Danvers Petition To Strike Down Trash Fee Fails At Town Meeting

DANVERS, MA — A citizen’s petition to support the repeal of the town’s impending $200 annual trash and recycling fee — at least symbolically even if the petition might ultimately prove not legally binding — failed a vote of Danvers town meeting members at Monday night’s special town meeting.

The voice vote supported the Finance Committee’s recommendation to take “no action” on the petition — essentially killing it.

Those supporting the petition argued that the fee amounts to a tax that the Select Board imposed at the recommendation of the town manager to get around limits set for in Proposition 2 1/2 and that the will of town meeting members should guide that decision.

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Town Counsel David DeLuca told the assembly, however, that state law allows the leveling of fees at the discretion of the town executive branch, which is the Select Board, and that even the passage of the citizen’s petition would be non-binding.

The Select Board voted 3-2 in October to support the Town Manager Steve Bartha’s proposed fee to help offset a $1.13 million increase — about 60 percent — in solid waste removal under the town’s new contract. The vote came following a months-long process during which the fee was supported by a majority of a Select Board Budget Conference Committee.

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But the support was far from overwhelming with Select Board member Maureen Bernard advocating a vote in favor of the citizen’s petition to send a message on the fee repeal at Monday’s special town meeting.

“I do appreciate the time and effort of the citizen’s petition,” Bernard said on Monday. “Thank you very much. Seeing that they retained over 300-plus signatures in, I believe, a short period of time, it makes me wonder if they had a longer period of time how many more signatures would they have?

“I want to respect the process. But as mentioned previously it should be up to the residents, not just one person, to implement the fee.”

Select Board members David Mills and Gardner Trask both spoke in favor of the “no action” vote with respect to following state law on how fees can be imposed as well as the budget necessities of services or personnel that would be cut should the full cost of the contract increases need to be absorbed within the general operating budget.

“We have a budget goal and objectives that we vote on every year,” Select Board member Daniel Bennett said. “Our mission statement is rather simple — to provide excellent services at the level desired by citizens, taxpayers, and ratepayers that ensure the health, safety, education, welfare and quality of life in this community.

“We, as the Select Board, take that very seriously whenever we take a vote that impacts the citizens, the taxpayers, the ratepayers.”

(Scott Souza is a Patch field editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. X/Twitter: @Scott_Souza.)

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