Should Norton Move its Town Meeting Site?
Yelle School repairs cause shift of meeting site - should the change be for more than one meeting?
When Norton holds the fall session of the Annual Town Meeting in October, it will not be in the Yelle School gymnasium as is usually the case. The Town Meeting will be moved, most likely to the high school.
The reason is a leaking pipe of some sort under the floor of the gymnasium, requiring an insurance claim and an expensive and time-consuming replacement. But it does raise the question again that surfaces from time to time - where is the best place to hold Town Meeting?
There have been a few attempts to move meeting site from the town's oldest active school building over the years. The high school gym has been used but usually only when a large crowd was expected. The sound system is not good there, and it is more disruptive to students to set up the seating system. The high school auditorium has also been used, but that poorly-designed theater is not laid out properly for audience participation.
Quite a while ago town officials tried having the meeting at the Solmonese School auditorium, where the seats are more comfortable and the stage and surroundings a bit nicer. But attendees did not appreciate the parking situation there, and many regulars complained it was difficult to get in and out of the rows of seats. Although the newest school building in town and possessing a nice space for a meeting, Norton has never held a Town Meeting at the middle school.
Parking, seating, accessibility - those are the main reasons given for why we continue to use the oldest gymnasium in town to gather for our New England tradition. But the real reason many longtime Town Meeting veterans prefer the Yelle School site is- tradition. It is where Norton has been meeting since before I was old enough to vote, and change is not one of our town's biggest attributes.
The last huge meeting and the tiny one preceding it notwithstanding, Norton's normal turnout for a Town Meeting is between 150 to 300 people. Where do you good readers think the meetings should be held? Are you tired of the dingy Yelle School gym with the hard metal chairs and crappy sound system? Would a more comfortable site bring out more people? Or does it not matter?
Both myself and the selectmen would love to know your thoughts on the topic.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and the Norton Town Moderator. He can be reached at email@example.com.