A Round-up of Various Efforts
By Gregory T. Federspiel
Time for a series of updates on a range of topics!
Elections and ATM: We are rapidly approaching election day in town. Please mark May 18th on your calendars as voting day. Local elections are on the ballot – moderator, select board member, school committee member, 2 planning board members, 2 library trustees and 2 housing authority members. A sample ballot can be found on the Town’s web site. Balloting will take place at the Middle-High School cafeteria from 7AM to 8PM. Residents may vote by mail. The application form also is available on the Town’s web site and should be completed and sent to the Town Clerk’s Office in time to have a ballot sent to you and returned to Town Hall by election day, May 18.
A delayed Annual Town Meeting is scheduled for June 21 on the football field of at the high school. The Annual Report along with the Report from the Finance Committee that contains the town meeting articles and proposed budgets will be sent out to all households a week prior to the meeting. The materials will also be placed on-line once we receive the booklets back from the printer.
I look forward to these two very important days in the annual cycle of town governance. These events present critical opportunities for your direct engagement in Town affairs. As we have seen lately, such engagement makes a real difference. Make sure your voice is heard!
COVID Progress: Residents are getting vaccinated and each week we get closer to “herd immunity” and the prospect of defeating the virus. Conley’s Drug Store is offering shots at the Sacred Heart Church Parish Hall here in town – see the registration link on the Town’s web site. There are many other options for getting the vaccine and these can be found on the State’s vaccination web site. No longer are there long wait times to register. If you have yet to get your shots, now is a great time to do so.
Town Hall will be open to the public without the necessity of appointments starting Monday, May 10th. We ask people to enter through the front door and sign in with the greeter who will direct you to the office you need. Exiting will be through the lower side door. Per State protocols, masks are required as is social distancing. We encourage residents to take advantage of the various on-line services available to you. With beach season around the corner, please obtain your car stickers and beach tags on-line.
We anticipate a relatively normal season for Town beaches. The Parks and Recreation Department is getting ready for a busy season at Singing Beach. Certain COVID protocols will still be in place for the bathhouse and social distancing while on the beach between groups will be encouraged.
Dispatch Debate/Options: Over the next few months a series of information sessions and public forums will take place to engage in a community discussion about the choices we need to make regarding dispatch services. We either need to invest in upgrades to our in-house system or switch to the regional center now being operated by the State out of Middleton. Details on each approach will be presented and public input solicited at upcoming Selectmen meetings in early June and July.
A citizen petition article asking voters to approve a non-binding resolution requesting that our dispatch services remain in-house will be taken up at the June Annual Town Meeting. Both the Finance Committee and the Selectmen believe this vote is premature as the information about our options has not been fully presented and debated by residents. To be sure, for some the decision is easy – they want the service to be provided by town staff. Others want to base their decision on which option is most cost effective, providing the best available service for the lowest cost. The Selectmen and Finance Committee would like additional time to better sort out the pros and cons of each option before having residents take a formal vote.
LCD and other Zoning Work: The Planning Board continues to examine possible revisions to the regulations governing development in the Limited Commercial District. They have decided that using the State’s 40R approach is not the best fit for Manchester but are continuing to see what revisions can be made to our regulations to allow greater flexibility in what can be developed while still protecting the natural resources of the area.
Planning Board work also continues reformatting and updating our zoning regulations. The goal is to have this work completed and recommendations to the voters ready for final debate and voting at a fall Town Meeting. While many of the changes are one of clarification and re-formatting for easier use, there are potential areas of more substantial changes that will be vetted between now and the fall.