Yarmouth prohibits election of town employees to council, OKs school bonds

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YARMOUTH — Town and school employees will no longer be allowed to serve on the Town Council after voters Tuesday passed an amendment to the Town Charter, 3,088 to 2,147.

Landlords in town will also be required to give tenants 75 days’ notice for rent increases, after voters narrowly passed an ordinance requiring formation of a Rental Housing Advisory Committee, 2,423 to 2,390.

Three bond questions on the ballot also passed.

The first approves borrowing $8.5 million for a public safety facility on North Road; it passed 3,350 to 1,910.

Part 1 of the second referendum question asked voters to approve borrowing $40 million to expand and renovate Yarmouth Elementary School, improve security measures at Yarmouth High School, fund a roof project at Harrison Middle School and upgrade the restrooms at Rowe School. The measure passed  3,168 to 2,091.

Under Part 2 of that question, residents approved spending an additional $12.2 million for construction and expansion of Rowe School, Harrison Middle School, and a capital roof project at Yarmouth High School. The vote was 2,900 to 2,049.

Councilor Meghan Casey, who teaches at Yarmouth High School and was elected to the council in June, Wednesday said she is “disappointed” the charter amendment passed.

Casey said she thinks the ban “is based on an inaccurate understanding” of the work the Town Council does with regard to schools.

“Five months ago Yarmouth residents elected me with full knowledge that I am a teacher,” she said. “(It is) unlikely now they believe teachers in Yarmouth should not serve.”

Casey also thinks the council has spent “way too much time” thinking about the operation of the Town Council, which “takes time away from the actual work of the council that needs to be done.”

Casey said she didn’t know Wednesday morning how she feels about a possible legal challenge to the amendment, and still needed time to “digest” the results.

But she said legal experts “are in agreement” that prohibitions on school employees serving on town councils “don’t jive” with state law or the U.S. Constitution. She said she believes the concept needs to be tested statewide “at some point.”

“I don’t know if Yarmouth will be that test case or not,” she said. “We have to get a definitive answer on whether this can happen or not.”

She also said, however, that the council elected in June has made “good progress” in putting such “constant challenges” behind it.

“It is what it is,” Casey said. “Time to get back to work.”

In July, a petition drafted by Councilor April Humphrey with input from members of the Yarmouth Tenants’ Association was submitted in support of the Rental Dwelling ordinance, which proposed establishing the Rental Housing Advisory Committee and requiring the 75-day notice for tenants.

Most councilors opposed the proposal, or aspects of it, when they voted Sept. 5 to send it to voters.

The proposal also received criticism from many who said it unfairly targeted Taymil Properties, which owns Yarmouth Pointe, Yarmouth Green, Yarmouth Place, and Yarmouth Landing, because the ordinance would only impose the notice restriction on landlords with 10 or more rental units.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 780-9123 or eclemente@theforecaster.net. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente.

Election clerks work the Yarmouth polls Nov. 6. Voters passed all referendum questions Tuesday, including an amendment to the Town Charter that will prevent town or school employees from serving on the Town Council.

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