By Jean Perry, Special to the Neighb News
Fairhaven Town Meeting members will tackle a much shorter warrant than originally planned when they remotely attend Fairhaven’s first-ever virtual Annual Town Meeting on 6/27.
The Fairhaven Selectboard on May 28 approved Town Administrator Mark Rees’s proposal to shorten the warrant from 53 articles to just 19 in order to streamline the unprecedented and otherwise untested virtual town meeting process.
The updated warrant will focus on articles that are time sensitive and deemed essential, Mr. Rees said. One of those essential articles features the fiscal year 2021 budget, which Mr. Rees said would likely be affected by an uncertainty of revenue stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The remote town meeting itself could also affect the FY21 budget should logistical challenges arise and town meeting need to be rescheduled. In preparation, the board approved Mr. Rees’s strategy of adopting a “one-twelfth” FY21 budget as a contingency should something go wrong or if town meeting is ultimately postponed.
A one-twelfth budget is the result of taking the FY20 budget and dividing it by 12 in order to formulate a budget that can at least cover the expenditures for July, the first month of the fiscal year.
With that approved, Mr. Rees said he would prepare a “one-third” FY21 budget for Town Meeting to adopt, to maintain town services for four months into FY21.
A special town meeting could later be held to adopt a final FY21 budget after social distancing measures are further loosened.
The Selectboard decided to hold a meeting on June 3 to review the warrant and make article recommendations for TM members.
The 2020 Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for Saturday, 6/27, at 9:00 a.m., and town meeting members will attend the meeting via Zoom.
In other matters, Mr. Rees said that the town is preparing for an anticipated June 8 reopening of Town Hall and other municipal buildings to the public.
Mass. Governor Charlie Baker must first approve starting Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan, which could be decided over the weekend as long as COVID-19 cases continue to decline.
Preparations for reopening at Town Hall include Plexiglas shields at public counters, hand sanitizer dispensers installed throughout the building, and a number of social distancing markers on the floor to ensure a six-foot distance for those waiting in line.
“I think we’re in a good position,” Mr. Rees said. “But we have not heard any finalization of that [June 8] date.”
Fairhaven Health Agent Mary Freire-Kellogg said COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Fairhaven, predominantly within congregate residential housing communities.
“Everybody seriously needs to pay attention to social distancing,” said Ms. Freire-Kellogg adding that if you cannot stand six feet from people, wear a mask. “It’s very, very important. We’re seeing multiple cases in the same location, basically … where people are congregating together.”
Ms. Freire-Kellogg said the Health Department has given the Police Department additional masks to distribute to residents that need them, and the Housing Authority now has masks and thermometers available for housing tenants.
“And we have more to give out if we need to,” said Friere-Kellogg. “We’re just trying to keep up with the changes. It changes every minute of every day, so … we adjust accordingly.”
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