Town Meeting date appears likely to change

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Town clerk Connor Degan and Town Meeting moderator Tom Garabedian joined the Select Board on Tuesday to discuss the possibility of moving Town Meeting from May 3 (a Monday night) in order to obtain a more suitable location. The meeting normally is held at the Hopkinton Middle School auditorium, but due to the pandemic, an outside location and a bigger indoor facility are being considered, and either would necessitate a change in the date, Degan said.

There was some initial talk about holding Town Meeting in June at the football field behind Hopkinton High School, but Degan said there were concerns about conflicting with graduation — also scheduled for the field in early June. Scheduling it outside also means the town would need to rent a very large tent — an item that is in heavy demand due to an increase in outside activities. The other main option is the athletic center inside Hopkinton High School.

“We had a conversation just today with the emergency management group, specifically Deputy [Fire] Chief [Bill] Miller, and he was suggesting that we look at potentially instead keeping it in May and potentially trying to aim for if possible outdoors on [May 8] as our top priority, because the current guidelines from the Department of Public Health are still going to say that we should try to get it outside if we can,” Degan said. “But the other option that we agreed is still a possibility, as kind of a Plan B as well, would be what Tom had said about trying to do it in the field house in the high school.

“Because if we do it even on a weekend still we wouldn’t be interfering with school, even though May is still in the school year, we would be able to just hold it on the weekend, not interfering with school lunches [which use the field house] and hopefully be able to just bang it out in the one day. Fortunately, we wouldn’t have either issue with interfering with school as long as we’re going to have it on the weekend anyway, so anywhere on the school campus would work. But the issue I know we’re still running into is if we can find a tent. If we can’t find a tent, then we’re either kind of at the mercy of the elements outside or we’re going to go with the field house.”

The Town Election is scheduled for two weeks after Town Meeting, currently May 17, but that also could see a change if Town Meeting is pushed back.

Garabedian said if Town Meeting sticks with an early May date, the HHS athletic center would make the most sense, as it could hold “up to 600 people safely, with doors open and so on. That would avoid any issues with respect to weather.”

The board decided to address the issue at its next meeting on April 6, although if the state requires the town to commit earlier, the board will call a special meeting.

“It’s very hard to say what we can and can’t do right now based on what the [Department of Public Health] and Governor Baker’s rules that he lays out,” Select Board chair Brendan Tedstone said.

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