Published March 19, 2020By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — In response to the uncharted territory posed by the unprecedented shut down of town government undertaken to stem the spread of COVID-19, local officials have held two virtual meetings this week and have scheduled at least one for next week to keep the wheels of government moving.

 

Following the State of Emergency enacted by Gov. Charlie Baker last week, provisions to ease the requirements of the state’s Open Meeting Law were swiftly enacted, laying out the groundwork for such meetings.

Tuesday night’s scheduled Community Planning Commission (CPC) meeting was held via remote participation, and did not assemble at Town Hall.

The agenda was limited to 9 Main Street for a plan endorsement, and 2 and 4 Judith Drive for an ANR (Approval Not Required) endorsement, according to Town Planner Danielle McKnight.

The meeting materials for this meeting were posted at this web address in advance of the meeting: https://www.northreadingma.gov/community-planning/pages/projects-under-review

Wednesday morning’s School Committee meeting was also held via remote participation at 8:30 a.m.

The complete agenda for this meeting was posted on the town’s website at: https://www.northreadingma.gov/town-clerk/events/81504

The Transcript had a reporter available to remotely attend the School Committee meeting, which was being held while the newspaper was going to press. Depending upon how long the meeting went a story may be ready for Thursday’s print edition. If the print deadline is missed, the story will be posted to our webpage by Wednesday night (go to www.localheadlinenews.com or search for North Reading Transcript) and it will appear in print next week.

Select Board “meets” Monday

The Select Board has a meeting date scheduled for Monday, March 23 to be held remotely, at a time to be determined. The agenda was not ready at press time. The board has 48 hours to post its meeting agenda, not counting weekends and holidays.

The notice on state rules for remote participation in public meetings during current State of Emergency follows below:

The town of North Reading greatly values the participation of its citizens in the public meeting process, but given the current circumstances and recommendations at both the state and federal levels to limit or avoid public gatherings, including Gov. Baker’s ban on gatherings of more than 25 people, together with the present closure of Town Hall and other public buildings to the public, Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto has announced the town’s implementation of the “remote participation” procedures allowed under Gov. Baker’s emergency Order for all boards, committees and commissions.

This means that:

1). All or any of the members of the public body may choose to participate in a public meeting via remote access. Meetings may be virtual, in their entirety.

2). The public will not be allowed into a board/committee meeting, even where there are any members of the public body and/or town staff or official(s) physically present at the meeting location during the meeting. “Public comment” portions of meetings will be temporarily suspended.

3). However, the public will be provided with alternative access through which they can watch or listen to meetings “in real time,” and meeting notices will specify the manner in which members of the public may access audio or video of the meeting as it is occurring.

4). If, despite our best efforts, our technological capabilities do not adequately support public access to virtual or remote meetings, the town will ensure that an audio or video recording, transcript or other comprehensive record of the proceedings at the meeting is posted at www.northreadingma.gov as soon as possible after the meeting.

5). Notices for public hearings will contain additional information about how the public may participate via electronic/technological means.

6). For executive session meetings, public access to the meeting will be limited to the open session portion(s) of the meeting only. Public access to any audio, video, internet or web-based broadcast of the meeting will be discontinued when the public body enters executive session.

7). Where individuals have a right, or are required, to attend a public meeting or hearing, including executive session meetings, they will be provided with information about how to participate in the meeting/hearing remotely.

8). Meeting notices will still be posted at least 48 hours in advance (not counting Saturdays, Sundays, or legal holidays), unless it is an emergency meeting as defined under the Open Meeting Law (in which event, the meeting notice will be posted with as much advanced notice as is possible in the circumstances). Minutes will still be taken.

Please check individual meeting agendas on the calendar at https://www.northreadingma.gov/node/166/events for the latest information regarding meetings.

“Each meeting may experience unique circumstances that may require last minute changes in protocol, including cancellation or rescheduling. We appreciate your patience as we undergo this shift in a significant aspect of how the town conducts business,” Gilleberto stated.