Wilmington's Annual Town Meeting, scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m., is officially underway at 10:57 a.m. at Wilmington High School. Check back throughout the day for live updates.
10:58 a.m.: Selectman Michael McCoy said this is the first time in his lengthy tenure that he can remember having to wait for a quorum of 150 people to start town meeting.
There are still plenty of good seats available, as it took until 10:57 a.m. for the 150th registered voter to arrive. Though the quorum was reached, it was not surpassed by many.
The Wilmington Minutemen have presented the flag, and residents said the pledge of allegiance before things get started.
Town Moderator Jim Stewart is going over the guidelines for the meeting, stressing the importance of civility during discussion.
"I have always stated that we will deal with each other respectfully," said Stewart. "There will be no personal or character attacks, questions on individuals, or general disrespect. Violation will result in immediate removal from this meeting. These are what I call the rules of civility and I will enforce them strictly."
11:21 a.m.: With little to no debate and only about 15 minutes total time elapsed, Wilmington voters approved the proposed operating budget of $78,718,090.
Stewart quipped after the final line item was approved, "And that was a record."
11:32 a.m.: It's difficult to type as fast as voters are approving articles.
After just about 30 minutes, residents have already cranked through 12 items.
Among those approved - a variety of new equipment for town departments, a replacement roof at Wildwood Early Childhood Center, an upgraded fire alarm system at North Intermediate School and Woburn Street School, installation of a high-energy efficient forced hot air furnace at Boutwell Early Childhood Center, replacement windows and doors at Wilmington Memorial Library, and improvement to various school and recreation play areas.
And before I can finish this post, Article 12 and Article 13 were passed without opposition.
11:42 a.m.: With all budget items approved in numerical order (16 total), items are now being brought to a vote in a randomly drawn order.
Article 32 was the first pulled, and it was passed over. Next up is Article 34, which resident Mark Nelson is now speaking about at the microphone. Article 34 is to see if the town will vote to amend, update and revise the "Official Map" of Wilmington.
The Finance Committee does not support the article, saying it was their understandment was that the Engineering Department had updated maps and the filing with the registry of deeds was not needed.
"I don't see how that could possibly be," said Nelson. "To my knowledge they haven't updated anything."
"I just want to assure everybody that the town has updated maps," said Town Manager Michael Caira. "If the body votes for this nothing changes. If the body doesn't vote for this, nothing changes."
Article 34 was defeated, which was submitted by petition by Nelson, though there was some vocal support of it.
11:58 a.m.: Currently being debated is Article 24, which would put regulations on pawn brokers.
Resident Karl Sagal said at the microphone that he questions the way the article is worded.
"I believe the way this is written it may impact potential individuals it was not intendend for," said Sagal. "I believe it is a broad statement as who it is intended for."
Police Chief Michael Begonis spoke about the article, saying there is an increase in theft in addition to breaking an enterings during the down economy. Items stolen are often brought to pawn shops.
"This is for busineses that are established with an address in town," said Police Chief Michael Begonis. "It's the way police officers are able to go in and regain the stolen property of others. It's not designed to be 'Big Brother.'"
The article passed uncontested.
12:01 p.m.: Stewart just made an announcement that got a laugh out of those in attendance. "I informed you at the beginning of the meeting that I would let you know when pizza has arrived," said Stewart. "I have now fulfilled that obligation."
12:10 p.m.: Another of Nelson's proposed articles was in front of voters, as Article 28 asked residents to limit the number of terms a Board of Selectmen member can serve to two terms.
"Most of the town's bylaws and the way it's set up, it mostly favors incumbents," said Nelson.
"I think the Town of Wilmington is capable of deciding who their officials should be, and that's the way it should stay," said Caira.
"We do have term limits in place already," said current selectman Michael Champoux. "It's called Election Day."
The article failed and another Nelson petition item was discussed next. Article 36 was quickly defeated.
12:25 p.m.: Article 30 brought the first counted vote of the day, as zoning articles require a 2/3 majority.
By an 87-35 vote, it passed.
12:50 p.m.: Since Article 26 and Article 27 are geared towards the same subject, they will be addressed together and Article 27 was withdrawn.
The topic at hand is changing the Town Charter to say that the Town Manager does not need to be a resident of Wilmington at the time he or she is hired.
Caira is scheduled to retired within the next two years, so the Board of Selectmen will likely be looking to fill his position in the near future.
"The Board of Selectmen brought this article foreward in light of the petitioned article, which certainly I thought was a good idea," said Selectman Michael Newhouse, who said the process is expected to happen in 2012.
Resident Karl Sagal spoke on the article.
"If someone from California or from some other town wants to apply, I think that's fine," said Sagal. "When he is appointed, however, he should be asked to live in town. I don't believe a non-resident is going to have the same investment as a resident of the town. It's difficult to say if the garbage is being collected if you are not living in town."
And amendment was passed to change the verbage of the article. Rather than referring as the potential Town Manager as "He" and "His," voters changed the wording to "He/She" and "His/Her."
"When you live in this town you become part of the community," said one resident at the microphone. "If you don't live here, I don't think you'll get that. Because (Caira) lives in town, he puts that effort into it. I don't think you'll get that from someone who doesn't live in town."
Caira thanked residents for kind words, and said lightheartedly that they may find it strange that he is opposed to this article.
"What you need to do is hire someone with commitment and someone who has skin in the game because he is a good Manager, not because he lives in Wilmington," said Caira, who pointed out that Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton lives in Winchester. "I wouldn't want to eliminate people who can provide to the Town of Wilmington the way we've expected. I don't think it matters in the end where they lay their head on the pillow."
Article 26, as ammended, required a counted vote after Stewart was unable to determine the result following the vocal vote.
Despite the need for the counted vote, the item passed by a lopsided tally. The total was 98-13 in favor of the change.
"It sounds like we're all in agreement that Mike Caira should not retire and should continue doing the great job he has done," said Stewart, who then joked, "And I'll entertain a motion to take that to a vote."
1:10 p.m.: Another zoning article is up for fairly debate, with residents finding themselves on each side of the issue.
Article 31 asks voters to change an area on Ballardvale Street from residential to general business.
A non-resident who did a feasibility study for the petitioning party said that his research showed a hotel would be the highest and best use for the location.
The Planning Board's official stance is that they strongly disagree with the article.
After a counted vote, the motion failed.
1:57 p.m.: The discussion that took place on Article 24 dealing with pawn brokers continues now with Article 23. It is "a sister article" as Begonis said, dealing with second hand junk, old metals or second hand articles.
"This article does not prohibit people from exchanging goods," said Begonis. "It regulates them in that they have to take the name of the person exchanging the goods. Large amounts of metal are stolen from construction sites on a regular basis. We've previous in town lost entire bleacher sections for the aluminum. What we're asking is to allow for the recording of the individual turning in the material so we can go back at a later date and review the books administratively and be able to find missing or stolen goods."
An ammendment for 23.1.1 was offered to change the wording of that portion. "And who maintain a shop for the purchase, share or purchase of such articles," is part of the proposed addition to the section.
By a wide margin, the proposed article failed. One local pawn shop owner in opposition of the article said, "This article will put me out of business."
The question was called after more thant 30 minutes of debate. The voice vote was unclear, so tellers were called to take a standing count. By a 81-33 margin, the article passed.
2:34 p.m.: Article 22 asks voters to decide if there should be a curfew on town parks, playgrounds and fields.
"Currently the signage in town is inconsistent," said Begonis. "This is not designed to stop an individual from going for a run on the track at 5 a.m. It's designed to give use the chance to control access to the places where the vandalism is occuring."
A proposed ammendment to the wording of the item failed by a wide margin.
"If you don't have this curfew it leads to vandalism," said resident Rosemary Russo. "I think it's wonderful that our law enforcement keep on these kids."
Kathleen Reynolds was one of the residents to speak against the curfew.
"I think there are alternatives to this article to keep the kids off the property when they shouldn't be there," said Reynolds.
Stewart passed on the verbal vote and went straight to the standing tally because of the amount of discussion held on the item. By a 63-52 count, the curfew passed.
2:41 p.m.: No opposition to Article 33, which passed by a voice vote. Next up is discussion on Article 29.
3:04 p.m.: George Lingenfelter's petitioned article asking to put regulations on the type of fences that can be placed on properties was soundly defeated after a fairly lengthy debate.
3:45 p.m.: One of the larger items on the docket for Town Meeting is now up for debate.
Article 19 asks residents if they approve of an optional local meals tax of about 0.75% that could raise at least $300,000 that can be used in the town's budget.
On a $100 dining bill, the tax would result in a 75 cent addition.
Selectman Michael Newhouse said that while adding a tax during a down economy can be difficult, this particular one would have more of an impact on out of town visitors.
"I certainly understand the difficulty of the word tax, and I don't take it lightly," said Newhouse. "One of the arguments I've heard against this measure is that 'A tax is a tax is a tax.' I do believe there are differences between various taxes. An optional tax like this would largely be subsidized by folks that largely don't live in town."
Selectman Michael Champoux, however, spoke against the article.
"I think we should take a stand and send a message to state legislature that Wilmington is not OK with digging deeper into residents' pockets," said Champoux. "When does it stop?"
Sagal also spoke against the new tax.
"There are no new taxes I support," said Sagal. "Once the camel's nose is under the tent, then the camel is under the tent. Everyone talks about the slippery slope, and this is the slippery slope. We don't need to increase our speed."
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, the vote has been called. The vocal vote was too close to call, so tellers were called upon for a standing tally. While they approached, Stewart joked, "We have one more article to go, and when we're done I am going out to eat, and I'm going to eat in Wilmington."
By a total count of 65-29, the local meals tax passed.
3:47 p.m.: In just under five hours, Town Meeting has come to an end. Article 20 was the final item voted on, and it passed without opposition.
The vote to adjourn had just one voter oppose it, though he did so with a smile.
Thanks for following Wilmington Patch during our Town Meeting coverage, and enjoy the rest of your weekend.