ORLEANS — Next month, town meeting will vote on spending $33,527,010 to pay for the combined town and schools budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. But voters will look well past FY18 both financially and philosophically as they weigh in on major commitments by the town.
On May 8, Orleans will be asked to continue work on water quality projects to the tune of $3,733,660 and to approve spending $13,575,000 to build a new DPW/natural resources facility for the next half-century. Borrowing for both will appear as debt exclusion questions on the May 16 election ballot.
A number of warrant articles will help townspeople define their community for years to come. They can amend zoning to allow denser downtown development and a greater variety of housing options and by further defining the look of new construction to conform to design guidelines. They can enable an annual review of user fees, permits and licenses with an eye toward eventually having such revenue pay the full freight (direct and indirect costs) of related activities.
How do voters feel about allowing recreational marijuana establishments in Orleans? They'll have a chance to go on record. And they'll vote on the Nauset Public Schools' request for a feasibility study to expand and renovate the 1970s regional high school in Eastham.
At a special town meeting within the annual, the town will rescind $646,972 in debt authorizations for closed projects.
The board of selectmen has been nearly unanimous in its support for the roster of articles. The petitioned article advanced by the revenue committee for an annual review of fees leading toward eventual full recovery of costs drew a 6-0-0 vote from the finance committee but was spurned by selectmen in a 2-3-0 decision. Voters can look forward to a debate on town meeting floor.
Last week, selectmen made clear that, going forward, the town's shellfish and waterways improvement advisory committee, working with natural resource manager Nate Sears, will take the lead in developing a management plan for raising and selling nitrogen-filtering oysters. Selectman Mark Mathison, his board's liaison to the committee, has argued that work needed to move beyond scientific research to the practicalities of managing the resource and its role in reducing nitrogen levels in town waters. Sears and the committee will report to the selectmen.