Changing Town Meeting explored in Dover


DOVER -- Could changing the date of Town Meeting encourage more participation?

Although it will be presented in an article for discussion purposes on March 4, there seems to be a consensus that breaking from tradition may not be the best way to do so.

"People were saying there was not a lot of participation," said Dover School Board Chairman Rich Werner. "And should we think about moving it to a weekend evening or split up (the municipal and school articles)?"

The question was a result of conversations between the School Board and Selectboard Chairman Randy Terk. It was determined that in order to change the date, it would require voter approval.

At pre-Town Meeting on Feb. 25, Werner spoke of Town Clerk Andy McLean's purchase of a book on the matter, "All Those in Favor: Rediscovering the Secrets of Town Meeting and Community" by Susan Clark.

A study is cited in it regarding towns that had moved their meetings to Saturdays. It was found that those towns did not have as much participation.

"Big things that brings good turn out is usually when people feel invited or welcome," added Werner.

He mentioned that the town no longer mailed its town reports to all registered voters. It was suggested that a personal invite to Town Meeting from both chair positions and the Town Clerk could spark more interest.

Having a controversial item could also inspire more people to show up.

"If you have any issue that's near and dear to people, they'll tend to come out more," said Werner. "Some people came to me and said, ‘You should be glad we're not there. That would mean you're doing something we don't like.'"

He was told that it meant people were generally pleased with the performance of the boards.

According to Buzzy Buswell, a candidate for the two-year seat on the Selectboard, the same discussion was brought up approximately five years ago. He cited the Town Meeting date as a tradition around Vermont.

"It's an important value to teach our families," he said. "I think this discussion should cease. Those who will come, will come."

Werner pointed out that having the school's articles presented after legislature was out could be beneficial.

"We end up having to shuck and jive and move things around," said Werner. "We present our budget based on assumptions of what legislature's going to do, which we can't predict any more than gasoline or electric."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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