RUMFORD — Selectmen voted 4-0 Thursday night to place a charter amendment before voters at town meeting in June to reduce the time limit on returning papers to seek elective offices.
Currently, Article 6, Section 2 of the town charter reads that such papers shall be filed with the town clerk no sooner than 45 days and not later than 30 days prior to such election, Town Manager Carlo Puiia told the board.
“But state law requires that we have our absentee ballots ready 30 days prior to the election, so we are informing any candidates who take their papers out now, they have to have them back 40 days prior,” he said.
This applies to the Board of Selectmen, School Board, Board of Assessors, and the positions of tax collector, town clerk and treasurer.
Puiia suggested changing the charter section to no sooner than 60 days and not later than 35 days.
“That will give the town clerk time to order the ballots, be able to send a proof in, get it back and make sure there are no corrections to be made, and send it back to the printer,” he said. “That was what I brought forward at the last meeting.”
He then proffered his idea for the allowed June charter change. Charter changes can only be done one at a time in June and November.
However, Chairman Greg Buccina suggested another possibility.
“Last year, we lost out on a grant to fund an extra police officer and the reason was that we couldn't hold one board accountable to the next board,” he said.
Reading from the charter, Article 8 - Selectpersons, Section 2 - Powers and Duties, Buccina said, “Unless clearly authorized to do so by this act, the ordinances, the general law or specific action of the voters in town meeting, the board shall take no action which commits the town beyond the date of the next annual organization meeting of the board.”
Last year, police Chief Stacy Carter sought permission to apply for a federal grant to hire a utility officer for three years, with the town picking up the officer's salary for the fourth year.
Rather than have taxpayers foot that, Carter said what he saved in overtime over those three years with that officer could fund the fourth year.
“So, in other words, if something comes up this year and we want to make a change that we carry for two or three years down the road, we don't have that authority to do that,” Buccina said.
“I think we lost out by not being able to capitalize on a grant that the police department was going to get to completely fund a utility officer ... and I thought that was kind of like too bad, because that was money we wouldn't have had to pay for and we would have had extra police service.”
Reading from the charter, Puiia told Buccina that his proposal could be done as an ordinance change rather than a charter change.
Selectman Jeff Sterling then motioned to approve Puiia's charter change.