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June vote expected on revised North Yarmouth charter

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June vote expected on revised North Yarmouth charter

NORTH YARMOUTH — The Charter Commission plans to bring a revised version of the government-structure document to voters in June.

Among changes the commission suggests are hiring a town manager, moving Town Meeting to April, and reducing the size of the Budget Committee.

The commission, charged with reviewing the 31-year-old Town Charter, began meeting last August.

Chairwoman Audrey Lones said the commission is on track to have a preliminary report, including a draft revised charter and explanatory information, ready in March.

A communication campaign is planned after that, and the revised charter will be voted on by secret ballot.

"We want to get public input ... and be able to answer questions or explain why we did things," Lones said.

The commission is defining the duties of a town manager, who would replace the current administrative assistant.

"Based on input about the amount of work that both the Board of Selectmen and the town are seeing, as well as the need for some more flexibility, we feel that we should have a town manager," Lones said.

That job would be different from an administrative assistant in that the manager would be responsible for hiring and firing, as well as overseeing all the town employees and departments, Lones said.

"Right now," she added, "that's actually the responsibility of the selectmen."

While another proposal was to expand the five-member Board of Selectmen to spread the workload, "already we have trouble filling our elected positions," Lones said, so the town manager position seemed like a better option.

The commission also is proposing that Town Meeting be moved from June to April, partly out of concerns that the gathering is not well attended unless major issues are on the warrant. There is also concern that June provides too many competing activities for many residents.

Moving the date to April would also accelerate the budget process, "so there's some concern whether that is a good thing or not," Lones said, adding that a member of the Budget Committee has said the earlier spending plan is plausible.

Elections would remain in June, and the fiscal year would remain July 1 to June 30.

The panel is also looking to reduce the size of the Budget Committee from nine elected members to seven.

"Basically, they never get ... enough people running," Lones said, noting that members are often either appointed or the group operates short-handed.

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