By Beth David, Editor
At its meting on Monday, 5/11, the Fairhaven Selectboard changed the Town Meeting date to Saturday, 6/27/20, pushing it out one more week from the last change of 6/20, after hearing from town moderator Mark Sylvia. The election is still scheduled for Monday, 6/8/20.
Mr. Sylvia told the board that he had been trying to get a “better sense” of what an in-person town meeting would look like under the current COVID-19 restrictions, and if the early day was “workable.”
“I can see no scenario where we would have the ability to meet in person on June 20,” said Mr. Sylvia.
He said the gathering would have to meet the guidelines, of six feet social distancing, and possibly require some screening COVID screening, such as temperatures. More than 100 people would have to participate, and the room at Hastings Middle School is simply not big enough to keep everyone six fee away from each other.
He said he could not imagine the town having an in person meeting in June or July.
He said it was his “strong recommendation” that the town proceed with a virtual TM, although they cannot do it unless the Mass. legislature acts. There is a bill pending that would allow for a remote TM.
Mr. Sylvia said he spoke with the technology team, Derek Frates and Nicole Potter, and they said the town does have the technical capability to meet with 200 or 300 participants.
The 6/20 has not been posted, he said, so it is a simple matter to postpone the meeting again. In any case, the town moderator can immediately recess a meeting without a vote under the emergency rule.
Other logistical problems include getting new TM members up to speed, since they will be voted in on 6/8, leaving very little time.
Mr. Sylvia said he also spoke with Town Administrator Mark Rees who said that there was one item that needed to be decided by TM before July 8. The new FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) flood maps must be approved by the deadline or town residents will not be eligible for flood insurance from the government.
The board discussed the various scenarios and dates to try to get TM business done using remote tools.
Ms. Sylvia said that Zoom has all the features necessary to allow voting, speaking, and tallying votes. The technology team has tested it,.
“I feel confident…we have all the tools,” said Mr. Sylvia.
The board unanimously passed the change of date to 6/27.
The board also decided to hold off on many of the articles, to keep Town Meeting short. The town will hold a special TM in the fall for the other articles. Mr. Rees noted that with the uncertainty surrounding the state’s budget, many of the items would probably have to be passed over anyway. He will get a new list to the board for their next meeting.
Town Clerk Carolyn Hurley told the board that she was “sitting tight” with the June 8 date for the election. She said she felt confident with their preparations.
Ms. Hurley said that she got a few calls after the last meeting and was able to add poll workers, although she still needs a few more.
Poll workers will disinfect each booth after a voter uses it; social distancing of at least six feet will be enforced; and poll workers will have sufficient personal protective equipment, she said.
Ms. Hurley is also encouraging people to vote by mail/absentee ballot. Voters can download an application from the website (https://www.fairhaven-ma.gov/town-clerk). If anyone has a problem with the download or filling out the application, they may call the Town Clerk’s office at 508-979-4023, Ext. 3.
Mr. Rees gave an update on the town’s COVID-19 response. He said the police department has been working with the Board of Health enforcing the governor’s orders to wear a mask in public, and the other regulations.
Mr. Rees said the “emphasis will be education.”
The town has also created a 17 minute video with an update from each town department. It is available on the town’s YouTube channel through a link at https://www.fairhaventv.com
Mr. Rees also told the board that the police and fire departments have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and none of the employees have tested positive yet.
One positive not, he said, is that the police and fire departments have been participating in drive-by parades for people celebrating birthdays and other events, if there is a fire truck and cruiser(s) available.
He said it was “very positive community outreach by police and fire.”
He noted that the Council on Aging delivered 100 breakfast bags to seniors, thanks to a donation by a group of citizens; the school department provided 100 iPads to Southcoast Health for people to be able to contact loved ones; and the veterans office provided food bags and pet food to veterans.
“I think we have a great town here,” said Mr. Rees. “Everybody’s pulling together.”
“Great work,” said chairperson Charles K. Murphy. “Thank you for sharing all the positive things that are happenings.
Fairhaven Health Agent Mary Freire-Kellogg told the board that the town is still getting positive cases of COVID-19, 50 last week, and 20 this week. She said they are getting four or five a day now.
She said it was “unfortunate” but also said it was probably because there is more testing being done; it is not that the cases were not there, “we just didn’t know.”
She also said that there have only been a few complaints about people not wearing masks.
She said everyone seems to be taking the guidelines seriously.
The board also heard from Veterans Agent Brad Fish, who said he will be making video with Fairhaven Community TV that will be released around Memorial Day. As in past years, the big flag will be raised at the high school, he and his volunteers will place flags on the graves of veterans, and the committee will hold a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial. The events will take place before Memorial Day so the video can be edited and released.
In official action, the board canceled the Memorial Day parade and the July 4 parade.
The board also read a letter from the Fairhaven Village Militia announcing that they have canceled the Memorial Day weekend encampment at Fort Phoenix.
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