Questioning everything from tearing down Town Hall to racial profiling among police, Town Meeting ended up backing $181.2 million in spending — but with just one caveat.

They want their traffic calming.


Questioning everything from tearing down Town Hall to racial profiling among police, Town Meeting ended up backing $181.2 million in spending — but with just one caveat.

They want their traffic calming.

Amid hours of discussion over loans and expenses across town and school services, Town Meeting ultimately accepted a revised budget, 179-1, with $50,000 shifted to fund projects to slow down motorists. It was not immediately clear who cast the dissenting vote.

The line item for traffic calming had been eliminated in the original budget, but Marty Rosenthal, traffic-calming activist and Precinct 9 Town Meeting member, proposed its restoration.

The total budget marks an increase of $5,141,212, or 2.9 percent, from the previous fiscal year.

But even though the budget bore only one change, the night did not lack for what Moderator Sandy Gadsby characterized as its usual “appetite for exhaustive debate.”

Discussions over the largest capital expenditure, $15.9 million in borrowing to renovate Town Hall, brought out an array of perspectives.

Officials celebrated a $13.7 million bid from Colantonio General Contractors of Holliston, which they said came within budget.

“I will confess, no one was more relieved when the bids came in than your town administrator,” said Town Administrator Richard Kelliher. “We’re completely confident with these bids that we can execute this.”

Stephen Cirillo, the town’s treasurer, said the town would borrow $13.8 million over two years to pay for the project in 15-year loans.

Cirillo estimated the town would owe another $7 million in interest.

Selectman Robert Allen supported the project’s expected upgrades in energy efficiency, meeting space and infrastructure to the 40-year-old building.

“But it is what it is, and it’s in desperate need of a [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] system,” he said.

But others were less convinced funding the project was the right choice.

Stanley Spiegel, an Advisory Committee member and Precinct 2 Town Meeting member, said he would rather build a new Town Hall than refurbish an “ugly” one — a suggestion that drew applause.

“It’s not because I don’t think Town Hall needs fixing,” Spiegel said. “It’s still not going to be the efficient building we deserve.”

Allen estimated costs to demolish and rebuild the structure between $35 million and $50 million.

Michael Robbins, a Precinct 1 Town Meeting member, rejected suggestions that the spending would be done within the approved budget.

“That’s just the initial estimates. That’s before the infamous change orders,” Robbins said. “That’s before the overspending.”

Michael Selib, a Precinct 16 Town Meeting member, also dismissed officials’ promises.

“I truly believe that when this building is completed, you will be extremely disappointed,” Selib cautioned, saying the architect had never designed a city or town hall.

But A. Joseph Ross, a Precinct 12 Town Meeting member, said rejecting the vote would be unrealistic.

“Why don’t we build a new Town Hall? Haven’t you heard? We don’t have the money, folks,” Ross said. “The people who are telling us, ‘No, don’t do this and wait’ are probably not going to vote for the [hypothetical] override anyway.”

Town Meeting members ultimately supported borrowing the money, 205-17.

Also on the hot seat was the town’s funding of a zoning administrator, as Town Meeting members questioned his effectiveness in light of a string of neighborhood upsets of decisions from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

“He’s a very nice man, but he apparently has very little power and nothing has changed,” said Gill Fishman, a Precinct 14 Town Meeting member. “Special interests of the development community have taken full advantage of this broken enforcement.”

Selectwoman Nancy Daly said officials supported the administrator, Michael Shepard, but acknowledged “there’s still work to be done in this area.”

Meanwhile, representatives also grilled officials on upkeep on public works and traffic projects during their departmental budgets.

As a $62.4 million school budget was accepted with minimal questions, Superintendent of Schools Bill Lupini said cutting the original $2.2 million deficit wasn’t painless.

“There was a real focus on priorities we thought would make our students better,” Lupini said.

Jessica Scarpati can be reached at