Hopkinton Middle School hosted a packed house tonight as citizens and neighbors gathered for a Special Town Meeting. There were four items on the warrant, none bigger than the Elmwood School Replacement project, a $90 million question for the residents in attendance.
Town Clerk Connor Degan called the meeting to order around 7:25 PM and the auditorium was standing room only. The capacity crowd spilled in to the adjacent gym where a television monitor simulcast the proceedings.
After a primer on the newly introduced electronic voting system, Jon Graziano, Chair of the Elementary School Building Committee, was recognized and began making the case to voters for a new Elmwood school. He discussed the process the ESBC had undertaken, including the site selection, building design, traffic impact analysis and safety features of the proposed school. Superintendent Dr. Carol Cavanaugh also spoke about enrollment projections and how a new school would better equip the district to meet individual learning needs. Bill Flannery of the Appropriations Committee shared the financial model and projected tax impact on Hopkinton homeowners.
At the conclusion of the presentation several residents stepped to the microphone to voice their support for the measure. Notably there were no dissenters that chose to speak. After more than 30 minutes of commentary a motion to call for the vote was introduced and carried.
A total of 862 votes were cast, and 568, or two-thirds, would need to vote affirmatively for the article to pass. The final count was 622 Yes and 240 No. The crowd erupted with applause and then several hundred people began filing out of the room, ignoring Degan’s plea to remain behind for the other warrant items.
With 403 fewer audience members, the meeting moved on to Article 2, a citizens petition which sought to eliminate partisan elections in Hopkinton. Sponsors Ed Harrow and John Cardillo presented their rationale, citing data from other municipalities and states that have done away with caucuses and have seen negligible impact on voter or candidate participation. Following their presentation a spirited debate ensued, with several residents speaking for and against the measure. Finally the vote was called for, and it passed with 245 voting Yes and 214 voting No. Hopkinton joins the 339 towns in the Commonwealth that have eliminated partisan elections.
The third warrant item asked voters to Adopt the Municipal opt-in Specialized Stretch Energy Code, which would regulate the design and construction of buildings in town for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. After debate, the measure failed 121 – 216, with some voters expressing that it put unrealistic requirements on new construction homes.
The fourth item on the agenda was to authorize the town to purchase parking in the vicinity of town hall, but it did not see discussion or debate as the Select Board recommended “No Action” and the remaining attendees agreed.
The meeting was adjourned and the crowd slipped out, greeted by the first snowfall of the year.