Southwick Special Town Meeting moved to outdoor location

Southwick registered voters are seen at past Annual Town Meeting. This year, a Special Town Meeting will be hosted outdoors to lessen the spread of coronavirus. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

SOUTHWICK – In an unprecedented move due to COVID-19, the Special Town Meeting slated for March 23 will be hosted outdoors, according to Town Moderator James Putnam.

The meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., will take place at the Southwick Regional School’s East Parking Lot.

“Social distancing practices will be required by all attendees,” Putnam said.

Putnam added that he needs “a high degree of cooperation from participating voters to conduct this meeting in a manner that meets the requirements of a legal Town Meeting and is consistent with public health guidance.”

Chief Administrative Officer Karl Stinehart said the Town Meeting is Southwick’s legislative body, which is exempt from the gathering restrictions ordered by Gov. Charlie Bake during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a press release, Putnam state that the meeting “will be held to transact time-sensitive public business . . . and the Meeting will be expedited consistent with the requirements of a legal Special Town Meeting.”

In addition to registered voters of Southwick, only town officials and members of the press will be allowed at the meeting. Any resident who is considered at high risk for COVID-19 or anyone with symptoms such as a fever, coughing, sneezing, etc. is asked to stay home.

Putnam asked residents to “please do your homework” before the meeting by reading the warrant online in advance.

The warrant includes three articles for consideration. The first article, requested by the Southwick Department of Public Works and Select Board, is to see if the Town Meeting will ratify and confirm the acceptance of a grant of Easement from Congamond Heights Association, Inc. to the Town of Southwick.

The second article, requested by the Community Preservation Committee, is to see if the Town will appropriate and transfer @12,000 from FY20 Community Preservation Open Space Fund for installation of lighting and electrical outlets at Whalley Park pavilion.

The last article, requested by the Community Preservation Committee, is to see if the Town will appropriate $800,000 or any lesser amount, to pay costs of alum treatment for the lakes, including the payment of all costs incidental and related, and to determine whether the amount shall be raised by transfer from available funds, borrowing or otherwise provided.

Putnam released the following procedures for the meeting:

  1. Suggest you arrive 15 minutes earlier than normal. This meeting will start promptly at 6:30.
  2. Drive onto school grounds as normal and park in spaces to north of building as you normally would.
  3. Walk toward East Parking Lot (aka Student Parking Lot) and look for Town Clerk check-in station.
  4. Join the end of the check-in line, maintaining 6-foot distance from next person ahead of you.
  5. There will be some folding chairs available if you need one. Standing is preferred but your choice as to what is necessary.
  6. Once you are checked in, proceed immediately to the East Parking Lot. Use the drive lanes to walk to an open parking space. Take the first one that is available, standing in middle such that you are at last 6 feet from persons in adjoining space and 6 feet from drive lanes. One person/one household per parking space. Please fill in starting from the front of “meeting room” next to school building and proceeding back.
  7. Once you are in “your” parking spot, please remain there until close of meeting.
  8. You will receive two voting cards when you check in – one for Aye and one for Nay. These will be used in the event of the need for a counted vote.
  9. Once meeting is adjourned, please exit the meeting place in an orderly fashion in single file, 6-feet apart consistent with social distancing protocol.
  10. Please watch for Police Officers and let them safely direct traffic from parking lot.
  11. While you should not have touched anyone throughout this process, I encourage you to sanitize your hands as soon as practicable once you leave the Meeting.
  12. We will post results of Town Meeting on Facebook in timely fashion once Moderator gets home.

In case of rain, the meeting will be postponed until another date this week.

“Southwick voters – we can do this! This plan is based on extraordinary collaboration among the Southwick Police Department, Health Inspector, Town Clerk, Town Counsel, Chief Administrative Officer and Select Board,” stated Putnam. “With your conscientious cooperation, we can efficiently convene this Special Town Meeting and practice social distancing to conduct vital Town Business.”

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