By Melissa Fales
WARE – At their Oct. 12 meeting, the Board of Selectmen voted to hold the Special Town Meeting Monday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. in the Ware High School Auditorium. They also approved the placement of 14 articles on the warrant, including one proposing a local meals tax, one that asks voters for two new cruisers, and one for approximately $1 million for the construction of a new fire station. The board will hold a joint meeting with the Finance Committee and Moderator Kathleen Coulombe at their Oct. 19 meeting to review the articles. Town Manager Mary T. Tzambazakis said dollar amounts for each article won’t be announced until the town meeting because they may change before then.
Several of the articles are basic housekeeping matters, such as paying bills from the previous fiscal year. In most cases, the board voted unanimously to place the articles on the warrants.
Article Two asks the town to appropriate money for the Fiscal Year 2012 Revaluation in the Board of Assessors Office. Assessor Peter Harder explained that the town is mandated by law to do the revaluation every three years.
Article Three proposes that Ware adopt Massachusetts General Law 64L, Section 2 which authorizes the town to impose a local meals tax of .75 percent on top of the state’s existing 6.25 percent tax, with the extra money going into the town’s coffers. Selectmen John A. Desmond and Richard A. Norton Sr. voiced their opposition to the idea. “The taxpayers are in dire straights right now,” said Desmond. Chairman William R. Braman said the tax would help the town financially at a time when state aid has been drastically reduced. The board voted 3 to 2 to place the local option meals tax on the warrant for the voters to decide, with Desmond and Norton voting against it. “It’s up to the citizens of the town,” said Braman.
Under Article Four, residents will vote whether or not to appropriate approximately $1 million to construct a new fire station. The total cost for the new station to be built on town-owned property on West Street is approximately $7 million, but the town has received a $5 million FEMA grant and another $1 million from the state for the project. The board voted 4 to 1 to put this article on the warrant, with Desmond saying he thought such a big ticket item would have been more appropriate on a ballot.
With Article Five, the town will vote whether or not to appropriate money to conduct a Comprehensive Site Assessment of an old town landfill at the former Morin Farm on Upper North Street. The Department of Environmental Protection ordered the study in May.
Article Six asks voters to appropriate money to acquire a conservation restriction from the East Quabbin Land Trust, Inc. for 86 acres on Upper Church Street. The purchase is contingent upon receiving a grant from the state and the receipt of other funds in order for the town to be fully reimbursed.
The furnace at the Department of Public Works office on Church Street needs to be replaced and Article Seven asks voters to appropriate the money for a replacement.
Article Eight asks voters to appropriate money for the Finance Committee Reserve Fund.
The board unanimously rejected an article that proposed reducing the quorum at town meetings from 100 to 75. The town has struggled to meet its quorum, and has postponed town meetings more than once because 100 voters were not present. “Lowering our standards is not the answer,” said Braman. “One hundred people out of over 6000 registered voters should be interested enough in the town’s fiscal budget to show up,” said Selectwoman Nancy J. Talbot.
Residents will vote on Article Nine, to see if the town will appropriate money for a new ambulance. Fire Chief Thomas W. Coulombe said the money would come out of the approximately $144,000 in the ambulance receipt account. Ware typically replaces its ambulances every eight years, but the town is two years behind its regular ambulance replacement schedule. Coulombe said the town’s third ambulance, a 1999 model, did not pass state inspection. He said they “put a band-aid” on the ambulance so that it could get an inspection sticker, but that it’s only a temporary fix.
Article 10 asks voters to appropriate money for two new police vehicles. “We’re in very poor shape as far as cruisers go,” said Police Chief Dennis M. Healey, adding that the town has not purchased one in four years. He said the town got a cruiser last year, primarily through a special grant. He said two vehicles in the department’s fleet are having motor trouble. The board voted unanimously to place Article 10 on the warrant, with Talbot abstaining.
Under Article 13, voters will be asked to appropriate money for the demolition of the Casino Theatre at 121 Main St. The town has an Oct. 14 court date to secure a demolition order for the building. Norton asked how the town could move forward to tear the privately-owned structure down. “It’s not ours,” he said. Tzambazakis said it was a public safety issue and that the Casino’s owner, Fred McLennan of Holyoke, has defied a court order to make it safe or take it down . Tzambazakis said the demolition costs will be attached on the property as a lien, along with back taxes McLennan owes. McLennan won’t be able to sell the property without a clear title.
Norton encouraged all town residents to show up for the Special Town Meeting. Unregistered voters who want to be eligible to vote at the Special Town Meeting need to register with the Town Clerk at least ten days in advance.