SALISBURY — With relatively little discussion, last night Town Meeting approved a temporary moratorium on the siting of medical marijuana dispensaries in town, a new three-quarter of a cent local excise tax on all restaurant meals and borrowing almost $198,000 to initiate the first phase of designing for a new police station.
But it tabled an effort to eliminate the state regulation requiring Salisbury police officers to live in Massachusetts.
Although Salisbury Chief Thomas Fowler said he and the majority of his officers supported removing the civil service regulation that forces Salisbury police officers to live in Massachusetts, after Salisbury Sgt. Chuck Scione rose to speak against eliminating the law, Town Meeting decided it needed more time to decide the issue.
Town Manager Neil Harrington told Town Meeting he brought the prospect of filing a Home Rule Petition with the Legislature to get rid of the residency rule for police to be fair. Firefighters and other town employees can live where they like, he said, but because the town’s police department functions under the jurisdiction of civil service, police have to live in Massachusetts.
Harrington said he sees the in-state residency for police as unfair and a “double standard.” What difference does it make, Harrington said, if an officer lives one mile away in Seabrook or a mile away in Amesbury?
But, Scione said, for the past 25 years he’s lived in Salisbury because of the civil service regulation, even though he would have enjoyed the option of living in southern New Hampshire. Civil service’s in-state residency requirement is there to make police officers “stake holders” in their state and county, Scione said.
Although it’s common knowledge that a number of his fellow Salisbury officers live in New Hampshire, Scione told Town Meeting he’s opposed to rescinding the measure. He added in-state residency is a “hot topic” with civil service in Boston, and he believes that removing the stipulation would draw opposition.
However, it was still a good night for the police department, as Town Meeting approved funding to lease two new cruisers, as well as unanimously approving borrowing $197,700 in the town’s first move to build a new police station to replace the current aging station.
The money would be split for two purposes, Harrington said. About $40,000 would go toward paying the partial cost of hiring a project manager, required by law on municipal buildings of more than $1 million. The other $157,700 is the estimated cost of having a schematic design made of the proposed police station, the first phase of the project before final design and engineering plans are completed.
If and when the town decides it’s prepared to build the police station, each phase of new funding for the project will come before Town Meeting for approval, Harrington said.
And anyone considering Salisbury as the site for a legal medical marijuana facility will have to wait a while, for Town Meeting approved a temporary moratorium, allowing the Planning Board time to create regulations to protect the interests of the town. The moratorium will be in effect through June 30, 2014, or until the town adopts the rules to regulate medical marijuana treatment centers in town.
Estimated to raise between $150,000 to $200,000 a year for town coffers, Town Meeting also approved a .75 cent tax on all restaurant meals, which includes take-out. Neighboring communities like Newburyport and Amesbury already instituted the local option meals tax, similar to the local option hotel room tax that communities like Salisbury are allowed to implement.
The small tax won’t add much to the bill, Harrington said, suggesting it would increase the price of a $3 slice of beach pizza by less than 3 cents.
The result of all action on the 12-question warrant is below.
Article 1 — Temporary moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries (2/3 majority needed)
Article 2 — Voluntary veterans work/tax relief program
Article 3 — Authorize selectmen to acquire parcel of land on Beach Road
Article 4 — Reduce town budget by $62,000
Article 5 — Local .75 cent tax on restaurant meals
Article 6 — Lowering dog license late fees for $5 per month
Article 7 — Dissolving the Zoning Review Committee
Article 8 — Rescind borrowing $174,100 for beach water tank
Article 9 — Transfer $25,000 to police account for initial 3-year lease on two new cruisers
Article 10 — Borrow $197,700 to partially fund owner’s project manager ($40,000) as well as schematic design phase ($157,700) for new police station (2/3 majority needed)
Article 11 — Authorize selectmen to accept FerryRoad/Second Street drainage easement
Article 12 — Authorize filing Home Rule Petition to eliminate in-state residency requirement for police officers.