Yarmouth recall provision gains council foothold

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council will explore adopting a recall provision and heard an update on proposed school renovations during a workshop Feb. 1.

The council also further discussed amendments to council rules, drafted by Councilor Tim Shannon and presented at a Jan. 11 workshop.

The recall provision, which would be part of the Town Charter, rather than council rules, would have to be ratified by a voter referendum.

Recall provisions – which allow voters to remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before that official’s term has ended – are already part of town charters in Freeport, Falmouth, and Cumberland.

A petition calling on councilors to endorse a code of conduct and ethics, and to create a process for voters to recall elected officials, circulated last fall.

Shannon said council rule changes have been discussed since contentious debate during council discussions of a resolution last August condemning racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. The recall provision came up for the first time in an Operations Committee meeting last month.

Chairwoman Pat Thompson introduced the recall provision, which in keeping with the proposed new council rules, will be discussed at future Operations Committee meetings and in a workshop in March before going to a vote.

Other additions to council rules address how items should be added to meeting agendas and how volunteer committees should function.

Only recurring or administrative business, such as issuing liquor licenses, would not require the added discussion.

“We had a lot of back and forth between balancing … how do we feel free to speak and to respond to the public interest … with, on the other hand, making sure that we as a body have enough time to consider and digest the issues that each of us is raising,” Shannon said.

The council agreed that there should be more clarity around what is defined as “recurring and administrative.”

A new section, titled Volunteer Committees, states that “ideally, these Committees will serve to inform, educate and advise the Town Council on a variety of subject matters.”

According to Shannon, the idea for a “comprehensive refresh of the rules governing citizen committees,” was Councilor Jim MacLeod’s.

“We want the citizen committees to conduct regular, public, open business, be well-structured, have clear agendas, report back to us regularly, have consistent internal rules, and to have conflict of interest provisions so that they operate at the same high standards that we are holding ourselves to,” Shannon said.

The section goes on to request that each committee prepare an annual work plan to present to the council, which may include items the council has asked the committee to work on, things the committee would like the council to consider, or budgetary needs.

“In fairness to the committees, there really has not been any structure around roles, responsibilities, what we expect from them (and) what they expect from us,” MacLeod said. “So this is just an attempt to apply some definition.”

During an Operations Committee meeting Thursday, Feb. 8, the council will discuss whether to move a portion of or all proposed additions and amendments to the rules to a vote on Feb. 15.

Schools

The School Facilities Committee has been working on a plan, titled “Option Four,” that would involve major construction at William H. Rowe School, Yarmouth Elementary School and Yarmouth High School and smaller renovations to Harrison Middle School at an estimated cost of just under $32 million.

Committee Chairman David Ray said the construction is not needed because of poor conditions at any school, but rather due to recent and projected increases in enrollment.

Are four schools are at and exceeding capacity. In a study done by Wandell Consulting in February, schools are projected to see an increase of more than 350 more students in the next decade.

“We have very good facilities,” Ray said. “The need that we have for construction and expansion relates to enrollment and capacity.”

The conceptual plan would expand Rowe School and Yarmouth High School, and renovate and expand Yarmouth Elementary School. The physical plant at Harrison Middle School would remain the same, but fifth-graders would attend YES instead of Harrison.

Although the district does not include pre-K, the expansion of Rowe would accommodate it, which Superintendent Andrew Dolloff said the district will likely be necessary in the future.

The committee will update the council periodically throughout their planning process and hold two rounds of public forums to discuss Option Four; the first will be held Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the Harrison Middle School cafeteria. The School Committee will receive updates from the Facilities Committee throughout the process.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

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