TEWKSBURY -- While other politicians have thrown their support behind workers in the dispute between Market Basket's management and its employees, officials in Tewksbury are making it a point to stay neutral.

Selectmen opted not to take a stance on the dispute, despite calling a special meeting on Wednesday to address the issue.

"We are representatives of the town of Tewksbury. That includes the residents who work for Market Basket, that includes the residents who shop at Market Basket and that includes the businesses that choose to do their business in our town," said Selectman James Wentworth. "I don't believe that we should take a position one way or the other."

Demands from employees that the company's board of directors reinstate ousted CEO Arthur T. Demoulas has left many store shelves empty and drawn protests at branches of the supermarket chain throughout the region.

The company, which is one of the town's largest taxpayers, is headquartered in Tewksbury and also has two stores on Main Street.

Chairman Todd Johnson said that choosing a side could set a precedent of the town getting involved in companies' internal affairs. He recommended that selectmen sit down with Market Basket management after the issue is resolved to have a general conversation about the company's commitment to Tewksbury, but said that suggestion was unrelated to the current dispute.

"I'd like to see what their business vision is in the longer term and focus on their commitment to Tewksbury," Johnson said.


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"We want to have an open door to have open conversation."

Selectman Bruce Panilaitis said that his primary concern was the stress the protests were placing on the Police Department, as some officers are working overtime to cover the detail.

"If this goes on and potentially gets more heated and potentially escalates in unfortunate ways, it's going to continue to put a strain on our police force," Panilaitis said.

While he said he was personally sympathetic to the concerns of the Market Basket workers, Panilaitis suggested that the board limit any action to encouraging the two sides to work together to come to a quick resolution.

"What I would like us to do is put forth a notion that both of the parties with this case need to sit down and need to work this out, and any way we can encourage that I think is a good thing," Panilaitis said.

Panilaitis did not make a motion to do this, nor did any other selectman.

The police details for the protests are being paid for by Market Basket, according to Johnson, and all regular shifts are being fully staffed.

Town Manager Richard Montuori said that he had not heard of any reports of decreased response times, and that police had been successful in keeping the streets clear and attending to their regular patrols.

Selectman David Gay was not present at the meeting.

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