Years ago, the Board of Selectmen had an office just off the lobby of Town Hall where people could drop in and see which of their selectmen was “In.” With the Town Manager’s office now on the second floor, more out of sight, that doesn’t happen so much these days.
But two selectmen are doing something to improve citizen communication, both as part of a team goal and because each thinks it’s the right thing to do to keep in touch. BoS Chairman Stuart Schulman and freshman selectman Jack Petropoulos are both holding “office hour” in area cafes, providing an informal forum to talk to people about town issues.
Schulman kicked off the Office Hour idea three weeks ago, posting a notice on the Talk About Groton e-mail list that read:
I will be at the Main Street Café from 10-11 on Tuesday. Anyone who would like to talk with a Selectman is welcome to drop by. I will bring a book to read in case nobody drops by.
If this is of interest, I will continue it on a weekly basis, alternating between the Main Street Café and the Blackbird Café .
Several people have been stopping by his table to talk, he said, although the idea is still new. This coming Tuesday, August 28, he will be adding a third coffee shop to his rotation, the Clover Farm Market in West Groton.
New Town Hall Hours
With a recent change in Town Hall office hours that adds Monday evening as an “open” slot for town offices but shortens other days’ hours, residents visits may also bump into the Selectmen’s regular meeting time: Mondays at 7:00 p.m., although the BoS is currently on its every-other week “summer” schedule.
M 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Tu 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
W 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Th 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
F 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“The reception has been good,” Schulman said. The first week, at Main Street, no one came by except Peter Schultz, who was there for something else. But the next week, seven people stopped by. The next time, at Main Street, it was only one person by they had a great suggestion: there are “15 Minute” parking signs in front of Prescott School. And that made sense while it was a school, but not now. So why not take them down? And we’re going to do that.”
Last Saturday, Petropoulos opened his “office” for the first time, taking a shift on the weekend so people who aren’t in town weekdays could have a chat. Around eight o’clock Saturday morning, he was framed in the Main Street Cafe‘s front window, typing away on his laptop keyboard as the rising sun tried to burn through the heavy clouds behind him.
“It’s important to keep listening,” he said. “When I was running for Selectman, I would schedule time with people. Here I just want to make myself open and available to people and hear what’s coming in. And there’s a lot going on, like the fire station, that’s generating some talk and I want to hear what people have to say. I think that this is a great place, a great way to do it, and I hope it’ll catch on a bit when people want to talk to me or Stuart or any other selectman. I think it’s a common sense idea.”
Petropoulos hasn’t settled on a firm schedule yet. “Trying lots of times and venues to see what works. I may go to every Monday for an hour before the BOS meetings right in Town Hall,” he said.
Both selectmen have been invited to post their office hours on the Community Calendar. The schedule for the next couple of weeks’ “office hours” is:
|Saturday||August 25||9:00-10:30 a.m.||Jack Petropoulos||Main Street Cafe|
|Sunday||August 26||9:00-10:30 a.m.||Jack Petropoulos||Blackbird Cafe|
|Tuesday||August 28||10:00-11:00 a.m.||Stuart Schulman||Clover Farm Market||Tuesday||September 4||10:00-11:00 a.m.||Stuart Schulman||Main Street Cafe|
|Tuesday||September 4||5:00-6:00 p.m.||Jasck Petropoulos||Clover Farm Market||Tuesday||September 11||10:00-11:00 a.m.||Stuart Schulman||Blackbird Cafe|
|Tuesday||September 11||7:30-8:30 a.m.||Jack Petropoulos||Main Street Cafe|