Coronavirus could lead to postponed Town Meeting

Mar 10, 2020

Following Governor Charlie Baker’s declaration of a state of emergency in Massachusetts, Town Moderator Claire Smith said that the town should consider whether Town Meeting should be delayed because it requires hundreds of citizens to gather in one place.

At Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Smith outlined two ways the meeting could be postponed.

Following a town meeting that coincided with a hurricane that caused significant damage to the town, Town Counsel Richard Bowen crafted legislation that allows the the moderator and town clerk can postpone the meeting over the phone from their respective homes if the governor has declared a state of emergency.

Alternatively, the moderator and clerk could meet at the appointed time and place for town meeting, open the meeting, and move to postpone it to a specified date and time. 

Because the meeting has been legally posted, it can not be cancelled.

Smith noted that officials should decide whether or not to postpone the meeting far enough in advance of the date that the public could be alerted. Town Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 27.

Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said that the town is stepping up its cleaning efforts in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Board of Health and department heads have been meeting to determine how town business could continue if employees were asked to work from home.

Sullivan said that he asks that people pay bills online or over the phone as part of an effort to reduce human contact that could spread the virus.

“Just try and keep your -- and this sounds very bad -- human contact down,” Sullivan said.

The town is also stocking up on hand sanitizer and soap. A cleaning company will do a deep clean of the Multiservice Center, Town Hall, and the Council on Aging in the next few days. Municipal maintenance is also stepping up its daily cleaning work. 

Sullivan said he will be seeking about $25,000 to $30,000 to cover the additional cleaning costs. 

“It could be and can be a little bit of overkill, but we can’t not do anything,” Sullivan said.