The annual Cranberry Isles Town Meeting, our town’s biggest March ritual, is a wonderful example of democracy and unpredictability. The meeting date of March 8 was determined at the annual town meeting last year. However, a plan for a motion to adjourn the meeting to March 15 had been discussed at a November selectmen’s meeting, to accommodate some municipal committee members who could not attend on March 8.

While many people were planning on the 15th, there was much more confusion than had been anticipated, as not everyone agreed with or knew about an intended motion to adjourn the meeting to another date.

This year’s annual Town Meeting convened at the Islesford Neighborhood House on March 8, at 9 a.m. The moderator of previous meetings, Hugh Dwelley, was planning to attend on the 15th, so I was willing to be elected moderator on the 8th. Little did I know how complicated this particular meeting would become. Before article 2 (to elect a Town Clerk) was on the floor, a motion was made to recess for 20 minutes to discuss the confusion about the two meeting dates. A motion to “adjourn to date certain” is not debatable and requires an immediate vote, but there was air that needed clearing. After the recess, but again before getting to Article 2, a change of order motion was made and passed by the required two-thirds majority to address Article 20A-H, concerning the schools. The Union 98 Superintendent of schools was there to explain the school budget, however, we needed a motion to allow non-voters to speak, which again needed to (and did) pass by a two-thirds majority. All sections of the school article passed. Now Article 2, but wait – a motion was made to take up Article 23 out of order, the article concerning the fire department. During the discussion phase, it was decided that there needed to be some clarification of this three-section article. The motion was withdrawn and a motion to recess for up to 45 minutes was made and passed. By 11 a.m. we were finally at Article 2!

Frances Bartlett was elected Town Clerk for another year. Now Article 3… nope! A motion was made, seconded and passed by the required two-thirds majority to take Article 23 out of order. The article passed and for the first time in the town’s history we have a municipal fire department, with one fire protection zone for each of the five islands in our town. At 12:15 it was voted to adjourn to March 15, 8:30 a.m., at the Islesford Neighborhood House. We had made it through four articles, with 34 left to go at the continuation of the meeting. Perhaps the meeting would have continued if lunch had been available, but we’ll never know. The lunch committee had also planned to be ready for a crowd on the 15th.

March 15: a sunny day with a larger crowd for the continuation of town meeting. We were ready to begin with Article 3. To elect by ballot a selectman for a term of three years. It was voted to postpone this article until after Article 37 and I was beginning to wonder if anything in the warrant would be taken in order. We got our rhythm with Articles 4 through 7. Frances Bartlett is to be Treasurer and Tax Collector, and Lesley Horvath was reelected to the School Committee. With Article 8, we were voting on establishing two new town employee positions, but then wanting to amend the article to have one be paid an hourly wage and one by salary. We were extremely fortunate to have a lawyer in the audience who was willing to advise us on the proper motion to divide this article. I am forever grateful to Joe Delafield for all of the procedural advice he was willing to give during the course of the meeting. The rest of the meeting was sometimes choppy, sometimes smooth. A descriptive discussion on the need for a new public restroom facility on Great Cranberry took almost an hour. The article to change the fiscal year, thus changing the date of the annual town meeting to July or August, was voted down. A municipal Facilities Commission was elected with Malcolm Donald, Michael Phillips and Eve Harrison serving three-year terms, Frank Reece and Hugh Smallwood serving two-year terms, and Bruce Fernald and Lise Pratt serving one-year terms. A marvelous potluck buffet was served during the 45-minute lunch recess. A Vehicle Waste Disposal Fee Ordinance was passed. A contract signed by the Selectmen in December, for Solid Waste Removal, was challenged by a motion to amend the article to ratify the contract. This generated almost another hour of discussion, followed by the passing of the original article. A straw vote indicated the desire of a majority to hold a special town meeting to increase the size of the Board of Selectmen from 3 people to 5. Richard Beal was elected to another three-year term as selectman in a close race with Phil Whitney. Twelve thousand dollars for a Mosquito Control Program was voted down and Warren Fernald recommended the “swap and swear” method of dealing with the pests. It was dark when we finally reached the last section of the last warrant article. The voters at town meeting had passed a budget of $1,265,809, for the year 2004. The meeting adjourned at 6:15 p.m. We had voted that the next annual town meeting would be held at the Great Cranberry Island Firehouse at 9 a.m. on March 14, 2005. I doubt anyone will try to change the date.

– Barbara Fernald

Cranberry Isles, March 2004