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Erving selectmen to set dog fees after all

ERVING — Following a special town meeting Dec. 17 at which voters rejected a motion that would have given the Board of Selectmen the right to set dog registration fees, it seems the Board of Selectmen will do so after all.

Town Clerk Richard Newton said the town lawyer has found the existing dog bylaw gives the Board of Selectmen the authority to set the fees.

“Because of the way the dog bylaw was written the Board of Selectmen is the licensing board, so the Selectmen get to make the decision,” Newton said.

Newton said no one thought to look at the definitions in the law until town attorney Donna MacNicol did so.

“So it’s kind of an oversight on my part for not having read through the whole document beforehand, I guess,” Newton said.

The special town meeting in December, which also decided four unrelated articles, was prompted by a provision of a new state law requiring that municipalities charge the same registration fee for dogs regardless of the animal’s gender.

Erving currently charges $6 to register un-spayed females, $3 for all other dogs including un-neutered males.

Rather than dealing specifically with the dog fees, the motion would have shifted the right to set all fees from voters in town meeting to the relevant boards or officials, a change provided for in state law, contingent upon acceptance by town meeting.

Newton, who submitted the article, told voters this would have made the Board of Selectmen the body responsible for setting the rates of all fees in town, including those for birth, death and marriage certificates and business permits, rather than holding a town meeting every time.

Newton said the dog bylaw references that section of the law, 22F, but will be taken to refer only to the dog fees.

“We reference 22F in the town dog bylaw, to me that means it was accepted, but it could be argued conversely that it wasn’t its own article that says ‘let’s accept it,’ so I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know,” Newton said. “At this point I think they’re just going to, shall we say, let sleeping dogs lie.”

Residents at the December meeting rejected the motion 10-5 on the strength of objections to abdicating a democratic responsibility and the fee increases that might result, with Newton recommending $10 for spayed or neutered dogs and $15 for intact animals.

Following that meeting, the selectmen tentatively scheduled a separate town meeting to set the fees for Jan. 28.

Selectman Andrew Goodwin at the time proposed lowering the fees to the bare cost of the tags and forms.

Assistant Town Clerk Betsy Sicard said the selectmen will address the fee change at Monday’s meeting.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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