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.
So from September to April, we managed to organize under the name Friends of Flannagan Pond (FOFP), we circulated a petition, we secured a place on the Town Meeting warrant, and we did receive a favorable hearing from the Selectmen and the Finance Committee (until some waffled at Town Meeting). 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, and this is what we came to Town Meeting for. All of this was well documented over all these months on our web page (www.saveourpond.wordpress.com). It has been in the open.
On May 9th we arrived 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 acted surprised, Selectmen acted surprised and Conservation Commission members (those who bothered to show up for Town Meeting) acted 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 Flannagan Pond 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; 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, and 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.
Ms. Gugino said, “I support an ongoing weed management program for Ayer’s ponds, all of them…” Yet the ConsCom had issued an RFP for weed treatment for exclusively for Sandy Pond and Pine Meadow weeks before. Flanagan Pond was excluded! Why? A lack of funds. So why would you vote against long term funding.
She said, “I don’t like the fact that neither the BOS nor the FOFP consulted with the ConsCom (on which I serve) until the UDAG funding and/or placement of Article 38 on the Warrant were both done deals.” The last I checked the BOS does not report to ConsCom. The last I checked UDAG funds are at the sole discretion of the BOS. The last I checked, the Citizens right to Petition is part of the First Amendment and not subject to ConsCom approval.
She said, “I don’t like the fact that so many people, including members of the BOS and FinCom, were left with the mistaken impression that they were recommending only an expenditure of $35,000, not $70,000.” Well the fact of the matter is that they were recommending only $35,000!!! UDAG funds were not part of the discussion; they were not part of the equation. UDAG is FY2011; Town Meeting Budget is FY2012.
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!
Ms Gugino is ticked because after being rebuffed by ConsCom last summer, we did what any free-thinking person would do, we petitioned a broken bureaucracy and worked around the obstacle, and we never returned to pay homage.
So let’s stay on topic here; FOFP did not make Article 38 the last article of the evening. FOFP is not responsible for the meeting going past 10:00 PM. FOFP is not responsible for people leaving early. FOFP never ever stated we wanted to be like Sandy Pond. FOFP had no reason to accept a compromise offered by Ms. Conley. FOFP is not responsible for brain synapses misfiring. FOFP is also not responsible for Ms Gugino’s lack of understanding regarding Rules of Order. To suggest that the Town “had been taken advantage of” by free citizens exercising their rights at a Town Meeting is absolutely repugnant.