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Proposed Cumberland County Charter proposes job, district changes

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Proposed Cumberland County Charter proposes job, district changes

PORTLAND — A charter for Cumberland County that has been two years in the making is ready for public review, as its drafters prepare to send the document to a November vote.

The Cumberland County Charter Commission was elected in November 2008 to create a charter for the county, which has been operating for 250 years under rules set by the Legislature.

"We've never had a charter," Bill Whitten, the assistant county manager, said. "We've been following the legislative rules that created county government 250 years ago."

The draft charter is a 10-page document that outlines how the county as a government is organized and how it elects officials and hires employees, and includes a few big changes.

The Charter Commission has proposed eliminating the elected positions of treasurer and registrar of deeds. The elected positions of sheriff, district attorney, judge of probate and register of probate would remain, because those positions are required by state law to be elected.

Whitten said the county has had a finance director for several years who takes care of the county's financial business and the budget. Currently, the elected treasurer's duties, by law, includes signing checks.

The registrar of deeds would be hired by the county manager; the county treasurer would be eliminated.

Another proposal is to increase the districts within the county from three to five or seven. Currently, each of the county commissioners represents about 90,000 residents. If the commission is increased to seven districts, each member would represent about 39,000 residents, according to Elizabeth Trice, county coordinator of grants and special projects.

In other counties, the number of residents per district range from about 50,000 in Penobscot County to about 10,000 in Franklin County. The average is about 30,000.

The Charter Commission has scheduled several public hearings in the coming months. On May 13 at 6:30 p.m. the commission will hold a hearing in Council Chambers at South Portland City Hall.

On June 28 at 5:30 p.m., a hearing is scheduled at Scarborough Town Hall.

For a full list of upcoming Charter Commission meetings, and to view the draft charter, go to cumberlandcounty.org and select the Cumberland County Charter Commission link.

Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or kbucklin@theforecaster.net