Town Moderator Peter Matrow reads Article 26 to attendees of the May 13 Monson Town Meeting.
Reminder Publishing photo by Laura Mason

MONSON — During the May 13 Monson special and annual Town Meetings, 35 of the 46 discussed recommendations received unanimous support from residents.

Peter Matrow, who has served as town moderator since 2016, stated that the total was “probably a record in my term.” He emphasized that the high number of unanimously passed articles demonstrated the hard work of the Finance Committee as well as Finance Director Jamie Farnum and Town Clerk Mary Watson.

Monson’s Town Meetings began with its special meeting, which discussed 10 articles relating to town operations, the Monson Fire Department and water or sewer projects. During the voting period, all articles in the special Town Meeting passed.

Each was passed unanimously except for minimal disagreement surrounding article 5 and 7. Article 5 transferred $50,000 for town employees’ post-employment benefits while Article 7 transferred $100,000 for incidental costs during the renovation of the Monson Fire Department.

In the Annual Town Meeting portion, 27 of the 36 article recommendations passed unanimously. This included article 36, which passed unanimously following an amendment to include an exception for nonprofit organizations, such as scouting associations, from requiring a solicitation license.

Another amendment was proposed for Article 10’s annual budget. Proposed by resident Roxanne Gunther, the amendment requested that the $10,400 Town Administrator car allowance be removed from the Select Board staff salaries line within the General Government section of the fiscal year 2025 budget.

In her explanation of the amendment, Gunther stated that Town Administrator Jennifer Wolowicz did not need such a large car allowance because she lived close to her workplace.

In response, Select Board Chair Patricia Oney explained that the $10,400 was included as part of negotiations with Wolowicz, stating that the board “wanted to give Mrs. Wolowicz another $10,000 based on our negotiation position.”

“In the name of trying to be transparent as we could, rather than just adding that $10,000 to the bottom line of the contract, we decided that we were going to take it out of that bottom line and call it something else to make it very clear that it was part of the negotiation process to add that $10,000 in,” Oney said.

After discussion, town vounsel attorney Ken Albano stated that the funds could not be taken from the town administrator car allowance if the amendment was approved because it was part of a mutually agreed-upon contract. Instead, the $10,400 would need to be taken from another part of the salary line. At the vote, this amendment failed and the entire article passed as originally written.

Both citizen petition articles failed during Annual Town Meeting. Article 16 requested funds to purchase electronic clickers to use for voting at Town Meetings. During discussion, multiple town officials cautioned residents that electronic voting was not anonymous and that all votes would be considered publicly accessible records. Likewise, concerns were also raised about the cost of the clickers, how many should be purchased, how to maintain the clickers and the process of buying or leasing the products.

Article 17 requested that the Select Board size be increased from three to five members. This proposal was previously brought forward during Annual Town Meeting in 2022 and 2023, failing during both meetings. While Gunther, who brought forward the petition, argued that a larger body would allow greater “diversity of thought,” others stated that this was not guaranteed and that a larger body would delay decisions.

Another topic that was discussed at length was Article 35, which requested that 189.62 acres of Rural Residential-zoned land be changed to a Commercial Recreational zoning. During discussion, property owner Robin Carpenter explained that only 50 acres of this land would be utilized for camp sites within Sunsetview Farm Camping Area, the current use of the property, with the remaining land to be kept wooded for privacy. Abutters questioned whether this change would increase traffic in the area. The article passed with a close vote to meet its two-thirds majority requirement.

All other articles in the annual meeting passed with few negative votes. Article 25, 26, 29, 30, 31 and 32 all passed within the Finance Committee’s recommendation to take no action.

Following the completion of the two warrants, Matrow reappointed Finance Committee members Alec Barkett, Nancy Johnson, Maureen O’Sullivan and Kenneth Parkes for a three-year term. Their new terms will expire in May 2027, he stated.

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