WHITEFIELD — Town officials have picked a date for the delayed annual Town Meeting — July 18.

The Select Board agreed to schedule Town Meeting elections for July 14 at the Whitefield Fire Station, with an open Town Meeting on July 18 at Whitefield Elementary School.

While restrictions on social gatherings of more than 50 people could make it difficult for residents to participate if that number is surpassed, Whitefield Select Board Member Charlene Donahue said it was “more important” for people to express their right to vote.

According to Gov. Janet Mills phased reopening plan, July and August’s phase restricts on social gatherings of more than 50 people. That restriction could result in some being turned away from town meetings if more than 50 people attend.

Select Board Chairperson Lester Sheaffer said that people who are in high-risk groups may also be deterred from coming to Town Meeting because they don’t want to contract the virus.

“(They may) be upset that they don’t get to have an opportunity to put their two cents in,” he said.

Donahue said more than 50 people would not likely show up to a meeting in July. In the case more than 50 people did attend, she said the town could just encourage social distancing at the meeting.

“(If) we go over the limit, what are they going to do?” Donahue said. “What is most important here? In this case here, I think it’s people’s right to vote.”

Town Administrator Darlene Beaulieu said a Whitefield resident asked her if Town Meeting could take place outdoors and another suggestion was doing a secret ballot-only meeting.

Jen Lancaster, spokesperson for Democracy Maine, said her organization is “pushing state leaders to make sure adequate measures are in place to protect public health and our elections in July.” According to a report from Maine Public, League of Women Voters of Maine, a group related to Democracy Maine, is pushing for absentee ballots to be sent to every registered voter and online voter registration.

Eric Conrad, a spokesperson for the Maine Municipal Association, was not immediately available for comment.

Lindsay Crete, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, was not immediately available for comment.

 

TOWN BUDGET

The Select Board also discussed sending a letter to town residents explaining some recommended reductions in expenditures that could be made on the Town Meeting floor.

In March, the town’s draft expenditure budget was $1,407,422, a $34,085 — or 2.48% — increase from the current fiscal year’s proposed expenditures of $1,373,337. At that time, town revenues were also expected to increase, but Beaulieu said Tuesday night they are now expected to decrease due to reductions in local road assistance and state revenue sharing.

Donahue said the Select Board should read through the warrant articles again and issued updated recommendations before sending a letter to townspeople explaining the changes. Sheaffer said those recommendations would be made at a June 16 meeting of the Select Board.

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