Bourne’s Town Meeting scheduled for early May will be postponed because of the ongoing COVID-19 virus crisis.
A Declaration of Emergency, which will put off indefinitely the date for holding Town Meeting, was approved this week.
The board of selectmen approved the declaration during its meeting Tuesday night, March 17.
Town Administrator Anthony E. Schiavi suggested that the selectmen delay release of the Town Meeting warrant, which effectively would put off when Town Meeting would be held. At present, Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 4.
Approval of the declaration gives the board 30 days to set a new, more reasonable date to hold Town Meeting in light of the current virus climate. Approval also provides Town Moderator Donald Pickard the authority to postpone the meeting.
Postponement of Town Meeting would help the Bourne Finance Committee as it scrambles to finalize the town’s Fiscal Year 2021 operating budget.
In an email to committee members on Tuesday, chairwoman Mary Jane Mastrangelo said that she was suspending all its scheduled Monday meetings until April 6.
“Which is the day after the governor’s (emergency) order expires unless it is extended,” she said.
Ms. Mastrangelo suggested that, if Town Meeting is not postponed, the finance committee could meet twice a week in early to mid-April, to finalize the budget before the handbook has to go to the printer on Friday, April 17. Anything not voted on by then, she said, could be voted on either Monday, April 27, or Monday, May 4, before the start of Town Meeting.
“While we have tried to have motions and recommendations in the handbook in recent years,” she said, “it just may not be possible this year if Town Meeting is not postponed.”
Town Clerk Barry H. Johnson’s initial suggestion for a new date was either Monday, June 1, or Tuesday, June 2. Mr. Johnson said his office would have staffing issues if it were scheduled for the week after that.
If not the first week of June, he said, anytime from June 15 on would suffice.
Mr. Johnson also brought up concerns about the use of electronic voting at the next Town Meeting. He said other town clerks have expressed worry over the devices being properly sanitized before being sent to a new town. Concerns are strong enough, he said, that some clerks are abandoning their use.
Mr. Johnson said the firm providing the devices is working out measures for properly cleansing them after each use. One such measure, he said, may be a plastic shield. He suggested that it could be safer for the town to opt not to use electronic voting again until the fall Town Meeting.
Tuesday’s meeting was held at the Bourne Veteran’s Memorial Community Center, although it was closed to the public due to concerns over COVID-19.
The only people in attendance were selectmen Judith M. Froman, James L. Potter, George G. Slade, Peter J. Meier and Jared P. MacDonald; Mr. Schiavi; Assistant Town Administrator Glenn D. Cannon; Mr. Johnson and Mr. Pickard.
The meeting was broadcast live by Bourne Community TV, and taped for later broadcast on the company’s website.