Norwell, Mass., Decides Against Electronic Votes at Meetings

After electronic voting at a recent Norwell meeting proved ineffective, the advisory board opted not to amend town bylaws to allow for its use in the future. Meanwhile, Norwell approved a study of smart streetlights.

by James Kukstis, Wicked Local South/Mariner / May 7, 2019

(TNS) — Norwell, Mass., will have more sidewalks in its future, but the same can't be said for plastic bags or electronic voting, following a lively town meeting that wrapped up late Monday night, May 6.

The special town meeting section of the evening proceeded with little discussion on of the articles, all of which passed, including $17,200 for restoration of historic shipyard markers along the North River, $65,000 for hydro-geologic studies and $10,000 to manage noxious and invasive weeds in Jacobs Pond.

During the special portion, voters also approved $30,000 to initiate a study town officials say will help inform a potential decision about making a change to town streetlights.

"This is the first step in considering whether we want to convert all our streetlights to LED," Selectman Greg McBride said. "There are a number of tasks associated with this, this is not for purchasing. We need to go through this process to understand exactly what we have first before we go into negotiations."

The study will include taking an inventory and mapping coordinates of the equipment to see what is in place, and then compare that to what National Grid has in its inventory.

"We're told by experts that those two lists are not the same," McBride said.

Before presenting the FY2020 budget, Selectmen Chairwoman Ellen Allen highlighted some of the work done over the past year, including construction of the 40 River St. senior housing project, the initial work of the Carleton Property Committee, the extension of the Main Street sidewalk, the progress made towards Norwell's new library and traffic studies in efforts to make roads safer.

Voters approved a FY2020 operating budget of $55,909,303, nearly $28.5 million of which will go toward Norwell schools.

Included in the operating budget is a new deputy chief position in the fire department and an additional position in the police department for traffic control. Allen joked that residents may be more likely to be pulled over for speeding as a result, with Town Administrator Peter Morin rebutting with his own joke, saying it's not Norwell drivers who speed, but residents of other towns driving on Norwell streets.

Voters also approved a $1,330,800 capital budget, which includes $264,000 for radio repeaters for the police department, $600,000 for a new pumper truck for the fire department and two Ford F-250 pick-up trucks for the Highway, Tree & Grounds department, one for $60,000 and one for $66,000. An existing truck is being traded in, leading to the $6,000 price difference.

For the first time in town history, some voting was conducted electronically as part of a trial program to see if it is a feature the town would consider in the future. After a break of nearly 30 minutes to get those in attendance ready to vote on their smart phones or on provided tablets, only two articles were decided via the new technology.

The electronic voting process required a window of time during which people could vote, taking longer than the traditional voice vote on non-controversial agenda items.

Later in the evening, an article seeking to amend town bylaws to allow for the use of electronic voting at future town meetings failed, with the advisory board voting unanimously not to support.

©2019 Wicked Local South/Mariner, Marshfield, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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