By James Niedzinski
---- — ROCKPORT — The warrant for Rockport’s Annual Town Meeting closes tonight, and the town’s selectmen are beginning deliberation of what should go on it as the April meeting approaches.
In addition the standard capital improvement and budget articles and those involving town officers, Town Administrator Linda Sanders said Monday that some articles on the table for the warrant would change a series of town bylaws if included and ultimately approved.
Among those, Police Chief John “Tom” McCarthy proposed an article earlier this year that would require fingerprinting and more thorough background checks for anyone wishing to obtain a permit as a street vendor, such as door to door salesmen and taxicab drivers.
Background checks, in addition to fingerprinting, would be done through the state police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. If passed, the bylaw would still have to be approved by several state agencies. Police officials would make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen, who act as the licensing authority for door to door salesmen, peddlers, hawkers and other solicitors.
A second bylaw article, would increase the fines for Bearskin Neck shop owners who display too many goods outside of their store.
Selectmen Paul Murphy said Monday that the current fines are “ridiculously low” and added the town needs to be more aggressive in making sure the fines are paid.
Currently, shop owners can get a permit to display items outdoors and are issued one warning before a $25 dollar fine is issued, increasing to $50 for a second offense and $100 for any item displayed after. The proposed bylaw would keep the warning, but increase the step fines to about $100, $125 and $150.
An additional proposed article would allocate approximately $253,000 to defer some of the school budget cost, namely special education funding.
The free cash, if granted during Town Meeting, would essentially act as a one-year loan to the school and anticipate a higher level of state funding for the following year.
Preliminary school budget documents show the cost of transporting and educating special education students of the district is about $4,335,040; or 34 percent of the total school budget.
Another $60,000 article is assigned to a feasibility study to the Millbrook Park and Millbrook Dam projects, while other proposed articles also include changing the dates of Rockport’s town meetings.
One would look to move Fall Town Meeting from the second Monday in September to the third Monday. An additional article, if passed, would move the date of the Spring Town Meeting from the first Saturday in April to the first Monday evening in April, so there is little chance it would coincide with Passover or Easter as occurred and spurred that type of scheduling change last year.
Articles can be added to the warrant until selectmen formally close it during their meeting tonight.
This year’s Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, April 6.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at email@example.com.