Dixfield board approves public comment policy

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DIXFIELD — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday evening to approve a revised public comment policy for its meetings.

Town Manager Carlo Puiia said selectmen have been working on revising their public comment policy for a while, but were waiting for the entire board to be present before voting on it.

“The board’s previous chairman, Mac Gill, wrote up a set of guidelines a couple of years ago for the town to follow,” Puiia said. “There was never an official vote on it. I encouraged the board to vote on the policy and make it official.”

Puiia said he looked at what Gill originally wrote and what other towns did. One change made to the original draft was removing a section that said comments and suggestions had to be received from citizens.

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“When we were going through the policy, I noted that there are sometimes people who speak that are not citizens,” Puiia said. “I suggested to the board that they maybe amend the draft, so the board can still take comments from people who are not citizens of Dixfield.”

Selectmen also voted to place a recall ordinance draft before voters at the June 10 referendum.

During the Aug. 25 board meeting, selectmen reviewed drafts of recall ordinances from several Maine towns, including Mexico, Peru and Rumford, and agreed to review them to figure out what would work best for the town.

Selectman Norman Mitchell submitted a draft to Puiia and the board, and Puiia said that he had some recommendations to add.

“I presented the board with a cleaned-up draft,” he said.

Among the major changes in the new recall ordinance draft are changing the requirement for signatures on a recall petition to 20 percent of the number of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

“We had 1,045 votes cast in the 2010 election, so that means anyone attempting to file a recall petition needs to get a minimum of 209 signatures,” Puiia said.

He recommended the board add a minimum voter turnout clause.

“The clause would ask that the recall vote contains 25 percent of the voter turnout from the previous gubernatorial election,” Puiia said. “This means that 262 voters would have to attend the referendum election to successfully recall an elected official. If there’s a snowstorm and not a lot of people can get out to vote, you wouldn’t want someone to be recalled with a small amount of votes.”

A provision was also placed in the new draft that allows someone who signed a petition to have their name removed, prior to the clerk’s certifying the petition, Puiia said.

“This helps if someone was coerced to sign a petition or had second thoughts about it,” he said.

Selectmen also received a letter signed by 37 residents asking that the board consider putting an ordinance that would ban the use of fireworks on the June 10 ballot.

“The letter wasn’t asking for any action right that night, so I’m going to bring in the Maine state law and some examples of other towns’ fireworks ordinances for the board to look at next week,” Puiia said.

mdaigle@sunjournal.com

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