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Revised North Yarmouth Town Charter heads to June 11 vote

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Revised North Yarmouth Town Charter heads to June 11 vote

NORTH YARMOUTH — A revision of the Town Charter will go to voters on June 11.

The Charter Commission plans to bring final proposed changes to the government-structure document to the Board of Selectmen by May 7, Chairwoman Audrey Lones said Monday.

The commission, which began its review of the 31-year-old charter last August, recommends hiring a town manager to replace the administrative assistant, and moving Town Meeting  from June to April, among other changes.

Although some residents at a public hearing last month disagreed with moving Town Meeting, and even questioned the body's usefulness, Lones said the commission opted in a meeting April 10 to maintain its recommendation.

"We (are) really trying to increase public participation (in Town Meeting) by moving it to April," she said.

Lones had noted earlier that there is concern that June provides too many competing activities for many residents. But she also acknowledged concerns about the impact on budget preparation if the meeting is held two months earlier in the year.

If the change proves too difficult in the budget planning process, and April ends up not drawing more participation, the date could be moved back to June through a Town Meeting vote, as opposed to reconvening the Charter Commission, Lones said.

"We really think it's worth trying to do, to see what happens," she said.

The proposed town manager would have complete responsibility for town employees, but still report to the Board of Selectmen. The administrative assistant now lacks the authority to hire, fire and supervise employees, a power that rests with the board.

The duties of the administrative assistant have grown to include those of a town manager, Lones said, noting that "the charter is trying to catch up, to some degree, to where we're at."

One minor revision the commission made to its recommendations was to change the order of the list of roles and responsibilities of a manager, in order to emphasize that the manager and other employees, like the town clerk, can serve in multiple capacities, as opposed to someone having to be hired to fill each of those roles.

The Board of Selectmen would have to approve the assignment of those multiple responsibilities. 

Lones said she has heard some people say that element of the revised charter is a deal-breaker for them.

"I really encourage people to ... take the document as a whole, and (determine) whether one small piece of it is ... important enough to reject the whole thing," she said. "Because there is no other answer, except to ... proceed as we are, which seems to not be working well."

The commission plans to meet again April 24, at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

The proposed revision can be viewed at northyarmouth.org, picked up at the town office or mailed to a home by calling the office  at 829-3705.

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