Pembroke: Special Town Meeting moves through packed warrant

Pembroke Special Town Meeting moved through a  packed warrant Tuesday night approving $11.7 million for new roofs on old school buildings, budget approvals to allow setting the tax rate, two important zoning articles and a new tax. It surprised selectmen by not funding a contract negotiated with the clerical union.

No one objected to the new school roofs. Voters did question how they got so bad so quickly and wanted assurances the new roofs would have high quality materials and supervised installation. Town Administrator Ed Thorne said action of the Meeting would allow the financial team to bring a new tax rate to selectmen for approval.

Town Meeting approved a zoning bylaw controlling solar generation of electricity. The bylaw states its purpose as encouraging solar power development. It allows large-scale solar in industrial zones, small-scale solar in residential zones with visual buffering. Town Meeting approved an amendment to the proposed bylaw making solar arrays specifically allowable in the historic district.

The second zoning article lifted the town’s moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and located potential businesses in the two industrial zones on the west side of Route 3.

With no opposition from restaurant owners, Town Meeting approved a .75 percent meals tax. The advisory board said without the new tax, town government would have to lay-off employees next year.

Pembroke’s Special Town Meeting closed with a normally routine article to fund any contracts Selectmen have negotiated with town employee unions. At question was a contract with the clerical union. Selectmen asked for support. Advisory board member Matt McNeily asked for a no vote. He, and other advisory board members, want Selectmen to renegotiate the contract so that clerks hired in the future would pay a 25 percent share of health insurance, while keeping the share at 20 percent for current employees. Selectmen said they had negotiated in good faith and the change would affect future negotiations with other unions. But, Town Meeting agreed with the advisory board and voted not to fund the contract, forcing the parties to renegotiate.

About Charles Mathewson

Charles Mathewson is a reporter at WATD.