Wenham Continues Weighing Possible Fall Town Meeting
The Wenham Board of Selectmen on Tuesday considered the merits of holding a same-day Town Meeting with Hamilton this fall.
Wenham Selectmen continue to consider whether to have a Special Town Meeting this fall, also weighing how it may fit in with Hamilton's Town Meeting schedule.
Last week when both the Hamilton and Wenham Boards of Selectmen met together, Hamilton Chairman Jennifer Scuteri asked Wenham to consider a simultaneous Special Town Meeting on Oct. 22.
Wenham Chairman Molly Martins said Hamilton is required by its bylaws to hold fall Town Meeting on the third Saturday of October and she has received comments about whether Wenham should meet on the same day too. Martins said that most of the commentary focused on moving spring Town Meeting up earlier to April to accommodate spring sports schedules.
If Wenham decides there is enough support for meetings on the same day, Hamilton will hold its meeting beginning at 9 a.m. and Wenham could possibly hold its meeting at 1 p.m.
Martins said top priorities for Wenham include the War Memorial and the Pay as You Throw trash fee program. Other potential pressing issues include approving spending for repairs at Iron Rail and decisions regarding negotiations for soccer fields with the Hamilton-Wenham Youth Soccer Association.
Currently, Hamilton selectmen have the authority to move forward with pay-as-you-throw without voting, although Scuteri and other Hamilton selectmen echoed the sentiment at last week’s joint meeting that public input at Town Meeting would be beneficial to finalizing the details and gaining buy-in for the program.
Wenham is not bound by the same parameters and pay-as-you-throw would have to go to Town Meeting, according to Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren.
If Wenham were to wait until spring Town Meeting to vote on pay-as-you-throw, it could potentially be a logistical nightmare since the current proposal is to combine trash contracts for both towns.
Martins and other selectmen see having a Special Town Meeting in October an opportunity for more participation.
“I see it as an opportunity to gather more participation in town governing and potentially bring out more people to reintroduce them to Town Meeting,” said Martins.
Martins also felt it would be an opportunity to reduce the number of articles at spring Town Meeting, where traditionally much of the focus is on the budget — most notably the school budget.
Wenham Selectman Patrick Wilson questioned whether the current issues neccessitated spending money to have a Town Meeting.
“Why spend the money to have a meeting?” he asked. Later in discussions, Wilson asked how much it would cost and Chelgren estimated it would cost about $2,400.
If Wenham decides to agree to hold a fall Town Meeting, Wenham better “get our money’s worth,” Wilson said.
Selectman John Clemenzi agreed with Wilson, although he echoed Martins support to finalize the War Memorial issue.
“Let’s not water down the effectiveness of having Town Meeting,” said Clemenzi.
Town Clerk Trudy Reid said voter registration needed to be set 10 days before Town Meeting. Nothing on the agenda requires a ballot, but she cautioned if in the future fall Town Meeting was moved back to November, elections would make matters challenging.
“Special elections are held every two years and every four years for presidential elections which would make it a crazy time if we had a Special Town Meeting,” said Reid.
Chelgren told Selectmen that in order to approve an Oct. 22 Town Meeting, a Selectmen's meeting would need to be held in early September and the warrant signed by late September in order to give notice no later than early October.
Discussions about the possibility of a fall Town Meeting will continue at the next regular meeting on Sept. 6.