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North Yarmouth panel plans to present revised Town Charter next year

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North Yarmouth panel plans to present revised Town Charter next year

NORTH YARMOUTH — The town's Charter Commission is working its way toward a set of recommendations that could go to a vote next June.

The group, charged with reviewing North Yarmouth's 30-year-old Town Charter and potentially recommending changes in the town's governmental structure, began meeting Aug. 1, Chairwoman Audrey Lones said.

The commission next meets on Oct. 24, and "we're going to ... move ahead with what we've heard so far, and start to do a little drafting," Lones said, adding that the group's target is a public hearing at the end of November.

The commission held hearings in August and last month. It has heard input on subjects including how to lighten the load of the Board of Selectmen, Lones said, and expansion of the role of the administrative assistant to something more similar to a town manager.

The charter, about six pages long, is considered by some to be too thin, Lones said. It does not include specific responsibilities of the Board of Selectmen, or how elected officials can be removed from office, she noted.

"We've looked at a lot of other charters from a number of towns and identified some things that would help clarify roles and responsibilities," Lones said.

Everyone the commission has heard from wants to maintain Town Meeting, Lones said. But some people have complained that the gatherings have been sparsely attended since being moved from March to June.

Approvals of budgets and ordinances both take place at Town Meeting.

"Oftentimes, those ordinance changes are typos, edits ... and it seems like people are encouraging us to perhaps ... provide legislative responsibilities to the Board of Selectmen, so ordinances can be enacted more quickly," outside of Town Meeting, Lones said.

The charter has undergone some changes over the past three decades, including increasing the size of the Board of Selectmen from three to five members, but most changes have been minor, Lones said.

She also noted that the Charter Commission is independent of the selectmen.

"We're working for the citizens," she said, "and it's not meant to be little revisions; it's meant to be a review, to see what's working for the town now, and to anticipate what we may need in the future."

The commission plans to gather initial input through January 2013 and then prepare its preliminary report in time for a vote next June on a revised charter.

"The members of the commission are a really good group of people, and a good cross-section of the community," Lones said. "People who have lived here for a long time, others who are more recent to North Yarmouth."

Along with Lones, the members are Alvin Alhers, Richard Brobst, Nancy French, Lincoln Merrill, Clark Whittier, Shana Cook Mueller, John Shumadine and Ande Smith.

Go to the Charter Commission tab at northyarmouth.org for more information. Comments can be sent to chartercommission@northyarmouth.org.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.