Quarterly town meetings? Selectmen will try the idea

Quarterly reports. Quarterly dividends. How about quarterly town meetings?

Townspeople would gather to vote on a bunch of stuff once every three months, rather than having 20 or a dozen people — fewer, sometimes — showing up at town hall to decide issues one at time, whenever something needing a town vote comes up.

The selectmen want to give the concept a try.

After a brief discussion Sept 5, the selectmen reached a consensus for First Selectman Rudy Marconi to work plans for quarterly town meetings into their 2019 schedule, which is put out in November.

Under the current system — calling a meeting whenever one’s needed — town meetings occur fairly frequently.

“How many did we have last year?” Selectman Steve Zemo asked.

“We had a lot,” said Marconi. He didn’t offer specifics.

The only town meeting that is currently scheduled well in advance is the Annual Town and Budget Meeting in early May.

Other town meetings are called as issues that need voting on come up — usually scheduled a few weeks or a month down the road.

Marconi said the concept of quarterly — ar at least less frequent — town meeting was something Barbara Serfilippi, the recently retired town clerk, had sometimes talked about.

It could mean less hassle and work for town officials and the bureaucracy that handles all the record-keeping.

Quarterly town meetings also might draw more attendance, and that could broaden debate beyond folks with an immediate interest — horse people showing up for the hooved animal ordinance, beer lovers voting to allow food trucks at the brewery, environmentalists turning out of a town meeting on open space.

The attendance issue is something the Charter Revision Commission’s proposed charter changes seek to address in at least in the case of the Annual Town and Budget Meeting, by requiring a minimum turnout of 2% of registered voters for the meeting to be able to adjust town officials’ budget proposals before sending them on to voters at referendum.

A question with the quarterly town meetings concept is whether issues — and the people that bring them up — will be willing to wait.

But the selectmen felt it was worth a shot.

“I think we could try it next year,” said Selectwoman Barbara Manners.