Thirteen years of covering North Attleboro town meetings for North TV ended last week. It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to those of you who read this column on a regular basis that I’m glad it did.
That’s not to say that I didn’t come to respect the process and the men and women who volunteered their time in hopes of making their town better. I’ll also admit that the town’s legislative body also made a number of improvements since the first session I attended in May of 2006.
My role at RTM meetings was to monitor the audio for residents watching our live cablecast and for the members assembled in the middle school cafetorium. The cavernous room was an audio engineer’s worst nightmare as there is absolutely nothing on the walls and ceiling to absorb sound. As a result, I was constantly turning microphones on and off and their levels up and down as members addressed the body.
It is why I would always shake my head when someone wasn’t standing close to a microphone, an issue I never had with Moderator Deb Kohl or her predecessor, Steve Dalrymple. Too many RTM members would stand two or three feet away from the mic stand and I would have no choice but to push the volume to the point of the piercing sound of feedback. There were many times I was tempted to scream, “stand closer to the microphone!”
That is the most obvious reason why I wasn’t a fan of RTM, but there are others.
The lack of preparation by many members always upset me. I would estimate that less than 20 percent of the people voting on articles truly understood them and the ramifications of their vote. It was not uncommon to see members quickly scanning the details of an article before casting their vote.
The timing of town meetings was also a problem. If an emergency were to occur, for example, a request would take over a month or more in order to satisfy the requirements of properly posting notice of meetings.
Don’t forget the number of boards and committees petitioners of articles would have to appear before in the weeks leading up to a town meeting. It wasn’t unusual to see the superintendent of schools and other department heads having to explain the same request to selectmen, then the RTM coordinating committee, finance committee and others.
I never understood why someone didn’t coordinate joint meetings of those boards to allow key department heads to make one rather than multiple presentations.
The most irritating part of a town meeting, which would have our staff cursing into their headsets, was when one person would raise his or her hand and force Kohl to take a roll call vote.
There should have been a method to allow everyone’s vote to go on the record without having to announce 135 names and wait for a yea or nay. I realize town officials were simply following state guidelines, but it never made sense.
I will certainly miss the people. Many of the members were strangers that Monday night 13 years ago and I’m proud to say I now consider a number of them friends.
I’ll especially miss Kevin Nugent and the cookies and other homemade sweets he would bring to my table during a break or at the conclusion of a session. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that his wife Theresa wasn’t the pastry chef in their family, it was Kevin.
The last meeting ended the same way every other meeting had with Kohl as moderator. She stated the time of the adjournment followed by the words, “sine die.”
I never knew the exact meaning of those words until I looked it up last week.
“There is no plan to meet again,” the Google search revealed.
Those words were never truer than at 9:23 last Monday night.