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UPDATED May 9: The third session of the 2023 annual Town Meeting, on Monday, May 1, returned to a slower deliberation, supporting town and capital budgets, as amended, and completing 25 of 72 articles, before adjourning to Wednesday, May 3.

After postponing Article 12 (artificial turf) to May 8, the meeting held discussions and took actions about a variety of budgets.

An amendment by Mark Kaepplein (9) to defund the diversity, equity & inclusion department and route the money to inspections was defeated. See the votes here >>

Article 37, 38: Town, capital budgets

Town Meeting approved Article 37, Arlington’s overall budget of $167,755,511, with 200 Town Meeting members voting for it, eight voting in opposition and four abstaining.

As to Article 38, Town Meeting first adopted, 107-85-19, an amendment by Judith Garber of Precinct 4 to the capital planning budget, reducing its original proposed $9.5 million total by $15,000. Town Meeting then endorsed the overall capital budget, 204-7-0.

But officials emphasized that approval of the Garber amendment did not necessarily eliminate its intended target – the proposed $15,000 acquisition of the BolaWrap. This is “a de-escalation tool for those who are noncompliant” as described by police Chief Juliann Flaherty.

“We don’t carry tasers in Arlington,” Flaherty said, as these are pain-based. She called the BolaWrap safer than tasers, batons or beanbag rounds. “I have been [Bola] wrapped myself – there is no pain.”

It would be up to the town manager as to how to apply the $15,000 cut to the budget, Town Moderator Greg Christiana said. Town Manager Sandy Pooler indicated that the police have many tools at their disposal -- and discretion as to their use. Timur Kaya Yontar, chair of the Capital Planning Committee and presenter of the capital budget, called the BolaWrap part of a “continuum” of law-enforcement methods, a “helpful step in between” and effective to “immobilize” residents who do not follow police commands.

A number condemn BolaWrap

Half-a-dozen speakers including Garber condemned the BolaWrap – which is roughly the size of a large television remote, ejects two Kevlar tethers with four-pronged hooks at each end designed to catch onto clothing and is meant to be used below elbow level -- as dangerous and inhumane.

Anna J. Henkin (6) said she believes the BolaWrap “can result in stitches, it can strangle you, it can knock out an eye,” concluding, “I don’t think this is the right option for Arlington.”

Lynette Culverhouse (11), noting that she has worked with people who have developmental delays, mental-health issues and addictions, said that using it likely would “only further escalate whatever trauma [the vulnerable] are going through.” 

Sarah Doyle McKinnon (20) said that the tool was very loud, which would be detrimental to people distressed and confused, and that the money would be better used toward more training for officers. “I don’t feel confident in this technology. We can do better,” she said.

Xavid Pretzer (17) said that “these are weapons” that could “exacerbate a crisis” and was also in favor of the amendment.

Sanjay S. Newton (10) acknowledged that “[Town Meeting members] don’t get to decide these actual [line items] that are there” within the budget,” to which Town Counsel Doug Heim answered, “Correct.” Newton said that he would nevertheless vote for the Garber amendment. 

Article 37 ― Appropriation/town budgets

This article, inserted at Town Manager Sandy Pooler’s request, seeks to make appropriations to defray town obligations, liabilities and expenses relating to the town’s boards, departments and other matters.

Pooler said that expenses haven’t changed, but “there’s a little extra money in this budget because it covers the period from July 1 to July 28, when I retire,” said Pooler. Arlington’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Budget Director Julie Wayman said that staff salary increases are needed because of the timing of contract settlements, staff reclassifications, staff changes and increases in hours.

Legal budget

In response to a query from Kaepplein (9) about workers’ compensation claims, Deputy Town Counsel Mike Cunningham said that the workers’ compensation budget is included in the insurance budget, $580,000. “We have pending workers’ compensation claims, for which the town is self-insured. We pay 60 percent pursuant to the state statute of any worker who’s out of work for any period of time, and our weekly indemnity payments are typically around $6,600 per week.”

Kaepplein also asked whether Arlington is looking at any lawsuits from bad inspections that homeowners later had problems with; Town Counsel Doug Heim said no.

Planning, community development budget

Chris Loreti (7) expressed concern that next year’s Planning and Community Development budget is almost $800,000, “which seems a bit rich to me. In 2011, it was just over $237,000. There’s been inflation, but, when you do the adjustment, the increase in 2023 dollars is more than 2.5 times more. How does the town justify or rationalize that increase?”

Loreti added, “When I did that same comparison for the Board of Assessors and the Department of Assessing, this year’s budget is 20 percent less than in 2011. This type of spending increase cannot be sustained, and we need more discipline in our spending growth.”

Pooler replied, “We justified the Department of Planning and Community Development’s budget because it provides essential services that residents ask for. This is one of the town’s strongest departments, and they do an enormous amount of work on zoning and planning. They have specialists in economic development, transportation, conservation and energy issues, and look at an enormous number of issues. The salary increases have been less than 2.5 percent. This is a budget that is important and not out of proportion to our needs.”

Annie LaCourt (13) said that several positions were covered for many years by Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding that didn’t appear in this budget. “The real number for salaries is the taxation total, $635,032. Also, 13 years ago we didn’t have a sustainability manager, environmental planner and economic development coordinator -- and the need for them seems obvious to me.”

Director of Planning and Community Development Claire Ricker said that in the year she’s been in her position, “My staff has brought in more than this amount in grants and other funding mechanisms. Each position does the work and brings in value and funds to the town that allows us to do the projects we need to do.”

Adam Auster (20) then asked how much the town gets in grants. Ricker replied that she’d be “happy to report back with those, should anybody need that information. Since I’ve been here, we’ve received over $300,000 in transportation-design funding, and we’ve recently been awarded a $1 million earmark through [state Rep. Katherine] Clark’s office to evaluate pathways between the Mystic and the Minuteman Bikeway. We’ve also received funding to electrify Arlington.”

Pooler added that the town’s financial plan, which is on the town’s website, lists the grants that the Planning and Community Development department received.

“This is a high-value department, and every cent we’re spending here is worthwhile,” said Paul Schlichtman (9).

Carl Wagner (15), however, said he thinks this department can save money by refraining from expensive studies that staff members could do instead. “It’s how the department worked in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Mona Mandal (9) asked what the department is doing to bring in new businesses. Ricker said her department intends to work diligently on economic development moving forward. “Retention of commercial space is the utmost priority in a town that doesn’t have a split tax code.”

Public works budget

Beth Ann Friedman (15) said, “I put a hold on this budget because of the large percentage increases in salaries for 2024 over previous years. These increases reflect flat salaries for three years.” 

Susan Stamps (3) requested shade structures, such as awnings, on Broadway Plaza, noting that it is a heat island and gets very hot in the summer. However, there’s no funding for this, said Director of Public Works Michael Rademacher.

Facilities budget

Barbara Thornton (16), who helped establish this department, requested progress reports about how it was going to run, what it would deliver and whether it’s meeting its goals. Pooler responded, “We do report on what the Facilities Department has done. The annual report and town’s financial plan discuss goals, objectives and accomplishments.”

Director of Facilities Robert Bahrent said, “We initiated a couple of facility condition assessments, which can predict where we are with deficits and maintenance.”

Police, fire budgets

The Arlington Police Department has a social worker who focuses primarily on the homeless and whose salary is split between the police and health and human services departments. Chief Flaherty said that a clinician -- a mental-health professional -- embedded in the police department works full time with those experiencing mental-health issues and substance abuse, but, generally, during business hours only; her department also a part-time substance-abuse recovery coach. Flaherty said her hope is eventually to hire an additional clinician, who could work outside business hours.

No one spoke to the Fire Department budget.

Inspectional services, health and human services budgets

Kaepplein proposed to take away $184,624 from health and human services and increase the inspection budget by $95,962, saying that the difference would be a savings to the town. He said his intent was to get rid of the department of diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, saying that DEI is not needed in a relatively small, relatively homogeneous town.

Town Moderator Greg Christiana cautioned against such “granularity,” saying, “Town Meeting doesn’t have the authority to make such a fine-grained change.” 

Pooler praised the DEI department and its head, Jillian Harvey, and said that “Inspections does not need this money.” Pooler urged defeat of the amendment and was supported by Finance Committee Chair Christine Deshler, saying that her committee likewise does not micromanage department spending. The Kaepplein amendment failed, 8 to 199 to 4.

Education budget

Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Homan said the APS budget includes some 25 additional full-time equivalent positions, including teachers, librarians, special-education professionals and theater managers. Asked how teacher salaries stack up against those of comparable communities, she said that the district had made “significant progress” but is “still lagging behind.” She said she is taking a “measured approach” with the goal to “get into a competitive range,” be in the 60th percentile and also have a staff that more nearly reflects the diversity of the student body.

Retirement budget, reserve fund, water/sewer

A brief discussion took place on what Rademacher,called the “counterintuitive” realities of encouraging water conservation. Using less water does not automatically translate into lower bills because of ongoing costs of infrastructure maintenance and other factors. “Sometimes rates need to go up when consumption goes down,” he said.

Article 3: Reports of Committees

Several town committees submitted their reports.

Remote Participation Study Committee: Mustafa Varoglu (10), committee chair, said this committee seeks to improve remote access to in-person meetings. 

“To understand the interpersonal, logistical, technical challenges and opportunities around hybrid meetings, we surveyed the members and public attendees of Arlington’s boards, commissions and committees, and found there is a continuing interest in hybrid meetings. We implemented a pilot program that determined that successful hybrid meetings are possible with the right technology. 

“The town now has several rooms equipped to handle hybrid meetings, and materials are available on the town website to allow public bodies to make key decisions on the running of their own hybrid meetings.” The report was unanimously accepted.

Arlington High School Building Committee: Jeff Thielman (12), committee chair, said, “We’re building a school designed for 1,755 students, at a cost of $290.4 million, with $84.7 million coming from the Mass School Building Authority.”

He said the project is on budget and has four phases: (1) science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) and performance arts wings, completed in April 2022; (2) humanities wing, central spine and forum stairs, library, cafeteria, outdoor learning courtyard, preschool and district offices, completion due in December; (3) athletics wing, black-box theater and outdoor amphitheater, completion due December 2024; and (4) site work, parking, landscaping, finishing athletic fields, lighting and connection to Minuteman Bikeway, completion due September 2025. The report was unanimously accepted.

Arlington Public Schools Report: Kirsi Allison-Ampe (13), Arlington School Committee chair, submitted the report, which was unanimously accepted.

Arlington Finance Committee: Christine Deshler (19), committee chair, submitted the reports, which were unanimously accepted.

LeRoyer honored

During this Town Meeting session, Ann LeRoyer (17) received a proclamation from the Select Board.

Her service – with Town Meeting, Open Space Committee, Master Plan Advisory and Implementation committees, Historic and Cultural Resources Working Group, Mill Brook Corridor Study Group, Public Land Management Working Group and Arlington Reservoir Committee -- spans more than two decades.

“There’s no open space or major project in Arlington where Ann’s influence has not been felt,” Select Board Chairman Eric Helmuth said.

The Select Board hereby names May 1, 2023, as ‘Ann LeRoyer Day’ throughout the town,” Helmuth said.

Town Meeting members gave LeRoyer hearty applause and a standing ovation. 

“This is really amazing. Thank you,” LeRoyer said. “I also want to thank everybody else who’s a wonderful volunteer for the town. We all love Arlington, and I’m glad that I, and all of you, can be a part of it.” 

Read notes by Chistian Klein (10) here >>

Watch the May 1 meeting on ACMi:

ACMi provides live coverage on the Government channel (Comcast 22, RCN 614, Verizon 26) and streaming live at The locally based cable television station also typically will rebroadcast each session multiple times. 

Special Town Meeting 

Articles updated in the annotated warrant

STM 3: Presentation by Sandy Pooler and Chief Flaherty

Articles Updated in the Annotated Warrant

Article 31: Background materials, Kristin Anderson, Precinct 11

 Order of articles May 1

The town reported earlier that on Monday, May 1, the meeting planned to first take up Article 37, the town budget. 

 Appendix B will be used to review each sub-budget in order.

ACMi catches Arlington visit from Nagaokakyo:

Members may want to study the school budget report as well, which details how the schools spend the money and other sources of revenue. The superintendent spoke and was available to answer questions about the school budget.

After that, the meeting plans to consider Article 38,the report of the Capital Planning Committee.

Time permitting, the meeting had planned to address Article 9, postponed from April 24.

Town Meeting is scheduled to continue taking place each Monday evening and Wednesday evening from 8 to 11 p.m. until it has finished its work. The meetings take place in Town Hall, 730 Mass. Ave., and are also broadcast in real time byACMi local public television station on its government channel.

The Town Meeting dashboard reports positive votes on Articles 16, 17, and 19 through 23. 

The annotated warrant for the annual Town Meeting is available, but it does not contain the vote language or comments on the financial articles. They are to be added soon. 

Updates to the annotated warrant (amendments, substitute motions and presentations or statements are linked at the bottom of each article in the Additional Materials section):

Article 6 – Presentation submitted by John D. Leone, Precinct 8
Article 6 – Amendment by Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 6 – Presentation by Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 9 – Substitute Motion, Adam Badik, Precinct 5
Article 10 – Presentation by Clean Energy Future Committee
Article 10 – Letter from Pat Hanlon, Precinct 5
 Article 12 – FAQ submitted by Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Statement from the Board of Health (handout was on the table Wed) 
Article 12 – Letter from Program for Global Public Health submitted by Robin Bergman, Precinct 12
Article 12 – Letter from Greg Dennis, Precinct 1
Article 12 – Letter from Shaw Industries submitted by Larry Slotnick, Precinct 7
Article 12 – Letter from Sierra Club of Massachusetts submitted by Beth Melofchik, Precinct 9
Article 12 – Letter re: Helihon Study, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 – Letter responding to Greg Dennis, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 12 - background on PFAS in Shaw Turf, Jordan Weinstein, Precinct 21
Article 14 – Substitute Motion, Lenard Diggins, Precinct 3
Article 29 – video by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 17 – Presentation by Larry Slotnick, Precinct 7
Article 19 – Background information, Paul Schlichtman, Precinct 9
Article 29 – Presentation by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – video by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Presentation by James Fleming, submitted by Vincent Baudoin, Precinct 1
Article 30 – Statement from Chris Loreti, Precinct 7
Article 37 - Presentation on the APS Budget
Article 37 – Arlington Public Schools FY24 Report
Article 37 – Amendment by Mark Kaepplein, Precinct 9
Article 38 – Amendment by Judith Garber, Precinct 4
Article 38 – Letter submitted by Pat Hanlon, Precinct 5 and Alham Saadat, Precinct 4
Article 38 – Presentation of the Capital Planning Committee 
Article 48 – Conservation Commission Water Bodies Report
Article 49 – Presentation submitted by Liz Exton, Precinct 13

See the Town Meeting dashboard >>

A Special Town Meeting took place Wednesday, May 3, and residents can read the PDF version of that warrant. The STM annotated warrant is expected to be available after the hearings have been held and that report completed. 

For the first time in years, the draft warrant for the annual Town Meeting was available to the public notably early, on Feb. 24, in advance of article hearings. That document has since been updated to the final warrant. Read it here >>

Further information about 19 citizen articles >> 

Select Board, public discuss articles: Round 1Round 2Artificial turfRound 3Round 4 and Round 5

The following reports are available:

2022 Annual Town Report 

Arlington Redevelopment Board

Select Board

Capital Planning Committee

CPA Committee

CDBG Report

Remote Participation Study Committee

Robbins Library update on ATM 2019, Article 38 

Arlington Public Schools FY24

Conservation Commission Water Bodies Report 

AHS Building Project Report 

YourArlington's main 2023 Town Meeting link >> 

This news summary was published Tuesday, May 9, 2023, based on reporting by YourArlington freelancer Susan Gilbert and Assistant Editor Judith Pfeffer, who merged the reports. It was updated later that day to correct a term in the headline and to make numerous small wording adjustments throughout the text.