October 6, 2023
Open Forum Scheduled for October 16
By Gregory T. Federspiel
In the hour before their next regular meeting, the Select Board will host an Open Forum, affording an opportunity for residents to ask questions about town-related matters. The forum will start at 5:30 PM on Monday October 16 and participants can either attend in person in Room 5 of Town Hall or via Zoom for the hour-long session.
There is no specific agenda for the forum – the time is dedicated to answering questions residents may have about town operations, projects and studies underway, or future plans. The Select Board anticipates hosting these open forums periodically throughout the year as another tool in enhancing communications between residents and Town government. This builds on other recent outreach efforts that have included Select Board members having an information booth at various town events (Festival By the Sea for example) and topic specific forums (e.g.: the three concerning the Rotunda.)
Communications tends to be one of those insatiable areas. Regardless of the amount of information that is provided there is always an appetite for more! This seems especially true in our digital world where information (and misinformation) is an easy click away on your cell phone. People have high expectations of being able to access up to date information at any time of day. And about misinformation – a lot of time can be spent dispelling rumors which spread all too quickly over social media.
The Town has put considerable resources into making information available to residents. When I first started my municipal career, no community had a web site. Today, web sites are often the first place residents go to for information. This has expanded to include social media pages/posts, a weekly e-newsletter, “The Tide”, and a quarterly newsletter mailed to all residents. Residents can sign up to receive announcements directly to their email inbox and these messages can be tailored to your specific interests. Most every board and committee meet with a Zoom option with posted recordings available soon afterwards. This weekly article provides another communication tool and I am grateful to The Cricket for providing the space for it.
We created a new Communications Coordinator position a few years ago to help manage all these efforts. Resident Tiffany Marletta has served us very well in this role responding almost on a 24/7 basis to communication needs. (Getting the word out on a water break knows no standard 9-5 work time!)
In her role as town “webmaster”, Tiffany is orchestrating a refresh of the Town’s web-site. In addition to giving the web site a fresh look, new protocols for keeping the pages up to date and getting rid of obsolete materials are being implemented. Many departments, boards and committees rely on Tiffany’s skills in keeping their pages current.
Special communication efforts fall under the responsibility of our Communications Coordinator as well. COVID became nearly a full-time job keeping residents abreast of the pandemic and the evolving guidance that the health professionals provided. Now the MBTA zoning process is front and center which it will be for at least the next 7+ months if not longer. Work is also underway on board trainings and how to best coordinate the work of different boards and commissions. Of course, all the while there is a steady stream of decisions to communicate and unexpected incidents to respond to.
A recent workshop for municipalities presenting best practices in community-wide communications affirmed the many strong efforts we already have in place. Is there room for improvement? Of course, and there likely always will be in what is an area of rapid changes and high expectations. Let us know what improvements you might suggest. In fact, attend the Open Forum on the 16th and tell us directly!