More than half a dozen Monadnock Region communities are exercising a state-authorized option to hold town meeting later than usual this year.
Under an emergency order Gov. Chris Sununu issued Jan. 22, local officials “where concern exists for conducting [those sessions] during the COVID-19 health emergency” may postpone ballot voting by up to four months and hold their annual town meeting later in 2021.
The state’s default date for ballot voting — the second Tuesday in March — is March 9. Town meetings typically occur in March, either on the same day or shortly after ballot voting, though some municipalities hold the session in May.
This year, however, several local towns have opted to delay town meeting, per Sununu’s emergency order, although many still plan to hold ballot voting March 9.
The Hinsdale selectboard voted earlier this month to schedule town meeting for May 1, according to Town Administrator Jill Collins.
Collins said board members and other town officials were worried that holding the meeting next month in the Hinsdale Middle/High School gymnasium, its typical location, would reduce attendance, due to residents’ concerns around the coronavirus. Delaying the session until May, Collins said, will give more residents a chance to get vaccinated and may even allow the town to hold the meeting outdoors.
“We’re hoping that by then, a lot of the people have received their vaccinations,” she said.
Harrisville has also postponed its town meeting — now scheduled for May 22 — in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Mary Anne Noyer, an administrative assistant for the town, said Tuesday. Noyer said that Harrisville, too, may hold its meeting outside, adding that town officials have discussed installing a tent in case of inclement weather.
Both towns will still hold ballot voting March 9.
Town officials in Surry have postponed its ballot voting to June 8 and town meeting to June 10, according to a notice posted on the town website. The Surry School District’s respective sessions will also be held on those dates, it states.
As previously reported, the Nelson selectboard voted Feb. 3 to postpone ballot voting to July 13 and to hold town meeting four days later, according to Chairman Dave Upton.
“The highest priority for our Select Board is to protect public health and safety,” Upton told The Sentinel in an email last week. “It was the unanimous opinion of [the] Board that postponing the ballot voting and business meeting to the latest allowed dates would give our voters the best possible opportunity to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus prior to the meetings.”
Winchester, an official-ballot town, delayed its deliberative session until April 3 after the school board moved its own deliberative session to April 10. Voting on the Winchester town and school district warrants will be held May 11, Town Administrator Karey Miner said earlier this month.
Other local towns that will still hold ballot voting March 9 but have delayed town meeting to a later date include Richmond (April 10) and Jaffrey (April 24).