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Amherst officials to consider earlier Town Meeting start time

Amherst has long had a reputation for town meetings that extend over several days and can even last a few weeks.

To reduce the number of sessions needed to complete business, the Select Board is contemplating having the meetings begin 30 minutes earlier this fall.

The idea of moving the start time to 7 p.m. will be discussed at the Select Board’s Oct. 15 meeting.

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said she is floating the concept because fall Town Meeting doesn’t begin until Nov. 19, which is Thanksgiving week. Typically Town Meeting starts earlier in November, but was pushed back because of the presidential election and Veterans Day.

The board in June had a similar discussion after annual Town Meeting about how to get more business done each night. Sessions begin when a majority of members are present in the middle school auditorium, and adjourn as soon as the first article is completed after 10 p.m.

“My feeling is that this is the perfect time to give the earlier start time a try, because fall Town Meeting begins very late this year, and it would be good to get our work done in as few sessions as possible before people have so many other demands on their time in December,” O’Keeffe said in an email.

But she observes that if enough members don’t support starting early, they will continue to arrive at 7:30 or later, preventing a quorum needed to conduct business.

The Select Board has not yet received formal feedback from the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee on whether it would support an earlier start time.

O’Keeffe suspects that it could shave a night or two off the length of Town Meeting, and would also be a way of promoting the town’s efforts to be a green community, as fewer sessions will mean fewer round trips for those who drive.

“I hope Town Meeting members will embrace the opportunity to give this a try,” she said.

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