ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night finalized plans for an outdoor annual town meeting on Thursday, Sept. 24.
Chairwoman Christine Hoyt, Town Administrator Jay Green, and a host of others have been ironing out the logistics since May and Hoyt said given the current guidelines for COVID-19, this is the town's best option.
"The town administrator and myself met with the town clerk and the town moderator earlier this week to talk through the logistics of the town meeting. We looked at the calendar and the various holidays that fall in the month of September, printing dates, mailing dates. All of the things that would come into play for town meeting. We selected Thursday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m.,” she told the board.
Hoyt mentioned the 6 p.m. start time being earlier than usual and began explaining the daylight limitations at that time of year before stopping and getting to the headline she inadvertently omitted.
"A logistical piece that I failed to mention is that we are still looking at an outdoor town meeting. As we get a little later into the year it gets dark earlier so we are hoping to start earlier. The thought would be to have the town meeting at Bowe Field," she said. "We had done a lot of the logistical work in May and June. We were working with a tent company ... and also working with some audio/visual organizations to help us with sound for that space and any additional lighting we might need as it will probably be dark by the time we get done."
Municipalities throughout the commonwealth have been scrambling to find spaces to safely hold annual town meetings under current social distancing guidelines and have become rather inventive in their solutions. Williamstown recently held its at the Williams College athletic complex, Lanesborough was more traditional in having it at the Lanesborough Elementary School but with a vastly different setup than normal, and Cheshire will hold its town meeting at Hoosac Valley High School for the first time after years at Cheshire Elementary.
Some towns have even gone back to the future and utilized drive-in movie FM technology to conduct town meetings. Adams chose Bowe Field on Old Columbia Street that has long been the host of the Adams Agricultural Fair.
Selectman John Duval asked Hoyt if they considered other venues and why Bowe stood out.
"We are planning for 175 people: 150 reps, department heads, any members of the media, the general public, and then anybody who maybe has to help with logistics. We looked at Bowe Field because of the pavilion that already exists, the restrooms that are there, the electrical and the lights that are there. Some communities are doing two entrances so they can stagger members and Bowe Field allows us the ability to do that," Hoyt explained.
The town is preparing for all 150 town meeting members to attend even though that is rarely if ever the case even under normal circumstances. Attendance usually hovers around 100 and only 80 are needed to fulfill a quorum. The existing pavilion will be supplemented by a tent to accommodate the expected crowd.
"These logistics are daunting no matter how we do it because we have to deal with the accessibility issues ... so we had the entire team out there and we will go back out again to make sure we cover each and every angle. We thought we might be able to do it at the Memorial [School] gymnasium but Code Enforcement did some quick math and we can't spread out enough inside," Green said. "The other concern we had speaking with town clerk and town moderator is making sure our town meeting members feel safe to want to participate because we need that quorum. The Forest Wardens will assist with parking, the police will assist with traffic control, and we'll try to make it as logistically uncomplicated as possible."
The town has been operating with a 1/12th budget because of the Legislature's delay in setting a fiscal 2021 budget because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Municipalities were allowed to use a continuance budget based on last year's figures for three months past the start of the fiscal year in July. With the state's adoption of a continuing appropriation and assurances that local unrestricted and school aid will be level funded, towns have been moving forward with adopting fiscal 2021 budgets.
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Adams Aiming for Summer Reopening of Public Buildings
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
ADAMS, Mass. — The town is hoping to fully reopen by July, depending on public health data.
Town Administrator Jay Green told the Select Board on Wednesday that although he does not foresee completely opening until the summer, he thought it was time to start planning.
Green said currently the town is in the yellow level of the state's COVID-19 categories and that he would not be comfortable opening until the town is consistently in the green or, even better, gray. The levels run from red for high transmission and positive cases to gray at the lowest level.
"As long as we are in the red or yellow, that indicates the presence of COVID-19 at a level that could promote community spread," Green said. "As you can see there are a lot of communities opening up, but we are a little behind. Is it conservative? Yes but I think we are almost there."
Fire Chief John Pansecchi said with recruitment numbers dipping into the 20s and less availability among current members, the Alert Hose Company is trying to open its doors to a younger generation.
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The town had filed a continuance notice of intent requesting information on whether the demolition and removal of the damaged culvert pipe near the intersection of Davis Street and Lime Street is subject to the Wetlands Protection Act.
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