Friday, March 18, 2005
Town Meeting rescheduled to May 23
On Tuesday the Selectmen voted to move the Spring Town Meeting to Monday, May 23, hoping that the Benfield Task Force will be ready with their plan for developing the town-owned Benfield Land. Although originally planned for May 2, additional time is needed for a state archeologist to render an opinion as to whether the site designated for housing on the Benfield Land contains stones sacred to the Narragansett Indians and should not be developed.
Selectman John Ballantine, who is also a member of the Benfield Task Force, said the opinion of the archeologist is necessary to give voters some confidence that the Benfield plan can go forward. He noted that even if the archeologist believes the site is not sacred, there is likely to be an on-going dispute with the tribe.
The Benfield Committee faces a narrow timeframe for moving on a plan for the site. Ballantine said May 15 is the earliest the archeologist's report can reasonably be expected to be completed. If the report is delayed, there is a possibility the committee will not be ready for a Town Meeting vote even by May 23. However, the Selectmen were reluctant to push the date further ahead into Memorial Day week or into June.
Given the uncertainty as to whether an extra three weeks would be enough for the task force, Doug Stevenson wondered if sticking to the original Town Meeting date and scheduling a Special Town Meeting later would be the best course. However, the consensus was that town boards and committees have been expecting that the Town Meeting would be deferred, and it would be difficult to hit the May 2 deadlines at this point.
Town elections were moved to Tuesday June 7.
© 2005 The