Concord Annual Town Meeting live: Night 1

April 29, 2024

Watch gavel-to-gavel Town Meeting proceedings with The Concord Bridge starting at 7 p.m.

Scroll down for continuing updates in our chronological presentation, and expect more coverage in this week’s print edition.

7:05 p.m.: Thanks very much for joining us for this evening’s Town Meeting start. Your Concord Bridge team tonight is: Celeste Katz Marston, Christine Quirk, Ken McGagh, and Caitlin Reidy.

Town Moderator Carmin Reiss, joined by Town Clerk Kaari Mai Tari, has gaveled in. Reiss notes that things might be a little different… if the wifi were working at CCHS.

Town Moderator Carmin Reiss, left, and Town Clerk Kaari Mai Tari.

7:13 p.m.: Would it really be an important event in Concord without the Concord Minute Men?

The Concord Minute Men on scene. Image via Minuteman Media Network

7:36 p.m.: Tonight’s vote-all-in-one-go consent calendar, per the moderator, has included Articles

2 (hear reports)

3 (meeting procedure)

10 and 11 (OPEB)

12 (opioid prevention programs)

15 (senior means tested property tax exemption)

18 (Select Board to accept easements)

30 (exemption for check-out bag charge for farm stands)

32 (fossil fuel-free demonstration bylaw)

37 (general housekeeping)

42 (tourist bylaw changes)

43 (revolving fund bylaws)

45 (light plant expenditures)

46 (solid waste disposal expenditures) 

47 (sewer system expenditures)

48 (sewer improvement fund expenditures) 

49 (water system expenditures)

50 (expenditure from PEG Access and cable-related fund)

51 (Beede Center expenditures)

Also, attendance at Town Meeting has now increased to the point where the auditorium will be opened in addition to the gymnasium, Reiss says. 

7:39 p.m.: Now speaking is Finance Committee Chair Parashar Patel, with some serious warnings about rising property taxes ahead — some of which he outlined in a recent guest piece for The Concord Bridge.

FinCom Chair Parashar Patel.
Above and below, slides from Patel’s brief presentation.

8 p.m.: At this point, Articles 4, 5, and 6 have passed unanimously or near unanimously. These articles related to Personnel Board matters. 

8:06 p.m.: We now have unanimous approval of Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Line Item Adjustments and are moving on to the FY 2025 budget with Town Manager Kerry Lafleur presenting. 

Town Meeting approving Article 7.

8:09 p.m. Article 8 is the Fiscal Year 2025 Town Budget.

As presented in the warrant, the town government operating budget is as follows: 

Total Town Government: $32,745,639

General Government: $6,002,619

Finance: $ 2,599,727

Planning & Land Management: $2,628,721

Human Services: $3,488,951

Public Safety $12,106,896

Public Works: $5,112,219

Unclassified: $806,506

Joint accounts, Concord Public Schools: $26,928,826

Total FY25 Appropriation: $59,674,465

8:15 p.m.: Town Meeting has approved Article 8, the FY 2025 budget, near-unanimously.

8:35 p.m.: Gary Clayton, co-chair of the Concord250 Executive Committee, is at the podium.

Article 13 asks if the town will transfer $350,000 from free cash for public safety spending on the town’s celebration of the 250th anniversary of the start of the Revolutionary War. Our Betsy Levinson has written extensively about this. Organizers are preparing for more than 100,000 — and by some counts as many as 250,000 — people on hand for the big event on and around April 19, 2025. 

8:38 p.m.: Before the meeting began, Bridge contributor Caitlin Reidy spoke with attendees both for and against one of the high-profile items on this year’s warrant: The naming of the new middle school, which is Article 22 on the warrant. 

The School Committee voted earlier this year after a public input process to go with “Concord Middle School,” but as The Concord Bridge has reported, including in stories by our Kelly Walters, there’s still vocal support for naming the new Old Marlboro Road building for Concord-born Civil War-era racial justice and education activist Ellen Garrison. 

Carol Ann Boughrum of Concord holds a sign in support of naming the new Concord Middle School for Ellen Garrison as voters file into Concord-Carlisle High School for Town Meeting, April 29, 2024. Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

Carol Ann Boughrum, who came to CCHS with a sign in support of naming the school for Garrison, called her “Concord’s Rosa Parks,” while Janet Walker of West Concord said, “This is 2024. We need to stand up for all women in 2024.” 

Attendee Ellen Quackenbush called Garrison, who would be the first person of color honored with a public building naming in town history, “a courageous woman” and a “fiery” educator and civil rights advocate.

One Town Meeting attendee said he opposed changing Concord Middle School for Garrison, but refused to give a reporter his name: “People are intimidated. People are scared to be accused as racist,” he said. “If you disagree, it’s like you’re a bad person.”

8:42 p.m.: Article 13, funding for the 250th public safety provisions has now passed. As expected, per earlier reporting by our Betsy Levinson, there’s no action on Article 14, which is related to free cash.

8:47 p.m.: Moving on now to Article 16, a stormwater enterprise fund. See anyone you know?

As summarized in the warrant, “Establishment of a Stormwater Fund would allow for a consistent and stable revenue stream to fund permit compliance, which focuses on improving water quality within the Town’s receiving waters. This fund would also allow the Town to dedicate resources to flood mitigation and overall stormwater management, and to prepare for extreme storm events which are occurring with greater frequency.”

“We are going to have to pay for stormwater one way or another,” says Select Board member Terri Ackerman.

Select Board member Terri Ackerman, center.

For clarity, this article just sets up the legal framework for the enterprise fund, Ackerman says.

Town Moderator Carmin Reiss speaks during Town Meeting. Photo by Ken McGagh for The Concord Bridge

8:59 p.m.: Article 16 passes by a “substantial majority,” Reiss says — and at the two-hour mark, that’s via a standing vote to give people a chance to “stand up and wiggle,” as veteran Town Meeting-goer Win Wilbur told us for our earlier piece on how to prep for this long haul.

9:04 p.m.: Article 17 is a big — $50 million big — item on Nagog Pond improvements and PFAS mitigation.

Per Article 17, the $50 million debt authorization, with debt service to be paid from the Water Enterprise Fund, will provide funding for design, construction and construction engineering services for:  

  • the completion of Nagog intake replacement/rehabilitation, the Nagog Pond water treatment facility, and installation of an associated transmission line along Route 2A; and
  • design, permitting and installation of emergency and permanent PFAS treatment systems required for groundwater production sites. 

Again, per the warrant: “These investments will be required to maintain the Town’s ability to utilize Nagog Pond, as a reliable, high-quality water supply capable of providing the Town of Concord in excess of 1 million gallons of drinking water per day and to comply with new Safe Drinking Water Act standards for PFAS expected to be adopted.”

Select Board member Terri Ackerman again: “Safe, reliable drinking water is essential for life. We all know that, so it has to be one of our top priorities.”

9:36 p.m.: After relatively extensive discussion, Town Meeting has passed Article 17, authorizing $50 million in borrowing for Nagog Pond improvements and PFAS mitigation. This required a 2/3 vote of Town Meeting and passed unanimously.

9:40 p.m.: Another big-ticket item: Article 20, the $26.1 million Concord-Carlisle Regional School District budget. This one does come with an amendment to lower the amount. As our Christine Quirk previously reported, the Finance Committee and Select Board have raised concerns about the budget coming in above the guideline.

Here is the amendment advanced by FinCom Chair Parashar Patel:

9:49 p.m.: Fair to say that this discussion of the school budget is clearly one of the more heated — if not the most heated — segment of Town Meeting to date so far. Patel essentially said the schools had other options to meet the guidelines besides saying cuts would mean losing important staff positions.

“We have looked at every line item,” insists School Committee Chair Tracey Marano.

School Committee Chair Tracey Marano, center.

While Marano urges rejection of the FinCom amendment, Select Board Chair Henry Dane rises in support of the FinCom amendment, which he says is based on “data, not opinions.” 

There’s also a dispute here on rankings and other assessments of CCHS and the performance of the schools.

This is certainly not the first time school officials have butted heads with FinCom and the Select Board. (Remember that $2.4 million proposed restroom building at the high school? That was on the warrant, but didn’t make it to a vote.)

Select Board Chair Henry Dane at the floor podium.

10:08 p.m.: As the school budget discussion continues, worth noting that since it is now past 10 p.m., new business will not be introduced this evening.

10:24 p.m.: The question has been called and Reiss (ultimately) rules that the FinCom amendment fails.

Many people spoke, and the arguments naturally fell into broad categories. Those in favor of the FinCom amendment (which meant supporting a cut to the budget) said this was about fiscal responsibility and school performance. Those opposed to it said was about maintaining vital educational programs.

10:29 p.m.: FinCom Chair Parashar Patel takes personal umbrage, he says, at the suggestion that his group has it in for the School Committee based on an earlier remark that FinCom breezed through the earlier $50 million authorization for Nagog Pond, but is making a big deal over a relatively small discrepancy between the school budget and the guideline.

FinCom Chair Parashar Patel, center at lower podium, with Superintendent Laurie Hunter and School Committee Chair Tracey Marano at right.

10:37 p.m.: And with overwhelming approval of the original school budget request, Article 20, Town Meeting adjourns until Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The auditorium view of Monday night’s final vote.

Thanks for joining us!

We’ll be back with you Tuesday at 7 for the second night of Town Meeting, including consideration of MBTA Zoning, the middle school naming, and much more.