The number of people needed to gavel Annual/Special Town Meeting to order later this month in Bourne has been severely reduced. Town bylaws call for a minimum of 125 people in attendance for Town Meeting to commence. Given the COVID-19 crisis, that number has been decreased to 15.
The board of selectmen voted unanimously during a remote Zoom meeting on Wednesday, June 17, to reduce the quorum necessary to commence Town Meeting. The vote came in the wake of the state’s recently approved “Act Relative to Municipal Governance During the COVID-19 Emergency” that allows municipalities to reduce their quorums.
Town Meeting has been moved outside, under a tent on Jackson Field at Bourne High School, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi explained that while the town is doing everything it can to safely hold the meeting outside, some people who would otherwise attend, may choose not to.
“Whether that’s for health and safety, whether it’s for being outside, we don’t know what the temperature will be as we get close to July, there’s a number of different things,” he said.
Selectmen Peter J. Meier questioned whether there would, in fact, be a problem meeting the 125-person quorum requirement in the town’s bylaw. Mr. Meier suggested that major decisions affecting the town could be made by as few as 20 to 30 people.
Mr. Schiavi said that, by not reducing the quorum, the town runs the risk of not meeting the number required in the bylaw. That would be unfortunate, he said, given all the work that has gone into holding this unique outdoor Town Meeting.
Town Moderator Donald J. Pickard noted that Mashpee’s recent Town Meeting drew 265 residents, while Sandwich’s session brought in 141. Mr. Pickard said Mr. Schiavi’s recommendation was prudent and “hopefully will get us through the meeting as expeditiously as possible.”
The board voted unanimously on a motion to reduce to 15 the quorum necessary to commence Town Meeting. The reduction applies only to the session scheduled for later this month and not to future Town Meetings.
Annual/Special Town Meeting takes place Monday, June 29, at 7 PM on the football field at Bourne High School.