TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury selectboard met virtually on Aug. 11, 2020 for their regular meeting via video conference.
The board reviewed an entertainment license application from Merrimack Valley Pavilion. Manager Angelica Morales explained to the board that MVP is seeking to hold drive-in movie nights on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8 - 11 p.m.
A resident called in to express concerns about the late hours, light pollution and drunk driving. The board approved the license which would run from Aug. 11 - Nov. 15 pending the approval of the Tewksbury Police Department.
Morales also sought an alteration of premises application for MVP to move their arcade games out of the eating area and into the laser tag arena to give customers more space. MVP is currently unable to run laser tag games due to the pandemic. The board approved the application.
The board reviewed an entertainment license application from Wamesit Entertainment Center. Manager Donny MacLaren reviewed plans for a drive-in movie night with the proceeds going to the Tewksbury Memorial High School Parent Advisory Committee.
MacLaren is planning to host three nights of movies from 7 - 11 p.m., though he called the nights a “trial run” for additional nights. The board approved the application provided MacLaren resubmits the correct dates.
The board approved poll worker appointments and the state primary election warrant. The board also reappointed constables, and tabled board and committee appointments to September.
The board reviewed agenda correspondence. Member Jayne Wellman explained that the board often receives correspondence from residents and government agencies. She proposed making correspondence accessible in the consent calendar to allow residents to know when correspondence has been seen by the board.
Chairperson Jay Kelly noted that some correspondence is resolved outside the meeting, but some gets pushed to the regular meeting.
Several members mentioned building a framework for vetting and processing correspondence to promote transparency. Town Manager Richard Montuori offered to develop a framework for the board to review and vote on.
Member Mark Kratman thought the public should be made aware that their correspondence could be open to all residents, and that they may wish to remain anonymous when corresponding with the board.
“The last thing I want to do is discourage someone from contacting us on a certain subject out of fear of being called out in public,” he said.
The board hopes to discuss the issue at a future meeting.
The board reviewed the mission statement of a Human Rights Committee, introduced by Wellman. The committee, if approved, would “promote Tewksbury’s vision of a community that has as core values freedom from bigotry, hatred, intolerance, disrespect, and destructive conflict among its citizens.”
The committee, made up of nine residents and department heads, would be responsible for promoting and encouraging recognition of civil rights, sponsoring educational programs, helping other organizations and town departments address conflict through consultation and mediation, provide a safe place where individuals or groups may air concerns or complaints within the town, reporting civil rights violations to appropriate government agencies, and advocating for the core values.
The committee would avoid partisan politics and be appointed by and report to the selectboard. Several other communities, including Needham, Wakefield and Newburyport, have established human rights boards, some of which have been in existence since the early 1990s.
HRCs have conducted programs in communities to provide educational programming in schools, advertise economic opportunities to new businesses, and engage in meaningful community dialogue.
The board received a letter from the Tewksbury Democratic Town Committee endorsing the formation of an HRC: “The Tewksbury Democratic Town Committee sees the enormous value to our town of being on the vanguard of this movement... Tewksbury is a great place to live and raise a family. The TDTC sees creation of a Human Rights Commission as an expression of our optimistic view of the future.”
Several members suggested holding a public forum to hear from different stakeholders.
“The children in our community are teaching us so much of what they believe the world should be and I love hearing that... I want to see some positivity... everybody should be heard,” said member Mark Kratman. “I’d like to hear from experts, I’d like to hear from the community.”
A new resident called in to the board in support of forming an HRC, and encouraged global thinking in education and advocacy initiatives.
“Our community isn’t in a bubble. We are part of the larger fabric of not only Massachusetts but also the United States.”
Another resident urged the board to take a deep look at the framework of the committee before moving forward. The board decided to reach out to stakeholder groups and discuss it further at a future meeting.
The board reviewed the mission statement of the newly formed General Bylaw Review Committee. The five-member committee would review outdated bylaws, review and update existing language, and present reports to the selectboard. The board approved the formation of the committee.
The board received a request from the Indian Association of Greater Boston requesting the town raise the Indian flag to commemorate India’s independence on Aug. 15.
“Unfortunately, we have three flags on our common: the United States of America flag, the Massachusetts commonwealth flag, and our POW/MIA flag... we don’t see how we could do that,” said chairman Jay Kelly.
Member Annemarie Stronach asked about running a message on the digital sign in the center of town instead of a physical flag; Kelly said that he wanted to be careful about what kind of precedent that would set.
Wellman agreed with Stronach’s idea: “We have residents in town who were born in India, that’s probably an important holiday for them,” she said.
The board voted to designate Aug. 15 as a town day commemorating Indian independence.
The board received an update on the town’s energy aggregation plan. Town manager Richard Montuori reviewed the newly updated goals for the plan, which include providing more renewable energy options to residents and businesses, enhancing consumer protections, and maximizing saving opportunities. The board voted to accept the new goals of the plan.
The board also granted Montuori approval to move ahead with land sales of nine parcels from the town. The parcels were approved for sale at town meeting in June.
The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 1, 2020. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33.