WOOD RIVER JUNCTION — After several months of back-and-forth debate among the three town councils and the School Committee, a date has been set for a meeting of the four groups to discuss possible amendments to the Chariho Act.
The School Committee voted 5 to 3 Tuesday to schedule the discussion for Sept. 18. William Day, Craig Louzon, Ronald Areglado, Robert Cardozo and Gregory Kenney were in favor; Georgia Ure, Keven Miller and George Abbott voted no.
The meeting is intended to encourage dialogue among the four groups over the increasingly contentious act, which governs the three-town regional school district.
The 5-3 split on the final vote was identical to one on an earlier motion, proposed by Abbott, that unsuccessfully sought to delay the meeting until after the November elections to account for possible changes in the membership of the local councils and the committee itself.
Day, the chairman, noted that delaying the meeting further might lessen the likelihood of it even taking place.
“This is the first time we’ve been able to get the three town councils to agree on anything, I think,” he said. “Are we going to be the ones to stand in the way of improving the Chariho Act? I hope not.”
Superintendent Barry Ricci also said he favored the September date.
“I think it’s really important that the four governing bodies come to a place where they can talk about things in a civilized manner,” Ricci said. “To start all over in November, I don’t see why we’d do that.”
As suggested by Ricci, each of the four Chariho governing bodies had to agree to attend for the meeting to take place. Although Charlestown Town Council members originally turned down the invitation, a subsequent appeal by Charlestown’s representatives on the school committee caused them to reconsider.
Each group will put forth two agenda items related to the Chariho Act for the meeting. Only those items that all groups agree upon by a vote at the beginning of the meeting will move forward to discussion. Each agenda item will be accompanied by an explanation, written in advance by the group requesting it, with more detail, as requested by the Charlestown Town Council as a condition of its attendance.
Several School Committee members raised concerns about the Charlestown stipulations. Georgia Ure, who represents Hopkinton, continued to question if the meeting would follow the rules set forth by the School Committee in its invitation to the town councils, or if it would abide by Charlestown’s request, which was not a part of the original rules laid out by the committee.
“I think it’s very premature,” she said numerous times throughout the meeting.
Miller, a Richmond representative, also attempted to modify the timeline of events so that the four groups would vote on which of the eight proposed topics would become agenda items in advance of the meeting, instead of at the beginning of the meeting itself.
But Miller’s suggestion was not acted upon, and ultimately the committee members agreed to start brainstorming for possible topic proposals to discuss at their next meeting on Aug. 19. Ricci suggested, as a possible topic for the joint meeting, that the committee discuss the section of the Chariho Act requiring that at least 25 voters be present for a public hearing on the budget.
“That to me is a logistical nightmare,” he said.
Two councils have already submitted their agenda issues: Hopkinton requested discussion of the annual district meeting time, and the district’s allocation of fixed costs; while Richmond requested discussion of School Committee membership and the matriculation requirement.
The Charlestown Town Council is expected to submit its requests following a meeting on Thursday.