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Primer for Town Meeting May 6-7

by | May 3, 2024 | Featured: News, News

With Annual Town Meeting approaching on Monday, May 6, and a Special Town Meeting the following evening, several articles will have key impacts on residential taxpayers.

In addition to three capital requests brought before the Select Board, the Special Town Meeting includes a citizens’ petition requesting the reinstatement of embattled Hopkinton Police Department Sgt. Tim Brennan at his rank at the time of his termination. Also on the warrant are eight property tax override requests that will appear on the ballot for the May 20 town election.

Brennan backers take case to voters

The likely focus of the May 7 Special Town Meeting will be debate over a citizens’ petition requesting that Brennan be appointed by the Select Board to his former role with “the same or substantially similar duties.”

Brennan’s termination in February has caused a polarization among residents. He was fired after the Select Board voted 4-1 to terminate him for violating HPD policy — not reporting information about the alleged sexual assault of a minor by his colleague, former Deputy Chief John “Jay” Porter. In May 2023 Porter pled not guilty to three charges of child rape that allegedly occurred two decades ago when he was the school resource officer and the accuser was a Hopkinton High School student.

A vocal group of citizens has called for Brennan’s reinstatement, believing that he was right in withholding this information at the alleged survivor’s request as a means of protecting her until she was ready to come forward. After the Loudermill hearing when Brennan was fired, this group started a petition to recall all five Select Board members, an act unprecedented in Hopkinton.

This article also states that within 48 hours of the reappointment (if approved), the Select Board should direct the HPD chief to author and send a letter to the Massachusetts Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Commission. This letter would urge the POST Commission to take the necessary steps to recertify Brennan and return the popular former sergeant to active duty.

In addition to this article, the Special Town Meeting will focus on three capital requests from the town. The need arose because of budgetary shortfalls for two Hopkinton Fire Department projects and an unexpected Highway Department truck replacement. The Fire Department requested additional funding for the HVAC system upgrade at the main Fire Station and for design services for the Woodville Fire Station.

The Fire Department’s projects, which were approved at previous Town Meetings, need additional capital to complete because the bids exceeded appropriated funds.

School requests highlight Annual Town Meeting

Annual Town Meeting will vote on 52 articles pertaining to budget requests to cover town and school expenses and policy initiatives, including the MBTA Communities Act.

For the schools, the Hopkins Elementary School’s budget request for the school’s renovation and addition is one of two articles expected to generate debate. At last count, the project is expected to cost $48,550,000 now that nearly $1.1 million was trimmed from the expenses. That number will be modified on the floor, according to Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Susan Rothermich.

Article 18 seeks funding for the replacement of HVAC/air handling units in the schools, including any and all costs, fees and expenses related to the project.

For special education, Article 14 requests that funds be transferred to the School Special Education Reserve Fund. They will be used, without further appropriation, for unanticipated or unbudgeted costs of special education and recovery high school programs, out-of-district tuition and/or transportation. The Hopkinton Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SEPAC) has been advocating for increased recognition of the expenses incurred in the education of students with disabilities, such as the need for more teachers and transportation.

MBTA Communities Act expected to spark debate

Article 39 asks citizens to vote on the adoption of the MBTA Communities Act to encourage the development of multifamily housing units, a policy that has sparked controversy in communities including Milton, Newton and Braintree in recent months.

The proposed overlay district includes two subdistricts located in the downtown and the Upper Cedar Street areas.

The land area is approximately 58.4 acres in size. The subdistricts are superimposed over the underlying zoning.

The Upper Cedar Street subdistrict has raised some concerns with residents of The Preserve, a gated community of condominiums, because their property is included.

It is important to note that the zoning potentially would be put in place to meet state requirements. It does not require development on the land.

Sustainable Green Committee has requests

Proposed by the Sustainable Green Committee, Article 34 asks that the town appropriate funds not to exceed $10,000 for the purpose of detecting toxic chemicals including PFAS, pesticides and herbicides or elements including lead and arsenic “in any town lands or waters or in any media prior to application to town lands or waters by the Town of Hopkinton.” This is expected to be determined by the town with oversight by the Health Department.

(Editir’s note:On May 6, Geoff Rowland, the chair of the Sustainable Green Committee, notified the Independent that the Sustainable Green Committee now is recommending no action on Article 34 and will focus on Article 36.)

The SGC’s focus at Town Meeting will be on the specialized code, article 36.

Concerns were raised by the committee about the recent approval of the application of herbicides to control weed growth of weeds in Lake Maspenock. In addition, PFAS has been an ongoing concern for many months, particularly for residents in the Legacy Farms neighborhood.

The Sustainable Green Committee requested approval of the state’s specialized energy code. While a similar article failed at the town’s Special Town Meeting last fall, committee members stressed at a recent Select Board meeting that the impacts of the acceptance of the code are described in greater detail. The Select Board unanimously recommended approval for this article, as it will open up grant opportunities and only impact new construction projects.

Language change recognizes influence of H-1B visa holders

Article 44 requests a language change from “registered voters” to “residents” after recipients of H-1B visas requested greater political involvement as taxpayers who do not yet have United States citizenship.

These residents will be allowed to participate at Town Meeting for the first time in May, although they cannot vote.

Election articles call for property tax overrides

Articles requesting Town Meeting support for overrides include funding requests for:

  • the digitization of town records;
  • the replacement of the HVAC/air handling units in the Hopkinton Public Schools;
  • the Hopkins Elementary School renovation;
  • drainage improvements on Ash and Fenton streets;
  • survey, design, engineering, permitting and construction of roadway, sidewalk and drainage improvements on DiCarlo Road, Peppercorn Road and Barbara Road;
  • survey, design, engineering, permitting and construction of culvert replacement on Granite Street;
  • replacement of the ozone treatment system at the Howe Street water treatment plant in Ashland;
  • design, engineering and permitting support for East Main Street water main replacement.

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