By K.B. Sherman, Community Reporter
Grafton – Grafton voters met to complete both a Special Town Meeting (STM) and Annual Town Meeting (ATM). Of approximately 14,380 Grafton residents, 212 voters showed up to participate. The STM dealt with 14 articles in just 11 minutes, while the ATM covered all 42 articles in another three and a half hours. The articles which generated the most controversy dealt with the future of the proposed Super Park and whether dogs should be banned from town cemeteries and other public places.
Article 23 proposed a law banning dogs from “town-owned cemeteries, the Commons, parks, and other places of recreation.” The article had originated from complaints the Board of Selectmen had received about dogs fouling grave markers during and after funerals, sometimes while a service was occurring. Phil Johnson, Parks and Cemeteries superintendent, rose to note that this has become an ever greater concern, and that Grafton, unlike any of its neighbors, had no official policy banning dogs from cemeteries. To his remarks, six voters urged the town not to adopt such a policy, claiming that such a ruling would greatly limit where dogs could be walked, especially during winter months when much of dog recreation areas were covered in deep snow, and that many public recreation areas lay between an owner’s home and other locations. Another voter objected on the grounds that some people bring dogs to visit the graves of children who had been attached to those particular dogs. The article was finally moved for a vote, and by 116 to 106, the proposal was defeated.
Articles 31 and 32 dealt with approving money for the creation of a new Super Park, as had last been discussed at the meeting of the Grafton Board of Selectmen on May 5. (Park proponents, who had been involved in this planning since 2008, assured townspeople that the money sought for Phase One of the project — $243,000 – would come from funds that would not result in any additional tax burden on the voters. Article 31 proposed using $100,000 from Community Preservation Undesignated Funds, while Article 32 proposed raising $143,000 from available funds and/or unexpended bonds authorized under Article 48 of the meeting of May 8, 2006. A heated discussion ensued, during which 22 people rose to speak on the issue.
One voter questioned the ability to ensure that the land would be used for the Super Park and not some other purpose. Another noted that the proposed site would impact the Miscoe Brook Fish Hatchery, while another questioned whether the article’s wording – which included the qualifier that supervision of construction could be transferred “to any other enabling body” – was “trustworthy”. Other voters opposed the project on the basis of it being proposed “too quickly,” to which the proponents replied that it had been in the works since 2008.
Questions about the proposed park’s hydrology and drainage issues were expressed by voter Scott Brown. The park’s planned proximity to the recently revived Grafton-Upton Railroad Line and its recent surge in activity and the to-be-nearby proposed liquid propane gas storage facility, were also questioned. Spending on this park in the face of the deteriorating condition of the town’s other 11 local parks was also expressed in opposition. Several mothers voiced fear of the likelihood of child molestation in a park bordering a railroad line, to which Police Chief Normand Crepeau, Jr., responded that he was satisfied that this would not be an issue. Planning Board member Robert Hassinger noted that his board had had insufficient time to study this latest park proposal, and another voter asked why the park was not in the current proposed capital expenditures list, to which Town Administrator Timothy McInerney replied that it has been off and on the list for years.
Article 31, which required a majority vote, passed. However, Article 32, which required a 2/3 vote in the affirmative, failed, 132 to 76, six votes short of approval. Thus, the future of Super Park remains unfunded until at least the fall Town Meeting.