Shutesbury to hold open-air Town Meeting on June 27


Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2020 9:55:39 PM

SHUTESBURY — Voters will gather outdoors, and at a new location, when annual Town Meeting convenes on June 27.

A 32-article warrant, which includes a proposed $6.6 million operating budget and three zoning changes, will be discussed and debated beginning at 9 a.m. in the large field behind Town Hall, rather than at the Shutesbury Elementary School gym.

Having the open-air session is necessary to maintain safety and social distancing during the pandemic, according to town officials.

Select Board Vice Chairwoman Elaine Puleo said there has been extensive preparation to hold Town Meeting in the fresh air, including renting a large tent that will provide some shade and covering.

People are encouraged to bring their own chairs, and everyone will be asked to keep face masks on at all times. Only water bottles, and not food, can be brought to the session. Any children must remain with parents and will not have a play space. Hand sanitizer, wipes and some masks will be available, along with a cooling area set up at Town Hall. 

Two portable toilets will be in place, along with bathrooms inside Town Hall.

Because members of the town’s health board will be escorting people into the Town Meeting, which will be set up from front to back, it could take some time to get organized.

“We’re really encouraging people to come earlier because it will take more time to usher people to their seats,” said Town Administrator Becky Torres.

“Be flexible and understand we’re trying to provide as normal a situation as we can,” Puleo said.

Handicapped parking will only be available at Town Hall, with all other vehicles to be parked on the Town Common. Prescott Road at Route 202 will be posted for no through traffic due to the anticipated congestion that day in town center.

With the tent rented through July 1, the Town Meeting can be pushed back if there is an electrical storm or other inclement weather.

The town budget is only about $8,500 higher than the current year’s $6.58 million spending plan. Torres said the town is trying to maintain services, even with a projected 30% loss of state aid, by using $220,000 in free cash to backfill accounts.

Additional spending is being proposed for several capital items, including $25,000 for new flooring in various town and school buildings, $7,200 to replace two sliding glass doors at the elementary school’s conference room, $2,700 for two overhead door operators at the fire station and $2,200 for a radar gun and breathalyzer for the police department.

Community Preservation Act money totaling $13,800 would pay the town’s share of a schematic design and engineering study for improvements to the track and field at Amherst Regional High School.

Three zoning changes are being proposed by the Planning Board, with a hearing on June 22.

The first adjusts the existing ground-mounted solar bylaw and makes conditions stricter for developers by offering expanded protection for historic resources and buildings.

A revised sign bylaw will clarify how signs are regulated on town property and would require signs on private properties to be five feet back from the right of way.

The final zoning change is to language in the open space design bylaw adopted in 2008.

The warrant also includes a citizens petition to take $750,000 from free cash, the stabilization account or capital funds to pay down the $1.69 million in borrowing to pay for the town’s broadband network. The idea is to reduce both property tax bills and monthly bills for the broadband service.

Because of the broadband availability, the town is not sending by mail the warrant and budget to most households, Torres said. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at


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