TOPSHAM — In trying to get more people to attend Town Meeting next week, the Topsham Government Improvement Committee has added several changes, committee Chairman John Rensenbrink told the Board of Selectmen.

Town Meeting will take place at Mt. Ararat High School at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20. Residents will vote on warrant articles that encompass the $7.9 million fiscal 2010 municipal budget.

One change is an invocation that will follow the traditional prayer at the start of the meeting. The invocation, to be read by Town Clerk Ruth Lyons, calls upon citizens at the gathering to treat each other with respect and to remember that they embody a community that meets together to make important decisions for the good of the town, reaching across whatever disagreements they may have, Rensenbrink said.

He called the invocation a civic statement, as opposed to another prayer.

Selectman Michelle Derr expressed concern that some listeners might find that the invocation sounds like a lecture.

Selectman Sandra Consolini said that while such an invocation might not be well received in a larger municipality, she did not see any problem with it in a smaller community like Topsham.

“It’s not like we’re knocking on the Lord’s door twice,” she said. “I say give it a chance, and people can always complain that they don’t like it.”

Child care, to be provided by the Mt. Ararat High School National Honor Society, is another new feature. Food will also be provided by the local boosters club to benefit School Administrative District 75 sports activities. A new guide to Town Meeting has also been produced and is available online at

“We urge all citizens to have a good look at these guidelines, for it will help people prepare for Town Meeting,” Rensenbrink said.

In addition, a one-page survey will be distributed to citizens at Town Meeting; it will ask what factors affect their ability and inclination to attend the function, when they prefer the budget Town Meeting to be scheduled, and any suggestions they have to improve the event.

Rensenbrink said the Board of Selectmen gave verbal approval on May 7 to trying out the changes at this year’s meeting.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or [email protected].

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