SWANSEA SELECTMEN'S CHAIRMAN, STEVEN KITCHIN PASSES THE BUCK
For logically thinking people, which do you suppose should come first? A town’s election, or a town’s special meeting? Swansea’s Annual Town Election is currently scheduled to be held on June 22nd, however, a special town meeting has been slated for June 1st.
To put the matter into perspective, Swansea town meetings can sometimes attract up to 300 people, depending on the matters up for vote. Further, over a dozen Swansea elected officials’ terms have already expired, including Select Board Chairman, Steven Kitchin, who has strongly advocated to prioritize holding the Special Town Meeting before the Annual Town Election.
During the May 19th Selectmen’s meeting, Kitchin refused to take a position on moving the Special Town Meeting from it’s current date of June 1st, and instead placed the responsibility upon the Town Moderator, Paul Burke, whose term has also expired and is up for re-election as well. Kitchin said, “This is a challenging call…” and, “this decision is to be made by the moderator in consultation with the Board of Selectmen.”
Selectman Derek Heim made his concerns known and said, “I made this pretty clear weeks ago. There should be contingency plans. I am still waiting to hear how this will be handled at the Venus De Milo.”
Burke had stated at a previous Selectmen’s meeting that he had coordinated with the Venus De Milo to conduct the Special Town Meeting in their large banquet hall, but as of May 19th, hadn’t produced a plan to the Swansea Board of Selectmen as to how the meeting could be held safely in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Selectman Christopher Carreiro weighed in by asking Acting Town Administrator, James Purcell, “There are so many other communities in the Commonwealth in the same position. What are other communities doing?” Purcell responded, “They’re having meetings outside.”
Statistically speaking, the community’s most vulnerable population, the elderly, represent the greatest number of voters in Swansea.
In neighboring Somerset, town officials have crafted a plan that prioritizes their Annual Town Election before any Town Meeting. Currently, Somerset’s Annual Town Election is scheduled for Saturday, June 13th, while their Annual Town Meeting has been postponed until August 3, 2020.
The Swansea Board of Selectmen have a scheduled meeting for tonight, Tuesday, May 26th, which is less than one week before the scheduled Special Town Meeting, meanwhile, their current posted agenda does not include any mention of delaying the June 1st Special Town Meeting.