By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – Now that the Annual Town Meeting (ATM) and the Special Town Meeting (STM) are finally – after a combined 14 hours over three days and nights – over – the Westborough Board of Selectmen (BOS) is ready to attend to the many items facing the town in the upcoming months. At its March 27 meeting, the board discussed several proposed policies on how it should communicate with residents going forth. But in the end, the members agreed while the proposed changes all had merit, there was no need to change the way business is done.
At a previous meeting, Selectman Tim Dodd had asked Town Council Gregory Franks to look into the possibility of the BOS allowing town boards and committees to have the option of remote voting. At the March 27 meeting, Franks said that Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley had recently ruled that this was an acceptable practice if the respective BOS agreed. The caveat, Franks said, was that it could not be used to reach a quorum and it “must be for a good reason,” such as illness, disability, or distance (such as when a member was traveling for business) and it could not cost the town anything (such as purchasing computer equipment for Skyping.)
Selectman Denny Drewry, who although he was just elected to the board, but has served previous terms, said he was not in favor of the proposal.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is “is there a need?”” he said. “In my experience in various boards there is not a need. I think if anyone runs for elected office, they should make every attempt to attend meetings.”
Selectman George Barrette, who like Drewry is newly elected but has also served on the BOS in the past, agreed.
“I don's think there's a place for this [policy] in town government,” he said.
BOS Chair Leigh Emery said while she could see both sides of the issue, added “a lot is lost when you'se not present. Personal, physical participation is an important part of town government.”
The board also decided not to adopt a formal “transparency policy” as the members felt they have improved communication significantly with the public over the past few years, particularly with the launch of the town's new website.
The board also chose not to adopt a policy of having the members commit to formal office hours where the public could meet with them.
“I had office hours in my first two terms and they were unsuccessful,” Barrette said. “Now I have office hours 24/7. We all do – we all try to be always available.”