Marion Town Meeting agenda released

Apr 17, 2024

MARION – From Marion’s nearly $29 million operating budget, to a town-wide “thickly settled” speed limit, to a proposal to leave the state’s Green Communities program, voters at Marion’s upcoming Town Meeting will have their say on 46 items that could decide next year for the town.

Marion’s Town Meeting will be held on Monday, May 13 at Sippican School beginning at 6:45 p.m.

The town’s proposed budget, recommended by the Finance Committee and Select Board, totals $28,837,711. This is a 4.72% increase from last year’s operating budget of $27,536,903.

One notable change in this year’s budget includes a 32.11% increase in debt services, from $665,298 to $878,906.

The three town departments with the highest costs in the proposed budget are schools at $13,446,566, public safety at $4,320,341 and general government at $2,668,502.

Residents will also vote on whether or not to appropriate approximately $1.7 million for the construction of a new Department of Public Works Operations Building. Just over $800,000 of that cost would be transferred from the town’s free cash. The remaining $896,450 would be procured by a bond, according to the Town Meeting agenda.

Marion Town Administrator Geoff Gorman said that this project would add approximately $18 per year to the average resident’s tax bill.

Residents will also vote on whether to approve the purchase of a new patrol boat for the Marion Harbormaster Department at a cost of $803,250.

According to the warrant, $400,000 will come from free cash and the remaining $403,250 will be funded from the town’s waterways account.

Marion Finance Committee Chair Shay Assad expressed concern with Article 16 at an April meeting of the Marion Select Board. He said that he was told 18 months ago that the boat would be paid for with waterways funds.

“It was very clear that the boat would be paid for entirely with waterways funds, that no taxpayer loan would be used to support the purchase of the boat,” said Assad. “My point of view is the taxpayers will rest a lot easier if they understand that waterways will bear the cost of this.”

According to Marion Select Board Chair Toby Burr, the construction of a new Marion Harbormaster building was approved “with the promise from this town hall that the waterways account would pay for the building and pay for the boat. To go back on that promise is very detrimental to the credibility of town hall.”

Marion Harbormaster Adam Murphy said that since 2018 the waterways account has funded over $212,000 worth of capital projects in an effort to “offset the cost of our operation.” Murphy said that the town is still seeking grant funding for the boat.

According to Gorman, the Harbormaster’s Department may have to raise harbor fees by a “rough” estimate of 10% to 12% if they were to pay for the entirety of the boat.

Townspeople will also vote to approve that the Old Rochester Regional School District use $12 million worth of debt to make improvements and replacements to safety features in district schools.

Items in need of replacement include HVAC systems, entry points and doors, and hot water heating systems, according to Old Rochester Regional School District Superintendent Mike Nelson.

Residents will also have the opportunity to vote to approve the purchase of items that are part of the town’s Capital Improvement Plan with money in the General Fund. The list of items includes a police vehicle replacement, the digitization of town records and a cardiac monitor for the fire department.

Another item on the Town Meeting agenda would authorize the Select Board to establish a speed limit of 25 miles per hour on any town roadway that is thickly settled, in the interest of public safety.

Finally, residents will have the chance to vote to leave the Massachusetts Green Communities program and opt out of the “Stretch Code” that comes with it.

This agenda item is currently a placeholder. The agenda item will be finalized after a public hearing is held on the topic at the Marion Select Board’s meeting on Tuesday, May 7.

A Green Community has to meet certain criteria which includes creating a plan to reduce energy use by 20% within five years and adopting a fuel efficient vehicle purchase policy.

Additionally, Green Communities must adopt the “Stretch Code,” a specialized and more strict building-energy code that “emphasizes energy performance,” according to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

In return for following these guidelines, a Green Community is eligible for state-funded grants.

According to Marion Building Commissioner Bob Grillo, when the stretch code was adopted by the town in 2019, new homes were required to have a Home Energy Rating System rating of 55. As of July 1, 2024, new homes will be required to have a rating of 42 or less.

A Home Energy Rating System rating calculates the efficiency of energy retention of a home.

“It has changed, in my opinion, rather dramatically from what was originally adopted,” said Grillo at a Select Board meeting on April 2.

Bill Saltonstall, a member of Marion’s Energy Management Committee, said that since becoming a Green Community, Marion has received $548,975 in state grants for different projects.

He added that Marion has seen a 24.66% reduction in annual town energy over the last six years, which has saved the town about $202,000 in electricity and fuel costs.

A review of the full Marion Town Meeting agenda will be held on Thursday, April 25 at the Marion Music Hall at 6 p.m. The agenda can be found online at