The Upper Charles Trail Committee at its meeting Wednesday night debated questions it will take to town counsel about the validity of two citizens’ petitions, one of which seeks to disband the UCTC in its current form.
“It appears that some aspects may be legal and others may not be,” chair Jane Moran said of the two citizens’ petitions submitted by Peter LaGoy, the chair of the Trails Coordination and Management Committee. She noted that this is her personal opinion and that she is not an attorney.
Moran added that all petitions go to town counsel for review before they can be placed on the Annual Town Meeting warrant.
One point she brought up was her concern that the approval of these petitions would affect the appropriation of funding by the Community Preservation Committee to this committee as well as from other sources such as MassTrails grants. Moran also asked if other committees could be affected by petitions like this in the future.
“Maybe it would dictate how CPC rules because CPC is an independent body and makes its own decisions,” she said.
Moran expressed that the passage of the petitions could “freeze or change” the UCTC’s charter. One of the petitions called for the disbanding of the UCTC in its current form. If passed, it would change the UCTC into a TCMC subcommittee, with members chosen by the TCMC.
Member Cynthia Esthimer brought up how the sequencing of warrant articles could affect the UCTC. The UCTC had requested funding for a study for Segment 1, which the CPC approved for placement on the warrant.
“If this committee is disbanded, there’s no need to talk about not giving this committee money,” she said. “So which happens first? Does Town Meeting discuss whether or not we should get money and then disband us?”
Jamie Wronka, an alternate member, questioned why the committee was discussing questions to pose to town counsel when the articles are being reviewed by counsel as a matter of practice, calling it “a significant waste of funds.” The use of town counsel in this matter would have to be approved by the Town Manager’s Office, explained member Eric Sonnett.
Sonnett called the petition “redundant.”
“If people don’t like money spent, they can just vote it down,” he said.
Said Moran: “I don’t think they are going to spend the money if they don’t see the need.”
Treasurer Scott Knous cautioned members not to “personalize” the citizens’ petitions by referring them to as LaGoy’s petitions.
Said Knous: “I think the most important thing for us as a committee is to take the high road and maintain that we’re focused on bringing alternatives to the Select Board.”
“We all have nosebleeds from taking the high road on all this stuff,” said Esthimer. “Anybody, pass the tissue.”
Member Ken Parker said he was more concerned about the second citizens’ petition than the first.
“The second one is kind of jumping to the conclusion that the work that we’re doing is so bad that we ought to be destroyed and started fresh under different auspices,” he explained. “I do think that has some legal ramifications that town counsel might want to address having to do with who’s got the authority to do what.”
Later in the meeting, Moran said her hope that all of the committees in town that work on trails “could be a more unified group.”
Committee discusses outreach efforts
Members also continued to discuss how they plan to ramp up outreach to other committees and online stakeholder groups in town. Members chose entities for which they would like to serve as liaisons. A few bullet points will be approved by the committee at a subsequent meeting so that the messaging to each group will be uniform. There will be a tracking sheet for community interactions.
Esthimer noted that older residents tend to respond better to written documents. She mentioned a paper survey as well as an online survey to get their opinions. Knous agreed, stressing the need to “meet people where they are.” Esthimer volunteered to update a trifold committee handout that previously had been used.
For the online component, Wronka said she was meeting with the town’s information technology staff to update the committee’s website and improve access to the committee’s data. The updated town website currently shows a series of links that include categories of data.