As Town Meeting Nears, Selectmen Examine Options For Change

By: Ed Maroney

Topics: Town Meeting

Scenes like this one at the October 2017 special town meeting, with selectmen Mark Mathison and Alan McClennen casting paper ballots, might become a thing of the past if electronic voting is instituted.  CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Child Care Number One Need, Survey Says

ORLEANSThe selectmen reviewed draft warrants for the May 13 annual and special town meetings totaling more than than 70 articles last night (March 20). The community's to-do list ranges from building the full downtown wastewater collection system, a treatment plant, and disposal area infrastructure to acquiring conservation restrictions and public access to Sipson Island to creating a $25 resident parking sticker.

As voters prepare to consider these articles, town meeting itself is being examined in light of a recent citizens survey that drew more than 139 responses. Having read the returns, Selectman Kevin Galligan told his colleagues March 6 that “the number one need – and Mr. (Mark) Mathison, you've been saying this – is child care, child care, child care. We do need to use the remaining weeks before town meeting to be sure (Recreation Director) Alan Harrison and others facilitate having child care in place.”

Town Administrator John Kelly said the town talked with the head of the Orleans after-school program and found that her license covers the elementary school only. Mathison said he hoped that Harrison would be able to work out an arrangement “so they could come work for him under the town's license to use at the middle school.” He's also reached out to Nauset system teachers to suggest that they could volunteer in towns where they don't live to help colleagues attend their community's meeting.

Kelly recalled that, during Margie Fulcher's chairmanship of the selectmen, child care was provided “to entice greater turnout. We could use a classroom or the cafeteria.”

Among other gleanings from the study, Galligan said, was that respondents want to see speakers held to time limits, even to the point of a large clock timer in full view. Brewster's version, he said, “turns bright red to say you're done.” Improved sound quality and the possibility of a pre-town meeting information session were other highlights.

Galligan said the response to the idea of electronic voting was “high,” prompting the method's leading advocate, Selectman Mefford Runyon, to urge that it be tried as soon as possible. The draft warrant includes an article for $25,000 for that purpose, pending a public hearing. “David Lyttle needs to be included in our conversation,” Runyon said of the town moderator. Kelly agreed. “It will be good to have a dialog with the moderator before we do these things.”

Among other options is moving the start time of town meeting from 6:30 to 6 p.m.

The draft warrant for the May 13 meeting outlines the community preservation committee's spending recommendations for the coming fiscal year. These include $200,000 for the third phase of the Orleans Historical Society's preservation of the 1824 Universalist Meeting House and historic documents and artifacts; $31,625 to the French Cable Station Museum to create a digital database; $10,000 for a site evaluation and restoration and access plans for the war memorial monuments at Academy Place; $7,500 to help fund the third year of the Cape Housing Institute Municipal Officers training through the Community Development Partnership; $300,000 to the town's new affordable housing trust fund; $1,275 to the Orleans Conservation Trust for nesting habitat enhancement; and $39,754 for the second phase of improvements at the Eldredge Park Playground.

CPC is also supporting a $500,000 grant to purchase Herrick Landing at Lonnie's Pond and to develop a path and steps for public access as well as storage racks for kayaks and canoes. Yet another article would provide $1.5 million as part of a joint effort with the Friends of Pleasant Bay to purchase conservation restrictions and public access to Sipson Island.

The draft annual warrant's last few articles, brought forward by petition, include a resolution calling for comprehensive immigration reform and appropriate border protections, an end to arbitrary arrests, detentions and deportations, and better treatment of documented and undocumented people. Another seeks a general bylaw prohibiting the town from buying water or any other beverage in plastic containers or dispensing same on town property.

A third asks townspeople to resolve that a special commission investigate “the features of the official seal and motto of the Commonwealth including those which potentially have been unwittingly harmful to or misunderstood by the citizens of the Commonwealth” and “to ensure that they faithfully reflect and embody the historic and contemporary commitments of the Commonwealth to peace, justice, liberty and equality and to spreading the opportunities and advantages of education.”

The resolution cites the impending 400thanniversary of the Mayflower's arrival at Provincetown as a moment “to come to a new awareness of a better relationship between the descendants of the Euro-colonial immigrants and the Native Nations of the Commonwealth.”