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Boards Commend Civil Electorate… Dec. 15, 2017

Boards Commend Civil Electorate

By Nan Shnitzler

Selectmen, Advisory Committee and the Town Moderator on Dec. 7 discussed the special Town Meeting that was called by citizens petition on Nov. 27 to determine whether the town should buy Camp Virginia, a 56-acre former Girl Scout camp on Hudson Road.

Discussants agreed the meeting was well attended (350 voters checked in) and the issue was thoroughly vetted, but disliked the fact that the wireless microphones kept cutting out, despite being tested before the meeting. They agreed something better is needed for the next Town Meeting.

Town Moderator Doug Storey thought that, in retrospect, the amendments around changing the holder of the conservation restriction on the land should have come after the proponents’ presentation.

Ken Troup, who spearheaded the citizens petition and was head of the working group that looked into the purchase, asked the selectmen why they approved applying for the grant if they were not inclined to go through with the purchase. Troup said “things might have been done differently” if there had been no grant. (The purchase depended on a $400,000 state grant.) Just before Town Meeting, the selectmen voted 2 to 1 to disapprove the purchase.

Town Administrator Don Lowe said that a different composition of the Board of Selectmen approved the grant. (Tom Frain was on the board at the time, not Bob Czekanski.)

Selectman Stan Wysocki said the selectmen were willing to keep the purchase process moving along. He didn’t think it was fair to say they should have stopped it. He opined that if the selectmen had agreed to sponsor the article, there would have been less debate, and the article might have been approved by fewer voters.

“There was never any time the selectmen voted to sponsor nor a town department or committee that wanted to sponsor the article,” Wysocki said. “A citizens petition was a perfectly legal way to proceed, and more things should go that route. I think selectmen sponsorship causes less debate.”

“All you said was correct. But it could have proceeded differently,” Troup said.

Selectmen Bob Czekanski noted that when the final tally was counted, not a single person applauded. The feeling was that the discussion was part of being a community, he said. (Earlier in the evening, Storey had asked voters to refrain was applause.)

“I think the town as a whole deserves credit for that,” Czekanski said. “It was a classy end to an emotional evening.”