Selectmen Nix September Special Town Meeting

By: Alan Pollock

This year's annual town meeting was held at Veterans Field on June 22. A planned fall special town meeting may very likely have been held outdoors as well, but selectmen opted Tuesday to cancel that session and move outstanding articles to the May 2021 annual meeting. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM Although there’s plenty of business left unfinished from this year’s stripped-down annual town meeting, none of it warrants convening a special town meeting in September, selectmen decided Tuesday.

With COVID-19 still spreading at an alarming rate nationwide, and some concern about a potential resurgence of the illness locally in the weeks ahead, the board resolved last week only to hold the special meeting if absolutely necessary. This week, staff told the board that the town won’t be financially penalized if it postpones action on a stormwater drainage project borrowing authorization. There was similar news about an article for repairs at the Eldredge Public Library and several Community Preservation Act projects.

“I don’t see a critical need for a special town meeting,” Selectman Peter Cocolis said. “How many people are going to show up anyway?” Proponents of projects up for funding might not get the vote they would like, he added.

Of prime concern was an authorization for Phase 2 of the stormwater project on Crowell Road. But Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson said the first phase – which begins construction this fall – will address the flooding of private property that has been a key worry. There is no firm schedule for the items in Phase 2, “so postponing them is not problematic,” he said.

Selectman Dean Nicastro said that while the Eldredge Library trustees expressed “significant consternation” at the prospect of having their article further postponed, “I just don’t think that the library project is enough to justify having a special town meeting,’ he said.

Selectmen opted to postpone all of the petition articles, including one that would create a Main Street Theater Overlay District to facilitate the renovation and expansion of the Monomoy Theater property. Petitioner Greg Clark said delaying action until next May would likely delay the planned reopening of the theater by another summer season. Selectmen all voiced strong support for Clark’s proposal, but a majority said they didn’t see the need to call a special town meeting for that single article.

The board voted unanimously to rescind its earlier vote calling a special town meeting on Sept. 19, with all the articles to be considered instead at the annual town meeting in May 2021.