By Kevin Perinton Turner, Contributing Writer
WESTBOROUGH – Residents filed into Westborough High School to attend this year’s Annual Town Meeting, May 15. Over 70 people came to vote and express thoughts on multiple proposals regarding town issues.
One such issue related to Westborough’s town seal, which features a depiction of the cotton gin in recognition of the machine’s 1700s inventor, Westborough resident Eli Whitney. The seal has sparked controversy in recent years as some in town have raised concerns about the cotton gin’s role in the growth of slavery in the American South.
“This article will create a committee that will be appointed by the town moderator,” Selectmen Shelby Marshall explained when introducing Article 16. “The committee will consist of the minimum seven residents and a maximum of nine.”
Marshall made it clear to voters that their current votes were not deciding whether to change the seal or what to change it to. Rather, they were settling the question of whether a committee should be formed to discuss a possible change.
Voters ultimately said “yes” to form a committee that consists of people familiar with the history and design and who possess an interest in the idea. The committee will include consultation with a group of stakeholders to hold multiple forums.
No further conversations on what the seal should be changed to occurred during the Town Meeting.
Beyond the town seal, though, voters approved spending $25,176 in free cash on police-worn body cameras.
“We’ve been researching for grants for body cameras since 2020,” said Police Chief Jeff Lourie. “…Two attempts were made at the federal level. [But] we did not score a level high enough to attain the funding.”
Last fall the Police Department was indeed granted $39,530 for body cameras. To implement a body camera program though, the department would need $64,706 in the first year. So, they asked to receive the rest of the funding via Town Meeting approval.
Also involving the Police Department, another motion carried for the transfer of $130,000 to replace two police cruisers and associated equipment. While a resident mentioned that a thin blue line design on cruisers was undetectable, it was later stated the meeting was only addressing finance topics.
The town also voted to authorize the Board of Selectmen to acquire easements on West Park Drive Extension and 118 Flanders Road for the purpose of installing and maintaining a traffic light. The timeline of when to expect the traffic light becoming operational is still to be determined.
Finally, Town Meeting also discussed revising its Animal Control Bylaw.
New definitions were added to Section 11 regarding poultry on residential lots.
The bylaw regulates keeping poultry for personal use on residential lots of two acres or less in size. Specifically, the bylaw change dictates that owners’ poultry shall not be a nuisance, due to noise, odor, or danger to their own health. Furthermore, chicken coops must be five feet away from abutting property lines. All poultry must be kept in a clean and healthy condition.
The motion was passed. However, a number of questions arose and a motion to terminate debate was suggested.
Watch the full May 15 Annual Town Meeting on the Westborough TV Youtube channel.