A police officer standing at the door is the latest addition to Townsend’s Board of Selectmen’s meetings.
Perhaps Townsend needs to add a new position: referee.
Yes, the town where local government is not quite a contact sport is once again host to some rather vocal onlookers. While it’s always nice to see residents interested in being in the room where it happens, perhaps they shouldn’t be quite as enthusiastic when it comes to participation.
Take, for example, the May 31 meeting, marked by audience members responding loudly to a statement read by Selectman Carolyn Smart, which culminated in a woman asking “Why don’t you have some class and professionalism?” followed up with the statement “You’re a (explective deleted).” A second woman was told to leave the room by Smart, who threatened to call police if she did not comply.
That, apparently, set the tone for Tuesday’s meeting. While intended to be an executive session to delve into complaints filed against Conservation Commissioners Veronica Kell and Jennifer Pettit, both officials requested that those discussions be held in public, before dozens of supporters. A police officer was requested in advance in case the meeting turned volatile.
It did. A resident angered by testimony attempted to re-enter the room but was blocked by the police officer, who calmed him down in the hallway.
Do not take this as advice to talk less and smile more. Residents should be talking — but there are better ways to do it.
Many communities set times during meetings to allow for residents to express their thoughts on issues that may not be on the agenda. This is not run as an open free-for-all — it’s a set time, perhaps 10 minutes in total, for issues to be raised. It’s a short time, but it could act as a safety valve for residents who feel their concerns are not being addressed by town officials.
There are a lot of strong emotions flying around Townsend. Let’s hope it doesn’t escalate to fists.