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Winchester To Go Forward With Cuts After Failed Override

With the failed $1.44 million override, Winchester faces a $728K budget gap for 2012, which will increase to $1.5 million in 2013 and to $2.5 million by 2014.

It wasn’t the outcome Senior Management, the and the School Committee were hoping for. Residents who headed to the polls on Tuesday narrowly voted to defeat the , 2,045 to 1,810.

For 2012, Winchester is going to use $1.48 million of free cash, but with the failed override, the town will need to cut the That budget gap is expected to grow in 2013 to $1.5 million and to $2.5 million by 2014.

“It’s disappointing,” said Acting Town Manager Mary Ellen Lannon of the failed override. “We put in a lot of work for this three-year plan. But the important thing is, we gave it to the voters and gave them the right to choose.”

The Board of Selectmen, along with Lannon and Assistant Town Manager Mark Twogood, put together a list of items that would need to be cut over the next three years if an override failed. According to Thomas Howley, chair of the Board of Selectmen, there could be reductions in the , personnel and services over the next three years.

The and Advanced Life Support ambulance will regularly be out of service. The school crossing guard program will most likely be eliminated. Reductions in the Library budget will mean the loss of its book borrowing privileges. The DPW could lose custodians, mechanics and field maintenance personnel and Town Hall services will be cut.

“We now need to go forward with the necessary cuts,” said Selectman Forrest Fontana. “There’s no magic bullet, we can’t pull any rabbit out of a hat in terms of the cuts. We’re just going to have to be as transparent as we can be in terms of what will services will be impacted.”

The schools will also be affected by this decision. The School Department and had previously stated that a failed override could force the department tos in 2012 and nearly 30 over the next three years.

“We’re now going to need to go ahead and make these difficult cuts,” Lannon said. “I’m just a little taken aback that we didn’t get the full support of the community.”

But Fontana is confident that the town will be able to handle these cuts and continue to maintain a sufficient quality of life for the citizens in Winchester.

“This is going to be difficult, but we need everybody to collectively work together to solve these problems,” Fontana said. “We need everyone to be part of the solution and not be divisive.”

Preceinct Yes No Blank 1 235 286 17 2 115 197 4 3 350 235 16 4 289 288 15 5 232 253 19 6 212 277 21 7 270 262 14 8 107 247 11 Total 1,810 2,045 117
Wisconsin March 30, 2011 at 02:56 PM
Good to know residents are paying attention.
WinchesterResident March 30, 2011 at 03:26 PM
About time we cut crossing guards and teach our kids to use TRAFFIC LIGHTS! It's not that complicated, really - 3 colors and not much room for interpretation.
DonnaD March 30, 2011 at 03:45 PM
About time also that we teach our adult drivers what crosswalks and traffic lights mean (3 colors and not much room for itnerpretation), as well as what that little stalk on the side of their steering wheel is for. When I was a McCall parent I had many occasions to be frightened by parents pulling out into traffic without signalling, speeding through yellow lights that turn red while they are still in the intersection, stopping in traffic without pulling over to let their kids exit (and having other cars swerve around them into the other lane to get by) and ignoring students standing in crosswalks. (Also, we need to remind people that handicapped parking spots require a handicapped parking sticker or placard, no matter how little time you expect to spend there.) We are our own worst enemies, people. Show each other a little bit of consideration and respect and maybe we will avoid a tragedy when (not if) the crossing guards get cut. We are all in this together.
Harry C. March 30, 2011 at 08:50 PM
Hi Donna. What really needs to happen is the police need to enforce all the rules and laws you are referring to. People regularly speed through the Main Street/Washington St intersection, blow off the stop sign at the same intersection, ignore the law which requires a driver to stop for people in the crosswalk, double park, park in front of fire hydrants and seldom are they ticketed by the police. There is a gold mine of tickets to be written, which would raise revenue and stop people from abusing the traffic laws. I see the two parking ticket writing guys all around town, writing tickets for parking violations. Why not encourage Winchester's Finest to crack down on moving violations, particularly in school zones in the school hours? Why doesn't the chief of police make this a priority?
Gemini March 31, 2011 at 07:41 PM
Good job Winchester, maybe the town will be better with money now, we really dont get much for the taxes we pay, 150 for a dump permit in addition to over 5000 a year in taxes??
FreeCitizen March 31, 2011 at 08:06 PM
I'm with Tim. You'd be astonished if you spent a day watching traffic barreling up and down Forest Street, between Washington St. and the I-93 crossover. A strategically-placed officer in each direction at some point during a day would net the town anywhere from 50-100 citations in a very short time, and if drivers wised up to the trap, might result in a safer entry/exit from the side streets for both cars and pedestrians. Highland Ave is a speedway for many drivers during off-hours, too. I'm sure there are other streets that experience this, and I've often wondered why our police don't do this more often. Rather than installing parking meters (which I believe will actually have a negative impact on local businesses), I'd prefer to see police dealing with the moving violations that I see happening every day.
Harry C. April 01, 2011 at 01:01 PM
Maybe you should stroll over to the intersection of Main and Washington Streets. There are no solid traffic lights at the busiest school crossing area in town (where McCall and Lincoln meet), just flashing lights. Drivers ignore the little children trying to cross and speed on by. When we had snow banks you couldn't even see the children waiting to cross. Some day a child will be hit and possibly killed trying to cross the street and the town will find itself slapped with a huge lawsuit for failing to provide safe passage for the school children. What does it say about a town that has tens of millions to build new schools but will not pay for crossing guards? I'm sure the wise town fathers on the board of selectmen will cut the crossing guards as punishment to those who didn't support their cherished override but the long term cost to the town will be staggering.
WinchesterResident April 01, 2011 at 01:37 PM
In response to Tim - we are ALL responsible for safe driving, and that's a completely separate issue. However, when you decide to have a kid, you take responsibility for their safety. So, when you talk about the town getting sued because a kid gets hit - WHERE WERE THE PARENTS??? Why do we, as a society, keep shifting parental responsibilities to the community? You choose to have children, you are responsible to get them to school safely - whether you decide you drive them to school, walk them, or whatever you think is best. If you think it's OK to have them walk to school unaccompanied, that's a choice YOU - not the town - made. What if my dog gets hit by a car, should there be guards around to make sure my dog doesn't get out? Should I sue the town? I know this is going to raise all sorts of eyebrows and screaming and wailing but... it's the same concept. I get a dog, I am responsible for its safety. I get a child, I am responsible for his or her safety. And that includes what happens on their way to school.
Harry C. April 01, 2011 at 02:20 PM
I am not saying it is right to sue the town, I'm just telling you that is what will happen. Your dog analogy is deeply flawed, by the way. Children are required, by law, to attend those schools. Last time I checked, dogs are not required to attend. If children are required by law to attend those schools there should be some level of protecttion afforded their safe travel, wouldn't you agree? Is it unreasonable to expect the police to enforce safety laws at the crosswalks where our most vunerable residents cross? I am sure most parents would like to take their children to school every day but that is unrealistic and would compound the traffic issue and increase the dangers to pedestrians. And I beg to differ with your remark that safe driving is a completely different issue. In fact that IS the issue. If the drivers obeyed the crosswalk laws we wouldn't need crossing guards...but they don't. If you doubt that, come and look at the intersection I refer to any school day. In answer to your question "WHERE WERE THE PARENTS???" I would suggest they are at work, trying to earn enough money to pay their taxes.
WinchesterResident April 01, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Well, similarly, I think your argument about children being required to attend school is flawed. Nobody is required to have children if they cannot do basic things such as take them to school etc. But that's just for argument's sake - I am not advocating that. I think we need to keep law enforcement separate from crosswalk guards; they are not law enforcement. If people are speeding down the intersection, they should be fined. But there is no need to pay someone to sit in front of traffic light and let people cross when there is a red light. In fact, that teaches children a wrong lesson: don't worry about traffic lights, you can cross whenever you feel like it.
Harry C. April 01, 2011 at 03:37 PM
You seem unclear on the crossing area I refer to. There are no solid light traffic signals at the intersection of Main & Washington. I agree with you that children should learn to cross at the light, when there is a walk signal. But the traffic lights at the junction of Washington & Main do not have that set up. Probably they should but they don't. There is one stop sign only. The speed limit is 30 mph and with cars parked on both sides it is hard for drivers to even see the smaller children. This is just a basic safety issue. It does not affect me directly, since my son is older, but I do see the danger in the current situation.
WinchesterResident April 01, 2011 at 05:23 PM
I see what you're saying - and yes, I don't really know exactly which intersection you are referring to - but it sounds like that's definitely something the town should look at and fix it. The reason for my frustration is that in my horrendous morning communte there are 2 areas (neither in Winchester, by the way), where I have a VERY short green light, and I often get stopped by a crossing guard who - despite the pedestrians having a red light, and independently of the age of the pedestrian - stops the entire traffic, let's them go - and by the time that's happened, I'm back in the red light. Sometimes for multiple cycles! And my perspective on that is - 1) there is a traffic light and people should just follow it and not need a guard and 2) the guard him/herself should FOLLOW the light and instruct people to cross when the light has turned green in their favor, rather than assume that pedestrians have the right to go at any time, independently of the traffic light. But it sounds like what you are referring to is a specific case which warrants its own attention. My comment is just more general.

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