Frustrations with Rumford charter aired

RUMFORD — Has Rumford outgrown its 59-year-old charter?

That's what Selectman Greg Buccina asked of Selectmen Mark Belanger, Jeff Sterling and Chairman Brad Adley, and Town Manager Carlo Puiia at Wednesday night's workshop on their proposed charter change for the secret ballot process.

Buccina voiced frustration with the charter, saying that it created the current situation wherein it's been more than three months beyond town meeting in June and two outstanding items to resolve remain: a General Assistance Budget that voters have twice defeated and Black Mountain funding.

The latter was resolved at town meeting when a majority voted against funding the ski hill. However, Black Mountain officials then successfully petitioned for another vote, claiming that more people voted to fund it than not fund it; they just couldn't agree on an amount.

The revote itself was challenged in court and a judge ruled that it must be addressed by having a town meeting to discuss the issue, then vote on it later at the polls.

On the welfare issue, after a majority of voters twice defeated amounts recommended by selectmen, the board learned it had unwittingly violated the charter in the second vote by not allowing the Finance Committee to make a recommendation on the budget item.

“I would like to know how much money this charter has cost us in this budget process,” Buccina said. “Because I just don't know whether it's worth it or not anymore. Can we not have a charter? We're getting smaller and I just don't know if we really need to have a charter anymore.”

He said charter language has delayed the budget process, forcing more meetings and litigation, thereby costing the town additional expense.

“I just don't know how needed it is today in this day and age,” Buccina said.

He said many Maine towns no longer have a charter “and still seem to get their business done.”

“We're not a metropolis and this confuses everything, and it was needed (back then), but it just seems to be impeding progress now,” he said.

Belanger, who has publicly stood behind and protected the charter as is, conceded that it could be written better.

“It's been tweaked over the years and sections of it have been changed, so it could be a cleaner charter,” he said. “But if we have another charter, it should be similar to that. But the issue tonight is changing the secret ballot process.”

Puiia said the board now had an opportunity to simplify the document.

They could either go with his suggested change to give voters a yes or no choice only, with yes containing funding amounts; or they could side with Sterling's and Buccina's proposal to follow the charter process, and then insert language that calls for a Budget Reconciliation meeting should selectmen and the Finance Committee recommend differing amounts.

At that meeting, the two groups would work out one recommendation with which a majority agreed and present that to the people at town meeting.

“It may not be the perfect solve, but it could ultimately help eliminate the controversy,” he said. “People can still vote for funding, but a majority could still trump it.”

After more discussion, Puiia was asked to draft language for the change and then have town attorney Thomas Carey determine its legality and that of how it meshes with town ordinances separate from the charter.

Puiia said he would do that and ask Carey if the board also needs to tweak an ordinance to accommodate a charter change.

Selectmen want to put their charter change proposal before voters in November.

Following the workshop, Black Mountain Board of Directors President Roger Arsenault said the delayed vote on their request for $51,000, wasn't cutting it close to ready the resort for the upcoming season. Black Mountain traditionally opens the day after Christmas.

“We're doing what we can with what we have,” Arsenault said.

Should voters approve funding next month, he said it would take two months with additional staff to get the resort ready to open for the 2010-11 season. If they don't get the funding, Arsenault has publicly stated that it would force Black Mountain to close.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

clarification

Carlo Puiia had a copy of my suggestion at least a week before the meeting. The proposal that they approved was brought up at the last minute.

 's picture

Oh, i can

and i will. They obviously did their research before they came to the meeting. i'm sure Calro had all the agenda materials prepared for them ahead of time so that they could read about the issue and make an informed decision. It's their right to make that decision, isn't it, Kevin? Or would prefer to do it for them even though noone elected you?

Kevin Saisi's picture

Just Stating

I make all kinds of recommendations as a citizen. There were other recommendations submitted ahead of time (as was mine) that they chose not to address as well. My point is that the secret ballot method took away the power of the people to change the amount. Now we are looking at possibly eliminating the Finance Committee. What's next, making the Select Board into a city council with almost omnipotent power?? I don't think so!

dj WHO

You keep bringing my name into your conversation. Have I run over a pet of yours? I don't know who you are but don't think myou have the best interest of the town in mind. You probably voted against the secret ballot because you did want better representation of the people> Probably one of those special interest groups that lost their control over the citizens. The way the majority of the board is now it seems they are of one of those interest groups. The secret ballot is the best move the voters have accomplished for some time. The power of yes or no and the power to vote on a certain figure is truly in the hands of the people. THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!!! There has to be a group of people to oversee how the select board wants to spend money. Unfortunately the Finance committee have been rubber stampers of selectboard requests in the past and it 's looking like it will continue. The citizens by more participation wth secret ballot are stating what they want but the committee and board majority refuse to listen to the vote. And dj you haven't called me for a sit down coffee. What a shame closet person.

Kevin Saisi's picture

By the people

I submitted a suggestion where the two amounts are sent to Town Meeting where the people decide which one goes on the ballot. It was not brought up until they had all agreed on the "Reconciliation Plan". It would seem that they don't want the people meddling in their business.

Kevin Saisi's picture

when?

When did they become an elected board? The Selectmen appointed 4 new members this year.

Kevin Saisi's picture

Nothing wrong with having a charter

Having a charter allows us to have local control over many things. Mr. Buccina has stated for years that he did not support the charter. It is not just this incident that has brought out these feelings. Every time he mentions the charter, he states that it is too old and poorly written. Well, yes it is old, but most of the items that cause problems were inserted within the past few years. The problem is not that the charter is old, it is that the amendments that have been made were either not thought out fully, or drafted by people who were trying to achieve an ulterior motive.

Our nation's Constitution is even older than the Town Charter, as is our state constitution, but i don't hear calls to have them eliminated. They are all there to give the citizens the right to direct how our nation/state/towns operate. There are couple of things that need to be fixed in our charter, but let's not throw it out just because it does its job in regulating how our town functions. If the charter is getting in the way of what you want to do, perhaps you should consider if you should be doing it in the first place.

In the meantime, it is essential that any potential changes to the charter be thought through carefully, and not hastily made. Take time to consider all possible alternatives rather than rushing through one idea. The process of drafting a constitutional amendment takes months, but the process of drafting a charter change takes minutes. Then some wonder why we end up having problems.

Off base again dj

a charter does give more local control. That was proven several times already. If the commission would have done a more thoruogh job it would have given more power to the town. That's why the smart towns have one. It's all about local control if written correctly and revised correctly. If it wasn't for people that you named then the citizens would have turn over their rights totally to the state, a counsel form of government and special interests groups by now. You've been wrong on everything you try to comment on. Take the anger you have back into the closet you hide in. You are the type of person that destroys a town.

Kevin Saisi's picture

YOU ARE WRONG!

I was there last night when they decided in 10 minutes how they wanted the charter amended. Yes, they still have to vote on it officially, but that is just a formality. The only other citizen there was Roger Arsenault, so unless you are him, or one of the members of the press, you can't go around calling me wrong.

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