The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Annual Town Meeting postponed due to high voter turnout

Deepa Gautam
The previously packed seats at the WA gymnasium are left empty after the meeting is postponed.

This article was edited March 26 with new information on the rescheduled date, which changed to April 27.

Westford’s Annual Town Meeting has been rescheduled to Saturday, April 27th, after more than 1,600 residents showed up at Westford Academy to participate, exceeding the building’s capacity. The rescheduled meeting will be held on the WA Trustees Field at 9 a.m.

This came after town moderator Angela Harkness informed residents that the original 9 a.m. start time would be delayed, citing early concerns about reaching capacity, as over 1,300 residents had checked-in. By 9:20 a.m., Westford Academy had reached its full 1600 resident limit and the meeting was cancelled, with more than 30 people still in line and an estimated three buses on the way.

This announcement was met with audible disappointment from the gymnasium, as the meeting was set to address a number of highly-anticipated agenda items amidst the town’s $6-8 million budget crisis.  The most prominent of these was a vote that could approve a Proposition 2 1/2 override budget for the May ballot and a multi-family zoning bylaw.

Several accommodations had been made to logistically allow larger turnout, with shuttles arriving from both the Crisafulli and Robinson Schools, as well as both WA gymnasium and Performing Arts Center being opened up for additional use. However, it quickly became clear that attendance would be even higher than expected, with parking lots at Abbot School and the Westford Water Department later opened to meet the demand.

Although Westford is home to nearly 19,000 eligible voters, this level of participation had never been seen before at a Town Meeting. The only meeting to have come close was the Special Town Meeting held on Oct. 16, which welcomed just under 1,200 participants.

“We were ready for [up to] 1,600 people at the meeting. We had some concern that [the space] might not be enough, [but] we were excited that so many people in Westford wanted to participate today,” Select Board Chair Tom Clay said. “We look forward to welcoming them at the rescheduled town meeting.”

The surprising turn of events left many residents in the building with  frustration, yet common understanding.

“We were upset that it was cancelled because it took a lot for us to get here,” resident Kelsey Babineau said. “Cancelling 20 minutes after it hadn’t even started is really frustrating.”

WA junior Zoe Sieger, who was at the meeting to sell food for the German Exchange program and support the override, echoed these sentiments, with additional concerns about the new date falling just three days before the ballot vote. While still calling for improved planning, many also pointed out the benefits of attracting so many new participants to the Town Meeting process.

“I’m disappointed because we wanted to get a resolution, but it’s good news that so many people are participating in the process that they care about enough to show up,” Westford resident Robert Lokuta said. “[The town] is learning from the last time […] and so, when they have these big questions, like override questions, they should realize this is going to be a lot of people. It’s a learning process for sure.”

Residents are now looking towards the rescheduled meeting, which will be held on the WA Trustees Field to allow for more space. In light of the override vote, many hope to see the same level of participation on this date, despite the inconveniences it may cause for scheduling or possible weather difficulties.

“Well, it’s frustrating a little bit but they have more people and […] everyone needs to be represented. Hopefully they will plan it better next time and they will have contingencies for bad weather emergencies if it’s going to be outside,” Westford resident Gomathi Anandan said. “We understand there’s a lot of time and effort put into this so it is definitely disappointing.

For more information about Town Meeting, check out previous articles, here, and here. For more information on the Proposition 2 1/2 override, check out this article

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About the Contributor
Deepa Gautam
Deepa Gautam, Editor-in-Chief
Hi! My name is Deepa and I am a junior Editor in Chief for the Ghostwriter! This is my third year on the paper and I joined because I love to read, write, and try new things. In my free time, I love watching movies, listening to music, trying new foods, and spending time with my family! :)

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