Marion Town Meeting: 3 rooms, linked by Zoom, 54 approvals

Jun 22, 2020

MARION — Talking across three rooms with the aid of Zoom, Town Meeting decided to start design work for a new Department of Public Works building, construct a new inclusive playground at Sippican School and pavilion at Osprey Marsh, and take the town out of a health district and a waste district. 

The 150 person Town Meeting on June 22 approved all 59 of its articles, with the exception of five that were passed over.

Coronavirus concerns prompted organizers to set up meeting attendees six feet apart and across three to five different rooms. Concerns about the disease’s financial impact also prompted voters to ask whether the town should be a little more cautious about expenses. 

When it came to a survey for the new Department of Public Works building, several residents supported the project to replace a building that Selectman John Waterman described as “going back in time,” because it was so outdated. 

But they questioned the timing of starting the project just before a year where the town may need more funding if state aid drops. 

Residents also questioned how the article was worded, since it allotted $150,000 for the design, with any leftovers going to the construction of a new building. Many wanted to know how much that building would cost before approving construction. The cost is still undetermined. 

Marion residents on the sewer system seemed concerned that they were paying for an oversized share of the town’s expenses, both through its normal sewer enterprise fund and in considering an otherwise-routine move to decrease the demand on the sewer by better filtering out stormwater in the system. 

Attendees were also split on building an emergency exit road at Sippican School, with supporters saying that just one entrance and exit for buses is a safety hazard and the other side pointing out that the road would require maintenance and be seldom used.   

In January, Waterman proposed a new inclusionary housing bylaw which came before Town Meeting for approval. The stopgap bylaw would decrease fees and requirements for year while the town works on a more in-depth bylaw. No one has used the bylaw in the 17 years it has existed, and Waterman hopes that with lower fees someone might decide to use the bylaw.

John Rockwell was on the Planning Board when the original bylaw passed, and warned the town not to cater to developers who did not want to pay extra fees, since he believes costs will be passed on to the taxpayers. 

Marion voters also decided to allow the Carver Marion Wareham Regional Refuse Disposal District to disband. The town voted last year at its Annual Town Meeting to leave the district, but changed its mind this year since the district announced its intention to close and the town would only have to pay insurance liabilities.  

The town will also dissolve a joint health district with Rochester after its sole employee retired after more than 30 years. 

Town Meeting passed over two Old Rochester Regional articles that were not on the warrants in the other district towns, and three bylaws on dog control, multifamily residences and new flood district maps. The last change was due to a shift in federal regulations.