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The Facts About Question 2

Letter to the editor from selectwoman Mary Steele.

On April 24 2012, the Norton voters will have the opportunity to vote on questions concerning . Question 2 seems to be the most controversial of the three questions. I understand the importance of and I support all three questions.  I am writing to address Question 2 because I believe the issue is being misrepresented. The Water/Sewer Commissioners have misrepresented Question 2 in Letters to the Editor and “vote no on Question 2, protect your right to vote” signs to mask the actual issue and lead voters to believe they will lose their right to vote by voting  “Yes” on Question 2. 

Question 2: The proposed Charter amendment will change the Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners (the “Board”) from elected to appointed and increase the size of the Board from three to five. Members of the current Board will be authorized to serve out the remainder of their elected terms, subject to their sooner resignation, retirement or recall. Thereafter, members of the Board will be appointed by the Board of Selectmen. To increase the size of the Board from three to five, the Board of Selectmen will immediately appoint one member for a term of three years and one member for a term of two years

The facts:

*The Charter Review Committee is made up of members of the Finance Committee, School Committee, Board of Assessors, Board of Selectmen and citizens at large. They spent over 15 months evaluating our charter. They volunteered their time and spent countless evenings reviewing every section of the Town’s current charter. The charter changes suggested, including Question 2, will better prepare us for the future. I think we should give careful consideration to the Charter Review Committee’s recommendations and their reasons for the changes.

*Norton’s water and sewer needs are becoming more technical and involved.  This board oversees a budget second in size only to the School Department. It is responsible for our most important resource and for millions of dollars in enterprise accounts.   As an elected board anyone can run for a position; experience is not required. The positions are often unopposed or not applied for; in fact, it is interesting to note that two of the three commissioners opposing the question were originally appointed by the Selectmen.   In addition to ensuring qualified Commissioners, increasing the number of the commissioners to 5 will assure there are enough Commissioners to meet the growing responsibilities

*Among the misleading statements, is the suggestion that if Question 2 passes, the Selectmen will deplete water/sewer reserve accounts for other purposes. This threat is ridiculous. The Board of Water/Sewer Commissioners is well aware that, any allocation of funds must be approved by a Town Meeting vote. The expenditures from Enterprise Accounts are controlled by law.

* You aren’t giving up your right to vote! Instead, voting “YES” will help to secure accountability within the Water/Sewer department (our second largest department), protect our water resources, and ensure that our sewer system meets Norton’s future needs. 

I find it unacceptable for Officials to twist facts to scare/mislead voters.  The Commissioners have twisted the facts for the public they serve.  

Based on the facts, please consider voting “Yes” on Question 2.

Mary Steele

Diane McElligott April 22, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Although Ms. Steele feels it is 'ridiculous' that water/sewer revenues or reserves would be tapped to pay other town bills, the practice is in fact widespread throughout Massachusetts and was the impetus behind a bill introduced last summer to the State legislature that sought to limit water/sewer rate increases to the same 2-1/2% limit as property taxes. By the time a budget gets to town meeting, it is effectively too late for it to be seriously questioned. Norton needs a Water/ Sewer commission accountable to the voters to ensure responsible use of rate revenues.
Chris Stolarik April 23, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Don’t be fooled, Question 2 seeks to take away your right to vote. How can one reach any other conclusion when the desire of the question is to change the position of water/sewer commissioner from elected to appointed? The argument that since sometimes the candidates for water/sewer commissioner run unopposed is reason to make the position appointed doesn’t pass muster; every year on the ballot there are several uncontested seats. In fact, Mary Steele herself ran unopposed in last year’s election.
Bill Gouveia April 23, 2012 at 02:35 PM
There is no reason in this world to vote any way but "YES" on making the Water Commissioners appointed. Each of the current commssioners first reached the board by being APPOINTED. This board needs to come under the general authority of the town manager just like the fire, police, and other large departments. Don't buy into this "they are taking away your rights" stuff. A "Yes" vote is a vote for more responsive and responsible government.

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