WILMINGTON, MA — During the “Public Comments” portions of this week’s Selectmen’s meeting, former Selectwoman Suzanne Sullivan asked the board to consider making reforms to the Wilmington’s Annual Town Meeting.
“There’s some residents in town that are concerned about the way Town Meeting operates. It’s not conducive to people’s lifestyles today. It’s held on a Saturday. The last Town Meeting was over 10 hours. It was brutal. Some of us want to see some changes,” Sullivan told the Selectmen. “I’m proposing that the board take the reigns on this issue and create a committee to review the way town meeting operates today, how other towns do it, and if we should make some changes.”
“It’s not fair to expect a senior citizen to sit in the audience for 10 hours. I don’t think it’s fair to expect anybody to sit that long,” added Sullivan. “It’s not fair for people. There needs to be discussion about this. After the last Town Meeting, something has to change. This isn’t right.”
Sullivan lamented the fact that there’s often just 50 or 100 people making major decisions for the entire town. She also panned the random draw feature, noting residents find it frustrating not being able to plan when a particular article is going to come up.
Sullivan pointed out that most area towns seem to hold their Town Meetings on weeknights.
“A group of residents have already have some proposed changes in a draft form after researching how other communities run their meetings,” said Sullivan. “I’m proposing tonight for the Selectmen to get on board or take the lead, but we want to give you the opportunity to do that instead of going to a Special Town Meeting or Annual Town Meeting with petitioned requests for changes.”
Selectman Mike McCoy noted that he’s currently the board’s representative to the Bylaw Review Committee and the Committee is already discussing this very issue.
“During one of our meetings, I made a motion – with unanimous support – that we explore the possibly of changing the date of Town Meeting from a Saturday in May to a Saturday in March when there’s no sports or Holy Communions,” responded McCoy. “I’m now hoping we go one step further and go with a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday night format, with a 7pm start and 10pm cut off time, similar to Tewksbury’s. I would totally agree with that.”
“We talk about getting people involved. We talk about increasing participation among the residents. Well, we need to make everything easy for the residents. They foot the bill in this town. A lot of folks are busy on a Saturday in May,” added McCoy.
“I happen to agree with Mr. McCoy. The Town Meeting should be held on weeknights. That’s how other towns do it. That’s something we should really look at,” said Selectman Ed Loud. “I’d like to move this forward and not wait for the Bylaw Review Committee, which started at least a year-in-a-half ago. I’d like to invite Suzanne and her group in to give us ideas and maybe we consider a Selectmen-backed proposal.”
Selectmen Chair Kevin Caira expressed a desire to hear the recommendations of the Bylaw Review Committee, but also agreed that the board needs to explore changes to Town Meeting.
“We’ll see if we can get something moving on this,” said Caira.
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