Vernon prepares for Annual Town Meeting — on the lawn

VERNON — “This will not be your mother's or your grandmother's Town Meeting.”

That's how Town Clerk Tim Arsenault described the upcoming 2021 Annual Town Meeting, which will resume Sunday, May 23, at 2 p.m., on the lawn outside Town Hall.

The date and time, unanimously approved by Selectboard members on a 4–0 vote, was the result of a recently passed state law that allows towns to postpone their annual meeting dates during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The election of officers was technically a part of Annual Town Meeting and took place on Town Meeting Day, March 2.

“The May meeting will include the town budget and articles normally voted on the floor,” according to the Annual Town Report.

“Selectboard members had wanted to find a way of holding an in-person meeting this year,” Arsenault said in a news release. “The final date, time, and place are the result of numerous conversations with the Secretary of State's office, legislators, the Agency of Commerce, plus numerous town staff and residents.”

On April 6, Arsenault told the Selectboard that a previous goal of an earlier meeting date raised concerns, among them, that a sufficient number of voters would not be vaccinated.

Regarding public health, “the further out we can go, the better off we are,“ Arsenault said at the meeting. “But I realize there should be 30 days before the end of the fiscal year, in case anyone wants to challenge the outcome of any of the articles of the meeting.”

The date also avoids Memorial Day weekend. And, Arsenault told the board, “My feeling is that after Memorial Day, most people tune out anything that's political.”

In the news release, Arsenault admitted the scheduled date “will, no doubt, make someone unhappy, but it was the end result of nearly constant review and compromise over the past three months.”

The latest state guidelines for outside meetings allow for larger crowd sizes to attend. Participants must be masked and answer brief questions during check-in.

Social distancing rules remain in effect. The state guidelines also forbid any table leafleting or food sales at the meeting.

The goal, Arsenault said, is to go through the items on the annual warning and then go home.

He said that the final version of the annual meeting warning will be voted at the April 20 Selectboard meeting and mailed to all town residents no later than April 23.

Copies of the town's annual report are available at Town Hall or at Town officials request that voters bring a copy to the meeting.

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