By Joan Goodchild
Shrewsbury – Although the town just wrapped up its election season, most of Shrewsbury's Town Meeting members will soon have to once again start thinking about re-election. This will be necessary, town officials said, because the 2010 government census has determined that Shrewsbury has had a 12 percent population increase. As a result, the boundaries of all but one of the town's nine precincts must be redrawn and an additional one added, because a precinct cannot have more than 4,000 voters. And since the boundaries have been changed, as per state law, Town Meeting members must once again go through the election process in order to represent their precincts.
At its June 7 meeting, the Board of Selectmen discussed the pros and cons of reconfiguring the current nine precincts versus adding a new 10th one. A public meeting was also held last month that allowed voters to speak to the board regarding this alteration. At the May meeting, most voters spoke in favor of adding a new precinct.
However, at the June 7 meeting, Board of Selectmen Chair James Kane said he was concerned about the additional costs – such as staffing and purchasing new machines – that the town would incur if a new district were added. He also explained that the current precinct configuration brings together voters with more “commonality of interests” than would potentially exist if new precinct areas were created.
Selectman Henry Fitzgerald, who won a spot on the board in May, said reconfiguring the current precinct boundaries would still leave the population numbers close to the limit in several precincts. This would likely mean that the areas would have to be redrawn in the near future. Adding a 10th district at this time makes more sense, he said.
The board approved the measure to add a 10th precinct with a vote of 4-1, with Kane opposed. The boundaries of the new precinct have not yet been determined.