This week, Duxbury selectmen closed the warrant for the 2013 annual town meeting that contains only 33 articles – one of the shortest agendas in recent memory.
The meeting, which will be held Saturday, March 9, will be different in a few ways: not only will the list of action items be shorter, there will be new faces in town government. For the first time in 27 years Duxbury will have a new town counsel, Arthur Kreiger. There will also be a new town manager for the first time in seven years, since Richard MacDonald plans to retire in January.
Despite these changes, the meeting will have its usual town business articles, or items for voter consideration, on the meeting’s agenda, such as the FY2014 operating and capital budgets, the personnel plan, the beach lease for Duxbury Beach and various revolving funds.
Yet, so far, next year’s meeting is lacking many of the types of articles that can spark controversy or debate, such as zoning articles, Community Preservation Act articles and citizens’ petition articles.
This year’s warrant contained 55 articles including nine CPA articles, five zoning articles and six citizen’s petition articles. The list for 2011 contained 54 articles.
The 2013 annual town meeting lists six Community Preservation Act articles, the majority of which address the status of affordable housing projects that have been on the drawing board for some time.
There are no zoning bylaw changes, but there will be an article seeking funding for a revision of the town’s bylaws. This article is the culmination of the work of the zoning bylaw review committee, tasked with reviewing the bylaws and recommending a plan to improve their clarity, internal consistency and organization. The committee recommended the town hire a consultant to prepare a plan to recodify the bylaws.
One article that may interest the public is a citizens’ petition article that seeks to place a ballot question at a future town election asking voters whether Duxbury’s water should be fluoridated. Since the 1980s, water in town has had fluoride added to it and there is currently a move to stop this addition.
An article concerning Duxbury’s seawater will also be on the warrant. Residents will be asked to fund the town’s share of a federal harbor dredging project that could cost as much as $3.5 million.
An estimate last year put Duxbury’s cost to dredge near the town pier and boat ramp at Mattakeeset Court at approximately $62,500, although that figure may have changed.
Duxbury is a federally authorized anchorage, making it eligible for federal and state funding for dredging. It was last dredged in 1996 and before that in 1978. After its last dredging, the bottom of the harbor was eight feet below the water’s surface; but it now has filled in so much that it measures five to six feet deep, with some areas as shallow as .1 to .2 feet above the water at mean low tide.
The unofficial dredging co-coordinator for this project is Ned Lawson, who is a former director of the Duxbury Bay Maritime School, a former commodore of the Duxbury Yacht Club, a member of the Duxbury Bay Management Commission and an environmental attorney.
For many years, voters at town meeting have been asked to lend their support to petitions by the Duxbury Nuclear Advisory Committee that will make Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth safer. At next year’s town meeting, the town will be asked to purchase a real time radiological air monitoring station that will be located in Duxbury and operated by the Mass. Department of Public Health.
Selectmen voted unanimously to close the annual town meeting warrant, but this doesn’t mean the agenda won’t change before the March meeting. Selectmen can reopen the list to add or delete articles up until its printing deadline. They will also place the articles in order at a future meeting.
In other business, selectmen:
Agreed to send a letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners that strongly supports the use of filtration over vents at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth. Duxbury nuclear advisory committee chairman Mary Lampert said the vent at Pilgrim is currently not filtered and could release “a substantial amount” of radiation in the event of a nuclear emergency. There are 22 other nuclear plants without filtered vents and Lampert said the nuclear industry is “lobbying very hard” to be allowed not to install vents because of the cost. She said official support for filtered vents is needed before the NRC takes a vote on the issue in January.
Learned that the fire department fiscal year 2014 budget request shows a 15 percent increase mainly due to salaries for new dispatchers to operate the Duxbury Emergency Communications Center at the newly renovated fire station. Fire Chief Kevin Nord said that an additional $356,000 will pay for salaries of two new dispatchers ($77,000 for both) and for more part-time positions so there can be two people manning the dispatch office 24 hours a day. Some of this funding will be moved from the police department budget. Two dispatchers are needed at all times because they are now trained as emergency medical dispatchers and will stay on the phone offering help to someone who has called 911. The FY14 fire department budget request totals $2.83 million. The current FY13 budget is $2.45 million.