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New Hamilton Town Meeting Date to Go to Voters [POLL]

A proposal to move Hamilton Town Meeting from mid-May to early April will go before Hamilton Town Meeting voters this fall.

Hamilton is eyeing a move to shift its Annual Town Meeting to early April and join Wenham to create a “Town Meeting Day” in both towns.

The move was introduced on Monday night when the Board of Selectmen met at .

The move has been added to the Hamilton Town Meeting warrant and is planned to go before the at .

Right now, Hamilton Town Meeting is held on the second Saturday of May at 9 a.m.

“The May date that it is right now often falls on Mother’s Day weekend,” said Chairman Jennifer Scuteri.

The move is designed to help increase attendance by putting it on a date where there are fewer other activities occurring in the two towns and the weather is not as nice. It is also designed to make it one day for shared committees to spend devoted to Town Meeting work.

"It's good, I think it makes sense," Selectman Jeff Stinson said.

Scuteri also said that the existing date is late in the process if a second Town Meeting and needed and forces the second Town Meeting in to the summer. Plus, many other towns hold Town Meeting in March and April, she said.

“Wenham would have a parallel change,” Scuteri said, adding that Hamilton traditionally meets at 9 a.m. and Wenham at 1 p.m.

Wenham now holds Town Meeting on the first Saturday of May.

“Logistically there is a lot to this,” said Town Manager Michael Lombardo, later adding; “There are a lot of logistics that we have not refined here.”

Lombardo said he checked with Moderator Bruce Ramsay, who “did not have issues with it.”

The specific language for a bylaw change was not presented on Monday and will be crafted in time for inclusion in the Town Meeting warrant. Scuteri said that the bylaw should take into consideration that once every four years the meeting may fall on the same weekend as Easter.

Scuteri said that Town Counsel Donna Brewer has found that Tewksbury has similar language that allows the date to be changed in a year when Town Meeting falls on Easter weekend. Town bylaws could provide for the ability for Selectmen to move it forward a week or back a week.

Scuteri said she supports bringing the move to voters this fall rather than the Annual Town Meeting next year, when she said it would get lost amid the budget debate.

“I just want it to be a clean discussion about why this makes sense or doesn’t make sense,” Scuteri said.

Lombardo said that he has met with Town Clerk Jane Wetson to examine the impact on town elections, which are set based on the Town Meeting date. If Town Meeting is held in early April, it could out the election on the Thursday of school vacation in April. That could be addressed through a town bylaw change, too, Lombardo said.

The deadline for the school budget to be presented to the town, set by the regional school agreement, is based on the Town Meeting dates. If the changes were to occur, it would mean the school budget would need to be completed by early March, rather than the end of March as has been the case.

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