By James Niedzinski
---- — ROCKPORT — Some 200 residents today gave their approval to a fiscal 2014 budget carrying a 5.1 percent spending increase, while also backing an allocation of $60,000 to fund a Millbrook Meadow study, blessing a new bylaw requiring fingerprinting of solicitors and others and supporting new parking meters.
Although the budget passed as proposed — at $25,019,348 — there was a discussion on a number of the finer points within the budget during the Annual Town Meeting at Rockport Middle/High School.
Toby Arsenian of Granite Street raised questions about the pensions and health benefits received by the Board of Selectmen, asking those who received health benefits to identify themselves, those costs total $114,441.
Erin Battistelli, who chairs the Board of Selectmen and selectmen Paul Murphy both said they were very grateful for the benefits they received by serving on the board, Battistelli clarified hers was a family plan.
”If you are gainfully employed, why don’t you get that (insurance and benefits) through your employer?” asked Charmaine Blanchard, a King Street resident.
Her question went unanswered, but town officials said those benefits are eligible only to elected officials who receive a stipend, or have been employed by the town for several years. The benefits also end when the official is no longer serves the town.
Darren Klein of Kopelman and Paige, the town counsel, said most other municipalities in the state have the same guidelines.
Voters also supported spending $60,000 to fund a Millbrook Meadow study. This comes after a $60,000 gift from a trust fund, the committee is also seeking $120,000 at the Fall Town Meeting from Community Preservation Act funds.
”That’s $240,000 and we haven’t seen a spade in the ground,” Arsenian said. “How much is this project going to cost altogether?”
But John Sparks, a member of the Millbrook Meadow Committee said the comprehensive plan is not as easy as some might think, and the permitting process was very expensive. Sparks said ultimately, it will make the park safer and preserve the flora and fauna that is aging in the meadow and nearby pond.
“Serious consideration should be given to how the future of the leases are handled,” said former selectman Wendell “Sandy” Jacques.
The new bylaw regarding fingerprinting, advanced by Police Chief McCarthy, is aimed at door-to-door salespeople, Rockport-based cab drivers and others who conduct business on a transient of mobile basis.
McCarthy noted, however, that only those who seek soliciting licenses or permits would have to go through the new bylaw. McCarthy noted there have been several complaints and some arrests of door-to-door salesmen in the past.
For much more on today’s Rockport Town Meeting, look to Monday’s print and online editions of the Gloucester Daily Times and gloucestertimes.com.
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James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at email@example.com.