Local Government and Politics, News

Thumbs down for slower speed limit in Swampscott at Town Meeting

SWAMPSCOTT — Voters at Monday night’s special Town Meeting surprisingly chose not to approve an article on the warrant that would have allowed the town to directly set 20 mph safety zones without state review and approval.

With the eighth and final article on the brief Town Meeting warrant, members were asked to vote to accept the provisions of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90 Section 18B, allowing the Board of Selectmen “to establish safety zones with a speed limit of 20 mph on, at or near any way in the town that is not a state highway, and if a state highway, with the approval of the Department of Transportation.”

The motion to approve the article, made by Laura Spathanas, vice-chair of the Board of Selectmen, was defeated, 111-84, after a standing vote.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald previously said that the safety zones would have been where there is the most pedestrian traffic, with the change aimed at pedestrian safety. He said the requested change related to a Town Meeting warrant article approved this past spring that established a town speed limit of 25 mph.

Stephen Iannaccone, a Town Meeting member, said that he thought it was too soon for the town to make an additional change after a speed limit reduction had just been made in the spring.

All of the other voting articles related to town finances. Town Meeting members approved a $75,000 budget reduction with the fourth article, including a reduction of $50,000 for employee group/health and a $25,000 reduction for property & casualty.

Jill Sullivan, a member of the Finance Committee, said the town now knows exactly how many employees will be taking health insurance.

Fitzgerald said the changes approved will reduce the town budget and therefore reduce the levy. Prior to the meeting, he said the reductions to the FY18 budget recommended with the warrant articles would be the first time in modern memory that the town has made a mid-year budget reduction.

Town Meeting members approved a transfer of $3,323.95 from available funds to pay unpaid bills from prior years’ expenditures. The article allows the town to pay for services it budgeted for and purchased in FY17, but vendor invoices for those services were not processed until after the close of the fiscal year. Funds would be allocated from free cash.

An article dealing with how the town would use premiums earned with the sale of bonds was also approved. Article five “reflects changes in the law that allows premiums earned on the sale of bonds to be allocated toward the projects that are being funded, thereby reducing the amount needed to borrow.” Fitzgerald said the article allows the town to take advantage of some language in the Municipal Modernization bill, signed into law by the Baker-Polito administration last year.

Much of the night was allocated to a special report from the Board of Selectmen on the state of the town’s finances, which included a discussion on FY18 real estate tax setting and the FY19 budget process. Fitzgerald said the town is moving toward a zero-based budgeting philosophy and the goal is to have budgets that are a little tighter.

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