Seekonk Town Meeting Approves Putting Animal Shelter Project on Ballot and New Town Bylaws
Voters at the Special Town Meeting on Feb. 27 approved eight articles. Turnout for the meeting was very low, with less than 100 people in attendance.
One of the most highly debated articles concerned a new animal shelter. After much discussion, town meeting gave approval to move forward on the construction of the shelter. The vote did not approve the funds for the project. The funds will be approved in a ballot question. The cost of the new shelter is expected to be between $750,000 and $950,000 depending on whether a new septic system is required. The cost will probably be lower, according to Town Administrator Shawn Cadime, because Save-A-Pet has committed $200,000 to the project. Jan Parker, a founding member of Save-a-Pet, confirmed this at the meeting. The remainder will be paid through a debt exclusion, or temporary override of Proposition 2 ½. The tax increase, if the project costs $950,000, will be approximately $12 annually on an average $300,000 home, and may be less. The Finance Committee did not recommend approval because they said it was very last minute and they hadn’t seen any details on the project. Others felt the town should not spend the money right now.
Supporters of the project said that the conditions at the animal shelter are “deplorable” for both animals and workers. They said that shelter employees frequently find mouse droppings on their desks. They noted that this project has been planned for years and that it is time to act on it. Originally the plans called for an addition to the current shelter, but after putting it out to bid five different times (and receiving no bids on two of those occasions) the lowest bid was $645,000 for just the addition. The town felt it made more sense financially to construct a new building.
Cadime said the article on the project was expedited to put on the special town meeting agenda because the town wants to start the project this spring. The proposed design for the new shelter includes offices, dog kennels, cat area, waiting room, exam room, laundry room, food prep room, quarantine area, and rest rooms. The article passed with the required 2/3rd majority.
Another major article that was discussed at length was the approval of new town bylaws. The Bylaw Committee worked for more than a year reviewing the current bylaws and updating them to comply with new state regulations. The current town bylaws have not been updated in ten years. Several residents were critical of the process because residents were given two 90+ page documents, one containing the old bylaws and one with the new, updated bylaws. A member of the Bylaw Committee went through the changes in a Powerpoint presentation that was projected on a large screen. After a slow start, the presentation moved quickly.
One amendment to the updated bylaws was approved. It removed a provision saying that someone who works for another town department cannot also serve as selectman. Supporters of the amendment said it reduced the pool of applicants and should not be included in the new bylaws. Those in favor of keeping the provision said it was good because it would prevent conflicts of interest. The language was deleted.
Voters also approved the purchase of a new street sweeper for $215,000 to be paid over three years. The cost of year one of the lease is approximately $74,000. Town officials said the equipment was needed immediately because the current street sweeper broke down at the end of last year and the town doesn’t have one.
The cost to repair the old sweeper, which is eight years old, was estimated at $30,000. The town also researched the possibility of outsourcing the street sweeping, but the cost was almost as much as buying a new sweeper. The article was approved.
Other articles that were approved include:
- Amending the program guidelines for the Seekonk Economic Development Incentive Program
- Dissolving the town’s Health Insurance Trust Fund that was established when the town operated a self-insurance program and transferring the assets (approx. $775,000) to the Other Post Employment Liability Trust Fund.
- Amending the Zoning Bylaws.
- Approximately $96,000 to fund the new police contract.