America / ARTICLES

The Boston Globe: “T-shirt notes 7-night Town Meeting”

It lasted so long, the town needed a T-shirt to commemorate the occasion.

After seven nights, Shirley’s annual Town Meeting finally concluded on June 26.

It was the “longest I can ever remember; I’ve been a selectman for 17 years,” said Leonardo “Chip” Guercio, chairman of the Board of Selectmen. The previous record, he said, was three nights, sometime in the 1990s.

The meeting was so long that one resident designed a T-shirt with the words “I survived seven nights at the Shirley ATM” written on the front, referring to the annual session. The back of the shirt says, “Now, if I can only survive the override!”

Dina Samfield, who came up with the idea for the shirt, said proceeds from the sales will be used to start Safe Routes to Schools – a program to help children walk or bike to school safely – and for baby-sitting supplies, such as snacks, water, cups and bowls, at future town meetings.

This year’s meeting was long because of the large budget deficit facing the town, and the differences between the recommendations of the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen. There was discussion about every single line item, and the heads of most departments had PowerPoint presentations, Guercio said.

But even with seven nights of discussion, the town still doesn’t have a balanced budget, with the spending plan for the new fiscal year off by some $600,000, according to Town Clerk Amy McDougall. “Selectmen and various boards are going to be working together over the summer to address the issue,” she said.

Attendance at the meeting gradually dwindled from a record 423 residents on the first night, June 16, to 162 voters on the last day, McDougall said.

“It just seemed to go on forever,” said Samfield, who organized free child care at the meeting. But, she added, the marathon also had a positive side: “I have to say as miserable as it was, it helped me to meet people in town.”

The Shirley Town Meeting shirts cost $20, and 50 of them will be made. To see the design, go to customink.com/designs/forprint/ 8605520-1772958/share.

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