RUMFORD — Selectmen decided Thursday night to ask voters on Nov. 8 if they want a charter commission formed to review or throw out the 1951 charter.
Should a majority indicate they'd like a commission, the board would then budget for it this winter and seek a formal vote at the annual business meeting in June.
At issue are conflicts selectmen say they've had when trying to complete town business, Chairman Greg Buccina said.
“The charter as it is written has cost us some opportunities in this past year to take action, one being the police to get an officer for three years funded by the Justice Department,” he said.
In May, police Chief Stacy Carter sought permission to apply for an estimated $200,000 federal grant.
Pending its awarding, the money would have allowed Carter to hire a new police officer, paying three years of salary and benefits. The town's match was to pick up the fourth year.
Carter said he would use the new officer to reduce overtime and guaranteed the board that the savings would then be used to fund the fourth year so taxpayers wouldn't be affected.
However, because Rumford's charter states selectmen can't enter into an agreement that would bind the next Board of Selectmen, they denied the request.
“That was one,” Buccina said Thursday.
“There's been others where we've been limited on how we can act, and I believe that it is time to get a commission together to look at the charter to say, 'How can it be more business friendly? How can we look at reviewing it or is it needed? Do we really need it or can we rely on the ordinances?'”
Resident Kevin Saisi said he didn't understand why they want to poll voters.
“The board probably understands there are a number of things that probably need to be worked out that are addressed in the charter to prevent certain things from happening,” he said.
“And yet you're going to do a straw poll to find out whether or not people who don't know about these things want a charter commission?”
“I think it should be on the ballot in November saying, 'Shall the town form a charter commission as required by the charter?'” Saisi said.
“Why are you waiting? Why are you waiting to take care of these things?”
“I think it's time to take a good look at it, and Kevin's right to a point where maybe we should just get one going,” Buccina said.
“We don't need a straw poll to do that. I'm not totally opposed to it, but what I am in favor of is getting some people together to look at it and make a recommendation.”
“Do we need it or do we not need it?” Buccina asked. “Or if we're going to continue having it, let's refine it so that so that we can get business done.”
Saisi said the charter has been updated and modernized over the years.
“There's only one clause that actually impeded the town from doing what you were suggesting, and we don't throw out an entire charter just because one clause got in the way,” Saisi said.
“It's a good idea to try and make it more friendly toward what is in the best interest of the town.”
However, Town Manager Carlo Puiia reminded them that they can't form a charter commission in November because there isn't any money available in the budget for it.
Selectman Jeff Sterling then motioned to place the straw poll question on the Nov. 8 ballot to form a charter commission. It was approved 4-0.