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Live Blog: Wenham Town Meeting

Live updates from Saturday's Wenham Town meeting at Buker Elementary School.

Live updates from , with the newest update at the top.

5:12 p.m. Wenham Town Meeting has ended.

5:11 p.m. Patrick Wilson has been elected a new selectman in Wenhan, winning 412-327 over incumbent Harriet Davis.

5:10 p.m. "The no's have it comfortably," Weaver said in announcing the results of a vote to withdraw from the Middleton dispatch center.

5:05 p.m. Police Chief Ken Walsh is at the podium making the case to move Wenham to Essex County Regional Dispatch Center. There's often times one person on duty at the Hamilton-Wenham Center and Walsh says that having more dispatchers at the Middleton center helps with emergency medical dispatch instructions to 911 callers.

"There has been a lot of sweat equity into this project," Walsh said. 

4:50 p.m. Molly Martins, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, is explaining the Selectmen's vote to join the Essex County Regional Dispatch Center in Middleton. She said the town will save $55,000-$90,000 per year by going to Middleton. Motion was made to withdraw from participation in the Middleton center and continue with the Hamilton-Wenham Emergency Center.

4:45 p.m. Article 14 has been amended, to designate the car barn lot as the war memorial site so design can begin. It passes "by at least three-to-one," according to Moderator Paul Weaver.

4:43 p.m. Motion to amend is being voted on for Article 14, asking voters to allow war memorial committee to develop war memorial design on car barn lot and come back to a subsequent Town Meeting with a design for a vote.

4:42 p.m. There is a cacophony of calls to "vote" coming from the audience. 

4:37 p.m. Discussion has gone on for more than more than a half hour about designating the whole lot car barn lot as a war memorial park. Speakers have included Jack Hauck, Don Luxton, Molly Martins and Howard Morong and Priscilla Porter. No vote has been taken. 

4:05 p.m. Consideration of Article 14 (to ) has begun.

4:04 p.m. Article 13 (accepting North Shore Home Consortium Money for affordable housing) has been unanimously approved.

4:02 p.m. Article 10 (leveling tax rate with use of free cash) and Article 12 (transferring $207,673 from the Brady fund, which has affordable housing funding from the developers of the Maples and the Boulders, to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund) is approved. 

3:58 p.m. Voters decide to increase town budget by $35,000 to cover the cost of continuing curbside loose leaf pickup.

3:56 p.m. Four "routine" articles are coming up plus two that "some people feel passionately about." Moderator Paul Weaver is asking voters to stick around to keep the 141 person quorum. It is very close right now.  

3:50 p.m. The vote is happening on Article 9, whether to continue free curbside loose leaf pickup. "It looks like it is pretty close," says Moderator Paul Weaver. "I can't call it, I'm going to need the tellers."

3:44 p.m. Discussion has begun about Article 9 about spending $35,000 to fund continued .

3:42 p.m. More than two thirds of Town Meeting just approved a debt exclusion override to spend up to $160,000 to for the . The machine is used for grass mowing, snowblowing and similar duties. It now goes to a ballot vote on May 19, where majority approval is required.

3:35 Article 7 - Community Preservation Act spending - passes unanimously. It includes spending $177,765 to pay debt service for the renovation and $18,000 for the one mile portion of the in Wenham.

3:32 Article 6 passes ,with one person in opposition, declaring "Old Enon" a "historic resource." It does not spend any money or approve any Community Preservation Act grants.

3:30 p.m. Article 5 was voted down. Weaver made the determination based on his count of the blue voters cards from his vantage point on the stage.

3:21 p.m. Discussion has begun on Article 5, which proposes transferring $4,000 from the cemetery perpetual care fund to the town budget. Cemetery Commissioner Bryant Barnard tells Town Meeting that the cemetery fund has only $2,981 and the town wants $4,000.

3:18 p.m. Article 3 (accepting cemetery and trust funds) and Article 4 (accepting state Chapter 90 road money) has passed without discussion or opposition.

3:15 p.m. The full $14.78 million 2012 town budget, with the higher school budget number, has passed with one vote opposed.

3:14 p.m. Vote to increase school budget passes 127-86 after count by the tellers. Full vote on full $14,769,932 budget for 2012 is about to happen..

2:59 p.m. The first vote has been taken on an amendment to increase the school budget. Tellers are moving around the room, counting votes. Initially, without an exact count, it looks like the motion to increase the budget has passed.

2:57 p.m. "We've been at this for more than an hour and I think that is enough time for people to understand it and vote on the budget," Weaver says.

2:54 p.m. At the microphone, Evans says any increase in this year's budget is because of the town expenses and not the schools.

2:53 p.m. Several members of the audience are saying from their seats "move the question."

2:50 p.m. Larry Swartz says that the higher school budget number represents about a 20 cents per $1,000 property value on the tax rate. Kuebel says exact number is 22 cents, meaning if the School Committee's budget is approved tax rate goes up 22 cents.

2:46 p.m. No vote yet. On the floor is a motion to increase the school budget by about $160,000.

2:45 p.m. Michelle Bailey asks Kuebel why he did not compare the town's "free cash" to the school's excess and deficiency fund.

2:42 p.m. Maureen Weihs of Kimball Avenue asks how much the towns have in the equivalent to the schools' excess and deficiency fund. Kuebel says town reserve fund has been between 1 and 1.5 percent of total budget for the past three years.

2:35 p.m. Resident Deb Evans is now addressing the meeting, asking how savings from the operational audit can be factored into the budget when the audit is not complete.

2:28 p.m. School Committee member and Wenham resident Dacia Rubel just took to the microphone to make a motion to increase the school budget number to $7,508,559.

2:25 p.m. Former Selectman Tom Tanous gets up to the microphone to argue that the town should go back to distributing printed copies of the Town Meeting warrant.

2:20 p.m. Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren addresses questions about the "new growth" estimate, a pay raise for the finance director.

2:10 p.m. The Article 2 motion (budget) is now being read by Kuebel. He is reading the budget totals for each department.

2:04 p.m. "It's all about how much goes into the (excess and deficiency) fund - the reserves," said Kuebel.

2:02 p.m. Kuebel is back at the microphone to discuss the school budget. "I'm a little tempted to ask if there's anyone here who is still undecided."

2 p.m. A significant majority of the seats in the are now filled with voters.

1:58 p.m. Gray says that without a sufficient amount of money in the excess and deficiency account, the school district may need to borrow money to meet payroll if state and town money doesn't come in on time.

1:50 p.m. A big crack of lightning just interrupted town meeting as Gray was explaining why the School Committee wants than approved by the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee.

1:47 p.m. Gray says that the proposed 2012 budget asks for no more money from the towns than last year, has no changes to the academic program and contemplates no staff cuts.

1:42 p.m. Assistant Superintendent Peter Gray has taken the microphone to present the school budget. "I will not bore you with any more the highlights of why I am here."

1:40 p.m. Keubel says that the FinCom had a view this year to separate out big issues so voters can make decisions specifically about a and whether to .

1:36 p.m. Finance Committee Chairman Roger Kuebel is giving a break overview of the budget. For the third consecutive year there will be no operational override vote. Kuebel says Wenham has one of the highest tax rates in the state and is a "crushing burden" for some residents.

1:33 p.m. Weaver is beginning to explain how the school budget vote will be handled. School budget in the warrant book is the Finance Committee's budget, less than the School Committee budget, which will be moved from the floor by Dacia Rubel.

1:25 p.m. Weaver has declared that a quorum is present.

1:21 p.m. Weaver has taken the podium.

1:20 p.m. Tarr gets an applause when he says that nobody who is sentenced to three life terms should be granted parole.

1:12 p.m. State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, is updating Wenham voters about Senate activities this year.

1:05 p.m. State Rep. Brad Hill, R-Ipswich, who represents Hamilton and Wenham in the Legislature, is delivering a report about the rebounding economy and higher school aid from the state this year.

1:05 p.m. Moderator Paul Weaver tells Town Meeting they are still waiting for the required 141 person quorum in order to get business underway.

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