Athol Town Meeting quickly passes 35 articls, budget

Residents vote on one of the articles at Monday’s Annual Town Meeting. Few issues were raised, and all 35 articles were approved in an hour.

Residents vote on one of the articles at Monday’s Annual Town Meeting. Few issues were raised, and all 35 articles were approved in an hour. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Athol's Selectboard, town manager, town solicitor and student intern at the Annual Town Meeting on Monday, June 10.

Athol's Selectboard, town manager, town solicitor and student intern at the Annual Town Meeting on Monday, June 10. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

Athol's Selectboard, town manager, town solicitor and student intern at the Annual Town Meeting on Monday, June 10.

Athol's Selectboard, town manager, town solicitor and student intern at the Annual Town Meeting on Monday, June 10. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 06-14-2024 5:00 PM

ATHOL – It took just about an hour for 120 voters to approve the 35 articles on the warrant at Monday’s Annual Town Meeting in Athol.

The Town Charter required the presence of at least 91 voters to conduct the town’s business.

There was very little debate on any single article. The lengthiest presentation came from Ken Duffy, chair of the Finance and Warrant Advisory Committee, when he read that committee’s annual report to the town. Duffy began by noting that 2024 marks the 100th anniversary of the dedication of Athol’s Town Hall.

“This building has a long and rich history in our town, and has been the heart and centerpiece of the town over the past 100 years,” he said. “Our town hall is considered by many to be one of the grandest town halls in all of Massachusetts.”

He then addressed some of the comments made on social media regarding the town hall.

“It was amazing to hear on local social media this past winter the negative comments and suggestions toward this building and its rich history by those who failed to see our responsibility to maintain and ensure that future generations have the same grand building in which to conduct the town’s business as we have had,” he said.

Much of the criticism, he said, had to do with the replacement of the cupola that sits atop the building.

“We are not the owners of this building, but simply the current custodians and, as such, we have an obligation to maintain and preserve this asset for the next generation,” he said.

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Duffy asserted it was also the responsibility of Athol’s leaders to ensure public safety and support the education of the children, as well as provide services to a wide range of stakeholders, including seniors and veterans. This is to be done, he explained, by taking a conservative approach to municipal finances and doing the utmost to keep property taxes at a minimum.

“Those of you who are here tonight have chosen to participate in this process. You may agree or disagree with the articles that are up for discussion and vote, but regardless of your thoughts and votes, you have chosen to be part of the process,” Duffy said. “Your participation is critical to what we have for services and what we have to pay for those services. Those who sit back behind their computers and criticize every move made or not made have every opportunity to join us in shaping the direction of the town.”

When Duffy had finished, voters proceeded to move through the articles at a relatively quick pace. Among the actions taken was the approval of a $19.3 million FY25 municipal budget, representing an increase of nearly 6.9% over the current year’s budget of $18.1 million. Also passing muster with the voters was the town’s $5.2 million assessment for the Athol Royalston Regional School District and $374,000 for the Montachusett Regional Vocational School District.

Voters also said “yes” to spending $824,000 to support the capital improvement plan recommended by the Capital Program Committee. Included in the plan are purchases for the police, fire, and public works departments, the animal control facility on Thrower Road, and for air conditioning units for municipal buildings.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@aol.com.