Buxton Charter Commission
April 8, 2010
Call to order at 6:30 p.m. Present are Chairman Andy Townsend, Selectman Dan Collomy, David Dunn, Brent Havu, Larry Miller, Jennifer Barschdorf, Vice-Chairman Dianne Senechal, Judy Sjulander and May Schumacher.
Approval of minutes from last meeting
March 23: Add motion to announce written correspondent was made by Brent Havu and seconded by Larry Miller. Minutes unanimously approved as amended.
Public hearing minutes approved unanimously as written.
Public Comments: none; no members of the public present.
Announcement of Correspondence: none.
- Review of Public Hearing: Commission members discussed public hearing turnout and number of people who spoke.
Commission members discussed the submitted budget request of $10,000. The chairman said the request has been submitted to selectmen but not presented to the budget committee. Commission members discussed the need for presentation to the budget committee and being given the chance to defend the amount, if needed. Commission members discussed how they arrived at the requested amount, which does include printing expenses for a public hearing on the draft of amendments. Commission members discussed options should the full requested budget amount is not funded by voters. So far, the commission has spend 40 percent of the originally allotted $2,400 (Spent $1,145)
Commission members discussed the deadline for applying to selectmen for a time extension. The deadline is April 15. Larry Miller made a motion to present the extension request as previously worded to selectmen as soon as possible. The motion reads: We, the Buxton Charter Commission, would like to request to utilize the full twenty four (24) month allotment to complete our preliminary and final reports, pursuant to 30-A M.R.S.A. Section 2103 Subsection 5E (Home Rule). The motion was seconded by Brent Havu. Dianne Senechal
requested the request be formally formatted. The motion was unanimously approved.
- Other open business: none
Commission members discussed the results of the public hearing as well as their own feelings regarding the form of government to be inserted in the charter.
Dianne Senechal reviewed the process the charter commission has used to reach this stage. She said she has reviewed all information from the initial advisory question on the ballot to the public hearing last week. She read a portion of communication from Gorham Town Council Chairman Mike Phinney that equated a council to a board of directors. She said she did additional research regarding town size and town managers and found Buxton is the largest town without a town manager. Many smaller towns also have town managers. She said the school department has a professional manager for the $42 million budget, of which she is glad. She recommended the commission move forward with scenario 2 (selectmen/town manager form of government) and keep Town Meeting and the budget committee.
David Dunn said the most prevalent opinion he is hearing is that the town needs a manager but can't afford one. He expressed the need to narrow down duties and salary of a town manager to present to the public. He said a town manager could bring conflict and said people don't know how the change would work. He said though he previously stated there should be no change to the form of government, he is not clear at this point what to recommend.
Larry Miller said as a resident of Buxton for the past 36 years, he also took into consideration how the town government has functioned in the past. He said the town needs professional management and a full-time person who can make fast decisions. He said a manager could provide the town cost savings through working with neighboring municipalities. He suggested the commission carefully word the job description for a town manager and cautioned against being too detailed. He suggested several inclusions such as Town Meeting, existing boards and committees and recommending the town manager consult with selectmen before firing town employees as well as permitting a supermajority of selectmen to reject the manager's employment recommendations.** He said he recommends changing the budget to a
referendum. He expressed concern if the commission doesn't propose a form of government change now that it will not be discussed again until the next charter commission is formed.
Brent Havu said the town is divided fairly evenly regarding changing the form of government. He said he based his recommendation on wants versus needs. He said current town services are envied by neighboring towns. He said the current system is not perfect but for the cost savings, he is willing to bear inconveniences such as longer wait times for answers. He suggested moving some budget items to secret ballot.
Judy Sjulander said the large salary proposed may be scary to people but when it is broken down, the cost is manageable. She said the town has been fortunate to have at least one selectman present each day and voters can't expect that to stay the same. She said she supports a town manager and selectmen form of government.
Dan Collomy said there were about 34 people that attended the public hearing. He said the state is cutting school funding as well as revenue sharing. He questioned where a town manager would be housed inside town hall, stating hiring a town manager will cost more than just salary and benefits. He said now is not the time to hire a town manager.
Jennifer Barchdorf said she supports scenario 2 (selectmen/town manager form of government), with further tweaking.
May Schumacher said everyone did a lot of research, both as a group and individually. She said the town currently has a lot of great services for the current tax rate. She expressed concern people don't know how town government works. She said she supports keeping the existing form of government with a few changes such as setting a spending limit amount for selectmen so they do not have to have every dollar approved. She noted changes made by the commission are not the final word, the public still has to vote to approve charter changes.
Andy Townsend said all commission members have talked to different people. He said most agree on keeping the budget committee. He noted towns with a manager have not gone back to a previous form of government. He said the need for a person with human resources training is vital. He pointed to selectmen changing the tax collector position from elected to appointed on the June ballot as a slap in the face because the commission was not consulted or told the change was being considered. He said he supports scenario 2 (selectmen/town manager form of government). He suggested the commission take their time to complete charter changes in a thorough manner.
Larry Miller made a motion the commission proceed to draft a structure change that is essentially scenario 2, which is a selectmen/town manager form of government with town meeting with details to be worked out and that it be included in the changes that go to the voters. Seconded by Dianne Senechal. Commission members discussed how changes will be presented to voters – as a whole or in sections. Based on history, the changes should be presented in sections. The motion passed 5-4 with Andy, Jen, Dianne, Larry and Judy in favor; Dan, Brent, May and David opposed.
Commission members discussed the timeline for completion of the charter changes. If the commission intends to place changes on the November ballot, the draft and hearings would have to be completed by September. Commission members intend to aim for November.
Commission members discussed how the remaining changes to the charter will be made. The change to a selectmen/town manager form of government will be drafted as a group and after that is finished, the remainder of the charter will be divided among groups to draft changes and present to the entire group for a vote. Commission members plan to draft job description for a town manager from information on hand from interviews starting at the next meeting.
- Other New Business: Set agenda: open business is job description for town manager; extension request approval/denial discussion; budget request presentation discussion and discussion of letter to selectmen regarding the tax collector charter change.
Charter Commission Meeting, Thursday, April 22, 2010 6:30pm
Charter Commission Meeting, Thursday, May 13, 2010 6:30pm
Public Comments: none
Adjournment at 8:13 p.m.
**Minutes amended April 26, 2010, to reflect “minutes” rather than “agenda;” adding “Submitted by Stephanie Grinnell;” changing “requiring a supermajority of selectmen” to “permitting a supermajority of selectmen;” and rewording “to change it” to “reject the manager's employment recommendations.”
Submitted by Stephanie Grinnell**