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COVID-19 is prompting town officials to find new ways of conducting two time-honored traditions.
Annual Town Meeting, which was originally scheduled for March 28, is requiring Town Manager Jodi Ross to search for a new venue that would allow voters to stay a safe distance from each other. So far, nothing has turned up.
“We are concerned about Town Meeting,” Ross said. “We are trying to generate ideas of how to do this safely. But with social distancing, Town Meeting is posing some significant challenges,” Ross said at the April 28th Select Board meeting.
Town Meeting traditionally assembles in the Abbot School gym. But with a viral pandemic endangering the health of populations across the globe, officials are following stringent guidelines. In Massachusetts, an indoor gathering of more than 10 is not allowed. Annual Town Meeting typically attracts more than 100 voters. How to incorporate the necessary space under these circumstances has not yet been decided.
Meanwhile, Veterans Services Officer Ryan Cobleigh is also re-thinking the town’s Memorial Day observance.
Cobleigh is working with staff members at WestfordCAT to create a video that includes most of the rituals — honor roll reading, prayers and speeches — on Monday, May 25. Selectman Scott Hazelton proposed requesting a bugler to play on the town Common in a symbolic gesture of respect.
“As I think of the list of names you read every Memorial Day, these are men and women who didn’t give ground to British muskets at Lexington Green, and up through, didn’t give ground to suicide bombers in Afghanistan,” he said.
Select Board Chair Elizabeth Almeida expressed her support.
“Scott, I would support if one person went to the Common and we went down in history as one resident was there to honor our Memorial Day tradition,” she said. “ I think that would be symbolic and it would be a nice note in history about this time for our community, that we did not give up our Common to the virus and honored our veterans on Memorial Day.”