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Yes. The Governor’s ban on public gatherings specifically exempts municipal legislatures. By law, every town is required to approve a budget by June 30.
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The Select Board, recognizing that May 12 (when Town Meeting was originally scheduled) would be in the middle of Longmeadow’s peak outbreak for COVID-19, decided to move the date back to ensure the safety of the town. They chose to move the date to a later date in the hopes our numbers of cases would decline.
Yes. Continuous risk assessment and contingent planning are being conducted throughout the planning of this event and will remain ongoing during the period leading up to Town Meeting. Longmeadow has had a marked downturn in active cases for several weeks. At its peak we averaged 15-20 active cases in the community. We are now in the single digits (including congregate housing). Currently local data would suggest that the community spread of COVID-19 has slowed significantly and the number of active cases in the community are few. In fact, this data is currently supporting the phased re-opening and reconstitution of many other public and private functions.
If during the period leading to the event, community spread or other conditions related to COVID-19 change, local health officials will inform the Moderator, who consults them regularly on risk assessment. If the figures should rise, the Moderator will postpone the meeting due to a public health / safety issue. A record of attendees and participants will be maintained should there be a need for contact tracing. All staff and volunteers associated with this event have reviewed and acknowledged the Town of Longmeadow COVID-19 Employee Guidance and participated in the self-screening/self-certifying process.
All the best scientific data we have seen thus far has shown that outdoor is safer than indoors. A diagram of the layout can be found at www.longmeadow.org/townmeeting.
The Moderator has been working with a local logistics team regarding safety issues since March. The Fire Chief, who serves as the Emergency Management Director, and the Health Director have been on this team, which consulted with the Board of Health, and regional and state experts. The plan the team has prepared is extensive and includes the following measures:
All staff will be certified prior to entrance.
Signage will be available, asking that anyone who has a fever or other symptoms or exposure to anyone with symptoms should stay home.
Physical distancing of 10’ spacing between all participants.
Masks/face coverings will be required and provided for those who do not have them.
People who are unable to wear a mask due to a medical condition or disability are exempt from this requirement and will be accommodated in a dedicated seating location.
Check-in desk staff will be split in two locations to reduce clustering of participants waiting in physically distanced lines.
Check-in staff will wear masks.
Plexiglass dividers will be in place at check-in.
Staff wearing brightly colored vests will greet you and direct you to seating.
Seats for people who have been in the same household are closer together.
Aisles (15’) will be one direction. All foot traffic will be one way at all times. Traffic flow patterns will be indicated.
All seats, materials, implements and venue will be properly sanitized before the meeting.
You will be asked to remain in your seats and area at all times except to speak, utilize a restroom, or exit the venue.
Coolers with bottles of water will be available. Please plan to bring additional water.
Hand sanitizer and handwashing stations will be available
No small gatherings of non-household members will be allowed.
Microphones will have foam coverings that will be replaced after every speaker.
We ask that participants avoid touching the microphone or stands, but if that happens, we will have a staff member clean them immediately after.
After adjournment, dismissal will be by row, to enable participants to keep physically distant while leaving Town Meeting.
Bug-spray will be provided.
A cooling-tent for anyone who needs relief will be available.
EMTs will be onsite.
Porta-potties will be on site. Restrooms in the High School will have a single person limit. Sanitizer will be available before the entry.
Yes. Please defer your participation if:
You have a fever or a measured temperature above 100.3 degrees or greater, a cough or trouble breathing within the past 24 hours. (We will not measure temperature)
Or you have had at least two of these symptoms with in the past 24 hours
Repeated shaking with chills
New unexplained muscle pain
New loss of taste of smell
or have experienced the following within the last 14 days:
Have had “close contact” with an individual diagnosed with COVID-19. “Close contact” means or has shown symptoms as described above.
Living in the same household as a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
Caring for a person who has tested positive for COVID-19
Being within 6 feet of a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 for about 15 minutes, or coming in direct contact with secretions (e.g., sharing utensils, being coughed on) from a person who has tested positive for COVID-19, while that person was symptomatic.
Have been asked to self-isolate or quarantine by their doctor or a local public health official.
MA DPH guidance indicates that “Persons who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the Centers for Disease Control (e.g., due to age or underlying conditions) are encouraged to stay home.”
Yes. We just ask that you do a symptom check and ensure you are wearing a mask.
Once you are on High School grounds, out of a vehicle, you must wear a mask. If you are driving, you may park in the regular lot in front of the high school.
The Williams Street Parking Lot is for town staff to use.
The District Office Parking Lot on Bliss Road is for those with disabilities who need accommodations.
Keeping 10’ away from others, you will walk to the Pool Entrance (as you face the High School, it is the entrance to the north on Grassy Gutter Road--the main entrance is to the south) and go through to the back end of the building to the Practice Field. Signs and staff will direct you.
Alternatively you may approach the Practice Field by walking past the Bliss Road/District Office Parking Lot.
There will be Clerks’ Office staff waiting to check you in. There will be spots on the ground where you can stand, to ensure you are keeping 10’ distant from others. Check-in will begin at 4:00PM. Voters and attendees will line up at each entry point. Family members and others sharing the same household will be allowed to stand and sit together. The line to check-in will be managed by the Emergency Management Department in order to ensure sufficient physical distancing per ground markings.
Double tables will be installed and check-in will be by electronic poll pad requiring attendees to state their name and address. Names should be stated loudly and clearly. Masked and gloved staff will manage the process. You will be using a voter card supplied by the Clerk’s staff at Check-In. After the meeting is over, you will put the card in a recycling bin by the exit.
You will have a choice of the prepared chair seating area or the family blanket area. Greeters will welcome you to the “floor” and direct you to the seating area. We are seating people who have been in the same household together, and the foot traffic will flow in one direction. We will fill up the seating area in a way to minimize people passing by those who are already seated.
Seats will be set up for single attendees, two attendees in the same household, and, if more than two in a single household group, specially arranged. This allows 14 foot walking paths all around and 8 feet between chairs.
All seating will be directly off a dedicated aisle so that no crossing of paths to a seat is necessary. Please follow the directions of volunteers, staff, and police, to assure safe seating. Please let the assistants know if you plan to speak, and they will ask that you sit on an end-of-row seat closest to the aisle.
Yes. If you would prefer to use your own chair, you are welcome to bring it. There is room on the field for this configuration. The same distancing parameters would apply as regular seating.
Yes. The School District parking lot will be available for accessible parking. There will be seating available for anyone who needs assistance. Hearing assistive devices will be available to anyone who requests one.
In addition to the restrooms in the High School, portable toilets will be available. There will be hand sanitizer available, too.
Yes. We ask that you leave following the traffic flow patterns that are marked and how the ushers direct you. At adjournment, the Moderator, working with Police and the ushers, will dismiss sections one at a time to ensure 10’ distancing is maintained.
Yes. It may be a good idea for you to consider the family blanket area. A separate family blanket area will be made available with each blanket within a 10’ x 10’ area. It will be the responsibility of parents and guardians to assure that no violation of physical distancing is evidenced. Families must bring their own blankets. Anyone over the age of 5 must wear masks.
Service animals are welcome. Other than that, since we will be on school grounds, please leave your pets at home.
No. Legal guidance does not support this practice. It may be seen as a non-consensual physical examination.
We have consulted with public health officials and are following the most up-to-date science. Our Emergency Management Director and Health Director have been very involved in planning. We have been using health and safety plans developed for hazardous materials, guidance from the Berkshire County Boards of Health Association, and following the Planning Guidelines for Town Meetings During a Pandemic from the Massachusetts Moderators Association. Our local Health Director and board of health members have praised the Public Health and Safety Plan we have created as extremely thorough. While we waited for the State to release guidance, we relied on the Berkshire County Boards of Health Association guidance for town meetings. On June 11 the State released guidance on town meetings. Our plan far exceeds the measures they recommend.
A professional event management company that specializes in outdoor concerts and events will provide several speakers and ensure sound quality. We also will provide hearing assistive devices to anyone who requests one.
We will have presentations posted to the town’s website at www.longmeadow.org and available as handouts. There will not be any screens due to the difficulty of seeing screens in sunlight.
Yes. Efforts by town officials and other petitioners are ongoing to make citizens fully aware prior to the meeting of the articles and their merit. There are 2 online community forums, scheduled for Monday, June 8, 2020 at 7PM and Monday, June 22, 2020 at 7PM.
Residents are encouraged to join the virtual conversation via Zoom or by watching on LCTV Channel 12 or streaming live on LCTV’s YouTube channel. The warrant booklet was mailed to every residence. A copy of the warrant has been posted online and is available for viewing at www.longmeadow.org/townmeeting.
Yes. As the Moderator observes at every meeting, comments should be on the issues before the meeting and avoid being repetitive. In the interests of keeping the meeting brief however, please reconsider comments that only state support or opposition without offering a new argument for the listeners to consider.
Questions are welcome, and you are reminded that if you have multiple questions, you should ask them all at once. While flexibility is usually allowed for a brief follow-up, please remember our bylaw (3-318) “a voter is not entitled to speak more than two (2) times on one question until others who have not spoken have had an opportunity to do so, and a voter is not entitled to speak more than three (3) times on one question, without first obtaining leave of the meeting to do so.” We ask for your courtesy in remembering that we will have staff to remove the foam covering for the microphone between speakers, and possibly clean the microphone handle and stand if someone touches it.
Microphones will be set up at the front of the seating area. An array of three microphones on stands set up at different heights will be in a marked area. Should one wish to speak, go to a microphone marked Green/In Favor of a motion, Yellow/Questions or Motions, or Red/Opposed to a motion. Line up 10’ apart (this will be marked). Do not touch the microphone. Only one person at a time is allowed in the speaker’s area. For those in the queue wishing to speak, you must be at the marked distancing line as guided by a volunteer/staff member. According to MADPH guidance, “Individuals addressing town meeting may remove his or her face covering while doing so, provided that he or she is able to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from other persons.” Longmeadow is using a 10’ physical separation.
Microphones will be treated with an industry sanctioned antiseptic to ensure safety. Windscreens on the microphone will be replaced after each use. Hand sanitizer will be available for the use of each speaker as they approach the microphone.
It’s up to voters. Efforts have been made to ensure that the deliberative function of the meeting is preserved and to keep the discussion moving. There are some articles that will be grouped together as part of a consent agenda. This will allow some articles to be voted on as a group rather than having separate consideration of each one. If a voter would like to take an article up for separate consideration, they may do so when the moderator asks for any holds on the article numbers by calling out “Hold.” This will allow for more time to focus on issues that have more anticipated areas of disagreement. Speakers will be brief. The main mover of a motion will have 4 minutes, and speakers from the floor will have 2 (as usual).
July is hotter than June. It increases the risk for severe rain and thunderstorms. It also offers increased risk for West Nile Virus. Additionally, in the survey the town conducted to determine what kind of turnout we could expect, many participants expressed concern about moving the date further due to travel plans. As the Commonwealth gradually opens up, and as people travel, the window of opportunity we have to conduct a safe and legitimate meeting narrows. The town would use a 1/12 budget, which would prevent reconstitution of government services. Capital plans would not be able to move forward. June is cooler and drier than July. The risk for West Nile Virus is lower. We would be able to approve a budget to reconstitute government services.
No. There is no legal framework for Open Town Meetings to be conducted online.
No. Town Meeting is a legislature. Our direct democracy enables voters to create and amend motions on articles for consideration and vote. Since we do not know what amendments could be offered and what would be approved, no ballot could anticipate the questions for voters.
Yes. Most municipalities are meeting in June, most outdoors.
We ruled out indoors because of concerns about air quality and scientific analysis that showed increased risks for inside locations. If participants were all masked and distanced in different areas of the High School, it would add length to the meeting, as every vote on every motion would require communication with assistant moderators who would have to call the vote in each room. We considered both the High School asphalt parking lot and the football stadium. The parking lot would get too hot, and its distance from the building would make logistics for electronics more difficult. There would be limited space due to the use of part of the lot for parking. The football stadium has more limited bathroom facilities. Some also felt the field or track might get damaged. Its distance from the parking lot would make walking to the site more difficult. The Practice Field is the perfect middle-ground compromise. It is cooler, it offers sufficient space. There is an area for a natural stage that would reduce the cost to the town for staging equipment. It’s closer to the bathrooms than any other location. The team inspected the grassy surface and found it in good condition.
There were a number of safety and logistical concerns the team had. For safety: participants would be in hot cars, and idling is not permitted. For logistics: viewing the votes (raised cards in the air, out windows) would be challenging. If a large SUV or truck is in front of a small car, the first would block the second. This would cause delays in the voting process.
Yes. Members of the press and nonvoter adults (who are not department-heads) will have a designated section. No nonvoters (aside from those department heads) will be permitted to speak. Only registered voters and family members will be allowed in the venue. All non-voters will remain outside the fenced area.
We have a plan for weather-related problems, like rain, lightning, and severe wind:
Five days prior to the event public safety officials should be consulted on the predicted weather. If at that time there is some indicator of an extreme weather factor, the event should be evaluated.
Two days prior to the event the weather should be evaluated again for the same parameters and actions.
One day prior to the event the predicted weather for the time of the event should be evaluated, if the weather will not support the event it should be deemed a no go and postponed.
Early on the day of the event, public safety officials should again be consulted, this should be the go / no go point. The day’s weather should be evaluated and a decision to cancel or postponed should be made. Due to the logistic concerns and set up, an early decision should be made.
The Board of Health and Health Director expressed wishes that no one be permitted to congregate at the entrances in small groups. MA DPH also provides this guidance. Beyond the spots where Town Meeting location begins (the points where we expect people to be standing in line) people are free to campaign, provided that it does not interfere with the orderly conduct of Town Meeting. We ask that physical distancing be in place and masks be worn. From the points where people are standing in line, signs and distribution of campaign literature is prohibited.