By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Northborough – Selectman Julianne Hirsh made a suggestion during her report at the Nov. 4 meeting to formally change the name of the Board of Selectmen to Select Board. She cited that other towns in the commonwealth had done so. She had asked that the topic be put on a future agenda for discussion.
The topic was revisited at the board’s meeting Dec. 16.
Town Administrator John Coderre explained that the process to change the name depended on how the town’s government was structured. Some towns have a charter and some do not.
“Depending on your enabling legislation and how you are formally set up determines the path how that process will work, so for us typically a charter change along these lines would require using the process that is laid out in Massachusetts General Law,” he stated. “After talking with Town Counsel…basically, if you are looking for a name change you are really better off with the approach of seeking special legislation and go for a special act at the legislature and the reason for that is in Mass. General Law. The Board of Selectmen is the term and there is no recognition legally of any other term.”
It’s not just a matter of a changing the name. The change affects the Town Charter, codes, bylaw language, documents and electronic web presence. The costs to execute said change would be significant. It would require a full recodification project led by a consulting firm and would take 12 to 18 months.
“The process would include creating a Warrant Article for a Special Act for Town Meeting’s approval that the legislature would approve and then it would be the implementation,” Coderre informed.”
Coderre noted that his management team is short in terms of manpower at the present as he is trying to replace the assistant town administrator and hire a facilities manager. There are a lot of projects on deck right now.
Hirsch said that she thought it was very reasonable and made sense considering the workload to postpone this and to bundle it with the recodification project.
“I want to go on record and say that I am totally opposed to changing the name of the Board of Selectman,” Selectman Dawn Rand said. “I’ve been a selectman for 27 years and for 27 years I’ve been proud to be a selectman. It’s historical; it’s New England; and I don’t understand why we would throw out history just because some of us don’t want to be called selectman.”
Board Chair Jason Perreault added that he was for the name change in principal as it’s a forward movement in gender equality and that other communities had taken this step, but agreed that now wasn’t the best time.
Selectman Leslie Rutan agreed with Rand, saying that it wasn’t necessary and she had no issue with the name and she thought the name of Board of Selectmen was “cool” and unique to New England.
The topic was tabled for an undetermined future date.