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Upton Selectmen Discusses Changes to Meetings

During a June 19 meeting, Selectmen Brett Simas led a discussion on possibly changing the start times of Board meetings as well as adding a public comment section to each agenda.

Simas said during his recent campaign for the Selectmen's seat he'd heard from residents about two possible changes regarding meetings. "One was the time of the meetings and the challenges that some folks have making the meetings because they're working or having to feed children in the evenings," he explained. "Having a later time would make it easier for them to participate and engage in a meeting that might be interesting to them."

The town's Selectmen meetings begin at 6 p.m. Simas suggested changing the start time to 7 p.m. to see if that might benefit interested residents. "Obviously, we're not going to have a huge spike in participation but I think it's worth making these meetings as accessible as possible," he said.

Selectman Chair Gary Daugherty proposed a trial period beginning in September with one meeting starting at 6 p.m. and the following at 7 p.m. to see if there's an increase in participation. Daugherty noted that several other towns begin their Selectmen executive sessions at 6 p.m. "So town employees aren't here until 10, 11 o'clock at night." Following executive session, the regular meeting would then begin.

Selectman Stephan Matellian agreed. "If this is something that will help to draw people to the meetings I'm all for it," he said, suggesting a start time at 6:30 p.m. possibly.

The second half of the discussion regarded adding a public comment section to the agenda. Simas reviewed other agendas of Grafton, Hopkinton, and Mendon and each have a public comment at the beginning of the agenda. "That allows for citizens to give us input to what might be on the agenda so we can incorporate any feedback that we get into our decisions and discussions." An alternative said Simas would be to pause after motions and then open it up to public comment. "Or we could do both."

Matellian noted the Board typically allows people to speak under new business. However, if public comment is added to the agenda, it could be added after new business to allow residents to make a comment or statement to the Selectmen without back and forth dialogue.

Simas said if it was added to the beginning of every agenda, residents can come in and make their point without having to sit through the entire meeting. All the Selectmen agreed it would be best to set time limits during the public comment section. "We need to be clear it's not a back and forth dialogue; it's not a Q & A," said Simas. Town Manager Derek Brindisi added that anything in the public comment section cannot be deliberated and voted on.

Over the summer, the Board will look into developing a policy concerning guidelines for public comment. The Selectmen's next meeting is July 17.




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