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Lynnfield Town Meeting goes on as planned despite voter turnout worries

Lynnfield, Ma. 10-15-18. Robert Curtin, left, and moderator Arthur Bourque are one person away from a quarum at Lynnfield town meeting. (Owen O'Rourke)

LYNNFIELD The biggest question at Town Meeting Monday night was whether enough voters showed up to meet the quorum.

After a half hour wait for late comers amid a light rain, the minimum number of 175 was met at the Middle School with a few to spare.

Moderator Arthur Bourque wasted no time in getting to the dozen articles facing residents.

The most contentious issue was a proposal to end Town Meeting at 10:30 p.m. The Finance Committee and longtime resident Patricia Campbell opposed the measure.

“Town Meeting is the people’s voice and it’s worth the time a few times a year,” she said. “Let’s not make this meeting a rubber stamp. We need time to finish Town Meeting … the experience in another community of limiting the time is they are having more meetings.”

Another voter asked how much it cost taxpayers to run a Town Meeting. The answer from the town manager:  $7,000.

Proponents said one of the reasons to limit the time of the sessions stemmed from a survey of households. More than two-thirds of the 1,300 respondents favored a way to adjourn sooner.

But Campbell pointed out most of the residents who voted in the survey had not attended Town Meeting.

The vote to limit Town Meeting failed with 109 against and 57 in favor.

There was overwhelming support to approve $400,000 to design, purchase, and construct a new septic system for the Lynnfield Public Library, the Meeting House, and the Historic Center.

“This has been a serious issue for many years,” said Charles Richter, town engineer.

Voters also gave the green light to spend $25,000 for identification cards for elementary and middle school students to increase security.

The other changes approved by Town Meeting limits the proponent of a petition to 10 minutes and opponents to three.

Despite some opposition to limiting speech and one voter who said the proposal was “undemocratic,” the change was approved by a landslide.  

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