By Anne O'Connor
GROTON -- The stones with a message of, "All Are Welcome," will continue to greet travelers as they enter town.
Around two dozen people weighed in during Fall Town Meeting Monday night, some passionately, on their reasons for wanting, or not wanting to change the wording. More than 400 attended the meeting.
A motion to vote by secret ballot was defeated. The vote on the article required a simply majority. A voice vote was inconclusive. Residents then displayed colored cards to indicate their vote.
Proponents of changing the words maintained the phrase was politically motivated, supporting the sanctuary city movement.
Those who wanted to keep the words "all are" claimed the removal would mean that not all are welcome.
"It will leave a scar that will define and divide us forever," one resident said, if the phrase is removed.
One voter, Mike Manugian, said he voted against allowing the signs in the spring. "I feel that Groton is not a welcoming town," he said. "I felt it was misrepresenting the town."
He words brought a level a levity to the tense meeting. People laughed.
The vote was taken after 90-minute discussion on a citizens' petition to change the wording on stones marking the entrances to the town, removing the words, "All Are," and leaving the word, "Welcome."
A former selectman, Jack Saball, filed the petition.
After Spring Town Meeting approved spending $1 and the use of town labor to install the privately-funded stones, the petitioner and others began to speak out against the wording.
"It should be politically neutral," the former selectman said in an interview. "This was their response to Trump."
He asserted that the moderator did not allow time for voters to speak against the motion during the spring meeting.
Both the town moderator and the town manager denied the allegation. The question was handled the way many others were, they both said. The video of the meeting shows Jason Kauppi, the moderator, scanning the room before going to the vote.
The stones were installed over the summer by the Department of Public Works. They were surplus stones that others transported to the engraver. A time capsule including newspaper articles and letters to the editor is under each stone.
A future generation may be better able to understand the debate around the stones if they see the documents, said Selectman Jack Petropoulos when the stone was installed on Route 119 at the Littleton town line. It is in front of the Hindu temple which will open later in the year.
Petropoulos introduced the original article approved in the spring.
Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.