SHUTESBURY — A new wetlands bylaw, proposed by the Conservation Commission after a long revision process, is the marquee article on the warrant for a Town Meeting scheduled for Jan. 16. In discussing the article with the Select Board and other officials, the chair of the board, Rita Farrell, commented on the heft of Article 3.

“There’s 13 pages of our warrant … reviewed by town Counsel,” Farrell said.

The wetlands bylaw governs many of the preservation and oversight activities of the Conservation Commission. The current bylaw was adopted about 36 years ago, in 1987, with an amendment in 1990. The update applies the regulatory responsibilities of the Conservation Commission to a more broad range of issues than the existing bylaw.

The proposed bylaw begins by outlining “values,” the many areas of town life that will be regulated by the bylaw. Sections of the bylaw address construction projects in wetlands zones and adjacent acreage, the water supply and its quality, the prevention and control of pollution, sediment, erosion and flooding.

The new bylaw also proposes new controls for the preservation of biodiversity, mitigating the damages of climate change, safeguarding rare species and protecting fisheries and wildlife.

Select Board members did not vote in favor of the bylaw itself. Members voted only to include the proposed bylaw on the warrant for the Jan. 16 meeting.
Article 1, a motion to transfer $50,000 from free cash to the account used to pay legal fees, was seconded and voted unanimously onto the warrant without discussion. The article excited disagreement in the Finance Committee, however, with three members against the motion in a 4-3 vote.

Board members needed only a general explanation of Article 2, a motion to adopt Massachusetts General Law chapter 40, section 22F, which codifies the right of town boards and committees to charge fees, when appropriate and necessary.

“Because we hadn’t adopted this there’s been a lot of discussion about the legitimacy of some of the fees we have been charging,” Farrell said. “This would take a vote of Town Meeting, that’s why it’s on the warrant.”

The Finance Committee voted 7-0 in favor of Article 2.

Article 4 requests authority to transfer $9,000 from the town’s free cash account to pay for remediation of petroleum pollution at Shutesbury’s fire station.

“This is money that’s for the work that Tighe & Bond has been doing,” Farrell said.

The Select Board and Finance Committee voted unanimously in favor of including Article 4 on the warrant. The two bodies also voted unanimously to include Article 5 on the warrant as well. Article 5 requests that $136,943 of earnings retained from the operation of the town’s municipal light plant be transferred to the Emergency Reserve fund.

Municipalities are allowed under Massachusetts General Law to operate municipal light plants, or MLPs, to facilitate the receipt and spending of monies generated by commercial activities. Shutesbury operates an MLP to enable the town’s broadband service. The article requires a 2/3 majority vote to pass after being unanimously voted for inclusion on the ballot by the Select Board and Finance Committee.

Article 6 seeks authorization to transfer $40,000 to cover the cost overruns of the Locks Pond culvert project. The project, long overdue, ran into weather-related delays that required storage of the concrete elements of the culvert at the fire station, after which charges for transport to the site of the culvert were incurred.

No discussion was required before Select Board members voted to include the motion on the warrant. There was also no discussion before Article 7 was voted for inclusion. Article 7 seeks payment of $2,500 to the Mosquito Control Board, a required expense if the town does not have an alternative plan for control of insects carrying West Nile virus, eastern equine encephalitis and other pathogens dangerous to human health. A nine-tenths vote at Town Meeting is required for passage of the motion.

The Town Meeting governed by the warrant will occur on Jan. 16 at Shutesbury Elementary School, beginning at 6 p.m.

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