A routine article on the Town Warrant became a big to-do when Finance Committee member Colleen Brayer attempted a parliamentary maneuver to nix part of the new co-located middle and high school budget, jeopardizing the entire project.

Buzz started building Saturday on social networking sites and around the PAC that someone would try to amend Article 12, a routine budgetary measure set to be indefinitely postponed. During lunch break, at 1:45 p.m., Brayer introduced her measure to Town Meeting. Moderator Friend Weiler said it was allowed because the motion to indefinitely postpone the article was a “negative procedure,” thus allowing for Brayer’s positive procedure. Leaving her seat at the Finance Committee table at the front of the auditorium to make her way to a microphone at the middle of the PAC, Brayer, her voice trembling, read aloud her motion to rescind monies for the schools. Her measure would have removed $1,646,000 for furniture and equipment; $435,000 for the relocation of the central office; and $5 million for a new field house.

One of Brayer’s colleagues on the Finance Committee didn’t mince words in responding to the eleventh hour measure.

“The Finance Committee was presented with this language at 1:45 p.m. today,” said Betsy Sullivan. “This was probably one of the most hotly contested issues I have been involved in in over 20 years. There were many opportunities for the public to form an informed opinion (on it)… that was not the case today.”

Both Sullivan and School Building Committee Chair Elizabeth Lewis said that the town would be open to litigation if forced to cancel building contracts already in place, potentially costing the town additional money and delaying construction of the school.

School Committee Chair Gary Magnuson also expressed dismay when he spoke against the motion before Town Meeting.

“There’s no new information in this, not at all,” said Magnuson. “It was all talked about at the last Town Meeting. Quite honestly, I’m amazed it would be brought up in this way. The field house is a shared facility between the town and the schools.”

When asked later why she introduced the motion, Brayer said, “I really wanted to open the conversation to the fact that we appropriated all this money to be reimbursed [by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA)], but those particular items weren’t eligible to be reimbursed.”

Brayer did acknowledge that was made clear during the initial presentation of the school project last fall, but said she contacted the MSBA in January to ask if the project would have been approved by the agency if the items Brayer cited were not included in the initial project. In an e-mail Brayer shared with the Clipper, MSBA Senior Capital Project Manager Diane Sullivan responded that the local vote must reflect “the full amount of the project’s costs” and that she could not “confirm the MSBA’s response to the deletion of certain items…”

Brayer said her ultimate goal was to have these items included in the capital budget, not the school project. When asked why she proposed the motion at the last minute and chose not to meet the deadlines of other citizens’ petitions, Brayer said she was slow to process the information.

The motion required a two-thirds show of support, but was easily defeated.