Back in business, Rumford Charter Commission schedules meetings

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RUMFORD — With a newly granted three-month extension, members of the Charter Commission met this week and agreed to meet every Tuesday starting Dec. 30 to finish their work.

The meetings, which start at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building Conference Room, will be held through Feb. 24, according to Rumford Executive Secretary Terri Palmer.

After commission Chairman Christopher Brennick lobbied vigorously at the Board of Selectmen meeting Dec. 4, the board reconsidered the matter, voting 4-1 to extend the commission until March 2.

The charter revisions must go to town attorney Jennifer Kreckel so she can edit the document before convening a public hearing. Selectmen also asked for a copy.

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Selectmen Frank DiConzo attended Tuesday’s organizational meeting and was thanked for the reconsideration by commission member and secretary Richard Greene.

According to draft minutes, the commission unanimously approved a $45 bill from Portland attorney Jim Katsiaficas, who also works with the Maine Municipal Association.

Brennick reviewed the attempts to extend the commission before Greene voiced his displeasure with DiConzo and Selectman Mark Belanger for voting against a motion in November to extend the commission. The motion died with a 2-2 vote.

Greene said the commission had volunteered many hours to try and do a thorough job “and this was no way to treat volunteers of the town who have been working hard to try to improve the town.”

Commission member Amy Bernard said she is concerned about the lack of communication from Kreckel with the commission.

Commission member Eric Davis also voiced displeasure with selectmen, saying he “felt it was a disgrace that the town leadership caused us significant delays, both at the start of the commission (last year) and over this recent delay in not being able to meet, so now we are in a position that we have to meet every week.”

Chairman Brennick said he and Greene would start preparing the commission’s previously approved revisions on issues already discussed. When completed, the full commission will review it.

The commission examined Charter Article XXI Police and Firemen. Commission member Jim Windover motioned to strike Sections 1 and 2, saying the language would interfere with attempts to regionalize.

Section 1 states that police officers appointed under authority granted by town ordinances must have, within town territorial limits, all of the powers of a constable in criminal matters and all other powers that may be granted to police officers under Maine general law and town ordinances.

Section 2 states the Fire Department is established to provide emergency services to Rumford at a level driven by the town’s needs. Selectmen, with recommendation by the town manager and fire chief, shall have the responsibility to set the scope and level of service. After consulting with the town manager and fire chief, selectmen shall recommend the necessary level of funding by voters to provide the required personnel and resources.

Bernard, who is the town manager of Paris, argued that neither section interferes with regionalization since Section 1 doesn’t mandate a police department. She said it simply authorizes the authority of any police department in place.

Windover’s motion failed by a 5-4 tally.

Commission member Michael Peter Chase motioned to strike Section 3, which states that each member of Rumford’s police and fire departments shall be included in the Maine State Retirement System at the benefit level or levels established by the respective collective bargaining agreements between the town and the departments. Windover seconded the motion and it was unanimously approved.

Bernard motioned to strike the word “police” from the article and that was approved 9-0.

Brennick said the commission has two major tasks remaining: to review the revised language already agreed on, and to look at the language that has been discussed but not yet voted on. 

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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