TRURO — As the Truro Central School gym reached and then exceeded capacity before town meeting began on April 25, staff adapted to the unprecedented turnout — the highest since 2010, which is as far back as the records go — by funneling nonvoters and voters who had not found seats into the cafeteria, where a television livestreamed Moderator Monica Kraft as she banged her gavel to call the meeting to order.
The 383 voters in attendance drilled eagerly into articles of the kind that routinely pass without incident. Questions were raised on Article 5, the fiscal 2024 omnibus budget. Finance committee chair Bob Panessiti began: “Today is Tuesday. Today is also Wednesday. Both statements are factually correct. It’s Wednesday today in Asia.”
His point was to comment on the spread of misinformation on social media, he said. He urged voters to approve the finance committee’s recommended budget of $23.5 million.
Mike Forgione asked the cause of a $5.8-million increase in the town’s budget since 2017.
It was largely attributable to health care and salaries, Panessiti said, “which are necessary to retain people.”
The budget passed easily.
Lines formed at the microphones as voters considered transfers from the free cash account, which held $4,435,890 this year, said Town Accountant Trudi Brazil. Kolby Blehm moved to take all 14 sections of the free-cash article together.
Cheryl Best wanted each section to be discussed individually. She proposed amending Blehm’s motion by removing sections 12 and 13, both addressing water issues, from the compendium.
Then, John Riemer proposed an amendment to section 13 of the article.
“Oh god,” Kraft said into her microphone. “This gets more and more complicated.”
Riemer’s proposal was to make the wastewater management plan nonbinding. Kraft rejected the motion as “well beyond the scope of the article.”
Best’s motion failed, and the room returned to Blehm’s motion to discuss all the sections together. The motion passed, 207 to 141.
Following a discussion about the transfer of free cash for emergency services, Article 6 finally passed.
Three of the select board’s four requested budget overrides passed easily: Article 11, which expanded funds for emergency services; Article 12, which bolstered child-care and after-school programs; and Article 13, adding a full-time housing coordinator position to town administration. The overrides will appear as ballot questions at town election on May 9.
Article 14, calling for a full-time “school resource officer” to be stationed at the elementary school, was voted down.
Rafael Richter’s motion to consolidate all of the community preservation committee articles on the warrant passed, as did the compendium itself.
The Truro Housing Authority proposed Article 29, seeking to set a 60-percent floor on the amount of Community Preservation Act money that would go to housing each year. The existing bylaw places the housing grant minimum at 10 percent, equal to historic preservation and open space.
State Sen. Julian Cyr spoke in favor of the article. “Housing is the most important issue facing us in Truro,” he said. “I think this is a prudent way for us to be allocating CPA funds in anticipation of state action.”
“If I were to pick a most important issue, it would be the environmental crisis, which is a human survival issue,” said Michael Holt. “Housing is for some people ultimately a human survival issue, but not for all people.”
The article passed, 158 to 112.
Murmurs rippled through the crowd in anticipation of the much-discussed and widely criticized Article 40, which would have imposed exacting dog restraint regulations.
“We’re getting giddy,” Kraft said.
A motion was made to indefinitely postpone the article, and a sea of pink voting cards flew into the air.
Voters worked their way through passage of specialized energy stretch codes, and they shortened planning board terms from five years to three. They added Juneteenth to the register of town-recognized holidays and renamed October’s “Columbus Day” as “Indigenous People’s Day.”
The pace slowed, though, for discussion of the final article on the warrant: a proposal to amend the town charter to require that library trustees be consulted in the appointment of a new library director.
The town manager makes that appointment, and Town Manager Darrin Tangeman clearly opposed the change, commenting on the warrant that such an amendment “could lead to unfounded assertions of authority and a mistaken outsized role for the Library Trustees.”
“As custodians of the library and its assets, there should be no question that when the management of the library changes, the trustees should play a role in that transition,” said Martha Magane, lead petitioner and chair of the library trustees.
The trustees’ vice chair, Keith Althaus, called the article “a restoration of common-sense language. I don’t think it’s an attempt to usurp power,” he said.
Magane said the trustees wanted their role enshrined in the charter rather than simply followed as a matter of select board policy.
Select board chair Kristen Reed said that she opposed the article because the charter review committee had not yet voted on it.
“We did not feel that we had enough time to properly vet all of the different opinions — and there are a lot,” said charter review committee chair Nancy Medoff.
“I have yet to encounter anyone who doesn’t think that we have a gem of a library,” said Jon Winder. “It’s a first-rate public resource for all of us. Why would we not want to consult with the trustees?”
This generated a point of order from Reed: “There’s inaccuracy and misinformation being spread,” she said, adding that no effort was being made to exclude the trustees, and that the question was whether to amend the charter.
The question was called, and voting cards flew up in favor of the trustees, with a fervor reminiscent of the opposition to vigilante dog leash legislation. The article passed, closing out the evening.
“There were a lot of things to contend with,” Kraft said after the meeting. “I was pleased that it all got done in one night.”