considering it?
8:18 p.m. Bill McCusker asks the BOS what they plan to do if Town Meeting rejects PAYT. It’s a good question.
“We built our budget on PAYT,” Selectmen Craig Dauphinais said.
Chairman Chris LeMay notes that he puts out one bag of trash for two people and suggests that people who generate little trash really shouldn’t have to cover the cost of people who generate a lot of trash.
Selectman Mary Ann Cotton says it’s “the right next step.”
Selectman Brook Padgett says “I think this is the right thing to do whether we need to do it or not,” citing the need to reduce the trash stream.
Yup. This isn’t a board that’s going to say “oh, you don’t want PAYT? My bad.”
8:22 p.m. Ernest Peters takes the microphone. Hi Ernie! He’s kind of Grafton’s sixth selectman — he goes to every meeting — and he was recently appointed to the Board of Health.
“I’m old,” he says. “And we need to go forward here. We’ve been a throwaway society for 35-40 years.”
Ernie says he was against PAYT until he talked about the issue with the recycling committee. Now he’s one of its biggest supporters and he recycles 2/3 of his trash.
8:24 p.m. PAYT is called, again, an additional tax that has nothing to do with recycling.
8:25 p.m. Will PAYT affect condos? No.
8:36 p.m. Our first “speak into the microphone” of the night.
“This is a disincentive to properly dispose of our trash.”
8:39 p.m. Why aren’t we laying off town employees so we can fund trash pickup?
8:41 p.m. Scott Browne brings up the library budget. He’s told to wait until the budget to do so. He notes the library budget has not decreased despite the closing of the two branches and tying it in with the trash pickup costs — isn’t this a place where we could have cut instead?
8:43 p.m. Move the question!
8:45 p.m. I have two winning Bingo cards, one at 8:43 p.m., one at 8:44 p.m. Congrats Teri and Chris!
Chris’ card: A wait for clarification, hidden tax, free bingo space, point of order, Powerpoint.
Teri’s card: Powerpoint, “keep it the way it is,” speak into the microphone, comment through the moderator, free bingo space.
8:46 p.m. There’s a call for a standing count — Roger can’t tell from the show of hands. It’s very close.
A man behind me gripes about having to hold up a “green card” because he’s not an immigrant. He was also grumbling earlier about Tim and a few other town employees not living in Grafton. It’s like my own personal version of talk radio.
8:55 p.m. And the vote is 146-158 for PAYT. A man objects, saying the people who were counting the votes voted for PAYT so were biased. There’s some back and forth. School Committee member Donna Stock, as one of the counters, is personally offended, as she should be.
9 p.m. People are leaving. People are leaving. We just finished Article 5 and the next thing up is the budget and people are leaving? They came to Town Meeting to vote on something that didn’t count and never was going to count and they’re leaving before the articles that actually count?