SHIRLEY -- Setting the date for Special Town Meeting sparked quite a bit of discussion and some debate at the selectmen's meeting Monday night.
With three or possibly four nights to choose from and pros and cons considered for each, the board voted to hold the meeting on Wednesday, June 26, at 7:15 p.m. in the middle-school auditorium.
The agenda will consist of one item only: Approval of the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District assessment. Re-approval, actually.
Annual Town Meeting has approved an assessment of $350,000 based on the Finance Committee's recommendation rather than the School Committee's request for $550,000.
It wasn't a contentious decision, however.
Superintendent Carl Mock said on Town Meeting floor that the committee didn't object to the downsized amount, since the assessment figure would likely have to be adjusted anyway, for both member towns.
Ayer also rejected its assessment at the committee's request and for the same reason.
There's no word yet on what the new number will be, but Mock said it's in the works, with the Required Local Contribution expected to come out close in the House and Senate budgets versus the Governor's budget upon which the earlier figure was based.
In any case, any of the three STM options would be okay with the School Committee, Mock said Monday night, but if the date were Monday, June 24, it would be the same as Ayer's.
Selectman Bob Prescott favored June 25, arguing that Ayer's earlier vote could influence Shirley's decision. Voters here should make up their own minds, he said. He also suggested extending the window to Thursday, June 27, since Swain said he'd be out of town on the 26th.
Moderator George Knittel said he could see sense in all the arguments, but he would be available for any of the three nights. "We'll get it done, one way or another," he said.
The strongest argument against the usual Monday night time schedule came from Town Clark Amy McDougall, who said it would be a "huge hardship" for her, for several reasons. The most compelling was that there's a double special election in town the next day that she must prepare for, she said, with a special state election and a town election to decide on three ballot questions.
"I just don't want any backlash ... holding it on a different night than usual," Selectman Kendra Dumont said.
Treasurer Kevin Johnston said he was "confident" people would come out, no matter what night the meeting is held.
The selectmen listened to McDougall's plea. "I'm begging you ..." not to hold it on the 25th, she said. But she didn't like the 27th, either.
Given the mandatory timeline set by the School Committee's budget certification, she said that date wouldn't allow enough space to reschedule, if necessary. Administrative Assistant Kathi Rocco sided with that logic. An emergency could come up, she said.
After some discussion, the board agreed on Wednesday, June 26.