SHREWSBURY – The Select Board on Dec. 12 unanimously voted to amend operational policy 15, which details how the board should respond to emails from community members.
The previous policy was “filled with holes,” Select Board members said, creating undue delay in responding to emails.
“We have been working on this for several months, and I think that we have tried to think through all the possible scenarios to make sure… we have a streamlined process that’s clear and transparent to community members,” Select Board Chair Beth Casavant said at the meeting.
Select Board member John Samia said the purpose of the amended policy was to be “practical, quick, nimble, and responsive to members of the community,” detailing the importance of timely communication with residents.
Member Carlos Garcia agreed.
“Certainly, in this day and age folks email each other every day and expect a response very quickly, so I think that this policy really outlines a process and an expectation that residents should have when they contact us,” he said. “We’re here to serve the community, so we should be as responsive as possible towards them.”
Although the Select Board unanimously agreed to amend the policy, there was also agreement that should the policy not work, the board could “modify as necessary” going forward.
What residents can expect
The new policy outlines who, when and how Select Board members respond to emails.
The policy mainly involves the Select Board’s primary email address — [email protected] — which all Select Board members, the town manager and certain town staff members have access to. For an email to be eligible for a response, the sender must include a name and address. Any town-related unsigned emails will be asked to be resent with the appropriate identifying information.
Any email to the Select Board must include a body of text; emails with solely attachments will not receive a response. All emails become public record once they are sent to the Select Board, and all emails between the town and the public will be in accordance with the Open Meeting Law.
Upon sending an email, community members can expect a staff member to respond to note the item was received. The correspondence will then be triaged by government officials to determine the nature of the email. For routine matters — like a broken streetlight — a town staff member will respond. For non-routine matters, the board chair will confer with the town manager; the correspondence will be posted on the Select Board’s agenda.
For public safety-related matters, the chair will respond as soon as possible.
Any Select Board member may respond to emails sent to the primary email address but addressed specifically to the member. Or, any Select Board member may respond to an email after checking with the Select Board chair and the town manager; all members will receive a copy of the response.
Written correspondence received through the mail or hand delivered to the Select Board are handled in the same manner as email, and each member of the Select Board is also assigned an official Shrewsbury government email address; emails to any individual government account may be forwarded to the primary Select Board address.
“Hopefully people will take the time to read the policy once it’s posted on our website, [and] be familiar with it so you’ll have a better expectation of what type of response you’ll get and when,” said Casavant.
To view the policy, visit https://shrewsburyma.gov/540/Operational-Policies.