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AlphaBest To Offer Childcare for Special Town Meeting

Parents of children enrolled in Tewksbury Public Schools can access free service, are encouraged to attend and support recreation

AlphaBest will offer free child care to families of Tewksbury school-age students in grades K-8 to enable parents to attend Special Town Meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. at TMHS.

Please be advised that this is not a drop-in program, and you must pre-register for a spot in order for AlphaBest to properly staff the program. Dropoff will begin at 6:45 p.m., and children must be picked up at the end of Town Meeting or by 9:00 p.m., whichever comes first.

The deadline to sign up is this Friday, Sept. 29, at noon. Please use this link to register:…/1FAIpQLSfAOdD…/viewform

There are a number of recreation-related articles on the STM docket, including Article 8, which will fund installation of new lights and poles and associated electrical work at the LA baseball field on East Street. Article 9 will fund the design, engineering and construction of three dedicated pickleball courts next to the LA field and new lighting for the baseball fields on East Street. 

Article 10 will pay for the design, engineering and construction of an outdoor venue next to the Tewksbury Public Library that will give the outdoor concerts a stage area and tent and make the Community Garden more accessible with concrete pathways.

Article 16 will put parcels totaling 15.64 acres under the control of the Conservation Commission to promote and protect in perpetuity watershed resources, open space and wildlife habitat. Some of these lots may also provide walking trails for residents.

There are 24 articles in the Oct. 3 warrant, but many are noncontroversial and should pass with little discussion. You can get full details on all articles by watching this Finance Committee meeting.

Special Town Meeting FAQs

What is town meeting? Tewksbury is one of more than 250 towns that have an open town meeting form of government, where all registered voters have a say in everything from zoning to how money is spent to how long elected officials serve and what they are paid. 

Town meeting is often described as “the purest form of democratic governing,” and in Tewksbury, citizens have elected to keep open town meeting for that reason.

When is town meeting? In Tewksbury, town meetings convene in May and October. Interestingly, town elections in April are actually part of our annual TM. Town meetings are held in the gym at Tewksbury Memorial High School.

What’s the difference between annual and special town meetings? Each town must hold one annual town meeting; in Tewksbury, that is held in May. Additional town meetings are called “special” meetings. They may be called by the Board of Selectmen as many times during the year as is considered necessary.

In general, annual town meeting acts on fiscal issues, zoning changes, bylaw amendments and other matters affecting the town. Special town meetings typically deal with paying bills and zoning articles.

Citizens may submit articles for either annual or special TM.

Who can take part? Anyone can attend, but only Tewksbury residents who are registered to vote can vote at TM. There is a visitors’ section for nonvoters, press and nonresidents who are interested in attending. Kids are welcome at TM and don’t need to sit in the visitor section.

Who actually does attend? Historically, a tiny percentage of voters. Tewksbury has about 24,000 people registered. The average number of voters who’ve attended town meetings back to 2018, according to Town Clerk Denise Graffeo? 240.

That means that about 1% of voters are making major decisions for the whole town. The highest town meeting attendance since 2018 was 922 in May 2019, when we voted to build a new elementary school. In May 2022, there were 150 and 108 voters at TM and STM, respectively. In October 2021, there were 190 voters and 15 visitors in attendance.

Attendance at recent Tewksbury annual and special town meetings.

What is voted on at town meeting? Before every TM, the town clerk issues a warrant, which lists the articles up for vote. Residents can find warrants on the town’s website, and paper copies are sent to all residents. Paper warrants are also available at the library and town hall, and copies as well as addendums are available at the meeting. The warrant lists a meeting’s time, location and the articles to be considered. 

What happens when I go to town meeting? It’s a good idea to arrive at least 15 minutes early to check in. Voters will be issued a ribbon to wear that indicates they are eligible to vote.

The moderator will call the meeting to order. After some opening formalities, articles come up for vote in order. Noncontroversial articles may be bundled into a single article, called a “consent calendar,” to be voted on together. This saves time.

Any voter may speak on any article; nonresidents and nonvoters may also speak, with permission of the voting body. More on speaking dos and don’ts later.

Once all speakers have had their say, the moderator calls for a vote. Most votes are handled by either voice vote or by counters — people physically walking around with clickers to count off voters, who rise for either a “yes” or a “no” vote. Articles that deal with salaries are handled via secret ballot.

Town meetings must end by 11 p.m., but residents are normally out earlier, depending on how many articles there are and whether items are controversial.

Who runs TM? It’s the moderator’s job to run town meeting. Specifically, the moderator declares the outcome of all voice votes, decides if a standing count is needed and rules on procedural issues. In Tewksbury, the moderator has broad discretion.

Moderators are elected, and the term of office is three years in Tewksbury. Dustin Weir is our current moderator. When an elected moderator is absent, a temporary moderator may be elected at town meeting.

What if I have something to say? When it’s an article’s turn to be debated, you walk up to the podium. There may be a line to speak. When it’s your turn, the moderator will ask you to state your name and address for the record.

Do: Speak clearly and directly into the microphone so everyone can hear you, and stick to the topic being discussed. Direct all comments to the moderator. If you have a question for, say, the town manager, ask it through the moderator.

Don’t: Attack or attempt to debate any individual, official or previous speaker. Tewksbury has a proud tradition of being respectful at its town meetings, even on contentious articles. Keep arguments factual, stick to the allotted five minutes and pay attention to the moderator.

While everyone has an opportunity to ask questions, residents are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the articles in advance. There is usually plenty of information available about complicated or out-of-the ordinary articles, and the finance committee and other boards hold informational meetings in advance of TM where residents can ask questions and get information.

Here is a rundown of all the articles.

Can I put an article on the warrant? Yes, though not for October, as that warrant is already set. Citizen articles for annual town meetings require 10 signatures from registered voters, while articles for special town meetings require 100 signatures. Articles must be reviewed by town counsel to ensure they conform with state laws and town bylaws. The town clerk can advise interested residents on deadlines and provide examples.

Some terms you may hear, and what they mean:

Amendment: Any TM participant may make a motion to amend an article; that is, to add or change language. Amendments must be presented to the moderator in writing and be voted on.

Indefinite postponement: This is a negative motion. A yes vote on indefinite postponement, or on “tabling the article,” defeats the article.

Move the question or article: This is a motion to end discussion on an article and go to a vote. A resident may stand and make a motion to “move the question” when he or she believes the arguments are becoming redundant. Note, however, that you cannot get up, make an argument and then ask to move the question and thus shut out further debate. The moderator decides when to close debate and normally allows those in line to speak.

Two-thirds vote: Sometimes a super-majority — two-thirds of voters present —must vote yes for specific articles to pass.

Want to see a town meeting in action? You can watch the most recent annual and special town meetings on Tewksbury TV’s YouTube channel.

You can also find a Town Meeting 101 presentation by the town clerk.

The Carnation staff hope to see you on Oct. 3. If you have questions not answered here or in the 101 video, contact the town clerk’s office or drop a line to and we’ll get you an answer.

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