The Board of Selectmen could not agree on whether it was fair that more than 600 condominium owners should pay both town property taxes and condo fees that includes a fee for private trash collection.
Board Chairman Richard Malagrifa proposed that the town pay $17,656 to collect some of the trash at four condominiums -- Crown Point, Summit Estates, The Glen and Hawthorne's Crossing.
The proposal failed to get a second with Selectman Barry Greenfield joining Malagrifa in support of picking up trash at the condos. Board Vice Chairman David Van Dam and Selectman Glenn Kessler opposed the measure.
Selectman Jill Sullivan recused herself because she owns a condo, but she left it open that she might seek a legal opinion on whether that constituted a conflict.
Van Dam accused Sullivan, who did not indicate how she would vote on the issue, of waiting to see how the vote came out before she asked for the legal opinion.
Suillivan called Van Dam's accusation "cynical" and said she was "offended by the suggestion."
To a round of applause from a standing-room only crowd of condo owners, Malagrifa said the condo residents, a majority of whom are senior citizens, "just want to be treated fairly."
He said the condominiums take up 1.7 percent of the town land, yet the condominium owners pay more than $2 million in taxes, which is about 5 percent of the total tax base.
Malagrifa said the additional funds for the condo trash pickup could come from the money saved by requiring more recycling and reducing the number of allowed trash barrels for all residents. That program has saved the town $57,000 in its first nine months, Malagrifa said.
The chairman also said seniors do not have many children in the schools. But Van Dam said seniors use other city services, like police and emergency medical.
Thomas Younger said he would not support changing the law. "There is no bylaw in Swampscott that requires the town to pick up trash," he said.
Younger said he would have to wait to see if the funds saved from the trash program would be needed for other city services.
Much of the debate hinged on the fact that the real estate developers who built the condos had agreed not to have the trash picked up at the condos as a condition for gaining the town's approval for building the condos.
It was suggested that the tax assessor valued the condos lower for property taxes because the town did not pick up trash or remove snow.
Malagrifa said he had never heard the tax assessor valued the condos at a lower value. Younger said he would ask the Board of Assessors if this was its practice.
There was also concern among the Selectmen that the condo owners would not see any savings if the town picked up some of the trash.
Several condo board presidents said the savings would benefit the owners because the savings would be used to maintain the aging buildings.
"The residents would benefit from the savings," said Patty Ryan, who manages three of the condos.
Several condo owners spoke in favor of Malagrifa's proposal. Alice Griffin, who is on the board of The Glen, said, "The residents of Swampscott would say what's fair is fair. This is the right time for this proposal."
The issue was left to be considered at a future meeting with Malagrifa hoping that either Sullivan will be able to vote or Kessler will change his mind.
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