Outdoor Town Meeting with “shotgun” microphones – June 13th (if weather allows) (Updated)

by beth on June 2, 2020

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Above: The Town’s announcement for the revised location for Annual Town Meeting indicates that the “Trottier Athletic Fields” referred to are the fields next to Neary School down the hill from the middle school. (images edited from Town website and Google maps)

The Annual Town Meeting is moving outdoors this year.

The June 13th meeting was scheduled to be held in the Trottier Middle School gymnasium. According to an announcement from the Town Moderator, it is moving down the driveway to athletic fields next to Neary School.

Initially, the meeting was planned indoors to avoid weather issues. Town Clerk Jim Hegarty clarified for me that this won’t be a “rain or shine” event. (Due to the expense, no tents were ordered.) The current plan is to postpone the meeting to the next day if it rains.* If the weather forecast is iffy, the call for whether to proceed or postpone will be up to Moderator Paul Cimino.

So, let’s keep fingers crossed for a nice day. If there are weather issues, I’ll definitely share the Town’s plans as they are announced.

The announcement also outlines some safety measures including plans to use “shotgun” microphones.

Here is the announcement by Cimino, posted  to the Town website yesterday afternoon:

MODERATOR’S UPDATE CONFIRMING DATE AND ANNOUNCING NEW LOCATION FOR ANNUAL TOWN MEETING (ATM)
To All Southborough Voters:

This is an update to the announcement I previously made on April 29, 2020. As some of you know, on May 18, 2020 Governor Baker announced a 4-phased approach to the “re-opening” of Massachusetts in light of the challenges related to the COVID-19 virus. Using this guidance, as well as the guidance of our local Board of Health and Public Safety officials, today I am confirming that our ATM will take place beginning at 1:00pm on Saturday, June 13, 2020. However, in accordance with the comprehensive guidance furnished by the authorities I mentioned above, we will be moving ATM outside to the large athletic area directly adjacent to the Neary School (i.e., where the soccer and baseball fields are on the left as you drive into the Neary/Trottier complex).

As I have said in my previous announcement, be assured that our Town Clerk, Facilities Director, Public Safety Chiefs, Board of Health, and IT Manager are all working hard to collaborate on conducting a safe and efficient ATM in a manner that will meet (and often exceed) safety guidance. We remain mindful of the goal to maximize both participation and peace of mind for voters attending ATM. The location has been carefully considered for its size, layout, flatness, proximity to parking, availability of electrical power, etc. All attendees will be assured of proper social distancing in the bounds of the Hall, and the placement of aisles and individual chairs. Special “shotgun” microphones in use will allow each speaker to be heard while standing a safe distance away from it (which will be marked). Bottled water will be provided as well.

As to the conduct of the Meeting itself, things will generally proceed in the usual manner. The Clerk’s normal check-in procedures will apply. Like we do every year now, I will offer a “consent agenda” at the beginning of the Meeting in order to enact several routine Articles at one time. Thereafter we will proceed through the remainder of the Warrant as expeditiously as possible. Although the limits of our outdoor location will preclude a large video screen up front, tables will be set up for voters to pick up the usual handouts. Because presentations will be limited in time, presenters are encouraged to deliver their handout material the Clerk’s office this week for publication on the Town website in advance. Presenters will have a separate podium as usual.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach me at ‘moderator@southboroughma.com’ with any questions or concerns, and I thank you for your interest and participation in the governance of our Town.

While the above message includes information about a consent agenda, it doesn’t detail those plans. However, those plans to streamline the meeting have been detailed in past announcements and public discussions. So, here’s a reminder. 

The Moderator plans to present Articles (in bundles and/or individually) in two categories: Articles to pass as a group without discussion, and Articles to “indefinitely postpone”. The intent for the postponed Articles would be to put them on a future Warrant for consideration at a Fall Special Town Meeting. In addition, some Articles will be presented for individual discussion and votes.

While the Board of Selectmen and Moderator are in agreement on the plan, Cimino has stressed that whether or not they work will be up to Town Meeting Members (voters).

Any single voter can ask to pull one or more Articles from the Consent Agendas for separate consideration. And it is up to voters to decide whether each Article (or bundle) is voted on or postponed. (In reverse, Articles that officials want voters to decide on next week could be postponed if a voter makes a motion and the majority of voters support it. Not that I’m expecting that, but it wouldn’t be the first time.)

I outlined in the past how officials plan to divide Articles, but I plan to run an update on that (or any other important details) before ATM.

Cimino is scheduled to give an update tonight to selectmen on the Annual Town Meeting plans.

Updated (6/2/20 1:02 pm): Moderator Paul Cimino confirmed that the rain date is Sunday, June 14th at 1:00 pm.

Updated (6/3/20 9:17 am): Cimino emailed me that under the new outdoor plan, the previous streamlining plan I detailed is no longer accurate. He will follow up with me with more detail, and I will update you. In the meantime, since I’ve yet to watch last night’s BOS meeting, I don’t know what details have changed. Stay tuned.]

Updated (6/3/20 1:25 pm): Based on watching the update from Cimino to Selectmen on Tuesday night, it seems that the “no longer accurate” issue was likely my wording of how the two categories of Articles would be bundled into Consent Agendas.

Last night, Cimino indicated he may use multiple Consent Agendas under each category. He may also decide to present some (or all) Articles for postponement individually.

The Town will soon release an updated list of what Articles will be recommended for postponement that confirms proponents’ agreement to cooperate.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Townie June 2, 2020 at 12:47 PM

So wait, you can’t use the playground but its ok to have a mass gathering for town meeting?

Seems logical….

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2 beth June 2, 2020 at 1:00 PM

Playgrounds are basically made of shared touch surfaces. The Town Meeting will have spaced seating.

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3 Townie June 2, 2020 at 1:28 PM

Surfaces that are exposed to sun light, which has numerous studies showing UV rays from the sun kill the virus in just minutes….

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4 Townie June 2, 2020 at 2:23 PM

And to be clear. I’m not advocating that we continue to stay locked down. I’m pointing ok the fact the town knows this is a bunch of political trash.

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5 beth June 2, 2020 at 2:32 PM

Actually, just because you believe it’s “a bunch of political trash” doesn’t mean that “the town” agrees.

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6 Townie June 2, 2020 at 2:39 PM

You’re right. What this shows is the town understands that business needs to continue, life goes on, and it will do so while giving you the imagine of “being safe” while going against what the Governor says.

7 northsider June 2, 2020 at 3:34 PM

Sitting in spaced chairs and playing on the monkey bars are quite different.

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8 Matthew June 2, 2020 at 8:22 PM

So all townies are from the Southside, UV rays kills monkeys, and it’s all political trash until you get sick?
Just want to make sure I understood the thread, sometimes I get lost when politics involve monkeys.

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9 Frank Crowell June 3, 2020 at 9:31 AM

On or about June 14 we should have results of how the lack of social distancing actually works. If there is no significant increase in Covid 19 cases from the recent riots then it’s time to reopen everything.

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10 Space Oddity June 3, 2020 at 3:27 PM

A large social gathering? Spaced out? Better visit CommCan beforehand to ensure proper spacing!

Look at reports from around the world where restrictions have been slightly lifted and people are going “hog wild”. Aren’t they seeing a resurgence in COVID-19 cases?

Who beyond the Town moderator and some BOS members really believes this sort of gathering would be safe? If you do believe so, what about those people in Town who would be classified as “at risk”:

– over 65 years of age

– a BMI (Body Mass Index) higher than 25 (overweight) or 35 (obese). ~30% of Americans
are classified as medically obese

– diabetic

– dealing with cancer (in any form)

– other underlying health issues

Anyone in the groups listed above would be putting themselves at risk by attending the ATM. If one does contract SARS-CoV-2 by attending, is it worth becoming ill? What about recovering from COVID-19? Is attending the ATM worth dying over?

Look at the daily MA COVID-19 statistics – 98% of the fatalities had underlying health conditions.

Will the Town be providing masks? Toilet facilities? If so, how will these be sanitized to prevent any spread of infection?

It really does not seem like a good idea to “press on” with the ATM. Too many people will avoid it because of the risk to health. That said, does it sound like it would be a truly representative meeting?

If people have the right to attend, why are they being asked to risk their health and well-being to do so?

The old seatbelt advertisements used to say, “The life you save may be your own!”.

This really seems like a “swing and a miss”…

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11 southsider June 8, 2020 at 6:00 PM

I just saw a weekend weather forecast calling for rain on Sat and Sun. What’s Plan C?
When and how will a postponement of Saturday be communicated? I’m guessing that we’d simply go inside Trottier on Sunday as a last resort …?

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12 beth June 9, 2020 at 7:54 AM

I don’t know what forecast you were looking at. As of this morning, the National Weather Service is showing 0% chance of rain for Friday afternoon through all day Saturday.

So, while I don’t know what Plan C would be, so far it doesn’t look like one will be needed.

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