Article 15, the Library Expansion Project article at the October 17 Town Meeting, failed to gain the necessary votes to pass. Almost immediately, a group of Westborough residents began collecting signatures, using MGL Chapter 39 Section 10 as the means to call a Special Town Meeting for a re-vote.
Even though that section of law technically allows a Special Town Meeting to be called by collecting 200 signatures, it appears that its original intent was to provide a way for a group of citizens to bring forward an issue that had no other way of being brought to Town Meeting in a timely manner. It is unclear that this statute was ever envisioned to provide a means to allow for a re-vote for a single Article previously taken up at a recently-held Town Meeting, particularly when there are no meaningful changes of circumstance.
Regardless of whether a mechanism exists to call a Special Town Meeting as long as the requisite number of signatures are collected, does that mean it is the right thing to do under any circumstances?
Doing so under our current circumstances sets a bad precedent, as it opens the door to future articles being re-voted multiple times, and does not honor the vote taken at the Town Meeting at which it was initially considered. What impact will this have on participation – who would want to spend their time at a future Town Meeting if they know an issue decided at one meeting can be changed at another quickly-called meeting?
Some would say the bad precedent that is being set is to pursue a Public project for a number of years at the repeated direction of the Town Meeting, but not following through. That begs the questions, what point in the process is the point of no return for deciding to do a project, and what recourse does Town Meeting have if that point has passed yet there are significant changes to the project, like cost escalating from $24M to $37M, as happened with the Library Expansion Project.