With Town Meeting approaching, talk around town has again begun to question the institution of Town Meeting itself. Town Meeting is Groton's legislature. Money matters, changes in regulations and bylaws, changes in zoning and other such matters are deliberated upon by Town Meeting. The selectmen, the Finance Committee and other town committees are there to advise, but the ultimate decision rests with the voters, who are not required to follow the advice of their elected and appointed officials.
There is concern among some that a relatively small, self-selected group of citizens (usually 200 to 300) is, in effect, the legislative body for the town. Various suggestions have been made by those who want to improve on the current system:
* Replace Town Meeting with a representative form of government. Representatives are presumably elected by the people, possibly by location in town, in effect a local "House of Representatives."
* Keep Town Meeting, but allow residents to participate and vote from home via electronic means.
* Keep Town Meeting, but make passage of all money articles (perhaps all articles) subject to a written ballot.
* Keep Town Meeting as is, but hold it on Saturday.
A bit of recent history: Groton residents decided to change our government six years ago. We restructured our government to create the position of town manager. The town charter was extensively revised to meet this goal. Volunteer committee members spent hundreds of hours drafting and redrafting the charter. Ultimately, after the town approved the charter, it was submitted to the Massachusetts House of Representatives to be ratified, as required by law. Town government was changed, and can be changed again, but it is not a trivial undertaking.
The Board of Selectmen welcomes further investigation of these alternatives. If there are citizens who would like to explore these alternatives and do the work required, we urge them to get in touch with the selectmen's office.
One small modification has been made to fall Town Meeting. No new articles will be introduced after 10 p.m. This should help people make suitable arrangements to attend without fearing an open-ended session.