Wenham voters approved the design for a proposed war memorial and rejected a move that would have given Selectmen $18,000 to go toward pay raises for non-union employees at Tuesday night’s Town Meeting.
The closest vote at the 95-minute long meeting at was to approve the design for the war memorial on the car barn lot at Arbor and Main streets. The design was approved 106-57. None of the other Town Meeting votes required a card count.
War Memorial Design Approved
Article 7 asked voters to that had already been given the OK by the Town Hall and Police Station Building Committee, Historic District Commission, War Memorial Committee and Board of Selectmen. The article also requires any plan to use the remainder of the car barn lot for a permanent use – the memorial park will be on the half of the lot closet to the intersection - to get Town Meeting approval.
About 25 minutes was spent hearing from Town Hall and Police Station Building Committee Chairman John Darling and about a half dozen citizens explaining the memorial design and voicing their opinions.
Gardner McCormick said that the proposed 17-1/2 foot tall monument is “too much for this quiet little town” and suggested it be sent back to the drawing board where officials come up with a way to fit it on the Town Hall property.
“This monument is more a monument to war than the people who have served,” he said.
Tracey Hutchinson wondered what would happen to the signs promoting things such as sign-ups for youth sports that are typically set up along Main Street, in front of what would become the war memorial park. Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren said the Board of Selectmen would find another location with “similar visibility and effectiveness.”
And Chelgren addressed concerns from Anya Goodridge, who said she was concerned that it could become an attraction for skateboarders and teenagers to hang out.
He said once the pine trees along Main Street are cut down the site will become more visible, noting the police station is across the street. And the town already deals with skateboarders at the and , Chelgren said.
“It’s a constant work in progress with the Police Department,” he said.
A total of 184 voters came to the meeting – or about 6.5 percent of the registered voters. A quorum of 56 voters was required to conduct business.
Non-Union Pay Raises
A plan , and pay raises, with non-union managers and department heads was overwhelmingly voted down.
The plan was to compare Wenham salaries to comparable towns and bring pay in line with those communities.
Among the positions that were being considered included Finance Director, Library Director, Department of Public Works director, police and fire chief and town administrator.
The Board of Selectmen supported the move and the Finance and Advisory Committee said it was opposed, since it did not have time to fully understand and discuss the information in support of the measure.
The town’s policy should be to have a long-term plan to attract and retain quality managers, said Selectman Patrick Wilson. The town’s managers, he said, have undertaken many initiatives to save the town money in the past three years as they have gone without raises.
“They have more than paid for the modest compensation we considering putting in modified contracts,” Wilson said.
Selectman John Clemenzi said the raises would help “make sure we don’t lose valuable people.” Or, if employees do leave, it can be used to attract good candidates to fill the spot, he said.
Meanwhile, nine residents stepped up to the microphone to outline various reason why they were opposed to the raises.
Dave St. Laurent did say that he felt that the town could find money for raises somewhere in the town’s $14.8 million budget.
Others said that in the slumping economy it is no time for raises and that department head should instead feel lucky to have a job.
“This proposal to me, at this time, is amazing,” said Jack Hauck, noting many residents are having trouble paying for their homes and have lost their jobs.
Don Costin said that senior citizens on Social Security “haven’t had a pay raise in three years either.”
Other said that pay raises should be taken up during the annual budget approval, rather then giving a lump sum to the board of Selectmen to decide on pay hikes.
Former Selectman Tom Tanous suggested that the Finance Committee and Selectmen review the salaries of all non-union employees prior to Annual Town Meeting in May.
“Let’s look at all of it and vote all of it together,” he said.
New Town Meeting Date, Iron Rail Lease OKed
Voters also approved – in the afternoon – to coincide with Hamilton Town Meeting in the morning on the same day, beginning in 2013. Hamilton approved the same move at its Town Meeting last month. There was no discussion on the move on Tuesday night.
The Board of Selectmen was overwhelmingly given the power to renew a lease for the with Hamilton-Wenham Youth Soccer Association for another 11 years.
The soccer association wants to make $25,000 to $50,000 in drainage improvements to the fields and parking lots, but also wants to extent the lease another 11 years.
The lease agreement is not yet signed but is expected to be completed before the Annual Town Meeting in May.
“We’re getting close to the terms but we are not there yet,” Chelgren said.
Final Two Articles Passed Over
Voters also approved the Selectmen’s request to pass over the last two articles – one asking to buy a new police cruiser and the other that was set to have voters have a say on trash collection. Since Wenham Selectmen approved a new trash collection plan that that keeps service at or above existing levels, it did not go to Town Meeting voters.
“The model here was the give the voters a chance to weigh in if there was a reduction of services,” said Town Moderator Paul Weaver.