News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 7, 2019
Stonington town meeting moved to a later date

by Rich Hewitt

Town meeting will be a little later, again, next year.

Selectmen on Monday, November 4, decided to move the town meeting to the second Saturday in March—March 14—with town elections to be held the previous day, Friday, March 13.

This is the second change to the town meeting date in as many years but there were several factors that influenced the selectmen this time around. Last year, selectmen moved town meeting to the first Saturday in March, a change from what had been the town tradition of holding the annual meeting on the first Monday of that month. They had hoped to continue with the first Saturday in March (March 7), but last month, Town Manager Kathleen Billings pointed out that the annual Fishermen’s Forum had been scheduled for that same weekend.

Selectmen were unwilling to schedule the meeting at the same time as the forum, a statewide event that is sure to draw many town residents.

Holding the meeting a week earlier raised other issues. Moving the meeting up a week would make it tight to meet the requirements for candidates to have time to collect signatures and submit nomination papers, although Billings told selectmen on Monday that it might be possible to “squeeze it in.”

But selectmen already had indicated support for a second-Saturday meeting, and Evelyn Duncan pointed out that the earlier meeting would put extra pressure on them and the town office personnel in preparing the town report.

“I don’t want to tighten up on the town report,” she said. “We know how close it is with all the other stuff that has to come in.”

With town elections set for Friday, the selectmen set the time for the town meeting for 9 a.m. on Saturday. (Last year, voting was held in the morning and the meeting was held in the afternoon.)

The later town meeting date, although it provides for a little more relaxed preparation time, does have one key problem. In the past, Stonington and Deer Isle have held their town meetings on the same date. That has made it easy to tabulate the voting results for the school district which combines votes for candidates for the district school board, whose members serve at large.

Last year, Deer Isle selectmen changed the town meeting date to match Stonington’s, but Billings said this year, it appears that Deer Isle will keep its meeting on the first Saturday of the month. Billings had expressed concerns that voting in Stonington could be affected if the results of an earlier Deer Isle vote were publicized before the fact. She said Monday that Deer Isle may have to hold their results on the school board elections until the Stonington vote was done.