Great Barrington voters sink proposal to return Lake Mansfield Road to a two-way (copy)

Great Barrington residents participate in the annual town meeting in June 2020. Monday's annual town meeting will take place as scheduled, despite concerns over the high heat index. 

GREAT BARRINGTON — Despite concerns about the high heat index, Monday's annual town meeting will take place as scheduled. 

Town Manager Mark Pruhenski said in an email that the meeting might be rescheduled because of a weather-related or public safety emergency. But, he added, the forecast for Monday evening "does not appear to amount to such an emergency."

Monday’s forecast high temperature is a bit lower than the 93-degree high of June 22, 2020, which was the first night of the town meeting at the same location.

Monday's meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

"It will indeed be hot, at least until the sun dips below the mountain," Pruhenski said. "Feel free to bring a lawn chair and gather under the trees."

Board of Health member Dr. Ruby Chang had proposed rescheduling the annual town meeting to Thursday, because of the high heat index. 

"It would be in the best interest for those wishing to have a well-attended town meeting to consider the environment which the town's citizens, young and old, have to endure while determining the future of this town," she wrote in letter to Eileen Mooney's NEWSletter. "The presence of a high heat index and elevated humidity places all individuals at risk for medical health issues.

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"By compressing the number of vehicles into a smaller space than last year, the heat index will be higher than in a nonpaved area and raise the risk of illness. Running car engines in tight spaces for air conditioning just adds to the potential for respiratory distress since car air filters may not be able to filter out all car exhaust gases."

Chang said town officials also need to consider how to get ambulances into congested area to help anyone in distress. 

Some residents are fomenting a rebellion against the decision by Town Moderator Michael Wise to hold the meeting in the wake of Chang's concerns. Nan Wile, who agrees with Chang, says a group plans to make a motion to reschedule the meeting, and regardless of the outcome, protest the decision with an exodus that could remove the number of residents needed for the necessary 100-voter quorum.

"It's a wild decision," Wile said of Wise's choice. "A kind of municipal brutality." 

Wise said he has the power to cancel the meeting in the event an emergency is declared.

"At the moment I don't see one," he said.

Officials decided for a second year to hold the meeting outside due to COVID-19 concerns, though Gov. Charlie Baker has lifted most emergency pandemic measures, including capacity restrictions and mask mandates.