Concord Annual Town Meeting live coverage: Night 3

May 1, 2024
  1. May 1st | 21:35

We hope you’ve enjoyed our live coverage of the three nights of Concord 2024 Annual (and Special) Town Meeting.

Look ahead to much more news on Town Meeting on and in our forthcoming print editions.

And send us your thoughts about it all at!

On behalf of this week’s live team of Peter Farago, Betsy Levinson, Christine M. Quirk, Ken McGagh, Caitlin V. Reidy, and myself, thank you for caring about our form of local government — and our greater democracy.

  • Celeste Katz Marston, Managing Editor
  • May 1st | 21:26

11:25 p.m.

Select Board Chair Henry Dane, bringing to a close his tenure, thanks everyone and, by agreement, formally carries out the conclusion of this year’s proceedings. 

”I now move that this 2024 Concord Annual Town Meeting stand adjourned.”

Says Moderator Reiss…

“Thank you and good night.”

  • May 1st | 21:22

11:22 p.m.

This is town Chief Financial Officer Anthony Ansaldi on Article 52, which is on unpaid bills and — unusually — must pass by 4/5:

“Oh, look at that — it’s unanimous!” — Town Moderator Carmin Reiss

  • May 1st | 21:19

11:19 p.m.

The amendment to delete item F, the tree funds, clearly fails. 

Back to the main motion under Article 40, including the trees.

It passes… almost unanimously.

  • May 1st | 21:14

11:14 p.m.

Town Manager Kerry Lafleur was not contemplating withholding the tree money.

  • May 1st | 21:12

11:12 p.m.

While Parashar Patel of the FinCom says he frankly likes trees, but at some point, the town simply has to make some difficult choices and say no to things.

For clarity, he repeats that he is not anti-tree.

  • May 1st | 21:09

11:09 p.m.

We have an amendment to take the tree part out of the Article 40 CPA appropriation.

  • May 1st | 21:04

11:04 p.m.

“The mortality of the trees matches our own mortality.”

  • May 1st | 21:03

11:02 p.m.

Recommended spending on the 250 Trees for the 250th Initiative, per the warrant, is $125,000.

  1. May 1st | 21:00

11:00 p.m.

FinCom member Karlen Reed rises to raise one objection to this article: the 250 Trees for the 250th project.

Among other things, trees can wither and die, which potentially makes them less than permanent or long-term memorials. If the town needs more trees, Reed says, it’s possible to do that through the existing tree planting program.

Additionally, “We are facing strong financial winds now,” Reed says — by her measure, a 6 or 7 on the Beaufort scale. 

  1. May 1st | 20:55

10:55 p.m.

Some of the projects supported by Article 40:

  1. May 1st | 20:48

10:47 p.m.

For those of you still with us (and we appreciate each and every one of you), this is Article 40, “To determine whether the Town will appropriate the sum of $1,878,320, or any other sum, from the Concord Community Preservation Fund, of which up to $1,877,062 shall be appropriated from projected Fiscal Year 2025 Fund Revenues, and up to $1,258 shall be appropriated from Prior Year Undesignated Fund Balance.”

  1. May 1st | 20:45

10:44 p.m.

Citizen-sponsored Article 38 carries by a very wide margin, urging “the Select Board to direct the Town Manager to issue a Request for Proposals for a multi-provider wireless communication facility at the Town-owned landfill parcel located at 755 Walden Street.”

  1. May 1st | 20:34

10:34 p.m.

Nancy Nelson: Why is is this a citizen article rather than a town proposal made after extensive investigation?

Nelson also mentions that just today, the National Trust put Minute Man National Historic Park and Walden Pond/Woods on the Endangered Historic Places list. 

Thanks to our Laurie O’Neill… We have a story for that. 

  1. May 1st | 20:29

10:26 p.m.

No surprise here, really: This is shaping up to be (in part) a debate between people who are extremely over Concord’s notoriously lousy cell coverage and people who are concerned about having to gaze upon a cell tower from Walden Pond.

  1. May 1st | 20:23

10:23 p.m.

Boyajian says she will not be advancing Article 39, which was to place a tower at the Keyes Road public works property.

  1. May 1st | 20:21

10:20 p.m.

Here, Boyajian is showing what coverage would look like — as “informed predictions” — with towers placed at the landfill and the high school. She says the landfill is the best choice for more coverage while keeping the towers away from homes.

  1. May 1st | 20:18

10:16 p.m.

Another citizen-sponsored item, Article 38, is brought to Town Meeting by Alisha Boyajian, and has to do with the location of new cell towers. (This is one of two articles she is bringing forth.) This one is for the landfill site.

To determine whether the Town will urge the Select Board to direct the Town Manager to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a multi-provider wireless communication facility at the Town-owned landfill parcel located at 755 Walden Street, to be designed and positioned to minimize visual impacts from Walden Pond, and further, that the RFP be issued as soon as possible, no later than 3 months from the passage of this resolution…

  1. May 1st | 20:15

10:14 p.m.

Moderator Carmin Reiss says Article 35 carries by 2/3.

  • May 1st | 20:14

10:12 p.m.

Mari Weinberg rises with questions about where the areas are which are affected by Article 35. Let us help!

  • May 1st | 20:07

10:06 p.m.

More from the warrant explainer on Article 35:

Since the adoption of the provision for two-family dwellings in Residence C, a total of four special permits have been issued. Two of the properties had an existing two-family dwelling and the other two lots had an existing single-family dwelling so that a total of two new dwelling units have been created under this Bylaw.

Over the past year it has been noted in public discussions held by the Planning Board that there continues to be broad support for more housing options within all areas of town, in particular where there is little concern about excessive density. 

  • May 1st | 20:03

10:03 p.m.

This conversation has branched out into a really big question: Who can get into Concord these days, based on the housing prices, and where and how?

  • May 1st | 20:02

10:01 p.m.

Andrew Boardman, vice chair of the Planning Board, says if someone wants to put a duplex on a six-acre property, that doesn’t bother him too much. 

Noting at this point that at the past two nights of Town Meeting, the cutoff for new business was 10:15 p.m.

  • May 1st | 20:00

9:59 p.m.

The character of a neighborhood, nor its parking, would not be super affected by this article because the overall footprint of a duplex could not exceed the footprint of a single-family home, says Nancy McJennett of the Concord Housing Foundation.

“Let’s make a small change to address a big problem.”

But Matt Johnson, formerly of the Select Board, says “we are creating more sprawl if we do this… it’s not aligned with Concord’s sustainability goals.”

He also argues that these would be creating less affordability, not more, as these would be above-median priced homes.

  • May 1st | 19:55

9:55 p.m.

Next up is Article 35. This would allow for more two-family homes, with special permits, in certain districts.

  • May 1st | 19:52

9:51 p.m.

The question is called.

By an overwhelming majority, Town Meeting passes Article 31, “updating town goals to meet the climate challenge.”

  • May 1st | 19:50

9:49 p.m.

Joe Laurin, who ran for Select Board, says he is shocked that the SB voted to recommend affirmative action on this. 

”At this point in our financial straits, we cannot afford to do this… you’re going to end up dictating to people what you can or cannot have in their homes.”

  • May 1st | 19:46

9:45 p.m.

The clarification is that Article 31, which is sponsored by the Climate Action Committee, is not an appropriation article; it’s an aspirational article.

  • May 1st | 19:42

9:41 p.m.

Dee Ortner, a FinCom member speaking for herself, wants to know about costs related to these climate goals. 

The short answer: “It is not cheap… to convert a house is $25-$50,000 on order. It’s an expensive piece of work, but it’s supported by rebates, and it may improve the value of your home.”

  • May 1st | 19:35

9:35 p.m.

Mark Howell, speaking for the Select Board (not the Board of Selectmen), recommends affirmative action on Article 31.

  • May 1st | 19:33

9:31 p.m.

Now on to climate change.

This is Article 31.

ARTICLE 31. To determine whether the Town will:

a) Declare a Climate Emergency, in recognition that climate change threatens humanity and that we could do significantly more to mitigate the harms imposed by climate change.

b) Update Concord’s Energy Goals (2017 Annual Town Meeting, Article 51) to better align with the Commonwealth’s greenhouse gas emission reduction goals by providing that Concord will strive to reduce emissions by 50% by 2030, 75% by 2040 and by 85% by 2050 from the baseline established in 2008.

  • May 1st | 19:29

9:29 p.m.

Town Moderator Carmin Reiss says after a Concord test drive of clickers a few years ago, there were split feelings about it and that’s why it wasn’t adopted at the time.

If the founding fathers acted the way this meeting is going, says FinCom Chair Parashar Patel, speaking for himself, “we’d be celebrating 250 50 years from now, so let’s get this show on the road.”

The question is called. It’s a referral of Article 28 to the TM study committee.

It’s more than a majority: Article 28, use of clickers at Town Meeting, will go to the study committee. 

  • May 1st | 19:24

9:24 p.m.

Article 28 sponsor Mark Martines is back at the podium. 

“For me this is about privacy,” he says. Why do people have to see how their neighbors voted, “if not to scrutinize and judge?”

He says he hopes that people will speak to the privacy issue in addition to the speed and accuracy issues. 

The moderator now asks everyone to keep their comments to one minute, as it’s getting late and there’s a lot of business yet to do.

  • May 1st | 19:21

9:20 p.m.

The Select Board has voted that it is favor of sending Article 28 to the TM study committee, says member Mark Howell, speaking on behalf of the board. 

There is a voter question about whether the Select Board had a non-open meeting or discussion about this before Article 28 was taken up tonight. Howell says “the response from his colleague” is that there was not.

  • May 1st | 19:17

9:17 p.m.

From a piece we ran on March 26 on Select Board recommendations on certain Town Meeting articles, including this one:

Select Board members think using handheld devices to vote at Town Meeting should click with the public. 

The Board, continuing its run-through of warrant articles Monday night, voted 4-0 in support of Article 29, sponsored by residents Scott Gillis and Mark Martines.  

The citizen sponsors say electronic “clickers,” which the town has test-driven before and are used by other communities, will speed up the process. Importantly, they say, clickers offer privacy to voters concerned about how their neighbors will take it if they go against the grain on controversial matters.    

“If this gets more people comfortable with voting and participating more, then it’s worth it,” said Clerk Mary Hartman of the measure, which would kick in next year. 

  • May 1st | 19:14

9:13 p.m.

Select Board Chair Henry Dane says he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the arguments Martines advances, but he (again) thinks this should go to the TM Study Committee. 

Dane says he is speaking for himself.

“In the interest of efficiency and moving this meeting forward, it would be more economical of our time” to move this to the study group. 

  • May 1st | 19:11

9:11 p.m.

Among other things, to summarize, Martines argues that:

  • Clickers make TM go faster, saving time (and also money in terms of town employee staffing, etc.)
    • Clickers allow people to vote their consciences more comfortably but still allow for debate.
    • Clickers would cost about $500 a night.
  • May 1st | 19:09

9:08 p.m.

“My understanding is Carlisle loves clickers,” Martines says. Give us a ring and let us know, Carlisle Mosquito.

  • May 1st | 19:07

9:06 p.m.

Next up: Voter sponsor Mark Martines, with a co-sponsorship from Scott Gillis, with Article 29, use of handheld electronic voting (“clickers”) at Town Meeting.

  • May 1st | 19:05

9:04 p.m.

After considerable parliamentary/procedural back and forth, a vote on the motion to refer Article 28 to the Town Meeting Study Committee passes. 

  • May 1st | 18:56

8:56 p.m.

A service dog being a very good boy (or girl, slightly hard to tell from here) on the floor of tonight’s Town Meeting.

  • May 1st | 18:54

8:53 p.m.

Town Meeting just got a reminder on the composition of the TM study committee created Tuesday by Article 26.

MEMBERSHIP: The Committee shall consist of nine (9) registered voters of the Town, appointed by the Moderator.

The members shall have among them the following experience and expertise:

• Knowledge of town government structure

• Familiarity with Massachusetts statutes regulating local government

• A history of attendance at town meeting

• Knowledge of communication, voting, and remote participation technology

• Familiarity with common social media platforms

  • May 1st | 18:52

8:50 p.m.

Select Board member Terri Ackerman says she liked the idea of Article 28… but she also thinks the study committee should look at it. 

We are still on Article 28.

  • May 1st | 18:48

8:48 p.m.

As an aside, before Town Meeting, we did a story in which veteran Town Meeting voter Win Wilbur made reference to it being a fine idea to bring some knitting along for these long sessions. As you can see, at the top of the screen and slightly to the right, that holds up.

  • May 1st | 18:43

8:41 p.m.

Select Board Chair Henry Dane also wants to refer Article 28 to the Town Meeting Study Committee established on Tuesday night by Article 26, as he did with Article 27. 

Gillis notes that the Select Board voted 3-1-1 on affirmative action on Article 28 in pre-Town Meeting discussion, and Dane voted against it.

  • May 1st | 18:39

8:39 p.m.

Gillis emphasizes that this just authorizes the Select Board to petition the state legislature to allow remote participation at Concord’s Annual and Special Town Meetings. 

  • May 1st | 18:37

8:37 p.m.

Particularly for younger people, technology is a part of work, health, and many other aspects of life, Gillis says.

Also, many boards and commissions in Concord already offer remote participation. 

Article sponsor Scott Gillis.

  • May 1st | 18:35

8:34 p.m.

Now having gotten past Article 27, which the sponsor withdrew, we are on to Article 28, sponsored by Scott Gillis.

This article says Concord should allow people to vote remotely and not have to be physically present to participate.

  • May 1st | 18:31

8:31 p.m.

Gonatas says he’s now withdrawing Article 27, and the Town Meeting study group can take it up. 

The question is called:

  • May 1st | 18:28

8:28 p.m.

Town Counsel Mina Makarious again, in answer to a voter’s question of “If this is illegal, why are we doing it?” 

He says: If people petition properly, voters can get an article on the warrant. And there’s no control over what that article can be about. 

  • May 1st | 18:26

8:26 p.m.

The current motion, again, advanced by Select Board Chair Henry Dane, is to refer Article 27 (what we’re talking about right now) to the Town Meeting Study Committee created last night in Article 26.

  • May 1st | 18:23

8:22 p.m.

Next up: a motion to amend the motion to amend Article 27. You read that right. 

  • May 1st | 18:22

8:20 p.m.

Town Counsel Mina Makarious having a rather tense moment or two with Dinos Gonatas, repeatedly asking him to operate through the moderator. 

Makarious came forward to clarify that this is not New Hampshire, among other things, and — to summarize very broadly — this kind of wholesale change to the operation of town government would require special state legislation… at the very least.

  • May 1st | 18:17

8:14 p.m.

Gonatas again: 

One issue that hasn’t been sufficiently discussed, he says, is that a lot of states have enacted voter-suppressive practices, and to some extent, in Concord, “we have done [so] inadvertently” by making it extremely burdensome to participate in local government and are now stuck with an antiquated process. 

  • May 1st | 18:12

8:11 p.m.

This is not something that’s “uncharted territory”, having been in practice in New Hampshire for decades, Gonatas says. 

Still, several people have been supportive of Chair Dane’s motion, saying they have questions and this is not something that should be decided in a rush.

Article 27 sponsor Dinos Gonatas.

  • May 1st | 18:09

8:08 p.m.

Select Board Chair Henry Dane suggests that Article 27 be referred to the forthcoming nine-member Town Meeting Study Committee created last night with approval of Article 26. 

  • May 1st | 18:07

8:07 p.m.

Gonatas — who says he is making this presentation after having had a root canal earlier today — notes that although Town Meeting is the legislative branch of Concord’s government, people are simply not showing up: “For Town Meeting, the absentee rate is about 95%.”

The “high hurdles” imposed by the in-person attendance requirements prevent people from participating fully in their government, he says.

  • May 1st | 18:04


As I explained in a previous story about this citizen-sponsored item, Article 27:

Dinos Gonatas proposes that all warrant articles appear on a special election ballot within three weeks after the meeting. Currently, he said, important decisions end up being made by a single-digit percentage of meeting voters. He also says the meeting schedule excludes Concordians with night-side jobs, young kids, or health issues that preclude them from coming. 

  • May 1st | 18:02

8:01 p.m.

We are now back to the Annual Town Meeting and we are on Article 27, the first of several items related to how Town Meeting itself works.

  • May 1st | 18:01

8:00 p.m.

And, that is a go: Special Town Meeting approves Article 1, approving borrowing not to exceed $10.4 million for an in-town utility scale battery.

  • May 1st | 17:59

7:58 p.m.

Pamela Dritt says Concord should realize how lucky it is to have its own light plant. “This is like a money tree!”

  • May 1st | 17:57

7:55 p.m.

If the prison closes, “we know the load will substantially drop, but not go to zero” when it comes to MCI-Concord’s power use, Bulger says. 

One thing to thing about, he says, is that in the short term, before this battery could be set up to handle extra power generated from solar, there are ways to encourage people to use MORE power at certain times. 

During heat waves, for example, people are often encouraged to moderate their power use. 

But, Bulger says, conversely, people could be told at certain times, “This is an excellent time to charge your car” or similar. 

  • May 1st | 17:51

7:51 p.m.

As Betsy Levinson has reported for us on siting of the battery ahead of this special:

If Article 1 is approved, the battery will likely be constructed at the W. R. Grace property off Knox Trail or at the substation on Forest Ridge Road.

  • May 1st | 17:49

7:48 p.m.

Voter Joe Laurin (you may recall the name from this year’s Select Board election) is asking about the business sense of this.

FinCom Chair Patel says “This seems to be a solution scientifically which everyone accepts.” He makes the point that the town is under some pressure to act soon because the prison is coming offline soon. That’s scheduled to happen June 30.

  • May 1st | 17:46

7:44 p.m.

Voter question:

“Are we going to need more and more batteries as more and more homes get solar?” Also, if the town generates more of its own solar energy, can Concord push that back to Eversource?

Brian Foulds, chair of the Light Plant board, says the plan is not to do this precipitously or all at once.

”The idea is to do it when it’s cost effective,” he says. “So we’re not going to put in 60 megawatts of battery … We’re going to do it when it’s beneficial to ratepayers. “

  • May 1st | 17:42

7:39 p.m.

Interim Light Plant Director Jason Bulger, among others, says that long-term, having more storage capacity means Concord has increased capacity to add solar and use more clean energy.

  • May 1st | 17:37

7:36 p.m.

Mari Weinberg at the question mic again, asking about a potential lithium fire and the aftereffects. 

“Three weeks ago, before the hearing, I went to an Erin Brockovich lecture… I’m sure you can understand my concern.”

She adds, “Erin Brockovich, come to Concord. Help us.”

  • May 1st | 17:32

7:32 p.m.

The bonds for the project will be paid back by ratepayers, Finance Committee Chair Parashar Patel says in answer to a question about cost.

  • May 1st | 17:31

7:31 p.m.

A lot of these containers have their own fire suppression systems, is the response, at least in part. 

Moderator Reiss asks if Fire Chief Thomas Judge wants to weigh in. He does not, for the moment.

  • May 1st | 17:29

7:29 p.m.

Mari Weinberg is asking about safety issues. If there was a lithium-related fire, would it be put out with water or foam? How would the then-contaminated water or foam be disposed of? She notes that she lived through the “whole Nuclear Metals thing,” which is a reference to what’s known as the Starmet property, which is now a Superfund site also referred to as 2229 Main Street in West Concord.

  • May 1st | 17:26

7:26 p.m.

And here’s the explainer section of this same (and only) Special Town Meeting article:

This article authorizes the Concord Municipal Light Plant to borrow money to pay for the design and construction of utility-scale battery storage within the Town of Concord to improve the resilience of the distribution system; allow for continued in-town solar expansion; and lower the regional electricity peaks, which is good for the environment and saves rate payers money. Because of its relationship to the work done by the Solar Implementation Task Force, this article is intended to replace Article 33 within the Annual Town Meeting. 

While the project costs are still being developed, it is anticipated that additional monies from various federal and state incentive programs will be made available to help defray some of the costs of construction. 

The addition of utility-scale battery storage is consistent with voters’ intent for reducing total greenhouse gas emissions as set forth in the goals of Concord’s Climate Action and Resiliency Plan, which looks to site 60MWh of in-town storage by 2030.

  • May 1st | 17:25

7:24 p.m.

Here’s the actual article text so you can read it for yourself:

Article 1. To determine whether the Town will authorize the Town Treasurer with the approval of the Select Board, to borrow by the issuance of general obligation bonds or notes under the provisions of Mass. Gen. Laws c. 44 or any other authority, a sum not to exceed $10,400,000 for the design and construction of grid-scale battery storage in the Town of Concord, the funds so borrowed to be expended for engineering design and legal services; hearings; permits and other approvals; material, construction, and installation specifications; bid preparation; materials purchase; construction and installation services; control systems; and distribution and expansions, upgrades and improvements, and to be repaid in the first instance from revenues of the Concord Municipal Light Plant, or take any other action relative thereto.

  • May 1st | 17:24

7:23 p.m.

This is a win-win situation, says Select Board Clerk Mary Hartman: Concord will save money while being able to produce more clean energy.

Select Board Chair Mary Hartman at the lower podium, with Interim Light Plant Director Jason Bulger to the right.

  • May 1st | 17:21

7:21 p.m.

When the town generates too much electricity from solar energy but has lower demand, that energy has to go somewhere. When MCI-Concord goes offline, it won’t be using all the power it uses now.

This could all lead to destabilization of the town’s power systems.

  • May 1st | 17:19

7:17 p.m.

Here’s the upshot of why this STM is necessary: In the original Town Meeting warrant, the town had looked at new solar capacity in two spots, both in a different area of town from MCI-Concord… which is now scheduled to close in June.

  • May 1st | 17:14

7:14 p.m.

Here is your one and only item on the STM warrant.

If you want to read more about this, Betsy Levinson has written about it here.

  • May 1st | 17:12

7:11 p.m.

“We want to balance full and fair discussion” with reasonable use of time, Reiss says as the STM begins.

  • May 1st | 17:11

7:10 p.m.

Town Meeting and Special Town Meeting will have separate voting slips tonight. The Special is starting now, as scheduled.

  • May 1st | 17:09

7:09 p.m.

Town Moderator Carmin Reiss (at left, with Town Clerk Kaari Mai Tari) is asking everyone to think about filling out a town survey about Town Meeting. More information about that to come.

  • May 1st | 17:06

7:05 p.m.

For the past two days, Town Meeting-goers have been in the gym AND the auditorium at Concord-Carlisle High School. The excitement is all in the gym tonight.

On Monday, the official check-in count was 1,131 voters. On Tuesday, it was 977.

  • May 1st | 17:04

7:03 p.m.

Tonight’s Special Town Meeting officially begins at 7:10 p.m., inside the regular Town Meeting proceedings.

  • May 1st | 16:53

6:53 p.m.

Almost go time…

Thanks for being with us again tonight!

Your Concord Bridge live coverage team this evening will be Betsy Levinson, Peter Farago, and Celeste Katz Marston.

  • May 1st | 13:01

3:00 p.m.

There is no time quite like… TOWN MEETING TIME.

We will be here with you at 7 p.m. for more curated live coverage of Annual Town Meeting and the Special Town Meeting.

Want a recap of this week’s Town Meeting sessions so far?

Our Monday live coverage is here.

Our Tuesday live coverage is here.

Stay tuned… and thanks for joining us!