17 approvals, six feet apart at Rochester Town Meeting

Jun 22, 2020

ROCHESTER — Though the setup looked different, Town Meeting at Rochester Memorial School went on without a hitch, and 82 residents passed 17 out of the 20 articles on the warrant in a little over an hour.

The June 22 meeting, originally scheduled for a month earlier, saw the passing of Rochester’s 2021 operating budget of $22,522,236, a 1.97% increase from last year. 

There were few questions from the masked residents about articles, and only two were voted against, and one tabled by Selectmen.

On the town’s solid waste portion of its budget, Rochester Water Commissioner Frank Underhill asked about the future of the town’s transfer station if the Carver Marion Wareham Refuse Disposal District dissolves.

Town Counsel Blair Bailey said the town has a number of options that it is looking into, and “however it will shake out, residents will be covered and have a place to take their trash.”

The town unsuccessfully asked Town Meeting to give $15,000 to the Board of Assessors for a fund which would be used to pay a future Principal Assessor in anticipation of the retirement of its current one.

When asked why the Finance Committee opposed the article unlike Selectmen, Committee Chair Kristian Stoltenburg said there was “not a lot of clarity” as to why the board would be saving for something that has yet to happen. 

One Rochester citizen included a petition to reduce the tax rate using $50,000 of the town’s free cash. Residents rejected the article. 

Stoltenburg explained that residents would only save $11.50 every six months, or five cents on every $1,000 they pay in taxes. 

From his longtime experience on the committee, Stoltenburg said, “we don’t spend money foolishly in this town.” 

Both the Finance Committee and Selectmen recommended Town Meeting reject the citizen’s petition.

At the suggestion of the Conservation Committee, Selectmen tabled an article which asked Town Meeting to set aside $345,769 from non-town sources like grants and gifts to preserve 109 acres of forested land on Walnut Plain Road with the help of the Buzzards Bay Coalition.

At the meeting’s adjournment, Selectman Woody Hartley thanked residents for coming and said, “this is where the decisions are made” for the town.