ORLEANS — Town meeting was in a mood to approve some big-ticket items Monday night, including a $37.1 million operating budget for the town and schools and $4.2 million for continued work on water quality projects, but members were downright penny-pinching when it came to raising fees.
The meeting voted down the finance committee's proposal to review all fees annually with an eye toward eventually bringing them more in line with the actual cost of providing services, and voted to indefinitely postpone the selectmen's package of proposed fee increases.
Marijuana won big, with voters rejecting a petitioned article to ban recreational sales and cultivation and refusing to extend a moratorium on such enterprises past June 30. Those votes were split, but an article to accept the local option tax on retail marijuana sales passed unanimously. “At least we know we want the money,” Moderator David Lyttle remarked.
The town put some serious money away for housing needs, agreeing to provide $275,000 for a revised affordable housing trust that will also receive $300,000 from Community Preservation funds. The $275,000 is subject to a successful general override vote at the May 15 town election, where the $4.2 million for water quality work will be up for a debt exclusion vote.
It was win one, lose one for the town's beaches. Voters were unanimous in approving $175,000 for a Nauset Beach retreat master plan and design, but decided to delay action on a new restrooms/administration building for Skaket Beach. Both projects appear on the May 15 ballot as debt exclusions, but only the Nauset project remains a valid question now.
Town meeting was willing to add $450,000 to the tax levy to pay down the town's unfunded OPEB (Other Post Employment Benefits) liability, which requires a general override OK next week at the polls, but said no to a $75,000 survey of Beach Road for potential construction of a sidewalk.
The meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., didn't start until almost 7 p.m. as voters checked in using the Poll Pad computer registration system. Almost 500 voters participated for at least some part of the annual event, which adjourned just before midnight.
See Thursday's Chronicle for more on town meeting.