Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Annual Town Meeting has been on many residents’ minds. Open to every voter in Bedford, the meeting will still require social distancing, a challenge for residents who have been under stay-at-home orders since March and wish to greet neighbors and friends from across town.
At the Select Board’s May 13 meeting, the Board, according to Town Manager Sarah Stanton, ‘expressed consensus on the proposed date’ that Annual Town Meeting would be held at 1 pm on Saturday, June 27 on the turf at Sabourin Field. Town Meetings are exempt from Governor Baker’s order against large gatherings as they serve as legislative bodies. Town Manager Sarah Stanton and Heidi Porter Director of Health and Human Services, among many others, have placed the highest priority on safety for both town staff and residents in attendance.
Many logistic challenges are being reviewed in order to minimize the risk for those in attendance. As the meeting will be held outdoors, it was determined that an afternoon event would be preferable to a later time, so mosquitoes and dusk will not be factors. Meeting in the afternoon would also avoid conflict with some religious services.
While many of the details are yet to be finalized, Stanton and Porter have already developed numerous strategies to safely hold the event amidst the dangers of Covid-19.
The unprecedented outdoor setting, which minimizes the spread of germs, is just the first. All those in attendance will be required to wear a face covering, which the Board acknowledged will cause some trouble with volume levels for speakers. They are, however, working to establish a sound system that will be loud enough to comfortably cover the outdoor setting.
Numerous other ideas are being considered including temperature checks; gloves, and other PPE; metering the entrance and exit; with chairs spaced far apart from each other, and long desks for officials and town staff to be safely seated at the required distance apart. Accessible portable toilets will be provided.
The meeting will also feature a streamlined warrant that focuses on necessary financial articles. The articles which will be considered are:
- Article 2- Debate Rules
- Article 3- Consent Article
- Article 4- Bills of Prior Years
- Article 6- Revolving Funds Expenditures Limits
- Article 7- Community Preservation
- Article 23- Proposed FY21 Capital Budget
- Article 28- PEG Access and Cable Expense Funding
- Article 29- Supplement Operating Budget for FY20/FY19
- Article 30- Salary Administration Plan
- Article 31- Operating Budget FY21
- Article 32- Ambulance Enterprise Budget FY21
- Article 38- Free Cash
The remaining articles 1, 5, 7, 8-22, 24-26, 27, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 will be addressed at the November 20 Special Town Meeting.
Stanton also mentioned that some of the town’s board members might not all attend the meeting in person. To minimize the risk of a large number of town employees contracting Covid-19 and to facilitate distancing, some may be available via radio from a nearby location rather than being present.
Currently, the rain dates for the event are Sunday, June 28, and Monday, June 29.