Town Meeting Voters Approve Mandatory Fingerprinting Bylaw
Tewksbury residents conclude their business after three days of Annual Town Meeting.
Public safety was the big winner Wednesday night, as voters plowed through dozens of remaining article to close the books on the 2012 Annual Town Meeting _at Tewksbury High School._
After a spirited debate, voters approved a Special Town Meeting article which will allow town officials to require people applying for certain town business licenses to submit to complete fingerprinting for the purposes of conducting criminal background checks.
"We want to make sure we don’t have sex offenders selling ice cream off of trucks," said Police Chief Timothy Sheehan. "To make sure we don’t have people with criminal records selling door to door."
Tewksbury is one of several towns to adopt similar bylaws, thanks to state legislation that allows towns to require the criminal background checks for people seeking licenses for:
- Hawking or peddling or other door-to-door sales
- Manager of alcoholic beverage licenses
- Owner or operator of public conveyance
- Pawn Dealers
- Hackney drivers
- Dealers of second hand articles
- Ice Cream truck vendors
While the article passed easily, support was not unanimous. Residents, including Matthew Koulis and Melissa Gleaton, spoke out against the article, saying it was over-reaching and gave local government too much power.
"I feel its an encroachment on out civil liberties and an increase in the big brother nature," said Koulis. "There’s nothing in this law would prevent these fingerprints from being kept by the FBI."
Later, during the Annual Town Meeting session, Finance Committee Chairman Tom Cooke attempted to have the meeting reconsider its vote Monday to amend the FY 13 Budget and transfer $302,000 from free cash to the Fire Department's overtime account. Supporters of the amendment hope the additional money will allow the South Fire Station to be open year-round.
Cooke had opposed that amendment, saying the town manager had put together a budget that had the town on track toward fiscal health and that the amendment set that effort back.
On Wednesday, Cooke asked Town Moderator Keith Rauseo to allow the meeting to reconsider that vote, citing what he said was a procedural error. Cook argued that Sec. 2.04.150 of town meeting procedures prohibited transfers of greater than $100,000 if that transfer increased a department's budget to a level that had not been recommended/approved by the Finance Committee.
Rauseo, however, refused the request.
"I made one procedural error (Monday), I'm not going to make another one now," said Rauseo. "Mr. Cooke's motion is not in order."
Later Rauseo explained his decision by saying that the town bylaw referenced by Cooke only called for a secret ballot in the case of those transfers. It did not prohibit them entirely and therefore the Monday vote did not need to be reconsidered.
Other highlights from the Monday and Wednesday sessions of the Annual Town Meeting:
- Voters approved Article 17, which allows for the appropriation of $1 million through borrowing, to be used for the repair and replacement of large sections of waterline throughout the town.
- Voters approved article 19, which allows for the transfer of $25,000 to establish a Senior Tax Relief Work Program. Under the terms of the program, which Town Manager Richard Montuori said had been requested by residents for some time, senior citizens would be eligible to work a certain number of hours each year for the town (for one of several departments) and have a certain amount of money deducted from their property tax bills.
- Voters approved Article 38, which reduced the Finance Committee from nine to seven members.
- Voters approved Article 37, which established the town's first electronic sign bylaw.
- Voters approved Special Town Meeting Article 5, which allows the Community Preservation Committee to spend $275,000 for the rehabilitation of the historic Ella Flemings School building on Andover Street.
- Voters approved Special Town Meeting articles 8, 9 and 10, which add three sections of town to the Community Village Overlay District. Planning Board Chairman Robert Fowler said he believes the re-zoning will help the town in its economic development efforts, while still retaining the flavor of the community.
- However, voters indefinitely postponed Special Town Meeting Article 11, which would have a triangular parcel of land just off East Street to that same Community Village Overlay District. Several abutters and East Street residents spoke against the article and said the re-zoning would have an adverse impact on their residential neighborhood.
- Articles 7 and 8, dealing with the approval of collecting bargaining agreements with the Firefighters Union and the AFSCME workers were both withdrawn by Town Manager Richard Montuori.
- Special Town Meeting Article 7, which would have established the town's first "vicious animal" bylaw, was withdrawn so that the language of the document could be gone over more closely.