MANCHESTER — The Manchester Select Board wrestled with how to deal with voted appropriations on the Town Meeting Day warning before finally deciding not to require signatures.
A lengthy discussion was held as the board tried to decide whether to require anybody who wanted to put an appropriation on the warning to gather signatures from 5 percent of the registered voters.
Most of the board members said that the risks of COVID-19 made that a bad idea, but they also didn’t like the risk that there might be people trying to take advantage of the relaxed rules to get their items on the ballot.
Suggestions included reducing the number of signatures required or closing the warning to any items other than those that were on the ballot last year. The idea of requiring petitions but allowing organizations to collect digital signatures was floated but town clerk Anita Sheldon told the board the state didn’t allow that.
Board member Todd Nebraska said he believes signatures could be collected safely, saying people have to put their name and contact information on lists at restaurants, ski area locker rooms and other places as part of life now. Signing a petition wouldn’t be that different.
But board member Heidi Chamberlain said requiring signatures on the petition went against everything the board had fought for concerning coronavirus safety for the past 10 months and said it “was a bad look.”
Board member Greg Cutler agreed, seconding Chamberlain’s motion to waive the petition requirement.
Board member Jan Nolan said her vote would be nay when everybody realized that Nebraska, who was firmly expected to also be a “nay,” had disappeared from the Zoom meeting.
As they were waiting for Nebraska to log back in after losing his internet connection, Beattie ended the suspense and announced that he was joining with Chamberlain and Cutler to support waiving the need for petitions.
Nebraska rejoined the meeting to cast his vote against the measure, but it still passed 3-2.
Anybody who would like to try to get a funding request on the ballot will need to submit written requests to the town before Tuesday, Jan. 12, when the board will take up any requests.
The board, however, warned that just because someone asks to be put on the ballot doesn’t mean the board will approve it.
Beattie said that given the tough budget constraints this year, funding requests were not going to be looked at too kindly.
“We’re pretty likely to say no,” Beattie said. “At least I am.”
Anybody who is denied a spot on the ballot can still, if they choose, collect the petition signatures to qualify, but time will be short as the deadline for submitting items for the warning is fast approaching.