BUCKFIELD – A petition to change the annual town meeting from an open session to a secret ballot referendum will not be on the June 21 annual meeting warrant, selectmen decided Friday.
Instead, the proposal will go to a public hearing May 23 and then to voters at a June 13 referendum.
At a special meeting Friday, the board voted to rescind their April 25 decision on the petition, which was submitted by Judy Berg.
Town Manager Glen Holmes said the reason for taking it off the warrant was a legal one, and Berg asked Holmes to send a letter so she might communicate this to those who signed the petition.
Holmes and Berg met Thursday to agree on how the question should be worded.
Berg offered: “Do you want to adopt a form of town meeting that provides for referendum-style voting on articles at the polls, with absentee balloting and to establish a town committee to recommend the process?”
Holmes offered: “Do you wish to maintain the longstanding tradition of our current form of town meeting?
Berg took issue with the word “longstanding.”
Her husband, Charles Berg, contended that the word made it a loaded question while Holmes said her version gave too much explanation.
Berg wanted to know what was longstanding? She said that over the years the format for town meetings has been changed many times. She noted that the month for town meetings had changed, the school budget was no longer on the warrant, and dinner meetings where people could meet and discuss the issues was no longer held. Therefore, she felt that longstanding no longer was true.
Holmes asked the board if they thought the word longstanding should remain.
“Yes, I think that it’s important. It’s an honest opinion,” Selectman Skip Stanley said.
Berg said her goal was to get more voters to the polls and provide for absentee voting.
The board voted unanimously to accept two statements for the ballot: “I vote to maintain the current town meeting process,” or “I vote to require all town meeting warrant articles be voted on by referendum balloting at the polls.”
The board also voted to place the questions on the June 13 referendum ballot.