Town Meeting to take up financial articles only on Dec. 12

Nov 25, 2020

The Fall Town Meeting, originally scheduled for Oct. 26, then Dec. 28, has been rescheduled one last time for noon on Dec. 12 at the VFW in Onset.

The meeting will take up only articles with financial implications, including the transfer of the Decas School to town ownership after the school closing, and a bylaw that would allow the town to give an exclusive townwide curbside hauling license to one private company. 

The remaining articles to be covered include routine financial business: Transferring funds remaining from funds for completed projects, paying WCTV with funds from cable companies, paying the debt for environmental remediation at Tremont Nail, and transferring funds from permit sales to the Harbormaster’s office.

The meeting had to be moved earlier because the state will not certify the town’s tax rate unless all financial business is complete. An uncertified tax rate going into the new year would delay when the town’s first round of tax bills — and that would mean the town wouldn’t get the first $10 million of tax income late during a year that will bring many financial pressures.

The Special Town Meeting, originally scheduled for Dec. 19, will be postponed until sometime in January. That meeting will only take up the Notos Group’s Hospitality, Entertainment, and Recreation Zoning District proposal and two articles related to the Wareham Tiger’s interest in the Westfield property.

One article would empower the Selectmen to lease land at Westfield for a term of up to thirty years. 

The Wareham Tigers youth football and cheerleading program has requested the use of the property for a complex that would include several fields and a gymnasium.

Back in 2010, Town Meeting attendees approved an article that restricted a portion of the Westfield property for senior housing. However, Sullivan said that the town put out two requests for proposals for developers, and there was no interest in senior housing at the site, due in part to the lack of sewer access.

Therefore, Town Meeting voters will need to first vote to override that 2010 article before offering a lease.

The lease would need to be given through a bid process, so it is not guaranteed that the Tigers will secure the land. The Tigers are not currently seeking any town funding through Community Preservation. 

The Wareham Affordable Housing Trust submitted a warrant article —ultimately blocked by the selectmen — that would help the group secure funding to create and support affordable housing in town. The warrant article would mandate that 25 percent of the net proceeds from any sale of town property should be given to the trust, which does not currently have a reliable source of funds.

The funding would be drawn from sales including tax title takings and the sale of town-owned buildings that are no longer used municipally.

For this article to go into effect, the Board of Selectmen would need to petition the State Legislature to pass special legislation. 

The selectmen voted down the article, arguing that with several large properties potentially going up for sale in the next few years, including the Decas School and current Police Station, and a looming budget crisis, this wasn’t the right approach. The board urged the trust to bring a modified proposal in the future.