Special Town Meeting (March 8): Register now for babysitting; Prepare to start on time (and, hopefully vote quicker)

A week from tonight marks the second Special Town Meeting Southborough is holding in less than 6 months. The Town is going to great lengths to avoid some of the issues from the last meeting.

The main focus – getting next Wednesday’s meeting started on time and moving along efficiently.

To that end, voters are encouraged to carpool, carry licenses for scanned check-in (but don’t worry if you don’t have one), and take advantage of shuttles from Neary parking lot. Process changes will also hopefully make vote counting quicker and the meeting friendlier to any voters that can’t fit in the auditorium.

With these changes, the Town intends to start the meeting on time at 7:00 pm. So, if you want to hear presentations on Articles 1 &2, you better show up early to park and sign in.

Once again, Recreation will be offering babysitting for the meeting. Pre-registration is requested by this Friday, March 3, to help make sure it’s properly staffed. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post for more details on babysitting.)

If you had issues at the October Meeting (or heard about the problems), you might be worried about dragging kids (or yourself) out for a long, fruitless night. But there is good reason to be optimistic that things will be different next week.

In October when the meeting was due to start, there was still a line out the door, cars circling looking for parking, and not enough seats in the auditorium. The confusing situation caused the meeting to start about an hour late. Non-voters attending (like Town Department heads) had to be relocated from the auditorium, and for voters who still couldn’t fit, an overflow room setup.

While voters in the annex could hear the meeting and see presentations, they couldn’t be heard, unless they came to a mic in the auditorium.

In addition, vote tallies became confusing, especially when counters were trying to count based on voters standing, while some voters stood in the back of the room. That led to repeated counts on close calls.

Parents who had taken advantage of the babysitting offered at the facility likely weren’t expecting to keep kids up as late as the meeting ran. Some had to leave before the Articles they had specifically attended to vote on came up.

Those are all issues the Town Clerk is determined to avoid a repeat of. Researching better processes, he attended Town Meetings in 5 other Towns. Based on those experiences he is implementing changes.

Officials are anticipating another big turnout. But hopefully, the changes will be enough for the meeting to run smoothly. They are even setting up an overflow area (if needed) to allow speakers to be recognized remotely by the moderator and projected to the auditorium audience.

Here is an excerpt from the announcement submitted by Town Clerk Jim Hegarty: 

The Special Town Meeting will start ON TIME at 7 pm on 3/8/17.

Limited Parking
Please carpool ‼ We expect more than 1,000 people to attend this very important Special Town Meeting and there are only 425 parking spaces between the Trottier Middle School and Neary School.

There will be 20 reserved parking spaces for cars with handicapped stickers in front of Trottier.

There will be a shuttle van to drive people from the Neary parking lot to Trottier. This van will run from 6pm to 8 pm.

When the auditorium is full, voters will be directed to the gymnasium where there will be seating for 600 voters. The same audio and video from the auditorium will be displayed in the gym. There will be 2 microphones set up in the gym for voters to participate in the meeting. There will be cameras focused on each microphone and those images will be shown on a monitor near the moderator in the auditorium so he can recognize anyone in the gym who chooses to speak on an issue. The audio from the gym will feed into the auditorium system as well as the SAM system.

Much Faster Voter Check-In Process
We no longer use the paper book and ask your precinct, street, and last name to check in!

Voters will be asked to scan the back of their drivers license at any one of 8 check-in stations. If a voter chooses not to display their drivers license, the voter will be asked their last name and first name to check in. This process will be much faster than the old system!

Improvement in Counting Votes
Registered voters will be given a yellow voter card when they check in. They will need to display that card to enter the auditorium or the gym. When the moderator calls for a hand count of votes (which is required for all articles requiring a 2/3 majority), the voters will remain in their chairs and simply hold up their yellow card to indicate their vote. This process will make it much easier and faster for the tellers to count the votes. It will also ensure that only registered voters – those with a yellow card – have their votes counted.

The Moderator must approve any non-voters who wish to attend the Special Town Meeting in advance. Non-voters will receive a red card which will allow them to go to the Band Room where they can watch the Special Town Meeting.

Babysitting flyer for Special Town Meeting
(click to open registration form)

Southborough Recreation is offering Babysitting by ARHS students:

  • Students will help kids with homework
  • Additional entertainment: Movies (bring a pillow or comfy chair), games and coloring.
  • Pizza, water/juice and snacks will be provided (no peanut butter) or bring your own labeled snack.
  • There is a donation requested of $5 per child/$15 per family.
  • Pre-registration is requested by Friday, March 3rd. (Click the registration form right to open the pdf.)

If you have questions, call the Recreation Department at (508) 229-4452 or email dferguson@southboroughma.com.

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Heather Gowdy
5 years ago

I’d love to see us consider an option for absentee ballots for Town Meetings. I’d love to attend and vote next week, but I will be away on non-optional work travel–something that has happened before, and will likely happen again. It seems odd that we can vote for state- and federal-level questions via absentee ballot, but not things related to the town.

Kelly Roney
5 years ago
Reply to  Heather Gowdy

Maybe it’s time for Town Meeting to be a thing of the past. Maybe. Of course, that would have to pass Town Meeting!

The reason absentee ballots aren’t a good fit for TM is that TM is the town’s legislature. Legislatures don’t permit members to vote and leave town, whether the town is Washington or Boston or any other. TM can and does amend warrant articles from the floor. How could there be an absentee ballot for that?

But we don’t live in an agricultural economy, the way the early inhabitants of Southborough did. They could meet during slack time on the farm and take all day. We can’t, which means that 100 voters – though usually more – can determine what happens here.

mark dassoni
5 years ago

unlike park central , this town meeting will be more heated by all involved, safety building will be contested ,but the bylaws will be an out and out dispute both all parties involving board members, moderator must be patient and not let chaos by sitting voters rule the roost , will be home watching hopefully a well round flowed meeting, Mark Dassoni .

5 years ago
Reply to  mark dassoni

You will be home because you are NOT a Southboro resident. I find it interesting that you like to get in the mix of things within our town but you have no skin in the game. How about a little positive thinking that the residents of Southboro can act like adults and there will be no “out and out dispute”. Not sure why you care so much.

mark dassoni
5 years ago
Reply to  resident

yes no skin in game, citizens tax paying voters needed a little push in right direction they heard and understand me for that, Mark Dassoni .

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