Article 38: Failing to Connect the Dots

This is the first response to Ms Gugino’s letter to the editor in the Public Spirit dated May 13, 2011.

The source of her confusion, as well as that of many of the Town officials who sat on the stage is a failure to pay attention to the situation evolving around them; a failure to connect the dots.

What came to be known as Article 38 began last summer when the Conservation Commission told neighbors on Calvin Street that they had no money to treat the weeds on the pond.  At that time, they challenged us to come up with money.  They implied we should walk around the pond and pass the hat.  First Dot!

Then a dozen people met in my living room on September 9th and discussed our options.  We decided that we would organize a citizen’s petition to get on Town Meeting Warrant and strive to get ongoing pond treatment as part of the budget.  Second Dot!

On September 15th, more than 80 people from Oak Ridge Drive, Groton Harvard Road, Central Avenue, Sandy Pond Road, Old Sandy Pond Road, Snake Hill Road, Calvin Street and others met at Town Hall in the Great Hall to discuss our plan.  Mr. Bodurtha, from ConsCom was in attendance.  He told us not to fertilize the lawn.  That has been the mantra whenever we meet anyone from ConsCom; we always get at least one sermon about the lawn.  Third Dot.

On October 18th, we met at the Ayer Gun & Sportsman Club and had a presentation and Q&A Session with Dominic Meringolo from Aquatic Control Technologies.  It was at this meeting we began the circulation of our petition for signatures.  The petition contained the exact language as presented in what became known as Article 38.  Things were in motion.  Fourth Dot.

On January 6, 2011, I submitted a letter to Mr. Canney, the Town Clerk, with six pages of signatures.  We needed 10 signatures, but we had over one hundred.  When certified we had 97 valid signatures.  Fifth Dot.

I was unaware that Mr. Canney had submitted the signatures and petition to the Selectmen’s office.  When this was confirmed I worked to get onto their agenda to introduce ourselves and to discuss our concerns.

On April 5, 2011 we had the opportunity to present our case with a ten-page pictorial presentation. Many neighbors attended this meeting. We made our desires clear, we wanted the Selectmen’s Support at Town Meeting for herbicidal weed treatment, Dam Management and HydroRake Mobilization. Overall, we received a warm reception from the Selectmen.  Two ConsCom members were present.  I did get lectured about the lawn. Sixth Dot.

On April 12th, I attended the Selectmen’s Public Hearing to listen to them discuss the Town Meeting Warrant.  Late in the evening, they invited me to discuss the Citizen’s Petition , Article 38.  Seventh Dot.

On April 13, 2011, we met with the Finance Committee to discuss our Petition.  We effectively made our case and they voted to support our article at Town Meeting in a Vote 3 ayes, 1 nay, 1 abstain.  Eighth Dot.

So from September to April, we managed to organize, petition, get a place on the warrant, and get a favorable hearing from the Selectmen and the Finance Committee.  Our agenda never changed from September, right up to Town Meeting, to get $35,000 in the FY2012 budget for the purpose of weed treatment, exclusively for Flannagan Pond, for Spring 2012.  This was our goal, this is what we strived for, this is what we came to Town Meeting for.   All of this was well documented over all these months on our web page. It has been in the open. Ninth Dot.

On April 19, 2011, at a Selectmen’s Meeting, Selectmen Luca graciously  suggested that the Board of Selectmen provide UDAG funds to the ConsCom to treat the pond in the Spring of 2011, to provide a one year head start on the clean-up, leaving Article 38 available for subsequent years maintenance.  There was never, ever a suggestion that this was being offered in exchange for abandonong Article 38.  This was written up in detail on the April 19th post on this webpage.  Tenth Dot.

On April 28, 2011, we finally got before the Conservation Commission.  Eight months had passed since we had been challenged to come up with funds; and we had, thanks to the Board of Selectmen providing UDAG funding for spring 2011 weed treatment of Flannagan Pond. At the meeting, we provided an RFP and Scope of Work to help get FY2011 treatment in motion. Eleventh Dot.

On May 9th we arrive at Town Meeting.  We were the last article of the evening, not by our own choice.  And what did we ask for?  The same exact thing we had asked for last summer and the same thing that was in our petition: funding for the pond cleanup in FY2012!  And Finance Committee Members act surprised, Selectmen act surprised and Conservation Commission members (those who bothered to show up for Town Meeting) act surprised. Why were they surprised?

The issue is that there were two separate and distinct actions; and two separate and distinct timelines; initiated by two separate and distinct organizations.  

The UDAG money was presented for Spring 2011; our Warrant Article has always been focused on Spring 2012.

The UDAG funds are also not exclusively for weed control, but for dam management and for a new pond management plan (for all the ponds, the very “global” solution that ConsCom and FinCom claimed they wanted at the town meeting). Also, the UDAG funds were never ever offered in exchange for us surrendering Article 38.  It is also worth noting that the UDAG issue was initiated by the Board of Selectmen, not FOFP.

Regarding Article 38; once a citizen’s petition is certified by the Town Clerk, it is required to appear on the Town Meeting Warrant.  I had never been asked to remove it from the Warrant. The petition was our single weapon from the first day we convened, we stayed the course, we never wavered.  I had never given thought to pulling Article 38 because it belonged to 100 people who signed it with the expectation that I would fight for it.  Losing on the Town Meeting floor was acceptable; quitting and abandoning those who entrusted us to run with it was not.

Regarding certain BOS, ConsCom and FinCom members questioning our integrity; we have posted our game plan publicly on our web page since September 2010.  Our Meetings with all these Boards were televised.  The issue is that these board members did not pay attention and they did not connect the dots, and they were embarrassed.  Others  made the ultimate mistake; they failed to show up on Game Day and lost by one vote!

After the meeting I was chastised by a condescending Selectmen, because we didn’t offer to pay for treating the pond out of pocket.  And a ConsCom member’s spousal unit gave me a passionate lecture about lawn fertilizer.  At that point I knew I had come full circle.

Later this week I will address some of the silly arguments put forth in Ms Gugino’s letter and on Town Meeting floor.

Chuck

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About saveourpond

I am a lifelong resident of Ayer who lives on Flanagan's Pond.
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