By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – As anticipated the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved at its June 23 meeting to continue the Annual Town Meeting until Wednesday, July 29. The meeting will start that evening at 7 p.m. at Shrewsbury High School, 64 Holden St.
Town Moderator Chris Mehne and the Board discussed several format options.
“I’ve been keeping tabs on virtually every other town in the commonwealth that’s had Town Meetings in May and June just to get a sense of what other towns are doing,” Mehne said.
He noted that there may be a further continuance when they get closer to July 29, depending on factors such as the state of the pandemic and town budget.
Mehne then revealed that there is flexibility under Chapter 92 of the Acts of 2020 which was recently enacted by the state legislature to allow for flexibility for municipalities to hold their Town Meetings with multiple 30-day extensions and a temporary reduction of quorum.
“… if actually we were concerned about being able to get a quorum to attend, our quorum is 121 people, one more than 50 percent of our 240 representatives that we will actually be able to reduce the quorum for this year to hold Town Meeting to as low as 13 people,” Mehne stated.
He didn’t think that was necessary but was open to some reduction.
Officials also have the option to change the location of the meeting, even the town in which it is held if there was a safer accommodation identified, and whether or not to hold it indoors or outside.
Another consideration Mehne introduced was to utilize a Consent Agenda where warrant articles requiring little or no discussion be grouped together and voted on as a unit to reduce the amount of time needed for Town Meeting.
Town Manager Kevin Mizikar said that he was in favor of continuing the Town Meeting and reducing the quorum if necessary and using a consent agenda.
“It will be my recommendation this evening that no change in venue be listed. We will consider an outdoor venue and what that would take,” he said. “The venue can be changed through a simple amendment to the warrant through the Board of Selectmen if necessary.”
Mehne also recommended that the Board consider the notion of holding the meeting through video conferencing but that it took a great deal of coordination. He said he was still in favor of holding the meeting live and in a location that is deemed safer than it is now.
Board Chair Beth Casavant opened discussion to the board.
Selectman John Lebeaux commented that he thought the consent agenda was a good idea but he sought clarification about how that would work. He also shared that he was in favor of reducing the quorum in order to have a Town Meeting.
Selectman Jim Kane inquired, “Kevin, in your opinion, what’s the latest that we can go before we start impacting operations and the ability of departments to run?”
Mizikar replied that the challenge is for the School Department to have stability to go no later than mid-August to hold Town Meeting. His preference is to keep the venue as is in the fieldhouse of the high school.