Well, THAT was a week…
It started with the schools quickly pivoting to full remote learning, and ended with a freak snowstorm that left behind a couple inches of white stuff. Also on the ground were many leafy tree limbs that were unable to handle the combined weight of snow piled up on each piece of foliage.
The week ahead will bring with it a blizzard of voting news, as the nation heads to the polls on Tuesday.
But first…a shameless plug!
Sunday is the 1st Annual Abington News Turkey Classic at Webster Timber Lanes. It’s an old- time candlepin bowling tournament benefiting the Abington Food Pantry (have to be from Abington to compete). The format: everyone bowls two strings. The Top 4 bowlers will advance to a one string championship roll-off. The champeen wins a turkey dinner basket and other prizes. Entry fee is $20. Please sign up ahead of time at Webster Timber Lanes.
Back to our regular column…
ELECTION DAY AND NIGHT
It could be an Election Day, Night, and Week like no other. Never before have so many voters — in Abington, in Massachusetts, in America — cast their ballots early.
Abington residents can vote in person between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Emerald Hall. (Please wear a face covering)
Town Clerk Leanne Adams said just under 3,000 town voters showed up to vote early. That’s by far the most ever. By comparison, 5,157 total voters turned out in 2016. That 3K figure also doesn’t include the number of voters casting their ballot by mail.
State-wide, more than 2.2 million Massachusetts residents have voted early; across the nation that number is 91.6 million Americans, or two-thirds the number who cast ballots in 2016.
The challenge for town, city, and county clerks across the country is tabulating all of those early ballots. In most states, including Massachusetts, that process can’t begin until Election Day.
Traditionally, absentee and early voting ballots make up a small fraction of the total ballots cast in Abington. As a result, Adams is usually able to post preliminary results about 30 minutes after the polls close. However, absentee and early voting ballots on Tuesday are expected to make up possibly half of all ballots cast, meaning those preliminary results likely won’t be ready until perhaps 10:30 p.m., Adams said, with more counting likely Wednesday as well (The numbers posted on Election Day are never the final certified numbers; the clerk’s office spends the days after the election going through the ballots, marking down write-ins, and completing other tasks needed before submitting official tallies in to the state).
Now take this challenge and multiply it across this majestic country. And that’s why we may not have a clear picture of the results nationwide until Wednesday or even Thursday.
COVID/BOARD OF HEALTH
Abington Schools Superintendent Peter Schafer surprised the district’s 2,000+ families last Monday when he announced the school system would be reverting to full remote learning until Nov. 12. He said the decision came after a recommendation by Abington Health Agent Marty Golightly, Public Health Nurse Lindsay Wright, and the Board of Health. The town’s COVID-19 numbers had spiked in the days before the announcement, resulting in 130 students and staff – including school administrators – being forced into quarantine due to having been in close contact with people who had tested positive. But the schools opened Monday based on the understanding that the virus had not been spreading in the classrooms. Golightly said he received information Monday afternoon that led him to determine he could no longer confidently say that.
Schafer could have taken Golightly’s recommendation under advisement and kept the schools open, but going against the advice of public health officials generally isn’t seen as the smart play the days.
Golightly is expected to further discuss what went into his recommendation at the Board of Health’s meeting Monday night at 6 p.m. The meeting will be held over Zoom and broadcast live over Abington Community Access & Media’s Facebook page, but members of the public won’t be able to speak live during the meeting. Board Chairman Chris Schultz said people can email any questions they have.
“Any questions submitted to me prior to the meeting will be addressed. We also monitor comments during the meeting and do our best to address them,” he said.
With the state Department of Public Health labeling Abington a “red” community for the third week in a row, the town is being forced as of Monday morning to revert to Phase 1 of Step 3 of the state’s reopening plan. Some of the the tougher rules will go unnoticed – there aren’t any music venues in town, for example. But restaurants will be forced to drop their indoor seating capacity from 50 percent to 40 percent.
“I’m really not happy about struggling businesses having to lose even more income,” Golightly told Abington News.
After this article was published, the Board of Health published updated town statistics: the number of Abington residents with active COVID-19 cases has dropped to 16, with 130 residents finishing their 14-day quarantine.
PLANNING BOARD/MARIJUANA STORE
The Planning Board is also meeting Monday night at 6 p.m., at town hall. The board could possibly vote tonight on whether to approve construction plans for a second adult-use marijuana shop. Green Harbor Dispensary wants to build a storefront at 1410 Bedford St. They are proposing to tear down and rebuild approximately half the existing structure on the site, and add parking in the back and along the sides. This will be at least the fourth meeting on the proposed plans.
The planning board has already approved construction of one adult-use marijuana store, Bud’s Provisions, which will be located at 1540 Bedford St. That shop expects to open for business early next year.
Planning Board, 6 p.m., Town Hall. Agenda includes plans for a retail marijuana shop at 1410 Bedford St.
Board of Health, 6 p.m., Zoom. Agenda includes discussions on the town’s COVID-19 numbers, and its recommendation last week to close the schools for two weeks.
Election Day, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., Emerald Hall.
Board of Assessors, 11 a.m., Town Hall. Agenda includes a discussion on motor vehicle excise taxes
Flu Clinic, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Senior Center. For adults and children.