Monday it was a special Fall Town Meeting in Essex. Tuesday was Manchester’s turn.
For both, perhaps because the weather was cold and rainy, attendance was relatively light. This is typical for non-annual town meetings, but each was particularly thin with 114 registered voters checking in Monday at the Essex Elementary School “cafetorium” (cafeteria/auditorium) and just over 200 showed up at Manchester Memorial School gymnasium.
In Manchester, there were just five articles on the warrant, but those articles were pretty packed with “business.” They were billed as “critical decisions for the current and future affairs of the town that impact the quality of life here in our corner of the world.” Manchester voters approved reclassifying a six-acre lot of town-owned land deep in the Manchester-Essex woods (along an old cart road) to formally place it under conservation protection. The parcel is part of a 500-acre area of undeveloped land. Steve Gang, chairman of the Conservation Commission said the parcel is small but important. It’s “another piece of the puzzle,” he said. “We’re committed to it being as natural as possible.”
The project to renovate the Town Common in front of Town Hall, including a new layout with greater green space and new paver walkways, new code compliant ADA access to Town Hall and new lighting passed, but not after animated comments by voters. Cost, the placement of the veterans’ memorial, the inclusion of Trask House renovations in the project were all up for comment. To no avail. To clarify the issue, Town Moderator Alan Wilson spliced the question in two, and asked for a vote. First, the renovation of the Town Common passed easily, 128 to 61. Then, the renovation of the Trask House passed even easier, 169 to 35.
Articles 4 and 5, both connected to creating a new composting facility at the existing town transfer station site located on upper School Street, were introduced by BOS Chairman Eli Boling. He got right to the point, that composting isn’t about environmental issues as much as it is about economics. “There’s been a lot of evolution in the waste management,” he said, “But tipping fees of waste management are based on weight. A big part of that weight is organic material that can be composed. And tipping fees are projected to increase substantially.”
The moving of the facility would essentially mean authorizing the BOS to enter into long-term lease with Black Earth Compost, the locally-based company that has been managing curbside compost pick-up and operating from a leased town-owned site on School Street.
Connected to this was Article 5 which sought approval for up to $300,000 for the town’s share of the cost for the new, enclosed composting facility. Total costs of the enclosed structure, new equipment and related site work is expected to be about $1 million. Other funds are to come from a $400,000 state grant and $350,000 from Black Earth. The town’s payback period is anticipated to be less than four years as compared to trying to provide curbside compost services without a facility in town.
Article 4 for the lease passed easily, 174 to 19. Then, in turn, Article 5 passed even easier, 183 to 2.