Town Meeting is going to be a little different this year. In order to keep people safe and prevent a COVID-19 outbreak, social distancing precautions will be in place, and only time-sensitive matters will be considered.
In addition, Abington News has prepared the following FAQ:
Q: So what’s up with Town Meeting? Is it happening this year?
Yes! Abington’s Annual Town Meeting will be held on Monday evening, June 22, starting at 7 p.m. In order to limit the amount of time people have to be in the same room and building, the meeting will only discuss critical articles, such as the town’s budget for the fiscal year starting on July 1. There will also be a Special Town Meeting in order to vote on a couple of budgeting issues that need to be handled before June 30.
Q: Is Town Meeting going to be held in person or virtually via a teleconferencing platform?
In person! The meeting will be held in the Middle/High School auditorium, with additional seating available in the gymnasium.
Q: Is the state allowing us to meet in groups now?
Social gatherings of more than 10 people are still restricted. Town meetings are being allowed because communities must be able to meet and vote in order to continue providing important community services. However, each municipality is expected to implement policies and procedures to protect the health of all attendees.
Q: What protections will be in place?
Town Moderator Shawn Reilly and Health Agent Marty Golightly have described their planning approach as if they assume every person attending has the COVID-19 virus.
So every person attending Town Meeting is being asked to wear a mask. Special accommodations will be made for those unable to wear a mask due to health concerns.
People will be seated with at least three seats left empty next to them and the two rows in front of them empty as well. People who live in the same household will be allowed to sit with each other.
Q: The town’s needed quorum to hold Town Meeting is 150. Can we fit 150 people in the auditorium while adhering to social distancing guidelines?
No. This is one reason the Board of Selectmen has taken advantage of a new state law and voted to temporarily reduce the needed quorum to 50 people.
Q: Does this mean only the first 50 people who show up will be allowed to attend Town Meeting?
No. Abington has an open town meeting, which means any registered voter in town can attend. Between the auditorium and gymnasium, there’s room to safely seat about 150 people.
Q: What happens if 175 people show up? Or 200? Will they be turned away?
According to Reilly, under state law, the town can not turn away anyone who wants to attend town meeting. If the crowd exceeds the allowed seating capacity, Reilly said he will adjourn immediately and reschedule the meeting to a later date at an outdoor location.
Q: What happens when I arrive for Town Meeting?
After you park, you will be directed by a town safety official to the appropriate entrance door, which will likely be door 18, located to the left of the main entrance for the auditorium and lobby. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and will remain propped open so attendees won’t have to touch the handles. You will then check in with a worker with the Town Clerk’s Office. (All Abington residents can attend, but only registered voters can vote during the meeting. Please do not bring any children.) While waiting to be checked in, attendees are asked to maintain proper social distancing.
Q: What if it’s raining out?
In case of bad weather, you may be directed to use the cafeteria door located in the patio in order to let any line stretch down the hallway.
Q: What if I forget my mask, or don’t have one?
A member of the Board of Health will be on hand to distribute a mask to anyone who needs one. If you are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition, please let a Board of Health member know.
Q: Do I pick my own seat in the auditorium?
An usher will help direct you to a seat. Please let them know if you want to sit with members of the same household. The goal is to keep three vacant seats next to each person or household and two empty rows in front and behind.
Q: Do I have to wear my mask once inside the auditorium?
Q: Can I walk around the auditorium once inside?
In order to maintain social distancing, please remain seated once inside.
Q: Will they have copies of the Special and Annual Town Meeting warrant on hand, or do I need to bring my own?
Unlike in past years, handouts will not be placed on a table to be picked up; they will actually be handed out. However, if you would prefer to bring your own, the Special Town Meeting warrant can be found here; and the Annual Town Meeting warrant here.
Q: If I have to sit in the gymnasium, how will I know what’s going on?
There will be an audio and video connection provided in the gymnasium.
Q: Are we going to be allowed to ask questions?
Yes. But instead of coming up to the microphone, just raise your hand and a disinfected, wireless microphone will be brought to your seat. You will be allowed to lower your mask while speaking.
Q: Can I choose to sit in the gymnasium?
No. The gymnasium will only be opened if the auditorium is filled.
Q: Can I walk around the building while I’m there?
No, aside from the auditorium and gymnasium, the building is closed.
Q: Will the bathrooms be open?
Yes, and they will be cleaned regularly.
Q: Can I still attend if I’m not feeling well?
Q: How will we maintain social distancing when we all leave at once?
When the meeting concludes, the Moderator will dismiss attendees by section and direct them out through specific exits in order to prevent crowding.
Q: I’m not sure I want to go. Will this be broadcast live, or do I have to wait to watch it on YouTube later?
Abington Community Access & Media will broadcast the meeting live (Verizon: Ch. 24; Comcast: Ch. 15). It will also be replayed on those channels in the days following the meeting, and be made available on YouTube.