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2017 Annual Town Meeting

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Members pass resolution for study of town employee health-care costs

The biggest debate in Monday night’s 65-minute session of this year’s Annual Town Meeting was on whether Albert J. DiNardo’s non-binding resolution for a study on health-care costs should be discussed even though it wasn’t on the warrant. Once the motion to table discussion of the resolution died by a slim 17 to 19 vote, the article itself sailed by a wide margin: 36 to 1, with two abstentions.

Precinct 6 Member William S. Brown was the lone dissenter, taking issue not with the substance of DiNardo’s proposal – but the way it was presented. “I do not support resolutions unless ALL town meeting members are given prior notice of any resolution,” Brown explained in an email to The Saugus Advocate later.

“Mr DiNardo spoke to me on Sunday but other TM members were unaware of his resolution. I told Mr DiNardo that I would consider his resolution on Sunday, but at the meeting I learned that not all TM members had the info,” he said.

The two members who abstained were Stephen D. Sweezey of Precinct 2 and Ronald Whitten of Precinct 1.

There was some spirited discussion about the proper way and the improper way to introduce a resolution onto the floor of Town Meeting. Peter A. Rossetti Jr. of Precinct 2 said it is important for any resolution to be on the warrant so members would have an opportunity to read the resolution in advance. Town Counsel John Vasapolli said he prefers resolutions to be included in the warrant in order to be read. Precinct 10 Member Martin Costello said the “gravity” of the resolution should determine whether a resolution gets discussed or not. And he noted that the subject of DiNardo’s article was certainly worthy to justify hearing the resolution.

DiNardo, of Precinct 4, argued that Town Meeting has a rich history of its resolutions and warned fellow members to “be careful in abdicating” that option, which has sometimes had an influence in changing views on a local issue. “It’s always been the practice here that resolutions can be offered at any time,” DiNardo said, noting that a resolution introduced several years ago might have helped keep the Saugus Public Library open.

Town Moderator Stephen N. Doherty looked for guidance on how best to handle resolution articles on the warrant.

“The projected FY18 cost of health insurance for Saugus is $13.3 million of an approximately $90 million of an annual budget,” DiNardo said, when he got to read his resolution. It calls for the Finance Committee to provide a three- to five-year forecast on health-care costs and conduct related analysis of costs and trends – and report back to Annual Town Meeting.

“I just believe in keeping an eye on things … so we can deal with a potential train wreck now rather than later.”

Precinct 10 Member Steven C. DiVirgilio, who is also a member of the Finance Committee, said he saw “a lot of opportunity here to put Saugus on the map for something good.” He pledged his support to the resolution.

The resolution debate and discussion took up a half hour compared to the 35 minutes it took Town Meeting members to approve the nine money articles and to postpone indefinitely several other measures.

Town Meeting voted to:

• Reauthorize revolving funds for supporting recreational programs for the community, the water system cross-connection program, programs and activities at the Senior Center, the Senior Lunch Program at the Senior Center and the town’s compost program.

• Approve the appropriation or transfer from available funds $642,035 in Fiscal 2018 Chapter 90 Highway money for street resurfacing, handicapped ramps and sidewalks. This amount will be reimbursed by the state.

• Approve the borrowing of $662,100 at 0 percent interest from the MWRA Local Pipeline Assistance Program for designing and constructing improvements in water pipelines.

• Approve $224,212 from the premium paid to the town after the sale of bonds issued to repair the Belmonte Middle School, which is the subject of a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion. This will pay costs of the project being financed by such bonds and reduce the amount authorized to be borrowed for the project, but not yet issued by the town, by the same amount.

The Finance Committee meets again on Thursday (May 18) to prepare financial recommendations on articles for the next session, which is set for 7:30 p.m., Monday, May 22 in the second floor auditorium in Saugus Town Hall.

 

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