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Topsham selectmen receive government improvement report

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Topsham selectmen receive government improvement report

TOPSHAM — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Feb. 4 to receive a nearly 100-page report from the Topsham Government Improvement Committee.

The board made it clear that it was not accepting the recommendations in the report, but rather receiving the document as the start of a discussion with the committee. The first workshop on the recommendations will be held at the town’s municipal building March 1 at 6 p.m.

Committee Chairman John Rensenbrink noted that his committee was charged with developing recommendations on how to improve access to Town Meeting, how to assist residents in being prepared for that meeting and how Town Meeting can be as friendly and efficient a place as possible.

The committee, formed a year ago, has also offered recommendations on ordinances governing recall of elected municipal officials and a code of conduct for the Board of Selectmen and the town manager.

Committee member Angela Twitchell said one recommendation is for a Town Meeting standing committee to be formed to help to plan and promote the meeting, while another is for the town manager to give a “state of the town” address at the meeting, the text of which would be published in advance.

“We looked at other towns who do this, and it seemed to be a good way to get information out to the citizens about how the town is doing in advance of Town Meeting,” Twitchell said.

The committee recommends Town Meeting continue to be held on a weeknight in May, although it calls for starting earlier than 7 p.m.

Liz Armstrong said the recall provision was an “extremely controversial subject” among the committee members, and she recommended further community dialog on whether the town should pursue that aspect of the report.

The committee would allow recalls to occur under only two circumstances: if an elected official has missed six consecutive meetings, or if an official has had a conviction during his or her term of office for a crime greater than a misdemeanor.

Under those circumstances, Armstrong said, 20 percent of the people who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election would have to sign a petition for a recall election. Signatures would have to be collected within a 45-day period. A recall petition would be prohibited during an official’s first and final 90 days in office.

Armstrong also said that at least the number of people who voted elect a person would have to vote to remove that person.

Selectman Don Russell said there are many parts of the report with which he agrees, and others he would like to see tweaked. He called for a discussion on the report’s recommendations with his board and the government improvement committee.

Selectman Jim Trusiani said the committee should be commended for its work, adding that he thought there were a lot of good aspects to the report and some the town probably does not need.

The report is available online at www.topshammaine.com.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.