2011 Review: The year in government

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Election lowlights, ATM fireworks, Canton ‘goes green’

Two-thousand-eleven proved to be yet another eventful year for local politics, although the same cannot be said for the annual town election, which ceased to matter back in February when not so much as a single candidate emerged to challenge any of the incumbents.

It was the first uncontested election in recent memory — perhaps the first ever — and it produced an abysmal voter turnout for the third year in a row. Town Clerk Tracy Kenney had even contacted the secretary of state’s office to see if the town could skip the election altogether and save the estimated $10,000 in related expenses, but the request was predictably denied due to the possibility of write-in candidates.

As uneventful as the election was, however, the annual town meeting more than made up for it just a few weeks later with plenty of drama, including a contentious debate over a proposed meals tax hike that ended with a rare tie vote at the close of the first session. At the next session a reconsideration of the vote was proposed, thus requiring voters to reconvene the following Monday solely to decide the fate of the meals tax, which was ultimately defeated.

Also at town meeting, voters unanimously approved the town takeover of Reservoir Pond from the Napleton Company, which had inherited the rights when it purchased the Plymouth Rubber site on Revere Street. Voters also authorized the town to lease the state-owned Ponkapoag Golf Course and contract with a golf management company to oversee day-to-day operations. And despite the objection of certain town officials, voters approved the first step in the enactment of the Community Preservation Act, which allows towns to adopt a real estate tax surcharge that would go toward the preservation of open space and historic sites, as well as the development of affordable housing and outdoor recreational facilities. The measure will now appear on a ballot question in the upcoming town election.

Besides an eventful town meeting, the past year also saw the town become a leader in alternative energy and “green” technology, punctuated by a 25-year deal with Southern Sky Renewable Energy to build a massive solar farm — reportedly the largest in New England — at the site of the former Pine Street landfill. The project will generate $300,000 per year in lease payments as well as millions more in potential energy savings over the life of the contract. Construction on the project is already underway and it should be completed sometime in 2012.

Aiding the development of the town’s green revolution this year was the newly formed Canton Green Team, an advisory group appointed by the Board of Selectmen that is tasked with exploring new initiatives and grant opportunities. The group is currently promoting adoption of the Stretch Energy Code — a new standard of energy efficiency for homeowners and business that would serve as the final step in qualifying for the state’s Green Communities Grant Program.

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