Recently a number of Tewksbury residents have complained online and to the police department about aggressive salespeople who won’t take “not interested” for an answer. One woman decided to do something about it.
“I happened to see that Methuen had a ‘do not knock’ program,” says resident Christine Chesbrough, founder of the Tewksbury Connected Facebook group. “I mentioned this to a selectman, who thought it was a great idea.”
Chesbrough researched similar laws in about a dozen Massachusetts towns, including Waltham and Chelmsford. These measures exempt charities, schools and political canvassers and are opt-in, meaning those who do wish to hear from commercial sales people can simply not add their addresses to the list.
“At my house, we have had solicitors that have been very pushy and not honest,” says Chesbrough. “With people being scammed every day, I thought this would help protect all residents in town, especially the elderly. There are also children home alone.”
Note that commercial solicitors currently must display a badge issued by the town. That means that they are registered and have passed a CORI check. If a salesperson comes to your door without a current permit, citizens are encouraged to call the TPD nonemergency line at 978-851-7373. The person may not represent a legitimate business.
If Chesbrough’s proposal becomes law, residents who don’t want solicitors to come to their homes will be able to fill out a form. A list will be kept on file by the town. When a commercial solicitor applies for a permit to go door to door, the company will receive a list of addresses they must avoid.
Chesbrough must collect 100 signatures to have the article put forward. She is collecting signatures today (Saturday) at Oakdale Market Basket until 11 a.m.
Still, a signature to put an article on the warrant does not ensure that the proposal becomes law. For Tewksbury to become a “do not knock” town, the language must pass muster by town counsel. Then, the proposal will appear as a citizen’s petition article on the warrant presented at the Special Town Meeting convening on Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. at Tewksbury High School.
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Residents who are registered voters may attend this Special Town Meeting and vote “yes” on the measure. It will require a majority vote to pass. At that point, it will go to the state attorney general’s office to be certified.
Chesbrough’s article will join two additional petitions of interest.
Selectman Jayne Wellman has proposed changing the moniker “Board of Selectmen” to “Select Board,” following the lead of many surrounding communities. And Paige Impink and Chris Mullins represent a group of residents bringing forward an article to make the Planning Board term three years, to align with the Selectmen and School Committee term length; currently, Planning Board members serve five years. The measure would not affect sitting Planning Board members, who will serve out their full terms.
Impink says her goal is to encourage more citizens to participate in town government.
“Five years is a long time to ask someone to serve, and having only one seat up at a time tends to discourage people from running,” she says. “This article is about more opportunity, more often. The town has a stellar professional staff supporting our elected boards, so I see this as an opportunity for newer residents to get a say in how we execute the long-term vision of how we want Tewksbury to grow in the future.”
If Chesbrough gets her way, that vision will include the right to keep commercial sales people from knocking while still hearing from school kids, charities and candidates seeking support.