Angst over Rumford charter aired, workshop planned

RUMFORD — After a lengthy discussion Thursday night on what to do about the charter, selectmen decided to hold a workshop with the Maine Municipal Association.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

During a discussion on Rumford's charter Thursday night, newly-elected Selectman Jolene Lovejoy asks police Chief Stacy Carter to cite conflicts he recalls with the charter.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

Rumford police Chief Stacy Carter tells selectmen on Thursday night that something needs to be done about the charter to resolve conflicts that he said are preventing the town from moving forward to grow its economy.

Terry Karkos/Sun Journal

During a discussion Thursday night about the charter, Rumford Board of Selectmen Chairman Greg Buccina, right, listens as Selectman Jeff Sterling explains why he thinks convening a charter commission might help resolve conflicts.

That was police Chief Stacy Carter's idea after board Chairman Greg Buccina broached the topic of either modifying it to current times or eliminating it altogether, or convening another Charter Commission.

To explain frustration about its shortcomings, Buccina used the example of Carter's recent request that the board approve his pursuit of a federal grant to pay three years of a new officer's wages and benefits.

The town would then pick up the required fourth year match using savings from the first three years.

However, Buccina said the charter doesn't allow selectmen to tie the hands of a future board by approving a multiyear grant.

“Obviously, there's been some instances where the charter served us well and guides us on our ability to conduct our business for the community,” Buccina said.

“And then, on the other side of the coin, the charter at certain times can inhibit our ability to do business quickly when we need to respond. We have to go through protocols that maybe aren't always beneficial.”

Selectman Jeff Sterling recalled past conflicts that the board and Town Manager Carlo Puiia had with the charter when trying to resolve issues or negotiate for better deals on buying vehicles.

With one issue, Sterling said he remembers Puiia describing a conflict as “old legislation meeting new legislation.”

That's why Sterling said he wouldn't oppose assembling a Charter Commission.

He also suggested that resident Kevin Saisi, “who is certainly our resident charter-ologist, who knows it back and forth and a lot of the in-between,” conduct a discussion on Saisi's ideas about possible changes.

Chief Carter said something needs to be done.

“I've seen over the last five or six years that the charter has caused nothing but contention on the board or through the community, because it basically prohibited us from moving forward,” he said.

“People use the charter as a tool to knock things down. You can go through there and find language that is not up with the times to prevent progress.”

Rumford's charter was written in 1950.

“Back then, it may have been a good tool,” Carter said. “But when things come forward that are being prevented for progress as in economic development, waiting until June or waiting until November isn't always the best solution for us.”

Two changes to the charter can only be done in June and November.

“I just think that we're in a time that Rumford needs to grow,” Carter said. “The only way to get out of our economic woes is for growth, and when things prohibit it, then I think we're just going down the wrong path.”

“I'm looking for ways to progress and I find that the charter is just holding us back,” he said.

Selectman Brad Adley said he'd like to explore the idea of a charter commission, but doesn't favor eliminating the charter.

“It has its strengths, but something needs to be done,” Adley said.

Buccina suggested polling residents “to see what people's thoughts are on eliminating the charter completely and fall back on our ordinances or set up a charter commission.”

That's when Carter suggested the workshop to better understand the merits of a charter as opposed to ordinances and state law.

“I think that's an excellent idea,” Buccina said before cautioning the board that a workshop doesn't mean the board is rushing toward a solution.

“We don't want to put people into a panic,” he said. “It's just going to be discussed — the pros and cons.”

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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Comments

Kevin Saisi's picture

Yes Alice , there is a petition clause

Both the current method of government and a Town Council form of government have the right to petition, but if a board is against something, a petition will force a costly town meeting and ballot vote on most issues. An activist board can cause such a stink over a single issue, that some people will vote against it because of the turmoil.

Alice Barnett's picture

right to petition

Kevin, people have the right to petition?

Mark Belanger's picture

Did not take them long did

Did not take them long did it. The people of Rumford will have to realy pay attention to what their agenda is. The Town charter is like our constitution and should not be taken lighty or changed on a whim. Carlo of all people should remember how we fought to keep his position elected as opposed to appointed when the last charted commision was formed. They had their marching orders as well and the smart people of Rumford ruled the day and voted most of the changes down. O well let's all keep an eye out. Thanks Kevin....

Kevin Saisi's picture

State Law

The board will find that State Law requires a Charter Commission for major changes or the elimination of our Charter. It is not as simple as a simple yes/no vote. Elimination of the Charter will give up local control over how our government operates.

I see this as the second step in removing the rules, so that our elected officials can have more power. Actions such as this could lead to a Town Council form of government, where the people have no authority except to elect Council members, and the right to petition. If you like the authority you have on the state and federal level, consider being that ineffective in your own town.

The first step in removing the rules, was the board's deciding to not adopt a set of rules of order. Effectively, there are no set rules for their meetings. Decisions are at the whim of Chairman Buccina, and do not have to be evenly enforced. He can decide to shut up one person and let the next speak for hours.

Rumford is quickly becomming a lawless society.

On the Money

Kevin you stated it well. Mr. Buccina is another Thibodeau. Plain an simple dictator for what they want and wanted. Get rid of the Charter brings in state rules. We have a charter for our own protection as a town. Does the Charter still need some revisions? Yes! But not like it was handled the last time. People on that commission went in with an agenda controlled by self seeking individuals. Mr Carter should be a working police chief and not a politician. He has a larger police force than there has ever been for a smaller population. It's the weak judges and laws that promote domestic abuse and stupid men and women who don't know how to move on and keep allowing one or the back. When this town was buzzing the police officer and his billy club were respected. They weren't afraid to use it. Become soft and crime rises. Mr. Buccina you have what you have wanted for a long time and we all know how you will use it. The self seekers love this board because you will help bring this town on to its knees. If their is and should be a commission formed you will put those self seeking people on it to do their and your bidding. Hello DOOMSFORD.

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