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Duxbury asks safer school railings

Duxbury Town Meeting has directed local school officials to rethink the proposed railings on the upper floors of the combined high school/middle school now under construction, amid concerns the railings might not adequately protect students from danger.

After a nearly hour-long discussion Monday, residents voted 73-59 in favor of a nonbinding resolution to have school building officials take another look at the height and design of the railings on the second- and third-floor balconies overlooking the atrium.

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Proponents of the petition argued a student could fall over the railing or something could be thrown or fall from the upper floors.

The article was proposed by resident Bob Doyle, and supported at Town Meeting by both the police and fire chiefs.

School building officials and selectmen had maintained that the 42-inch high railings met code and were sufficient and that changing the design at this point would add unnecessary costs to the project.

Fire Chief Kevin Nord said he understood that the design met code, but said that in this case, particularly in a building filled with adolescents, the minimum code needed to be exceeded.

He said space at the lower part of the railing would allow for someone to step up on it and thus make it even less protective.

He said the design might include safety glass to prevent books or other items from falling through the railing.

Town Meeting was adjourned Monday night after three hours and more than nine hours on Saturday.

In another decision, the voters reduced the salary for town clerk from $80,000 to $65,000, since the person elected next month will not have the more than 30 years’ experience of the outgoing one.

“I think that’s only fair. It took me almost 31 years to get to $80,000,” said retiring clerk Nancy M. Oates.

Town clerk candidates running in the March 22 election include Oates’s daughter Jacqueline Oates Haskell; Susan Kelley, assistant to the town manager who worked previously as assistant town clerk; Catherine Callahan; and Maureen Herrmann.

Kelley said it’s not a surprise the town clerk’s salary would be “adjusted to someone newly coming in.”

Town Meeting did preserve the job of town clerk as an elected office rather than an appointed one.

Kelley said she was sorry that proposal didn’t pass. If the position were appointed, she said, applicants would go through the same qualifications-based process all other employees do.

Oates urged Town Meeting voters to reject the proposal.

In other business, Town Meeting voted to raise the finance director’s pay from $102,000 to $114,000; agreed to pay $600,000 for the annual beach lease; approved seven employee union contracts; increased the budget for the July 4 parade from $10,000 to $15,000; and approved a net metering contract to buy wind-generated power.

Jean Lang can be reached at jeanmcmillanlang@gmail.com.
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