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FINAL UPDATE: Annual Town Meeting is Underway

Check back throughout the day Saturday for updates on Town Meeting proceedings.

Editor's Note: Check back throughout the day for updates on Wilmington's Annual Town Meeting.

It took just about 30 minutes after the scheduled 10:30 a.m. start time, but Annual Town Meeting is underway as of 10:56 a.m. now that the necessary quorum of 150 residents is in attendance.

The Wilmington Minutemen presented the colors before marching out of the gymnasium to a round of applause.

Town Moderator James Stewart is running through the rules now voters are now hearing a reading of Article 1.

Updated at 11:29 a.m.: Voters have approved General Government and Public Safety budgets so far as a part of Article 1, though there were two residents who expressed concerns with increases.

"I can't imagine anybody increasing salary this much during these fiscal times," said one Woburn Street resident. "When you look at the regular business world, there are normal increases of about 2 to 3 percent. I don't know why we're increasing so much."

The General Government budget of $1,949,538 was approved by a wide margin.

Kevin MacDonald stepped to the microphone during the Public Safety debate and said he believes the line items for the Police Department are excessive, and questioned the salary Police Chief Michael Begonis earns.

"It's my believe the department is overstaffed," said MacDonald. "I disagree that we should have to pay overtime, and I'd like to strike any and all overtime pay from this budget for the Police Department."

That motion was deemed not allowable, and the budget passed.

Updated at 11:44 a.m.: MacDonald made an ammendment to take $194,460 that was scheduled to be alloted in the Department of Public Works budget for sand and salt, and pay for it out of free cash instead.

The motion failed without any votes in favor, and that portion of the budget was approved.

Updated at 12:16 p.m.: During the School Department budget discussion, MacDonald asked how much Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton's salary is.

School Committee chiarman Margaret Kane answered that Benton currently makes about $170,000, but the negotiations for next year's salary have not begun.

MacDonald moved to restrict Benton's salary to $100,000, a move that was deemed against rules.

Article 5, which is the budget as a whole, passed.

Following the completition of that article, Stewart saluted retiring Town Manager Michael Caira for his 31 years of work at Town Meeting, to which he received a standing ovation. We're now on to Article 6.

Updated at 12:37 p.m.: Article 6 was just approved by residents, which authorizes the town to purchase four replacement police cruisers, one pumper for the Fire Department and one repleacement vacuum street sweeper and one replacement backhoe and loader.

MacDonald proposed an ammendment to the DPW purchase that would require the vehicles to be manufactured in America. That motion was defeated by the body and Article 7 is now up for discussion.

Before moving on, Stewart joked, "I'll make the most important announcement of the day, and that's that pizza is here."

Updated at 12:52 p.m.: Articles 7, 8 and 9, passed without much objection.

One resident asked the moderator if it was appropriate for MacDonald to question "minute details" of each article.

"Democracy is not without pain," joked Stewart who also added that it is not out of order to speak on each article, unless the moderator determines it is a deliberate attempt to slow down the process. "My job is to make sure people stay on point. It's a fine line and I am doing the best that I can."

Updated at 1:13 p.m.: All articles were approved related to the budget, so Articles 1-17 were taken and voted on in order. The following articles will be drawn randomly for the order they'll be spoken upon.

The first item drawn was Kevin MacDonald's petitioned Article 32, seeking to rescind the vote taken at when residents soundly approved a new high school.

After conferring with Town Counsel, Stewart ruled that the article is out of order. However, Stewart allowed an appeal by MacDonald that will now go in front of the body. MacDonald is making his case to his fellow voters.

Updated at 1:31 p.m.: MacDonald's amendment failed and thus his article was deemed out of order.

His petitioned Article 31 to establish a town website to collaborate on ideas is up for discussion now.

While arguing for his article, MacDonald said by having a website where residents can express concerns, there would be less empty seats at Town Meeting. Town Manager Michael Caira had a pointed response.

"This is just a waste of everyone's time and I found it interesting that the maker of this motion is attributing as to why these seats are not filled," said Caira. "I think all of you folks know why these seats are not filled."

Updated at 2:02 p.m.: Resident George Lingenfelter's motion regarding fence bylaws in town was discussed for about 30 minutes before it was eventually defeated by an 84-39 count.

Mark Nelson's Article 37 is the next item up for discussion.

Updated at 2:29 p.m.: The first of two petitioned articles by Mark Nelson, Article 37, failed by a 72-15 count. That item dealt with adjusting the town map, as does Article 38.

But first up for discussion is Kevin MacDonald's Article 36 dealing with the Stormwater Management Plan.

That debate lasted less than two minutes, and the article was soundly defeated. Article 25, petitioned by Craig Newhouse, is up next. But the article was passed over.

Updated at 2:54 p.m.: After another one of MacDonald's articles seeking to overturn the high school vote was ruled out of order, the purchase of Yentile's Farm through free cash is now up for debate with selectman Michael Newhouse at the microphone.

"It makes sense for the town to use free cash for purposes just like this one, one time opportunities," said Newhouse. "That’s why we maintain positive cash reserve to take advantages of opportnities like this. This is a good time to invest in real estate in general."

Updated at 3:05 p.m.: Residents soundly approve the purchase of the 9 Cross Street property, and do so without any opposition. The official count of the approval is a unanimous 122-0.

Updated at 3:29 p.m.: Though the crowd has dwindled, there are still 10 articles remaining. Kevin MacDonald is again speaking on his latest petitioned article, but this was his last trip to the microphone.

After Stewart made a ruling, MacDonald responded with, "Thank you, Mr. Stewart, for telling me something I already knew."

"I try to deal with people as respectfull as possible," said Stewart. "But there is a limit to my patience, and I just got there. Mr. MacDonald, it's over. Enough. Chief, please get him out of here."

Updated at 4:00 p.m.: There are five articles remaining on the docket. Currently, residents and officials are discussing Article 27, related to town employees serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Updated at 4:18 p.m.: After lengthy discussion, Article 27 was approved by the remaining residents.

The next up for discussion is Article 20, which asks to approve new bylaws that would use fines as penalty for trespassing instead of putting a mark on their criminal record.

The article passed soundly.

Updated at 4:37 p.m.: Mark Nelson is now disussing his second petitioned article, which seeks to add Polk Street to the official town map. This is one of three remaining articles to come before the remaining voters.

FINAL UPDATE at 4:48 p.m.: Town Moderator James Stewart just made the motion to adjourn, and voters gladly approved.

"This was a difficult meeting for me and for many of you as well," said Stewart. "I appreciate your patience."

Thanks for following along with today's coverage, and check back with Wilmington Patch on Monday for more on Town Meeting.

Robert Hayes May 07, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Mr. MacDonald: Just to put some of your comments about our schools IN CONTEXT: - 50% of WILMINGTON's 8th graders earned a 'needs improvement' or 'warning/failing status' in mathematics. 48% of MASSACHUSETTS'S 8th graders earned a 'needs improvement' or 'warning/failing status' in mathematics. I'm obviously not satisfied with these results, but we're virtually at the STATE AVERAGE. - $170,000 is A LOT of money. No doubt. But Superintendents make A LOT of money. At the time of her salary review last year, Wilmington's superintendent was paid less than her peers in many nearby communities, including -- but not limited to -- Andover, Bedford, Belmont, Beverly, Billerica, Chelmsford, Georgetown, Lexington, Lynnfield, Medford, Methuen, North Andover, Reading, Tewksbury, and Winchester. Regional schools weren't included in the comparison, but - for the record - Wilmington's Superintendent also makes less than her counterpart at the Shawsheen Tech. - Here's a story that will drive you crazy: http://www.gloucestertimes.com/local/x2063029233/Regional-tech-schools-pay-hike-irks-Kirk/print
Kevin MacDonald May 07, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Thank you Mr. Hayes, It would be good if we did not look so much at State average but rather recruited the best teachers possible. If their pay raises were contingent upon performance and results, you may see a big difference in scores. I think it would be good to post the position of school superintendent for $100,000 a year and see what candidates reply. Mrs. Benton could then decide if she wants to go up against these challengers for the position. I also think you and the rest of the school committee should elect a new chairperson for the board. I believe the chairperson sets the agenda. I have been denied being placed on the agenda. I wonder how many other people have also been denied. I also believe you and the other members owe it to the community to keep salaries from escalating out of control.
MEC May 07, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Can someone tell me if the water is safe to drink in Wilmington! Also, What about the Poop smell???
MEC May 07, 2012 at 06:58 PM
I'm new to wilmington....Looks like I need to attend the next town meeting! Can anyone tell me if the water is safe to drink and also if we can do anything about the nasty smell in the air!!
Melissa Erickson May 09, 2012 at 12:52 PM
- $170,000 is A LOT of money. No doubt. But Superintendents make A LOT of money. At the time of her salary review last year, Wilmington's superintendent was paid less than her peers in many nearby communities, including -- but not limited to -- Andover, Bedford, Belmont, Beverly, Billerica, Chelmsford, Georgetown, Lexington, Lynnfield, Medford, Methuen, North Andover, Reading, Tewksbury, and Winchester. Regional schools weren't included in the comparison, but - for the record - Wilmington's Superintendent also makes less than her counterpart at the Shawsheen Tech. Good town comparisons - now what we should really do is take a look at those towns taxes and see how much they are paying and what services they DON'T get such as trash removal, some have to pay for bussing, and other ammenties that we get, etc. So when people say that Wilmington taxes are high then move to another town....see how much other people are paying and what you will be missing when you leave Wilmington. I am just happy my trash gets picked up and I don't have to spend my quality family time on the weekends going to the dump. Oh and I did not attend the town meeting - why - because people make it unbearable to sit there for more than 1-2 hours. I suffered through it last year with the high school vote, but until the antics of people who have nothing better to do than to derail others make it not something I want to do. I didn't attend because I had to work - I did that Monday - Friday already.

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