CHATHAM – Monday saw two historic firsts: the first annual town meeting held outdoors, and the quickest meeting in recent memory.
As fog drifted in and out of Veterans Field in typical Chatham fashion, 202 voters acted on a pared-down warrant with little debate, passing operating, school, water and capital budgets while postponing other significant — and potentially controversial — measures until a planned fall special town meeting.
Votes were taken on 13 articles, and all were approved with hand counts, with socially distanced voters holding up large yellow cards so they could be clearly seen by Moderator William Litchfield. The meeting lasted less than an hour.
The $31,826,211 operating budget was approved after voters rejected an amendment by Seth Taylor to shave $1 million from the total. Officials typically inflate the budget by $1 million so that there will be free cash “slush money,” he said, and the pandemic is a good time to end that practice. Voters disagreed, however.
Voters also approved a $2.3 million capital budget, $500,000 for dredging, and $701,800 for repairs to the historic Eldredge Public Library building.
We'll have a complete story on town meeting on our website Tuesday and in this week's print edition.