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Two warrant articles aimed at better use of town time

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SHIRLEY — The purpose of the first article on the March 26 Special Town Meeting warrant is to “move things along,” said town administrator Kyle Keady.

But to comply with state statutes, the measure may only be taken one meeting at a time, which is why a similar article has topped the warrant for several years.

The article asks voters to authorize the moderator to bypass counting votes and declare a two-thirds majority when that’s clearly been achieved.

Articles that call for a two-thirds vote to pass include transfers into or out of the stabilization fund.

“In the past, the moderator was required to take a count,” Keady said.

But if seven or more voters immediately protest the moderator’s call, the count must be verified by a show of hands.

Another article seeking to better use town time asks voters to accept a provision of Massachusetts law regarding Saturday office hours. Town Clerk Amy McDougall brought the issue to the selectmen’s attention.

Last year, she held voter registration on a Saturday for a Tuesday town meeting. Her office was open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., as the law requires, but she said traffic was almost non-existent.

Timing was an anomaly, said Keady, since most town meetings start on Monday, but the selectmen agreed this approach makes more sense.

In situations where deadlines fall on Saturdays, Massachusetts General Law offers cities and towns the option, along with a specific framework, for a public office not open on a Saturday to legally perform its duties on another day.

For example, when a voter registration deadline falls on a Saturday, the law sets up guidelines for registration to be held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the previous business day. If the deadline for filing nomination papers falls on a Saturday, that deadline can be moved to the next business day at 5 p.m.

The intent of the law is to provide an alternative to requiring public offices to be open on Saturdays for specific purposes cited in the law, such as voter registration. But it doesn’t preclude Saturday office hours, per sé.

In her experience, McDougall said situations that call for Saturday office hours are rare.

She said most services or information residents need from the town clerk can be obtained from the clerk’s page on the town Web site or by calling or e-mailing her. In addition, the town clerk’s office is open Monday night, she said, so people can request appointments outside regular office hours.

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