Monson Town Meeting supports water facility project

Nov. 13, 2023 | Laura Mason

Town Moderator Peter Matrow explains that the Town Meeting will not vote on Article 26, due to lack of authority on the issue.
Reminder Publishing photo by Laura Mason

MONSON — Monson residents voted to appropriate $1 million for the replacement of the Palmer Water Pollution Control Facility roof as well as the roof of pump station 1 and 2 during the Nov. 6 Town Meeting.

During the discussion on Article 16, multiple residents came forward to highlight concerns about the impact of this project on their sewer bills. Water and Sewer Department Superintendent Craig Jalbert answered residents’ questions, explaining that the town will only borrow the funds if the project is completed and that the cost of the project will fall exclusively on residents who use the Palmer facility.

Jalbert described the various costs to residents depending on how long the town takes to repay the money. He stated that the “best case scenario” was an additional $50 each year for every account if the money is borrowed for 20 years. This is the longest repayment option and would result in the town ultimately paying $1.5 million. Alternatively, the town could repay the money in 10 years, which would cost residents an additional $80 each year and result in a final cost of $1.24 million to the town, he said.

“We have to decide how that’s all going to play out,” Jalbert said, stating that the town has not yet decided which repayment option to choose.

Similarly, residents also brought forward concerns about Article 9, which appropriated funds for an animal inspector stipend salary account, as noted in the warrant. While most supported the transferring of funds, residents disagreed with the use of a permit fee to raise the funds.

Finance Director Jamie Farnum highlighted that a potential departmental revolving fund to cover the required $7,500 could be discussed at the annual Town Meeting but could not be proposed at the Nov. 6 special Town Meeting.

Resident Robert Skalbite, a local farmer and former animal inspector for Monson, responded to Farnum’s statement, stating that the $75 permit fee was high when compared to typical costs for farms. This article was the only vote to fail.

The meeting also discussed two citizen petitions. The first, Article 25, called for the reversal of the Sept. 12 Board of Selectman decision to allow the Monson Fire Department to use the House of Art as temporary housing and to demolish the building after this use. Monson Arts Council Vice President Reed Coles, who made the petition, explained that this article was designed to eliminate the Selectmen’s decision because it was only supported by “a minority.” This article passed.

The other petition, Article 26, was declared inappropriate by Town Moderator Peter Matrow. This article called for the dismissal of Town Administrator Jennifer Wolowicz due to concerns of verbal abuse toward residents. Matrow stated that, after research, he concluded that Town Meeting does not have the authority to make such a decision, leading to the immediate rejection of the article.

All other articles passed during Town Meeting. This included the unanimous support for the bylaw changes in Articles 22, 23, and 24 as well as discussions on the veterans’ district in Article 10, funds for Flynt Park trail improvements in Article 20, and the costs for ongoing town projects described in Articles 11, 12 and 14.

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