HARVARD -- During discussion of the annual Town Meeting warrant last Tuesday night, selectmen took an itemized, critical route through the finalized document, aiming to decide which of the 53 articles they would support and thus be "on the same page" if asked.
Following precedent, they did not take a stand on citizen's petitions and they skipped over a raft of zoning articles at the end of the warrant, sponsored by the Planning Board.
But some concerns were raised and the board did not see eye-to-eye on everything.
For example, Article 24, which calls for some taxpayer funding for the Harvard Cable TV studio, now located in the revamped basement of the Bromfield School and offering student programs as well as public access. Selectman Lucy Wallace wanted to know if this request for funding would be the last, since that claim has been made before.
"I wouldn't swear to it," said Selectman Stu Sklar, a former School Committee member who serves as liaison to the Community Cable Access Committee. But the selectmen decided they would support the request anyway, citing benefits to the school.
That said, Sklar added that people should be aware that cable access is no longer a viewers-only proposition, funded by Charter and paid for via subscriber fees, as was formerly the case. "It's a town investment now," he said.
Two capital exclusion questions, articles 25 and 26, also sparked some discussion. One asks for money to replace cracked concrete at Bromfield, which Town Administrator Tim Bragan said was damaged by rock salt. The other article seeks money to buy a new front-end loader for the DPW.
Wallace said she'd like to see a different de-icing method used in the future.
"We need to fix the concrete, I don't doubt it ..." Selectman Ron Ricci said. But he objected to the "capital exclusion" part, which would raise residents' taxes for a year. "It's real money," he said, and he won't vote for those two articles, although he supports the "concept."
Article 38, which seeks to amend the town's dog bylaws -- appending state law and adding increased fines -- sparked the most discussion.
"When a complaint is filed, there's a process," Selectman Leo Blair said. But in his view it fell short in the case of a recent dog hearing, when the board was split on whether to declare a pair of allegedly chicken-killing dogs "dangerous dogs" or "nuisance dogs," based on their read of available go-to's under each category in the state law, which Bragan said applies in any case.
Wallace said she supports the article. Ricci agreed but said it was confusing.
In the end the board was hung up on the issue.
Despite Bragan's attempt to sum it up succinctly, selectmen didn't come to consensus on what the proposed changes meant. Basically, they said that if they don't understand it, they can't explain it to voters, either.
Chairwoman Marie Sobalvarro asked Blair to draft a handout they could all buy into and he agreed. The board then agreed to hold off voting on whether to support the article until Blair drafts a "handout" that lays it all out in black and white.
Article 39, mosquito control, didn't cause any buzz, however. Ricci suggested that the board take no position on it. Sklar agreed, citing the numerous times similar proposals have met strong opposition on Town Meeting floor. Besides, he's against it, he said.
After flipping past the Planning Board articles, the selectmen wrapped their penultimate warrant discussion with a solid yes on all of those related to revolving funds. The only item now awaiting a stand is the dog law, to be taken up again later.
It could be among the items of note on the agenda for the next selectmen's meeting, set for March 18. Others Sobalvarro listed for that agenda included a presentation by the Solar Garden group on a proposed PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program, a discussion with LLB architects about changes they were asked to make to the Town Hall building project plan and a discussion with the School Committee about future use of Bromfield House that will include input from the Bromfield Trust, which has jurisdiction over the building and the land via the original trust established by Margaret Blanchard.
Annual Town Meeting will be held April 1.