Whately sets annual Town Meeting date of June 23

  • Attendees of the 2016 Whately annual Town Meeting vote in favor of a measure. The Select Board is aiming for June 23 as the new date for this year’s meeting. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Thursday, May 07, 2020

WHATELY — The Select Board is aiming for June 23 as the new date for the annual Town Meeting.

As in other communities across the state, concerns over the spread of COVID-19 meant Whately was forced to reschedule its annual Town Meeting, originally planned for April. Until recently, the Select Board had not agreed on a new date.

The board’s unanimous approval of June 23 as a target date followed a short discussion between board members and Town Administrator Brian Domina.

Domina said he plans to prepare both a full fiscal year budget and a one-twelfth budget — meaning the town would budget month to month based on the previous fiscal year’s figures, in the event that a new budget isn’t voted on before the start of the new fiscal year in July — but he encouraged board members to select a date to aim toward for the Town Meeting.

“If we’re going to have a target date prior to June 30, I would recommend June 23,” Domina said, noting he has compiled all the information needed to make a comprehensive budget. “We just need to look at the changing economic conditions and have conversations about how we want to proceed with a great amount of uncertainty in fiscal year ’21, in terms of what we’ll get for local receipts and what we’ll get from state aid.

“We don’t really know what the future holds,” he added.

Though the board approved the June 23 date, the location of the Town Meeting remains to be determined. Board members discussed a few potential options, including Whately Elementary School and Quonquont Farm.

“Those two seem to be top contenders,” said Select Board Chairwoman Joyce Palmer-Fortune.

Town Clerk Lynn Sibley said if held at the school, the meeting area could be expanded into the cafeteria.

“We have done things in multiple rooms before, back at Town Hall, years and years ago. We had a meeting upstairs and downstairs,” she said. “We had to have a moderator in both rooms.”

Select Board member Jonathan Edwards noted at least half the gym wasn’t used at Town Meeting last year.

“The only thing we’d have to do, probably, is purchase more of the floor covering that they set the seats up on,” he said. “I think if you put all those chairs six to eight feet apart from each other, you could fit 100 people in the gym, and I honestly don’t think you’ll get that many.”

Members also discussed the possibility of holding a remote Town Meeting, but Palmer-Fortune said voting cannot happen remotely. They did, however, discuss the possibility of opening up the discussion portion of the meeting to a remote platform. Edwards added that no matter where the meeting is held, entrances must be regulated by staff or volunteers.

“People tend to cluster,” Edwards said. “They won’t have seen each other in a very long time, potentially they’re going to want to catch up. I think we need structure and organization around that, and I think we need to drive that.”

The Select Board plans to further discuss the question of where the annual Town Meeting will be held during its May 13 meeting.