Annual Town Meeting warrant unveiled

Marblehead’s Abbot Hall. Photo by Spenser Hasak

The 54-article warrant for May’s Annual Town Meeting was released last week, highlighted by three overrides: to fund operational expenses in town departments, supplementing the budget of the school department, and to fund renovations at the Franklin Street fire station.

The document is posted to the town’s website, giving residents two months to review it, with Annual Town Meeting set for May 1. Many of the articles on the warrant (“20 or so,” according to Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer) appear on the document each year and represent standard asks from the town. Among these are authorizations to purchase equipment for town departments, lease town property, and make capital improvements for public buildings.

An additional seven articles were sponsored by the Select Board with an eye toward 2023, the most notable being the request for funding renovations at the Franklin Street fire station. That article — appearing on the warrant as #40 — asks Town Meeting to “raise, appropriate or otherwise provide a sum of money to fund improvements to the Franklin Street Fire Station, including but not limited to renovations and reconstruction and related expenses.”

Those costs are likely to reach $2.3 million.

The other two overrides on the budget serve to help the town plug a structural deficit in its budget, and, as a result, the school department’s budget. Superintendent John Buckey was forced to slash nearly $5 million from the school department’s FY24 budget in an effort to live within the allocation of funds it receives. Notably, an override for the school department was trounced at the town’s annual election last June with voters shooting it down by a roughly two-to-one margin.

Those articles can be found on the warrant as #31 and #32 respectively, sponsored by the finance director and the school committee. No dollar figures are attached to the overrides that appear on the warrant.

Also included on the warrant is an article permitting the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on residential properties. The article — #39 — amends the town’s zoning bylaws laying out specific terms for where and how ADUs should be built.

The warrant also features 11 citizen articles, including an article sponsored by resident Jim Zisson that would change the Select Board’s terms from concurrent one-year terms to staggered three-year terms. That move would bring the town’s most powerful board more in line with others, with the School Committee operating on a similar election schedule. Zisson is a former candidate for Select Board.

Article 45 is sponsored by Ronald Grenier and asks Town Meeting to vote to adopt enhancements to the town’s comprehensive annual financial review. The article seeks to incorporate “enhancements and best practices of public sector reporting of the Town audit (CAFR) and oversight of the Town audit,” including advising the finance director to post the independent auditors’ said management letter(s) and three reports.

Resident Mark Adams sponsored Article 46, which seeks to implement 100 percent carbon free energy in the Old and Historic Districts by allowing for the installation of heat pumps.

The next two articles on the warrant — articles 47 and 48 — are a direct response to an article approved by Town Meeting last year concerning the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Article 47, sponsored by Todd Norman, seeks to repeal the summertime ban on the blowers. Article 48, sponsored by Beatrice Strahl, concerns enforcement of the ban passed last year, giving the Police Department and Health Department authorization to do so. The article also institutes a fine structure for violations — a written warning for one violation, a $100 fine for two, and a $200 fine for three.

Article 49, sponsored by Daniel M. Albert, calls for the creation of a Traffic Advisory Committee to “implement the Marblehead Complete Streets Policy and evaluate public safety issues involving traffic, roads, and other transportation, infrastructure in the town.”

Albert also sponsored Article 50 on the warrant, which seeks to amend town bylaws relative to new subdivisions by inserting specific language in the bylaws.

Article 51 would require a number of town boards and committees, including the Select Board, School Committee, and Planning Board, to record their meetings, with recordings or transcripts, along with official minutes, available on the town website. Rosalind Nadeau sponsored the article.

Nadeau also sponsored Article 52, which requires the same boards and committees to allow for the use of hybrid or remote meeting platforms for all members and members of the public.

Article 53 asks the town to accept provisions of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 53, Section 9A, which dictates that “the final date for obtaining blank nomination papers for nomination to city or town office shall be forty-eight week day hours prior to the hour on which nomination papers are required to be submitted to the registrars of voters for certification.” The article is sponsored by Jonathan Lederman.

The final article on the warrant, article 54, sponsored by Megan Sweeney, would create a Standard Operating Procedures Manual for a number of town boards and committees, including the Select Board. The manual will “include but is not limited to defining each Board’s Purpose,
Membership, Member Qualifications, Appointments, Power and Duties, Organizational Structure, Communication Process, Recommendations for Town Meeting and SOP Quality Assurance.”

Correction: Due to a reporter’s error, an earlier version of this story misstated the sponsor of Article 47 on the Annual Town Meeting Warrant. Todd Norman sponsored the article. We regret the error.