Amherst to form new committee this spring to analyze Town Meeting articles

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 3/9/2018 10:33:48 PM

AMHERST — A new committee that will provide Town Meeting members independent analysis of the impacts of warrant articles, and which is seen by its proponents as improving the work done by the town’s legislature, will be formed this spring.

Created by Town Meeting last fall over the objections of the Select Board, the Town Meeting Advisory Committee is a nine-member panel that will review many warrant articles and then provide information about how these would affect neighborhoods, public safety, taxes, specific populations and environment and sustainability.

While Town Meeting already gets a report from the Finance Committee as well as from boards and petitioners, those who supported the new committee say that it will reduce the inherent biases in presentations before the 240-member body.

“Now there will be an independent, legislative committee to help Town Meeting members to better understand the pros and cons, and benefits and impacts of important warrant articles,” said Town Meeting member John Hornik, who proposed adopting the bylaw for creating the new panel.

Critics of the advisory committee worry that it will mean more municipal staff time to provide information.

The advisory committee creation also comes even as the future of representative Town Meeting is uncertain, with a charter vote March 27 that, if adopted, would replace Town Meeting and Select Board with a 13-member town council

Applicants to serve on the advisory committee, who don’t have to be Town Meeting members, need to apply by May 8. A slate of candidates will then be voted on when Town Meeting convenes on May 14.

“We are hoping for Amherst residents who want to participate in governance but not necessarily as Town Meeting members, will sign up,” Town Meeting member Maurianne Adams said.

Applications can be made to moderator Jim Pistrang at, or at the town clerk’s office at Town Hall.

The new committee is also supported by the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee’s policies and procedures subcommittee, which has completed various changes in recent years to improve Town Meeting and enhance communication between Town Meeting members and constituents. Among those enhancements are an email system to contact most Town Meeting members by precinct, electronic voting to document each member’s vote and a publicly viewable Google group where member discussion takes place.

Coordinating Committee member Christopher Riddle said members will get from the new committee an understanding of complex and detailed proposals, beyond the finances, with well-research reports.

“It will enable members to be better informed and be better able to make good judgments more efficiently,” Riddle said.

As part of the outreach efforts by the coordinating committee, candidates for Town Meeting will be available to meet with the public at two sessions being held March 17 at the Amherst Regional Middle School, 170 Chestnut St.

These allow for interaction and discussion of issues, and will be moderated by representatives from the League of Women Voters of Amherst.

Residents who live in precincts 1 to 5 should meet between 10 and 11:30 a.m., while precincts 6 to 10 from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

Editor’s Note: This story was changed on March 11, 2018, to correct the deadline by which nomination papers must be handed in by candidates for the new advisory committee to May 8, and the election date to May 14.

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