People lined up on Draper Street to check in to the
    meeting. It was scheduled to start at one, but didn't
    begin until one-thirty due to the large number
    (estimated at over 400) in line to get in.

Voting

The meeting ended at 2:30.

    By shortly after three, the Community
    House staff, the Highway Department,
    the Town Clerk had the lawn cleared.

Special Town Meeting - October 24, 2020

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    Hopedale Special Town Meeting voters OK fiscal 2021 budget, push for land deal

    By Lauren Young / Daily News Staff
    Posted Oct 24, 2020 at 8:02 PM Updated Oct 24, 2020 at 9:59 PM

    After Hopedale voters rejected a $1.3 million budget override in September, hundreds of them approved an
    amended town budget on Saturday, along with a major piece of land to prevent a local railroad from
    developing on it.

    HOPEDALE — Hundreds of residents voted to approve a revised town budget and to encourage the
    acquisition of a key piece of property on Saturday at Special Town Meeting.

    Town Moderator Gene Phillips said it was the biggest Town Meeting crowd he had never seen in Hopedale,
    estimating about 400 residents showing up to the outdoor meeting to vote. A line of voters stretched so far
    around the Community House lawn, where the meeting was held, that the meeting began a half-hour after its
    scheduled 1 p.m. start.

    Amending the fiscal year 2021 omnibus budget was the primary reason for the meeting, said Phillips. The
    budget of $24,831,604 was passed unanimously by voters on Saturday, just a few weeks after they
    overwhelmingly rejected a $1.3 million tax override in September.
    PHOTOS: Hopedale Town Meeting

    That left the town to deal with an approximate $330,000 budget gap.

    Finance Committee Chairman Chris Hodgens said the town achieved a balanced budget without an override
    through some major expenditure changes, which included a $342,513 reduction to the School Department
    budget and a $146,686 decrease in estimated insurance premium costs.

    The town also received more state aid than initially expected, he said. Despite these cuts, he said the town is
    not struggling financially.

    “I would like to correct a misunderstanding that some may have, and I’m sure you’ve all heard or seen in
    print,” he said, referring to statements of Hopedale having financial issues. “Now I’ve only been on the
    Finance Committee for a couple of months, but from what I have seen, this perception is not true. Hopedale is
    in a sound financial condition. Our elected officials have charted a prudent financial course that has earned
    Hopedale a very high rating in financial markets. This current budget reflects that, and also reflects the will of
    the voters.”

    In 2019, Hopedale voters voted to approve a $430,000 tax override, but rejected the larger proposal this
    year. Hodgens said neither vote was indicative of the town’s state of finances.

    “We are not here because of mismanagement or financial strife, we are here to give voters the budget they
    demanded at the polls — it’s that simple,” he said.

    Resident and former Finance Committee Chairman Sam Hockenberry spoke in support of amending the
    budget.

    “I think that this is honestly the best-case scenario that we could have hoped for, given the vote that
    happened in September,” he said.

    Hundreds of residents have been asking the town to buy a parcel on 364 West St. before the Grafton and
    Upton Railroad begins developing on it. On Saturday, residents overwhelmingly supported the town going
    forward with that move.

    Voted in three separate articles, residents approved the town buying the property, comprising about 155
    acres, to be preserved and kept as natural space.

    Town Attorney Peter Durning said approving Article 3 gives the town the right of first refusal, which means the
    town has the right to buy a portion of the land — about 130.18 acres — for the same price (about $1.2
    million) instead of the railroad. That article was passed with only one person voting “no.”

    “It can’t be understated just how important this property is to the town of Hopedale,” said Ed Burt, the town’s
    Water and Sewer Commission chairman. According to recent studies performed by an engineering and
    environmental firm for the town, he said researchers found it would significantly increase the town’s public
    water supply exploration and ensure future land issues are consistent with the protected water supply.

    Board of Selectman Chair Brian Keyes noted at the beginning of the meeting that, while some have said that
    buying the land on West Street will not affect the budget, he said he “respectfully disagree(s) with that.”

    “I’ve yet to be presented a ... formal recommendation or concrete plan as to how one is going to pay for it if
    we choose to pay for it,” Keyes said last week, according to a Daily News story.

    For months, hundreds of residents have vocalized their wish to have the town buy the land during Board of
    Selectman meetings and on social media. Keyes said he wanted to clarify some things that have been “lost in
    translation,” and that the board sometimes feels criticized for doing its job.

    “We never lost sight of what we’re elected to do for all of you,” he said. “We serve you. We understand the
    will of the people. It feels like we’ve been vilified for doing something we also feel is our obligation, and that
    obligation is to always look at two sides of an issue. We can’t just overwhelming jump into siding with the
    overwhelming majority. You elect us to be able to look at the other side of the coin.”

    It’s still unclear whether the vote to buy the land is legally binding, and selectmen have delayed a decision.

    About three years ago, the town began a project to switch all town lights to LED, and it was finally approved,
    said Phillips. On Saturday, voters approved the town to go ahead with this project, costing $282,693, and to
    begin the transition. In all, it’s expected to save the town about $1 million in energy costs.

    Lauren Young writes about politics, social issues and covers the town of Franklin. Reach her at
    774-804-1499 or lyoung@wickedlocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurenatmilford.


    Hopedale Special Town Meeting voters OK fiscal 2021 budget, push for land deal

    By Lauren Young / Daily News Staff
    Posted Oct 24, 2020 at 8:02 PM Updated Oct 25, 2020 at 1:49 PM

    After Hopedale voters rejected a $1.3 million budget override in September, hundreds of them approved an
    amended town budget on Saturday, along with a major piece of land to prevent a local railroad from
    developing on it.

    HOPEDALE — Hundreds of residents voted to approve a revised town budget and to encourage the
    acquisition of a key piece of property on Saturday at Special Town Meeting.

    Town Moderator Gene Phillips said it was the biggest Town Meeting crowd he had never seen in Hopedale,
    estimating about 400 residents showed up to the outdoor meeting to vote. A line of voters stretched so far
    around the Community House lawn, that the meeting began a half-hour after its scheduled 1 p.m. start.

    Amending the fiscal year 2021 omnibus budget was the primary reason for the meeting, said Phillips. The
    budget of $24,831,604 was passed unanimously by voters, just a few weeks after they overwhelmingly
    rejected a $1.3 million tax override in September.

    That left the town to deal with an approximate $330,000 budget gap.

    Finance Committee Chairman Chris Hodgens said the town achieved a balanced budget without an override
    through some major expenditure changes, which included a $342,513 reduction to the School Department
    budget and a $146,686 decrease in estimated insurance premium costs.

    The town also received more state aid than initially expected, he said. Despite the cuts, he said the town is
    not struggling financially.

    “I would like to correct a misunderstanding that some may have, and I’m sure you’ve all heard or seen in
    print,” he said, referring to statements of Hopedale having financial issues. “Now I’ve only been on the
    Finance Committee for a couple of months, but from what I have seen, this perception is not true. Hopedale
    is in a sound financial condition. Our elected officials have charted a prudent financial course that has
    earned Hopedale a very high rating in financial markets. This current budget reflects that, and also reflects
    the will of the voters.”

    In 2019, Hopedale voters voted to approve a $430,000 tax override, but rejected the larger proposal this
    year. Hodgens said neither vote was indicative of the town’s state of finances.

    “We are not here because of mismanagement or financial strife, we are here to give voters the budget they
    demanded at the polls — it’s that simple,” he said.

    Resident and former Finance Committee Chairman Sam Hockenberry spoke in support of amending the
    budget.

    “I think that this is honestly the best-case scenario that we could have hoped for, given the vote that
    happened in September,” he said.

    Hundreds of residents have been asking the town to buy a parcel on 364 West St. before the Grafton and
    Upton Railroad begins development there. On Saturday, residents overwhelmingly supported the town going
    forward with that move.

    Voted in three separate articles, residents approved the town buying the property, comprising about 155
    acres, to be preserved and kept as natural space.

    Town Attorney Peter Durning said approving Article 3 gives the town the right of first refusal, which means
    the town has the right to buy a portion of the land — about 130.18 acres — for the same price (about $1.2
    million) instead of the railroad. That article was passed with only one person voting “no.”

    “It can’t be understated just how important this property is to the town of Hopedale,” said Ed Burt, the town’s
    Water and Sewer Commission chairman. According to recent studies performed by an engineering and
    environmental firm for the town, he said researchers found it would significantly increase the town’s public
    water supply exploration and ensure future land issues are consistent with the protected water supply.

    Board of Selectman Chair Brian Keyes noted at the beginning of the meeting that, while some have said that
    buying the land on West Street will not affect the budget, he said he “respectfully disagree(s) with that.”

    “I’ve yet to be presented a ... formal recommendation or concrete plan as to how one is going to pay for it if
    we choose to pay for it,” Keyes said last week, according to a Daily News story.

    For months, hundreds of residents have vocalized their wish to have the town buy the land during Board of
    Selectman meetings and on social media. Keyes said he wanted to clarify some things that have been “lost
    in translation,” and that the board sometimes feels criticized for doing its job.

    “We never lost sight of what we’re elected to do for all of you,” he said. “We serve you. We understand the
    will of the people. It feels like we’ve been vilified for doing something we also feel is our obligation, and that
    obligation is to always look at two sides of an issue. We can’t just overwhelmingly jump into siding with the
    overwhelming majority. You elect us to be able to look at the other side of the coin.”

    It’s still unclear whether the vote to buy the land is legally binding, and selectmen have delayed a decision.

    LED streetlights approved

    About three years ago, the town began a project to switch all town lights to LED, and it was finally approved,
    said Phillips. On Saturday, voters approved the town to go ahead with this project, costing $282,693, and to
    begin the transition. In all, it’s expected to save the town about $1 million in energy costs.

    Lauren Young writes about politics, social issues and covers the town of Franklin. Reach her at
    774-804-1499 or lyoung@wickedlocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurenatmilford.