Mixed reviews voiced on Saturday town meetings

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FARMINGTON — Selectmen voiced mixed opinions Tuesday about holding the annual town meeting on a Saturday instead of the traditional Monday night.

The board is scheduled to decide at its next meeting whether to hold the meeting next year on Saturday or revert back to Monday.

While members agreed there was a good discussion of several articles, the number who attended “wasn’t any better or any worse,” said Stephan Bunker, who was re-elected chairman of the board for this year.

“It ruined my day,” said Selectman Jon Bubier, who did not favor changing the night meeting to a Saturday.

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The board had agreed to try a Saturday meeting this year in order to make it easier for people to attend and to see if more people would come.

“I was hoping for a larger turnout and was rather disappointed,” said Selectman Nancy Porter, who said she would like to see more Saturday meetings but felt a lack of controversial items on the warrant didn’t sway people to attend.

The meeting was not a failure but with “70-degree weather in March, people find other things to do,” said Selectman Ryan Morgan, who went on to suggest trying a Saturday meeting again next year.

The newest board member, Drew Hufnagel, said he didn’t like the Saturday meeting but “didn’t feel drained at the end of the meeting like after night meetings.” He also favored trying it one more year but raised questions about this year’s town elections held on Friday with the polls closing at 6 p.m.

People had told him they thought the polls were open later, he said. He questioned whether they could open later and close later after Town Manager Richard Davis said the polls’ cost with overtime for the town clerk hampered extended polling hours as the town “is looking at every dollar.”

Two Budget Committee members sitting in the audience raised concerns about the low number of people spending large amounts of money, a $4.4 million budget.

“I was concerned about the level of participation,” said Ray Stillman, while urging the board to consider ways to draw more people to the meetings.

He said the 100-plus people at the meeting was a low representation of the town’s approximate 7,500 population.

In other business, the board observed a moment of silence for two former board members who both died on Monday. Bunker recounted the service given to the town by Jonathan Luce and James Witt III.

The board also set a date of April 27 for a special town meeting to be held at 7 p.m. at the Community Center to ratify acceptance of two roads and a lease of a Front Street parking lot although a sale decision on it has not been made and to amend the sign ordinance to allow business signs at Philbrick Park in Farmington Falls.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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