Select Board reconfigures, discusses Town Meeting aftermath

By Betsy Levinson
May 18, 2023

Board elects top positions

The Select Board elected two of its own at its meeting this week:  Henry Dane as its new chair and Mary Hartman as clerk. Mark Howell is the newest member of the five-member panel. “This is a good team,” said member Terri Ackerman. Dane thanked Matt Johnson, who did not seek reelection.

Cable TV survey

The board urged citizens to fill out the survey, on the town website, seeking information about cable TV service in advance of the new $63 million contract negotiation with Comcast.

Town Meeting afterthoughts

Moderator Carmin Reiss reported on the exit survey taken after the two Town Meeting sessions. She said there were about 50 responses, “not a lot,” she noted, but still worth counting. 

As far as attendance, a little more than 700 voters attended Sunday afternoon, with about 400 showing up Monday evening. 

Reiss said respondents thought there was “a lot of paper” on the tables outside the meeting with people saying perhaps a QR code could be distributed for downloading the Finance Committee report. Others complained that the high school building was cold and the restrooms were lacking supplies and dirty as the afternoon progressed. Some wanted more water available.

Reiss said the biggest concerns centered on the lack of participation by so many voters. Some responded that the debate went on too long; others found the Sunday afternoon time “inconvenient.” 

Bubbling up was the idea that open Town Meeting, the current format for decision making, may need another study. Concord had Town Meeting study committees in 1996 and 2013. The latest committee concluded that open Town Meeting was sufficient. But Reiss said the Select Board may well want to consider charging a new study committee so that way more of the thousands of registered voters could take part.

State law allows Concord from switching to a representative Town Meeting; as well as changing to a city/mayor/city council model.

But she said “tweaks” may be allowed, via special legislation, to allow voting at the polls after discussion at Town Meeting, a la override votes that require passing on the floor and again at the polls. 

That model would alleviate “too small a percentage of voters making decisions,” Reiss said.

Dane urged that the “sense of community” fostered at open Town Meeting be preserved. He said a lot of community spirit was lost with the closing of the town dump, where citizens came to toss their trash and stayed to chit chat with neighbors about local issues. Reiss agreed, saying the “sense of community is one of the characteristics of Concord Town Meeting.”

Board member Terri Ackerman said education about what was on the warrant was vital. She advocated researching special legislation for amending open Town Meeting, including remote voting.

Mark Howell, the board’s newest member, said publicizing meetings and hearings from other boards and committees than the Select Board, such as Planning, Natural Resources, Finance, and more, might educate citizens about upcoming warrant articles.