Town Moderator Sheila Doherty discussed the possibility of moving Town Meeting to September during Monday night’s Select Board session.
“So, when we spoke in June there was a leaning toward moving the meeting for a number of reasons,” said Doherty. “One was the COVID issue, peoples’ ability to gather. We talked about an outside meeting or an inside meeting in September. We talked about knowing whether there would be at that point more information on the budget.”
Doherty has already postponed Town Meeting again, from June 22 to July 22.
However, Doherty said that special legislation enacted after Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency resulting from the pandemic gives her the right to delay Town Meeting if the warrant hasn’t been signed or processed yet.
Doherty added that she can postpone Town Meeting in 30-day increments continually until 30 days after the emergency declaration has been lifted by the governor. She can postpone the meeting anytime in the next two weeks.
Selectman Dan Koh said Doherty is solely responsible for deciding when Town Meeting should be held, but she is required to discuss potential postponements with the Select Board, the director of the town’s Board of Health and with the town’s public safety departments.
Select Board Chair Laura Gregory said there’s no perfect time for Town Meeting, even in normal circumstances, and said she’d like to hold the meeting as scheduled in July.
“It’s just an unusual time,” said Gregory. “I am in favor of going forward in July and doing it outside. I think outside’s the safest option. It is consistent with the governor’s orders which are going to allow Andover (high school’s) graduation. And we could save some money by doing it following the graduation July 27 by using their chairs, using their sound equipment and moving forward at that time.”
Gregory added that there are presently no active coronavirus cases in town and that number could change in the fall.
“I don’t think it’s going to get much better than this,” she added. “It may get much worse.”
Gregory then asked Town Manager Andrew Flanagan what the board would have to do to remove some less urgent articles from the warrant to shorten the duration of the meeting if it’s to be held in July.
Flanagan responded by saying the board should “consider opening the warrant and withdrawing the articles that would not be considered at what we call annual Town Meeting.”
“I would say what is absolutely necessary is of course the financial articles,” he added.
If the warrant is shortened, Flanagan said the less urgent items excluded from the July meeting will most likely be addressed in a second meeting in the fall.
Koh chimed in saying that he thinks the coronavirus was still a concern and Town Meeting should be held online.
“We should be doing everything we can to avoid big crowds in this current environment,” said Koh. “And I understand that could allow us to be in a sticky situation in September if there is a fall surge.”
Koh added, “There is a perception out there that the coronavirus is over – the first wave is over – but that is just not true.”