Town’s official updates on Covid-19: Town Meeting Delayed; Transfer Station open but Swap Shop closed (Updated)

by beth on March 13, 2020

{Editor’s Note: As soon as I posted this story, I saw that another update had gone out. So, here’s the updated Update from the Town.]

Today, the Town of Southborough issued public statements. In the most recent statement, the Town Moderator announced that Annual Town Meeting will be postponed until April 16th. The memo also clarified that the Transfer Station will be open tomorrow for Trash and Recycling. The Swap Shop will be closed.

An earlier memo today didn’t provide much new information beyond yesterday’s news. But it did include clarification around use of Town facilities.

Although the Senior Center is closed to the public, for now the Town offices at Cordaville Hall remain open during regular hours. Employees there and at Town Hall will report to work as normal. But they are asking the public to limit their visits to the offices:

Effective immediately we strongly recommend and encourage that as much town business as can be conducted through the Internet, e-mail and over the phone to minimize the number of people in the Town House. For those that have business that requires physical attendance at the Town House, this will be by appointment only. This requirement will be revisited in two weeks and revised as necessary

In addition:

  • Town employee attendance at conferences/seminars will be severely restricted. Staff members will need permission from the Town Administrator to attend any work-related events;
  • Use of town facilities by any outside groups have been discontinued, unless permission has been granted by the Town Administrator;
    • The only exception to this is board/committee meetings that are required for the continuance of town governance [i.e. Board of Selectmen, Board of Health]
    • Use of the Public Safety Building and Cordaville Hall meetings rooms has been discontinued until further notice;
  • All large events and forums should be discontinued at this time in an effort to protect the public, colleagues and town employees;
  • We ask that all boards and committees hold public meetings only if necessary.

The memo confirms that as of this morning, there were no confirmed cases reported of Southborough residents infected with the virus.

For Town employees, the memo also provides information on sick day policies around self-quarantining. You can read that full memo here.

As for Town Meeting, it is being pushed out to April 16th, a Thursday, at 7:00 pm. Moderator Paul Cimino wrote:

To the Voters of Southborough.

As some of you may know, Massachusetts law contemplates the possibility that a Town Meeting must be recessed for extraordinary public safety reasons. As your Moderator, it is my responsibility to determine whether we have arrived at such a point.

Over the past several days, I have taken guidance from State and local public health authorities, as well as our Board of Selectmen (including the comprehensive guidance issued by the Selectmen today), regarding the risks and challenges presented by the COVID-19 virus. I am particularly mindful that current guidance discourages the gathering of large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, as well as identifies certain segments of our population as being at increased risk.

As a result, I have concluded that our Annual Town Meeting currently scheduled for March 28, 2020, will be postponed, and instead will convene on Thursday, April 16th, at 7:00 p.m., in the Trottier Middle School auditorium.

As events continue to evolve with regard to COVID-19, I will update you accordingly as necessary.

You can read that full memo here.

Updated (3/13/20 3:35 pm): I added information from the 2nd memo this afternoon.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anita Reeder March 13, 2020 at 11:38 PM

Just to clarify, Town Meeting will be on April 16, a Thursday, not on a Saturday…

Reply

2 Samedi March 14, 2020 at 10:36 AM

The 2019 Southborough Town Meeting was held on a Saturday. By just about all estimates, it was considered highly successful and allowed many new faces to attend. It appeared to be more inclusive Town event. The March 2020 Town Meeting date was also scheduled for a Saturday, following the new “tradition”. Why, then, would the town moderator reschedule the 2020 Town Meeting to a Thursday evening, reverting to the older, less inclusive format? Like the National People’s Congress, the weeknight sessions typically rubber stamped warrant articles by the same old-guard attendees year after year.
A core of 100 or so people annually making decisions for a town of 10,000 people.

What motives would someone have to lapse back to the old Town Meeting weeknight format?

Being “particularly mindful” of “certain segments of our population as being at increased risk”, where is the language to address this issue? Is it a matter of passive exclusion?

Wake up Southborough voters! You Saturday attendees and “increased risk” voters are being casually sidelined!

Reply

3 Brian Shea March 16, 2020 at 8:09 AM

Current legislation allows the Moderator to postpone Town Meeting in light of events that could impact public safety. That legislation has limitations in that it required a re-schedule date within 30 days of an announcement to postpone. We were seeing several Boards and committees that had unresolved business ahead of Town meeting trying to schedule meetings to address that unresolved business. The Board of Selectmen did not want public meetings taking place, and worked with the Moderator to postpone the date of town meeting. We are aware of requirements to hold Town meeting on a Saturday, however, in the interests of public health and safety, we wanted to get information out as quickly as possible about the delay in Town meeting to eliminate the need for boards and committees to meet. Proper actions were taken given legislation that is in place; further emergency legislation resulting from Covid-19 impacts are likely in the works.

As it stands now, guidance from CDC that prohibits gatherings of 50 or more people for the next 8 weeks would preclude us from having Town meeting on the re-scheduled date. This is a dynamic situation in which we are all living; I would expect further information and guidance to be forthcoming from the state to all cities and towns with respect to town meeting requirements, and the Board of Selectmen will continue to work with the Moderator on this important issue.

The Town will announce all information it knows, as it is received, through postings on the Town website. I urge all in Town to follow guidance and recommendations from DPH, CDC, and the state and federal governments to take all precautions to do your part in stopping the spread of this disease. Let’s get the spread of the disease under control; Town meeting and all else will work itself out.

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4 Samedi March 16, 2020 at 10:02 AM

Following is an excerpt from the recent: Baker-Polito Administration Announces Emergency Actions to Address COVID-19

Hopefully, good sense will prevail, and someone in Town government will see their way to an eventual rescheduling of the 2020 Annual Town Meeting back to its original Saturday format.

Municipal Governance Legislation: Governor Baker announced a package of legislation to help address challenges to municipal governance resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, including potential delays in holding Town Meetings and adopting Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) municipal budgets. Provisions in the proposed legislation include:

Amend existing statute authorizing Moderators to postpone Town Meetings by thirty days. State statute currently permits postponement for “public safety emergency,” and the legislation would add “public health emergency” as a second reason for postponement.

Permit local Select Boards to postpone Town Meetings beyond the statutory June 30 deadline when the Governor has declared a state of emergency and conditions prevent the completion of a Town Meeting.

Permit local Select Boards to temporarily adopt lower quorum rules. This would be an opt-in provision to allow a town-by-town determination, and it would enable Select Boards to designate the quorum level. Numerous towns have existing low quorum provisions in their by-laws.

Permit continued month-to-month spending into FY21 by towns based on the prior fiscal year budget with approval of the Division of Local Services during states of emergency. The month-to-month authorization would continue so long as a state of emergency prevents the adoption of a budget. Cities have similar authority under existing state law.

Permit towns to access their free cash balance for FY21 spending with approval of the Division of Local Services. This would be based on the July 2019 certified balance and could continue until an FY21 budget is adopted.

Permit municipal spending from revolving funds at the level set by their Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation until an FY21 budget is adopted.

Authorize a three-year amortization period for deficit spending incurred as a result of COVID-19 crisis. The default rule would require an FY21 tax rate to provide for one-year amortization and this change would follow the 2015 precedent for snow removal costs.

Reply

5 Interested March 16, 2020 at 10:21 AM

For those who missed Governor Baker’s announcement last night here is a link to view it.

https://youtu.be/fwQ7AaWPJ2E

Reply

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