On the warrant: Fingerprinting door-to-door solicitors (Article 24)

As we continue our look at the issues Town Meeting will consider when it convenes next week, today we’ll talk about an article you won’t get to vote on.

Article 24 would enable the Police Department to fingerprint door-to-door solicitors, pawn dealers, and others so they can perform background checks. It may sound good in theory, but town officials say the wording of the article needs more work, and it will be indefinitely postponed when it comes up at Town Meeting.

Town Administrator Mark Purple told selectmen last month the Advisory Committee expressed a “litany” of concerns about the proposed bylaw. Purple said the town’s attorney also suggested they take a second look at the wording.

The concern seems to center mainly on the broadness of the article. While the safety of residents is his paramount concern, Chairman of the Board of Selectmen John Rooney said the proposed bylaw was too vague in some of its definitions, including which individuals and groups would be covered under the regulation.

Southborough’s current bylaw governing door-to-door solicitation is weak. Solicitors are “asked” to register with the Police Department, but there’s nothing requiring them to do so, and no provision for background checks. Voters at a special town meeting in 2009 approved a stronger bylaw that would have required background checks, but the language of the law was rejected by the Attorney General, so it never made it on the books.

While they won’t get to weigh in on the fingerprinting proposal at Town Meeting next week, voters may get another shot at an upcoming town meeting. Rooney said officials will continue working on the proposed bylaw “to get this ready for primetime.”

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