With flowers in bloom and daylight hours lengthening, so another rite of spring has arrived: Town Meeting. It will convene outdoors Saturday, May 14, at noon, with a new check-in procedure beginning at 11:30 a.m.
The Select Board and other town committees have put forward 32 articles that voters will be asked to approve. Attendees will have the opportunity to voice their opinions and vote on pressing issues, including the purchase of new speed signs, upgrading school facilities, funding for community preservation projects, and more.
This year’s meeting will be held outside on the field in front of the library and the Bromfield School. There will be three tents on the field, and the moderator will be located at the front of the main tent.
While some chairs will be provided, there are areas where people can bring their own chairs to set up outside of the tents. Portable restrooms will also be available nearby.
Check-in procedures will look different this year. But Lynn Kelly, the town clerk, said attendees shouldn’t be concerned about this. A path will direct attendees from Mass. Ave. to a check-in gate near the library. Starting at 11:30 a.m., two lines will be available for voters to electronically check in with election officials using two new Poll Pads.
“This is an exciting and efficient method of checking in voters, and their information will be secure,” said Kelly. Using the Poll Pad application on an iPad, voters are processed and checked in within 35 to 40 seconds. “We’re not on WiFi with them, so there is no personal information that can be exchanged anywhere else.”
The Poll Pad accepts either a first and last name or a driver’s license barcode for scanning. No information from a scanned license will be retained by the Poll Pad. According to Kelly, Poll Pads have been around since 2016, and towns such as Acton, Easton, and Northborough have been using the system for years.
“People are used to having to line up according to their address, and sometimes that results in confusion and one line is longer than the other,” said election warden Dennis Bradley, adding that with the new and efficient Poll Pad process, this will no longer be a requirement at Town Meeting and future elections. “We will be able to have two even lines and people can get in the shortest line and move through.”
Meeting participants will receive colored voting cards and can collect additional materials, such as a copy of the warrant and the Finance Committee booklet, after registering at the check-in gate.
Anyone who wants to speak at Town Meeting should walk up to the microphone and socially distance themselves from others while they wait in line. Speakers will be asked to give their names and addresses before speaking. All comments and questions should address the moderator, Bill Barton, and the article being discussed at the time. If Barton cannot directly answer the questions, he will pass them to the appropriate person.
“I ask people to come willing to share anything conversationally, educationally, whatever they want to share,” said Barton, adding that speakers should help foster a welcoming environment for all ideas. “But be thoughtful about if someone else has already said something, let’s not repeat that. Bring new thoughts to the mic, that way we can keep Town Meeting moving.”
People must raise their cards to vote when requested by the moderator and keep them raised until the moderator and vote counters have completed their count. Once a vote ends, so will all discussion on that motion. (For more details on conduct and procedures for Town Meeting, see the useful summary prepared by the League of Women Voters of Harvard, available at lwvharvard.org/town-meeting-con duct-and-procedures.)
There is no requirement to wear masks at this meeting, but attendees are encouraged to do so if it makes them more comfortable.
The warrant document containing 32 articles will serve as a guide throughout the day, so be sure to grab a copy and any materials on display at the check-in area. It is also worth bringing along this week’s issue of the Harvard Press. In “Warrant in Plain English,” each article is simplified to help attendees understand what they are voting for. Additional stories in the Press also provide insight into some of this year’s more complex articles.
Town Meeting can be long, so attendees may want to bring a drink or snack if they plan on staying the entire time.
Parking is allowed around the school or library and handicapped-accessible parking will be available on the field in front of the library. People with impaired mobility, but who lack handicapped-accessible parking permits, can park near the field on Mass. Ave.
Cadette Troop 64818 will host an outdoor babysitting service from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. during Town Meeting. The program is open to children 11 years old and younger who are potty trained and willing or able to express their needs.
Those dropping their children off should meet the troop in front of the library at 11:30 a.m. In case of rain, they will meet at the Congregational Church. The troop recommends that children bring a packed lunch, water bottle, and dress appropriately for the weather. Light snacks will be provided.
Use this form to register for the child care service in advance:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeed7wvI J4nNKFaUSwOPdTP0yH 9h_8qkXTsteTKUa_QLeXMAg/viewform
The troop will also be accepting donations for this event.