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    Essex, Manchester-by-the-Sea

    Emergency sessions are hit and miss

    Residents in Essex covered the 30-person quorum and met for 10 minutes Monday in Special Town Meeting, unanimously approving new flood-plain bylaws.

    In Manchester-by-the-Sea, meanwhile, the Special Town Meeting scheduled for the same night was canceled after officials failed to advertise it appropriately.

    In both cases, town officials called the extra session to decide issues that cropped up unexpectedly.


    In Essex, the unexpected came on the second night of annual Town Meeting, on May 9. A proposal to revise the town's flood-plain management bylaws was expected to pass without much controversy, said the Board of Selectmen’s chairman, Jeffrey Jones. However, resident John Guerin raised an objection, and Town Meeting voted against the bylaw revisions.

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    If the town had not adopted the flood-plain bylaw revisions before July 3, residents would not be allowed to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program. By law, property owners in “special flood hazard areas’’ (such as Essex) are required to purchase flood insurance in order to obtain a federally guaranteed mortgage, or seek federal disaster relief loans or grants.

    Guerin, a real estate lawyer and former selectman, said he felt the definitions of boundaries in the proposed bylaws were not clear enough, and there could have been unintended consequences of interpretation.

    After the May 9 vote, Guerin worked with Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki and a representative of the state's Department of Conservation and Recreation to make the new version of the proposed bylaws more specific.

    He spoke in favor of the change before the new version’s approval Monday night.


    In Manchester-by-the-Sea, the surprise came in May when a culvert collapsed under School Street. Because the repairs were done on an emergency basis, the Board of Selectmen was authorized by the state to spend the estimated $200,000. However, Town Meeting’s approval was required to allocate funds from the town's free cash account.

    While there were articles in the local newspapers about the additional session, town bylaws specify that an official notice must be advertised in the local newspaper 14 days in advance of any Town Meeting, or delivered to every home in town.

    To meet the requirement, a Boy Scout troop delivers Town Meeting packets door-to-door for the sessions each spring, but the troop was not called into action for the emergency vote.

    “We just missed it,’’ Town Administrator Wayne Melville said. “I missed it.’’

    Melville said the town may be able to use funds that have been allocated but unspent. Following a mild winter, there is approximately $50,000 left in the town's snow and ice budget, for example.


    “During May and June, surpluses from accounts may be transferred for other uses,’’ he said. “There is a possibility we'll be able to pay for this without needing a Town Meeting.’’ If not, a session may be convened in the fall.

    David Rattigan can be e-mailed at