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Session 7 labors through a variety of budgets, passing 5

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UPDATED May 19: Town Meeting passed five major financial articles at its seventh session, held the evening of Monday, May 16.

Approved were Article 50, appropriation of the town budget; Article 51, the capital budget; Article 53, sewer infrastructure; Article 54, water infrastructure; and Article 57, town celebrations. Article 60, requesting two more years’ funding of the Bluebikes program, was discussed, but no decision was reached. Early in the meeting, a moment of silence was observed in memory of longtime Town Meeting member Elsie Fiore, who died a few days ago.

Article 50 contains budgets for numerous entities, such as the town manager, planning and community development, public works, facilities, police department, fire department, inspections and the Arlington Youth Center enterprise fund. The vote to approve Article 50 was 224-7, with three abstaining.

Article 50: Staffing discussed

A running theme in Article 50 discussions was expressions of concern about staffing: shortages, turnover, difficulty attracting candidates and salary ranges that some view as possibly too low. 

John Maher (14), participating in his 48th consecutive Town Meeting, said that recruiting for a new town manager should ensure “adequate compensation” for this “extremely important position.” Select Board Chair Lenard Diggins replied that “we are in the process” of recruiting and that a search firm has been engaged to find a successor to Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, whose last scheduled day in that post is June 17.

Watch the ACMi video of May 16 Town Meeting:

Barbara Thornton (16), speaking about facilities, said that this key department has experienced “a lot of turnover in its leadership,” while Edward Trembley (19) said that “the maintenance staff is very short.”

About police department expenditures, Jordan Weinstein (21) noted that overtime runs roughly $660,000 annually and asked whether more staff could be brought on. Deputy Town Manager Sandy Pooler called this “a good question” and acknowledged that “challenges in hiring have been persistent for a number of reasons” but did not elaborate.

About building permits and zoning, Director of Inspectional Services Michael Ciampa said that the recently filled inspector and administrative positions will “help catch up with our backlog” and likely lead to stricter enforcement.

With regard to the Arlington Youth Counseling Center Enterprise Fund, Health and Human Services Director Christine Bongiorno noted the increase in hours worked by the sole psychiatrist and acknowledged that currently there is no psychiatric nurse, though there had been in the past. Bongiorno said that there is a “significant increase in mental health needs in our youth population.” Responding to a query from Beth Benedict (22) asking about plans for more staff, Bongiorno said it is “very difficult to find [qualified and interested] individuals who are available.”

Articles 51, 53, 54, 57

Article 51, the capital budget, at $9.5 million, passed, 222-3, with two abstentions. The article was dedicated to a longtime local resident, the late Brian H. Rehrig, a founding member of the Arlington Land Trust, who died Jan. 21. “This is for him,” said Timur Yontar, chair of the Capital Planning Committee.

Yontar said the allocations break down roughly as follows: 52 percent to public works, 16 percent to schools, 14 percent to community safety and the balance to libraries and other areas.

The money covers a wide range of durable physical items. Here are just a few mentioned Monday: 

  • Computers, servers, printers and the like;
  • New engine pumper at the fire department;
  • Installation of multiple bike racks throughout town; and
  • Remodeling at Peirce School for a fifth-grade classroom.

Article 53, sewage infrastructure, passed unanimously, with 223 yes votes. Among the needs covered are televised inspections and ensuing repairs, focusing each year on one of the 13 sections into which the town has been divided for this purpose.

Article 54, for water mains and water facilities, similarly passed unanimously, with 218 votes in the affirmative. The town historically has averaged replacing one mile of water mains per year and hopes to double that to two miles per year, according to Director of Public Works Michael Rademacher.

Article 57 was for appropriations for town celebrations, including Town Day, scheduled to return this year, on Sept. 17, after it last held in 2019. This is also the birthday of local resident Samuel Wilson, whom many believe inspired the personification of the nation known as “Uncle Sam.” The article was adopted, 218-1. 

Article 60 yet to be decided

Debate began on Article 60, seeking $100,000 to keep the Bluebikes program another two years. Annie LaCourt (13) called it “an appropriate investment” to continue and expand the bicycle initiative and in essence to subsidize ridership for another 24 months. 

Adam MacNeill (6) objected to calling it a subsidy but supported the article’s passage, saying Bluebikes averages 1.3 rides per day, more than in the past, that “two trips per day is when Bluebikes break even,” it deserves a chance to hit that milestone, and that bicycling has “good societal benefits.”

However, Mark Kaepplein (9) was opposed, saying “people all over want motorized transportation,” such as electric bicycles and scooters rather than bicycles, and suggesting that the money would be better spent elsewhere. “I hope we can just cut our losses,” he said. “I hope people vote no on this.” He also noted that bicycles are of no use to many disabled people.

Debate on the topic will likely resume at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 18.

Consult Klein

Christian Klein (10), who provides notes as a public service, wrote: "If my count is correct, we have 38 more articles to go, so we are right around the half-way mark. If this was night four, we might be jubilant, but being night seven, we are really going slow.

"We are doing the business of the town with due diligence. It just takes a while. We did 92 articles in 11 sessions last year."

Read his detailed report here >> 

Background on Town Meeting

The warrant containing all articles and associated documents is here >>

Town Meeting is to meet every Monday and every Wednesday from 8 to 11 p.m. until all 77 articles are heard and voted on. 

Town Meeting is made up of 252 representatives, though not every member participates at each meeting nor votes on every item. It convenes each spring. It began this year on April 25 and must complete its tasks by June 20.

Town Meeting is taking place virtually this year because of ongoing Covid-19 precautions. 

Proceedings may be viewed by anyone in real time: online at acmi.tv/govlive/ or via ACMi cablecast on its government channels (RCN, 614 or 15; Comcast; 22; or Verizon, 26).


Town Meeting information at town website | YourArlington Town Meeting information


This news announcement was published Tuesday, May 17, 2022. It was updated with a full summary by YourArlington freelancer Judith Pfeffer. It was updated May 18 to add an ACMi video window and a photo of Elsie Fiore, and again on May 19 to add a short sentence about concern about the Bluebikes issue and another short sentence to note that a moment of silence was held in remembrance of Fiore.

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