SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 16, 2013

Ipswich Special Town Meeting gets off to a late start

By Bethany Bray
STAFF WRITER

---- — IPSWICH — Just a handful more than 200 people, the minimum quorum required to hold a Town Meeting, came to Ipswich High School last night.

The evening’s Special Town Meeting warrant had 14 articles, on the replacement of a water main on Linebrook Road, a zoning bylaw change to limit where medical marijuana dispensaries could set up in town and other issues.

WATCH VIDEO OF THE HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ COMBO PERFORMING BEFORE TOWN MEETING

Roughly two hours into the meeting, however, the proceedings had made it through just the first six articles, all of which dealt with budget transfers and other financial issues.

The remainder of the meeting warrant was heard after the Salem News print deadline.

All of the first six articles were approved except for Article 5, which was sent to the town’s Finance Committee for further review.

The meeting started roughly 40 minutes after the posted start time of 7 p.m. Around 7:30 p.m., Town Meeting Moderator Tom Murphy announced that there were 193 people at the meeting, and “we’re waiting for seven more so we can start.”

Former selectman Jim Engel submitted the amendment to delay Article 5 and send it to the Finance Committee. Town Meeting voters supported it, 105- 76.

The article would have used $52,925 from the town’s free cash account for planning and engineering work for possible athletic fields on Mile Lane.

Engel argued that financial matters are better discussed at Ipswich’s annual Town Meeting in the spring, when residents have the town’s “full financial picture.”

Having so many financial issues on last night’s meeting warrant was an “egregious violation” of the town’s practice of discussing zoning issues at fall Town Meeting, and financial issues at spring Town Meeting, Engel said.

It’s better to discuss all the town’s money matters at once, he said.

Engel also proposed to send Article 6 — the transfer of $450,000 from free cash to the town’s stabilization fund — to the Finance Committee. His amendment failed, 47 to 111.

Resident Clark Zeigler agreed with Engel, and pointed out that the Finance Committee report, which is mailed to all town households prior to the spring Town Meeting, was available online only for last night’s meeting.

“What’s really missing here is information,” Zeigler said.

Bethany Bray can be reached at bbray@salemnews.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.