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Options surface for financial town meeting in Barrington

Outdoor meeting identified as a possibility

By Josh Bickford
Posted 6/1/20

How can Barrington hold its financial town meeting while still following the state's rules about social distancing and limits on crowds?

That is the question members of the Barrington Town Council …

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Options surface for financial town meeting in Barrington

Outdoor meeting identified as a possibility

Posted

How can Barrington hold its financial town meeting while still following the state's rules about social distancing and limits on crowds?

That is the question members of the Barrington Town Council are expected to discuss during their meeting on Monday, June 8.

Normally, Barrington holds its financial town meeting in late May, allowing town officials about a month to iron out the details before the fiscal year ends on June 30. This year, however, the town council voted to postpone the FTM because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now members of the council are saddled with a decision about what to do as July 1 draws closer.

Some ideas have already been pitched, said councilor Jacob Brier, who mentioned three possible scenarios.

The first, he said, was for an in-person FTM. He said the event could be held outdoors in a large venue. Mr. Brier mentioned Barrington High School's Victory Field, where people's chairs could be spaced out across the grass, allowing for six feet or more for social distancing. He said the town could also host an online FTM, on a platform such as Zoom. That option would allow residents to view the meeting in real time, offer comments and even vote on the budget.

Another option was to create a mail ballot budget referendum, where residents could send in their vote about whether to pass the proposed budgets.

A third option was to task a group of town officials to vote on the proposed budgets. This choice would remove the public's involvement from the budget approval process.

Mr. Brier said he is leaning toward the budget referendum as his top pick for the FTM options. He said the other options could exclude some people — those who are uncomfortable with technology in the case of the online meeting, or those who were sick or uncomfortable with attending an in-person FTM. The third option would altogether eliminate the public's participation.

Mr. Brier said he does not think anyone on the council likes the idea of being solely responsible for passing the budgets.

Before a financial town meeting of any sort can be held, however, the committee on appropriations needs to vote on their budget recommendation. That committee is scheduled to meet on June 9. The COA is also expected to share a presentation on the budget with the public.

Mr. Brier said he is in favor of the council finalizing a budget plan sooner rather than later, while the town still retains control over the process.

School committee talks FTM

During their meeting on Thursday night, members of the Barrington School Committee briefly discussed the situation surrounding the financial town meeting. School officials said they had been working with the town manager to get some form of FTM in place.

Barrington Superintendent of Schools Michael Messore said town officials are working to plan something with as much public interaction as possible, under the current restrictions. He said it appeared that the FTM would be an outdoor event held on a weekend.

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